Grooming Techniques for Board Games
Let’s start with the obvious question, yes that is a tongue in cheek title, but it was a post on the Dice Tower Facebook group that got me thinking about this question. Someone asked the question, how do you take care of your board games so that they don’t break down.
I think for some people that’s a very important question, for different reasons. For some people, it’s because they collect board games as much as they play board games. They like to have that large collection that they can show off, which is why they want to preserve them. For some people it’s because they might have a decent size collection, but they have something that is rare or extremely sentimental to them that they want to protect. And for some people, it’s because they only have a few games that they like, so they only ever play a few games.
Whatever, the reason, how do you protect board games so that they don’t get worn? And do you need to do that?
We’ll start with the second question first. Do you actually need to keep your board games from getting worn down? For some people, the assumed answer is yes. They like to have a massive collection, and they don’t want a game to look rough. But I, in my response argued against this mindset. Those people with the larger collection and growing collection, are like myself, where I might only play a game on my shelf every couple of years if I’m not careful. And I’m still adding more games, though, I’m trying to cut down on games that I can’t play solo, so that what I do buy gets to the table more often.
So I actually don’t think that someone like myself needs to be too worried about protecting my games. It’s possible with some fan favorites, something like Sushi Go! Party where you are handling the cards and that’s what the game is, I could sleeve those cards, and I might end up doing that eventually, but something like Gloomhaven, I’m not going to sleeve all of those cards, even though I love that game and the times I’ve had playing with it. And I have a solid reason for why I don’t put that extra money into my games to protect the components.
Games are meant to be played. Simple as that, that means that someone might spill some water/wine/beer/pop on something eventually, but that’s okay. Because that means that I’m enjoying my games and I’m not stressing out about the condition of my game when that happens. But more than that, it’s because I am getting new games. With something like Sushi Go! Party, that might be a game that I always want to have around, but it’s cheap when it’s in print, so not that big a deal to get it again. But there are a lot of games that run their course and then I move on from them well before they are destroyed. A great example of this is Dominion, when it was the original and only deck builder, it was fun, but now there are a lot of better deck builders out there that do more than Dominion. So I got rid of my copy, and even though it was played several times, it wasn’t destroyed when I got rid of it. But less about being destroyed, I was able to find games like Clank! In! Space! and Xenoshyft to replace Dominion. Even if Dominion had been beaten up and falling apart, there are going to be new games to replace it.
What about that category where it is a sentimental game of yours or rare?
Now, rare is a different case, because I don’t know that much about that, and I wonder if you’d actually play it that much. But a sentimental favorite game for some reason, because of who gave it to you, who you’ve played it with, or whatever the reason might be, do you take care of those games?
I think that is where I would put extra effort into protecting the game. And it depends on the game how you do this, but I’ll lay out a few options.
- Limit the snacks/drinks at the table – It’s not always possible to limit them away completely, but if you have room, put drinks off to the side. And with snacks, don’t ask people to bring, plan snacks yourself. Stuff like pretzels are way better than Doritos for keeping a game clean.
- Sleeve Cards – Yeah, I mentioned that I’ll probably not sleeve cards, but sleeving cards does save on wear and tear. And double sleeving does more so. Double sleeving is when you sleeve on direction and then you sleeve the other direction over the top of the first sleeve, that just makes it harder for those drinks to mess it up.
- Laminate Player Boards/Boards – This one is out there and expensive, but it’s possible to do that to create a near indestructible copy of your game. I think that with roll and write games that this can make a lot of sense. Instead of having a game that you need to get more sheets for, you have reusable sheets.
- Put in Place Rules – This one is the most extreme, but it would go beyond don’t have drinks/snacks at the gaming table. It would be asking people to not do stuff with the cards such as shuffling them certain ways, or whatever it might be. For me this is really extreme and something I wouldn’t do. If you decide to do this, just remember to give people leeway when they forget.
Now, I’m sure there are more things that I’ve forgotten for keeping a game from getting wear and tear. And one thing that I didn’t address was the fact that some people don’t have money to spring for new games and want to protect the games that they do have. I think that’s completely valid and I understand that. In their case, I think that suggestion #1 is going to be the ideal one for you, but if it’s a small game and you can single sleeve it, #2 could be useful as well.
In the end, I think that there are too many people who forget that board games are really just awesome toys for adults a lot of the time. Or toys for the whole family. It isn’t the end of the world if something happens to your game. So, when eventually a game wears out even with your best effort or an accident happens, be understanding. Games are meant to be fun, so don’t take away the fun from people to keep the games in your hobby looking perfect, otherwise, it will just become a collection that just sits there.
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