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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It's just Monopoly money, right?

"How do you decide whether a game is worth the money when you buy it?"

I don't know that I've ever asked myself this question. I know I've thought and talked around this issue as I do a lot of miniatures games, and it's nearly impossible to think about pricing and wargaming and not have Games Workshop come up in the conversation.

Example: a single Warhammer Grail Knight - basically a fancy medieval knight - costs around $14. A pack of three War of the Roses knights from Crusader Miniatures in the same scale costs the same. Read The Miniatures Page for any period of time, and you'll probably run across a GW-bashing thread or three, mostly centered on pricing.

I certainly don't have a problem spending money on games – the figures alone (unpainted) for a typical DBM army average around $120 or so, and that's just one side – you need two armies to play. (And then you need to paint them. Painted armies can sell for over $500.) I've got a large handful of armies, and own well over 300 board games. And I've bought big, expensive games like Roads & Boats, Antiquity, and DAK.

That being said, I know there's one thing that crosses my mind when I look at game pricing, and it's right at the center of a rather controversial topic that gets bashed to death on mailing lists, the geek, etc.

I don't buy very much at my FLGS. (and, to be fair, it's a pretty good shop.)

I'm one of those evil mail-order discount guys. Why? I don't personally take advantage of the services provided by a local store, so it's not worth it to me to pay a perceived premium to support something I don't use. The only service my local shop provides that I use is the ability to physically handle games I'm curious about.

I've seem to have a mental limit of about $25 on any retail purchase. If I pay more than that at retail, I get this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I just spent too much on that game.

Very rarely (ever?) do I actually look at the cost of a boardgame and think "that's too much money." There's been a few times I've looked at a game (usually published by Mayfair) and thought "hmm. That seems a bit high." It's not a common occurrence, though. My thoughts tend to go "hmmm. I can get this discounted online – and I certainly don't need it today."

I've also had the conversation go something like "I'd like to get this game, but I can't see playing it very often, and X is the same price and will likely hit the table a lot. I think I'll get X instead." So there's definitely some subconscious level of price/value computation that occasionally gets loud enough to be heard. It's not THAT common, though.

I know some of us have made an effort to get more out of our gaming investments by looking at the games we own but have never played. So, at some level we've thought "I've spent money on this stuff, may as well use it." It's more an after-the-fact look at whether we're getting our money's worth than the "at the time of purchase" focus that this month's question concerns, however.

For me the primary question when I buy a game isn't as much "am I getting my money's worth" or "is this game too expensive" as much as "am I paying too much relative to what I could have paid?"

To me, games greatly improve my quality of life. And next to the essentials of living, I can't think of a better place to put my money. I just like to get as much gaming goodness as I can for my dollar.


  • At 3:21 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    I would argue that the one thing you mention about brick and mortar stores, that they allow you to physically handle the game before purchasing, is in and of itself enough reason to patronize those stores. Browsing online for books or games is dull. Browsing in a store is fun.

  • At 3:32 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    I dunno, I like browsing online for games, researching all the comments for hints on whether I'll like the game. Browsing in store is more along the lines of playing blind man's bluff - just hoping you bump into a decent game.

  • At 12:23 AM, Blogger Chris Brooks said…

    I like both! At our store RDG, I enjoy chatting with Steve about new releases, what he's been playing, etc. I also like that I can refer folks to the store for immediate gratification - I've done that with at least three folks at work. FLGS for impulse buys, online store for mass purchases...

  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    What Chris said.

  • At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Rita said…

    I think finding the right FLGS is important to this decision. It is quite sad to go into a store that purports to be a "game" store only to find typical US games and puzzles.


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