Building a collection of board games can require a pretty significant investment that deserves to be protected. I don’t think you need to go to anything as extreme as adding it to your homeowner or renters policy. Protecting your board games can help make your game last longer without interfering with the table presence or playability of the game. There are quite a few options out there for protecting your games, but which one is the best?
The various options you can use to protect your board games including sleeves, glass or plastic boards, or even gloves when handling your components or while eating. You also need to be careful with your games when you travel, and you need to watch where them as heat, cold, and wear from storing them or moving them can be damaging, too.
Protect Your Games
When it comes to protecting your games, there’s a lot of products to choose from. What you need to figure out is which components in your games you want to protect. Card sleeves help protect from normal wear and tear as well as incidental spills.
There are many different types of card protectors to choose from depending on the level of protection you want and the size of the cards in the game. This is exceedingly difficult as there are many different measurements for cards, but there are nine categories that should fit most cards.
If you feel like doing the work yourself, you can measure your cards or look up the board game manufacturer’s website. However, If you don’t feel like going through the trouble, there are a few posts on Board Game Geek that offer resources for finding the card sleeve size for your game. Mayday Games also offers a spreadsheet and an iOS app that you can use to look up which of their protectors you need for your game.
You also need to figure out which type of sleeve protectors you need. There are generally three different types: penny sleeves, premium sleeves, and deck protectors.
Penny sleeves are the cheapest option - hence the name - but also offer the least protection. My main complaint with this type of sleeve is that they can sometimes affect how you can shuffle the cards since they tend to wrinkle when you slide them against other cards. If you don’t need to shuffle your cards - or at least not often - penny sleeves are a good option.
Premium sleeves are a step above the penny sleeves and offer pretty good protection. These are a bit thicker, which makes the cards much more manageable to shuffle than with penny sleeves. Though you’ll pay a bit more per sleeve, they usually last longer and penny sleeves. I have seen some gamers that sleeve their cards in penny sleeves, then upside down in premium sleeves to create much better protection.
Finally, we have deck protectors, which offer the best level of protection from a card sleeve. These are meant for cards that are played often - think tournament players of Magic: The Gathering. This level of card protector is often overkill for regular board games, but if you want the best, this is the way you should go.
Bonus - There are super-thick protectors and screw-down protectors, but these are usually reserved for long-term preservation for memorabilia. Some collectors - often sports cards and TCGs - have been known to use these to keep their cards in pristine condition, so they retain their value.
Protect your boards
After cards, boards are the component that takes the most wear. You pick up cards or components, and your fingernails make small marks on the board. Your friend that’s a sore winner likes to slam his pieces as he moves along the board. Other than not inviting these people, what can you do to protect your board?
Basically, you want to place something transparent over your board to prevent direct contact between pieces or players and the board. You can use glass, plexiglass, plastic, or even plastic wrap to provide some measure of protection.
You can also use other, more permanent solutions to protect the boards, but they aren’t ones that I’d recommend. That being said, you could use clear a clear lacquer, acetate spray, clear nail polish or even shrink wrap to protect the board. These do have the possibility of damaging the board, so be careful if you choose to take this route.
Other paper components
Many other types of paper components come with games. One of the more common types is cardboard tiles or chits. These are primarily made from layers of paper that can fade, fray, or peel.
These are a bit more difficult to protect that boards as they need to be able to be moved around and are handled much more frequently. You can’t just lay a piece of glass over top them and call it good. You can use the same more permanent methods I mentioned for board game boards, but I wouldn’t recommend that.
The biggest problem I’ve seen from chits and tiles has been around the edges. I’ve found that placing a thin layer of clear nail polish or superglue helps to prevent wear and stops the edges from peeling.
For paper coins, you can often find coin capsules - which are meant for metal coin collectors - that will fit your components. I find this is usually overkill and I would instead replace my cardboard coins with metal ones.
Storage and Environmental Factors
When you’re storing your games, you need to be careful how they’re stored as storing them improperly can damage them. Though I haven’t hard this happen to me personally, some gamers said they’ve had their boards warp when they stored them vertically. I can’t vouch for this one, so let me know if you’ve had this happen to you in the comments below.
If you choose to stack your games, you have a couple other problems to deal with. Sliding your games can cause their boxes to fade. Also, gamers that stack their games tend to place smaller games on top of larger games. This makes sense from a practical standpoint, but the smaller games can cause an impression in the games under them. Most modern games have fairly sturdy boxes, so the chances of this happening aren’t high, but it’s something to be aware of.
The environment can cause a disaster with your games. I guess labeling it an environmental disaster is a bit overstated, but there’s nothing like bringing in your copy of Mice & Mystics from the car and seeing the pieces softened enough that slim areas of the figurines are misshaped. Heat can also cause other problems with your games such as loosening glue, warping cards or boards, causing the printed paper to stick and even melting pieces together.
You also have to be aware of storing your games in places that are too dry or are too damp. Some people advocate for putting silica gel packets in with your games to avoid moisture problems. However, if you live in an arid environment as I do, you risk over-drying your games and causing other issues.
If you store your games where there is too much moisture, you risk other problems. For instance, moisture can cause ink to bleed, cards to stick together, warping of cards and boards, or rust for your metal components.
You need to be careful where you leave your games. Storing your games is also critical to ensure that your collection is protected.
What is the best way to store games? - The best way to store games is to stack them horizontally with the heaviest games on the bottom. It can also be helpful to place a paper lining between games to prevent them from sticking to each other. If you have the money to invest, you can buy containers to put your games in, or you can get customizable shelving units that fit one game per shelf.
What type of food is good when playing board games? - Food is a favorite subject around board games, especially when hosting a game night or playing a heavy game. I keep food away from my games as much as possible, but I try to eat snacks that aren’t messy or leave a residue on fingers. You can also try using a pair of chopsticks when playing to help keep your hands clean and your games clean.
Perhaps it’s my history as a Magic: The Gathering collector, but I prefer to keep my board games protected and in good condition. Others don’t have the same level of care thinking the wear on the games is a badge of honor for the game showing evidence of its popularity and grandeur. I like to think of my games as collectibles - especially since they can go out of print - and less like the games as consumables.
Thank you so much for reading our content. I really enjoy talking about board games, and I appreciate you helping give me a platform to discuss my thoughts on the hobby.
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