Boardgame culling: managing the ongoing slo-mo cardboard explosion happening inside your home!

I have never had too much of a storage space issue for my games, but about ten years ago or so I almost literally woke up one morning feeling like I HAD to cull my collection. I just didn’t want all these games, a whole lot of them had been nearly unplayed for years, and–I think this was the strongest impetus–I no longer felt like I could collect anything resembling The Definitive Collection of Great Board Games (which it actually felt like you could do between 1998 and 2010, before the market exploded). Put another way, I had this sudden strong unconscious desire to quit being a collector and become more of a curator.

So I cut my collection of 300-ish games down to about 160. When I had the list of what I wanted to keep, I reached out to all the semi-regular attendees of my monthly board game night and offered them 1) any single game in the To Go pile for free, as a thank you for being my board gaming pals, and 2) a super-discounted price on any other games they wanted.

After that, I put some up for sale on BGG and I think I also posted here (yep!) to see if anyone wanted to buy any of them. Can’t remember if anyone here did, but I definitely remember shipping out a dozen or so games. I took the rest to my FLGS which buys and resells board games. I think I ended up with enough credit to get maybe five brand new games.

Here’s the list of what I kept and sold, if anyone is curious.

I’m really glad I did it. I could maybe stand to do it again, but I’m not feeling whatever deep impulse suddenly made me want to purge. I certainly still have quite a few games that haven’t been played in years and are unlikely to get played in the next year. Probably a number of them are games that survived the purge! (I’ve also made a few smaller trade-ins at the FLGS since then.)

I’m guessing some games I got rid of are pretty highly sought-after these days. Certainly many, many of them are out of print.

Once or twice I’ve had a fond memory emerge of a game and I went to search my shelf for it, couldn’t find it, and had to admit I had tossed it away in the Great Culling. But I don’t think there are really any serious regrets. OH! I should say, some games I felt less bad getting rid of if they went to one of my friends. I can still play Maharaja because my friend has it; and he always liked it even more than I did anyway!

Good luck with your culling, Tom!

Fun post. I don’t have nearly that size of collection, but had to cull last month. Gave my friend:

Galaxy Trucker
Magic Maze
Silver and Gold
Flip City
Star Realms

I plan on getting more shelf space, but struggling with the notion I don’t have a gaming group, and so don’t play a lot of what I already have!

Sadly, I feel like I need to settle on Phantom Leader, Thunderbolt/Apache Leader, or Hornet Leader. I don’t need all three, even though all three do something unique I like. I just need to decide which one’s unique selling point is the best!

But D-Day at Peleliu is there to stay. I am going to beat that goddamn thing into submission one of these days, even if it means further house-ruling the victory conditions! But I love that system and I especially love the unique aspects of Peleliu: that knuckle of coral on the left flank, the wild range of possibilities on the right flank, the inevitable Japanese armor charge across the airport, trying to just make it to that first night so you can finally get your artillery.

As much as I get frustrated with Mark Herman and Dan Verssen stuff, John Butterfield can do no wrong. There was also never any question of me getting rid of Enemy Offensive: Ardennes (although I technically haven’t even played that one yet, so maybe I’ll hate it once I learn it).

I would hate for you to think of your money as “wasted”, @Chuck!

I have struggled with this mindset myself, but the mental shift that got me past it was just thinking of the cost being for the experience, not the product; not the components, not the box or its physical contents. Many of the experiences were good, a few were superlative, most were forgettable. But I paid for those experiences, I had them, and the ones I enjoyed I can have again, whenever and as often as I want! The ones that I didn’t enjoy, or even that I didn’t enjoy as much as the superlative ones, I can be done with those. I shouldn’t feel compelled to experience them further just because they cost me money, and I certainly shouldn’t think of the money as wasted if I don’t recover some of it!

So rather than thinking about recovering part of what I paid, I just try to think of it as a transitory experience, like seeing a movie, enjoying a meal, or reading a book. Once it’s done, I don’t necessarily need to keep it around, or even try to resell it. I can just let it go.

