As humans, we’re natural collectors. Whether it’s Beanie Babies, baseball cards, little porcelain unicorns, or comic books, we feel connected to those things. To a certain degree, our collections say a lot about us. Firstly, by what we decide to collect, and secondly, by the items that make it into our collections.
If you’ve been into board games for a while, chances are you’ve amassed a collection of some size. Of course, you’ll have a few games in there that you don’t consider part of the main set. Maybe they were given as a gift from a well-meaning family member who heard you like board games (I’m looking at you Two and a Half Men Monopoly). But for the most part, we take pride in the titles that make it onto our shelves. Some we hang on to for their rarity, others for nostalgia, and some just cause we like the game. When people think about the games they’ve collected, they can probably tell you a story about each and every one of them.
One of the interesting aspects of board games as collectables is that they’re meant to be shared with other people. It’s not like a collection of snow globes that requires very little interaction (yeah, I know you’ve got to shake ‘em to get the full effect, but still). Board games are a shared experience you can have with your friends and family, and as such, your collection opens itself up to critique. Those in the know may look at your collection and wonder why a certain game made the cut, or how you got your hands on another one.
Mike Primeau is a Video Production Editor at the CBC in Toronto. He’s also the host of the podcast, Nights at the Game Table, which takes a journalistic look at the board gaming hobby. Primeau has a collection of around 900 games. He’s been amassing them seriously since 2004, starting with titles like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Shadows Over Camelot.
“When I buy a new game, I still seem to love the new cardboard smell it evokes,” said Primeau. “It's exciting and scary at the same time because you have put into your hands something you have been anticipating for a long time in many cases, but you know that there's going to be no end to more games coming out in the future.”
There are a lot of different ways a board game collection can be broken down. Some people will faithfully pick up every game by a certain designer. For others, it comes down to the company publishing the game. You may even want to collect games based on their theme. Most collections are more of a mishmash, growing organically over time as a person’s tastes evolve. One thing has always been true: games are meant to be played. So you better enjoy the ones you add to your ranks. Having a big collection also means you can usually find a title for any situation or group.
“I like having many games because I know I can tailor to almost any person that walks through my door.”
Keeping track of all the games in our collection has never ben easier. Board Game Geek allows you to put your entire collection online, so you can proudly show off all the titles you’ve acquired, but you can even take it one step further. On the popular time-eating site, Reddit, there are tons of COMC (Check Out My Collection) posts, allowing people to show off their ‘shelfies,’ pictures of their shelf of games. Once they’re shared, they become open for comment or critique from the viewers. Showing off the games you’ve acquired is also a really great way to generate discussion. People wonder why you might have a certain title or offer advice as to what game you should add next. People seem to take an active interest in the collection of others, working to improve them, at least in their own eyes.
“In some ways, my collection is meant to let people know that this world has redefined itself, and I love it when someone comes down into my basement, seeing a large collection without a copy of Monopoly in it,” said Primeau.
If you’re one of those people worried about their collection getting out of control, there are ways to keep yourself in check. The Jones’ Theory has become a collecting standard that a lot of gamers have adhered to in an effort to control their collections. Made popular by Cody Jones of the Game On! podcast, the theory simply states that if you have a game in your collection that fills a certain mechanic or style of play, then you don’t need to get another that fills that exact same space. The idea is that you’ll almost always end up playing one game of that certain type, so why have many of the same in your collection?
At the end of the day, we collect based on our need to feel comforted by the things we have. It starts with toys and stuffed animals when we’re kids and continues for the rest of our lives. Collecting can be an extremely positive and gratifying experience. With board games, it’s extra special. When you build up a board game collection, what you’re really doing is building up the opportunity to connect with the people in your life. Each game may have its own intrinsic value on the BGG marketplace, but the value it gives you in exercising your mind and spending time with others is priceless.