They say you can tell a lot about a person from their game collection. No? Is that not a thing? Well here at Meeple Mountain we believe this to be true anyway. Get to know the Meeple Mountain team a little better as we invite you into each of our homes to peek at our collections.
My game collection, much like my other hobbies (music and sports), is varied. As such, I organize my collection primarily based on available space. Sure I’ve grouped some publishers and designers together, and maybe I have dedicated roll-and-write and two-player only shelves, but all that is mostly because it made sense spatially.
The smaller of my two Kallax shelves I look at more regularly than my larger one and so I put the games I love most there: my Ticket to Ride collection, my current favourite games to play, and my slew of completed Exit games — which I keep because they remind me of how much fun I had playing them. (Besides, if I hadn’t kept them then I would have never been able to write my Exit: The Game mega review.)
My friends and I often play a game: which cube in your Kallax would you choose if you had to pick just one? I always struggle to answer this because there are just so many games in my collection that are special to me. Whether it’s the wooden Can’t Stop board I made, the secret game that also houses all my extra component bags, or my copy of Macao, which has a story long enough to warrant its own article, I can never pick just one. Maybe this says a lot about me and my trouble with decision-making, but I like to think it’s because each board game in my collection (not to mention the other non-game related sections of my Kallax) is important and loved.
Kurt Refling & Kathleen Hartin
Kurt and Kathleen are going to be sharing an entry for their collection. Why? Because: surprise! Two of our Associate Editors are, in fact, married to each other and share a collection of games. Here, they both describe their feelings, along with a few games that feel uniquely “theirs”. But first, they offer some shared thoughts.
As a general rule, we like when games feel like a puzzle you’re trying to solve (with a few notable exceptions for some push-your-luck drama). For that reason, most of our collection is either lightweight family games or spreadsheet-y optimization puzzles.
People often ask us how we organize our games. While once upon a time, we tried to organize by designer and publisher, now the method is a little different: it’s all about aesthetics. Games have been grouped into shelves by size and shape, and then within that they’re organized by colours that look nice next to each other. Of course, there are some areas that are still organized by designer and publisher, but that’s really something specific to Kurt, so he’ll talk about that.
When we set-up our collection, we did it together; however, when new games come in or old ones leave I’m the one that gets up on a stool and reorganizes the shelves. I try to make it look as pretty as I can while making sure everyone has a home. My favourite shelf has all the perfectly square-top boxes together. This isn’t because I like these games best, in fact, none of my favourite games are even on this shelf. I just really really like that they all fit perfectly. If you’re looking for a shelf that has the highest number of “Kathleen’s Top Picks”, that’s the shelf directly below it where Grand Austria Hotel, Terra Mystica, and Hansa Teutonica live.
Another part of our collection that gives me joy is the shelf-within-a-shelf system at the bottom right. This is where we store the really small box games, like anything from Oink Games or card-only games. Before implementing this, we tried to stack all the tiny games on a normal size shelf and they would inevitably topple. But now they all fit perfectly, with no fear of them getting pushed back and being lost behind bigger games. I’d rather my collection be a polyomino game than a dexterity game.
The small shelf is also where a game that is uniquely mine lives: Happy Salmon. If it weren’t for me, I know this game wouldn’t be in our collection. And that’s fair, it’s very silly. But it’s also just so exciting! It’s a fun way to get people energized and it plays up to 6. So one day, when COVID is over, I can use this as an excuse to high-five a bunch of my friends after months (years?) of only seeing them online.
While Kathleen and I share a common love for optimization games, there are a few types of games that tend to appeal to me without fitting Kathleen’s taste. I’ll list them off by category…
Aggressive games: I love a particular niche of in-your-face board games that pit you right against other players. This covers a whole range of stuff, all of which is reflected across the shelves. For starters, there are the abstract strategy games like Twixt and SHŌBU: one-on-one battles for position and territory. I love the tactical, move-by-move dance, so abstracts are a favourite puzzle for me.
My fondness for direct conflict also manifests itself in games like Splotter Spellen’s Bus, The Great Zimbabwe, and Antiquity: zero-sum games of optimization and brutal market and area control. I love that Splotter’s games are from a tiny publisher doing what they love.
This brings me to another aggressive collection: my releases from Blast City Games, most famous for Cave Evil. I’m lucky enough to own a copy of both The Mushroom Eaters and After Pablo, both by niche designer Nate Hayden. All these boutique indie releases from Splotter and Blast City fill up a shelf together, each in standardized box sizes with no back covers. I kind of love that, and I’ll admit I’m just as happy to have these as I am to play them.
Round that out with a couple of classic hardballs from Knizia — Modern Art and Tigris & Euphrates — and you have a lot of games where Kurt gets to be mean. I’m lucky that Kathleen and I share a mutual love of Hansa Teutonica, which is a good alternative when we want to play together.