(But then I read @B_Dog’s post and think, “Dadgummit, I probably could have made a couple hundred bucks…!” I’ve already started giving the “get rid of” pile to friends, but I think I’m going to catalog them and put them up for trade on BGG for a few titles I still want. Although I don’t really feel the need to recover any spent money, it might be nice to have a stock of trading fodder.)

Yes. A thousand times yes. That’s exactly the philosophy behind my cull. You just gave it the perfect words, @Nightgaunt.

I don’t know what happened to me, but at some point I became inured to this. When I look at the shiny new stuff getting people all hot and bothered, I can feel that familiar twinge. But the quickest way to make it go away is to think about the time I could instead spend with one of the games already on my shelf. At some point – and I think it’s connected to this idea of wanting to curate a collection of nothing but games that I’m excited about – that twinge faded into something small and quiet and old. And easily eclipsed by my eagerness to pluck something, anything, off this wonderful set of shelves I’ve got here.

Are you available for hire? And if so, will you take unwanted boardgames in payment? :)

Great post, @B_Dog. Dare I say, even inspiring?

Oh, aren’t you just so adorable? :) Really, though, the size of the cull doesn’t matter as much as the proportion, right?

Precisely :)

Honestly, @tomchick, I’d be happy to offer guidance or help, if you are interested in selling some of the games you are culling. If you price games to move, are clear about condition, and have your ducks in a row, it isn’t as much of a hassle as people think.

And I’ve already received more than my fair share of payment in the form of countless hours of enjoyment from Qt3 here, through the podcasts, and your videos. Seriously.

I’ll make a semi-solicited offer to buy one of the Leader series that doesn’t make the cut (name the price and I’ll drive across LA to pick it up)! I’d repurpose any amount of funding to commission a review of the D-Day at Peleliu Hose of Chick Rules Edition.

Also thanks to the many Patreon review requests of old, I have printed copies of the Enemy Offensive: Ardennes manuals (since it’s three distinct games right!) back home. They’re unread naturally.

Lots of interesting discussion in this thread! I’m a compulsive boardgame consumer, and now have to approach it with a collection (curation!) strategy in mind. Someone on BGG described approaching every game purchase with a plan for getting rid of it, and that has worked out reasonably well for me. That largely means ballparking what the likely cost of buying and trying out the game will be prior to purchase.

If it’s a large, expensive, and/or niche game, then if I buy it and hate it immediately I’ll have to be okay eating the entire cost and the hassle of lugging the game somewhere to give away.

If it’s a small, inexpensive, and/or popular game, then if I buy it and hate it immediately I can generally post it for half the retail price on a local BGG thread and have someone offer to pick it up from my porch within a few days.

How much I anticipate liking the game helps tip the scale one way or the other.

Amazing job Tom.
I know that was not easy.
I want to hear the story about about some of your saves including 2 copies of Agricola.

I usually sell/ trade a lot of my games.
Covid and Kickstarter delays really messed up my flow. I probably have 20 games purchased over the last 3 years and need to get rid of about 30-40. I don’t mind shipping but Facebook and BGG are not longer great for selling. Need to find a new place.

This past Saturday I loaded up three large bags of games that I wasn’t playing anymore and drove 30 minutes to a board game swap held in the basement of the church. I stayed for two hours and actually had fun and got invited to a couple of separate weekly groups. My goal was to come back with cash, fewer games and perhaps a game or two that I didn’t have but was interested in.

This was the outcome:

Traded away or sold:
City of Kings
Aeons End War Eternal
One Deck Dungeon
Space Hulk: Death Angel
Tiny Epic Mechs

Traded for or bought:
Terraforming Mars
Flashpoint Fire Rescue
Hostage Negotiator with a bunch of bonus packs
Wingspan NIS*
Welcome to…*
Truffle Shuffle*
Mice and Mystics*

I had been ambivalent about going but now I’m glad I did. Gone are games I wasn’t going to touch again, and came back with a variety of games new to me. The final four incoming games, the ones with asterisks, were grabbed as family games for wife and daughter. Some games I’d brought to unload, such as Folklore: the Affliction, drew no interest and came back with me. And cash-wise, I came out $55 in the positive, even factoring in a $10 donation to the church. And more importantly, it was a ton of fun trading and browsing and hanging out.

