I’m out of space! – Managing my board game collection

I’ve been playing modern board games for well over 15 years at this point, and with each passing year my collection grows. Some years it grew more than others, but either way I have been steadily acquiring. For a long time this was never a problem. I had the space and I played a lot of games. Then my life changed pretty drastically three years ago – two kids came along, I’m running out of space, and I don’t play that many games. My neatly organized shelves have started overflowing and I’ve started to realize that I don’t need all these games anymore.

With two young children, the house that used to seem too big has gotten much smaller. Seemingly every corner of my home has been filling up with noisy toys, stuffed animals, and the occasional over-sized gift from a grandparent that we will never have a good place for. Living among the chaos of a young family has put space at a premium, and a board game collection takes up a lot of space. 

I’ve also had a shift in my attitude around my collection. I no longer have the desire to own as many games as possible. I’ve played enough games over the years, that not every new game does something unique for me. Now I’m finding that I’d rather identify a few games that do something well and keep those. As I find games that do it better, I can swap them out with something that previously held that spot. 

A little bit of reflection

Looking through my collection, I started feeling like Rob from High Fidelity. I’ve had a steady game group since I started playing games, but the group as it exists today is very different than when I started. Some games have strong memories of people and places tied to them. I can look at the Chicago Express box and remember when I played with a friend who was a total non-gamer, who despite my best efforts had no idea what was going on, and bankrupted himself very quickly. Through the Ages was one of the first BIG games I purchased and I remember pouring over the rule book in advance of our first eight-hour game session. Many of my games elicited some sort of memory for me. I knew there’d be some games I wanted to keep even knowing they would never see the table again.

Making a list and checking it too many times

I made a list of a bunch of arbitrary categories and mechanics and went through my collection game by game. If I wrote down a game’s name, I kept it. Anything that wasn’t written down I’d try to get rid of. Here’s the list I came up with:

  • Family games
  • Worker placement
  • Auction
  • Area control
  • Civilization
  • Area control
  • Dice
  • Dexterity
  • Negotiation
  • Euro games (I’m casting a pretty wide net on this one)
  • Deckbuilding
  • Dudes on a map
  • Card games
  • Train
  • Party
  • Heavy games
  • Programming
  • Economy
  • Dungeon crawl
  • 2 player

There’s obviously a lot of overlap here. For some games, I created a category just to have a good justification for keeping them. As I expected, I also have several games I just don’t want to get rid of regardless of how often they are played. Games like the “mask trilogy” of games because they are some of the first games I acquired, New Angeles and Netrunner because I love the Android setting, or Freedom: The Underground Railroad because that game just feels like something special. Strangely neither of the two games I mentioned earlier made the cut. The games I do want to keep indefinitely were added to the “hall of fame,” which probably has more games in it than it should. Maybe this is still a little hard for me.

Not everything can make the cut

After going through my list I came away with 16 games that I was happy to get rid of. Some were old games like Citadels that have more or less been replaced by other games. Some, like 7th Continent, are newer games that just haven’t been touched. 16 games coming off my shelves left me with quite a bit of space, which is a comforting feeling as I eye the newest and greatest release on Kickstarter. Now the games that were pulled down, sit in a stack in front of my shelves, in a weird board game purgatory as I figure out how to get rid of them. (After writing this I actually managed to get rid of five games. Slowly but surely I’ll help them find a new home.)

So even though it feels like I made good progress, in actuality everything is even messier than it was to begin with. I also realized halfway through this little project that I still have a large tote hidden away that is full of small 2-player games and card games. I think that is a project that will have to wait for another day.