Too Many Board Games?

Travel in any circle of enthusiasts long enough and you will soon find that it is a lot like any other circle. Most people are passionate and friendly. Many welcome new enthusiasts into the fold with warmth and excitement. But sometimes you encounter the underbelly. Once you find the jaded and the cynical you may be tempted to abandon whatever hobby you’ve been following that led you to this point, chagrined and disillusioned. I caution you to regard these naysayers with skepticism. I encourage you to see them for what they are: the dogmatic minority. Just because their bark is seemingly louder than others doesn’t mean they speak for the hobby as a whole. I chanced upon a thread on BoardGameGeek.com a while back and it shocked me that some gamers are so vitriolic towards publishers supposedly publishing too many board games these days.

You read that correctly. People were bemoaning too many options.

too many board games
Oh no…too many board games!

It reminded me of a Henry Ford quote that I shared in that thread:

Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

I also shared some snark of my own in rebuttal with:

Ahhh. The days before collapsible steering columns, shock-absorbent bumpers, anti-lock brakes, and air-conditioning. Who are we to want safety, variety, and options? All these new offerings do is cheapen the driving experience! These whippersnappers will never know.

One excuse was that it was hard to have faith that publishers could have invested enough play-testing to ensure a quality game. That’s a fair notion to have. On its surface. Peel back a layer and it’s easy to see the folly. Traditional board games like Monopoly and Clue were play-tested countless times and as such they are nearly flawless when it concerns being “broken”…but they’re also boring. Give me something that may be rough around the edges but also fun and creative and I can forgive its not being flawlessly polished.

With funding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo it’s much easier for independent developers to bring a game to market. Social media has completely redefined modern marketing. Anyone with an internet connection effectively has a platform. Couple that with the ubiquity of the lower cost of high-powered PCs (or Macs…I’m indifferent) using Adobe software by some skilled, freelance artists and you quickly realize that the barriers to entry have been crumbling away for quite some time.

Do bad games still come to Kickstarter? Sure. All the time. Some of them even manage to get funded. But you can spot most of them early. After all, consumers aren’t fools. We know the warning signs to look for in a given campaign. A low funding goal for a big heavy game with lots of miniatures isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. But I need some convincing that the creator(s) have additional cash to fund the manufacturing and distribution should the game just barely fund.

Another excuse I heard was someone lamenting that he has to be able to play all the new games. Or at least know them intimately. It left me incredulous. It’s like returning from a vacation to France and telling everyone it was a bad trip because you couldn’t eat at all 40,000 restaurants in the city. Or at least read all their menus. Never mind that you saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre!

I won’t enumerate every single reason I saw for “too many games” because they can be boiled down to two primary reasons.

  1. FOMO—as much as I dislike using such a term, this seems to be the primary criticism leveled against the industry at large. And I don’t mean a healthy “take all my money” type of joking criticism. I have seen many a complaint (even outside of BGG) regarding the rate at which games are being produced. These people are angry that it’s too many for them to keep up with. Suck it up. You’re going to miss out. Don’t give into the fear. This train won’t stop or slow down for you.
  2. Old Guard—some people just can’t handle the fact that a once esoteric hobby (“hobby gaming”) is becoming more and more mainstream. These people are easy to spot. They generally start an argument with “gaming was better in [insert some year]” and then give any reason imaginable. For these people it’s not so much a problem of too many board games as it is too many board gamers. Their perceived status as an elite member of some exclusive club is diminished when they see more people joining the hobby. That’s their problem. Not the market’s. Not the hobby’s. And definitely not yours.

In summary, the market/hobby will correct itself. Lately, it’s been on the uptick as more sales, more publishers, and more new games find their way into our homes and game shops. More so than diminishing barriers to entry, lucrative sales are what’s driving the “problem” of too many board games. If the sales dry up, so too will the new games. Bottom line: you don’t have to play all the new games. You don’t even have to know the new games exist. The point is to do what makes you happy. A gamer who thinks he/she needs to stay abreast of ALL the new titles will quickly find themselves jaded and unhappy. Of course, I’m excluding James Hudson. That guy seemingly backs all the Kickstarters! (While I am exaggerating and poking a bit of fun at him, as of this writing he’s backed 844 campaigns.)

If you find yourself suddenly being dissuaded from loving this hobby, ask yourself if it’s pointless negativity influencing your perception or if it’s really that it’s stopped being fun. It’s okay if it’s the latter. In fact, I would rather see you leave the hobby rather than become misanthropic towards the new players if you start losing interest. It doesn’t have to be forever. You could even stick to playing only the games you know you love and stop consuming new content altogether. There’s no shame in that.

Author: Patrick

Board gamer, role-player, father, blogger.

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