That is very kind of you, but you’ve already been immensely helpful by posting about your own experiences and how well it worked out. So many of y’all in this thread have such a healthy attitude about your collections that it’s inspiring.

Offer declined! Instead, I will gladly give you whichever ones I don’t keep, with the caveat that it may not happen for a while. : ( The problem in this instance is that I’m terribly conflicted about those games and I’m not sure when I’ll make the hard decisions. I had a massive burst of creative energy at the end of last year where I tried to design a campaign shell for the Leader games, mainly because I’m so frustrated at the poor tuning and missed opportunities. So I made a rudimentary operational shell. A deck-builder, actually. You would flip up targets like normal, but they would be arranged in a shifting threat matrix based on the Homeland boardgame. And you could buy assets to shuffle into the target deck to help you manage the threats. The whole thing was supposed to feel a bit like a base defense deck-builder to give the tactical missions a richer and more interactive context. I was in the process of hooking it up to the tactical rules when something terrible happened: Jeremy White and Gina Willis’ WWII air combat game, Skies Above Britain, finally arrived.

At which point I realized, “Oh, wait, look at how well Skies Above Britain is doing what I wanted from Dan Verssen’s games!” (i.e. richer and more interactive context for tactical missions) So the Verssens went back in the box with the deck-builder shell I was making and I’ve been banging on Skies over Britain ever since. At some point, I plan to return to my three Verssens to wrestle with the agonizing decision among 1) Hornet Leader’s variety, Cold War nostalgia, and Lovecraftian add-on (even though it’s a godawful design), 2) Phantom Leader’s raw promise as an earlier, more contained, more elegant design, and 3) Thunderbolt/Apache Leader’s more intricate tactical gameplay, it’s separation between man and machine, and the fact that it has A-10 and AH-64s being totally fucking bad-ass.

But whenever I make the hard decision about culling any of them, @Belisarius118, they’re yours for the asking!

Ah, well spotted, @Shieldwolf! And excellent question. Allow me to regale you with a tale of two Agricolas.

So I had Agricola on the “get rid of” pile. I’ve become a massive Uwe Rosenberg fan, but mainly for his games’ solitaire play. And I figured Agricola was one of his obsolete early designs, obsoleted for a number of reasons, including its boringly traditional worker placement gameplay, rote and unimaginative theming, punishing difficulty, and utter redundancy with his better designs about farming (Gates of Loyang, Caverna, or especially Fields of Arles). When I chucked the classic game on that “get rid of” pile, I figured there would never be a time I would play Agricola, a game about blocking other players so they can’t get reed to put a roof on their houses.

That, to me, was Agricola in a nutshell and I was happy to be done. And like many of my safely calcified opinions, it was incomplete and incorrect! But I wouldn’t know that for a while, so onto the “get rid of” pile it went, at which point I went back to the culling the games I was going to keep and…there it was starting at me? Wait, why do I have two copies of Agricola?

I’ve had the 2008 first edition from Z-Man for probably as long as its been out. On the little scoring pad where we tallied the winners, none of us ever wrote a year, but we did write the date for the first few games. The first game was a 12/30 and the second was a 12/31. Did I get this game one Christmas, and then we tried it during the holiday break, and liked it so much we played the next night even though it was New Years’ Eve? Your name, @Shieldwolf, was on there as well. You were among us! This would have been the time that Shoot Club – our weekly LAN gathering for shooters, RTSs, and action RPGs – had been steadily morphing into boardgames, and we shifted from sitting at computers with our backs to each other to sitting around a table, facing each other. Agricola was one of the early vectors for that shift.

But then at some point I was on the press list for Mayfair Games. So when they released a second edition of Agricola in 2016, they sent me a copy, which I dropped into the collection and didn’t give a second thought until I had put Agricola on the “get rid of” pile only to see it still in my collection, staring back at me, now with a somewhat baleful glare given that I’d just “murdered” its twin. Ah, that’s the review copy Mayfair sent me. Pretty sneaky, Agricola, but it won’t work. So at that point, I had two copies of Agricola to be gotten rid of. I had plenty of Rosenberg in my collection. The good stuff. Old and stinky Agricola was the last thing I needed.

