I reached an important milestone in my life around two weeks ago. I decided enough is enough and my game collection has to stop rising. For some of you this has never been a problem; you have managed to remain passionate about gaming without letting your collection get out of hand, or else you've got so much storage space it doesn't matter.
The size of a boardgames collection is a very important factor to consider whether you are a gamer or a collector; everything has a limit and once this limit is crossed things can get unbearable.
Unbearable is exactly how my wife found living with my games collection around ten years ago. At that time I lived in a house in York; it was a fairly normal post-war semi-detached property common to England, but unlike the more modern houses actually had a fair amount of in-built storage space. In particular my wife and I had a large wardrobe each which had been built into the wall of the main bedroom.
Around two years earlier we had returned from Germany (and despite living over there I never found the time nor the inclination to get back into boardgames; I missed out didn't I?); one of the first things I had done was to return to my mother's house and see what was left of my former games collection, mostly Games Workshop titles such as Super Power and Warrior Knights, but a few other old favourites as well.
I think I left around a dozen or so games from a collection of about fifty or so when I grew up and moved out; and mother being mother, nothing got thrown away. However, with young brothers and sisters I had feared the worst and couldn't bear the thought of those games meeting a fate worse than death. I asked a friend to take whatever he wanted so that the games would not be damaged; needless to say he dug in and took about half with him. The rest had been left to the mercy of my siblings, but thankfully remained for the most part intact.
This made up my new collection on returning to the UK; and by the time I had moved my family into that house in York it had become about forty strong. The game collection increased and before long it had more than doubled and took up one of those built-in wardrobes in its entirety. By this time my wife was becoming increasingly annoyed, not least of all because my clothes had somehow become stored in her wardrobe, and mostly because when she opened the other all she could see was games. This did not put me off and my collection continued to grow; bearing in mind I had not yet discovered the German phenomenon I can look back and say the collection was pretty tame back then.
After a career change, I moved down to the South of the country. At first, we had to rent accommodation; a neat semi-detached with attached garage. The removal men were rather annoyed about having to box all of these boardgames, but then that's what they were paid for. What surprised me was the sheer number of boxes that had been used to pack them; if I recall correctly there were about fifteen in all. Bad news preyed upon my ears at this point; there was no way I would be able to keep these games, in their fifteen boxes or not, in the new house. I tried to find a compromise and that compromise was the loft. I stacked the games neatly up there and everybody was happy. There was room up there, and the collection continued to rise with every visit to a car boot sale or charity shop.
After just over one year we were moving into our own house; a modern mid-terrace about four or five streets away; naturally over such a short distance I handled removals myself and hired a van. Removals took one full day moving to and fro between the two houses with my two sons helping to hump the heavy stuff into and out of the van. The last vanload contained boardgames; or rather the last vanload was full with boardgames. More than triple the size it was when we moved into the house we were moving from, it went straight into the loft in the new house—out of sight, out of mind.
And yes, you guessed it, it didn't take long before it had doubled in size again; as I kept finding new games or second-hand games I didn't have in my collection (and the sole criterion for buying them was that I didn't have them), they kept getting stacked in the loft. The stacks became unmanageable, so I would stack them all a different way (the best way to stack lots of games is on their edges like books, so that no one game takes all the pressure of the pile above it); but again things got out of hand.
Things got out of hand because my wife and I went on a day trip to Birmingham, mainly so she could check out a few clothes shops, but also because I had heard there was a decent games shop there, something I hadn't come across since I'd lived with my Mother. Sure, I'd seen other shops stock one or two titles, but a dedicated games shop was difficult to find. After buying fashion for my Better Half, I cajoled her into allowing me access to Wayland's Forge. What I saw was fascinating, and as Mrs. S. saw that gleam in my eye she relented and allowed me to make a few purchases. I had bought my first German game, and a whole new door was opening; not a new door to how refreshing these new games were, but to what appeared to me to be a revival in something I thought was all but dead.
I started to find interesting sites on the Internet; I had bought Web of Power along with Big City, El Grande and a Cheapass game—Kill Doctor Lucky. I searched the Internet for Web of Power and got an excellent review from a site called Aces Up, prepared by one Matthew Baldwin. I found it all so interesting I mailed him and told him how good his site was. From his links I found other places, such as BoardGameGeek and The Games Journal (he had written an article there before). I registered myself on Board Game Geek and after a short time (well, almost a year) I was contacted by a group in Chippenham looking for players. Boardgames were back for me and in a big way; I now had regular opponents and new games kept coming thick and fast.
At around the seven or eight-hundred count, I decided enough was enough and I invested in some simple shelving I could erect in my loft. It took some time, but afterwards there was shelf space for nearly every game (only the oversized or unusually-shaped boxes remained without shelf space). Unfortunately as my collection was increasing so were the opportunities to increase it. More and more boardgames were being released, the Internet and auction sites had made it easier to get hold of both old and new titles and there was no stopping me. I've lost count, but I reckon over a thousand boxed games have lived in my loft for the past half a year or so. Inevitably they have spilled over into the rest of the house; the wardrobe in the spare room houses around twenty, and they are often found lying around when I have played them the night before. Once again they have become unbearable for the wife.
Around two months ago I started transferring games from the loft into plastic storage boxes in the garage. The idea was to make more space, and the games chosen were games I could never part with but would probably never get to play because they take too long or others just don't like them; this included a lot of Avalon Hill war and strategy games, and one or two Games Workshop titles. Yet still there is not enough shelf space and much of the loft floor space is taken up as well. It is time that the collection was reduced; after the duplicates are gone it is time for the big cull.
This is the difficult part; I love games and have grown attached to many of them, even ones I never play. But I have to be realistic; I want the newer and better games and the ones never played have to go. I decided that for every game considered I would ask myself three questions:
- Do I like the game (aesthetically of course)?
- Does anybody else like the game (especially to play)?
- Am I ever likely to play the game (especially with respect to playing time)?
If most answers are Yes, the game stays; otherwise it goes. I still feel anguish, but I have to be cruel to myself to be kind to myself. If I want to buy more new games, games which tend to be better (and I can assure you I do) then the old games, however sentimentally I hold them dear, have to go to make room for them. I would never have thought I would have done this, I thought my collection would expand indefinitely. But this has to be done. This is indeed a milestone in my life.
- Anthony Simons