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Collectible Warcraft Board Games Have a Bright Speculative Future

by Michael Barnes (08/20/12).

2003’s Warcraft board game was widely criticized for its blobby wooden pieces that didn’t look like orcs.

Unless you’ve been living in isolation somewhere on an Internet-free remote island—or if you just don’t really pay any attention to computer games—you’ve no doubt heard that Blizzard Entertainment (makers of World of Warcraft and Starcraft) finally released its 10-years-in-the-making Diablo III. It’s the latest title in an extremely popular “dungeon crawl” style role-playing game.

Without going into particulars, the focus of the game is on clicking your mouse on various monsters until they die, leaving equipment and money in their passing. Over time, your character gets better at clicking on these loot-dispensing baddies. And the game sold an insane number of copies, moving some 6.3 million units in its first week of release. It’s a smash hit, despite some technical glitches that have kept some players out of the game.

Now, returning to the tabletop focus of this column, there is no Diablo board game that has suddenly skyrocketed in aftermarket value at the crest of Diablo-mania. There are plenty of tabletop games that feature similar (but much less clicky) gameplay and there are even some that could be said to be inspired by Diablo. But Blizzard has been very protective of its brands and doesn’t often license its hit properties out often. That said, they’ve recently inked a deal with USAopoly to produce themed Risk and Monopoly games with Blizzard settings and characters.

But back in 2003, Blizzard granted the license to Fantasy Flight Games, one of the more prominent companies in the tabletop gaming business. Over the next five years, Fantasy Flight produced several games and expansions mostly focused on the Warcraft and World of Warcraft PC games. Most were not very good, with issues ranging from overly complex, bloated rules to gameplay that didn’t really match up with what players of the PC games might have expected. Warcraft (2003), World of Warcraft: The Board Game (2005) and the World of Warcraft Adventure Game (2008) all sold fairly well, despite mixed reviews from game players. As collectibles for fans of these games, they’re quite nice, with lots of artwork, miniatures and familiar content.

Values aren’t particularly high for any of the Warcraft titles, with some selling well below their retail price in the aftermarket. The World of Warcraft Board Game can still command $75-$100, but that’s what it was selling for new. There were lots of these games printed and sold. I sold more than 30 copies of The World of Warcraft Board Game in my store the week it came out. Hardly Diablo III numbers, but healthy nonetheless.

2005’s bloated and over-complicated World of Warcraft board game didn’t seem to prove as addictive as the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game did.

The prize item in the Fantasy Flight/Blizzard partnership is undoubtedly Starcraft: The Board Game. It was very well-received by game players and reviewers including myself, who awarded it the 2008 Game of the Year award in another weekly column at a video games site. The production was outstanding, with tons of plastic miniatures from the popular strategy game, and the design was compelling, innovative and reflective of themes in the video game, if not the real-time action it depicts. But it didn’t sell as well as the Warcraft items, and thus fewer printings were pushed through to retail making it scarcer—and now, more valuable.

The Starcraft board game has a strangely fluctuating value in the aftermarket. Opened and played copies can be had for anywhere between $50 and $100. Sealed copies can sell for as high as $200, which is just a little more than a 100-percent appreciation since the game went out of print in 2010. There is also an expansion (Brood War), but it seems to have been overproduced and is fairly easy to get for around $20. A promotional pack that included some extra game materials called “Typhoon” manages to hit around $50 and is probably even scarcer than the base game.

But here’s the catch about Starcraft, as well as the other Blizzard games. I expect that these games—even the not so good ones—are going to go up in value dramatically over the next five to 10 years. There are a couple of reasons I’m predicting this. One is that there is relatively little Blizzard memorabilia, and it is one of the most beloved and popular of all PC game makers. Another is that all of these titles were expensively produced games that were designed and manufactured during a time when packing hundreds of detailed plastic miniatures, cards and other game components was feasible. If the Starcraft board game were to release today—just four years after its actual debut—it would easily retail at double its original $79.95 price point, if not more.

2008’s Starcraft: The Board Game, a tabletop version of South Korea’s televised national pastime.

But most significant to these games’ speculative value is that there’s no way for them to be made again. Fantasy Flight Games no longer holds the Blizzard license, and all remaining copies of these games were withdrawn from distribution. Reprints are out of the question and the collector’s market is the only source for them at this point.

With that said, there is something of a ceiling as to how high prices on these games could go—there aren’t many mass-produced games that manage to break a couple of hundred dollars. I wouldn’t stockpile copies of Starcraft to pay for my kids’ college. But I would not at all be surprised to see it selling in a $300-$500 range in the coming years, with the Warcraft titles ranging at half those figures, especially when the kids playing Blizzard games today grow up, get jobs and get nostalgic. We’ll know for sure if my prediction pans out sometime around when Diablo IV releases next decade.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.


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