A few months ago, Steff and I went on a date to Snakes and Lattes, which is Toronto’s premier board game cafe. On that day, a game called Tokaido made a positive impact on us. In it, players trek hike through Japan, making stops along the way to take in the scenery, relax in hot springs, meet cool people and more. The player who has had the most fulfilling trip wins. The game’s charm and interesting strategy mechanics won us over, but we weren’t quite ready to purchase it that day. Months later, we’re ready to buy, but the game has been sold out of at most stores and online retailers ever since. My only options to purchase the game through international retailers and eat the extra shipping costs, or purchase the game at a premium price through a third party seller. I’ve actually seen the game for sale at over double it’s suggested retail price!
Board game shopping is hard enough as is before you account for scarcity. If you’re looking for a cool designer game that you saw on Board Game Geek, odds are you won’t be able to find it at most physical stores that sell board games. For the few that do, most of those have a limited selection while selling the few games they have at a notable – and sometimes astronomical – markup. If you live within a 50km radius of downtown Toronto, you only have 401 Games and Snakes and Lattes as go-to spots that have a great selection and sell their games at suggested retail price. Most people aren’t as lucky, as their only recourse is online.
But what do you when the game is sold out everywhere? This is a phenomenon that I as a video game player haven’t dealt with in ages. The realities that come with producing a board game make for products that can disappear from store shelves for months at a time. Even products that are popular have trouble keeping a consistent presence on shelf, as publishers often struggle to scale up their manufacturing to meet demand. Earlier this year, I ran into this exact problem with Coup and Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men. After their initial printings sold out, it took ages before I ever found a copy in a store.
It’s unfortunate that Tokaido isn’t in greater supply, but this is the nature of the board game beast. If I really need the game, I could succumb to after market prices and be done with it. However, I’d rather wait until supply is replenished and buy it at a fair price on a store shelf or online retailer. Unlike video games, where you can almost guarantee them to be on basically every store shelf for years, board games can’t be counted on to do the same. If you’ve got a desire to purchase a board game, you might be best to grab it before it disappears for a long time.