What comes to mind when we see, in an acquaintance’s games collection, multiple copies of the same game? An exclamation of surprise? A sarcastic comment, or polite silence?
Redundancy is a well-established concept in engineering and computer security. It mostly applies to systems or hardware that are identical to the ones in production and can serve as backup in case of outage, intrusion, etc.
But board game redundancy, really?
Why not. And it comes in two flavors.
Different games are said to be redundant when they share many main characteristics as to be interchangeable, create similar experiences or fulfill the same need. For instance, the two games by Jeff Horger and Carla Horger, Thunder Alley (2014) and Grand Prix (2016) can be seen as redundant: Gamers that are not passionate about motor racing will be perfectly satisfied to own only one or the other.
As any Human Resources department will tell you, this type of redundancy is linked to the notion of (game) firing.
The Same Game
But real redundancy is all about getting and keeping multiple copies of the same game.
And boy, was I surprised to find there are that many (valid?) reasons to practice it.
- Spare. A game is out of print, or is the family’s or the group’s favorite; or maybe we are training for a tournament. These are just a few reasons why we wouldn’t want to have to stop playing a game for a long period if something happened to it. So keeping a backup copy fresh and handy can make sense.
- Nostalgia. The very first game we received as a kid. The first we bought with our own money, or the one that got us into gaming. The game we’ve been given by a loved one. Such copies are either too precious or too damaged to be played. We keep them for sentimental reasons, and buy a fresh copy to play.
- Protection. We don’t always buy a duplicate copy to protect a precious or rare edition. For instance, allowing your children to play your games, without imposing on them excessive restraints, will take some courage. Because if they are very young, the games will get damaged. If they’re older, the games will end up forgotten on a bus or lent to a friend they’ve lost touch with. The best antidote to such worries is often an extra copy just for the kids. A few dollars that can buy peace of mind for everybody.
- Harvesting. Games that are no longer playable are perfect for component harvesting. To replace the rulebook half-eaten by the cat, or some tiles that were hosed by a friend that was, too. Or just to complete one of those games sold with not enough components — for instance Axies & Allies: WWI 1914 (Larry Harris, 2013). Or maybe you’re assembling a prototype? In any case, having replacement components is handy.
- Scalability. Some games can be scaled up: their rules or some official variants allow combining many copies to increase their difficulty or potential. Such combined copies will accommodate more players, offer larger maps or boards, or more options and components. Memoir 44 (Richard Borg, 2004) or Lost Cities (Reiner Knizia, 1999) come to mind.
- Accident. The risk of ending up with duplicate copies of a game is proportional to the number of games we own. A collector is bound to buy by mistake, sooner or later, a game that’s already in his collection. It’s almost a rite of passage. But we can also receive a duplicate game as a gift, prize, or promo. Or maybe it was part of a lot we bought, or received in a trade.
- Availability. We want to be able to play our favorite games everywhere, in every circumstance. Hence we buy a copy to play at the office, at the cottage, at the club. Or a travel copy that we carry everywhere.
- Completism. The collector struggling with this disorder needs to possess every edition of his favorite games. Vintage editions, special or Deluxe editions, even every language editions. The thing is, he does not see them as redundant at all, since the differences between these editions are what he’s after.
- Speculation. It can be profitable to keep in shrink extra copies of a game until it goes out of print. Or copies of a Kickstarter project with exclusive contents. Those generally have a good resale value, or can be used as bargaining chips when acquiring other collector’s items.
- Parallelism. It’s not difficult to imagine circumstances where different groups would play different copies of the same game at the same time, in the same place. At school, in a convention, at the club or in a tournament.
- Opportunity. When chance puts in our hands a ridiculously low priced copy of a game we already own, we don’t need any more reason to buy it, right?
- Game mechanisms. Duplication, whether of components or of entire games, is sometimes encouraged by the games themselves. Some collectible card games (CDGs) are notorious for encouraging redundant buying. Likewise, we might need more than one copy of story-driven games, or some Legacy games, in order to play them with more than one group, ou to play more than one campaign.
- Professional obligation. Finally, if you’re working in the industry as a designer, publisher, reviewer, or in any capacity, you’re probably used to being surrounded by piles of copies of hot games. Life can be such a drag, right?
References and Further Browsing
- What game in your collection do you have the most copies of?, on Boardgamegeek
- “Oh the Redundancy”, on Boardgamegeek
- How many games do you have multiple copies of?, on Boardgamegeek
- How many copies?, on Boardgamegeek
- Do you own multiple copies of the same game?, on Boardgamegeek
- Games worth buying multiple copies of, on Boardgamegeek