Tobold's Blog
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Board game bloat

Board games on Kickstarter are frequently very different from board games you can pick up at your local toy store. Kickstarter games are often more complex, thus have more parts. And many of them come with a large number of miniatures. Furthermore in a store you probably just buy the base game first, and check that one out before you decide to buy any expansions. Kickstarter board game campaigns work on FOMO (fear of missing out), and try to sell you all-in pledges with several boxes of expansions and deluxified materials. All of that has consequences: If you pick up Settlers of Catan at your local toy store, the box weights just about 1 kg. An all-in pledge of the latest Kickstarter game can be easily over 10 kg, with some getting up to 25 kg. For some games, e.g. Frosthaven, already the base game box is 10 kg.

But there is another big difference between board games in a store, and board games via Kickstarter: Logistics. A store gets many games delivered at once, which is more efficient and cheaper for shipping cost. A Kickstarter backer gets his pledge delivered individually. Which means that he has to pay for shipping individually. That has always been a problem for people living in far out places, but shipping costs used to be reasonable if you lived in the "48 contiguous states" of the USA, or in Europe.

But shipping costs have gone up dramatically during the pandemic, and recently there have been lots of stories in the board game crowdfunding space that show the effect of that. Usually a Kickstarter campaign comes with some shipping cost estimate, and the actual shipping cost is calculated later, when the game is ready to ship, and the game company charges that shipping cost to its customers via the pledge manager. Some companies simply shrugged their shoulders and charged their backers the full new shipping cost, way above the estimate. CMON estimated the shipping cost of Marvel Zombies all-in to the UK to be $110, now it's $272 (including the VAT one needs to pay on the shipping). Needless to say, some of the backers are pretty outraged right now, especially since the communication about it from CMON wasn't very good.

Other companies have done better communication, and some basically agreed to pay part of the increased cost by using all of their profits, but then still needed to go begging to their backers to cover the remaining shipping cost. Some small board game companies delivered their games, and then went out of business, because as nice as it looks if you agree to make a game without profit, the unsustainable it is.

Needless to say, this mostly affected board game companies that made those heavy big box games with lots of miniatures and components. And there are still a lot of crowdfunding campaigns that have already been funded last year, where we don't know the impact of shipping cost yet, because the project isn't at that pledge manager stage yet. But between you having to pay much more, and you having to pay a bit more but then the game company going out of business, there aren't really any good options here. And that has a chilling effect on future board game Kickstarter campaigns, because if companies now make better estimates of shipping costs at current rates, these games look a lot less attractive than before.


I assumed from the title the post was about how much room these things take up after a while. At this point a game needs to be pretty special before I could consider adding it to my collection. I have a ton of games already, largely completely unplayed, taking up huge amounts of space. Compared to my much larger collection of unplayed console and PC games, at least I know factually they will still be playable when I eventually retire and will actually have sufficient spare time to start really working through them. However, they also take up a heck of a lot more space.
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