I’m a huge fan of secondhand games. Modern board gaming as a hobby is expensive and I’ll do whatever I can to keep costs down. My local store, Games and Stuff, features a used section that I frequent whenever I’m in the area. Not all stores offer that though. Craigslist, LetGo, and Facebook Marketplace postings can also be gold mines.
Besides purchasing used games, I’m also a big fan of trading for them. I’ve traded on Reddit over sixty times (mostly thanks to small Warhammer deals) and over fifty times on Board Game Geek (BGG) over two accounts. This doesn’t include math trades at conventions. A large portion of our collection is secondhand.
For a quick overview, trading games is where one person offers one or more of their items for another gamers item(s).
For the extent of this article, I am not speaking on Math Trades. We’ll cross that bridge later. This is strictly one gamer trying to find another gamer to swap games, specifically on Board Game Geek.
The way BGG is set-up allows players to match their trade list with others. So if I want to trade Pioneer Days, the site will find all members that have Pioneer Days listed in their want list and have games available for trade from my want list. You can even further filter your search to country or state.
From there, you can select the game(s) you want to send and the game(s) you want to receive and send a trade request. BGG defaults to a three-day window for a response but that can be edited to a different value.
Users can either accept the trade, decline the trade, or offer a counteroffer. With each, they also have the option of attaching a message to offer any clarifications regarding the trade. Users can also send a message outside of the trade request.
From my personal experience, cold contacting partners with a trade rarely if ever works.
On my current profile, TwoofftheTop, I have thirty-six (36) completed (and positive!) trades. If I go through my outbox history, twenty-eight of them were arranged from a prior geekmail sent through BGG. I also know that three others were set up outside of BGG (Reddit in this case) but done through the BGG website for security reasons. So of thirty-six successful trades, five were “cold calls” that individuals accepted.
I didn’t always send emails first however. The data is there to report that. Besides my thirty-six successes, I have 222 expired offers and 160 declines. I can’t even begin to tally the lack of responses from emails either.
Trading board games is tricky as everyone has different values attached to them. There’s also the monetary and time factor of physically having to box up and ship the item. Say you buy a $40 game and end up wanting to trade it. USPS medium flat rate is $14, so now that game is costing you $54 and it’s not even in your collection anymore. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
Shipping tends to be the crux of many deals. Due to shipping, I 100% stay within the country that I reside. I have occasionally shipped to Canada but that was more of an outlier than anything else. I have made my share of one-for-one trades but there are many profiles that state they only are interested in bulk trades as it helps save on shipping.
If you have your own boxes, obviously shipping will be slightly cheaper but it still costs money to ensure safe travels of your package. Some people are inherently more invested in the condition of the boxes of the games and may ask that extra precautions are taken. Bubble wrap, newspaper, and grocery bags tend to be the most common methods of ensuring safe travels.
There’s the opposite as well. I’ve asked (and been asked) to have the contents shipped without a box as it was just going to be tucked away inside a different storage solution (typically all my expansions). This will obviously help save on shipping but isn’t for everyone.
In the same vein, ask for the condition of an item when instigating a trade offer. I’ve received games that were not of “equal value” because the box was damaged. Fine by me but again, that’s not everyone’s jam.
Before messaging someone about a particular trade, make sure that they are still an active user of BGG. The website will show the last active date they logged in and if it has been months or years, they will probably not see your trade proposal.
When messaging other users, be patient. For the most part, everyone has lives outside of board games and it may take them some time to one, see your offer and two, consider it. Patience also extends to the games that you’re trying to trade. There are so many games out there that people might be interested in one that you have but they don’t know it yet. I had a game sit on my shelf for years before someone showed interest in it and we made a swap. I also had the luxury of being able to have something just take up space.
Regarding patience, don’t take anything personally. Whether its rejection or a straight up ignoring of sent messages, take a page from Frozen and let it go. Speaking of rejection, remember that you can say no as well. Don’t ever feel like you’re locked into a deal you’re not comfortable with.
I do want to try and set a precedent however: Just because others don’t respond, don’t follow their lead. Be the change we want (well…I want) in the world and respond, even if it is a no. Don’t leave people hanging out to dry.
Lastly, I want to address the elephant in the room in regards to trading: Value. Be realistic about value. I have had games that sit on my shelf for trade that were worth more than what I eventually got for them in trade…and that’s okay. My motto is that if I can rid of something I wasn’t using for something I would play, that’s a trade I want to make. Not everyone has that philosophy.
Speaking of value, I find it’s easy to trade for slightly older items once the “hotness” wears off. The game itself might still be good but the initial buzz of people trying to get maximum value has worn off. The second-hand market for “hot” games can be absurd so if it’s a newer game that you want absolutely right now, maybe just go buy it.
I really enjoy the trading aspect of the hobby. There have been games that either were misses that we were able to rehome or games that served their purpose and no longer had a spot in our household. Knowing that there are people out there looking for the games we want to move on from is great and helps soften the blow of having to move on from a game.
Check out my trade list if interested as well. I’m always looking to make new swaps.