If you’re new to the world of board games, the price tags can come as a real shock. The average cost of a board game is now in the range of $30-$50. You can quite easily find epic campaign board games like Gloomhaven with prices over $150.
These prices can be confusing. If all you see when you look at a board game are a few pieces of card and plastic, you might not understand how they can possibly cost so much. In this guide, I’m going to give you some insight into the reasons behind the prices. I’ve also got some tips on keeping your costs down while still having the chance to enjoy playing board games.
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Why Are Board Games So Expensive?
There are quite a few different factors that go into deciding the price tag of a board game. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the key ones.
There are quite a few steps that go into creating a board game. Having a great idea is only the start. To get a board game in front of people in a playable format is a long process. Experienced game developers usually take at least a year to get a game to the mass market.
The first step in game development is to polish the ideas and the mechanics. This involves making a mockup of the game and having people try it. When they invariably break it, the game will need to be redesigned. This is done over and over. Once the game is a bit more polished, this process is expanded. More people test the game, and a final prototype is created.
Once the prototype is ready, it’s time to get funding and print a run of the game. Of course, once you have a game, you still need to get people to buy it. This means spending time and money on marketing.
To get to this point, you need a big team of game designers, artists, copywriters, editors, and testers. So, the game has to be priced to make enough profit to pay all these people.
Small games that only rely on a simple deck of cards are much cheaper to make than ones with a board and custom pieces. The nicer the parts, the higher the material costs will be.
If a board game has nonstandard pieces, then the production costs are higher. To stand out, most games do have more unique pieces.
Part of the pleasure of playing board games is the tactile experience of using the pieces, the cards, and the board’s details. All of these things that we like in games push up the price.
Single Purchase Items
Another factor to consider when you’re chafing at the game’s price is that the publishers can’t count on you buying more than one game. It’s not like you’re buying a pad of paper that you’ll use up and need to replace. This means that each sale needs to come with a reasonable profit margin if companies are to survive.
Some great games are really reasonably priced. Santorini is a perfect example. It’s an interesting game with quality pieces. But it’s not overly complicated, so it has mass appeal. For that reason, it works at a lower price point. Gloomhaven, on the other hand, is profoundly complex and immersive. It’s not the right game for everyone. In fact, it’s probably best suited to a relatively small group of gamers.
Why Board Games Aren’t as Expensive as They Appear
There is no argument that the price for a new board game can be high. But, a high cost doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s expensive. Board games offer a lot of entertainment time and value.
A good game can cost about the same as a family trip to the movies. But, while your movie trip will be over after a few hours, a board game can be replayed time and time again. When you factor in the hours of entertainment for your whole family, it actually turns out that board games aren’t as expensive as they might seem.
If you choose the right game for your family/group, you will get hours and hours of entertainment, socializing, and enrichment. This makes board games a good value option, despite their high cost.
How to Play Board Games on a Budget
A study of board game players showed that 50% spent between $100 and $599 per year on new games. And a not-insignificant 22% spent more than $1000. Playing board games can be an expensive hobby. But fortunately, there are ways to minimize your costs.
1. Join a Board Game Group
If you can find or start a board game group, you can spread the costs of the games you play. If you all agree on an amount you’re willing to put in each month, you’ll soon find you have enough to buy many new games for your group. It also means you can spread your library out between the group, and you don’t get buried under the boxes.
Even if you don’t follow a shared game policy, you will still be able to play each others’ games. This lets you try loads of new games. It also gives you a mix of people to play with. That makes games more fun as it can get a little stale playing the same people over and over.
2. Find a Local Gaming Cafe/Library/Game Shop
If you look around in your local area, you might find that some businesses let you play board games without buying them. Have a look for gaming cafes where you can have a snack, a drink, and play a game while you’re there. Some libraries let you borrow board games just like you can books. Finally, check out your local game shop. Many of them run game nights or events where you can play games with a group of like-minded individuals for a one-off fee.
3. Rotate Your Collection
If you look after your board games, you’ll find that they retain quite a lot of value. An excellent way to keep your costs lower is to have a ‘one in, one out policy.’ In other words, before you buy a new game, sell the one you already have. This is a good policy to follow if you have limited space as well.
4. Try Before You Buy
One of the difficulties of buying a board game is that it’s a big commitment of money, and you don’t know if you’ll like it or not. If you’re quite picky, you might end up buying a lot of games and only playing a few regularly.
One way to decrease your costs is to try games before you buy them. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is by speaking to your local game shop. It’s not uncommon for them to have open copies of some games for people to try. They may also hold game nights where you can try out a game you’re interested in.
Another option is to try a computer-based version of the game. A few online systems let you try popular games for free or for a small cost. Options to look at include Roll Twenty, Board Game Arena, and Tabletopia. These offer a taste of the games. Personally, I find them a little lacking because I like having the physical cards and pieces. Even so, they are an excellent way to try out games.
5. Choose The Right Games For You
There are loads of different types of games. The more games you play, the better you’ll understand which are right for you. The better you know which games you enjoy, the more effective you’ll be with your spending choices.
If you know that you like short, fast-paced games, then you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of having a few different deck builder games. On the other hand, if you really enjoy in-depth games with more complicated mechanics, you’ll probably be better served by only having one or two engine building style games.
Yes, board games come with a high price tag. This reflects the large amount of time and energy that’s put into making them. But, they aren’t necessarily expensive. For the amount of time you spend playing them, they work out quite reasonably priced. If you’re struggling to get past the initial high cost, then there are other ways to enjoy board games without having to spend too much money.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are board games worth the money?
Yes. There you go. Question answered. Haha! Personally, I love board games. In my opinion, the amount of entertainment you get is well worth the cost. If you get a board game that you enjoy, it will give you many hours of entertainment.
Are board games a good investment?
In terms of entertainment value-for-money, many board games are an excellent investment. I just wouldn’t recommend buying board games as a way to save for retirement! Sometimes if you get a copy of a rare game or an early version of a popular game, it might increase in value. However, this is not a common occurrence. In most cases, a used board game will be worth less than a new one.
Board games do tend to hold their value well, as long as you look after them. But you shouldn’t count on them appreciating value.
Why is Gloomhaven SO Expensive?
Gloomhaven is expensive because there is SO MUCH stuff packed in the massive box!
When it comes to board games, even epic ones, Gloomhaven is something of an outlier. The game comes with a mind-boggling number of pieces. There are over 15000 cards, 17 miniatures, assorted enemy standees, tokens, and boards. The game mechanics are intricate and varied. In fact, this game is so complex that your original character will die and be replaced before you’re done!
In short, Gloomhaven is so expensive because you get so much game.