The Best Way to Build Your Board Game Library

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So you’ve been bitten by the board game bug. Maybe you’ve played a classic “gateway” game like Ticket to Ride or Catan. Or maybe you jumped into the rich setting of Eldritch Horror or Imperial Assault. In any event, now you’re looking forward to board game night.

But as you investigate the options, it can be tempting to just buy everything. I mean, what better way to get free shipping, right? But there’s a better way to build up that library.  One where you’ll actually get those games played and feel the shared enjoyment they bring.

First, you’ll hear many hobbyists refer to their games as their “collection.” That’s all well and good, and we know what they mean. But it should really be called a library. It’s a gathering of items that you intend to take down from the shelf and use from time to time. So it’s more like a library of books than a precious collection maintained behind glass.  Keep that in mind. You’ll want things you can play with, not merely showcase.

Although solo games do exist, the vast majority of games require other people to truly enjoy. And that means you’ll need games that those other people will like. If a game isn’t the right fit for most everyone at the table, then they aren’t going to want to play it. And if it doesn’t get played, it’s just pretty pictures and expensive cardboard.

So the way to build up your library is to base future purchases on things your group currently enjoys. Do they like the worker placement involved in something like Lords of Waterdeep? Then maybe investigate Agricola. Or are they more enamored with the D&D theme? In that case, try out some of the D&D Adventure games like Wrath of Ashardalon.

Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

And you also want to get just a few games at a time. Even dedicated hobbyists don’t always enjoy learning a brand new game every week. While some players thrive on the new, others want to really drill down on known games and explore the decision space available. If you have a weekly game night, you might want to alternate weeks between known and new games.

And the more you play games, the more you’ll learn what works for your group and what doesn’t. Heavy train games (anything in the 18XX series) just don’t work for my players. Consequently, I own none of them. But if I want that same flavor in highly simplified form, my group does enjoy Chicago Express. So that sits on my shelf readily plucked down at the right opportunity.

But above all, you have to resist the temptation to go out and grab ALL THE GAMES. Not only does that lead to overload with some players, but it can lead to a lot of rules errors. And, often, those errors lead to unsatisfying experiences. That can turn the group off of the game entirely. And all you ever get is that one, wrongly-played experience.

Plus, the longer you are in the hobby, the more you come to realize that truly innovative and unique games are much rarer than it seems. Most games take what came before and tweak it in some way. That’s not a criticism. Sometimes those tweaks make good ideas better or clunky concepts more streamlined. But there are very few truly “must have” games. So if you let an interesting one pass you by, don’t fret too much. Another interesting one is just around the corner.

Image Credit: Queen Games

But above all, the most important thing is to grow your library to match your gaming group. The worst purchase you can make is a game that never gets played or only hits the table once. Instead, you want games that you suspect you’ll be able to enjoy repeatedly. And that means, games which your group will want to play again and again. Of course, sometimes you need to stretch your group a bit, push them just a bit out of their comfort zone to see if they’ll like a new game. And, as long as they’ve had mostly good experiences in the past, chances are they’ll give the new one a go, too. And, if it goes well, you’ll have another fun game in your library and another great candidate for game night.

How have you built up your library?  Tell us about it in the comments.

Featured Image Credit: NYU / Tisch School of the Arts

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