Thursday 17 May 2012

boardgamer lifecycle

This year, it struck me that me exiting the boardgame hobby is a possibility. Not that it is likely in the near future, but this is probably the first time I considered it a possibility at all. One of the reasons is I have got back into another old hobby not related to boardgames (or any games at all). The other reason is I have been quite jaded about some aspects of the boardgame hobby for quite some time, in particular the quantity of new games that are being published and how very very few of them excite me. Almost all of them feel very been-there-done-that. Even some which seem to have unique ideas elicit only a "so what?" from me. Hmm... I probably shouldn't be spreading this negativity here. On the brighter side, I am trying to focus on playing fewer games, but good games. Games with some depth. I try to do multiple plays of games, to better appreciate and enjoy them. I find that I more often think of playing again older games that my friends or I already own, than seek out new games to explore. I think I am getting more contented with games I already have access to, and am more keen to get them played more frequently.

My BGG addiction is reducing. One big change in my BGG browsing habit is that instead of sorting articles (blog posts, geeklists, reviews, forum posts and game forums posts) by recency, which ensures that I don't miss any article, I now sort them by hotness, i.e. only those highly thumbed (recommended) float to the top of the lists and are visible. I don't need to visit BGG daily now. I still open up Google Reader daily, going through all my boardgame related subscriptions. However I often just mark an article as read after looking at the title and deciding I am not interested.

As I pondered the stages that I go through in my boardgame hobby, I thought it would be interesting to list them down and see whether others experience similar stages as I do. The stages below will not occur in the same order for every person. It is probably more like a checklist to determine how deep into the hobby you are. The dates I put in this table may not be very accurate. They are only the best that I can remember. Hopefully these will bring out a chuckle or two as you go through them.

My collection in Oct 2004, when I was in Taiwan.

My collection in Dec 2011.

