Game Spotlights

Published: March 11, 2024

Adam Knight

Used Board Games: A Secret Gem!

Time for an honest evaluation. Go, take a look at your used board game collection. Estimate how many times you’ve played each title. How many within the last year? Within the last five? Would you, on a given game night, ever pick this or that one over others you already have?

Or does your eye travel back to your want list, to the games you’re waiting to play, ones that might be impossible to find new, or just too expensive to justify?

What if I told you there was another way? A method, like age-old alchemy, to turn games you’ve played to death or no longer desire, into the very title that’ll transform your next game night into one to remember?

Used board games. The phrase might conjure up cards stuck together with greasy leftovers or pieces bundled together with the wrong boards. And if your search involves the neighborhood garage sale, that might be what you get.

But take a more discerning approach, and you’ll find pre-owned board games, when well-cared for, are a gateway to gaming’s hard-to-find titles, and a way to get your played-out games into new, excited hands.

The Point of Pre-Owned

Buying new (via a store or crowd-funding) feels like the default. Get the box (or boxes, depending), without any fingerprints, that new manufacture smell. It’s great, if you have the cash and catch the game’s release window amid our daily distraction deluge.

Board gaming’s current crowdfunding obsession has boutique titles coming out in one-time print runs, available brand new in a narrow span. You’ll have to fork over funds and wait months, or years, for that fresh cardboard to arrive. By the time it does, well, your life might’ve changed—anyone staring at their Frosthaven box while an infant wails in the background can relate.

Instead, you could satisfy your dungeon crawl urges with a used copy of Descent, chock full of dice-chucking goodness and playable with zero-to-heroused board games satisfaction in an evening. Or reach further back to Warhammer Quest or Magic Realm, games flush with special moments that haven’t been printed in decades. Rather than watching the clock and calendar, you could get to gaming that night.

And if you buy local, you’ll even save on those dreaded shipping costs.

Used Board games have other advantages too, like knowing what you’re getting with a title. I’ve crowd-funded plenty of games (and will continue to do so when the urge for retail therapy strikes), and duds exist. Those flashy designs that look excellent but don’t quite hang together when the finished product arrives. When you grab a game on the secondary market, you can walk into that purchase knowing exactly what’s coming, whether it has lopsided, hilarious luck or factions so imbalanced that house-ruling is mandatory. In other words, you’ll know it’s the perfect game for you.

Going used is also a great way to get all of a game. Crowd-funded collections, like that poor Frosthaven parent up above, often make their way without much used board gamingplay to the used game market, ready to sooth your have-it-all urges. Often, these collections simply aren’t available outside an initial crowd-funding run, so you shouldn’t be afraid to dip your toes in the pre-owned waters to catch up on that promo or neat expansion you may have missed.

Lastly, there’s perhaps the most obvious reason to shed your fears of pre-owned games: physical boards, chits, and cards need to be printed. Manufactured. Many amazing titles, due to initial sales, rights issues, or alien abduction, won’t see a second print run, making a used copy your only option. For me, I keep a selection on the ol’ Noble Knight Want List, waiting for the email to come in when they’ve found something special.

The State of Pre-Owned Board Games

Okay, so, you’ve dug into some used board game listings and found some you’re interested in. How do you know if it’s a good deal for you? Here’s a simple checklist to follow before snatching up a used board game:

  1. Are there clear photos of the game in question?
    1. Sure, photos can be manipulated, but board games aren’t ancient treasure or luxury cars. At least seeing a simple image showing the game box is the minimum to know you’re looking at the right product. Bonus points if there’s a shot of the box with the lid off, pieces visible inside.
  2. Is the condition clearly stated?
    1. Does the posting state any deficiencies? Damage to the box or lost pieces? These might not be deal-breakers, depending on what’s off. If, say, a special Monopoly version has lost its D6 dice, well, you can find those just about anywhere. But if there are major gaps, you’d rather know before getting a neat find back home and learning a bunch of meeples are missing.
  3. What’s included, and what’s consolidated?
    1. If your prospective purchase states it’s a whole collection, make sure you know if all the expanded bits and bobs are included in their original boxes or bagged up in some combination. Neither’s a bad thing, but if you want all the packaging and wind up with plastic bags jammed into the core box, you might be disappointed.
  4. The Edition Decision
    1. Diving into pre-owned games gives you access to earlier editions than the current retail release. That might mean different art, rules, and pieces (not to mention collector value). Games like Successors and Ra have major changes between printings, and knowing which one you’re getting is key before pressing that buy button. Even games that look similar might have rulebook revisions and errata between versions, so inspect, and keep the surprises where they belong: in the gameplay.
  5. Does the price reflect its value?
    1. Always a subjective measure, but it pays to comparison shop, not just against other used retailers but with online marketplaces. Consider variables like free shipping (Noble Knight sends it your way for free once you clear $150), particularly for larger purchases, like those mini-stuffed all-ins you’re eyeing. If a game’s never getting reprinted, a higher price is justified, but pre-owned Wingspan ought to save you some silver over a new box.

How to Prep your Own Games

Okay, so now you know the basics about buying pre-owned games, and why it’s a great way to get ahold of titles you might not be able to otherwise (or saveimpcgf004.jpg (500×323) a few bucks on ones you can). When your newfound cardboard arrives, though, you might find some games in your collection don’t fit your interests or the size of your apartment. While it’s always nice to donate to a library or children’s hospital, more complex, larger, or simply expensive games might find new players while getting you something back for your time.

Selling a game through a consignment retailer, directly to a reseller (like Noble Knight), or via an online marketplace is much like anything else, but with a few key things to consider:

  1. Price compare on your specific edition
    1. Much like the buying tip above, board games can change quite a bit between printings. Make sure you understand your specific version’s value – you can usually get a SKU or version number from the game’s box or printed in the rulebook. Plus, then you’ll list the exact edition, and help buyers find you.
  2. Know the Pros and Cons of going big
    1. Understand that reselling stores need to make a profit on the transaction between you, themselves, and the next stop for your game. Understand, too, that many larger outlets will help you handle shipping costs and will remove much of the headache of listing games or whole collections piecemeal online. You might get a better return doing all the work yourself, but it’ll likely cost you a lot more time. Know what’s more important to you and act accordingly.
  3. Inventory the Components
    1. Once you’ve decided how you want to market your games, give each one a thorough inventory. Compare the pieces to the listing in the rulebook and be honest about the condition: some scuffed cards here and there or a ding on the box won’t drive away most buyers, and they won’t accuse you of misleading them. If a game’s lost some critical pieces, all might not be lost: Noble Knight and others might still accept a partial copy to help supply spare parts to other players. Note, too, any card sleeves, deluxe components, or after-market inserts.
  4. Separate the Expansions, if possible
    1. If you still have expansion boxes, separate everything into where it belongs. The initial pain of breaking up your massive Dominion decks will be paid back when buyers are able to pick and choose which parts they want. Or, if you’re selling it as a collection, the photos will be more enticing. If those boxes are long gone, then make clear which expansion elements are included in the listing and how they’re packed.


The Great Board Game Life Cycle

Diving into the used board game market is a great way to get your hands on special titles simply not available otherwise (like, say, Glory to Rome or Chaos inffggw01a.jpg (451×479) the Old World). You’ll likely save some scratch too. Then, when you’ve played out a game in your collection, consider trading it in, either through a local store, an online marketplace, or other outlet. You’ll bring fun to someone else while freeing up space and budget for some shiny fresh cardboard of your own, which is about as good as it gets.