22 April 2021 Pandemic

How To Protect Your Games

Keep your Valuable Game Boards and Components Safe from the World and Yourself

If you are an avid player of board and tabletop games, or even if you have just a few in your collection, chances are you want to make sure as little damage comes to them as possible. Both time and use play a role in the wear and tear your games experience. The big question when it comes to halting or slowing this is, quite simply, “how?” Well, that’s why we’re here!

When it comes right down to it, how you handle your game's components plays the biggest part when considering the longevity of your pieces. If you play your games, then they are going to get worn down by constant touching, general use, and a myriad of other factors. However, there are many helpful resources out there for you when it comes to this topic. Read on for our thoughts on the best practices for protecting your games.

CARD SLEEVES

Card collectors/players will be privy to this, but not everybody who owns board and tabletop games thinks of the card sleeves. Traditionally made of polypropylene, sleeves are designed to fit snuggly over your cards, as they may be the component that receives the most wear over time. Constant handling, shuffling, oils from your skin, and everything else under the sun (also, the sun) causes your cards to show damage and quickly. However, card sleeves can help prevent the majority of these by simply fitting over your individual cards and shielding them from the harsh world.

“But, how will I know what size card sleeves to get? There are so many!” We hear this. And we have the solution. On the back of any Z-Man Games box you can find the size and quantity of card sleeves recommended for that specific game, as you can see on the diagram below. If you can't find these recommendations on the back of the box, the size can often be found on the game’s website, and the card sleeves will also list what size cards they fit. Gamegenic has a handy guide to card sleeve size that many find very helpful. This specific example below lists gray sleeves (the "standard card game sleeve" size), which are 66 x 91 mm card sleeves.

Gamegenic labels on the back of game boxes showing the number of card sleeve packs needed for the specific game, as well as the color to crossreference with the Gamegenic card sleeve size guide.

On that note, Gamegenic actually has a variety of sleeves that you can often find in most game shops. If you bought your game from Target or Amazon, maybe now is a great time to check out your local game store for your card sleeves.

On top of protection, card sleeves also make it easier (and more fun) to organize your cards. The two types of card sleeves you will find are opaque and transpartent, with the opaque kind coming in a variety of different colors. These can be used for different types of cards, making it easier to find and keep track. Opaque sleeves can also help cover up card backs that are already starting to show some wear, helping to keep the card draw as mysterious as it should be. This way, when drawing your cards during a heated game of Love Letter, no one will know that you just drew the Princess card with that slightly worn corner. However, if you just love those detailed and well designed card backs, then there are clear card sleeves that keep your cards safe while showing them off in their original beauty.  If you're curious, Gamegenic has a lovely selection of colored sleeves for standard size cards, as well as a value pack of clear sleeves.

Beyond that, card sleeves also make it much easier to safely shuffle.

Speaking of…

SHUFFLING

We’re going to stay on cards for a bit longer. Shuffling is one of the main causes of wear and tear on your cards. Maybe you've seen this with your cards or over at a friend's place for a game night. You watch someone grab your cards so they can begin the suffle, just trying to be helpful. Then, they press their knuckles into the center, pull up on the sides, and...anyway. Below is an example of riffle shuffling. It is the most common form of shuffling, but can also be the most damaging as it will bend your cards, effecting not only their lifecycle, but potentially making it easier to identify specific cards by how warped they are.

Riffle shuffling damaging playing cards.

As mentioned above, certain kinds of shuffling is made easier when your cards are sleeved, such as mash shuffling and overhand shuffling, both of which are far kinder to your cards, in general. Mash shuffling is when you split the deck in two and then push both stacks together. Overhand shuffling is when you grab a few cards from the deck in one hand, holding the deck in your other hand, and alternate dropping cards from the smaller pile onto the top and bottom of the deck. Think of how a magician might shuffle for card tricks.

Cards in sleeves being overhand shuffled.

Cards in sleeves being mash shuffled much easier and more efficiently.

These two types of shuffling are actually better for all your cards, overall, as they don't needlessly bend your cards or rub them against one another. We know, we know, the riffle and bridge shuffling you see in casinos and on TV looks great. However, card decks used in casinos and such are designed specifically for withstanding such shuffling for far longer than average, and are often switched out. While we do make sure our games contain high quality cards, even the most high quality products will show eventual wear and tear from constant play without a layer of protection. If you want to play it safe, mash and overhand shuffling is the way to go.

CARD HOLDERS

Outside of card sleeves, another method for keeping your cards safe from hands is the use of card holders. Have you ever noticed any of your friends, cards in hand, bending them back and forth as they wait for their turn, or gripping them in some kind of death grip? Well, instead of silently taking this unneccesary and often absent-minded abuse, you can add card holders to your game. This gets your precious cards out of your loveable friends' hands, and also leaves your hands free for snacking...which we will cover later.

