One year into boardgames, what have I learned?

I got back into boardgames as a hobby at the start of 2020 (just in time for lockdown and no-one to play them with, wah).

I joined the SUSD forums juuuuust before they closed, and then this board in April. And it’s been great! Kept me sane during lockdown, and super interesting, big thank you to everyone.

When I look back on what I thought a year ago, I realise I’ve changed my mind on a lot of things and that I have three pieces of advice for anyone NEW to the hobby right now. Those are:

1) You will have different tastes to everyone else.

When I was starting out it seemed like a good idea to build a collection that would have the best of each category of game - only the best deck-builders, worker placements, crime solvers, heavy euros, dungeon crawlers, abstracts etc that were firmly in many people’s top 10. And so my first tip is: no, don’t do that.

Games are expensive, and hype is not real. You will not enjoy every type of game equally, and just because someone else loves the heaviest Lacerda Eurogames, you might end up hating them. You will almost definitely hate at least two of everybody’s “10 best games of all time”, wonder how they can enjoy them, and be very glad you didn’t buy them! Same goes for the BoardGameGeek top 30 - these are not automatically the most fun games. You will even find at least one where you (whisper it) disagree completely with Quinns! (gasp)

When I first looked on youtube, BGG and communities around a year ago, everyone was excited about A feast for Odin, Njusford, Root, Gloomhaven and Terraforming Mars. I ended up buying exactly none of those, and it doesn’t matter. So here’s tip number 2:

2) See how every game plays before you spend money.

Buy NOTHING blind, including Kickstarters. Watch reviews and if you can, full playthroughs.

Then buy the one game you have most wanted for a while, regardless of what else you already own. Keep a top 10 list yourself and buy the one that stayed at the top longest.

Now okay, none of us are actually good at this. A game might have cute art, or a theme that your partner will love, and impulse buying is awesome. So if you really, really want to buy a game or Kickstarter despite the rule not to, then ignore this advice and do it. But only once or twice, and wait to see if you’re happy with what turns up. (Also, not for any that cost £100+ or are all about sculpted miniatures. Outrageous prices do NOT mean the same thing as good gameplay or value for money.)

The other part to “not spending your life savings on 50 games immediately” is that a game is just a box on your shelf unless you can play it with people (or solo). Be realistic about how often you can make that happen before you buy 10 games in a week. (I did not buy 10 games in a week. It was close that one time though).

There are now HUNDREDS of new board games made every year. Even the latest hot stuff will soon be “last year’s hot stuff” and new games often improve on old ones. A lot that’s on the market today is much better than nearly everything in 2011. So chill. Nothing is essential, and you should wait and watch a lot of reviews before committing. (Unless you’re super rich and can dedicate an entire room to storing boardgames, in which case… yay? I want your house, and also your game collection). And my tip for catching those reviews would be:

3) Follow at least 3 boardgame review channels on youtube.

They’re invaluable. Not because they’re 100% right, but because you’ll quickly work out where you disagree with each reviewer’s preferences, and therefore know if you’ll actually like a game. It’s also a good way to find out about what’s new!

I’m sure folks will comment on here with their favourites, but for newbies I recommend:

SUSD, No Pun Included
Before You Play, Three Minute Boardgames, ThinkerThemer
Because it’s the biggest (and very easy to watch) : The Dice Tower
For long plays of Eurogames: Heavy Cardboard
For shorter or more casual reviews: Board Games In A Minute, Cardboard Rhino

There are many more online. Watch a few and see what else pops up in your youtube suggestions. Try podcasts or written reviews if they suit you better.

Right, that’s enough from me. The three pieces of advice above are based on wrong assumptions I made as a newbie last year, but I’m still much less experienced than most of the rest of this board, so I’m sure others will have tips to share in the comments!


I think a lot of gamers have an “acquisition phase” in which they buy lots of stuff because it seems interesting. I know I did. Try not to. These days I try really hard not to buy a game I haven’t played, and often I succeed. Tabletop Simulator, whatever you think of its ethics, is a great way to try out a game that you’re thinking of buying (and without the allure of nice physical bits you may get a better impression of the game itself).

(Yes, other platforms exist, but the great thing about TTS and Tabletopia is that they can give you something closer to the experience of playing the game – a yucata or BoardGameArena implementation will generally hide the fiddly automated details of scoring, for example.)

