When it comes time to purge, how do you decide what game to remove from your game collection? – Ask The Bellhop

Today we’ve got two questions that are both about deciding which game or games to remove from your tabletop game collection. In this article, I will be talking about a number of different ways to help you decide what board game to get rid of or when it’s time to remove that RPG or module from your collection.

Cory Christensen asks:

“If you had to remove a game from your collection, which would it be?”

And Tabletop Bellhop patron Joho Rutilia asks:

“Filling up the first closet is something that every hardcore gamer and collector faces at some point. Then starts the negotiation with the better other about getting more room, or selling some of the games away before new purchases. What tips would Tabletop Bellhop give for selling some items from that precious collection? When to let go of a game? Is it just the number of plays or do other factors affect the decision? How about that rare collector’s item? Where and how do you sell your used games? How to find the correct price?”

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Why you might want to remove some games from your collection

Both of these excellent questions deal with culling a game or games from a tabletop game collection. Juho, in particular, is also asking about pricing and selling games and I think that’s a second, equally valuable, topic, but one that I am going to save for another article (which you can expect to see next week). 

What I want to focus on today is the question of deciding which game(s) to get rid of if you ever find yourself in need of thinning down your collection. I think this particular topic applies equally to all types of tabletop games, board games, card games, miniature games, miniature armies, as well as RPGs and other story games.

Before I get into talking about how to decide what to get rid of, I think it’s worth mentioning why someone might want or even need, to get rid of some games in their collection. One reason I think this is important to consider is that the reason someone is getting rid of games can factor into what games they may want to get rid of.

Reasons you may want to get rid of some games may include: 

  • Money – Paying the bills and putting food on the table is far more important than any hobby. Also, selling old games can be a great way to get more money to buy new games. 
  • You are out of room. – You may have too many games, moved into a smaller space, or the space you had for games now has to be used for something else. 
  • You no longer get to play as often as you once did. – There are many reasons why you may not be gaming as often. You have kids, your game group breaks apart, you move to a new area and don’t know any gamers, or other things become a priority for you.
  • You no longer need your collection. – This often happens when you are part of a larger gaming community or gaming club. There are plenty of other people that own the games you want to play or there’s a local game store with an extensive library or a new gaming cafe opens up. Or perhaps your new spouse or partner has some of the same games you do.
  • You are planning a move. – Whenever anyone undergoes a move it’s normal to evaluate the things you have and not bother moving the things you don’t need.
  • Other reasons – I’m sure there are many other reasons someone may need to cut down on their tabletop game collections that I haven’t listed here. 

The important thing to note here is that all of these are valid.  No one should feel guilty for getting rid of games. Sometimes people can get attached to things and the collector urge kicks in. You have to fight that urge. There’s no shame in culling or curating your collection. You don’t need thousands, hundreds or even ten games in your collection to be a “real gamer”, you just have to enjoy playing games. 

The rest of this article will get into the nitty-gritty of picking what game or games to get rid of. Please note that a lot of what I share here on this blog is subjective, but this, to me, is more subjective than usual. Everyone is going to find their own reasons to select which of their games to get rid of. What works for one person isn’t going to work for someone else. I just hope this list gives people a number of ideas to take into consideration when curating their personal game collection.

Here are a variety of ways and suggestions on how to select which games to remove from your game catalogue:

Jones’ Theory – Back in 2009, Cody Jones from the Game On! podcast suggested a theory for game collecting. His theory was that you should never have more than one game of a single type in your collection. For example, in regards to worker placement games, if you own Caylus you shouldn’t also pick up Lords of Waterdeep unless you are picking it up to replace Caylus.

Personally I find that Cody takes things a bit too far with his theory, but the idea that one game can replace another game is valid. Over the years I have found that I will get a new game, one that has something in common mechanically with a game already in my collection, and this new game just does it better. Over time I discover that I am playing the new game often and never going back to that original game.

This happened to me with Dominion. Once I picked up and started playing games like Star Realms and Ascension, I found that I no longer had the desire to play Dominion. Note in this example that I didn’t fully follow Jones’ Theory. I still play and enjoy both Star Realms and Ascension as well as other deck builders, it’s just that I found that I was no longer playing Dominion. I am more than happy to keep games with similar mechanics that feel and play differently.

When you do find that a new game replaces an old game, getting rid of that old game makes perfect sense.

Gameplay Frequency –  Tracking how often you play a game is a lot easier for those of us who use BoardGameGeek or some other piece of software to track their game plays. Even if you don’t log your plays, most people have a pretty good memory in regards to how often a specific game in their collection hits the table.

If you find you have a game in your collection that you haven’t played in a very long time, you should take a moment to ask yourself why. If you don’t feel like it’s something that you want to play that again any time soon, then that is probably a game that you aren’t going to miss if you get rid of it.

