Board Gaming · Math Trade

Impressions from my first Math Trade

**This post originally appeared in two parts on BGG, posted on March 15th and March 29th, 2017.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. I had heard about an upcoming no ship math trade in my area, but I wasn’t going to be taking part in it. After all, I knew nothing about the process. So it didn’t enter my radar at first. A month later, about a month before the math trade was supposed to start, I pruned my collection of what I thought was the excess, getting cash that turned into newly purchased games into the collection. I was happy, especially when I was given permission to use a small portion of my work bonus to buy games. So February saw me drop about 8 games from the collection and replace them with a dozen or so new games.

And then March came and the no ship trade list started and I glanced at it. And then watched a Rahdo video introducing the concept. And I checked the list again. And then I looked long and hard at my collection and started to tick off a few more games I could part with. And so it began…

Here some of my initial impressions:

d10-1 There is something really fun about seeing what games get added. It the geeklist on BGG became the first thing I looked for among my subscriptions every time I logged on, and I always had a rush even when there were only 1 or 2 new games added.

d10-2 In the early days of the trade-watching, I was looking for name recognition. I was on the hunt for those great games on my own wishlist, yet they were few and far between. At one point, though, I had a revelation and started really looking at all of the games and looked into a ton of ones I hadn’t heard about and found more than a few that I ranked much higher on my want list than I expected. One of these math trades can be an excellent way to gain exposure to games you might never hear about, simply because they have been out for long enough that there simply isn’t buzz about them and they aren’t the regular staples you see and hear about in the monthly “What _____ are you playing?” geeklists. This makes an excellent way to combat that Cult of the New effect that overtakes the BGG main pages.

d10-3 Tying in with that, I learned to loosen my own inhibitions about trading my own games. At first it was seeking equivalent value, and I still wouldn’t trade a game worth $100+ with expansions for a base game that runs $40-60. And I also opened up beyond just games I would buy in a store, finding more than a few that seem interesting enough to gamble on when viewing it as trading a game I rarely play for someone else’s game. Ultimately, if it is a flop I am out no cash and have something to trade away in a future math trade!

d10-4 I wasted dedicated a lot of time around the middle of the submission period, when the new entries lagged, looking in depth at a lot of games. I read descriptions, read reviews, watched reviews, and then made and organized a list with a numerical value assigned to each game I was interested in. This allowed me to learn a lot about some good games, and cemented a few as must-play games in the future. And then the final 48 hours came and blew up everything I had meticulously worked on for the past week. Never again will I try to cement a plan so early in the process, because there were a TON of games added late and many turned my previous list upside down.

d10-5 It all seems complicated. You will have moments where it feels overwhelming and complicated. But there are a TON of great guides and a TON of very helpful people who can answer just about any question you can think of. In the end, it is a very fun and enjoyable process that will hopefully enable you to gain, and learn about, some new games.


And now not only have the results gone live, but we also had the local meetup to swap the games. So here are the results I had, followed by my final thoughts on the process.

I listed a total of 11 games onto the Math Trade, some small (Sushi Go!) and progressing up to some larger games (SW: Imperial Assault + 3 Figure Packs). I had no idea how much interest there could be in my listings, but I was hopeful to get at least 1-2 trades for the bigger games and perhaps a small one. The results shocked me…

9/11 games traded! That is about 82% there, which was way better than I could have ever imagined. However, it is very clear to me why I had this success.

I was willing to trade each of my games for a good number of other games. For example, Imperial Assault I had 13 games I would have traded for. Civilization + Fame & Fortune, my second-best valued game, had 23. Many of the games I wanted that weren’t traded wanted 0-2 games in exchange. The more you are willing to trade for, the more likely you’ll get that trade.

My own wish list grew to 68 unique items, all of varying value and size. As I mentioned in the last post, I had a change in mindset about this whole process, opening up to the idea of getting games I knew almost nothing about but seemed interesting. After all, I was trading away something underplayed and getting something new, so there was no real risk involved and, worst case, I’d have something else to trade the next year.

Had I not changed my mindset, things wouldn’t have gone well at all. My wish list would have been under 20 had I stuck to games I knew, and even smaller if I would have stayed with just my own personal wish list.

The top three games I ranked on my list were all for my wife, and of those I got just one (an expansion to Agricola). After that, my actual gains were 22nd, 27th, 32nd, 41st, 49th, 62nd, 64th, and 67th on my list. The games I wanted most, I didn’t get. In fact, I got only 2 games I would say I was really interested in, two I knew about and was willing to try, and five that will be completely unknown experiences for me. Which is exciting in a way, as I have low/no expectations going in so they have a good chance of wowing me.

I set up a geek list ranking the games I received in order of which I had them initially. As I start to play the games, I’ll be shifting them around. Will the order remain the same as my excitement level, or will some of them shift up or down after I get a chance to bring them to the table? You can follow along here: Received from Des Moines Area Math Trade

All in all, this was a very fun experience, and far more rewarding than I imagined. The trades went without a hitch, and I look forward to participating again next year!