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January 21, 2014 / Jett

The Board Game Shopping Experience

As a tabletop newbie with a lifetime of video game experience, I’ve noticed that shopping for tabletop games is very different from what I’m used to. With video games, they’re widely available at many different stores. Pricing for new titles is the same across all stores. Also, after a certain period of time, prices on games drop dramatically. Over time, I’ve come to learn that shopping for board games is not like that at all.

One aspect of the shopping experience that I’ve taken for granted is the concept of scarcity. With video games, nothing ever sells out anymore. You can go to any store that carries video games and pick up the new Call of Duty with no problem whatsoever. With tabletop games, scarcity is a constant factor for old and new releases. After discovering how awesome Formula D was, Steff and I immediately went on the hunt for a copy of our own. Based on our research, we determined that most places sold the game for between $40 and $50. After calling and visiting every store that carries designer board games in town, we settled on ordering the game from a third party reseller on Amazon while paying $60 for the privilege of owning it. I don’t like to pay more for anything, but I’d rather this than not have it at all.

Formula D is an older game, but scarcity is even a problem on some of the newer and hotter games. For example, Cards Against Humanity is a tough game to come by in this country at a reasonable cost. If you want to buy it in a physical location, the only place that officially sells it in Canada is Snakes and Lattes in downtown Toronto. It’s also worth noting that they sell it for more than the suggested retail price. If you live anywhere else in this giant country, you’re going to have to buy it online. The official site has it for $25, but you’re then paying a premium for shipping to Canada. If you buy it on Amazon, you’re also paying a retailer mark-up. One time, Steff and I saw it at Role Play Cafe and their asking price for it was $40. That’s 60% over MSRP!


Even for games that aren’t scarce, such as Dominion or Munchkin, buying a copy of those games at their suggested price is nigh impossible. I understand that stores need to make a profit on the sale of their merchandise, but I don’t understand why video games almost always stick to MSRP and board games never do. Worse yet, retailer mark-ups can vary wildly. In extreme cases, I’ve seen certain games on store shelves got for 100% over the suggested retail price! I guess that’s supply and demand for you, but it’s crazy. An unfortunate side effect to this is that board games almost never go on sale.


Even though I haven’t been an active participant or shopper in the scene for long, I will say that I’ve seen things improve. Mainstream stores like Indigo are beginning to keep a decent supply of designer board games, while more niche stores are also improving their selection. Snakes and Lattes has been an invaluable resource for Steff and I as a means of testing out games as well as buying them. Their staff have also done a pretty good job of recommending games based on our interests. Most recently, we discovered the holy grail of Toronto board game stores: 401 Games. Located by Yonge and Wellesley, it’s a big store with a huge selection of designer games listed at great prices. We were able to get Yomi for 20% lower than MSRP and Kulami for 33% less than the next lowest price we’ve seen in a store. We will definitely raid this store in the future for more goodies.

While 401 Games is a great resource for Toronto residents, it doesn’t help most of Canada. Most of their stock isn’t sold online, which is a real shame. Even if they did, they alone probably wouldn’t be enough to fix all of the challenges that come with board game shopping in this country. Due to the logistics of manufacturing and distributing board games, the process may never reach the simplicity of buying a video game, but I hope it finds a way to get there.

Buy Cards Against Humanity Now From

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