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Games are quite valuable investments in free time. Valuable financially, and, of course, valuable experiences. For many games, it's better not to start talking about entertainment value, i.e. the price you have to pay for your entertainment per hour of use, and how crazy it would seem to be to invest even more valuable currency in an already expensive game. 

But what if you could get more years from the game by protecting the cards from sticky-fingers and long nailed friends? Or if, by varnishing the surface of the board, you could make sure it doesn't scratch for years? Or would it just be better to leave the game on the shelf after all, and never play it for fear of being damaged? 

Let's take a look at this blog to see what added value could be offered to your gaming hobby.

Protecting cards with plastic

The clearest starting point is card protection, i.e. sleeves. All sleeves protect the surface of your cards from scratches, liquids and dirt that may come from the table. Sleeves also make it easier to shuffle cards and to lift them from the bare table. Sleeves are a cheap way to extend the age and comfort of games played with cards.

From the point of view of board gaming, the relevant sleeves can be divided into three categories:

  • Board Game Sleeves. Sleeves that are designed with board gaming in mind. Thick, soft plastic, usually a few millimeters larger than a card of its size. In addition to the nine regularly used sizes, many manufacturers have rarer sizes also, so every card in the board game is guaranteed to find protection. Offering basic protection, well suited for normal home use and occasional outdoor play.
  • Card Game Sleeves. Sleeves for card and collectible card games. Sleeves with clear soft front and a harder colorful back with a few millimeters of extra space for the card. The largest manufacturers offer card game protectors in two different sizes, Standard (66 x 91 mm) and Japanese Size (62 x 89 mm). Suitable for card games with multiple decks that you don't want to mix, or if you want to hide different-looking backgrounds on the cards. Due to its background being made with a harder plastic mixture, it is also suitable for the most demanding conditions and for longer-term use.
  • Inner Sleeves. In particular, a soft inner shield for double-sleeving your collectible card games, i.e. two shields on top of each other. The offering is limited to Standard and Japanese size sizes. In board gaming, this is your choice if you want to protect the surface of the card, while maintaining as much of the original card feel as possible. It's great if you want to use the original game inserts, or if you want to avoid the deck of cards becoming huge tower of Babel. 

It's a good idea to start considering using sleeves as soon as the cards in the game are shuffled and handled a lot, or if the traces that appear on them allow players to gain an advantage. However, for the cheapest games, it's good to consider whether getting a renewed version in a few years' time is a better option.

There is a really handy website for choosing sleeves for your game called sleeveyourgames.comthat tells you directly how many and what size sleeves you need. The results can yet be filtered according to different manufacturers. The site doesn't know every more extraordinary size, such as Dune: Imperium's leader cards. For these you will find a handy list in Board Game Geek, Card Sleeve Sizes for Games. The easiest way to access the details of a single game is via the link at the end of the game's BGG page.

Varnish and laminating keeps the components safe

For cardboard components you will find Spray varnish to be a suitable option. By adding a fewthin layers, hard, dirt and moisture-repellent surfaces can be made available on cardboard parts also. Only very few cardboard components in the game benefit from the protection provided by the varnish, but for example, Skull is recommended to be protected if you want no traces to appear on the coasters of the game. When applying varnish, avoid sunlight, this causes the varnish to dry too quickly and almost invariably spoils the surface. Also, a well-air conditioned space is also absolute. 

Games that are included in the wettest parties can be protected by laminating the components. Cold and hot lamination provides a hard plastic surface on top of which you can also write with non-permanent markers. Laminating is most commonly used to protect point tables, maps, players aids, and the like. When the laminate hardens, it protects practically from everything that you can encounter at a gaming table. As an extra bonus, laminated player aids can be used as convenient beverage coasters. We have also heard a legend that the most devoted card players would have laminated whole decks of Magic, so there is no need to stop playing in the sauna either.

A Rug for your table

A Game Mat protects cards and components from the rough surface of the table while making it easier to process your cards in the game. Game mats range from mouse mat sizes to a huge, half a table covering monsters. The game mats have already solidified their place among collectible card players, slowly starting to conquer space on board game enthusiast's tables as well. Fantasy Flight Games manufactures a game mat with almost every game they release, and many publishers are following in their footsteps.

On my own table, game mats always travel with the games. The dice jump more comfortably on them, the cards swing a degree more blustery, and the piling up of the Jenga takes a more professional grip with a play mat under it. If you don't want to buy a play mat for every game and for every player, you can pick up 1-3 generic rugs of this style, according to the dimensions of your table.

Here's a compacted piece of information from the board game café Snakes and Lattes on the subject.

Next time, let's take a look at how to make the space around the game more useful, and how to add some small quality of life upgrades to your game nights. Until then, have some great gaming moments!


Poromagia's board game crew