How to keep your game collection manageable, redux
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In 2006, I created geeklist with a guide to keeping your game collection from growing out of control. I came across it today, and decided it was worth updating!

If you are trying to keep your collection from growing out of control, I have some recommendations that have helped me. After nearly 20 years of collecting, I have about 300 games now, but would have many more if I hadn't adopted the following policies. (I might have even fewer if I stuck to the policies more strictly.)

This list is not for everyone. It only applies to people trying to keep their collections from growing too much--let's call them "efficient collectors." If what you want is a HUGE game collection (and you can afford it), full of games you are unlikely ever to play, go for it! For the most part, I buy games to play them, and collect them so that I have the games I want to play.

None of these are hard and fast rules--just general guidelines, and I break them all from time to time. I repeat: these are general guidelines, and don't always apply--break them at will, but be aware that you are breaking them, and think about why you are choosing to do so. Loosely following these guidelines has kept my collection under control better than it would be otherwise--the total number of games in my collection has grown by only about 10 games a year since I first posted these guidelines, almost 12 years ago. While there is substantial room to reduce, my collection now consists mostly (well at least > 50%) of games I truly enjoy, and hope to continue playing.

Oh, and all of the examples are only my opinions--I've purposely chosen game other people tend to like for these examples to emphasize rule #8.

Have any suggestions for more guidelines? Feel free to suggest them in the comments, and I'll add them if I think they belong.
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1. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:52]
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1. Try before you buy, when at all possible

Sometimes I fall back on old habits, buying untested games, but usually I try to keep to this rule. You'd be surprised how many games you'll find you don't care much for despite their high ratings, or despite the fact that everyone KNOWS that they will be the best game since Agricola. And it is significantly easier to honestly evaluate a game you haven't just spent $60 on. Of course, sometimes you have to be the one to buy first, but in that case, be extra careful in your selection.

My example game here is a game I recently bought without trying it first. Will I find out I made a mistake? Time will tell.
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2. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:247]
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2. Don't buy "OK" games.

There are so many great games out there--why would you, an efficient collector, want one that you think is merely OK? It almost worse to have an OK game in your collection than a bad one; a bad one you will get rid of, but an OK game sits on your shelf, a bit too good to trade away, not quite good enough to play.

My old example for this was Evo, but that hasn't been in print for years. In the Year of the Dragon, to me, is a good example of an OK games. It is fun to play, but there are so many other great games in that niche (2-5 players, medium duration, medium weight) that I never really want to play it.
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3. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:46]
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3. Trim your collection mercilessly.

If you don't enjoy a game, or if it merely an OK game in a crowded category (four player mid-weight games that take about 90 minutes, for example), or even if it is a good game you are tired of, sell it or trade it away. Pay no attention to the ratings if you think you have given the game a fair shake and still don't like it. I've traded away plenty of very highly ranked games that I don't miss even a little--Tikal, El Grande, Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage, Union Pacific--the list goes on.

The trick to keeping a collection small (or shrinking one that has grown unwieldy) is to make sure that every game earns its place. It also helps to re-evaluate constantly--is there a game that you liked at first, but haven't played in a while? Do you honestly think you will want to play it again, considering all of the other games you have (or will have) to choose from? Maybe it is time to put it on the trade or sale list.

Don't worry about the difficulty of getting it again if you later want it. Really good games get reprinted usually, and those that don't, you can buy again used if you really want it--I've done that a few times.
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4. Board Game: Fightball [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:9250]
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4. Avoid suspiciously good deals on games you've never tried.

Most often, the deal is good because the game is not. The $3 I spent on Fightball (about 80% off) is $3 I'll never see again, with only some dead weight in my collection to show for it. A good board game that you will play many times is a good deal at full price. Guideline #4 applies primarily to games which have been individually reduced in price; by all means take advantage of general sales, but limit yourself to games you were already planning to buy at full price. If it wasn't worth it at full price, you probably won't play it much at half price.
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5. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:39]
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5. Pay attention to what your friends like.

If all of your gaming friends enjoy primarily short, mid-weight German games, no matter how much you think you will enjoy Europe Engulfed or Twilight Imperium, they would probably be bad purchases. Of course, if you are so interested in a game that you are willing to meet new people to play it, by all means do so--but in that case, you should be able to find someone who owns the game, so that you will be able to follow guideline number 1, and try before you buy.
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6. Board Game: SeaFall [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1893]
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6. Pay attention to the overall Boardgamegeek ratings, especially when buying a game that you have not tried.

