Topic of the Week: Best Deals and Bottomless Holes

What are the best deals you’ve ever found?

What are the most expensive games or game systems you’ve invested in?

Let’s add in biggest regrets - missed deals or “wasn’t worth it” moments.

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Telestrations in a charity shop for 50p.

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I bought 1848 Australia for £30. That felt like a bargain.

I probably well overpaid for my Poker Chips but they’re so nice, at £0.92 per chip I’d expect it.

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Mother in law frequents local thrift and second-hand stores. She called us one day to let us know there were several copies of some space Battle game at one. We ran over and got Battlestar Galactica and expansions for $3.25 each ($13 total). They were going for a couple hundred on eBay at the time.

A few days later, she let us know there were more games. We got Touch of Evil and a bunch of expansions for $3.25 each ($9.75 total), a ton of Cosmic Encounter sets in one box for $3.25, and a few random individual games (Castle of Burgundy being the best) all for $3.25 each. Everything was sleeved in all the games. Our best guess is a local gamer somehow lost control of a collection (passed away, went to college, divorce, who knows) and the person who got the collection had no idea what they had in their hands.

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Just going from the board game perspective.

Biggest regret would be backing Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. Doubles as one of the most expensive games I’ve invested in. Figuring it was just going to be a Conan reskin, which despite some fulfillment issues was well reviewed, and with some improvements added in, I was all for it. I didn’t go all-in, thankfully, as that was just too much money. Instead of a fun Batman themed beat-'em-up dice chucker, you get a semi-complex Batman simulator with scenarios that are so tightly balanced that the hero players have virtually no chance of winning on the first try, and if they choose the wrong heroes or gadgets they have virtually no chance of ever winning. I mean, you have to take into account terrain difficulty, when moving, being outnumbered when moving or attempting other actions, menace, height, plus any tokens that might be in the space you are moving into, it’s just an overly complex mess. I’ve played it a couple of times solo, running both sides (and the villains won every time, easily), and once with my wife and her brother, where I gave them some pointers as I knew this game is always a race against time, and they ended up winning, but I only realized it after the fact because we had forgotten to take into account one of Robin’s abilities when moving, meaning he didn’t need to spend an extra cube at one point, and using it for bomb defusal instead gave the win. Either way, it was not fun for them, so it’s sat and languished on the shelf. I should probably try to sell it, but I feel there is the core of a good game in there, it just needs all the BS shoved out of the way, and some looser scenarios.

Hard to say anything about “best deals” as the things I have managed to pick up for really cheap often have never been played, or maybe hit the table just once. FUSE, for instance, I found at a Goodwill for $2, but haven’t played it yet. That was years ago. Deus for $10, but hasn’t hit the table yet (but played a couple times on BGA, and it’s fun), but at least I’ve only had it for a couple of months.

Beyond that, the most expensive game system I have invested in is definitely Unmatched, probably followed by Firefly as I own almost everything for it, despite not getting it to the table yet.

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[Silently looks over at my Cthulhu Wars collection]

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Deals

My best deals have tended to be buying whole lots of products at once. Maybe my best deals were:

Aeon’s End – I got 3 waves of content for the price of, roughly, 1 and a half. And that also included the accessory packs, wooden aftermarket inserts, and a playmat

Rallyman: GT – I had originally pledged for the Rallyman GT Kickstarter but backed out because the way the campaign was being run irked me; later I discovered that the game was really good and I regretted not sticking through the campaign. Eventually, I tracked down a used copy that was basically everything I had pledged for, for less that the cost of my pledge (much less the shipping I would have later been charged).

Summoner Wars 1.0 – I managed to pick up nearly two entire sets of Summoner Wars 1 stuff for pennies on the dollar a few years back. Since Summoner Wars 2 has been released, it’s lost some of its value, but I could probably still liquidate it for roughly what I paid.

V-Commandos a.k.a. V-Sabotage – I picked up a whole bundle of V-Commandos stuff from someone, presumably, who didn’t want to bother with update kits? Or maybe they were just not enthusiastic about the rebrand. Who knows. I got the whole bundle for a song.

