It's no secret that board games can get pricey. Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5, which boasts "19 lbs of Nightmare Horror Gaming," currently sits at a whopping $400 on its official website. Many popular games are not quite as hard on the wallet, but aren't cheap either, as Catan is currently $42.95 on Amazon, Scythe is $51.97, and Gloomhaven is $109.71. Though these prices are pretty steep for most people, I will be the first to attest that the feeling of beholding a brand new game on your coffee table is enough to trigger the "treat yo self" mindset. I mean...I've worked hard all month, I...I deserve this...
Sadly, there aren't any ways to magically get the hottest games for 99¢ or less unless you get really lucky (or really scammed). However, I can offer you a few simple ways to save a decent amount of money on your next board game purchase.
1. Compare Prices
It's kind of surprising, but believe it or not Amazon does not always have the cheapest prices. The first method on our list is pretty easy to do, but is not always utilized in the heat of the purchasing moment. Loyalty is a respectable quality to have, but being too loyal to one store or website can cause you to miss out on lower prices elsewhere.
A few different board game marketplace websites to look at are Miniature Market, Cool Stuff Inc., and Game Nerdz (which all have flat rate shipping). Comparing the prices on these website are made even easier with websites such as Board Game Atlas and Board Game Prices, which do it for you all in one place. It's also a good idea to check your target game's official website if it has one, as the cheapest price is often found there. One example of this is Kingdom Death: Monster, which is $799.99 on Amazon and $400 on its official website. A few minutes of Google searches can save you a lot.
2. Buy Used and Get Rid of Old Games
Yes, I know I said that the feeling of a brand new game was amazing and all, but I have to admit: finding a lightly used game for a fraction of its original price can feel even better. The quality of used games may not be consistent, but most board game enthusiasts tend to keep their games in pretty good shape, so I wouldn't be too scared of the chance for a few missing pieces.
Other than local thrift or game shops, there are many places to find used games online including Board Game Geek, Reddit, Facebook, and Craigslist. The subreddit r/BoardGames has a forum every month called its Monthly Bazaar where people can sell or trade their games and r/BoardGameExchange, as well as many Facebook pages, are also dedicated to sales and exchanges. Board Game Geek offers a few ways to buy games, including BGG Marketplace, which "offers a way for individuals to list games for sale," GeekList Auctions, where users can put games up for people to bid on, and Math Trades, which are trades between "a whole bunch of people at once" using an algorithm to decide who sends their game to whom.
Sometimes called "mathematical no-risk trade lists," Math Trades begin when someone starts a "trade Geeklist," which are lists of games on the website. This user acts as the moderator of the Math Trade and each trade may have different specific rules. When enough people post games they wish trade, the list is closed and the moderator give a list of all valid items represented with a word and number (for example "Atlas17"). Each participant then lists the games they want to trade for in order of preference after their own game. The moderator then takes these lists and uses an algorithm to decide who gets what game. Traders then contact one another and exchange games.
As you buy used games, why not put some of your own used games up for sale or trade! We all usually have games that we no longer play (or no longer spark joy, shout out to my girl Marie Kondo) that can be either sold or exchanged for another. It's definitely a better way to use them than having them to collect dust on a shelf. Save the earth and save money at the same time: reuse, reduce, recycle.
3. Wait for Sales, Low Prices, and Free Shipping
Alright, your probably thinking something like "well duh, that's pretty obvious" and I admit that it is obvious, but do you do it? Board game prices are constantly fluctuating and there are a a good amount of tools that can help you catch that perfect moment to buy.
Other than huge sales like Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and International Tabletop Day, places like r/BoardGameDeals, Board Game Prices, Board Game Price Notifier for Board Game Geek, and CamelCamelCamel for Amazon can let you know when games go on sale. Board Game Atlas also lets you set alerts when specified games drop below a set price by clicking the tiny bell on the games' pages or by using the game list price alerts. Instant gratification is nice, but patience is a virtue (that can save you cash).
Something in the same vein is cutting down shipping cost. Many websites have set shipping costs around $5 to $15, however both Miniature Market and Cool Stuff Inc. offer free shipping of orders of $100 or more and Game Nerdz for orders above $75. Some great way to utilize these offers are to either slowly add games to your shopping cart over time until you reach the price threshold or coordinate your orders with friends so that the games that each of you want collectively pass the threshold. Speaking of friends...
4. Make Friends and Play Their Games
Okay, to be clear I'm not telling you to use people to play board games you don't have, I'm just saying that you don't have to own games in order to play them. If your friend has a game you enjoy playing, enjoy playing it with them! Board games are made to be played with others and those "others" don't have to each own their own copy of each game. I understand that owning your own copies of games enables you to play them whenever you want, but maybe only playing those games with your friend group can make them that much more enjoyable?
What if you don't have any friends that play board games? Look up if there are any board game events in your community that you can join in on! Local game shops may offer days where people can try out new board games before they buy them (which can also save you a lot of money if you find out that you hate that new hot game) and churches and other community centers often hold board game nights throughout the week. So if you really want to try new board games and make new friends at the same time, why not check them out?
5. Play the Games You Already Have
Yes. It's that simple. A lot of times playing board games and collecting board games can be two completely different hobbies, and it can be helpful to recognize which one you enjoy more. It's easy to always be looking for that "perfect" new board game, but many times we might forget about a game we have already that has only been played a few times. If a game is feeling old, maybe introducing it to friends who have never played it before can make it feel new or invest in an expansion back instead of a whole new game.
A challenge that has been posed by Board Game Geek user SilvaShado for five years since 2014 is a Self-Moderation Challenge to play 10 Games 10 Times Each in a year. The challenge hopes to encourage "people to play each game several times to explore and experience them in depth" and a byproduct of the challenge is that it helps people save money by forcing them to play the games they already have. However, this is only a suggestion and if it's not something that interests you, I don't think it is necessary to enjoy the games you have.
Saving money isn't always complicated. Sometimes all it takes it a few minutes and a willingness to settle playing a game that isn't new or even yours. But board games shouldn't be about about how many one owns, but the emotions and memories that are created with the people around the table. Yes, it would be absolutely amazing to play Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5, with all 19 lbs of its 235 page rule book, 18 hard plastic miniatures, more than 1,000 game cards, over 400 unique pieces of art, and 86 full page illustrations. But who knows? Maybe it would also be absolutely amazing playing Codenames ($12.99) with some of your friends?