Saturday, February 23, 2008

Too Many Games?

Lately, when thinking about my tabletop games collection, I've been pondering the $100,000 question, "how many games is too many games?"

That's not an easy question to answer.

Most avid gamers have a hoarding mentality. They like to collect lots of games and admire what they've amassed, even if there's no realistic chance that they are going to actually get to play all of those games. TMP did a recent poll where they asked miniature wargamers if they were "compulsive hoarders", and the majority of people claimed that YES, they were indeed pack rats. I'm sure that if the same poll was presented on BoardGameGeek, the same answer would be received. The lure of collecting new games is an addiction bordering on kleptomania for many gamers.

But there comes a point in every gamer's life when reality sets in. The moment of truth may occur when you run out of shelf space to store more new games/models. For some very sad, unfortunate gamer geeks, it strikes when they're so far gone that their weekly expenditure on games out-strips their weekly spending on essentials like food and utilities. And for folks like me, it hits when the opportunities to play games with my circle of friends falls far short of the sheer variety of games that I have readily available to play.

When this ultimate breaking point is reached, what's a puzzled gamer to do? To me, the obvious answer is that it's time to streamline and downsize your game collection to much more reasonable levels. And that means selling off games, be it on eBay, at conventions or yard-sales, or selling them to your friends who had the sanity not to go overboard and amass way too many goodies. Perhaps you'll even want to go the philanthropic route and simply give away some of your games to those less fortunate. Whatever your approach, you know (and I know) you've just got to do it!

But before you undertake your own personal great games sell-off, just how many games should you keep? That number will vary greatly for everyone, but my general rule of thumb is to base it on the typical number and type of gaming sessions that you host each year.

Let's look at an example of how you can figure out this target number for yourself.

For me and my busy circle of gaming buddies, the hope is that we can hold 1 game session per week (or 52 sessions per calendar year). So far in 2008, gaming sessions have been held more like once every 2 weeks (or 50% of available weeks) . But if I factor in Monday evening gaming sessions that I've gotten to play with my family, the total has been more like 3 out of every 4 weeks (or 75%). So I'm looking at hosting roughly 40 gaming sessions per year.

If I analyze those 40 gaming sessions, how many games do we play during each session? For me, it's usually just 1 game. But occasionally, perhaps 25% of the time, we'll play a 2nd filler game that takes 30 minutes or less. So taking 40 x 1.25, I need about 50 games to cover every session I'll be hosting per year.

But realistically, you don't always play a different game each time you host a game session with your friends. There are those favorite games that you play multiple times per year. Out of my base of 50 games, perhaps 33% of the time I'm going to replay a personal favorite like Battlelore, HeroScape, Lord of the Rings Confrontation, and so forth. The math is actually a bit more complicated than this, but for easy figuring let's deduct 16 games from my base number (50 x .33) yielding a net of 34 games. I prefer to round to the nearest 5, so that means that 35 games in my collection should do the trick for me.

But I like to factor in one more thing, called the gamer's "security blanket". The idea here is to add 20% to 25% worth of padding to your target number to ensure that you've got enough extra games to feel warm & cozy. I'm going to choose 25% for myself since my target number is pretty low (under 50 games). So with 25% padding factored in, my new target number equals 45 games (or 35 x 1.25, rounded to the nearest increment of 5). For gamers with higher targets (over 100 games), you may want to use the lower 20% padding factor.

The idea of padding is simple. Perhaps you break out a new game only to discover that you absolutely hate it the 1st time you play it. You're going to sell off that puppy right away, and you need a much better game to take its place. Or maybe you want a "special game" that's only pulled out on very rare occasions (e.g. a zombie game on Halloween, or a golden oldie that you play with a childhood friend when he or she comes over for a rare visit). By having some extra games in your collection, you have the security to cover those special circumstances.

Looking at my target number of 45 games, I cry inside a little. Man, I'm going to have to take a hacksaw to a good portion of my collection! My heart has dropped three feet and my hands are starting to shake.

An aside here:
I currently have over 140 games in my tabletop games collection. Some of these are miniature wargames that I own strictly for research purposes. I'm a game designer and like to understand and compare & contrast other wargame systems in an effort to find those game bits that I love, elements of play that I really dislike, pitfalls to avoid, and things that encourage me to devise new concepts/mechanics that haven't ever been done before (or at least done in the way that I envision doing them).

If you ignore all of my minis games, I still have over 100 board games and card games in my collection. Apparently, I'm a bit of a hoarder too! Yikes.

In order to get down to 45 core games, I could get rid of all my board games rated 6 or less (on my personal 1 to 10 rating scale). Even then, I would still be a little bit over my 45 game limit. But there are some well-rated classics that I've kept around for nostalgia's sake, and I could probably part with them simply because I don't foresee getting to play them again. I'm unlikely to ever play Sports Illustrated Baseball or SI Football again. Cutting games like that would probably be enough to get me down to the limit.

What really bothers me is that there are almost 100 new games on my BGG wishlist. For every new game that I add, I'll need to purge an older game from my collection in order to keep things balanced. That brings me to the stark realization that unless I really envision liking a new game and foresee playing it multiple times with my current circle of gaming friends or family, then it's just not worth buying.

So unless I can suddenly finagle more gaming sessions, and consequently increase the number of playable games in my collection, then I'm going to have to purge the wheat from the chaff.

On the plus side, that means focusing my gaming attention on playing the games rated 10, 9, 8, and 7 in my collection. In essence, we're talking quality over quantity. And after all, playing good games is really what it's all about.

On the downside, I'm going to have to get choosier in my game-buying habits. Taking chances on iffy games is not something that I want to do if it means sacrificing a well known, quality game already in my collection. When you're an addictive game hoarder, it's extremely tough to just say no. Perhaps someone will invent MethaMeeple for us addicts? A little injection of this drug before you browse BGG or surf on over to ThoughtHammer, FunAgain, Time Well Spent, FairPlay, or The Warstore and you're good to go! No more hand shakes and nervous eye ticks.

So there you have it. Once Spring rolls around and my spare time frees up, I will begin the purge. Visions of eBay will dance in my head. But then, maybe my fledgling game club will grow and that 45 game limit will grow to 50-60 games? I can only hope for the best.

By the way, what's your personal games target number? I'd love to hear from you Six Sided Rhinoceros readers out there.

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