I don’t think it’s sensible to try to watch all of The Dice Tower - they put out an awful lot. But I would say watch a few videos from each candidate channel about games you already know, so that you can get an idea of how their tastes correlate with yours, then go looking when you’re considering something new. (And remember that there are “reviewers” who will praise anything that was free, so also try to find someone who’s reviewed a game you disliked too…)

Once you can get back to playing in a group: don’t buy a game because someone else in the group has it and you really like it, because they already have it. Unless you go to a lot of different gaming venues (e.g. conventions) and want to take it there…


Yeah, this nails what I got wrong: when I started, every box seemed to have INFINITE POTENTIAL FOR AWESOME.

While I think that can be more true of books or computer games, buying +1 any boardgame wasn’t the good idea it seemed like early on. Be picky!

(Then go and buy a load that will make you happy when you see them in your house).


Awesome lessons there! “Find your niche” is solid advice.

I probably only watch Zee Garcia. Im keen on warching Ambie’s videos for her 18xx stuff and see if thats my jam.


Great post.

I too had the acquisition phase and am trying to not buy games again.

Funnily enough, when you say new games are better than old, I’m finding the ‘classics’ are called that for a reason. Hansa Teutonica and Troyes are my biggest finds of this year, along with BGA inspired deep dives into Race For the Galaxy and Innovation.

Hansa has been the big find for me. It is so clean, so simple and so good. You can set up, play a 4 player game and put it away again in an hour. Learning new, fiddly games like Merv and Anachrony seems so much effort compared to that.


I have a strongly-held belief that “classic Euro” is code for “a game that does 1 or 2 things, and does them very well”. That is quite a contrast to “modern Euro” design, where you have to layer in as many mechanisms as you can so you catch the eye of as many people as possible.

Hopefully, we’ll see a return to that school of design soon, as I think the market is increasingly unable to bear the kitchen sink approach to game design (as much as the hype/hotness implies it can, I’ve noticed all of the “new hotness games” are “hot garbage” after the first 4 months of a game being out in the wild. This is as much an indictment on the “hype” cycle as it is on the mechanism-smorgasbord approach to design)


Well, if you look at games from 2009 that people remember now, you’ll get the ones that have lasted – just as if most people are playing music from 1967 it’s more likely to be the Beatles or Bowie than Nimoy or The Electric Prunes.


Yes, there is a bias in there, for sure. Survivorship bias probably (I’m very bad at discerning the exact categorisation of these things)

EDIT: probably suggesting that “games that do 1 or 2 things extremely well are games that will have legs.” and this exists outside of the concept of “classic Euro” vs “modern Euro”

Coincidentally, I may have listened to Nimoy more recently than I have to Bowie (as of the current moment). I’m not sure whether to be ashamed or proud of this particular fact.

EDIT 2: Further contemplation has led me to another avenue of thought: the appeal of mechanisms comes and goes; games that have very few of them (let’s say 1 or 2) are then easily flowing in and out of favor, and because they have a reduced number of mechanisms, it’s more likely that that particular constellation of design ethos will come back into favor at the same time; the more mechanisms a game employs, the less likely that particular combination of mechanisms will be in favor at once.


Yeah, I was very careful to say " nearly everything in 2011 " :slight_smile:

The classics stay. 2020 had giant boxes with hundreds of moving parts to them, but the game which absolutely got my girlfriend addicted to the hobby was Lost Cities the original card version. Almost as simple as it possibly could be, but perfect.

But classics are also getting replaced faster than ever before, and it’s not rare to see quotes like “Dominion was the first big deckbuilder, here are 5 games which have improved on it since”. That slow improvement is really interesting to me.


If I can add a lesson I learnt relatively early into buying boardgames - try to understand the tastes of your likely co-players, and tailor your collection accordingly. Whilst a game might be your exact cup of tea, if you can’t find someone to enjoy it with, it’s probably not worth getting.


Very true. While I can play most of my collection solo, I’d love to get a few of my friends - all party gamers rather than serious gamers - into things like Viticulture and A Touch of Evil while they currently like things like Rapidough and Cards against Humanity. Hopefully Sheriff of Nottingham and Mysterium will be a hit with them when we get to play again.


Survivorship bias is a thing. Ive played old German games that are just meh or awful

There is also merit on rules heavy games. The problem is that the designers often dont bother asking themselves why we should invest our time on their games as oppose to others.


Don’t utter the Electric Prunes’ name in vain!! I Had Too Much to Dream is a stone cold classic!


