• Joshua Williams

Six Reasons I Avoid a Game (Part 2)

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Grail and Out-of-Print Games Sold for a Profit

When Stonemaier Games announced Wingspan and its pre-order availability, I was quick to get to their website and order their new game; I had just fallen in love with Viticulture, Scythe had reinvigorated my interest in board games after a year and a half hiatus, and I was excited to see their take on a card driven, engine building board game. Unfortunately, the email informing me of the pre-order had been sitting in my inbox for a few days by the time I noticed it, and I found the game had been sold out for two days by the time I tried to add Wingspan to my cart.

I was far more upset than I should have been, but I assumed I would be able to find a copy of the game at retail in the near future. I never thought that a board game’s release could mimic the collectors mentality found in people obsessed with limited run video game accessories, art, coins, sports memorabilia, etc…, and take me over seven months to find it on a FLGS shelf. So, after many weeks of seeing the rave reviews of Wingspan cluttering every corner of YouTube, and some hobbyists comparing the release of it to the second coming of Christ, I began to rummage through the toxic aftermarket sales of Wingspan on it’s Board Game Geek page, beginning to think crazy thoughts and believing the game might actually worth the $300 some scalpers were swindling the board game community for; I was an idiot! Thankfully I realized this before I pulled the trigger, and I waited another four months, buying a copy for the suggested retail price of $60.

After that moment of weakness, I swore I would never over pay for a board game that was sold out, out of print, or a grail game, just because I had to have it right away. Unless you’re far more knowledgeable of the collectable board game market than myself, and know that you can at least sell the game for a similar price a year or two down the road, no game is worth selling your soul and your bank account to a scalper whose only talent is the ability to determine which products will have lower initial product stock versus consumer desire. If you ever feel the itch to spend hundreds of dollars on a game that would sell for $50 in normal circumstances, put your wallet away, realize you’ll be able to find the board game eventually for the intended price, and spend the extra money you were thinking of spending on a few other games that will keep you busy until you can find the game on a local store shelf.

That being said, I did half cheat when I decided I had to have a copy of Eclipse that had been out of print for quite some time. I had found a copy on the aftermarket, which was selling for the much more reasonable price of $160, unlike other copies of the game that I had tracked down. This price was still excessive, but I bought into the logic of the seller who justified his price by pointing out it was well under what the vast majority of other sellers were asking for it. Luckily, Baby Jesus decided he was going to be born 2000 years prior, and I had to wait till after Christmas to spend that kind of money. And just like all feel good Christmas movies, I experienced my own Christmas miracle when I found a sealed copy of Eclipse sitting on the shelf of a tiny local gaming store, priced according to the games original MSRP, with an additional sale for boxing day. I felt no guilt in not following through with the seller who was planning to sell me a used copy of the game for $110 over what I bought it for new.

So, do yourself a favor, put your credit card down, find another game to play, and find comfort in knowing that you’ll be able to find that copy of Tapestry in store eventually, and for cheaper than the currently inflated $200 asking price; Jamey Stegmaier may seem nice, but he still wants your money, so he’s going to make more copies available.

Kickstarter Games

I want to be really clear here, I have no problem with Kickstarter campaigns and their games. If you’re comfortable with buying a game months, or even years before you can play it, and know the risks of delays and the possible canceled projects, all the power to you; you’ll be able to play some amazing games that I can only dream of experiencing. At the same time, if you’re a creator or a publisher that has found success with the Kickstarter platform, and want to continue using it, I will be the first to vocally support you; I am an advocate of capitalism, and encourage companies to make their profits in the easiest and most efficient ways possible, barring any illegal or immoral practices. I wanted to make this clear, as I’ve worked with some publishers, and have some interested in me doing previews for upcoming Kickstarter games, and I don’t want them thinking that I will ultimately turn around and tell my readers to avoid the game because the company is utilizing Kickstarter.

This rule is my most personal rule in this series, and I would never suggest another person to follow or consider it, as it’s so specific to my life and my fears. Frankly, this rule pisses me off, and I wish I could just scrub it from my purchasing decisions, as I’ve missed out on many wonderful games that were only made available on Kickstarter. But, as ridiculous as it sounds, its for the sake of my mental health and sanity that I avoid supporting games released on Kickstarter, until I can find the game at retail or on the secondary market.

