Z-Man Games’ Borging + Tanga.com = 2011: the Year of Buying Boardgames

It occurred to me last night that 2011 has been a pretty good year for actually purchasing boardgames for me. I have mentioned here and there in the past that boardgames have hit a price point where I have become a very discriminating purchaser of new games– there are many I would like to have, but as many of them clock in at $75 plus retail at time of release, I’m not going to be profligate in my buying habits. Other factors are shelf space and components creep. I’ll be the first to say I am a lover of companies like Fantasy Flight Games, Z-Man Games, and Days of Wonder. I love the bright colors, the “ooh shiny!” appeal of many of their products. What’s not to love about DESCENT, for instance?? What adult male who came up in this hobby from the bad old days of the 1980s isn’t going to buy this thing? It’s basically D&D in

Descent all spread out
Descent, by Fantasy Flight Games

your buddy’s basement all weekend long, complete with cheese waffies and Tab! Nostalgia packaged in a big beautiful brightly painted box, the size of a fat surfboard. There it is.. rewind the tape. They are all getting as big as Descent these days– as is probably obvious to anyone who looks, FFG uses standard box sizing for products, and the big beautiful ones with lots of plastic bits take up TONS of shelf space.. say what you like about the old “bookcase game” concept from Avalon Hill (and before them, 3M, see how old I am?), you could put four games or maybe even five on the shelf in the same space taken up by just Descent by itself (let’s not talk about the expansions). My study already HAS tons of games in it. For something to come in, I have to think about what I want and need to get rid of first. So I’m not going to go on a buying jag any time soon. I love expansions, too.. but currently, I think long and hard where I’m going to STORE the expansions that I pick up, first. Even wargames are getting huge– just the first three releases in the Company Commander take up most of a shelf in my bookcase.  So I have every reason NOT to buy a ton of new games and expansions right now, until my bookcases get thinned out of the really old stuff.

And yet, with all that being said.. 2011 has proven to be the YEAR OF PURCHASING (and playing) NEW BOARDGAMES for me.  Yes, I’ve purchased more boardgames of various types than in any other year in the last five years!!

How do we account for this anomaly, you ask?  Okay, you probably didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you, that’s what blog posts are all about.  But first, let’s review.

This is what I’ve purchased this year, 2011.

In addition to this, I have Steam and Steel pre-ordered at Lock n’ Load games, and possibly one or two other GMT games, but I don’t think they will print this year.  I will almost certainly purchase the Spanish Army when it is available for Command and Colors Napoleonics.

So, why this unusual buying pattern?  What has driven me to such largesse with my game-buying dollars?  A sense of philanthropy?  A desire to do my bit for the economic recovery, one gaming company at a time?  Not exactly.

Tanga Dumping
Tanga Dumping.. at a price like this.. I can't ignore it!

Simply put, it’s a false economy.   Every single one of those purchase decisions you see above placed the game in my ‘buying comfort zone’, which, realistically, is somewhere between 35 dollars and 50 dollars for a boxed wargame (bookshelf or square FFG sized), somewhat more for lavish component games (FFG big box style).  That might not be a price model that any publisher can sustain over time, but that’s what I can afford to pay this year.   In the case of the GMT games, I managed to get a coupon code that gave me half off of the retail price– which is why I’m so hooked on C&C Nappy right now.  In the case of Worthington, Red Poppies was a fortuitous Ebay buy, and Guns of August was a P500 purchase that came with Red Barons (a glorified folio game) included.  The two Leader games from DVG were fortuitious after-market purchases.  One Z-Man Game, Perry Rhodan, was a purchase from the BoardgameGeek Marketplace.  The two Against the Odds games were a show special at the Decision Games booth at Historicon 2011 last week.

Which leaves us with the rest of the Z-Man Games.  I’ve bought these because Zev from Z-Man has been literally dumping them on the … what?  Internet surplus market?  The overstock market?  Big Lots for Games Online?  Tanga.com carries a nice plethora of “surplus” or overstock items for ridiculous prices.  Lately, it’s been illustrative to follow what shows up there, and for how much it is going for.  Three Z-man games that have resided on my “BGG WISH LIST” since their inception have been: The remake of WEG’s old KINGS AND THINGS (with nice big Euro bits), ROAD KILL RALLY (Death Race 2000 meets Car Wars), and EARTH REBORN (post-apocalypse giant game, about the size of Descent).  They were nice, but priced out at a point where I could .. afford to wait to get them.  Especially Earth Reborn, which was put out something like a 80 dollar retail price.  Suddenly, I’ve been seeing Z-man games showing up in the little Tanga.com sidebar on Boardgame Geek every day, and the games that I was putting off for another day are now going for prices that even I (who have benefited from this greatly) find alarming.  Is Zev liquidating his business?  The answer is yes, to some extent!  As you may have read somewhere, Z-Man games was recently purchased by a French publisher named Filosofia.  I’m not sure what their niche is, but it would appear NOT to be maintaining a game warehouse, because suddenly Zev has been dumping, dumping and dumping some more all the titles that seem to have done reasonably well but not gang-busters.   I found it alarming, as Z-Man is a great publisher and should not fade from this earth (the plan is that it won’t, but one wonders with the drastic inventory reductions).  The end result is that I have bought more games in one year than I have in the last three years.  And it hasn’t put a serious dent in my wallet, either.

One has to wonder what the REAL price of a game is at times– and what is entailed in that price– research, development, art, production, distribution.  Zev claims he is making a ton of simoleons from the Tanga.com shenanigans and I hope that is true.  I just don’t see HOW if those costs need to be recovered.  Oh well, another great mystery of life.  Happy Gaming.