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17Feb 2017
Game values

Everyone understands prices: We may not agree with prices but we understand them. A price is simply the amount of money being asked for a given object, and and it will generally fall into a range determined by other prices available for that same item. Let’s take Cosmic Encounter, for example: looking at BoardGamePrices.com, (a great utility for pricing games; full disclaimer, we have our games listed on it), Cosmic Encounter at the time of this writing has prices ranging from  $45.90 to $61.87. If a seller is asking for anything in that range from people, the seller is probably asking for a fair price. If the seller is asking for anything significantly higher or lower than that range, he/she is asking for too much or too little. Determining a suitable range of prices is only truly difficult in situations where there are not sellers of items comparable to your item …and in that case there are two ways to look at it: Either (1) the price should fall into the range of past historical sales of that item, or, alternatively, (2) since no one else is selling it now, a seller may ask any price at all.

Unfortunately, trading games is much harder. To the best of our knowledge, we’re the only business out there that trades games on any serious level. There are a few shops out there that will take used games for credit (which we’ll do as well), but we have yet to encounter any other store that trades routinely and systematically (ie. rather than doing the occasional game swap here and there). This lack of comparison to other similar systems means that most people will choose some form of currency-based price as their reference when valuing titles (eg. MSRP, retail prices, Amazon, used game prices on the BoardGameGeek marketplace or ebay, etc.). Irrespective of the the fact that every one of those options can have drastically different pricing, trading for games is very different than buying games;  and in my opinion, none of those options are a good metric to go by. To make matters worse, since there’s no money involved in a typical trade (ie. it’s just games for games), both sides/parties must agree on values rather than just a buyer.

As a game store whose main activity is trading, BGC wrestles  with game valuations constantly.

One of the main factors that we’ve been trying to deal with is supply and demand, or “hotness”. The most common example of ‘the hotness problem’ that I often use is Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror. Both of those games have the same MSRP, and they generally sell for the same amount in any store. To many people, that means the two are the same value and a fair exchange. I drastically disagree. On BoardGameGeek, there are 1300 people trading Arkham Horror and only 500 wanting, which means that when trading the game, all those 500 people can have their wants fulfilled with a full extra 800 copies will still be lying around ready to trade. Eldritch Horror, by contrast, has 300 copies for trade and 800 people wanting it, which means 500 of those 800 people will not be able to trade for the game and will be forced to pursue other means of acquiring it. If one wants to buy a given game, its value is its price – as long as that game is in print ; however, if one  wants to trade for a game, one must  account for supply and demand during the valuation.

So over the past few years we’ve been working on a set of formulas for trading. These formulas  take into account the following factors and assigns each game a value, so that we can publish a price list and hopefully make trading with us – and for the hobby – an easier proposition.

  • MSRP – This is the initial starting point of the value
  • Demand – Based on how available a game is, the initial value is modified to be either higher or lower than the MSRP, the demand takes into account both how many people want and are trading, as well as the ratio of how many people want compared to trading.
  • Whether we want the game/are overstocked – If we’re overstocked on the game and don’t want it, we’ll still take it but the value will take a big hit. At the end of the day if we have dozens of surplus copies of game X, then it’s worth less to us.
  • Our Uptrade – We generally aim for a 25% uptrade, so we assign a downwards adjustment to the point values of the games that we are taking in. This is the most common reason why Game X will be 60 points for our copy and 45 points for your copy.
  • An OOP Modifier – This one we rarely use, but sometimes a game needs a manual adjustment to account for either being overstocked, or flooding the market on discount games. So we add a custom modifier here to adjust the value.

Once those 5 factors are taken into account, each game we have and want gets a value. For example, at the time of this writing Arkham Horror we value at 19 points, and Eldritch Horror at 87 points. You can find our app with those values here. It’s still in Beta and we’re constantly improving it; fair warning that the initial load time can be a bit long because it involves accessing BoardGameGeek’s API.

So why is game valuation an exercise in futility? Because I can refine our system endlessly, but other people don’t always agree with those values (which I’m fine with), and some even think that we’re trying to rip them off (which I’m not fine with) and I certainly don’t expect people to read multiple paragraphs worth of explanations before every trade. It also doesn’t help that inherently there will be far more people upset that I’m “lowballing” their Arkham Horror then there will be people surprised at how high I’m valuing their Eldritch Horror. (Since there are 1300 people trading the the former, compared to 300 trading the latter, if we assume that the same percentage of people from each are trying to trade with us, that’s 4.33 people who think I’m lowballing them for each 1 who’s happy with the values. And that same logic applies to all games…if we value games more highly the fewer there are, and devalue them the more common they are…there will always be more people offering us devalued games then increased value games.)

