Board Game Economics: Money, Trade and Value – part I

gamepile

Game Doesn’t Does Pay

I’ve been doing reviews Games for other people for about 7 months now, and overall it’s been a blast. I’ve picked up some games that I would never have seen otherwise, breathed fresh life into games that had been gathering dust for a while, and generally broadened my gaming horizons.

In terms of things that have actually reached me, I’ve had 19 games or expansions so far (I’m optimistic of more, some of them possibly in the post as we speak, but supplier re-stocks and delivery timeframes are not predictable, so I don’t want to count any chickens…)

Doing a few quick sums last week, I was quite surprised to discover just how much these games would have cost if I’d bought them at retail – I don’t want to go into exact figures, but it’s probably more than my net spend on gaming over the whole year.

The reviews I write certainly do take up time, both with the drafting, and (probably more so) with the formatting, images and SEO work, so if I sat down and calculated an hourly rate, I could imagine it getting disheartening. Given that it’s not generally arduous or unenjoyable work though, I’m happy to leave that figure as it is.

Of course, one of the practicalities of doing game reviews is the need to play a game, often quite a lot, and in a fairly concentrated fashion. There have been a few games amongst the things we’ve picked up that weren’t much fun, or just weren’t really right for us. Overall though, I think I’ve been getting better at identifying what’s going to suit our group, and a quick count suggests only about 10 hours or so spent playing games that were really ropey (or on additional sessions of other games that I would probably have given up on sooner if I didn’t have a review to write).

At a conservative estimate, I’d say that up to now, I’ve managed to get a good 170 hours’ worth of enjoyable gaming, based on the things I’ve been sent for free.

Expanding

zombexpansions Of course, it’s never quite that simple. For one thing (as I may have mentioned before), I’m a bit of an expansion junkie. Whilst that’s good when I pick up a free expansion for Dominion or Elder Sign that inspires me to start devoting more play-time to a game I already own, it also means that I’ve inevitably ended up spending my own money expanding the games that I’ve acquired.

The biggest money pit in this respect was Zombicide Black Plague – in fact, a quick totting up this morning tells me that I’ve probably spent as much money on adding to this game as if I’d backed the KickStarter in the first place.

Overall, I don’t think that the “free stuff” to “money spent as a result of acquiring free stuff” ratio is bad, given how much I’ve enjoyed games like Zombicide – although there probably was an initial rush of excitement, or some self-justification (I can buy this expansion with the money I saved on getting the game for free…) I’ve calmed down pretty quickly, and am generally being a lot more targeted with what I buy extra bits for.

catancontents
One of those which made way for something newer and better

This year has provided a definite refresher for what had become a fairly static games collection: some old things are getting moved along as I’m now playing newer and (generally) more enjoyable things. By the time the dust settles at year end, I don’t think I’ll be far off of breaking even on the “money spent on expanding review games” vs “money made from selling games” which is not at all a bad place to be for my main hobby.

 

Numbers

As much as I know the internet isn’t the place to be posting details of every penny I spend, I do like to number-crunch. By my rough reckoning, the number of hours spent playing Zombicide this year, means that even if you count in the money spent on a birthday’s worth of expansions, the game overall still works out at less than £1.50 per hour (a figure which gets much better if you look at that rate on a “per-player” basis). Across the review games as a whole, if I knock out the time spent in laborious review play-throughs, I reckon I’m looking at less than £1 per hour.

In terms of individual games, there are only 4 (so far) where I’ve actually spent extra money. Zombicide I’ve already discussed, but here are a few quick thoughts on the other 3…

 

B-Sieged

bsieged After Zombicide, B-Sieged is the main game I’ve added to: I bought a set of cards to use the B-Sieged characters in Zombicide (which I’ve counted as Zombicide spending), and also bought the big-box expansion for B-Sieged itself. The characters from this expansion are great, and have been helpful in the B-Sieged base game, as well as in Zombicide, but we’ve yet to get the expansion monsters to the table in a game of B-Sieged itself. B-Sieged is one of those games that’s good, but not quite great, and keeps getting pushed out. Right now, it’s sitting at about £4.29 spent per hour of play – given that all of those games have been 2+ players, £2.15 per person per hour is still not too shabby, although I will still be disappointed if this doesn’t get a few more run-outs by the end of the year.

 

Mansions of Madness

MansionsMansions of Madness 2nd Edition would probably still be good value if I’d paid the £85 it seems to cost online. Right now, all I’ve spent is a tenner on some bits and pieces to re-base the miniatures in a less ugly manner (big chunky black plastic bases really let down the aesthetic of an otherwise beautifully-presented game, and a spot of clear plastic does wonders for the overall effect). There’s a good chance I’ll get my wife an expansion for her birthday/Christmas (she is particular fan), but again, that looks like money well-spent.