Roads & Boats: 20th Anniversary Edition – I had been searching for a copy of Roads & Boats for a while, unsuccessfully. Eventually, when it seemed like the entire world was sold out of the Anniversary Edition, I found a copy at a French(-first)-speaking games physical-online-hybrid shop in Canada and bought it for about half of what it was selling for secondhand at the time.

Big Trouble in Little China: The Game – somewhat similar story to Roads & Boats. When BTiLT:tG was essentially out of stock forever most places, I found a local gamestore in California that had just put its inventory online (during the pandemic) and picked it up for a song because it had “box damage” – a single corner with a slight dent. This was extra satisfactory because I had already bought the expansion at a deep discount and I felt silly owning the expansion when the game seemed hopelessly out of stock.

Clinic: Deluxe and Flash Point: Fire Rescue – having the base game is one thing, but tracking down expansions is way harder. With both of these, I managed to pick up several (almost all!) of their expansions by buying bundles that included the base game and sometimes expansions I already owned, split it up, keep what I need, and resell for as much or close to what I paid for it. With Clinic, I think I’m actually net-positive on my buy-split-sell antics. I did the same but not nearly as successfully with some Aeon’s End content as well.

Ra – a few years back when I had some extra time to waste during the day (I only had one kid back then!), I would occassionally drop by thrift shops and look to see if they had anything. I think the gaming thrifters in my area are pretty good at what they do, so finding anything is usually a pretty slim chance. One time I did find a Rio Grande edition of Ra for $5, but it was missing a Ra tile. I gifted it to a BGG user.

Empire Builder and its series of crayon rail games – when I was working to build a complete set, I got pretty good at tracking down languishing copies around the world. When Empire Builder’s 2008 version was selling for $100 on the secondhand market, I found 2 copies for $35 each from (long-established) retailers. British Rails, at the time, was practically impossible to find and was selling for $150 or more, I tracked down 3 copies for less than $50 each. I timed my buying spree well because by the time I had a complete set, certain games were (and still are) essentially impossible to find for less than $100-$200 (depending on the game). I bought a whole series for about $200 total (some of that was offset by selling extra copies of ones I had tracked down).

I could keep going… I spent a lot of time and effort looking for deals! After a while, the cost of shipping became the biggest hurdle. When there were dozens of games that I was after, it was easy to bundle multiple games together and combine shipping, whether from online retailers or just from secondary market sellers. But as I filled in more and more holes in my collection, I found fewer and fewer opportunities that it made sense.

Regarding bottomless holes…

Bottomless Holes

Kickstartn’t

  • Rallyman DIRT – I don’t want to talk about it
  • Warehouse 13: The H.G. Wells Expansion – Slightly more willing to talk about this one. Publisher still hasn’t provided an update since March of 2022. One of the collaborators, as recently as 2023, was still stating in the comments that they were “waiting in line for production” which is misleading at best and mostly likely an outright lie.

Money sinks

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – I probably have a thousand dollars sunk into this system and I’ve played like… 2 times? And I still have the new reboxed cycle on my wishlist – near the top! Oh I love the idea of this game; I just don’t typically have the headspace to think through deck concepts… I keep hoping that’ll change, and I think it will when my kids are older; I’m not getting rid of it, but I’m also not too fussed about getting more content outside of making sure it’s on my wishlist for gift givers to buy me.

  • 18xx – I… have a lot of these. And I really only play one: 1862… because it has a (great) solo mode. But I want to play all of them, and they are harder to track down than your average hobby board game, so I’ve tried to keep up with the “mass printing” releases… but I’m done with even that now, I think. I only picked up 2 games in AAG’s Wave 6, and both of those were “gifts” from my partner. Soloable 18xx games will still get my attention, and 1841 will probably get a preorder from me because it’s so singular – so perhaps the bottomless hole has a bottom? Maybe?