Even if you have read the rules and are sure that you will love a game, a low rating should be a warning sign. Then read the comments, and see why people dislike the game. Even if you have PLAYED the game and enjoyed it, you should be wary of low ratings. Why? Because you (usually) can't play games alone, and if most people are not so crazy about a game, I guarantee you that it won't get played often, however much you may like it. Of course, if you already know your group likes a game, this rule does not apply.
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7. Board Game: Dominion: Nocturne [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
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7. Don't buy games "just in case."

Buy the ones you want to play now. With eBay and Boardgamegeek Marketplace, you will always be able to get a copy of a game later if you want to play it later. Think that someday you might need another Dominion expansion to keep it fresh? Then buy it then, not now. You may say, "But it will be much more expensive then, when it is out of print." Maybe. But so what? The money you save by not buying games that sit unplayed on your shelf will more than make up for the difference in price.
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8. Board Game: Gloomhaven [Average Rating:8.90 Overall Rank:1]
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8. Don't buy (or keep) great games that you don't like.

There will be some games that everyone but you loves. You may give them a more-than-fair chance, and still not enjoy them the way it seems that you should. You don't have to own those games--pay no attention to the people who tell you you are crazy. Owning such a game will only increase the odds that you will end up having to play it, when you would rather play something else.
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9. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:24]
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9. Sell (or give away) games that you want to get rid of, but can't trade away.

You will always do better in a trade than in a sale. Unless you are actually trying to make your collection much smaller, trading is usually the way to go. But if a game sits on your trade list with no interest for a long time, it may be time to sell it.

A while ago, I bought Mage Knight and its first expansion without trying it first. It was a good deal! (Breaking rules 1, 4, and 13.) Then I played it, and found out that it wasn't for me. Now (at the time I'm writing this, anyway) it is on my "for sale/trade" list.
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10. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:175]
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10. Apply these rules to trades.

Don't lower your requirements when trading for a game. Just because you are made a fair offer to trade for an "OK" game doesn't mean you have to trade. Remember, you are going to pay for shipping at your end. Consider your trades as carefully as you consider your purchases.

This is an example of a game I traded for without having ever played it, with no prospect of playing it any time soon. Predictably, I ended up selling or trading it away again--I should have realized that if it didn't makes sense to buy, it also didn't make sense to trade for.
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11. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:57]
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11. Avoid games that are very impractical to play

Some games that you might otherwise want are highly impractical to play. For example, they might be very long or hard to teach. Or, if you always play games at other people's homes, the box size for a game might make it impractical to actually take anywhere. Or they may require a table larger than you own. A good game that everyone likes that still never gets played is just wasting space on your shelf.
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12. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:318]
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12. Don't spend money to save money.

Don't buy a game you otherwise weren't planning to get in order to "save" money. For example, don't add another item to reach the limit for free shipping--wait until you actually want enough games to qualify for free shipping, THEN place your order.

Hanabi is a great game that you should definitely try! What you shouldn't do is buy it (or other small games like it) to nudge your order up to free shipping if you didn't want a copy otherwise.
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13. Board Game: Carcassonne: Expansion 3 – The Princess & The Dragon [Average Rating:6.74 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.74 Unranked]
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13. Avoid Expansions

Most expansions are not worth buying. Expansions typically add additional rules and components to a game (without removing existing content). Or they may allow a game to be played with more players than it was designed for. The new content may be fun, how often does it make the game substantially more fun than it was without the expansion? Occasionally (see Viticulture), but not often, in my experience.

When should you buy an expansion? When you already love the game, but want more variety for that game, or have good reason to believe that the expansion will substantially improve the game. If the comments trend toward "I will never play the base game again", that is a good sign. Games where the expansions replace existing component also can make sense (e.g., Dominion or Cosmic Encounter, if you have played a lot of the base game already and still want more). And of course games like T.I.M.E Stories, where the expansions are more like modules, also make sense, once you are finished with the stories you have.

Usually, though, if you want more variety, you are better off playing a different game entirely.
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14. Board Game: Queendomino [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:403] [Average Rating:7.34 Unranked]
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14. Avoid sequels, especially when you own the original
For the most part, sequels are like expansions that take more shelf space. They generally take successful games and add a few twists or complications. By their very nature, they are often not different enough from the original to justify owning both, and, if they are better than the original, it isn’t often by much.

