Board games are extremely popular. Trends are being set, sales are rising, publishers are seeing leaps in profits - everyone is satisfied. Really all? It seems that panic is breaking through among board game fans given the increasingly frequent deadlines for buying board games. Relaxed shopping is no longer an option for fans of complex titles that are not only expensive but also available in limited first editions. If you want to get hold of a copy, you have to be quick. Playing with fear?

- a comment by André Volkmann


You can rant about old board games as loudly as you want: it used to be much more relaxed to play board games, but above all to buy them. The differences in consumer behavior are clearly visible. Where at that time you roamed through regular gears almost like an event, nowadays you prefer to buy on the Internet. This is also stress-free - if not necessarily beneficial for small local businesses. Now more and more tight deadlines and small first editions ensure that players hardly have time to carefully weigh up purchase arguments.

Kickstarter Tuesday heralds the panic phase

Events in social media or internet forums always roll over on Tuesdays. Then innumerable crowdfunding campaigns usually start - and the countdown is on. Usually 30 days, sometimes longer, often shorter, players then have time to decide not to buy. There is a system behind this: if you miss your chance, you look into the tube. It takes almost a year for the crowdfunded board games to be ready for the market and to be delivered to the “backers”. This late start: You don't want to miss out as a player, do you?

Publishers and authors also use scare tactics on a second level: the price. Those who support the high-priced Kickstarter now have to dig deep into their pockets, but pay less than those fans who buy later, for example when a board game makes it onto the market after crowdfunding. Big discounts: As a player you don't want to miss out, do you?

And then there are influencers who not only provide information about new board and card games, but also praise and cheer every Kickstarter - mostly regardless of its actual quality - and mostly for selfish reasons. Either there is direct “cash” for the advertising video or the content creators are granted access to a pledge, which the creators of course only get if the project is successfully funded. Criticism undesirable, it seems, one would spoil one's own business. The result: every Tuesday there are new “best games of the year” for which funds are collected. Each of them “unique”, “innovative”, “great” or even a “must have”. Best games: As a gamer, you don't want to miss out, do you?

Everdell ran on Kickstarter and was launched as a German-language version. Photo: Volkmann

Everdell ran on Kickstarter and was launched as a German-language version. Photo: Volkmann

The spiral of fear turns faster and faster the closer the crowdfunding campaign gets to its end date. 25 days, 15 days, new stretch goals, 10 days, surprisingly new expansion, 5 days, the end is near, panic! In the last 24 hours, the drum of advertising is vigorously stirred again. There is little time left, then it was with the chance of a supposedly terrific game. The makers take advantage of what drives players in many ways: The fear of missing out on something.

Coupled with the allure of the new, this is dangerous. It is not uncommon for fans to reveal how much they spend monthly, quarterly or annually on board games. It will be granted to you. But if you can no longer decide freely about buying or investing because you feel pressured to spend money on something that you don't know whether it will be worthwhile in the end, then this is a business model that is not standard may be.

The makers know how to do it: Exclusive goodies, visually impressive material and advertising with a rough trowel - it works, it flushes coal into the coffers. And as soon as a project is financed, you add an outlook to the future. We have something for you, attracting publishers and authors. We'll announce our new project as early as next month - for 30 days, then it's over again. To buy or not? That then becomes the central question again. And because more and more often only novelties are discussed, not games; “Looking at the shelf” to believe that you are what you have and that the board games market is getting bigger and trendier, you don’t want to do without it - maybe also for fear of not being recognized as a full member by the community?

There are pearls: not every board game that is crowdfunded is based on a warmed-up concept. Photo: André Volkmann

There are pearls: not every board game that is crowdfunded is based on a warmed-up concept. Photo: André Volkmann

And if the proclamation of innovation, novelty and creativity is not enough to reach into the wallet of players, then you use it, exactly: nostalgia. With the Remake of HeroQuest Hasbro recently demonstrated how you can use all the ingredients to generate as much money as possible as quickly as possible. A company like Hasbro could have simply reissued, produced and sold HeroQuest. Instead, they initially gambled with fear: the dungeon crawler is only available if we were initially able to collect at least a million euros through crowdfunding. The high-priced board game, the deluxe version of which required an investment of 150 US dollars, “sold” like sliced ​​bread. Of course, fans still have to wait for something in return. There isn't even too much that is new at HeroQuest: by and large, it's the game from back then, a little polished up here and there so that the ruble can really roll.

The modern board game, boredom seems to have become part of the concept. Instead of focusing on a really exciting topic, publishers and authors often take the easier route: They use a standard mechanism and put on a visually impressive setting - and the new miniature board game is ready, which is available for at least 90 euros can. Doesn't it take a lot more to inspire players? Replayability hardly seems important anymore, after all, the next novelty is already lurking around the next corner. Why unpack a board game from 2018 when you can look forward to one from 2022?

The industry is changing because the gaming community is changing. And there would be no objection to all that milking if all of the board games that hit the market were worth playing.


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