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Shelf'd Boardgames


ahem I would like to understand something. Many of you seem to buy boardgames, shelf them, and then… not play them.

I would like to know the reason.
Is it because…
they were on sale and you just bought them for later on?
you don’t have time to play them?
you don’t have anyone to play with?
you aren’t ready to read all the rules?
some other reason?

I just don’t really understand. My male gets several boardgames for his birthday and we normally play them with the gift-givers within the week. We buy boardgames and take them home, read the rules and play them that night. I’m planning a large order for Christmas/ Boxing Day sales, but I doubt any game will be untouched even a week after it arrives.

I suppose once you have /soooooooo/ many boardgames it just doesn’t have the same ‘must-play-now’ factor.




For me it is a combination of several different factors:
a) I buy way too many games.
b) I have a group I meet with once every week. Each meeting is five hours. During this time everyone wants to play the games they brought. This means, obviously, there’s not time to play all games!
c) I haven’t had time to sit down and read through the rules.
d) I buy way, way too many games.

Most of my purchases aren’t even planned. Usually when I buy a game it is becauuse I see a review here on SU&SD or some other side and go and order the game straight away if it seems to my taste, or I’m browsing my FLGS and spot something that catches my attention.


Mostly what Eric said.

But also: I like to have games to cover all eventualities. I’ve not played The Resistance for months. But it’s good to have it on the shelf because a nerdy mate’s birthday is coming up and it’s the perfect thing to play with a crowd of drunk people who might not all be that into boardgames (for a crowd of drunk people who are all into boardgames you want Bunny Bunny Moose Moose, of course). I’m not that keen on Jamaica, but my mum loves it so when she’s visiting us or vice versa everyone will have a good time. I’ve got quite a few games like that on the shelf - stuff I wouldn’t want to or can’t play every week but fit snugly into niches that aren’t covered by anything else I own.


I have so much eagerness for all of my unplayed games, particularly when I first get them, but no amount of one person’s enthusiasm can get something to hit the table. Well, to some extent, but because it’s a collaborative hobby, attention has to be spent to what everyone wants. A successful boardgame group appears to be as much about working out what game will work for people as anything else. When I’ve got a group around, I’ve got to try and find a balance between getting my games played, and getting people excited, and making sure people are going to have a good time.

My longest offenders are the long or complex games that don’t have a particularly unique selling point. Game of Thrones is easy to sell, despite its density and length, but Rex, despite being simpler and shorter, is proving a struggle to get people to sign up for.

It all gets that little bit tougher when you factor in that to make a game run well you have to know the rules and be able to teach them before you should really put it in front of other people. So you’ve got homework to do, and then even you end up with nights where you decide to play something familiar rather than learning something new.

I’ll get there. I swear. Everything will get played. It just needs the time, prep and the right group.

And there is one other thing. Those boxes up their, unplayed? They’re still heaving with potential, and there is an excitement there. I’d much rather get them played, but knowing I’ll get to one day? That’s also good.


Okay, so general theme - buying loads of boardgames.

I think we also have a different play environment. We have two groups of friends we play with. One group has some boardgames, the other has, well, Trivial Pursuit. So we don’t really have other games to compete with, we’re the GameBringers. We’ve slowed down a lot, but for a while there was Saturday Night Games, Monday Games Night, and Wednesday Night Magic (where we tried to slip some Netrunner in). >.>

Also I’m a very… planful shopper. I’ll look at something a dozen times online, add it to my wishlist, read the rules online when they’re provided, look at the elements included, watch SUSD reviews of the game and other play throughs and then… then… I will buy it. (Or I will when there is a sale somewhere).

But yeah, for as long as we buy games that can be played with two-players, I think we will always blast through our games. Some weeks, the lad and I will play two games per night on the days we don’t have group stuff organised.


In my case it tends to be because of 2 factors.

  1. My personal tastes go against the grain of my available gaming friends. Perhaps it is because they mostly come from a roleplaying background but many of them just don’t like direct “smash you in the face” antagonism on much of a grand scale. Competition is fine; targeted destruction less so.

They will tolerate it for short games, but longer games - or particularly bitter antagonism like GoT or City of Horror - unfortunately get short shrift. Me? I grew up in a family where competitive games were a staple (mostly cards) and dicking over your neighbour was a key part of play.