  1. Wow! Didn't know there are so many different types of boardgames; got to buy every good one that I like.
  2. Q4 2003In my case, and probably this is the same for many people, it was the discovery of BGG. I remember my shock at how low Axis & Allies (1984) ranked (around #250 then). And what's this Puerto Rico thing (then #1)?
  3. I self-make a boardgame (including making Print-and-Play games).
  4. Q4 2003I think the first ever boardgame I self-made was Reiner Knizia's Samurai. I played a computer version of it and didn't even know it was originally a boardgame. I thought I was very smart for observing that it could be a boardgame to be played with human players. I have never done a Print-and-Play boardgame though.
  5. I try to introduce boardgames to anyone I think may like them.
  6. Q1 2004Introducing boardgames to my friends in Taipei was very successful. Too bad after I left Taipei, they gradually drifted away from boardgames.
  7. I play a boardgame online (vs another human player).
  8. 2004It was on BSW. I remember playing Carcassonne, Power Grid, San Juan.
  9. I make my first bulk boardgame order from an online retailer.
  10. Q4 2004
  11. I buy a game(s) so that I can reach the free shipping threshold.
  12. N/ANot offered when I buy from overseas, because it's international shipping. Not taken advantage of when I buy locally, because, hey, I'm a rational buyer.
  13. I follow specific designers and publishers because I know theirs are the types of games I will probably like.
  14. 2004 (2008)Since around 2004 I have been following Reiner Knizia's works closely, and to a certain extent Rio Grande Games' publications. Only around 2008 I started paying specific attention to some other designers and publishers.
  15. I attempt to buy most of or all of a particular designer's games.
  16. N/AI did buy many of Reiner Knizia's games at one stage, but I was still selective. I like many games by Martin Wallace, Uwe Rosenberg, Vlaada Chvatil, Wolfgang Kramer, Marcel-André Casasola Merkle and Larry Harris, but never felt the urge to buy a game because of who designed it.
  17. I meet a fellow gamer that I got to know via the internet.
  18. Jan 2005That would be Han.
  19. I reach 50 games owned.
  20. May 2005
  21. I reach 100 games owned.
  22. Jun 2007
  23. I start a boardgame blog.
  24. Jul 2007I created a boardgame section at my old personal website around Jun 2005. But it was only in Jul 2007 that I started blogging. My "Boardgaming in Photos" blog posts are based on my old boardgame section.
  25. I participate in game trading.
  26. Aug 2007I've only done this once. I'm too lazy to arrange trading.
  27. I sell a game.
  28. N/AI still hold on to every stinker, just because I dread the logistics of selling.
  29. I cull my collection (by 10% or more).
  30. N/AI don't think I can pick enough games to get rid of to make 10%. Some I can't get rid of due to sentimental value. Some due to the mentality that I will play them again, some day.
  31. I teach my children boardgames.
  32. 2008No just playing with game components, but playing with at least simplified rules. Not so sure about this date, but I think I started when my elder daughter was about three.
  33. I pre-order a game.
  34. Jun 2009Martin Wallace's Automobile. I read the rules beforehand, and was quite confident that I'd like the game. I was right.
  35. I Kickstart a game.
  36. N/ANot sure whether this should be lumped with pre-ordering. This should be considered the same as participating in a P500 system, because publication is dependent on the funding goal being reached.
  37. I buy a very expensive game.
  38. N/AEveryone will have a different definition of "expensive", just use your own. For me, I have bought some expensive games, like Indonesia (~MYR330 / USD105), Automobile (~MYR251 / USD76), Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition (~MYR313 / USD100), but I don't feel the prices are too excessive. Antiquity, which I'm still trying to find at a reasonable price, going for MYR470 / USD150 is excessive.
  39. I'm running out of shelf space.
  40. N/AWell, this is a bit harder to measure, because in the past I have purchased more shelves for games before running out of space. If I hadn't, then I would have already run out of space originally allocated to boardgames. Also, different people have differently sized homes / boardgame storage rooms / boardgame space. The way I measure this is you run out of space before you have time to make more space, and you have to temporarily place your games on the floor, or on other shelves which are meant for other things, or in any other non-ideal locations.
  41. 24-hour marathon session (short breaks / naps allowed).
  42. N/AI think my longest single session was 9 hours (Here I Stand). I have done a (primarily) boardgame trip before, but we did have long breaks and it more a relaxing trip than an intense marathon session.
  43. I mostly play with just a few friends who are also into the same types of games.
  44. 2010I have been hoping for many years to build up a regular boardgame group with maybe 5 - 10 players, i.e. like the gang in Taipei. It never quite worked out. Many friends came and went. Eventually I became too lazy to evangelise, and settled into a comfortable routine playing with Han and Allen, and sometimes at OTK.
  45. Light games don't feel very satisfying anymore. I need something deeper and more challenging.
  46. 2010I thought this happened earlier, but as I went through my game purchase records, I found that even up to 2009 there were some relatively light games that interested me enough that I ordered them.
  47. More than half of the new games sound bland.
  48. 2010
  49. I reach 200 games owned.
  50. Aug 2011
  51. More than 90% of new games sound bland.
  52. 2011
  53. Exiting the boardgame hobby is a possibility.
  54. 2012
  55. I take time off boardgames.
  56. N/ANot yet.

Note: Table edited on 19 May 2012 based on feedback and suggestions received.

Any other important milestones that I missed?


Anonymous said...

I'm at the same point so don't feel alone. I also started in this hobby after discovering BGG in 2003. Is the lifespan of a gamer only 9 or 10 years, or are we not serious enough in the hobby?

A milepost you missed (or passed by without notice) is playing games at one of the online sites. I did that for a while with a regular group.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

hi sodaklady! i'm a long-time follower of your blog. good point about playing boardgames online. i have forgotten about that. for me it was 2004 i think, on bsw. but i never really played very regularly online.

i don't worry so much about whether i'm serious enough into the boardgame hobby. it's a hobby afterall, and one should not feel any obligation. we just enjoy it while it lasts. if i do one day stop playing boardgames, i'd still cherish the happy memories i and wouldn't regret the time and money spent. and i imagine boardgames is something easy to ease back into after a break, no matter how long it is, as long as you can find people to play with.

Jason said...

This is a very nice article and I personally relate to many of your earlier milestones - I dove deeper into the hobby after discovering BGG in 2010.

Another milestone might be brainwashing - er, I mean, introducing your own kids to the hobby!

I enjoyed your thoughts and hope that you find a nice balance to where you can play games you really like with friends you enjoy from time to time, so that you don't drop completely out of the hobby. I hearitly agree there are too many games - and bland ones, at that - today and lead to a hard-to-fulfill desire to collect them all. Unless you have no money, like me! :-)

Two questions. Do you think the time spent on your blog (which I've really enjoyed, btw) has contributed to your burnout? Also, has the recent departure of one of your regular gaming buddies influenced this, as well?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Jason, good point. Indeed _educating_ the next generation in boardgames is an important aspect of being a boardgamer. :-) I think for me that started in 2008, I.e. about when my eldest daughter was three.