 

Trade

superdungeonOne area where things get complicated is when games get traded. Krosmaster Quest was the only game I’ve had for review that actually felt like an inherently bad game, rather than just “not for us,” but I took consolation from being able to trade it for Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King, another game that would have set me back somewhere the wrong side of £70 if I were buying it normally. I really enjoyed the first few sessions we had of this, and picked up a couple of expansions which I saw in a sale. Along with the tenner spent on posting Krosmaster, that makes Super Dungeon  the other big cost Games Quest game for the year. The run-time is probably a bit longer than B-Sieged, so it’s only sitting at £4.50 per hour, again perfectly respectable when compared with going to any kind of live event. That said, one of the expansions hasn’t made it out of the box, getting brushed aside by some other new arrivals, so I want to make sure this hits the table before year end.

 

Liquid

fiver
I haven’t yet picked up any of these in exchange for a game…

One important lesson that this year has brought home, is the difference between the theoretical value of a game, and the practical value of a game. I’ve sold 3 of the games I received, and each time I’ve done at a much lower price than it would cost me to buy the thing new. This is perfectly understandable: why would anyone pay close to RRP for a game that comes from a private individual, isn’t brand-new-in-shrink, and therefore doesn’t come with the guarantees / piece of mind you get from a retailer?

£55 for Age of Conan plus expansion is a hefty saving for the guy I’m selling to, more than worth his while, as the game is in mint condition. For me, it doesn’t measure up to the RRP (whatever the RRP was, it’s hard to tell, given the differing editions of the game), but it’s still £55 I didn’t have before, that I can use to offset the cost of some of those Zombicide expansions.

Trading is a much better way forward, if you can find someone who wants to deal. The Krosmaster / Super Dungeon trade allowed me to get a £75 game for only the cost of postage when there was no real chance that I could have sold for £75 and bought something else using cash – it also allowed the other guy the same thing.

The Power of Maths

For some of the games that I’ve been struggling to shift I’m planning on heading back into the murky world of Maths trades. For anyone not familiar with them, rather than need to find a straight swap for a game you’re interested in, a Maths Trade uses some fairly clever bit of software to find a big loop of traders – so A gives their game to B, B gives to C, C gives to D and D gives to A – (that’s a fairly simple version, it could easily involve 20+ people). Everyone gets rid of the game they no longer want, and in exchange receives a game they do want, without needing to find someone interested in a 1-for-1 swap.

maths

Taking part in a Maths trade is a fair amount of work. First of all, you have to list all the games you’re looking to shift. Then, once everyone has listed, you have to trawl through the listings, and identify all the things you’d be interested in – this can be particularly painful as some people will mass-dump their entire collection (in last month’s UK maths trade, it looked like a German guy had listed German-language editions of about 200 games!). Once you’ve made you decision, there’s a form to fill in, listing what games you’d be prepared to part with in exchange for what, and what your order of preference would be for them. I’ve already listed a load of things for this month’s trade, but am slightly despairing of when I’m going to have a chance to file my wants, as there’s no weekend between listings ending, and wants needing to be submitted.

Once everyone has done their lists, the computer does its thing, and for each game you either get a “no trade” message, or a notification of where to send it.

pandemic
So much more used than Puerto Rico ever was

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to be looking for going into these trades – there are a lot of listings for cash, but it’s hard to know where to pitch the value. Realism is important – I really want to try Descent, and can’t justify that initial outlay, but even if someone does list a copy, I need to seriously question whether anything I’m offering will be in the same range.

I also don’t want to get into the position of trading just for the sake of it – there’s no benefit in trading one game I never play for another I never play.

It’s been a few years since I did a maths trade. I’ve definitely had some good successes, like the time I traded Puerto Rico for Pandemic, but have also had experience of things not shifting. It can be fairly labour intensive, which is probably why I’ve not got involved for a while, but as my game collection grows through reviewing, it increasingly looks like the most practical way of moving things along profitably.

Reflections

My slightly paranoid/OCD nature, coupled with the fact that only communicate with my boss and my editor by email hasn’t always made this year the easiest – I’ve wasted a fair amount of time panicking that games have been lost in the post and I’m going to be billed for them, when in fact they’re just out-of-stock / really busy in the warehouse, and haven’t been sent. Overall though, it’s been great. The sheer amount of games that I’ve got has been phenomenal, whether you measure it in RRP, hours of gaming, or just the amount of shelf and floor space being occupied. Long may it continue!

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