  1. Games that need the right numbers to work or that need repeat play to shine. We’re a fairly small network and so it’s often just 3 or 4 of us so The Resistance is a rare outing. Likewise, Space Alert has been played a lot less than I would like because it really needs a stable group to play it over and over to get the hang of it before you can really have fun with the ensuing chaos (which is less fun if you have no idea what you’re doing than if you think you know).


For a while, I was the board game guru for a more regular group. That habit dies hard. Also, I’m obsessed with the idea that there’s a board game out there for everyone, which means I need to have a broad range on hand to handle any proto-gamer’s introductory needs.


also, as we’ve all noticed with the SUSD effect, games go out of print all the time with no idea when or if they’ll ever be available again so there’s that nagging feeling that if you ever want to own it you have to buy it while you can - even if that means it sits unplayed for some time until the right playing situation arrives.


I’d say without doubt my main reason is that I buy a game based on how great the game sounds and the questions of when it would hit the table or who I’d ever get to play it with is a distant after thought. I don’t have any game group and so gaming is very much a case of a family get-together after some food and a few drinks or when one or two ‘boardgame curious’ friends come to visit and stay over, which isn’t frequent enough unfortunately. Dixit was on the shelf for about 18 months before it eventually got it’s first play but it went down a treat with my family.


Stream of consciousness explanation of my board game collection:

I am a designer and critic at heart; games and music are my main mediums with writing being a lesser one. I collect games. I want to have them and patronize them and relish them as pieces of art for which I have respect in addition to wanting to play them as a gamer. Mostly, though, I’m a gamer.

I’m not in a position to just do that whenever I want; I have limited space and limited budget for this sort of thing. I have to be careful, discerning, and practical as much as is possible. My bookshelf has many an unread book and many a book I will never read a second time but could never give up. It is overflowing. My game shelf (AKA the underside of my bed) is overflowing, too. So is my CD rack. New CDs I listen to beginning to end, though; that just takes at most 2 hours of time to myself. I’ll usually just listen. Not doing anything else, just listening beginning to end. Then I sit there catatonic, processing. Groking. Then I move on and probably keep listening to the same album while doing other things (usually after burning it to my hard drive)–I can listen to the same song a billion times. Well … games I can’t play right away. You know what I do right away though? Punch the bits, read the rules cover to cover and do a dry-run. This just requires several hours to my self. More if I leave the board up and do a full beginning-to-end dry run in sprints throughout the day. I play as everyone and give them all personalities to try to explore how the game works and how it doesn’t.

But I want to play all of them. I so dearly want to play them. When I find the right people, play them I do. When my partner comes to visit or I trek across the (please, please temporary) 1000 or so miles to visit, we’ll play game after game after game. We’ll do plenty of other things; it doesn’t dominate our time together. But during her most recent two week visit we played (with other friends) more games than I normally play in a month. When my sisters were back in town for a week, we played more games than I normally play in a month. I’m just not in a place right now where I live close enough to enough of my peers that I know well enough. I’m working hard to fix that, but it will take time. Living in a big city would be no end of help. Just across the pond in Seattle there are an untold number of fabulous gaming societies, math trades, meetups and micro-conventions. So with Portland several hours south of me and even some of the smaller interstitial cities. I’m going to be here forever, though, so I’m not building my game collection or any other part of my life around the current environment I’m in.

I’m playing a long game. Not the long game. Heck no. I’m not responsible. But a long game.


There is many reasons, but often times enough it’s just hard enough to get people together for a ‘game night’ so I often have to go with the ‘easier’ or ‘highlight’ games (to show that board games are more then monopoly). For example I have the board game Level Seven which I would like to try with my friends, but the rules are more then I could possibly explain to them in a single session (think DnD combat complicated.). So it’s often put on the back burner to games like Cards against Humanity, or Pandemic.

It’s frustrating, but sometimes it’s rewarding.


I only had 1 game unplayed on my shelf, until recently.

I had a splurge recently and bought about 5 games and unfortunately I’ve not played them yet. I’m super keen to play them, but Netrunner continues to dominate my time.

It does cause me guilt though, so I’m not buying any more for the time being. Which is reassuring as I was worried I just continue buying more games which would become unloved. I have a sliver of resolve.

