Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 18, 2022
An experience in trading

In hindsight, me pledging for the Bardsung crowdfunding turned out to be a mistake. Let's call it a mistake in two parts: Part one is that Bardsung objectively has a number of flaws that make playing it less fun than it could be; part two is that at its best it still isn't the game that I thought it would be or wanted. My error of judgement stemmed from the fact that the crowdfunding campaign talked a lot about the story aspects of the game, with famous guest writers and support for an app with voice-acted narration. I love games like Sleeping Gods (the crowdfunding for the sequel Distant Skies starts tomorrow), with a strong "choose your own adventure" gameplay part. Bardsung isn't that. Narration in Bardsung is reading one paragraph at the end of each 1-hour dungeon crawl, and often there aren't any interesting choices to make. Bardsung is a game of randomly creating dungeons, and slaying monsters those dungeons in a not overly difficult (but sometimes fiddly) combat system. If that is all you want, it is an okay game. If you'd get easily bored by fighting your ways through random dungeons with not much purpose, like me, this game might not be for you.

Buying a game you end up not liking much happens all the time, whether board game or computer game. For computer games, under some limited conditions, you can get a refund on Steam, if you bought the game recently and didn't play it much. To me that pretty much never applies, because I tend to buy Steam games during sales, and then play them much later, when the refund period has already expired. Reselling a game on Steam is not an option. But other than "sitting in my Steam library", which takes up no physical space, and maybe some regret, there are no negative consequences of having bought a Steam game that I later discover to not like.

Board games *do* take up physical space in my library. And typical Kickstarter games with a lot of miniatures tend to take up a lot of space. Not to mention that if you went for the all-in pledge, you'll end up with several boxes from core game to expansions to stretch goals. So the interest in getting rid of an unloved board game is somewhat higher, as board game collectors always tend to be short on shelf space. And unlike a digital downloaded computer game, a physical board game box has some value. Maybe somebody else would like the game better than you did. So selling the game is quite attractive, you get some money towards another game, liberate that premium shelf space, and get rid of the big boxes reminding you of your error of judgement.

However, selling board games is not that easy. Remember the stack of big boxes, which can be quite heavy? Sending that by mail can be rather expensive. And selling a board game locally is complicated, because this is such a niche hobby. The Bardsung Kickstarter had 10,000 backers, which is already one of the bigger ones, but 10,000 people distributed all over the world is not much. The relatively small number of existing copies of a Kickstarter board game also creates an opportunity for scalpers, who buy games to resell them at a profit without ever opening the box. In comparison, a played copy of a board game significantly loses in value. And you run into all the possible problems of selling something over the internet to a complete stranger.

Now recently I was at a local comic convention, which included some board game vendors. And I discovered that less than half an hour away from me there is a shop that buys used board games. And since the last time I got rid of board games I donated them for free, I thought that I should try this instead. The experience was a mixed one: On the positive side I got rid of Bardsung and two other small games, and got two new games in exchange. On the negative side, they weren't paying cash, just store credit. And they paid only 30% of the MSRP, which didn't really surprise me, having watched some reality TV series like Pawn Stars. The shop can't sell a used game for much more than 60% of MSRP, so he is paying me half of that, because he has to pay the running cost of the store, and carries the risk that nobody wants to buy that game. The good news was that the MSRP of Bardsung is twice of what I had paid via Kickstarter, so I still got 60% of my money back.

Well, Bardsung was a really big box, and I am happy that I got rid of it. But I will not make a habit of trading used games. The kind of board game I like is a niche within a niche, and even in a shop full of used board games I didn't see all that many games that were interesting to me. But I still preferred this option to paying shipping for a huge and heavy box sent to a complete stranger. I think the internet damaged my trust in humanity.


In the early 1990s used board and RPGs used to be pretty common. Most used books stores would have a few, and some really specialized in them. However it has been a long time since I have seen a good selection of those anywhere.

I assume ebay and scalpers have sucked them all up, but honestly I'm not sure what shifted and when. I was completely out of the scene in the 2000s and most of 2010s.
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