Others – not bottomless, but noteworthy

  • 18OE – woof. I got excited and paid $400 for this (the most I’ve ever paid, maybe?, in a single boardgaming transaction). And while that’s not unheard of, it’s currently trending around $350 and there’s a reasonable chance that in the next 5 years we’ll probably hear about a reprint. And I’ve never actually played it (unless you count part of a game on TTS)
Some raw data!
Type Item Valuation
Family Crowdfunding: Kickstarter $13,007.14
Family Players: Games with Solitaire Rules $6,747.67
Family Series: 18xx $3,080.59
Artist Ian O’Toole $1,463.39
Family Players: Two Player Only Games $1,328.16
Artist Klemens Franz $1,134.60
Family Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien $1,131.01
Family Versions & Editions: Big Box Versions of Individual Games $1,014.71
Artist Julien Delval $941.32
Family Collectible: Living Card Game (Fantasy Flight Games) $924.08
Family Game: The Lord of the Rings – The Card Game (LCG) $924.08
Artist Rodger B. MacGowan $849.03
Family Theme: Anthropomorphic Animals $831.66
Artist Cyrille Daujean $818.86
Family Players: Expansions Changing Player Count $786.10
Designer Alan R. Moon $734.57
Artist Mihajlo Dimitrievski $724.86
Family Game: Ticket to Ride (Official) $716.57
Designer Jeroen Doumen $712.79
Artist Magali Villeneuve $697.49
Family Creatures: Monsters $696.03
Family Theme: Nature $675.80
Designer Reiner Knizia $675.58
Designer Joris Wiersinga $672.79
Artist Kwanchai Moriya $657.96
Artist Dennis Lohausen $648.53
Artist Franz Vohwinkel $629.27
Designer Leonhard Lonny Orgler $621.02
Family Theme: Art $607.49
Designer Uwe Rosenberg $593.62
Family Players: Games with expansions that add solo play $586.88
Designer Caleb Grace $565.09
Designer Nate French $553.24
Designer Vital Lacerda $547.68
Designer Cole Wehrle $532.83
Family Theme: Food / Cooking $526.43
Artist Fábio Fontes $524.76
Artist Kyle Ferrin $521.89
Designer Colby Dauch $519.41
Family Series: Harvest (Uwe Rosenberg) $507.86
Designer Stefan Feld $501.57
Family Series: Cube Rails $490.68
Artist Mark Simonitch $483.15
Family Players: Wargames with Solitaire Rules $482.64
Designer Rob Daviau $481.01
Family Game: Summoner Wars $480.51
Family Theme: Retro $479.17
Designer D. Brad Talton, Jr. $478.34
Designer Vlaada Chvátil $462.49
Artist Vincent Dutrait $462.05
Artist Michael Menzel $461.74
Artist David Auden Nash $460.64
Family Game: Root $443.36
Family Players: Expansions Adding Solo Play $441.34
Family Game: Aeon’s End $439.87
Family Theme: Time Travel $437.17
Designer Kevin Riley $436.87
Family Ancient: Rome $429.53
Artist Claus Stephan $428.44
Family Theme: Native Americans / First Peoples $427.47
Family Theme: Colonial $426.80
Artist Tamara Jannink $422.80
Artist Tiziano Baracchi $411.81
Artist Sara Biddle $407.71
Artist Gary Simpson $400.69
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I tend to be a completionlist. Kickstarter absolutely saw me coming.

Sometimes that’s great: I have all of Flash Point, and it’s a game that definitely benefits from you having all of it.

Sometimes that’s not so great: I have all of Aeon’s End, and honestly if half of it evaporated I probably wouldn’t miss it except for wondering why I had some shelf space again.

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A very real problem. When you have “a game” and you take it out of the box and you set it up according to Steps 1-20 of the instructions, and then you play… that’s great!