Sequels work for books and movies because people who liked the original want "more of the same." But for most board games, you can get more of the same for a game you like by just playing it again.

A corollary to this rule is: if you really want a sequel to a game you own because you really prefer it, you should probably get rid of the original.
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15. Board Game: Exploding Kittens [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:3566] [Average Rating:5.95 Unranked]
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15. (Almost) Never Kickstart anything

Kickstarter is awesome for publishers. It allows them to gauge demand, fund print runs, and promote their games. It is also great for collectors who want to grow their game collections.

Kickstarter is awful, on the other hand, for anyone who wants to keep their collection under control. Most Kickstarters are for games that have never been published (and thus you can't try before you buy). There is no telling how good the game will be, or whether you'll even still want it when it comes out.

So when should the efficient collector kickstart a game? When it is a reprint of a game that you have played before, and really want. Or, occasionally, when it is an expansion for a game you own and really want more content for (but see rule 13).
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16. Board Game: HOP! [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:14863]
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16. Skip the freebies
Some conventions, including BGG.CON, offer free games to attendees. Unless you have the opportunity to get a game you really want, consider skipping it, or giving it away shortly after acquiring it.

I’ve been bad about following this one, and by my count I have over 20 games on my shelf that I never would have bought. Sure, they were free, but they take up space, space that could better be filled with great games that I actually want.
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17. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:60] [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked]
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17. Delay purchases

You've tried a game, you really like it, you think you want to buy it. Now, wait, just a bit. Unless you want it for a game night that is coming right up, wait a little while before putting in your order. Wait till you have enough games to get to free shipping at your favorite retailer, or just wait so you have something to look forward to. Wait because, with any luck, it might go on sale. Wait so that you have something to put on a wishlist for family members or for the BoardGameGeek Secret Santa. Most of all, wait until you are certain you really want it.

Be a bit careful with this one, though--games do go out of print.
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18. Board Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:273]
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18. Apply these rules to your wishlist

If you share your wishlist with family or friends, or if you have a wishlist for a secret Santa gift exchange, the best games to have on the list are those that you are ready to buy, but are delaying purchasing (rule 17).

Do you not have enough games to put on your wishlist according to this criteria? Congratulations, you have a good collection. Consider joining the secret Santa as a give-only participant this year!
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19. Board Game: Like Dice [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:12137]
Joe Huber

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You don't need to own every game you like.

I've kept the size of my collection in check for more than two decades - I had to, having a limited space to store it without upsetting my wife - and while at first most of the techniques I used are covered by Daniel's suggestions - this one both (1) became necessary, and (2) is not on Daniel's list. It was a bit harder to let go of a game I actually enjoyed and wanted to play more - but it was necessary. And over time it's become easier.

Earlier this year, I went through every game I rate 7 in my collection, and challenged myself as to why I needed to keep the game, moving about 40 games to my trade pile as a result. And then I gave away some of them, and then sold or traded away the rest. And sold most of the games I traded for, after trying them. After having a collection of ~300 games for years, my collection is under 250.
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20. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.40 Overall Rank:4]
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20. Keep in mind what your friends own

Do you have a regular game group? Do you have a friend in that group who has a favorite game that they always seem to bring to every gathering (or do you meet at their house)? In that case, you may want to think twice before buying a copy of that game--you don't want to end up with a copy is likely never to get played. Obviously, this goes double for "Legacy" games, where it is important to always play the same copy of a given game.

Note that, if the game your friend owns is your favorite but not theirs, this doesn't give you license to always bug them to bring it over. But if you are not already inclined to buy a a copy of a game you love, this list probably isn't for you.
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21. Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1095]
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21. Don’t re-acquire games you have previously trimmed.

Sometimes you will trade away or sell a game because you just aren’t that into it. Then later, you will remember it fondly, regret parting with it, and want to pick up another copy. That’s probably a bad idea. If you got rid of it once, you are not likely to like it so much better the second time around that it will be better OK.

This rule doesn’t apply in all cases: if, for example, you got rid of a game because you were never able to get it to the table, but your situation has changed (or maybe you finally tried it and loved it), then go right ahead. Or if you sold rare a valuable game for the money, and it has now been reprinted, ok.
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