In closing, I should mention that feedback is always welcome. We have to balance customer satisfaction with our valuations versus actually valuing in a way that prevents us from trading today’s hotness for yesterday’s games. It’s a delicate balance and we’re constantly modifying our formulas when and where we can. Ever since going live with our values in the past 2 months or so, there’s been a lot of positive feedback in the increased transparency, but also a few people very upset that it looks like I’m trying to get one over them. Your continued feedback helps me make sure that the latter occurs as infrequently as possible.

01May 2015

We started with Menachem, Adam and myself playing One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a deception game where you don’t even know what team you are on until the end. There’s nothing quite as devious as being a werewolf and avoiding being killed…only to find out you’re no longer a werewolf and as a villager you just lost the game. The first game went pretty quickly….Adam was a werewolf and forgot to plan his lie out, making it so that even though he picked up the pace later, when Menachem was faced with choosing who to side with, he joined me and we correctly assassinated Adam. Round two I was the werewolf, and I started with an early game lie that hid my cover well, but as Adam managed to slowly give away that he was the Seer and I was the werewolf, we both managed to figure out that Menachem’s lack of being helpful resulted due to him being the new werewolf, and we succesfully pointed our fingers at him to kill him. Round three went pretty quickly with a bit of a game flaw, and despite me seeing through Adam’s poker face, Menachem decided to vote round robin and leave him alive. For shame Menachem, for shame.

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22Apr 2015

Last night started with Ezzie being late (he warned us) and Ari being even later (he fell asleep…not cool). In the meantime, Menachem, Adam and myself played two games of For Sale, a quick and easy auction game, similar to High Society. Sender won both games, Menachem was second both games, and Adam lost both games. Proving that Sender is awesome and Adam only gets rich in games where you lie to each other. Not cool Adam…not cool. On the plus side that may or may not mean he wants to buy another game. Although holy crap I thought it was $10….apparently it’s jumped to the $25-$40 range, or even more on Amazon.

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10Apr 2015

Attendance this week was quite strong at a full 6 people which was pretty awesome considering the holiday weekend. We had myself, Adam, Ezzie, Menachem and rival siblings, Kyla and David. That being said, with the exception of Adam, everyone was late….so Adam and I started another game of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation with the sides reversed, myself taking on the fellowship and Adam being the overlord of all evil. As Sauron attempted to use his Cave Troll to intimidate the fellowship, Frodo and the rest of the host of good merely passed by him without being noticed and slowly slipped towards Mordor. A few short turns later Frodo entered Mordor and destroyed the One Ring forever more!!! (well actually just until later that night when Sender and Ezzie played it again).

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06Apr 2015
This last week’s game night was a quick and short one with many missing members thanks to preparing for the weekend or just straight up being out of town. We started with just Adam, and the two of us sat down to play Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition). I will  henceforth start adding links to all board games we play, since I can likely pay for my kids tuition just by the referral amount Amazon gives me for all of Adam’s purchases.

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29Mar 2015

Wow it’s been awhile since I wrote part 1….I had been hoping to make this a weekly series but with life, work, games and family, it looks like it took 4 whole months to get to part 2 of this, but let’s pick up where we left off and hope part 3 doesn’t take 4 months.

So anyways, when we left of we had discussed the two main kinds of traders; those simply looking to turn an unplayed box of cardboard into something new, and those who are trying to maximize their gaming dollar, even if means trading a game they like, in order to get a game they love instead. In this article, I’ll jump into the logistics of trading, whether financial, time, energy etc.

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29Mar 2015

This week, we were all privileged to once again play Kemet, an Egyptian masterpiece of conquest and mayhem. We were joined by Sender (myself), Ben, Mike, and Aviva, and after quick and relatively easy rules clarification to Aviva and Mike, the game started in a timely manner.

