The costs of the #wargame #boardgame hobby

Looks like the hobby boardgame and wargame industry could be hit by tariffs on games and parts made in China. Dependably, hobby gamers on BoardGameGeek and Twitter are all abuzz.

“A 25% tariff is going to make games unaffordable!” Maybe. Roger Miller, President of Revolution Games points out:

Its a tariff on the production cost of games, not the list price. Production as a percentage of list price is usually between 12%-20%. So an increase in total price of 5% would cover the entire tariff.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2204314/lot-games-are-going-get-more-expensive

A 5% increase in game prices is not great, but it’s not the end of the world either.

Other BGG users are lamenting the “inevitable” decrease in quality by not printing in China:

I have had several publishers tell me that they can’t get the quality as good printing in the US as they get printing in China. I don’t know whether that’s true of all types of games or just the games those designers publish. But it’s a mistake to assume the only reason to print in China is price. It’s possible that tariffs could lead to quality dropping as more games are printed in the US.

BGG User Eric Brocius

I think Uwe Eickert of @AcademyGames might have a different opinion:

“…and today we are going to talk about quality issues we are seeing from China.”

Fortunately, I have options. The US-based print-on-demand publishing model of Hollandspiele (@Hollandspiele) is looking mighty appealing right now. Games like Brave Little Belgium (in the header image) are quite likely going to bubble to the top of the purchase queue….

All this drama is going to have to play out. To me, the bottom line is that I will likely have to pay more for games. The question is, “how much?” I believe the increase “should” be less than 25% but I am not sure many companies in the very cottage-like boardgame industry are prepared. So I expect prices to go up by at least 25% and maybe more.

Yes, this means I will have to get pickier on what I buy. But…if companies want to keep chasing my wallet they need to be diligent about controlling their costs and only passing on to me what is fair and proper. To be clear – I am perfectly willing to pay a premium price for a good game; I am not willing to pay premium dollars to a company unable to control their cost AND quality. Just because you can’t control YOUR costs doesn’t mean I automatically accept you passing that problem to ME (close to what I used to hear in the military, “Your stupidity is NOT my emergency!”).

Hey, here’s and idea! Let’s play the games we already got! Maybe tariffs will slow down the spread of the Cult of the New or be the antidote to the viral Fear of Missing Out. For myself I am behind on my 2019 challenges to play all the Charles S. Roberts and Golden Geek and Origins Award winners I have in my collection. That’s over 50 games to play this year! Or maybe I go ahead and pull the trigger on Scythe: The Rise of Fenris and start a campaign. Or I get the latest FREE Cepheus Engine: Faster than Light rules and start that RPG campaign the RockyMountainNavy Boys have been hounding me about.

If anything, I probably need to invest in those expansions or published-but-unpurchased games NOW before people slow down buying “new” games and turn their dollars towards that segment of the market and drive prices up. That’s what I’m going to tell Mrs. RockyMountainNavy to explain the bills. It’s sure to work….


Feature image Brave Little Belgium from Hollandspiele. A “towering” figure in the hobby boardgame industry tried to besmirch this game; don’t “vasel-ate”, just buy it and enjoy a great game!

3 comments

  1. I think on top of the price increase we will also see a massive delay in some games’ production and delivery because their logistics chains will be disrupted and have to adapt. So let’s not get too excited to have those new releases soon.
    …but if your hope comes true and gamers will play more of the games they already have, I’ll be more than happy. #ReplayValue

  2. Another thought provoking piece. thank you!

    Makes we want to do an analysis of components vs price over time in wargaming (not general boardgaming as we live with such small print runs). Plot that index vs inflation – would be very interesting.

    I am one of the few that don’t think we pay enough for games. Businesses in our niche are generally hobbies and designers, developer, editors, graphics and playtesters generally work for free. Sure there are a few minor exceptions but it is worth it to me to pay more to keep everyone healthy, well fed an in the hobby. The low print runs kills the hobbies ability to pay those involved. That worries me more than a minor increase in cost.

    Double Roger’s number to 10% and I would happily pay it – and more to stabilize those involved in this fine hobby.

    BTW I would love to see Rodgers complete breakdown of the retail price of a game – what goes to whom. more interesting stuff.I’m curious about but don’t have the time to gather!

    • I have heard some numbers from Uwe Eickert at Academy Games in passing but don’t recall specifics off the top of my head. I agree that few get rich in the hobby and paying a bit more is well deserved by many in the industry. Then again, I’m not a big CMON fan and don’t buy hordes of minis.

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