Role-playing games: There’s not much to see here, per se: most of my RPGs are tucked away into corners, masquerading as classy books… or, more often, exist only as a file stored on my hard drives. If you’re a huge RPG geek, you might already have noticed our Fall of Magic box on the far left of the bottom shelf, and figured out what kind of games I’m into… if not, here’s a quick description.
I love telling stories. I will voraciously read, play, and think about anything that lets me collaboratively imagine. While a lot of folks think about Dungeons & Dragons when considering tabletop roleplay, my tastes tend to err away from combat. There’s a whole beautiful world of games out there that let you explore big drama and tiny shared moments, all without having to slog through hours of dice rolling.
One of these days I’ll write an article about where to start with story games. Until then, you can check out my review of Fiasco for more insight into what roleplay can look like.
The puzzle of organising board games on shelves is a meta-game, one that’s almost as satisfying as any of the individual games themselves and where the win condition is entirely in your mind.
My wife and I recently reorganised our board games to house them all in one area. It was a fun hour or so whilst our 10 month-old daughter crawled about looking at box covers and ‘helping’. Previously we’d arranged our games alphabetically but the vagaries of box shape/size and our available space meant we knew that sticking to ABC wasn’t going to be possible. Instead I had fanciful dreams of organising games by theme or complexity, whilst deep down knowing that space wasn’t going to allow for either.
The results are mixed. There’s a Kallax cube of lovely abstract games like Azul and Sagrada, but it also includes the not-at-all abstract Scooby-Doo Betrayal at Mystery Mansion because it was one of the few games that would fit. Similarly, part of me feels guilty about confining the light and breezy Istanbul three shelves below alongside heavyweights such as Terra Mystica and Clans of Caledonia.
As befits a couple of zoologists, there’s a shelf of animal-themed games, except that Endangered and March of the Ants aren’t there because finding space elsewhere for Thanos Rising, Forbidden Island and Sushi Go Party! got boring. Technically Tiny Towns and Hare & Tortoise should be on the animal shelf but, really, where are the animals in them? Plenty of animals live within Kariba’s tiny box but it felt right to put it on top of the excellent card game Village Green. That said, I’ve no idea what that particular botanic puzzler thinks it’s doing sitting in the ‘disaster’ area with the Pandemics and The Great Fire of London 1666.
There’s a part of my brain that’s offended by such organisational failures but the imperfect process has also produced moments of wonder. I’m itching to put The Hobbit to the left of The Lord of the Rings but just look at the gorgeous colour gradient in that cube! Similarly, gritty Arctic Scavengers has no business being grouped with the featherweight fun of the Ticket to Rides (Europe and UK, also in the ‘wrong’ order), Tiny Towns and The Quacks of Quedlinburg but all those blues are mesmerising.
Most importantly, the splendid custom wooden boxes for Carcassonne and Catan remain in their well-earned spots atop of everything. As I write this I’ve frequently looked over at them and resisted the urge to open their lids and marvel at their contents.
So, did we win this round of the organisational meta-game? I think that we did. Perhaps you disagree but all the games are in the same place and it’s pretty to look at. I’m not sure we could have asked for more.
What is a board game collection? A collection of board games or a collection of board games? Is it just a hodge-podge conglomeration of unrelated stuff or is it a carefully cultivated collection of cardboard curiosities? My collection falls somewhere in the middle. I started out just buying up games that I liked playing. Over time, it turned into a collection of games. Somewhere along the way, though, I began hyperfocusing on specific designers and it turned into a collection of games.
Half of my collection is just random piles of games all over the house. And then there’s this:
The upper left shelves are where my Stefan Feld collection lives. Beneath that are the Alea bookshelf series that I’ve been trying to collect over the years. Many of Feld’s games are part of that collection, so that just became a natural offshoot of my Stefan Feld obsession. Here’s what a Stefan Feld obsession looks like:
That’s every single published Feld game as of this writing, minus the two that I am missing – Strasbourg (which I acquired after this photo was taken) and The Name of the Rose (which I am dying to get my hands on).
To the right of this is my Uwe Rosenberg collection. The photo of my Kallax shelves shown above is outdated. My Uwe Rosenberg collection now takes up the entire column of shelves. I’m serious about my Rosenbergs.
To the right of this is my burgeoning Richard Breese collection. While it’s nowhere near as large as my Feld or Rosenberg collection, it’s still one I am very proud of. Everything else on these shelves is just shelf Tetris with no rhyme or reason to it aside from trying to keep games that may be in a series close together. Once you get beyond my game collection, everything else becomes total anarchy.
My game collection has no rhyme or reason. My husband and I started our collection about 5 years ago and it has grown quite a bit since then. At the beginning we were picking up everything and anything we could get our hands on, but now we have been a bit more selective by trying to figure out games we would actually play either together or with friends and family.