Neither time spent on blogging (not even the bi-lingual blogging part) nor temporary departure of a long-time gaming buddy caused the burnout. I have never really felt obligated to blog. When I am not in the mood, I just set aside blogging, and come back to it when I feel like it. As for Han, we still keep in touch via online boardgames, and I'm sure when he gets back we'll be resuming like he has never left.

My burnout is probably more on the chasing boardgames news part. Not many new games interest me nowadays, and I tend to just skim the descriptions and quickly dismiss them. I only read up more if it's a game that many people seem to talk about, e.g. Eclipse, Lords of Waterdeep. I have less interest in reading boardgame related articles now. However I haven't lost interest in playing boardgames, which is what the hobby should be about right? :-)

Aik Yong said...

The first thought that came to mind while reading the table is that THIS IS ONE OF THOSE ACHIEVEMENT THINGS!!!

I can identify with most of those, except those concerning game purchases, I don't have those achievements. ;P

Boardgames to me is like my love for my wife, it's a slow burn flame which lasts forever. Lately I've been analysing my love for boardgaming and I find that the puzzle aspect of it apeals to me. That is why casual games or solitaire games on the iPad appeals to me now. By examining my motivations behind why boardgaming appeals to me, I am able to branch out to other new genres I can play with.

Sometimes of course, we need opponents to gloat at, so F2F gaming I still need...

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Ha ha... indeed this IS effectively that kind of GameCentre achievement thingy. But not all milestones should be considered achievements literally, e.g. reaching a certain number of owned games may be more an indication of lack of self-control. :-D This list is probably best used as the checklist of boardgame geekiness.

Aliensean said...


It is interesting to read of your journey in this hobby. I am wondering whether having more varied players and their styles would help ease your weariness.

Is there "free shipping" to Malaysia from overseas online store - I would like to know!


Brian said...

How about this as a milestone: you purge your collection. I recently sold about a quarter of the games I own. It felt good (I was starting to feel a little absurd about the number of games I owned -- nearly 200, many of them unplayed, some still in shrink). I figured it would be good to dump the ones I really wasn't that interested in. I'd have more shelf space and the average quality of my collection would go up. The results were pretty good. I'm thinking about the possibility of another purge.

[The problem is the money I received from the sale went straight back into games.]

Another milestone: buy an absurdly expensive game. In my case, I paid $225 for a copy of Key Market. I wouldn't have done it except, I had just sold a game for the same amount (Moongha Invaders), so it didn't feel like real money. Still, it's sitting there on my shelf, worth an absurd amount of money. Definitely feels like something new.

(Hobbes on BGG)

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Sean,
Nope, I don't know of any non-Malaysian online retailers offering free shipping to Malaysia. I only know of Malaysian online retailers offering free shipping within Malaysia if you buy enough games.

Hi Brian,
Good points! I'm going to update my checklist soon to incorporate the feedback I have received so far. I have thought about culling my collection, but I surprised myself finding that I couldn't part with many games. Some because of sentimental value, some because I still like them and still hope to play them again. One can always hold on to hope. :-)

Anonymous said...

How about going to a game convention?

Afif Ter said...

You will always be a gamer cept the hardcoreness is less hardcore?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Good point regarding attending a game convention. We don't get many in Malaysia, but I actually did attend one a few years ago.

Hi Afif,
I'm probably trending towards more hardcore than less, preferring more complex games and ignoring lighter ones. (I may be making a wrong assumption about what you mean by "hardcore") If "hardcore" means amount of time spent on boardgames and boardgame-related activities, then yes, I feel I might be spending less time, but I'm (at least trying to be) more selective about how I spend my time.

KeeAlvin said...

I used to have this transition from just playing and enjoying boardgames with friends to chasing after the latest hype and releases from ESSEN and buying them immediately it reaches the shores of UK. Then I kind of found out it's a huge mistake to blind buy as I rarely revisit and replay those games again as it's just not as interesting and it costs a lot as well since it's a new release.

