William Henry Knieves

High-Rolling Fun


By Pamela Y. Wiggins

What’s more fun than a good board game?

Mark Jackson, 53, of Nashville, Tenn., knows all too well how much fun families can have not only playing board games together, but also collecting them. He’s been at it since he was a kid, and now his sons Braeden and Collin have taken up board-game collecting.


Board-game collecting can lead both individuals and families down exciting paths. Whether you’re hunting down rare and valuable examples by McLoughlin Bros. or focusing on more affordable games with television and movie themes, this is one area of collecting with something of interest for kids of all ages. Then there are times when you start in one direction and end up focusing on an entirely different area.

Among the games Mark still owns from his childhood are King Oil, in which players “drill for oil” on a three-dimensional board, and Project: CIA, where players search for a secret formula hidden in envelopes placed on the board game.

“I always liked board games – a passion that was fanned by my grandmother, who would play pretty much anything I was given,” Mark says. “I think that much of my love of games started with her. Her example enabled me not only to play wisely and well, but to also enjoy playing whether I won or lost. I like to think I’ve handed that legacy on to my sons.”


Mark and sons
Mark Jackson says board games have helped his boys Braeden and Collin learn math skills, and tactical and strategic thinking. Games are also “a good way to connect with friends and family.”

As he watched board gaming grow as a hobby, Mark continued to collect and play games reflecting a variety of genres and design styles. Since his teenage sons form his main gaming group these days, his interest leans toward fantasy and science fiction, although he’s still happy to play various types of games.

Like most youngsters of his generation, Mark collected mass-market games made by companies like Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley. In his early teen years, he discovered bookshelf games by Avalon Hill and spent the next decade playing war games along with role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller.

“The 1980s saw the beginning of games coming into American markets from Europe,” Mark says, “first Games Workshop with their fantasy and science-fiction offerings like Talisman and DungeonQuest, and then Ravensburger with their beautifully made family games like Scotland Yard and Midnight Party. Milton Bradley entered the hobby market as well with their Gamemaster series. My gaming shifted in those directions.”

As a charter subscriber to Games magazine when he was in high school, he learned about a new wave of games out of Germany. This included the “now ever-present” Settlers of Catan. “I fell head over heels in love with these beautifully produced and excellently designed games. At roughly the same time, the internet made it easier to make trades to get copies of these difficult-to-find games here in the U.S.”

Mark’s collection has grown to include more than 800 titles, and more than 500 game-expansion sets. The oldest game in his cache is Situation 4, a real-time puzzle game that revolves around a battle for territory, published by Parker Brothers in 1968. In terms of oddities, he says a game called Timber Tom (a self-published hiking/racing game) is one of his favorites, with an amazing multi-layered board and lovely components. “It elicits ‘oohs and ahhs’ every time it hits the table,” he says.

And, of course, every collector has a wish list. Sometimes that wistfully includes the one that got away. “Years ago, I sold my copy of the original Space Hulk game. I’ve reached a point in life where I’d love to have it back, but the price to get the base game plus the expansions is just too high. It would be a great game to play with my boys and with friends.”

When it comes to guiding his kids as they collect, he gives them the same advice he’d give anyone else: Collect what you like and will play. He sees speculating on board-game values as difficult to predict, and the recent trends of reprinting and re-imagining older games makes the model of “hold it a long time and it goes up in value” more of a risk.

The Family That Plays Together

Mark Jackson, a dad who collects with his two sons and writes for the Opinionated Gamers website, offers these tips for board-game collecting as a family:
►Help and encourage kids to use resources available to them online, such as BoardGameGeek and the Opinionated Gamers websites.
►Look for local open board-game events in your area. “Flea markets” at these events can have good deals on games. These events can also give you and your family opportunities to try new games.
►Game cafes are beginning to open in various cities. Here, you can get something to eat or drink and use their library of board and card games. This is another great way to try and see what kind of games you like.
►Storage solutions do not have to be elegant – but you do want to keep games in rooms with relatively low moisture since dampness and cardboard/paper are not friends.

Braeden, who is 16, likes games with a strong theme. “He has a substantial collection of X-Wing miniatures as well as a chunk of Android: Netrunner LCG cards,” Mark shares. For the uninitiated, LCG stands for Living Card Games, which are playable right out of the box. These sets are purchased more complete than Collectible Card Games, which are more like trading cards that are primarily bought in random packs.

Collin, 13, collects Rory’s Story Cubes, and he particularly enjoys the storytelling game released for the Cubes called Untold. He also has a large collection of Lord of the Rings LCG cards.

When it comes to shopping, these guys frequently peruse a variety of online retailers for newer games. For out-of-print games, they look to the Board Game Geek marketplace, and enjoy trading with others at conventions. They also learn collecting lessons navigating the actual board games.

“We homeschool our boys and feel that an excellent part of their education has been playing games,” Mark says. “They’ve learned mental math skills, tactical and strategic thinking, assessing the motives and plans of others, and just finding a good way to connect with friends and family.”


World's Game of Baseball
This 1889 “The World’s Game of Base Ball” board game from McLoughlin Bros. sold for $4,182 at a May 2013 Heritage auction.

In addition, they’ve learned to do independent research on games they’re interested in, and now they are learning to teach others to play some of the more complicated games they own. They also learn from their mistakes.

One common pitfall of board-game collecting is buying or making a trade for an incomplete game. And sometimes, a game you thought would be great turns into something you really don’t like at all. There are also some games that have a mystique about them that may impact the value adversely.

“If I could communicate anything,” Marks notes, “it would be that the market value of a game may or may not be the correct value for you to purchase the game. Some games are overvalued not because of their actual play value but because of their perceived rarity. In other cases, your desire to own a particular game can lead you to purchase a game at a premium price.”

Exclusives funded through crowd funding, he says, have exacerbated the “perceived rarity” problem. Of course, well-designed board games with economic themes can also impart lessons about money that go a long way in educating kids about the difference between “want” and “need,” and how to budget for things you want the most.

Seeing board games in a new light?

Just think, the next time you shout “You win!,” it could have a whole new meaning for you and your family.

Pamela WigginsPAMELA Y. WIGGINS is the author of Collecting with Kids: How to Inspire, Intrigue and Guide the Young Collector, a book based on her columns in The Intelligent Collector. This story appears in the Fall 2018 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.