The Unopened Game

There’s a game on my desk right now that’s unopened. It’s still in the shrink wrap. It was a birthday present from my family, and I happily opened the present, but I hesitate in actually opening the game.

asante board gameThere’s nothing wrong with the game. It’s called Asante and it’s designed by one of my favorites, Rüdiger Dorn. I know nothing about this game. After looking at the back of the box, I thought it was a new release of Jambo, which I thought I had already reviewed but apparently I haven’t. I like Jambo, but why do I need another Jambo? Isn’t one Jambo enough for any man? How many goods and trinkets can I sell?

None of that is important. I’m sure I will open it and find that it’s great, but right now I’m leaving it in the shrink.


Because right now it’s pure potential.

Like a a giant boulder of painted wood and cardboard, it sits at the tip of a cliff. What happens when I release it? Does it roll back over me, crushing me as the roadrunner streaks by? Or does it zoom down the cliff, collecting new players as it rolls along, until it becomes a favorite?

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write about it, not Asante, but rather the unopened game that sits in just about every gamer’s cupboard. We’ve all got them. Some, like Asante, are brand new, others are quite old. I wondered about their stories. Why do they rest unused?

I asked a few friends this question as well.

David Gullett said that he was looking at his unopened copy of Garden Dice, which he got for Christmas. It sits unopened because the only thing David hates more than learning new games is reading rules. I find this ironic, because I think he’s very good at teaching rules. I get it though. That copy of Garden Dice is probably going to sit there until he can either play it with someone who already knows the game or until he finds a good video that explains how to play. “My answer will be the same for any unopened game I have,” said David. “Very seldom is it due to me not liking the game, games don’t come to me that I don’t want.”

Mark Johnson was driving when I called him, but he had a lot of thoughts on the matter. He said that some gamers, especially wargamers, will sometimes buy two copies of a game and keep one to play and one to sell when the game goes out of print. He doesn’t do that, but he does have a few games unopened for other reasons. He said that every so often, he’ll see a game and the theme will be engaging or unique and he will buy it, only to have it sit on the shelf because another game that’s even more engaging or interesting will always trump it at a game night. I should have been taking notes, like a good journalist, because he said a lot of smart stuff, but I am lazy and was wondering who had broken the remote to the downstairs television. Mark also brought up a couple of games that he purchased after having played them frequently with others, only to find that the crest of the wave of interest had already passed, leaving his copies still unopened. I can relate to that. That happens fairly often to me. I just don’t game with the same frequency as many of my local friends, so by the time I play the new hotness a few times, they are already on to the next new hotness.

I asked my friend Greg Wilzbach about this and he said he has quite a few unopened games. Like Mark and myself, he has games that were purchased after they were played a few times with others but then “Never get to the table because of the cult of the new.” I think it’s ironic that the forces that create these waves of initial interest are also related to the reasons that many of us end up with unplayed copies of games. Greg is also a bit of a collector. “I also have a couple of Spiel des Jahres winners in shrink,” he says, “for my completionist disorder.” I think he means awesomeness disorder.

Joe Aguayo had a handful of unopened games. Some of the games, Joe explained, were purchased just because they were a good deal at the time. He just hasn’t had the time to play them. I got the sense from Joe that some of the other games are there for those times when you know it will make you happy to sit down and open a new game. I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier about potential. “I still enjoy getting a new game, opening it up. looking at the pieces and reading the rules,” said Joe, “It’s still a rare thing for me.” I can relate to this as well. Someday I know I’m going to be down in the dumps, and it will occur to me that I have a copy of Jäger und Sammler out in the garage just waiting to be opened. I get you, Joe.

What games sit unopened on your shelf? What’s their story?

6 thoughts on “The Unopened Game”

  1. Hey, nice to be quoted! I do indeed have some copies of an OOP game I love, just so I can make sure to always have a copy to play: Harry’s Grandslam Baseball. I’ve tucked a couple of copies away, still in shrink, so that I’m never without it!

  2. Jeff asked me… but I was late to the party. I could not imagine an unopened game… UNLESS it was a gift for someone else.

    Evidently I’m some kind compulsive crackpot. 🙂

  3. I thought about it later, and think there’s a basic divide between people who open a game as soon as they get it, and those who open it when it’s going to be played.

    The former makes a lot of sense, I think, mostly to check if the game has all of its components, nothing broken, etc. When the game is new it’s usually pretty easy to get replacements for missing or damaged components sent to you from the publisher. Not so easy 5-10 years later (I’ve seen it happen!).

    And yet…I’m in the latter group. Part of it is the possibility of selling or trading it for higher value if I later decide I don’t want it (even before playing?!). The other part you put your finger on–the potential. Also, the chance to savor opening it up at the right moment.

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