Guide to Gaming: When is it time to cull my collection?


We are living in the golden age of board gaming. More and more games are being released. More and more games are being purchased.

More and more games are sitting on players’ shelves, left unplayed.

When is it time to cull your collection?

Before I get into the meat of when it’s time to cull your collection, I’ll tell you a few things about myself. First, according to Board Game Geek, I have around 125 games, and I’m trying not to expand my collection too far beyond that. (Many of these games are small expansions, hobby and mass market gaming staples, or titles in the trade pile.) To that end, I am a frequent game trader. In fact, trading itself has become a kind of game to me and will be the subject of our next guide. Here are the criteria I use to determine if a game stays in my collection.

1. Do I love this game?

This is the first question I ask, and much of the time the most important one. Life is too short to play games I don’t love. Or, rather, life is too short to own games I don’t love. If I don’t love a game, it’s not an automatic trade or sell, nor is it an automatic keeper if I love it. But this is a good first lens to consider a game through.

2. Does my group love this game?

Most board games require other people in order to enjoy. Does this game get other people on board? Do other people want to play it? Is it a game they request enthusiastically, do they merely tolerate it, or do they run the other way when it’s suggested? This factor is very important in determining whether a game is worth keeping around. Most particularly, if my wife enjoys a game, it has a better chance of sticking around, even if I don’t like it much.

3. Do I have opportunity to play this game?

Will this game hit the table? I may love it, and my friends may love it, but will we ever have a chance to play? @Futurewolfie loves Twilight Imperium and so does his usual group, so they are able to make time to play. I, on the other hand, love Acquire–it’s in my top three favorite games–yet rarely have the group for it. (It has sat unplayed for over a year, in fact, because opportunities are scarce.)

4. Given the opportunity, would I choose to play this game?

Opportunities may arrive, but given a sufficient block of time, would I choose this game rather than another? If a hard-to-find-time-to-play game is given two or three opportunities yet does not reach the table, it may be time to reconsider whether it’s worth owning.

5. Do I have another game that’s similar to this game?

I’m not talking about multiple versions of Monopoly here, but do you have two games that scratch the same itch? If so, it might be worth considering whether one of them is unnecessary (particularly if, following question 4, you usually choose to play one instead of the other.)

6. Do I have access by any other means to this game?

Does anyone else in your group have it? Does your FLGS have a demo copy of it? Is there an online or mobile version available? On a related note, consider how often you play it. (Tracking your plays on Board Game Geek might be a good way to do know for sure.) Does your owning the game improve your chance of being able to play it? If you have access to a game without your owning it, it might be time to say good-bye to your copy.

7. Will I have the option to procure another copy should I regret my decision?

This is most important with regard to out of print games. I mentioned above that I haven’t played Acquire in over a year. However, my copy of the game is the rare (and holy grail) 1999 Avalon Hill edition of the game. If I were to remove it from my collection, it would be expensive if not very difficult to replace. However, this adds a more mercenary concern to the mix: if I do get rid of a hard-to-find edition, can I get something awesome in return? (Don’t worry: Acquire is sticking around.)

Let’s look at a few case studies for how I determined whether it was time for a game to leave my collection. In fact, let’s look at just one (and its fruits).

I received Glen More as a birthday gift. I enjoyed the game all right, but I didn’t love it (question 1). My wife absolutely hated it (and she is the “group” I play with most), and my gaming friends weren’t enamored of it either (question 2). This game was a no brainer: in answer to the first two questions, this is a game that should be culled. However, the clincher for this game was actually question 7. At the time I was deciding whether to get rid of it, Glen More was out of print, and others were willing to trade (or buy) for more. That sealed its fate: Glen More was sold.

I reinvested the proceeds from Glen More to purchase Troyes and Roll through the Ages (yes, it was a good sale). I played Troyes online several times and loved it. However, I was unable to answer question 2 because question 3 was raised: I did not have opportunity to play the game. The game lasts around two hours, and I got the game just after my son was born–not a recipe for having large chunks of time to devote to a heavy game. Furthermore, when I did have those few chunks available, I wanted to play an old favorite, something familiar, or at least more of shorter games (question 4). And besides, the game is a bear to teach, and when I’d already explained a game or two in a morning, I wasn’t anxious to teach Troyes as well. I ultimately decided, via question 6, that I have online access to the game and so didn’t need to own it myself. I sold the game and did not reinvest the proceeds in board gaming.

Roll through the Ages is a game that I liked but didn’t love. My wife enjoyed the game but didn’t request it (as she does with some others). We often had opportunity to play, but because it wasn’t a favorite, we’d usually choose to play Crokinole, Canasta, or Drop Site instead (all equally short, light games). No one in my play group has a copy, but I decided that doesn’t matter. I was offered Tournay in trade for it, and I decided that given my love for Troyes and mild remorse in parting with it, I should make the trade. (Tournay is similar in many respects to Troyes–that’s the connection there.)

Tournay is a game that I love (though not quite so much as Troyes). It’s a game that others in my group like (or at least tolerate). It plays in less than an hour, so I often have opportunity to play it over lunch, and I would not consistently choose another game over it (it’s a question of which was played last–Glory to Rome or Tournay). I ultimately decided to keep Tournay as I love it and I have opportunity to play it.

In my next article, I’ll give you some savvy tips on how to make great trades once you’ve decided to cull your collection. Stay tuned!

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion8 Comments

  1. Nice article! This is something I’ve struggled with myself having close to 80 games now. How do you deal with games that you haven’t played yet?

    • I try to play them first, though with some games, this brings up question 3 about opportunity. If you continually find that you don’t have an opportunity to play a game, it could be a flag that it’s time for that game to go. Of course, everyone will feel differently on this point.

      I try to play a game at least once before deciding, and usually with my wife (unless it’s set in space–she hates space and the future). Playing with my wife is usually a good gauge as to how much I’ll get to play a game. If it doesn’t pass the wife test after one play and I’m not smitten with it either, I usually put the game on probation. Its days are numbered.

  2. That “critical mass” number of games is probably different for everyone. I’m at the comparatively modest number of ~30, and I’m pretty sure it’s time to thin the pile. Looking forward to the guide on savvy trades; I’ve heard some great success stories on BGG math trades, but the process to get into them seemed kind of dense.

  3. You’re right in the critical mass thing. I’m sure my wife would set the number…lower than I have. 🙂

    Math trades will be a separate article, hopefully coming soon. In the meantime, while math trades are cool, savvy user-to-user trades are the best way to ensure you get something you really want. The trick, as I’ll explain on Friday (teaser!), is to properly evaluate the games in the trade. Math trades are better if you don’t have a lot of value in your individual games or if you can’t find anyone willing to do a straight user-to-user trade. But user-to-user trades are generally better if you can score them. And they really are less hassle.

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