Slowly though I've now turned to playing shorter and games which are more 'fun' and less strategic as it takes more of my time and fun games are easier to introduce to new gamers. I guess it really depends on who you normally play with which will influence the taste and even though I don't read all the latest news and such anymore I still love boardgames and haven't thought about quitting yet.

For me it doesn't sound like a burnout but more of something else. Maybe it's just a transition for you from following the hype of new games because it's new even though it's just a repackage of something older to an appreciation of what games are really about, a social and fun escape?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Alvin,
Indeed if looking at it as a transition, then it's a very positive change - I'm spending less time and energy on what I now think are less important parts of the hobby, and I focus more on what I think really matters. So, it's actually an improvement, finding my own preferences, tastes and approach to better enjoy this hobby.

Mike Siggins said...

Nice article. I have been to the end of the line and gave up on the hobby for several years. I am now back, but keep things in moderation. There is a lot of background, but I just did too much for too long, I think.

Try to cut back on the 'sizzle' around the hobby (announcements, news, reviews, BGG etc) and just retreat to playing the games and enjoying them. If you are not enjoying them, then yes, there is a problem.

More here:

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thanks Mike. I have always enjoyed your articles. Thanks for the link to the interview.

For me, I try to remind myself that playing games and blogging and reading about them should be something I enjoy and should not be an obligation or a habit. I try to question myself why I'm doing it if I don't enjoy it. That said, sometimes I realise I do set some expectations for myself. I don't buy or try games for the sake of writing about them, but I do insist on writing about every game that I happen to play. I don't force myself to blog if I don't feel like it, but sometimes when I have a big backlog, I feel a little guilty for being a lazy bum. My quick solution - to be brief and to summarise.

Cecrow said...

I like your "gaming in photos" entries, and I'd imagine they're a bit easier to post than other entries.

Anything that involves the fun of collecting needs to be distinguished from the fun of using the collection accumulated. These are two different things, and I find that you can tire of one without tiring of the other. I'd fully expect the collecting to become less fun if the playing can't keep up, and vice versa. In all things, balance.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Indeed the "boardgaming in photos" posts are a quick and easy way to record and share my experiences. I can write as much or as little as I feel like when I do the captions.

Anonymous said...

I think this happens whenever a hobby, fad, of fashion hits the mainstream (perhaps it is a leap to say boardgaming is mainstream). i saw many music genres die in flames when the masses got envolved. Whenever money because more important than craft things just seem to bog down and get stale. The good news is there are some really great games still being released, the bad is they are hidden by all the crap.

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

That's quite true. In recent years the growth in number of games has been staggering. One optimistic view I have is at least boardgames is quite low technology, unlike computer games which nowadays require so much investment (programmers, graphics artists, hardware) that companies hesitate to innovate too much and don't dare to veer too much off the most common denominator. I also hope that we will have a case of "anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Poor boardgame designs and lousy companies will quickly die off, and the good ones will (hopefully) be recognised and will survive.

Mattias said...

Interesting article!

I am curious - do you play Go? To me it seems impossible for me to ever stop playing Go :)

How about playing solo-games? That's something I did a while and then stopped.

- Mattias

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Hi Mattias, I have played one or two games of Go, just to get an initial feel of what it's like. However I have not learned it properly. I think one reason I hesitate to go into Go is it will take much commitment to learn and to play well. At the moment I prefer to play a wider range of games, although they are not as deep as Go.

I'm not really into solo boardgames. Once in a while I play a PC game. Somehow on the PC I don't mind solo games. However the recent Friday deck-building game from Friedemann Friese interests me.

Mattias said...

There is nothing stopping you from playing Go and a wide range of games :) The great thing about Go is that it has a good handicap-system that makes the game interesting even if you play against someone a lot better so you do not need all that commitment to have fun with it :)

I meant sologaming as a stage in your list. I think it is close to the PnP-stage in a boardgamers lifecycle. There are some fun sologames to print and play at boardgamegeek, but I quit doing that a while ago. It was good for exlporing gamemechanics though.

Iäm the kind of gamer that likes to play new games and Friday seems interesting :)

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Ah I see. Good point - going into solo gaming is indeed one milestone. I have not really gone into solo gaming seriously. My first game that I played solo was probably Lord of the Rings (not really meant to be a solo game). I've also played Pandemic solo (also not meant to be a solo game), and Agricola.