I’ve just discovered Lost Cities in the last couple of weeks. I’ve never known a game make me swear as much.


Aw mate. What if I tell you that theres a:

  • Lost Cities the Board Games
  • Lost Cities To-Go (an even more compact version)
  • Lost Cities: Rivals (4 player with added auction)
  • Lost Cities Roll & Write

The damn guy just doesnt stop, innit


Lost Cities To Go is comically cheap on Amazon at the moment (German version)

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It all spirals round. The initial acquisition phase should be avoided. Your tastes will develop over the first few years, so the fewer shiny things you buy and then grow out of, the better.

Once you’ve grown a consistent taste and a wider context of game experiences, then acquisition phases, buying kickstarters and so forth are a bit more reliable… and reviews become less reliable. At that point you can do a Pillbox.

There are honestly enough well renowned games that there’s no need to buy many unknowns. To buy kickstarters and lesser known games are as much about discovery as anything else. And that’s a huge unnecessary luxury in a hobby that’s already a fair amount of unnecessary luxury.


That is sound advice. I have noticed that the games I play more are the ones my family likes. And for other things, I got the Games night in Napier. Hopefully when the pandemic is under control, these things can start happening again all over.


My “dumbest mistakes” or I could call them “biggest disappointments” in recent years (I have a definitive uptick in game buying since 2018/2019). I do not dislike all the named games below, some of them aren’t even bad games. Here’s my top 8 of “shouldn’t have bought it in the first place”:

  1. falling for “lots of stretch goals” and pretty colors from a generally unknown designer/company Dwellings of Eldervale
  2. buying a game after I failed to teach myself the rules on TTS after multiple attempts even after watching a rules video Bios Genesis
  3. buying a game because it is on sale right now and I’ll never get it that cheap again Teotihuacan, Isle of Skye Bundle
  4. falling for an Ian O’Toole cover and also the color purple Black Angel
  5. games with too many interlocking systems fail more often than they work (several named already)
  6. buying a game because the designer is not yet in my collection (which wasn’t even true, see #3) and even if the game generaly works, it doesn’t mean it’s fun to play Cloud Age
  7. going to FLGS with a fixed intent to buy something and not finding the particular something and instead returning home with Tapestry
  8. buying essentially the same game again with a re-theme when I knew I was never letting go of the original not naming names here because this one is essentially a very good game
  9. buying experimental stuff from Friedemann Friese, specifically 504 but not only

A lot of good things have already been said that can be done to ensure the game I buy is right for my collection:

  1. play first, buy later
  2. wait until the hotness has died down
  3. buy with a specific set of other players in mind
  4. know the reviewers schticks
  5. play lots of games to understand my own tastes
  6. if something doesn’t fit, get rid of it again and learn from the mistake

I also learned that I am not only a player I am also and have always been a collector. Curating my collection to certain categories I enjoy is part of the fun and raising the average fun-ness across my whole collection is rather satisfying. Even if I never manage to get Sidereal to the table I have to have it in my collection. Same with Dune. I am even okay with keeping a select few for nostalgic reasons. I have tried buying less but I’ve been unsucessful in curbing my acquisitions especially when so many of my recent ones have been sooo much fun.


My dumb mistakes:

1.) If you don’t like a certain something, whether it is mechanisms or genres, don’t bother buying new ones to see “maybe this one will work for me”. Try before you buy as they say.
2.) Don’t acquire more than what you are physically capable of keeping
3.) Do you actually need that 10th heavy game when you don’t have a reliable group to play it with?
4.) If you have games already, that brand new game that was released this year will most likely have its price slashed by next year. Unless you intently want to buy it brand new when it is released to support them or whatever. Always wait.
5.) Always have belief in the Vasel Law. Otherwise, you’ll buy the rare OOP Ginkgopolis from Essen, proudly regarding it as your best in the haul, and then see the reprint announcement after a few weeks.
6.) Related to #3: Always watch your gaming patterns: do you play 2 players often? If not, then why do you keep getting 2 player games.
7.) You don’t know what you like? You rely on the very unreliable “feelz” to see if it’s your game? Keep playing different games and don’t be afraid to analyse similarities on what you like and don’t like. Don’t rely on feels. Feels are so dependent on group dynamic and your mood during that time. Be rational. That solitaire Euro you end up loving? Play it again and again, and think why you enjoy it when you don’t usually enjoy these sorts.