We moved into a new house last year and one of the requirements was to have a space specifically for our games and board game table. Once we found the perfect house we bought Kallax shelves. Originally we bought 3 2x4s and arranged them with 2 vertical and 1 horizontal so we could put different nerd paraphernalia on top of it. That didn’t last a year… we bought another 2×4 just a few months ago and now have all 4 in the vertical position.
One item that is not really a board game but is board game related that I am super happy with are our bit bowls. We play a lot of games that have a lot of little bits and instead of keeping them in random piles on the table I wanted to have bowls we could easily pass around while playing (plus, it makes the table not look so cluttered!). I was going to a large outdoor craft fair with some friends one day and thought that would be the perfect place to find some! I spent hours there looking at every booth and could not find what I was looking for. I was feeling really defeated. I thought if I was going to find something it would be there. I know there are Etsy shops and even BoardGameGeek that have bit bowls, but even those places didn’t have exactly what I wanted.
So, on our way home we decided to stop at Buc-ee’s. For those not that are not familiar with Buc-ee’s imagine a gas station the size of a Neighborhood Walmart or a large convenience store. They have everything from a full wall of fountain drinks for cheap, a full bakery and sandwich shop, t-shirts, camping equipment, decorations for your home, etc. In their decoration area they normally have little knick-knack type things and they’ll switch out the styles periodically. This particular day they had a lot of stuff with a countryish type feel. I was just browsing and lo and behold I found a set of 4 wooden bowls. Not soup or cereal bowls which would be too deep, but shallow little wooden bowls! Exactly what I was looking for!!! I was so excited and bought 2 sets so I now have 8 bit bowls that are perfect!! Of all places to find them, I found them in a gas station.
One of the joys I have from building my collection is the adventure of finding a game I want to add, but finding those bit bowls will always be one of my favorite adventures!
My collection is a mish-mash of games I had as a kid, thrift store finds, and games I’ve bought since deciding to get more serious about this gaming hobby.
I would like to think that my games are very organized. To the untrained eye, they most definitely are not. For me, they’re divided into distinctly separate areas.
The first set of shelves holds the games I’m most likely to take with me to game night — back in the pre-COVID days when I would pack up physical games to take to their homes to play instead of seeing what’s available online. It’s sad to think that Scythe, Agricola, Terra Mystica, and Istanbul haven’t been touched in months. And Power Grid! And Through the Desert!
The top of these shelves has become a space where smaller games end up living, strictly by necessity.
(While I’d love to have a nice set of Ikea Kallax shelves, that’s money that could be better spent on more board games. That means I’ve made do with a thrift store set of metal shelves.)
I have two sets of shelves that are primarily made up of thrift store finds. Some I’ve played, most I haven’t. They are, admittedly, something of a mess, so there’s no need to see both of them.
This one has my small collection of word-based games and a woefully incomplete version of “Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Game” — a game I played the heck out of when I was around 5 years old.
Shelf Three is a mix of my full set of GIPF Project games and others chosen to make up a backdrop for the video version of me reading my middle grade Steampunk Fantasy book. It turns out, however, that I’m not that interesting when I’m reading aloud, so I scrapped the videos in favor of audio files. The games remained, though.
The fourth area is a pair of stacks, not really a shelf. Here there are some older games, games that I am working on reviewing for Meeple Mountain. At the top of the stack are some games I’ve set aside to take with me on a trip to help my parents move in a few weeks.
These stacks also include what I call Games of Hope — games I have purchased to take to those first In-Person Game Nights once COVID is behind us enough for us to safely sit across a table from one another.
For someone who runs a site about board games, I haven’t really been into hobby games all that long. I played games with my parents all the time as a kid: Risk, Frontier 6, Rummikub, and lots of card games. But it wasn’t until the early 2010s that I started buying board games. I went through the same phase everyone new to the hobby does… buy all the things. Thankfully I’ve mostly gotten rid of those early games; purchased just because I heard they were good and before I knew better.
While I’m highly organized in some areas of my life, my board game collection isn’t really one of them. As someone who values efficiency my primary goal is to fit all of my games into the shelves I have available in the most space-saving manner possible. So that means I don’t group by color, or designer, or type… it’s purely by size, trying to eke out every last inch of space across my three shelves.
I’ll zoom in here on a recent addition: my small card game boxes. I’m a huge fan of games like PUSH, 6 nimmt!, No Thanks!, and other games like that. So much so that for my birthday this year my wife bought me these great plastic containers that perfectly fit into my KALLAX shelf.
The last bit of shelving is my overflow, part “games waiting for review”, part “I have no room anywhere else”, this is usually where any new games I get come into my collection. Whether they stick around long enough to make it to the KALLAX is anyone’s guess.