The cost of tabletop games is a topic that keeps popping up. There is the question of whether games have now become “overproduced”, in the sense that the game components have become more expensive, due to an increase in quantity, an increase in quality or both. There is also the question of whether games have always been sold too cheaply, leaving everyone with tiny margins. There are many reasons that decide the cost of games, but I want to look at the other end of the chain. I want to see how consumers decide when a game is good value for money.

Of course, everyone will use different criteria and even when a game is seen as good value, it still doesn’t mean it’s affordable for everyone. We each have our own budgets to think about, but there are a number of ways people decide how to gauge the value of a game, so they can decide how that compares to the cost of buying it.

I think a lot of people look at games as a form of entertainment and therefore compare their cost with that of a night out with friends, family or a partner for example. The question is how much fun a game provides for how long and for how many people. If a game provides two hours of entertainment for four people, for example, it could be compared to going to the cinema with your friends. So paying £20 for that game is probably cheaper than an evening for four of you in the cinema.

Games also often provide more than just a couple of hours of fun, because you can usually play them multiple times, and there are games that take longer to play all the way through, either because they are heavier games or have some sort of campaign going. So suddenly a game costing £100 will be seen as good value for money when compared with a night at the cinema.

As I said above, just because a game is good value for money doesn’t mean everyone is happy to spend £100 on a game. Yet, if you look at in the same way as going to the cinema, then maybe you should also consider splitting the cost with your friends, especially if you have a regular games group who all want to play that game multiple times – or be part of the whole campaign. That way the cost for each person is less and you can all afford to buy the game, especially because you all have already decided that it’s good value for money.

Sometimes just doing a simple comparison between games and other forms of entertainment, purely based on the hours of fun they provide, doesn’t work. There are occasions when a game provides something that no other form of entertainment can. In fact, I would argue that most games are very different in many ways.

The social interaction is hugely important to me and something I’ve not found in other forms of entertainment for example. It could also be an element of nostalgia that a game gives you that you cannot recreate in other ways. I have been buying a few games recently that have a German theme, and I’m not even sure if they are games I will enjoy playing, yet the nostalgia element made those games look like good value to me – and you may have different things that make a game special to you.

Whatever that special factor is, it is going to be hard to put a value on it. However, I think, if anything, it will make a game more precious and worth more to you. It will make an otherwise expensive game look a lot more like good value for money and you may even buy it for that special factor alone.

In a similar vein are deluxe editions of games, where the enhanced components or special mini-expansions give you more enjoyment when playing with them, than you would with the base version of the games. Additionally, deluxe editions often keep their monetary value much better, making them better value for money if you intend to sell them later.

I am someone who generally buys deluxe versions of games, if I can afford the extra money. Playing with metal coins gives me a lot more satisfaction than cardboard tokens for example. So it gives me that extra element of fun, but it also means that I will most likely get my money back when it comes to selling – which will happen to many of my games due to the limited amount of space I have.

Rare editions and out-of-print games are in the same category for the same reason of course. They are usually very expensive in real monetary terms, but can be seen as great value for money when you consider that they are hard to get and will probably keep their value really well.

So how do you decide when a game is good value for money? What measures do you use? Do you just go by that measure, or do you always have a hard monetary limit that you will never go above when buying games? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear how others decide whether a game is worth their money or not.

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  1. Great post!

    I tend to think of games as a published media, like books or music. There is “standard” pricing, to an extent, based on the game size. That is, how much stuff it includes. Look at games by Asmodee, for example, they have definite ranges based on box size and the amount of stuff in it.

    Unlike books and music though is a common form factor. Novels could come with maps, or even have photos or illustrations. Yet, books tend to follow common standards. In the Western world, they all open from the right. You don’t have fancy magnetic closures, etc.

    Older games tended to be more “standardized” with very similar box sizes and game boards that were very close in size (so much so that the US Post Office has a medium Priority mail box that was designed for board games). And that makes sense because they were printed on similar equipment as books that had limited options to vary from the norm.

    Games are so highly bespoken now and virtually anything is possible. Are Tiny Epic games more immersive with meeples that can hold objects? Or is that more of a gimmick?

    I suppose it’s up to players to decide what they want (which is a great thing).

    For myself, I tend to like games that are about the strategy and let my imagination turn a Halma-style pawn into a great dragon—I don’t need a 58 mm miniature. I fact, that would diminish my experience because I’d feel more like I’m playing with toys than playing a game.

    Fantastic post, as always, thanks for getting my day started in a wonderful way.

    1. Thank you for your comment, David. I’m glad you liked the article and it made your day. I agree with pretty much everything you say, but I do like the odd gimmick here or there. So I suppose it depends what’s possible within the price range and it’s amazing what clever solutions publishers sometimes come up with to provide interesting and exciting components that aren’t hugely expensive. I suppose, a bit like yourself with the skulls in Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery.

  2. Another great piece, but I have to disagree with one of your points – that deluxe versions maintain their value… this really hasn’t been my experience here in the UK. And yes, I agree that metal coins, etc. can add value to a game, but this doesn’t always tranlate in straight money terms. Many of the conventions and events in the UK like AireCon, MidCon, etc. have Bring’n’Buy sales and the like, and invariably there’s barely a £5 difference between the standard and deluxe versions of a game when they’re resold side by side. Nowadays, I prefer to buy generic metal coins separately, and use them for games I really enjoy (and that ‘deserve them’ imho, like Barrage and Architects of the West Kingdom, for example), but these are the first thing I’d remove from those games when I eventually come to resell them. Thanks for continuing to produce great content.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Alex. I’m glad you liked the article and it’s interesting to hear that you had a different experience with deluxe versions of games. I guess at bring-and-buy sales, everything is going for a lot less money, because people want their games sold and not take them back home again. I had a different experience when selling via eBay or BGG. However, buying deluxe components, such as coins, separately is also a good option, because you can probably use the same coins for multiple games. Thank you also for your compliment. I’m glad you think I produce great content and I hope I can continue to do so.

  3. Hey Oliver, very great post!
    Honestly, I just think about how much overall fun I will have with the game. I take many things into consideration such as the storyline, characters, depth of the game, quality of bits & pieces etc. when it comes to deciding if a game is worth buying or not. I don’t set a monetary limit on how expensive a game is that I buy, but let’s just say if it’s a bit pricey I won’t be buying another one for awhile! haha.
    I do, however, like the idea of using my own quality pieces/coins that I can use in a number of different games.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nile. I’m glad you like the article. I like your approach of having an overall annual budget, or something along those lines, so you can afford to buy something with a higher price tag, but then you have to take a break from buying for a while. That’s a good balance, I guess.

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