But the danger of expandable content means (and each one of these creates a hurdle to play):

  • Open the box and figure out what each thing is
  • Decide what things you absolutely need (the main board!)
  • Decide which optional modules you want to include (uh, the alternate board? dang, I forgot that was an option!)
  • In the case of playing with more than one player, asking the other players, “Okay, so, we’ll play with the Zoomble module and the Vaskilation module, but not the Yarxynx module.”
  • Wait for Alice and Bob to argue about playing with Yarxynx module because without it, the Zoomble module isn’t as good.
  • Charlie says that if we include the Zoomble module and the Yarxynx module, then the Warbleton module is a must
  • Dave claims he won’t play with Warbleton because it’s broken
  • You decide to play with just the Zoomble module (and nobody is happy about it). Setting up the Zoomble module requires another rulebook (psst, its under the main board, no, over there, that one)
  • You skim over the optional rules section entirely because Dave is still grumpy and you remember that Alice doesn’t like half of them, but you can’t remember which half
  • Dave actually has to go in 30 minutes, so he’s going to go play No Thanks at the other table.
  • Alice suggests that since Dave left, you could add in Warbleton module (it’ll only take 10 minutes to redo setup!)
  • No, we’re sticking with what we have. Dang; with only 4 players, you actually have to flip the board over.
  • No, I haven’t bought the Parallax expansion, so you can’t play the turquoise faction.
  • Nevermind, I’m just going to go play No Thanks at the other table.
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Tigris & Euphrates including shipping to Japan for $17.

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Bottomless hole: Game of Thrones 2nd ed LCG.

Stunning art, interesting politics / intrigue alternatives to pure military, but it was let down by just one small detail: FFG clearly weren’t interested in balancing the game.

Two of the factions were so weak out of the box that they were non viable, and that didn’t change for a year. The money sink and new packs came out at a tremendous rate, but the game was “if you have new card X, you win”.

Then they reintroduced the “wipe the board” card from the first edition and the game instantly transformed… into unplayable trash.

I get that LCGs will always have power creep (don’t have “Jackson Howard” in Netrunner? Then you lose) but GoT 2nd was botched from start to finish. And it was in the old days of needing to buy 3 starter boxes to get the 3x basic cards you needed for a deck, so a big investment.

(Marvel Champions avoids nearly all of these traps).

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I bought the Nemo’s War Kickstarter with all the bits and international postage for a LOT of money, but I don’t regret it.

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Miniatures games = money sinks. Might skip over those as this is a board games forum.

I bought a copy of roads and boats with expansion one week before official announcement of the 20th anniversary edition. Expensive and I didn’t really enjoy the game.

Bought a copy of Solarius Mission for a very reasonable price. My friend in the states posted it during the outage for Royal Mail when they were hacked or virussed so couldn’t process overseas orders. Consequently I ended up having to pay a lot in postage. So it went from a bargain to wildly over priced. Postage was near double the cost of the game. Fortunately I’ve enjoyed playing it.

Backed Tharos off the spielworxx reputation. So bad I could not sell it afterwards so ended up giving it away.

Got 18OE for a song just before it dropped out of stock at the publishers. Decided to sell at a great time price wise and made so much profit I got a very full Cthulhu Wars collection as at the time the wave 4 hit UK retail. Since followed up with a friend giving me everything that I hadn’t yet bought as he was melting his complete collection. It’s now over 3 kallax cubes of stuff and includes the ultra rare cthulhu alternate sculpts. I love the game so it’s all come up roses.

Bought Trick of the Rails in a sale for £3.50. It costs many pounds now.

Probably more but that’ll do for now.

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The best deal was probably the copy of New York Zoo I got for free because they forgot to set my pre-order aside and sent me their display copy as an apology.

Other than that, the best have probably been the various damaged copies I’ve picked up. Most notably Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid and various expansions which would have cost me at least double what I’ve paid.

Ashes has definitely been a money sink for how little I play it. Hopefully the solo expansions might change that …

And then there’s what made me abandon KS for anything outside the UK: The expansions for Village Pillage, which ended up costing $30 for two small decks of cards. Didn’t even have a box!

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Patience and thorough overwatch allowed me to get bargains (and spend some amount of money in the process) btu I tend not to remember them! I guess I get happy on getting a bargain and then move on.