Just across the pond in Seattle there are an untold number of fabulous gaming societies, math trades, meetups and micro-conventions. So with Portland several hours south of me and even some of the smaller interstitial cities.

You’re up in, what, (checks map) Silverdale? Not too far from Seattle… as long as you’ve got wings.

All the cool kids are in Tacoma, anyway :). At least two new game shops opened there in the last year.


there is often a difference between the games i wish i was playing and the games i am playing. The games i wish i were playing are often on the shelf because their theme or something about them is a hard sell.


As with much in nerd wants the thrill is of the chase and then the greedy rapid consumption and then the chase for that next high.


I have to admit - I buy too many games. Its the rush of the new game, which can die off a little while waiting for it (especially for kickstarters).

But the goal is to play all the games I own, so that will happen. I’ve sold off a few that I played once and decided it was never going to get much of a play (Galaxy Truckers, Eclipse, Sentinels of the Multiverse, the list goes on). Sometimes not bad games - but games that just dont seem to work in the groups I play with. Or too much setup/too many rules, which make them a chore to play if you dont play regularly.

I really dont like subjecting my group to a game where I read the rulebook to them (although I’ve done this…). I try to set it up at home and give it a bit of a solo run thru. But obviously situations come up during a real game that dont come up in a test play thru. This takes a few hours to do properly, and you have to be in the mood to play that sort of game - and be confident that you’ll get it on the table in a reasonable period after the test run.

I probably favour relatively quick, easy to learn games nowadays. Once learnt, they are usually easy to quickly scan the rules again and you’re up to speed.


The main reason games sit on my shelves unplayed is due to time. I have a busy job, a couple of young kids and my wife works including every other weekend. This means I don’t have a lot of free time for board gaming with friends. My friends are in a similar boat so we only get together for a proper Saturday session about once every couple of months. We do squeeze in the odd week day session which (work permitting) I’ll be going to tomorrow.

Below are the list of board/card games I own but have not yet played:

Chaos in the Old World
Eclipse + Rise of the Ancients Expansion
Mission Red Planet
A Few Acres of Snow
Revolver 2
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Mini-Game Library (Contains 6 games)
Love Letter
Twilight Imperium + Shards of the Throne Expansion
Dungeon Petz
Mage Wars
Earth Reborn
Space Alert
Middle Earth-Quest
Descent 2nd Edition
Epic Death
Arctic Scavengers
Game of Thrones Board Game
Skulls & Roses
Android Infiltration

Man, that was a sad exercise. I didn’t realise it was so many until I counted them! I have almost as many unplayed games as I do played ones. A number of those above are still in their cellophane and were bought over 2 years ago.

There are some games up there I sooo want to play, but I always try and take games that fit the numbers and time constraints so some just keep on missing out.

This post has made me realise the issue isn’t time, it’s my inability to purchase games at the rate I know I can play them. My Steam library will tell you the same story. Hopefully I can cross one or two off this list tomorrow!


I probably buy way too many games as well. But I have played almost all of the games I own. When your collection is small or you don’t make purchases often it is easy to get everything you own to the table immediately, but once you start expanding things become more complicated. The center does not hold.


For me, it comes down to three things:
a) I only get to game once every week or two, and only for 3 or 4 hours. When a game becomes popular with the group, that game gets played repeatedly.
b) Rules explanation. For some games, I just don’t feel comfortable explaining the rules. After being purchased, the game will just sit there not being played because I can’t bring myself to subject my friends to a haphazard, boring, convoluted explanation.
c) Gotta cater to the group. Some people will never like Archipelago. Some people will never like The Resistance. Since I only have one regular group, and one occasional group, this means that some games just slip through the cracks.

I don’t buy games very often either. I’m very particular about what games I purchase. I have many other hobbies that I spend money on (guitar, video gaming, drinking). So when I decide to purchase a game, it’s a very intentional and (hopefully) non-reactionary thing. That said, I only have two unplayed games, and two unplayed expansions, so I feel pretty good about it. And one of those games is the Adventure Time card game, which I’m okay never playing because I just bought it for novelty sake.


@Pseudohausen‌ Out of curiosity, what are the games that you feel have rules that are tough to explain?