My advertising posts often proudly announce the number of board games in my collection. (Currently 310). Like everyone else I prop up, retweet and add to the jokes about the piles of shame; question the necessity of taking clothes to Essen to when you could just fill your case with new games. However, I also see the danger of these throw away comments and jokes. Regularly I feel disquiet about owning games I haven't played while I'm still backing new ones on Kickstarter. Sitting around joking about how much money we can waste is a position of privilege that I don't even want to aspire to.
Being part of the Board Gaming community is not about collecting and bragging. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Even with my large collection, I am sometimes on the receiving end of sniffy comments about the range of my games; the 'seriousness' of them. The phrase 'proper games' has been bandied about in a disparaging manner. People who like to reel off a checklist of games I 'missed out on' from Kickstarter sometimes come to my events. I try to discourage this sort of conversation. I'll happily compete with anyone to build the most profitable settlement, get the most cards or get rid of all the cards - whatever the game demands. But I'm not playing this game. In a hobby that is already niche we really don't need to be marginalising people.
If my business didn't require me to have a large collection of games including some up to the minute releases then I would not have a collection of this size. Nor would I want so many games. I have played each of my games (bar the newest 5 or 6) at least once. Many of them I have only played once. Some of the games in my collection are for others, I don't particularly enjoy them but other people do and that's why they have earned their precious shelf space. Too many of my games I have not been able to play enough. It's great to have choice but it's far better to be able to play something enough that you can thoroughly explore and appreciate it. I feel like a smaller collection would allow me to enjoy my games more.
I have placed myself in an odd position - I feel a fraud denouncing consumerism, the greed and sense of entitlement with which we constantly shop. I despair at my children who as soon as they see something, are weighing up its cost; Ebay, google, amazon temptingly at their fingertips. I feel trapped by it all and it is at these moments I feel the mad desire to charity shop all my worldly good and go live on a bus. But it would be difficult to run a board gaming business if I only kept Honshu and Catan.
I wanted to write something as the influx of Essen hauls flood our social media feeds. I don't begrudge anyone spending their hard earned cash on board games - there are far worse vices. But I wanted to remind us all that it's not ok to make people feel like they need to play certain games or spend a certain amount of money to be part of the Board Gaming Community. Being part of a community is about making sure everyone is included and in this particular community a love of board games should be at the root of that. I don't care whether you backed the latest Kickstarter, whether you have all the expansions or whether you have 1000s of serious games. You don't have to own the 'right' games, the 'proper' games or any games for that matter to enjoy board games. It has not escaped my irony detectors that the same people who are so disparaging about Monopoly often have a very capitalist approach to the hobby!
Social Media offers us a glimpse of other people's lives that they have edited, filtered, presented; it fulfils the nosy neighbour part of me. It's lovely to see gorgeous photos of games I haven't played and I love watching the Kickstarter campaigns start at zero and inch towards the finishing posts or smash straight through them. Social media enables me to engage with games designers and share their victories even when I can't afford to back everything I would like to. Even I remind myself that I can't support everyone and I can't have everything - no matter how pretty it looks in the picture and I have a legitimate reason for adding to my collection regularly. I think it bears mentioning that when we see these pictures from me and others, we are looking at someone's work -whether it's events, reviewing or photography. Most people really don't need to own that many games!
Whether as a child it was about prising an elder sibling away from the TV to play with me; family holidays in a caravan playing card games while the rain pattered on the ceiling or now, as an adult, prising an x-box controller out of a child's hand because I still need someone to play with me - I just want to get people together with board games. That might be a Kickstarter preview or it might be Cluedo, as long as we are playing together and escaping the drudge of day to day life, it doesn't really matter. It shouldn't cost money (or at least not a lot!) to feel that warm nostalgia and to get people playing together.
Keeping the costs down:
Charity Shops - I'm always on the look out at Charity Shops especially for retro games. You can get some real bargains. Recently I got a Ticket To Ride expansion for £1.50!
I try to keep my events free or low cost as far as I practically can to make sure they are accessible to as many people as possible and I know lots of local board gaming groups operate on a similar premise. If you're not sure of your local group, message me and I'll point you in the right direction. Of course if you're in Leeds I'd love to see you at some of my events.
I really like the idea of the legacy games where groups of friends share the cost of a game and get together regularly to play it. It doesn't have to be a legacy game that you could share the cost of.
Some libraries have started stocking board games which is fantastic. If you're lucky enough to live in Ipswich - that's one example.
Most cities have board game cafes where you can try out whichever games you fancy without committing to buying the game.
Some traditional games are loads of fun and all you need is a deck of cards or sometimes even just pen and paper - Beetle Drive, Flip the Kipper and Battleship are all good fun. Any time my children have been set homework where one of the choices was make a board game, they have always opted for that. All you need are dice, card, pens and imagination!
I suppose, in short, what I'm trying to say is - the board gaming community I'm a part of welcomes you, and we're striving to be kind, thoughtful and above all excellent to each other.