But I do remember getting MarraCash (by Stefan Dorra) for £10 and Bridges of Shangri-La for £15. I can’t find those for those prices now. They end up being my faves.

Modern Art German Oink edition. I forgot how much but it was a bargain in Germany back then

I have the English Z-Man edition of Arboretum which is hard to find nowadays. Got it for £15 I think…

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BOTTOMLESS HOLES

Why oh why do I remember these more? Is it because they are more visible? I am glad that I manage to avoid CMON-style games that cost triple digits with loads of minis (with one exception below). Thinking about how much Lords of Ragnarok all-in cost gave me anxiety and I’m not even interested on that game.

I cannot say how much I have spent on Cthulhu Wars. Absolutely above £500. But no regrets. If there’s one troops on a map that I can keep and keep spending money on, it’s this game. There’s the Invasions faction that I have not bought. And one more faction rumoured to be released. As for maps, I am happy with the Earth Map. I did bought the 6 to 8 player Earth Map though…

1817 is easily the most expensive single item in this hobby I’e bought. More expensive than Cthulhu Wars base game. But it’s okay. It’s one of the best 18xx and definitely feels part of my collection. And in that regard, I have spend a good amount on 18xx and I think I am on a downward trend. I still remember AAG purchases straining my budget even with Paypal’s Pay-in-3 scheme.

Napoleon’s Triumph I got for £130 but it was brand new in shrink. So it was a bargain, but still slightly more expensive than CW base game.

Age of Steam and Railways of the World certainly is up there due to their wide gallery of map expansions. But these two titles are one of those that don’t feel overwhelming once you got so many maps. Because they are just maps.

Rising Sun - it was a bargain for the whole shebang, but still expensive and above the CW base game cost.

Root - definitely sink some money (again, using CW base game as benchmark) for the whole shebang. But I thought it was still good value from what I get from the price. I think the fact that it has a following in the club and me being one of its teachers mean that it’s hard for me to let go of it.

And so far, Trick Takers is my current bottomless hole. But at least I don’t sink triple digits on each title. This one is more manageable.

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I almost wrote an entire blurb about 1817 because, at this point, I’m all-in on 1817 and I’ve played exactly 0 of the content.

I own:

  • 1817
  • 18USA (expansion edition to 1817 base game)
  • 18Hiawatha (man was this a poor production :grimacing: )
  • 1817 Volatility
  • 1817/NA
  • 1817/WO

As a bundle, retail-y speaking, it’s worth $220 + (1817/NA/WO/Volatility which is currently both without value because it’s sold out but also in the process of fulfilling). I think, generously speaking, I’d be looking at $350 a whole for value, plus a premium for knowing that 1817/NA, 1817/WO, and 1817 Volatility (I have the print-and-play files available for Volatility; ping me if you are interested – though I think they are still available via BGG files) are basically out of print forever. And 18Hiawatha, if worth anything, is basically unaccountable.

18xx.games, maybe? There’s so much potential to love here

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I got a number of famously OOP games for very reasonable prices:

  • The Expanse Board Game for €13
  • Impulse 2E for €18
  • IKI (the OG Japanese version) for €20
  • And a bundle consisting of The Queen’s Gambit along with a bunch of other really decent games (Through the Ages, Hyperborea, Myrmes, Jaws and Lewis & Clark) for about 2/3 of what Queen’s Gambit alone gets sold for

Also, many OG German games that are just dirt cheap over here.

The one that got away was an English edition of War of the Ring 2E with a couple of expansions. It was listed on a local and didn’t get much interest for a while. The seller started dropping the price every few days and I just got greedy and waited for too long. When I finally decided to message the seller, he told me that he sold the game a couple of hours before :person_shrugging:

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Best deal hands down: I won my crokinole board in a raffle for £6. That’s also how I got Holi and Taverns of Tiefenthal

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Ima stop you there, as the young people probably don’t say.

Open the box. Open the other box. Open the card case. Wasn’t there another box? I’m sure there was another box with the monster tokens. Hang on, let me see if it’s here…

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My friend sold me Witness for £5.

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