We all have it. A shelf of games that goes unplayed. You may just have a few games instead of a shelf. I, on the other hand, have shelves (plural) of unplayed but loved games. The firearm world calls these “safe queens.” They are the guns that are too valuable to shoot or have special sentimental value and won’t be sold. Wargamers have the same concept, I’ll call it Shelf Queens. The unplayed, but loved wargames on our shelves.
I have 1,531 games and expansions according to BoardGameGeek. I have been done the majority of my purchasing in the past 6 years or so. As a result, there’s no possible way for me to play all the games I own at this point. It might be a race against time even to play them before I shed this mortal coil.
Why Keep Buying?
Any time a commodity faces a combination of popularity and scarcity people tend to make poorer buying decisions. You know the game you’re pre-ordering probably won’t make it to the table in the next few weeks after receiving it. Instead, it just “feels good” to buy it just in case. This leads to over-buying in some cases and certainly creates the conditions to have some shelf queens.
Collecting is a legitimate hobby!
Don’t get me wrong! Collecting wargames is most certainly a part of the hobby I enjoy. I love researching a game, reading game rules, exploring the historical topics. I also enjoy being able to pull a game off the shelf and mess around with it for a few days even if I never get “good” at that game.
The shelf queen, however, falls somewhere beyond just playing the game once or twice though. So, let’s look at a real-world case…in fact…let’s look at…
Case Blue AND Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II were BOTH on the shelves of my FLGS when it opened its doors in 2010. One of my gaming friends at the time said, “You really need to check out Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II. It has scenario setups that are longer than some rulebooks. It’s the ULTIMATE monster. You can even combine it with Case Blue!”
One look at the price tag and I was less enthused.
Instead, I waited. Case Blue disappeared from the shelves a few months later. Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II was still hanging around though and I decided to pick it up. My friend was dead on correct. It was a monster…in fact…more monster than I could handle. I put it on the shelf after reading through the scenario booklet a little bit.
The Series Completionist Mentality
I ended up getting the itch for the Operational Combat Series (OCS) a few years later. While I had Guderian’s Blitzkrieg II to scratch that itch in addition to a few other titles…I went on a buying spree. The only game that remained elusive was Case Blue. The prices for the title had skyrocketed by 2015. So, I patiently waited and stalked BoardGameGeek, ConSimWorld, and eBay hoping for a glimmer of hope.
An email notification let me know that my time had come and I was able to pick up the game for under $200. While not a steal exactly, it was FAR less than other unpunched copies on the market.
The OCS series was nearly completed! Just DAK2 (which I ended up giving up on since I had DAK) and Hube’s Pocket remain the only two games I don’t own in the series. The series completionist mentality drove me to collect beyond what I would play.
The Queen Arrives
I immediately opened up Case Blue the day it arrived and poured over the contents. A little re-arranging of my shelves and the game went into the spot it’s basically held ever since.
I can’t bring myself to punch it out because I’m not proficient enough at OCS to enjoy it. Further, I have other more manageable OCS titles that I want to play first. The value of the game is well established. In fact, the cheapest copy on BoardGameGeek right now is $450 with a copy selling in January 2019 for $396.
I also cannot bring myself to sell the game because I know I won’t get it back. So, it sits pretty on the shelf and I occasionally open it up to look through the contents and maps.
A Past Pain
The real question here is: Why?
Everyone’s story is different. In my case, there are two key stories. The first is that my parents were wholly opposed to ANY kind of gaming beyond mass marketed games. It was a HUGE deal when the D&D Red Box showed up under the Christmas tree in 1985 and a bigger deal a few years later when Axis & Allies arrived.
My parents didn’t have some kind of religious or moral opposition. They just didn’t understand my interest and because I was athletic…they only fostered that facet of my life. This brings me to my second “past pain.”
I was at Michigan State University and realized a local game store had TONS of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) modules on the shelves. Over the next few months, I bought everything they had and filled in the gaps from eBay where Avalon Hill’s recent demise meant people hadn’t quite come to grips with the collectible nature of some of the modules.
I amassed a complete ASL collection and played it off and on for a few years. As my interest waned, and my wedding approached I wasn’t keen to move this massive collection from Michigan to North Carolina. I decided to sell it. I think the whole collection sold for maybe $500. The buyer was thrilled and I was happy that someone would enjoy the games as I had.
Fast forward, not even that long, and I desperately wanted back into ASL..and my wallet has never recovered…lol
Shelf Queen Acceptance
It’s 100% OKAY to celebrate your shelf queen. Hobbies are meant to be enjoyed. Find the time to enjoy your hobby and share it. Sometimes, you’ll even find that person who also desperately wants to play the game and a shelf queen will turn into a well-worn game.
The social aspect of our hobby can sometimes overshadow the enjoyment of more solitary moments. Shelf queens are emblematic of that opportunity to enjoy a peaceful moment of collecting accomplishment.
Share your shelf queen story in the comments below!