Tabletop gaming can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. At a time when lots of people are feeling the pinch of rising prices, I take a look at a seven ways to save money while still engaging with the hobby.
Why this post, now?
Before I get into it, I wanted to just quickly talk about the timing of this post. Here in the UK, and in many other parts of the world I’m sure, we’re in the midst of a Cost of Living crisis, which has seen inflation and prices soar. Yesterday it was announced that energy bills are set to increase by around 80% for many households.
In tough times, it is often luxuries and entertainment that are the first things on which people cut down. Of course, that is completely practical and understandable, but I think it is also vital that people feel able to engage with the things that bring them joy during difficult times.
I firmly believe that encouraging people to engage with things that provide them with escapism or a sense of togetherness with people that they love is important, even more so when times are tough.
So. without further ado, here’s some suggestions for how to enjoy tabletop gaming without breaking the bank.
1. Play your collection
This may seem like an obvious point, but I think as tabletop gamers we are often collectively guilty of always chasing the new or the next, rather than fully exploring the games that we already have.
This won’t be true for everybody, of course, but I bet that most of the people reading this will have at least a few games, if not more, that they’ve only played a handful of times.
How many games do you have that you’ve only played 2 or 3 times, or perhaps even just once?
Now is a great time to consider diving back into those games for a while. Explore their nuances and their intricacies, exhaust their strategies.
You may discover new aspects of games that you’ve not seen before, or perhaps you’ll enjoy some scenarios that you never got around to trying. Perhaps you’ll exhaust everything that a game has to offer in which case you can move on to another, safe in the knowledge that you got your money’s worth. Or, of course, you could pass it on, selling it to someone else for them to enjoy.
2. Explore the world of Print and Play games
I think it’s an amazing thing that for just the cost of some sheets of paper and a bit of printer ink, we’re able to enjoy hundreds of Print and Play games.
There’s a huge range to be discovered, with a variety of themes and player counts.
I find Print and Play games to be an extremely exciting proposition. Without the cost of having to have a game produced, designers are much freer to experiment with ideas.
Knowing where to start with Print and Play games can feel a little overwhelming, so here’s some resources to get you started:
Tabletop Bellhop put together a list of over 300 free Print and Play games. You can find it here.
This list on Board Game Geek contains a huge amount of games. You can find it here.
This Board Game Geek thread by user Leroy43 lists 20 free Print and Play games that have had at least 50 ratings. You can find the thread here.
Shut Up & Sit Down made two excellent videos about solitaire Print and Play games, which you can find here: video 1 and video 2
3. Play more traditional card games
The humble playing card is probably the most versatile tabletop gaming component ever created, and there’s a bewildering range of card games to explore.
If you want to try a host of new games while still watching the pennies, perhaps digging out that old pack of playing cards is worth your time. If you don’t have a pack, they can usually be picked up very inexpensively from a lot of places.
Shut Up and Sit Down made a series called “Card Games Don’t Suck” which is well worth a watch, and you can find the first video in the series here.
4. Take part in a Maths Trade
If you’re looking to try some new experiences perhaps a Maths Trade is the answer.
What is a ‘Math’s Trade’? It’s a type of special trading loop between several people. Person A gives Person B a game, Person B gives person C a game, and so on until Person Z gives Person A a game, completing the loop. A special piece of software works out the most efficient way of doing this, to ensure that as many people get what they want as possible.
You can get involved with Math Trades on Board Game Geek, here.
There’s also a UK only Maths Trade, which you can find here.
5. Miniature gamer? Try One Page Rules
When it comes to tabletop games, miniature war games can definitely be one of the more expensive corners of the hobby. As well as miniatures, some games require expensive rulebooks and sourcebooks to play. There can be rulebooks, army books, yearly updates and other supplemental stuff, and if you keep up with that, the prices can soon mount up.
That’s where One Page Rules comes in. A collection of free basic rules for a variety of different game styles, they offer simple rules that are easy to get to the table.
These rules are completely ‘miniature agnostic’, meaning that you can use whatever miniatures you like, which makes them great for cobbling together a force from an existing collection. Don’t have a collection of miniatures but want to give miniature gaming a try? Grab yourself a bag of toy army men from a local store and dive in. No one is going to judge you for using some books as hills or a few drink cans to represent buildings.
One Page Rules are a fantastic key to a world of inexpensive miniature gaming.
6. Get into Dungeons & Dragons
I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons now for over 22 years. I’ve spent more time playing D&D than any other game, and it’s given me some of my most memorable tabletop experiences.
While it can certainly cost a bit of money if you buy yourself a copy of The Player’s Handbook and some dice, you really don’t have to do that. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to play Dungeons & Dragons for free, forever.
The Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons are free, and can be found here.
You can create several free characters on the game’s official online utility, D&D Beyond. This makes creating a character super easy. You won’t have all of the options available to you, but you’ll have more than enough to get started with each of the classes.
But what about dice? Though there is great joy to be found in rolling a handful of dice, there’s plenty of online dice rollers that will help save you money. There’s one built into D&D Beyond, but other options are available. You can use Google (yes, really. Give it a try) and you can find another one here.
7. Design your own game
Have you dreamed of designing your own game? Perhaps now is the perfect time to try and make that a reality.
I’ve conducted several interviews with game designer which may serve as inspiration for you. You can find my interviews with designers Robbie Munn, Lance Wilson and Kristen Mott here.
The thought of designing a game can be daunting but remember: the best way to finish something is to begin.
And there we have it, my tips for trying to save a bit of money while still engaging with the tabletop hobby. I hope that you found some of these useful.