There are also a variety of card holders you can choose from. Many hold the cards upright in front of you in a rack design, like the image below, while others assist you in holding them in your hand but protect them from actually being touched.

Card holder with 5 cards positioned in a row.

Card holders are also excellent for children, keeping them from handling the cards too much, and assisting them in keeping track.

STORAGE

How many times have you broken out that much loved board game, only to give an annoyed sigh when you open the box to see the scattered and mixed tokens all throughout? Thankfully, that’s an easy fix. Bags! Small, plastic bags. Ziplock bags if you have them, but small bags from craft stores for beads and other small craft pieces are always the best. Keep your tokens and smaller pieces separated and together, or, at the very least, not loose within the box. This will save you a world of headaches and setup time.

Speaking of storage, the old debate of storing your games vertically or horizontally is alive and well. Many games can be quite heavy, so storing them horizontally can result in box damage and damage to internal components as some boxes are not up to withstanding several other games being stacked on top of them. This also can result in smaller boxes leaving impressions in the lids of other games.

The thing about how board games are packaged is that the focus is on shipping, not storage. Storing vertically can help with the issue of heavy boxes damaging others, but games are packaged often times with full sheets of punchable pieces at the front of the box, which disappear once you punch out your pieces. However, one life hack is keeping these old punch boards and stacking them under the game insert, making everything within flush with the top of the box for when you turn it vertically. Also, they display very nicely on your shelves this way, and there are special box bands from places like Broken Token and other board game accessory companies that assist in keeping the boxes snug and everything safe inside.

PUNCH OUT PIECES

We’ve all been at the point where we attempt to punch out tokens or pieces of the game board and...it just doesn’t go our way. They tear, they don’t punch right, it’s frustrating. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help prevent your pieces getting unnecessarily torn.

All punchable pieces have a side that clearly has the indentions where the cuts were made, and a side that is far smoother. Punch down on top of the side with the cuts so that you are essentially following the path of the cutter.

Left: The top of the pieces easily show the indentions where the cuts were made. Middle: On the back, the lines are fainter. Right: Pushing down on top of the pieces where the line is clear is the proper way to punch out your pieces with little to no issue.

If punching just doesn’t work for you, then you can use an exacto knife to carefully cut around the edges where the indentions are.

However, mistakes happen and sometimes your token is going to get a tear. If this happens, and it effects gameplay, you can always place all of those tokens into a bag and blind draw them when using them. That way you don’t have to see a torn token mixed in with several perfectly punched pieces. Carcassonne Expansion 2 actually comes with a neat bag for your tiles, making it a great addition to your base game for when certain tiles see more wear and tear than others.

DURING PLAY

Ways of storing your games to keep time from damaging them is great and all. However, you will eventually play them. Aside from card sleeves and card holders, how do you keep the normal motions of play from wearing out your precious components?

For all of your tiny game pieces, bowls make great holders while at the table. The bowls can be of different sizes depending on the size and amount of the pieces. They can keep tokens that serve different functions separate, and can keep said tokens off the table where they could get damaged or lost.

For similar protections and organization, dice trays can come in quite handy. Rolling dice on the table can be cumbersome. You could knock over or damage other pieces, things can get bumped off the table, etc. With a dice tray, your dice stay in their designated area and wreak no havoc. There are even dice trays that lay flat or fold up nicely, allowing it to fit snuggly on your shelf between your favorite games.

Dice being rolled in a dice tray.

SNACKING

Look, we all like to snack a bit when we game. However, some of you (I won’t name names) like to touch things with greasy, crumby, cheese dust covered fingers and it is NOT OKAY.

Person with fingers covered in chip dust handling cards.

The best way to avoid getting food on your games is to keep such snacks in bowls or containers, as well as using utensils to satiate your snack needs. Specifically, chopsticks are considered the best, as you can see. They are a great option for grabbing those delicious but greasy potato chips, or every gamer's worst enemy, the cheeto.

Person using chopsticks to eat snacks while handling cards.

UPGRADING YOUR PIECES

Sometimes, your pieces will get worn, your tokens will get chipped, it just happens. It shows that you actually play your games and that you enjoy them. It is inevitable for all board games. When it does, fear not. There are a myriad of different ways for you to upgrade and/or replace your game pieces. The Board Game Geek website, as well as places like Etsy have various replacements and upgrades for a multitude of games.

Remember, if you are going to make your own pieces, don't forget to follow our IP policy.

In the end, taking care of your games and their components is an easy task. What might be even more important is the peace of mind you’ll get by knowing that your components are safer and will last longer by following these simple tips and tricks.

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