How to Locate Hard-to-Find Board Games

Updated September 16, 2021
Miscellaneaous old game pieces

As with printed books, there's a dedicated community of people who prefer to play their games on tabletops rather than screens, and some of their wishlists are filled with hard-to-find board games. Not all board games that feel impossible to track down are old; in fact, some of them are simply limited prints, special editions, or regionally specific. No matter if you're looking for your parent's favorite childhood game to gift to them or you're a serious collector looking for the last game in a series, there's a few go to places you can check out to help narrow your daunting search.

Why Some Games Are Hard to Track Down

There can be a number of reasons that a particular board game or digital game could be difficult to find. Ranging from limited prints to being out of circulation, the list of reasons goes on and on. Understanding why you're having difficulty finding a certain game is one of the first steps to actually being able to find it.

  • Has the manufacturer stopped making the game? - Depending on how old the game is, it may be that it's no longer being printed and can't be bought in a regular retail store. If that's the case, you'll have to look at more creative avenues.
  • Is it a "hot" title? - Especially during the holidays, games that are very popular may be hard to find, particularly if they're new releases or related to something within the zeitgeist.
  • Does it come from a small company or is an obscure game? - Some games don't have a wide customer base and will only be carried by certain specialty stores. Others are hand made by artisans in very limited editions. Either of these situations means that you'll have to look at specific locations in order to get a copy for yourself.

Once you've figured out why the game you want is hard to find, you'll be able to make a plan for the places you want to look for it first.

Where to Find Elusive Games

Some board games are so difficult to hunt down that people are easily discouraged from locating the last game on their must-haves list. However, knowing where to start looking for these games - and learning about which places are most likely to have what types of games - can give you a leg up on other collectors looking for that very same edition. For the quickest possible turnaround on your search, check out your local venues first.

Shelves of board and tabletop games
  • Game/toy stores - Brick-and-mortar game stores are slowly going extinct, but if you happen to live near an indie game store, you should absolutely contact the staff there to see if your game is in stock or if they can order a copy for you. Quite often, these small-box shops have seasoned gamers who have the inside scoop on where to find unique games.
  • Thrift stores - Although thrift stores aren't intentionally designed to offer out of print or special edition games, you can find a lot of older games in their inventories. Browse around the thrift stores and vintage shops in your area and see what sort of games they have on their shelves.

Where to Locate Elusive Games Online

By far the most expansive place to look for hard to find board games is on the internet. Spanning the entire globe and millions of people's private collections, if there's a copy of that game you're looking for out there, chances are high that you can find it somewhere on the good 'ole world wide web. A few of the best places out there to start your search at include:

  • Don's Game Closet - Divided by type and by publisher, Don's Game Closet includes an expansive inventory of rare and beloved games. Don't be dissuaded by the dated web design; the sheer volume of available games makes the bright colored, chaotically organized website worth the visit.
  • Noble Knight Games- If you're looking for more contemporary, rare games, you should head on over to Noble Knight Games' website. With a little over 4,000 products listed, there's a ton of unique games to sift through.
  • Geek Market Place- This is the digital trading post for the massive Board Game Geek community. With all types of games in their catalog and with users constantly adding new listings, you can get connected to all sorts of specialty sellers.
  • eBay - Most people's first stop on the internet to find collectibles is eBay, and there's a good reason that it's one of the first online retailers who's lasted into the modern era. With millions of sales and a reliable track-record, you can always turn to eBay to find those difficult titles on your list.
  • Etsy - Comparatively young to stalwarts like eBay, Etsy is a growing online retailer that focuses on more niche collectibles and art-oriented products. Much like eBay, there's a ton of different games you can find tucked away on this website.

Tips to Keep in Mind

Shopping for out-of-print board games can be the opposite of a breeze, but the difficulty doesn't stop with just hunting down a copy of the game itself; rather, there are also a couple of other things you want to keep in mind when you're purchasing the game to make sure that you're getting the best deal.

  • Check the listing date - Given the timelessness of the internet, you can stumble across listings for products that aren't actually available anymore but haven't been taken down yet. To avoid the hassle of getting your money back for an item that never arrives, check to see when the listing date was of the game. If the listing was from several years ago and hasn't been updated, you should probably see if you can find the game somewhere else.
  • Identify the return policy - Not every seller will have the best descriptions of their games, and so if you find that the product you receive doesn't match what you're envisioning, you want to make sure that you already know what the seller's return policy is if they have one. You don't want to be caught a month later with a game that you want to return to a seller that only has a two week return policy.
  • Check the shipping date - Similarly, check to see where your game's going to be shipped from; internationally shipped games can take a couple of weeks to arrive, so if you're trying to get it in for a specific event, you want to ensure that it'll arrive on time.
  • Don't hesitate to contact the seller - If you're unsure about anything pertaining to the listing, you shouldn't hesitate to contact the seller. The more information you have, the more educated decision you can make about the purchase.
  • Read the entire description - Don't skim through the full listing information as you might miss out on some important details about the state of the game you're going to buy. Especially with older games and games that've already been opened, you want to check and see if they're missing any pieces, as this might dissuade you from buying that copy.

When the Game Itself Is Finding the Game

Funnily enough, when you've got a few elusive board games on your list of must-haves, the game itself turns into the scavenger hunt of finding a quality copy to add to your game closet. Whether you stumble across the holy grail of sets in a thrift store off the beaten path or you scour through the gamer community's many personal threads for that special board game, remember to enjoy the process - for however long it takes. After all, the game itself might not turn out to be that legendary thing you wanted it to be, but the journey to get there just might.

How to Locate Hard-to-Find Board Games