Considering the Burden of Options

During the last year or so I’ve made some distinct changes in how I approach and view my board game library. Actually, chief amogst these lies in the use of the word “Library,” as opposed to “Collection” in order to describe my assembled games. I know, I know, empty semantics you might argue; but bear with me if you would, because I believe this is a very important distinction. Here’s my take: Collections are limitless in scope, cobbled together as eligible and/or desireable items become available- there’s always room for more. Libraries are excercises in discipline, assembled and curated with careful consideration- not every game belongs in your library. Collections aren’t bad per se, and they are probably the better route for some folks. But I’d posit that for the majority of gamers, Libraries are definitely better.

The funny thing is that despite my best efforts in this regard, there is still a growing element of sprawl in my library. Big box games like Thunderstone Quest, Yedo, and now Dungeon Fighter were moved elsewhere due to the amount of space they take up- one day I just decided that they no longer count. Kickstarter games that are slowly coming in as pandemic regulations ease up and shipping normalizes have nowhere to fit. Titles bought or recieved for review purposes are left to linger in the corners, ignored for greener games… Things could be trimmer; which leads me to my first point- we own too many games. I’m included in this, even with my poor attempts to remain relatively confined to a 3×4 kallax. Unfortunately, my struggle in this regard is hardly unique, and many folks even question whether or not the inevitabilty of bloat is even a problem in the first place.

There seems to be this wrote mindset in our hobby that more is inherently better, and you’ll find it in every corner. A quick scroll down through your preferred social media platform will reveal photos of collections boasting hundreds of games, or a publisher announcing a new game with a few dozen extra peices in order to support that sneaky little lie ‘variability.’ The reality is that the folks with hundreds of games won’t be able to play them regularly, even if that’s the only thing they do with their time. And after a year or two in the hobby, most gamers should be aware that variability is a kind of marketing cheat- I own both expansion for Tiny Towns (from AEG), and the potential number of building combinations probably stretches into the millions. Still, I’d be hard pressed to say that any of them alters the feel of the experience itself. Admittedly, I’m glad it’s all there in the box, but I’ll also acknowledge that they (the expansions) were unneccesary. In short, more is certainly not better, and often may be for the worse; especially when you’re trying to decide on which games you will bring with you to game night.

I imagine you know the drill all too well: I’m prepping for game night, staring at my games. What should I take? I look at each (kallax) cube in quick succession, absolutely dumbfounded. I find it all too easy to pass over titles I haven’t yet learned to play or teach as I’m not entirely certain of the experience they (and I) will offer my friends. Those games which stand out to me the most do so because they’re personal favorites, streamlined, or consistently reliable. Still, I want to bring those newer games, and get a feel for them. Often I’m left torn. Ultimately, I’m suggesting that as we expand our board game library, we are making it fundamentally more difficult to determine what to bring with us to game night. It would carry then that we are in the habit of either always bringing the same games, or trying to bring too many with us; I’d suspect that for most the latter is correct. Both outcomes are essentially over-correction, and if you choose the latter option, all of this inevitibly plays out yet again at game night.

I actually saw this in action recently at Enchanted Grounds (our preferred gaming/coffee shop in the Denver area). A gentleman came in with some games, put them on a table, then left for a moment only to return with another armload. By the time his full group arrived, nearly half a table had been covered in stacks of boxes, I figured about 80 games total. I listened carefully to the group, waiting for the inevitable question- “what should we play?” As soon as I heard it, I began watching the time. They hemmed and hawed, most too polite to take a firm stance. Nearly three quarters of an hour later (I’ll insert that there was some drifting during this stage for drinks and to look around) they settled on a well worn copy of Sushi Go Party, which seemed to be a consistent go to for the group. I could critcise them all I want, but I have seen both of these behaviors in myself as well. The real question is how we go about correcting this trend.

My first suggestion starts by looping back around to the beginning of this editorial- stop adding to your collection and start curating your library. Cull and streamline things, make it work for you! If you don’t care for Splendor, that copy doesn’t belong in your library. Ignore those ever tempting new releases. Personally, I have found this transition monstrously difficult. Despite this I’ve kept at it and I continuously feel better about my library as time goes on. I know first hand how bright and shiny that new game is, and the accompanying desire to get your hands on it. Let it go. Focus on what you have. You’ll be happier for it, I promise.

As for dealing with the struggle of picking a game at game night, I submit to you my Three Game Theory. Unless you’re organizing a big event, try taking only 3 games to game night. Why you pick which is immaterial. I usually take a newer or review game, a favorite, and something easy. Even if only 3 other people bring games that’s probably 9 titles. For a group of six that’s more than enough. Another weird snippet: Start the night with your more complex games, move on to lighter fare afterwards. Mental exhaustion is a real thing, and a lot of folks underestimate the effect it can have on their enjoyment of the evening. Planning game night in this order can make it much easier to pick out games for your event.

In closing, do you. If everything in this piece makes no sense, by all means, do your own thing. All I can really tell you is that I have found a special kind of happiness moving on from titles that no longer have a space in my shelves, and putting them in the hands of folks who’d better enjoy them. Maybe you will too.

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