Thursday, April 13, 2006

7 Stages of a Boardgame Order

For someone like me who suffers from mild OCD, paranoia, and a kind of Murphy's Law Syndrome where if something can go wrong, then I must worry about it, buying board games has its ups and downs. This is a list of the 7 Stages I invariably go through for each game order cycle.

1. Accumulate: Here's where the fun begins. For me, this is an ongoing process. I might see an interesting image, read about a game on a post/blog, hear about it in a podcast, or simply decide to look again at a game that I had dismissed earlier. This stage is the most haphazard and cavalier part of the process. More is better. Pile 'em on. I look at my Want List every day and bask in the warm glow. Fun factor: 5/5.

2. Cull: Here's where the fun continues. Some would probably find this stage laborious, but I enjoy it as much as Stage 1. This is where I perform micro-surgery on the game. Are the official rules available? Is there a 3rd party rules file or a translation? Download and read them twice. Otherwise the game gets ejected. This is why games like Age of Steam never get past Stage 2. Then I read all the reviews and Q&A. The number of questions unanswered by the rules is a good indicator of a designer's and publishers's abilities to design and playtest a game. Geek Buddy comments are next, followed by the full list of comments by game owners. I find the users who rated the game high to be as valuable as those who rated it a low. Fun factor: 5/5.

3. Find Vendor: I've only ever ordered from 4 online retailers (links in the sidebar). For me, selection far outweighs cost. If I can get all the games I want from a single vendor, I prefer that over making two separate orders. I use Board Game Seeker and Board Game Search heavily, not just for prices, but for who has what. All things being equal I favor shorter shipping time, then cost. The closest retailer to me is Game Surplus, but they usually don't have every game I want. Fair Play Games fits the bill most often. Fun factor: 2/5.

4. Order: This is where I finally have to commit. I get really excited up until that final OK button. Did I enter all the right games? Did I order the English versions? Is something back-ordered? Did I mistype any billing information? OK! Then I wait for the confirmation email, file it away, and immediately check my order status. After such a stressful experience, it's time for pizza. I always order using a virtual credit card number. Fun factor: 1/5.

5. Wait: This stage in a strange combination of anticipation and stress. I have all these cool games coming, but their fate is in the hands of the retailer and the shipper. How long until they ship? Will they mess up the order? Will it show up on time? Will it get lost? One big issue for me is the delivery day. They never estimate delivery time. So I try to make myself available the entire day. If I try to sneak a quick shower, will they come while I can't hear the doorbell? If no one answers will they leave it, or return it to the office for future delivery? I run to the window at the sound of every truck. UPS!? Nope, it's FedEx. UPS!? Nope, oil truck. UPS!? Nope, moving van. Argh! Fun factor: 2.5/5 (1 for stress, 4 for anticipation).

6. Receive: UPS!? Yes! There have been times when the truck shows up on the estimated day, only to drop something off at another house, then leave. Later, the website said "attempted to deliver, yada yada" when they never even came here. I hate those guys. I've also seen FedEx walk up to my door with a package and drop it on the stoop without ringing the bell even though the package requires a signature. I hate those guys too. Fun factor: 1/5.

7. Inspect: I immediately open the box, throwing packing materials everywhere like a 5-year-old on Christmas. However, the games themselves come out slowly and methodically, and are piled largest-to-smallest off to the side. Once everything is cleaned up, it's time for roll call. Open the boxes. Check the boards. Count the bits. Make sure nothing is missing or broken. Figure out how the inserts work, and add bags as necessary. In my two years of buying games, I've only ever had 3 with missing/bad bits. Runebound had an unpunched sheet. Evo had 2 missing markers. Through the Desert had 3 missing green riders. In all cases, I got replacements without much effort. Fun factor: 4/5.

And, of course, as I write this I am in Stage 5 of my current order, which should be arriving any hour. What are the chances that I will receive 13 games in perfect condition? Stay tuned. Same ekted time. Same ekted channel.


At 10:47 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Maybe you had better go sit at your neighbour's house just in case.

You're pretty lucky with your games. I've bought about 20 games so far and a fifth of them were mispacked (missing pieces). I just got Caylus and it only came with 10 of the 30 food cubes.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Gerald McD said...

Cool description! That is a good blow-by-blow account of the process I go through, too. I admit I don't do quite as much research in the beginning as you do, and I'm not insistent on seeing the rules before I buy. I rely on the feedback in blogs and on BGG to eliminate games that won't appeal to my family. The other steps perfectly describe my experiences.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger ekted said...

Yikes, Ryan! You made me go check mine. Phew, 30. :)

At 1:27 PM, Blogger gnome said...

Great article, and a method one can extend to far more than board games... Same goes (for example) for RPGs...


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