But then our mutual friend Kyle – who teaches boardgame design at USC and is unabashed about his fondness for Agricola – mentioned something to me about its solitaire mode. Apparently, the first edition of Agricola has a “single-player campaign” that was dropped from the second edition in favor of Rosenberg’s usual score chase. In the first edition’s solitaire mode, you earn persistent upgrades over successive games, which get harder and harder because the victory threshold keeps getting higher. That sounded pretty cool, but I had missed it because when I had started getting inot solitaire boardgaming, it didn’t occur to me to look into games from way back i n2008. I just assumed Agricola, being so old, wouldn’t have any insight into solitaire. But from talking to Kyle, I discovered how wrong I was. About a bunch of stuff about Agricola, too, not just the solitaire mode.

So that’s how I ended up poring over both copies of Agricola, a Z-Man first edition from 2008 and a Mayfair Games second edition from 2016. The differences speak volumes about the progression of boardgames in those years when the industry changed, when it exploded, when good game design was invented, when players started expecting different things, and when designers and publishers started trying different things. There are a whole host of differences between the two Agricolas, and not just the solitaire mode, and they’re not just differences between two Agricolas; they’re the evolution of an industry.

So that’s why I have two Agricolas on the shelf: to me, those two boxes embody the development of boardgaming over those vital years. I had initially planned to consolidate the two Agricolas – the meeples from the second edition, the solo mode from the first edition – but it simply won’t work. There are too many fundamental differences, too many things to recommend or prefer one over the other, too many reasons to keep them in their own separate boxes, smug twins sitting on my shelves, seemingly unfazed by their brush with the “get rid of” pile.

Ooof. That would be so painful, but I get it. I’ve got a handful of new things rolling in. For instance, I stupidly did an all-in pledge for ISS Vanguard a while ago, but I even more stupidly failed to understand I’d pledged a pledge that isn’t shipping until who knows when. But at least my curiosity will be satisfied – so is this just another clumsy Tainted Grail, but in space? – before I pass it along. And perhaps I can think of it as the slot where I’ll be able to trade for something else.

@tylertoo, that sounds so much fun! I want to do that! At the very least, you’ve convinced me to definitely catalog the “get rid of” pile to use as trade fodder. There aren’t many games I still want, but there are a few, and if I can get those titles, while finding good homes for some of these, I’ll feel much better than if I simply dumped them into someone else’s lap to deal with. Which is what I had been doing.

How did you find the swap? Living in Los Angeles, I’m guessing this sort of thing happens all the time around me. I just need to figure out where!!!

In some office space at USC, Kyle is laughing manically as his plan for domination takes shape. Converting you to Agricola is no small feat.

I predict Kyle will be over soon to talk you into your Third Agricola:

I’m in Philly, and I’m on two Facebook groups devoted to board game sales in the area, as well as a Discord channel for Philly gaming in general, including a sale/trade subchannel. The game swap was publicized on all three. I’d imagine LA has similar, if not more.

Decline Accepted! Please sir take your time. I’ve recently purchased a lovingly used copy of Unconditional Surrender to play with my neighbor. He says it’s his favorite Strategic Level Wargame of all time so we’ll take it scenario by scenario and build up to North Africa. That will keep me occupied for

Your glowing mini-review of Skies Above Britain piqued my interest. It seems to do what I’ve wanted from a Leader series.

Don’t need that one.

I had Jerry White over to the house and we played Nevsky. I didn’t have the heart to press him into teaching me Atlantic Chase. But, I did manage to tell him I really appreciated the campaigns he has in his games. I talked up Skies Above but I particularly like what he did for the Enemy Coast Ahead Doolittle Raid. I really look forward to Infernal Machine

I’m really glad Tom got Skies Above Britain. Skies and Storm Above the Reich are essentially one big game but the dogfighting focus of Britian make it seem pretty unique to me.