Mike started us off, by wisely choosing the Elephant to lead his troops into battle. He then swept in to take control of two temples in his first turn, a well executed move that was applauded by all present. The next turn then started with Aviva choosing to politely remove Mike from one of his temples, with Sender teleporting in to execute the stragglers and getting a victory point for my troubles. Aviva then proceeded to take a second temple, and Ben likewise chose to move his forces into two temples that turn. As the turn finished, handshakes and congratulations were passed out all around for a well played turn by everyone present.

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19Mar 2015

This Thursday we played Kemet, in honor of Adam and his new baby. Adam couldn’t be with us tonight but I’m sure he appreciated us playing Kemet in his honor and then sticking it back on the shelf for 6 weeks. No need for thanks Adam, always happy to help a friend!

After a quick rules explanation, the game started with Daniel heading for a quick early rush to take both the Elephant and a few victory points. He got all up in Ben’s space with a vicious unprovoked attack on his forces. Ben lost the battle but took out Daniel’s forces setting himself up for a revenge attack next turn. Meanwhile Sender and Ezzie decided to leave everyone alone and both took a foothold in separate temples and bunkered down for the night.

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12Mar 2015

This was a busy week in board games! We started on Wednesday with Sender, Adam, Kyla and David playing Cosmic Encounter once again. The night started with Adam losing $50 as he decided he MUST HAVE THE COOL AWESOME INSERT. Tsk tsk Adam….you have to control that wallet spending stuff. Kid coming and all that. He then proceeded to have one of his most trustworthy games yet, that is until the end game where he was about to ally with Kyla for the final win but then proceeded to backstab her for the sole win. Remember people….never trust Adam in the final round of a game. That man’s got crazy Eyes!!!

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05Mar 2015

In what is now making international news across the country, we’ve played Cosmic Encounter 3 weeks in a row….that’s a new record and one unlikely to be beaten ever again. Something about the quick playtime (2 hours once you know it), backstabbing and negotiations, and the enjoyment of having a game that Ezzie hasn’t won yet is very appealing to all of us.

We were joined for a second time by Menachem, and once again he did a great job of knowing the rules better then assorted people at the table who had played the game already. Unfortunately, he seems to be far too trusting of all of us, and rules will only get you so far when the rest are eager to destroy every last citizen of your useless relic of an alien race.

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27Feb 2015

In a rare turn of events, we played a game for two weeks in a row! Woohoo and go us. Consistency people; that’s the key. Unfortunately, despite Ben’s excitement about playing a game for the second time, apparently there were far more important things for him to do, so this week he gets the “Here’s Your Sign” award.

While we waited for Ben to confirm (and lie) about his attendance, we started the night off with two heavy filler games called High Society. For an accountant, Ezzie managed to somehow be the person who spent all his money in each game (which automatically makes you lose). Ben…you may want to have someone else start cooking your books. Meanwhile Adam put up a decent fight the first game but managed to buy practically nothing the second game, while Sender managed to come close to winning in in both games.

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20Feb 2015

The game on the table this week was Cosmic Encounter, an epic game of cosmic negotiation and domination. Unfortunately the game started with the cosmic warp deciding that Sender had to attack Ben, but fortunately they decided to remain peaceful allies, and they negotiated a fair exchange of territories. From there the galaxy degenerated into a wretched hive of scum and villainy, with each race attacking and defending with no regard for past alliances or future trust. Dan attacked Ari, Adam and myself defended gloriously. Ari attacked Sender, and everyone else piled on. Dan attempted to negotiate with Adam….except he lied! Chaos and maliciousness prevailed in the universe!

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13Feb 2015

Dan gets Geek of the Week award for the second week running with his amazing on timeness. He then proceeded to out OCD Sender by DRIVING HOME to get his dice tower. We’re talking about a game with 2 dice. That were rolled maybe 10-15 times the whole game. Yup….Geek of the Week and OCD Geek of the Week in one night. Congrats Dan.

Anyways; this week we got to welcome Josh and Menachem to the table, although neither are new to board games (the good kind). The game on the table was Cyclades Titans; an expansion to Cyclades that drastically changes the nature of the game. The game started with Menachem understanding the rules so quickly that he was answering other people’s rules questions before we had even started the game. Never a good sign for me, who usually relies on knowing the rules better to win the game.

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06Feb 2015

This week’s game night started with Dan a very early 8:00, and no one else showing up until 8:30 or later…Nahshon called so he’s forgiven, but the rest of you are getting giant cardboard signs nailed into your lawn with big block letters “FOR SHAME”.

