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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Friday, October 07, 2005

Please Sir, I Want Some More

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

It is hard to answer this question without at least alluding to my philosophy for acquiring and retaining games. When I first immersed myself in this hobby in late 2002, I focused on purchasing what everyone else thought were the best games. This was mostly through word of mouth and BGG ratings. I also played with a diverse range of different groups and pretty much gobbled up whatever looked remotely interesting. I think this is a common pattern.

I’m not exactly selective these days, but my rate of acquisition is definitely slowing down. I’m less likely to buy a game that my friends have unless I think it is a perfect fit for my family. Physical space does come into play, though we recently built in some shelves in our play room so now I have MUCH more space for games. Or at least the ability to keep them more organized. I do expect to bring back a decent stash from Essen.

I think shortly after Essen I’ll start to reduce my collection a bit – I’m less interested in keeping games now that don’t get played. Glancing at my shelf, this means games like Goldland, Carcassonne (base game), and War of the Ring. The problem, though, is that I hate selling games – I don’t need the cash for them and I’m always bummed at the resale value. Maybe I should be a more active trader.

Onto the question. For games under $50, I don’t have too much price sensitivity as long as the price appears to align with what I’m getting. This may sound like a circular argument, but I’m mostly referring to the physical attributes of the game. The game can still suck, but if I got really cool bits in the process I feel better in the end. The worst scenario is getting a bad game that has costs $30 and inside the box is mostly air. I think most of the publishers out there are setting price for a particular margin over their costs, so I think quality and quantity of components is mostly even across the big publishers. There are notable exceptions where there are clearly scale issues (both big and small): I think HeroScape is a tremendous value, for example, and would only be achievable with the sort of volume and distribution a game like that gets.

$50 is probably the threshold where I get very critical – will the game get played often? Is there some other value in having the game? I have quite a few Columbia block games, and while they are on the high end price-wise, the game quality is level and I just love the maps and blocks. More and more I’m feeling the same way about Eagle games – I like their style of games and so do my kids, so a $50+ price tag for a game like Railroad Tycoon is perfectly reasonable.

Jeez, how much do people typically drop on a console game? $50? $60? Those games will be shelfware in 2 years, while my copy of Doom: the Boardgame will likely provide enjoyment for my kids when they are grown and have their own kids.

So, in summary, the cost of the game isn’t a huge factor for me except in extreme circumstances where I feel like I’m getting ripped off.


  • At 2:45 PM, Blogger Jeff Coon said…

    The mathematical trade lists going on at the 'Geek seem to be a good way of trading away unplayed games and getting something in return that might get played. I have similar reservations as you about selling games - I don't need the money, so what's the point of selling it? Trading it directly for someone else's unplayed game seems like a nice way to go.

  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger Coldfoot said…

    I've been following the comments on "how much would I play for a game?" and I was wondering if anyone shared my theory.

    Yours is pretty close to mine. My threshold is about $70 if a game has sparked my interest. $20 is too much for the latest Carcassonne expansion, though. $100 for Europe Engulfed is very tempting, although I know I will never play more than twice and probably only one full game. If it was $70 (possibly $80) I would be all over it just to have it in my collection.

    The bigger consideration is how often it will get played.

    Due to the cost of shipping, trading games is cost prohibitive for me. I would consider trading if I could find a network of locals who were willing to trade.

  • At 3:47 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Two comments:

    1) As I said in my own column, space is where the premium is, money is not. I'm considering buying a set of shelves to put in the downstairs bathroom for games - calm down, we put in a closet in what is an "emergency loo" rather than a shower, so it's used as storage space anyway. However, this is a temporary solution at best.

    2) How much do I drop on a console/computer game? Rarely more than $30, with a "sweet spot" at $20. With my GameCube, I'm proud to say I've purchased exactly one $50 game (Zelda:Windwalker) and everything else has been $20 with about 10 exceptions at $30 (out of a library of about 40-50 games). $50 a game is ridiculous, and frankly one of the reasons I went with the GB DS rather than a PSP.

  • At 3:52 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Coldfoot, I swung EE for around $60. Really. It required a sale at Fine Games, a discount coupon that didn't limit me to non-sale items, and no shipping costs (I picked it up at a local con), but I did it. I don't think I would have bought it for much more than that, given 20/20 hindsight. It's gotten a partial play (ironically with Chris!), and I think that's as good as it will get. The game can get very fussy, as most WWII games that incorporate the Western Front in 1940 (all of those neutral powers).

    Sadly, I will almost certainly buy Asia Engulfed, but I'll hope for the same deal. Call it an illness.


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