However, there are many good reasons for keeping a game that doesn’t get played often. For me, this includes some games that I only play at family gatherings or games that I keep for the public play events that I often host. What you have to watch out for here is falling into the sunk-cost fallacy and only keeping the game because you invested time and/or money into it in the past. 

In my case, when I notice that I haven’t played a game in a very long time, I will try to plan a game night to give the game one more shot. I will play it one more time and see if there’s a good reason why I haven’t been playing it. Sometimes this final play ends up being great, and it’s just the fact I’ve been busy playing other things and had forgotten how much fun the game is. More often, that’s not the case though, and I find something about the game that I no longer enjoy. In that case, it’s time to let that game go.

Enjoyment of the Game – You sit down to play a game and find that it’s just not fun or not fun anymore. This is probably the most reasonable reason to get rid of a game.

Sometimes I break a game out during a game night and it just flops. This could be a new game that I picked up or got a review copy of, or it could be a game that I’ve owned for some time that I just haven’t played recently.  If you find yourself playing a game and not having fun, that’s probably the best indication of all to get rid of it.

However, what I will suggest is that before getting rid of a game after a bad gameplay experience you should quickly review the rules and make sure you are playing properly. More than once I’ve had a terrible game experience only to learn that the reason it was so terrible was that we weren’t playing the game right. You also want to make sure that the fault lies with the game and not the players. You may want to give the game a shot with a different group of players, as the enjoyment of many games can be very player dependant.

Assuming you did play the game by the proper rules and it doesn’t seem to have been a player problem, there’s no reason at all to keep a game that you don’t enjoy in your collection.

Space Concerns – One of the main reasons people find they want to get rid of some games from their collection is because they no longer have enough space.  Sometimes a good way to pick what game will have to go is to find games that take up a lot of room.

Before you go grabbing the largest box in your collection to toss to the wayside I do suggest you consider doing some game reboxing. With board games, many expansions will fit into the original game box and with RPGs, you will find you can often fit a number of modules and splat books inside an RPG boxed set. In addition to this, many games come in boxes way bigger than they need to be. If you really need space consider swapping things out of their original boxes and into something smaller. 

A friend of mine uses plastic photo cases to store small package board games and card games. With just one case she manages to hold sixteen games, saving her a ton of shelf space and making that part of her collection all the more portable. Also please realize that getting rid of board game boxes is not a crime. I’ve done it, you can do it too! Just put them in the recycling with all your other cardboard.

Let’s say that condensing what you have isn’t an option, then it’s probably time for something to go and picking the biggest game in your collection is a valid answer. I have done this myself. I got rid of a copy of Planet Steam (the original printing) because the box is huge. I also bought a replacement copy of Alhambra because the newer printing came in a smaller box which fits better on my shelf. 

Shelf space isn’t the only thing you should be considering here either. Besides taking up room on your shelf a game can take up too much room at the table. If all you have to play on is a coffee table you may want to remove that copy of Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from your collection as it’s never going to fit in the space you have to play.

Lack of Support – When a game goes out of print or when a new edition of an existing game comes out, support for that game can dry up. This is far more common in regards to roleplaying games and miniature wargames but it does happen with the occasional board game. Before you go purging your old editions of games please realize that just because a game is out of print doesn’t mean you can’t play it anymore. The Game Police aren’t going to show up and arrest you for not keeping up with the latest edition.

That said, when things like tournament support and organized play go away and the influx of new content stops, that can be a really good reason to part with your now dated collection. This could be old printings of board games, RPG systems that have gotten new editions, or old models and armies that are no longer legal for play. Selling your old edition material can be a great way to get some money to invest in the new version of your favourite game.

With today’s modern games there’s another way lack of support can mean it’s time to get rid of a game and that’s when the digital support stops being available. A growing number of games on the market now require an app or piece of software to work. Once those apps stop being supported, there isn’t much reason to keep the games that needed them.

No Players – The inability to get a game to the table because you can’t find players is probably the saddest reason of all to have to get rid of a game, but it is something that happens. 

If the problem is that you don’t know any local gamers I do suggest you check our tips for Starting your own Tabletopop Game Club and perhaps try building a local community yourself before you give up on those unplayed games. I also realize that sometimes this just isn’t possible for any number of reasons.

Even when you do have a regular group or there are local gamers around there maybe certain games that you can never find players for. This could be a collectable card game or miniature wargame where no one locally plays and there are no organized play events in your area, or maybe you own some super heavy games when everyone around prefers lighter games, or you have some epic wargames that take entire afternoons to play when your group can only get together for two hours max.

If you can’t find anyone to play a game, it’s probably best to get rid of that game and then pick up something that you know you can get to the table.