Anyways….game night started with Dan, Adam and Ben getting an early start due to NO RULES!!!! Expect more of that the longer game night continues and we figure out the games to replay. Adam proceeded to take his first move and proceeded to have his ship burst into flames. Shortly after, Dan rolled a 2, and cursed the fates for his not being aware that rolling a die can be good…or bad. Methinks if he rolled an 18 he wouldn’t be questioning the changes of that. Oh, and he died soon after. Finally, the trifecta ended with Ben piloting his spaceship into the Sun….cause giant ball of fires are good maybe? Whatever…he’s stressed, let’s let this one go.

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30Jan 2015

Thursday started with everyone surprisingly on time and ready to go, a pleasant surprise and much appreciated. Except for the fact that Dan decided not to bring his dice tower….but whatever. Not gonna make a big deal of it. Even if it is a tiny little thing that could have been brought easily. No big deal. Let’s move on.

The game on the table was Cyclades, an epic battle between 5 Greek Factions and a whole bunch of monsters. It was a usual night, with the game starting by having everyone make an obligatory attack against Sender, and Sender attacking no one. It took 6 attacks against me before people started to notice that in fact; I wasn’t about to win them all with 2 troops and no ships on one lone isle. I know I know…I’m the Napolean of board games….no one feels save even when I have been banished alone to one lonely island…I’m still a threat. But whatevs.

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24Jan 2015

Last week’s game night started with Ezzie, Dan and Ari all screwing with my well organized attendance plans. Fortunately no games were actually ruined, so no one will be penalized this time. No promises for next time of course. And yes….my parties are always the Monica party. Google that if you don’t know what it means. And honestly the game night really started with Ben tricking everyone into setting up for the Sholom Zachor….we’ll read into that more or less depending on what happens the next time he hosts.

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04Dec 2014
Dear Jamie [co-designer of the game “Euphoria”],
Every boardgame designer probably enjoys positive feedback about his/her creation; it’s my hope that this note gives you (and your co-designer) a small fraction of the pleasure Euphoria has given me.
I discovered and acquired your game in the past six months, and was first able to play it – three times:) – this past weekend. As the father of a daughter who loves dystopian fiction and who is (at twelve years of age) a seasoned game connoisseur, bringing Euphoria to the table was for me a no-brainer.
The fact that she beat me made the experience that much more enjoyable:)

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27Nov 2014

The truth is, before we can talk about the economics of trading, we need to talk about why you trade. There are two main reasons people trade games (or any other bartering for that matter), and the two reasons really have the same parts, but the focus on which parts matter the most is what differentiates them. The first kind of trader is the economic trader, someone who’s trying to get the most amount of games he can with the resources he has. This person will generally be aware of the discount bins, Black Friday sales, free shipping thresholds, and when it comes to trading, they treat their games as a resource that needs to be maximized. The second kind of trader is the convenience trader, far more focused on the fact that he/she simply has a large pile of games that are just taking up space and not being useful, and they are simply interested in getting rid of them in the easiest and most friction less way possible, and are just happy to be getting something in return. Neither approach is right or wrong they are both completely valid. Continue reading

19Nov 2014
I moved to a new neighborhood towards the end of 2012. It’s the kind of neighborhood – rare today – where most people know or know of one another, many socialize together, and packs of children roam from house to house on weekends. When people come into our living area in our home, many notice my collection of boardgames, and many offer a comment. (If they realized I have about 1/10th of my collection visible, they’d comment differently, I’m sure.) More than once during the first few months I was in town, neighbors suggested that I meet this guy who lives a few blocks away, because “he’s into boardgames as much as you are.”
In twenty years of playing ‘designer’ boardgames, I’ve heard this comment enough to be a little skeptical when someone claims to be ‘into it’ like me: both because (a) it’s unclear whether or not ‘they’ distinguish between “Bananagrams” and “Die Macher”, and (b) I’m pretty ‘into’ it, spending as much time as I can spare either reading about game titles, listening to podcasts about them, reading the rules, or playing them with friends and family. (It just gives me joy, what can I say?)
So, suffice it to say that when I knocked on Alex’ door for the first time, I was looking at my watch, questioning whether my time would have been better spent perusing the rules to an “Alhambra” expansion.
It would not have been better spent that way.

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