Chaotic Considerations: Out of Print

WHEN THE HEART WANTS, BUT THE WORLD SAYS NO…

Chaos here!

Many years ago, a friend of a friend showed up with Love Letters, a simple card game.  After losing twenty-one rounds in a row, I was the one who found myself enamored.  I immediately purchased myself a copy and continued spreading the love (and earning a better win/loss record).  Later, that same person showed up with a copy of Tales of the Arabian Nights.  The group had a blast and I immediately knew I had to get myself this game too.  

However, this time, the task proved a bit trickier.  For the first time, I encountered an out of print game.  I could find the game online for a couple hundred dollars but nothing that seemed reasonable or close to its original price.  I was heartbroken.  What was wrong with the world that little ol’ me couldn’t get such an awesome game?

THE WORLD AS I THOUGHT I KNEW IT..

Like many, I grew up surrounded by board game classics: Monopoly, Scrabble, The Game of Life, Candy Land, Checkers, etc.  If we didn’t have them at my family’s house, some friend or relative had them sitting around.  They may not have been hitting the table often, but they were there as an established part of the setting and background of my life.  I rarely had to consider where they came from, they were just there: common items in homes and stores, a staple of the world around me.  

In time, new games entered my life: Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Pandemic, Apples to Apples, and more.  Most of these came onto my radar during college, and they soon found the same ubiquity as the classics.  It didn’t matter which group of friends I hung out with, these games never seemed far away.  Before long I noticed them in numerous stores, they too were now just part of reality’s landscape.

It might sound naive, but the idea of games growing popular and then just being around became my defacto way of thinking.  New games entered my life and any good one had a stable presence.  Either I or a friend owned it, and we could play it when we wanted.  If we didn’t own it, we could buy it.  ‘Nuff said.

I believe it’s easy to fall into that way of thinking if you’re only looking at the most popular or newest.  If you’re only looking at the latest games, then of course you don’t know the status of old ones.  If the big names are all you see, it’s easy to forget about the smaller guys.  The easy to find King of Tokyos, Azuls, and Codenames are worthwhile games that deserve to be played but what about the harder to find gems?

OUT OF PRINT AND OUT OF LUCK

Back to my story of woe:  I couldn’t find Tales of Arabian Nights, so I learned an important lesson about out of print games, right? Nah.  It just so happened that shortly after my tale of disappointment, the game went back into print and I easily picked up a copy.  Adventures full of viziers, fire worshippers, and magic twists of fate were to be had.

Sadly, not all stories end with a game simply going back into print.  The longer I am in the hobby of board gaming, the more I see unavailable games ushering in disappointment, if not for me than others.  

I’ve been a huge fan of Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game since it first came out.  I am lucky that I got on the train right when it started because I often see people online lamenting that they can’t find certain expansions.  Sometimes Upperdeck will reprint a set, but many will probably never be rereleased.  

It can suck being late to the party.  What player of Magic: The Gathering or any other card game hasn’t had to deal with the possibility of not getting what they want, either because of rarity or age.  I’m interested in Disney’s Lorcana that drops later this year and I’m already sweating not being able to get cards.  It can be tough being a completionist who is married to a completionist.

Last week, I mentioned backing CMON’s latest Kickstarter, Marvel United: Multiverse.  That’s another game that has people both crying with joy at reveals and lamenting what they can’t have.  As of right now, CMON is claiming that the Kickstarter exclusive items from seasons one and two won’t be made available again.  Despite how often I hear that anything good on Kickstarter will eventually make it to retail, that’s not always the case, and those that do reach market don’t always come with everything that backers received.

Usually, it’s older games or exclusives (crowdfunding, convention promos, etc) that I picture when I think of harder or impossible to find games.  Sometimes life does surprise though.  After my wife, Confetti, gave me Ultimate Uno for my last birthday, I quickly wanted to scoop up the expansion decks.  Somehow a game that came out within the last year had already hard to track down mass market expansions.  Most stories were out of them and online the decks were going for double or triple their original price.  Our guess was a smaller print run. 

WHAT DO WE DO?

Like any issue, there are a number of solutions.  We can buy everything as it comes out so we never have to worry about what is or isn’t out of print.  Of course, we would have to make sure none of our games ever get ruined, but that’s an entirely different issue.  We could be willing to drop a lot of money on out of print games we decide we want later.  We could take over the world and demand that anything we want either stay in print or immediately go back into print as we see fit.

Or…

More realistically, we accept we can have or do it all.  I have this same problem with books.  I can’t read them all, so why would I need them all?  There are too many games to ever actually play and appreciate.  Stupid life gets busy and it has this dumb habit of not lasting forever.

Enjoy the games you do have and enjoy the ones you can get.  There should be plenty there to keep you occupied, and if not, there are plenty more coming out all the time.  If you want some good game suggestions for times you can get your hands on or are still waiting to be released, let me know.  I have recommendations on the ready.

Thankfully, it is true that a lot of really great games do stay in print and plenty of other great ones will come back around if the demand is there.  And, while it might not be exactly what you wished for, plenty of out of print games do come back around in new forms.  Sometimes it’s the same game with a new look/theme, and other times it’s in the form of a new game that plays similarly and offers certain mechanics.  Maybe your new favorite is out there waiting for you.

We also shouldn’t forget the magic of technology.  Like many video gamers who have revisited old wonders through emulators and digital copies, board games have also found virtual homes.  Some games have their own online versions, think Magic and Dominion, while others can be found in spaces like Board Game Arena or Tabletop Simulator.  I imagine there are tons of less legit/legal board game spaces online too, but I wouldn’t know anything about those. (I haven’t really come around to online board games too much, but I know plenty of people who love them).  While the internet might not actually be forever, it should help keep some games kicking around in some fashion if you please to play them.

THE WRAP UP

Here’s hoping that the games you seek are available for you to play or that you can find someone who can share them with you.  Just remember, that if you can’t find exactly what you seek, there are plenty of other great games out there to try instead.  

Happy gaming!!

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