Let me explain…

I have a pretty bad anxiety disorder, and for whatever reason, it manifests itself whenever I buy something that I can’t take home immediately, usually through online shopping. Ordering something from Amazon usually goes something like this: I stress over whether I should buy the item for several days, weighing every option against all good and bad outcomes I can think of. When I finally decide to buy it, I occasionally have immediate buyers remorse, followed by panic induced stress and stomach aches, and I often cancel the order within a few hours of checking out. If I follow through with the purchase I spend the next few days exhaustively scouring all written and video reviews, trying to justify what I just did, and later delving into all available accessories, expansions, and manuals/rules explanations for the product so I know everything about it by the time it arrives. I check tracking hourly from the moment I get a shipping confirmation, never trusting the postal service. Finally, on the day of delivery, I remain as close to my door as possible, so I can hear the moment when the mail man arrives, fearing the package may not come, or may have been lost. I can feel the sweat forming on my brow as I write this.

This stress occurs every time I order something, whether it‘s going to take two weeks or two days to arrive, but the longer it takes the more stress, pain, and sleepless nights I endure. So, can you imagine what kind of hell I would be living through if I ordered the second chapter of Middara: Unintentional Malum that has an expected delivery date of over two years from now? It would drive me crazy.

This is the only rule I haven’t broken, and don’t think I ever will. I’m just not patient enough. I know my limitations, I know where I can stretch the rules without causing too much punishment to myself, and unfortunately, Kickstarter games are well beyond my limits. It really pains me to write this entry, because I’m missing out on some amazing games that are on Kickstarter as I type this.

Abstract or Lightly Themed Games

I have always had a deep love for reading, and the worlds I could escape to, while on my couch with a soft covered book. I began reading so I could escape to a made up world more fantastic than the real one beyond my apartment walls. The love of sightseeing through a fantasy realm, or fighting “the man” in a dystopian future, or brushing shoulders with the Russian nobility in a rehashing of history, continues to draw me towards the fiction section of any book store I pass. These make believe worlds also led to my preference for large, epic novels, where I am invested in the world, it’s problems, and it’s characters for weeks. Books like War and Peace, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Atlas Shrugged, always edged out smaller books in my library as I knew I would have enough time to fall in love with the world the author wove, and then have ample time to live in it, and experience all of it’s wonders.

This world building and story driven obsession, followed me when I got into board games, and I began figure out which games to add to my collection. This remains the primary factor for whether I will buy a game, or avoid it. I want to be immersed, I want a story to be told to me, and I’d like to be able to imagine myself in the story, if possible.

I have two characters in my Gloomhaven campaign, that represent who I wish I was, and who I really am; my Brute is adventurous, brave, and charismatic, while my Tinkerer is cautious, timid, a book worm, but has a hidden heroic side when any friend is in need. When I play Villainous, I imagine I am the Villain, and generally play how I think they would act, even if it means making a conscious move or action I know will probably lead to defeat. In Mansions of Madness I’m invested in the narrative, creating the voices and mannerisms for each investigator and character. I can feel the sweat begin to form on my brow and my apartment walls start to close in, as I near the end of the event deck in Sub Terra, and I’m not certain if my party will make it to the exit. I play board games for the stories they tell, and the worlds I can explore.

This is why abstract or theme-less games have been absent from my collection. As good as Azul looks, I can’t imagine myself working as a tile setter, instead, I only see the puzzle in front of me. Patchwork is a wonderful game, by an amazing designer, but I don’t want to escape to a small room with the sound of a sewing machine in the background, so all I see is the beautifully printed Tetris pieces. Checkers may be a classic that I loved as a child, but it tells no story, and evokes no meaningful emotions except for a strong yearning for Oreos. These games are great for those players who love strategy, thrive off of competition, and relish the feeling when they out maneuver their opponent, but they do nothing for a gamer like myself, who uses games as an escape from the stresses of his job, while I pretend to defeat a goblin, or rescue an absurd number of victims in a house that might as well be made from oil soaked rags.

This is one rule that has been broken multiple times by now, and shouldn’t be considered anything more than a personal preference at this time. I started out as a solo board gamer, where the epic, story driven games worked for me, while I was home alone during the week when off work. But once my wife became more interested in playing board games, I had to reevaluate this specific rule, as she preferred strategic, competitive, and shorter length board games. I had to begin stocking my shelves with a different genres of games, if I wanted her to continue playing games with me. And, surprisingly, after a few months of dueling my wife in lightly themed games of colourful pieces that have no story or reason behind them, I began to find myself really enjoying games like Quridor, Tiny Towns, and Tokyo Highway.

But my heart will always yearn for the immersive, the story driven, the thematic tales, where I can be found fighting dragons, taking down Nixon, or building a animal village in a forest clearing.

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