How Not to Buy More Games (And Still Have Fun With Them) (Affordable Gaming, #3)

So far, we have discussed how board gaming can be a really affordable hobby (bottom line: Get few, but good games and replay the hell out of them). We’ve also had a look at how to find games you’ll like and replay (and which probably won’t fit that bill) with the help of the BGG main page of a game. This time, we’ll get to the practical matters on how to play new games (that is: games you haven’t tried yet, no matter when they were published) while limiting your spending on board games.

How to Play Games Without Buying Them

There are many ways to play a game without having to buy it. No, I mean, legal ways. Whoever steals board games probably also yells at little kittens. For people like me, I give fair warning: Many of these ways are easier if you are at least a bit extroverted. Be brave. You can do it, introverts.
One very basic way to play a game without buying it is, of course, it being a friend’s game. If you game with other people, everybody profits from everybody else’s game collections. If the owners are not interested in playing the game themselves, they are at least often also ready to let you borrow it.
You can power up this strength in numbers by joining gaming groups or clubs. Not only will you meet more owners of game collections there, many clubs also have a shared game shelf from which you can draw. Meeting more people than your core gaming group is also great for trying out things outside of your gaming comfort zone – say, you’d like to give miniatures games a shot, and you or your friends have never played any, but there’s this table at your gaming group where a few people get really excited about Star Wars: X-Wing. Chances are, you not only get to try out a game that would have normally been out of your reach, you also have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic person to guide you through your first steps.
If you are very curious about a specific board game, but would like to try before you buy, maybe you can find someone willing to play with you in your area via the Organized Play forum of the respective game on Board Game Geek (or other gaming forums online). Obviously, the more popular said game is and the more conveniently located and mobile you are, the better this works. But have a look anyway. Maybe there’s a second person like you in Western Alaska who just cannot find anyone to play her copy of this obscure game about Byzantine court politics with her!
Sometimes, a 21st century problem requires a 19th century solution – like gaming needs and public libraries. More and more libraries have games sections. Have a look at your local library and see what interests you!
Sometimes, however, you want the 21st century solution: Online gaming! Quite some board games have online implementations nowadays, be they commercial (like the Twilight Struggle app by Playdek) or free (most popular eurogames can be found at Brettspielwelt, for wargames I’d have a look at Wargameroom as well as Vassal). Personally, I think nothing beats the social, communicative experience of face-to-face play, but I’ve enjoyed various online implementations as well.
Lastly, consider going to board game fairs or conventions. Local ones, that is. Obviously, spending hundreds of euros on planes and hotels will not limit your spending, but maybe there is a small fair or convention in your area. A day of varied gaming might be not more than a short car or train ride away. Fairs and conventions are always a great opportunity to try out the hot new things and see if you’re interested in them beyond the buzz.

Buying Games on a Budget

You can buy games for a bargain in plenty of different ways – going to yard sales and flea markets, checking the websites of online game sellers for special offers or looking at the games sections of department stores. I don’t want to get too much into that, because it forces you to adapt your purchases to the offers instead of your desires. Furthermore, it primes you to be ready for buying constantly, which is, of course, in the best interest of the sellers, but not necessarily yours as a buyer.
Instead, I argue for purchasing boardgames consciously and mindfully. Get only the games you want most. Saving money comes then from comparing prices – have a look at your FLGS the big retail platforms like Amazon or eBay, but also the smaller online sellers (the GeekMarket part on a game’s BGG page and or (depending if you live in North America or Europe – not sure about other parts of the world) have great overviews).
So, my recommendation is: Give yourself a regular boardgaming allowance per time – either measured in games (say, one game every three months) or money (say, 100€ every six months). Of course, you’ll know best how to set these numbers according to your personal capacity and willingness to spend money on board games. The important part is: Don’t buy immediately! Wait. Keep a list of your favorites (those can be more than your budget) and update this list. Tinker with it. You’ll find that your old favorites might get replaced with new favorites and you’ll not even feel that much like playing the game you totally wanted two months ago anymore. It also isolates against short-term hypes. Every three months (or whichever time you set), your Board Game Acquisition Day will come, and you’ll spend your budget on whatever games top your list at that time. It’s an occasion! It’s a joyous day! It’s something to look forward – like your birthday! Needless to say, don’t go over your allotted budget on that day – if you have change left, you can add that to your next Board Game Acquisition Day.



This is the consumerism in board games I like best. Image from 1989, ©GMT Games.

So, we’ve seen that board gaming can be affordable and how that works. I’d love to see a bit less consumerism and a bit more mindful consumption in board gaming. It’d also help to make board gaming more accessible for people who cannot or don’t want to spend too much but are still curious. I’ll end my article series on affordable board gaming here, but might add to it again some other time. It’s a topic dear to my heart.
How do you go about trying and buying board games? Share your tips in the comments! Also, if you have a game purchase plan, let me know!


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