As humans, and especially as capitalists, we’re accustomed to buying things on impulse. Many times have I fallen victim to picking up an item that I think will be great because of aesthetics, or because it just sounds great, only to get it home and become disappointed. Tabletop gaming is no exception, and I’ve bought many games I thought I’d enjoy simply because of the way they looked or the way they were played up by friends or other gamers in the community. The sad thing about this situation is what happens afterward. I end up with a game on my shelf that is collecting dust and taking up space. In most situations gamers will end up either trading these games or selling them, giving another gamer an opportunity to enjoy them, which is a great thing. But what can we do to avoid these gaming impulse buys? The best way, in my opinion, is simply to follow the “try it before you buy it” rule, and that means attend a demo of the game, or get a chance to run the game yourself.
Demos are very important tools in the gaming community. They’re a way to not only show off a new game, but they’re huge selling points for existing games. At Gen Con, demos run rampant and you can find almost any game in existence being tried out somewhere. The sheer amount of what’s available out there can be overwhelming, so it’s important that you get as much research and time with a game as you can before you start spending your hard-earned gold on it. Here’s an example that happened to me not too long ago. After Gen Con 2011 I was elated with Android: Netrunner. I saw how the game looked and was intrigued with the living card game genre, so I decided to give it a shot. I picked up a core set and gave the game a go. It was enjoyable for a bit, sure. Then, as expansions came out I started falling behind. I picked up as many as I could, but eventually it became a chore to keep up with the game. The more I played it, the less I started to like it. Eventually I ended up letting the game go, and I sold my entire collection. If I would have demoed the game a few times before buying it, I feel like I would have had a deeper grasp of the game and I would have realized then that it wasn’t for me. Unlike The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Netrunner isn’t a story-driven game. It’s more competitive, and that just wasn’t something I was looking for. It’s still a great game, but it’s just not for me.
When you’re looking for games to add to your collection, you want to focus on three major points:
- a game that will see plenty of table time
- something that you can enjoy playthrough after playthrough
- making your money count
Knowing these points, where do you start? What is the first step to take? Well, hopefully this post will help you answer those questions, so let’s get started.
Back to Home Base – Your FLGS (friendly local game store)
One of the best ways to learn about new games and have the chance to try them out is to go to your friendly local game store. Most of the time these stores will have built a library of games that you can check out. Whether they charge a yearly fee (which is usually small) to have access to the library or not, this is a great way to check out games and play them for yourself before you invest money in them. On top of this, gamers are always looking for more players to join in on their fun, so there will most likely be players at your FLGS offering demos of games they like. These people have read up on all the rules, played the game numerous times, and you can probably bet they’ll work to make the demo fun and interesting.
If all else fails, most game stores have some sort of bulletin board approach to helping gamers. Looking for a demo of the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game? Try putting up a flyer on the bulletin board with your contact information and wait for someone to contact you for a demo! Store employees are also a great way to learn games, and you know they’ll always be in-house. At Common Room Games, our FLGS, the staff are always available for demos. What’s even better is that they’re enthusiastic and willing to show gamers almost anything. It’s a really warm environment and it makes you want to learn more and more games.
Trying out games through your FLGS is really the best way to gauge whether the game you’re looking at is right for you. This way you can check and see if it meets the three points mentioned above. The game may be at full retail at a FLGS, but think of the amazing service you’ve gotten to help learn the game and make your decision. These services are what you’re paying for, and they’re definitely worth the price. Some FLGS’s offer a rewards or membership program, so it will only get better from there!
Another great tool is the ability to use the power of the internet. Plenty of websites out there, like us, are in business for the reason of helping other gamers. We review games, preview upcoming games, and offer our opinions on just about anything we can think of in the gaming world. We understand that not everyone out there has access to a FLGS, and that’s part of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Websites like The Dice Tower, ISlayTheDragon, and Board Game Geek are built with gamers in mind, and whether it be a small group of people trying to get their opinions out to the world, or a whole community of like-minded gamers sharing their opinions together, these sites are invaluable resources.
These sites will show you reviews on games, thoughts on playstyles, and even offer you some in-depth looks at how some games play out. With Board Gam Geek you can navigate the site to find specific games. Almost any game you think of is available on the site, and when you go to a game’s page you’ll find all sorts of information. You can add games to your collection, get feedback on your thoughts on the game, read other gamer’s reviews on the game, and much more.
The Dice Tower and ISlayTheDragon are both sites that offer reviews, interviews, and much more from the gaming world. It’s great to have varying opinions on games, so don’t stick with just one site, even if it’s ours. We want to create a community that is inviting and helpful, and we can’t do that without sharing!
The Mighty Halls of Gaming Conventions
Gaming conventions are like the end-all paradise of the gaming community. At these events you can find nearly every game in existence, and there’s almost always someone who wants to show them to you. Though not readily convenient, gaming conventions can be a great resource to help you learn new games – especially when it comes to those games that haven’t released yet. Conventions are expensive, but the opportunities you have, friends you make, games you play, and experiences you take home with you are indefinitely worth it. At these large events, you’ll see designer and publisher booths all over the place. You can get demos of games from the designers/publishers themselves and learn all there is to know about the game right there on the convention floor. Some conventions have a gaming library as well, and most of the time it’s free with admission to the con. It’s a great place to just sit and play games to learn them. A guide to which conventions to choose or how to plan out a trip to a convention is an entirely different story, however, and we’ve got plenty of opinions on that too!
These are just some of the ways you can enjoy demos of games, trying them before you buy them. Following these steps will help you add games to your collection that will be valuable amongst yourself and your gaming group. Through demoing a game you’ll learn if it will be a good fit for the various gamers you have in your group. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one demoing a game that you pick up for other gamers? It’s a great way to “pay it forward” so to speak, and it’s always welcomed. With all of this in mind, get out there, play some games, and help share with the community!