Shelves of Opportunities (Brandon Kempf)

Shelves of Opportunities (Brandon Kempf)

Friend and fellow writer, Chris Wray, co-authored a Kickstarter article about their skepticism towards Kickstarter. It’s full of fun data and fun graphs to back up their idea that they just aren’t that excited to play that brand new Kickstarter title that you just received. It’s a really well written and wonderfully researched piece and you should read it.

So after I read that article again recently I was sitting at the computer, looking at my collection of board games and wondering, what is it about games that makes me get them played immediately, or never. I obviously buy games with every intention of playing them but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Currently in my collection, according to BGG —  which is dependant upon me for keeping it up to date — I have 197 games unplayed. Now before we all have a heart attack, let’s get that number dropped a bit to a more realistic number due to a few factors.

The big factor is that I don’t log expansion plays unless they are standalone, and I am relatively good about playing expansions. I don’t buy many of them quite honestly, and they do get played, usually fairly quickly. So doing that drops that number of unplayed games down to 130 unplayed. That’s still a lot, let’s drop that number again because a lot of times I don’t log dexterity games or oddball games that I play with my kids, for some reason I just don’t do it. That moves us to the 114 unplayed games area, but there is one more category that shouldn’t be on there, games that were played as kids and I have in my collection still but were played long ago. This brings us to the number we are going to look at and examine, 103.  

First reason to dive into as to why some games don’t get played is this, I buy a lot of games, and sometimes I buy games just because they are on sale. I did this a lot with video games as well. I was an active member of the Cheap Ass Gamer website and we always shared deals we found at various places and my collection grew and the plays just didn’t happen, but I bought them with every intention of playing then. The same goes for board games, although I like to think that I am more picky about what I am willing to buy even at a good price. Board games can be expensive, especially now as the market grows, more and more publishers are trying to catch the eyes of potential customers and they do that by making flashy games, games with lots of extra bit, miniatures, specialized pieces, things like that and that drives up the cost of games. So finding a good deal is a fairly important thing for the budget conscious among us. Games on this list for me are titles like, Asgard, Belfort, Guilds of London, La Granja and a few others. These are board games that I absolutely was interested in, but wanted to pick up at the right price and that right price came along. Dropping those leaves us with 86 other unplayed games to talk about and rationalize.

Next up are the Freebies and Trades. You attend conventions, you have friends who decide games aren’t what they want so you accumulate a collection of games that have been passed on to you and these are tough. There isn’t a whole lot of motivation at all to get them played as you have no monetary interest in them and half or more of them you probably never asked for. They just show up on your shelves from time to time. Trades are a bit different than freebies, but I put them in the same category just due to my trading history. A lot of times I go into a trade with best intentions of getting something that I actually want to play, but more often than not, the entire process feels more like getting rid of games that I don’t want to play and just getting something in return that I may be interested in. In this category we can scratch another 19 off the list to get this down to 67 unplayed games that need to be played, because quite honestly, some of these will never be played, I just include them as inventory.

I think we’ve narrowed it down close enough, 67 games out of a collection of over 540 is not a unacceptable percentage of unplayed games, that’s what —  12-13% of my collection that needs to be played? That’s not awful considering where we started. What is it about these 67 games that keep them in the unplayed stacks. Well, some of these are new. If you follow me on any kind of social media or on BGG, you know that I am constantly bringing in new things to play. Here recently, we have been a lot better about playing the new games that come in, but it wasn’t always that way. Our gaming group has expanded a bit and we think of more than just ourselves in gaming, so sometimes, our games just don’t get played. But a huge chunk of these, 30 of them to be exact, are Kickstarter games. Yes, nearly half of them are Kickstarter. I know what you are saying, you’re saying but Brandon, that means 37 more aren’t from Kickstarter and while this is true, I am still going to focus on why those Kickstarter games don’t get played right now — as I think it’s a pretty easy read for me. They don’t get played because of the hype. Now hear me out. I hate using the “hype” excuse, but what I mean by that is —  these games are hyped sometimes over a year or two in some instances before you ever even see them. They build up the hype for them as “Coming to Kickstarter on Such and Such a date”, then when they do hit Kickstarter you have to watch the hype for 30 days — or however long the campaign is and then you have to share with your friends to fully invest yourself in the “experience”. Then you wait, and you wait and you wait, and then sometimes, you keep waiting. By the time you get the game, all of that residual excitement is just gone, vanished into thin air because you have picked up and played 100s of other games in the meantime while you wait. I don’t think this is just a me thing — and I definitely think that it hurts Kickstarter games as far as how they are rated and reviewed after they release.

Let’s look at my last 2 years of gaming —  what are the 15 most played games in that time frame?  

Santorini 43

Azul 34

Ganz schön clever 32

Werewords 32

Majesty: For the Realm 27

The Chameleon 23

NMBR 9 20

Kingdomino 18

Codenames Duet 12

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure 11

Carcassonne 10

Century: Spice Road 10

Downforce 10

Fuji Flush 10

Topiary 10

As someone who has backed and received about 50 titles — there are more still undelivered — it’s curious to me to see that only 2 of these games in the Top 15 of my plays were Kickstarter games. Even better, only one of them was actually backed on Kickstarter (Santorini), I bought the other one retail (Werewords). Also worth noting is that of those plays, of both games, I would be willing to bet that all but a handful of plays happened within a couple weeks of receiving the games and they rarely have been played since. 30 other Kickstarter titles sit there, on my shelves, unplayed.

While Chris and his co-author seemingly make the case that the games just aren’t that good — or rather not on par — with retail releases and their seemingly more thorough process of being created, from thought process to manufacturing, I am trying to make the case for is — Kickstarter Apathy. By the time I get a game from Kickstarter, it’s very rare that I am still excited enough to actually sit down, learn it and then play it. It just doesn’t happen.

So what about those retail games that just don’t get played? Most of the time it seems they just don’t get played because I buy outside of my comfort zone. Games like Combat Commander Europe, Railways of the World, Battle of Five Armies & Madeira (currently up for auction) or Hansa Teutonica just aren’t our normal games that get played, but I either failed to do enough research, or bought outside of my comfort zone for some reason or another. Maybe retail therapy, or it could have just been impulse buying, I don’t know, but they were purchased and probably should not have been.

What is the point of this? Why spill my guts all over this page talking about and making excuses for why games don’t get played? One, I want to hear your reaction. I honestly want to know what you think. And two, I just wanted to point out that it really doesn’t matter. Buy what you want to buy, play what you want to play, and as long as what you are doing is not impeding anyone else’s way of life, anyone that has a problem with your Shelves of Opportunities can piss off.

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