Problematic Content – Sometimes you will find a game in your collection where the game itself or someone involved in the production of that game is problematic. We live in a world that is undergoing a lot of social change. Many of us are learning about the privileges we have and how that impacts others around us. We are learning about things that we used to think were cool that are actually quite uncool. This is a learning experience for many, myself included.

Some topics that we used to think we’re okay in gaming can actually be quite problematic once you look into them deeper, and you may no longer want to play games featuring those topics because of it. Also, with a number of voices coming forward with reports of mistreatment, harassment and abuse in the game industry, it has sadly now become quite common to learn that someone involved in the production of a game is someone you no longer want to support. These are all very valid reasons for removing a game from your collection.

Duplication – If you have a regular game group, play games at a local game store or are involved in some form of gaming club it’s highly likely that multiple members of the group own the same games. This is perfectly normal, not everyone plays with the same people all the time, but this can also be a great way to decide to get rid of a game in your personal collection. If you can play someone else’s copy of a game pretty much anytime you want, you don’t need to own a copy of it yourself.

This also applies if you have a local library that has a collection of games you can borrow or a local gaming cafe you can frequent and play games at.

Wear and Tear – Sometimes the games we own are in pretty rough shape. This can come about from a number of reasons, from the game being old, mouldy basements, hot attics, flooding or just through normal use. Cards can get creased and bent boards can warp.

Any number of things can happen to the components of a game or to RPG books to ruin them. These problems could make a game unplayable, in which case you should just toss it, but it could also mean that you never want to play the game because it’s just gross or depressing to look at in such sad shape.

Games getting ruined over time is something that happens and ruined games should be discarded. If the game is still in print you may want to replace it, or just move on to trying something new.

Too much work – While this hobby is about having a good time there are a number of games out there that can be more work than fun. This work can come in a variety of forms and what some folks consider work others might consider fun.

Games can become work due to the time they take to set up or the time they take to tear down after playing. The time and effort needed to learn a game or the difficulty of teaching a game can make someone not want to play that game. Many games have a level of rules mastery that is required for them to be fun. Some games require a number of additional purchases. Others have scenery to be built, models or miniatures that need to be constructed and painted, or other things needed outside the actual rules and components that come with the game.  While RPGs may require extensive prep work for each session, etc.

There are a large number of things that can be considered work in regards to our hobby. Any time a game stops being fun and turns into work, that’s a good indication that you probably want to get rid of that game and move onto something more enjoyable for you and your group.

You’ve Finished It – Sometimes you get to the end of a game. You’ve beaten it, you’ve finished the module, you’ve completed the campaign. While most board games are endlessly replayable many RPG products, like modules and adventures, are run through once and then you are done with them. The same goes for campaign games and most legacy-style board games.

It is also possible that you or your group have solved a game. This could mean something like an escape-room-in-a-box such as The Exit series of games. It could also mean a game where someone has figured out a winning strategy that works every time or an exploit that no longer makes the game fun.

If you’ve completed everything that a game has to offer, there’s no reason to keep it. If the only reason you are keeping a game is due to fond memories, find some other way to memorialize the experience. You could decorate your gaming space by turning the board or components into art. Or turn the game into digital memories by snapping some pictures or writing about it online. You don’t need to keep the stuff you’ve already finished, there are plenty of new experiences out there to keep you busy without needing to return to stories that have already been told.

There’s An App For That – Lately, it seems like every day I see another announcement for a board game that has been converted to digital form. This can be on Steam, as a cell phone or tablet app or as a version created for one of the many virtual tabletop systems like Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator.

The quality of these digital tabletop gaming experiences varies but it is not uncommon for the digital version of a game to be as good as, or even better, than the physical version. In this case, it makes perfect sense to get rid of any physical copies you may own.

When trying to decide whether or not to keep a game, ask yourself these three questions:

Here is one final tip to try to help you look at your game collection more objectively, and to help see past the fog of nostalgia and avoid the sunk cost fallacy. 

Look at each game in your collection and ask these three questions:

  1. Do I want to play this game right now?
  2. If someone asked me to play this game, would I play it?
  3. If I didn’t own this game would I buy it?

If you are answering no to all three of these questions that’s a really good indication that you wouldn’t miss this game if it were no longer in your collection. Even if you answer no to any one of these questions, that may be a good indication to take another look at the game in question and ask yourself why you are bothering to keep it.

While being forced to get rid of a part of your game collection is never fun, taking the time to evaluate your collection can be rewarding in the long run. Curating a game collection is a hobby in its own right and having a well-curated collection, where every game you own is something you are excited to play, can be very rewarding.

Have you ever had to get rid of a game from your collection? How did you decide what had to go?

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