Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sleeve If You Have To, Sleeve If You Need To, The Actual Post

Sorry about that last post, the wrist rest for my mouse was bumping the Enter key of my keypad. Here's what I *meant* to say...

Bonus points if you can recognize the obscure (if you don't have small children around) reference given by the title...

I'm a bit of a sleeve nut. I sleeve nearly everything I own that has cards that are larger than the teeny ones you get with Arkham Horror, which just seems silly. If the deck will need to be reshuffled multiple times, then it gets sleeved. Dominion is a big exception, largely because I didn't sleeve the first set and now it would cost well over $200 to sleeve it as I would like to (I only use premium sleeves, usually Dragon or Fantasy Flight, as they improve the game experience rather than detract from it). Plus all of the expansions for that game fit into my original Dominion box without sleeves and wouldn't with them. I guess I could just pull the Alchemy cards, it's not like I use them, but still a big investment for a game that doesn't get played that much.

I'm getting ready to play in an Up Front tournament at BottosCon in November, and wanted to have my Up Front cards sleeved. The FFG Green cards worked well for this purpose, the Purple cards are just a little too big and I've found with sleeves that you want the right size if at all possible. So all 162 cards are sleeved, and let me tell you that they have created a slightly different problem. Sure, shuffling is going to suck, but with 162 cards it's going to suck sleeved or not. No, I'm talking about merely stacking the damned things. It's like stacking wet eels, they slip around all over the place and create an unholy mess, even when broken up into a few mini-stacks.

So, after procrastination about doing this for years, I went out and got discard trays like casinos use. These come in various sizes, but 4-6 decks seems to be the sweet spot. These are not deck shoes, that dispense cards, but instead hold the cards in a simple plastic form. I get nervous about the deck shoes as they tend to bend cards as they come out and while that's cool in casinos where the decks get used a few times at best, not so good for the generally inferior quality cards that come with board games.

I got two 6-deck trays at about $16 for the pair from Amazon (they have several choices on their site), not including shipping. They came a few days ago and I got to try them out with Up Front, the game that finally convinced me to buy them.

These things are awesome.

The cards stay in place, they aren't slipping around very much at all, which I was a little worried about. There's room for about 2/3rd of another UF deck if I wanted it, and I supposed I could have grabbed a 4-deck tray instead, but I'm happy with these for now and I consider them to be future proofed for when the 19th Talisman expansion comes out. Right now the clear plastic of the upper portions of the trays are in great shape, which will change as they get dragged around, so they look good. I expect I'll get a few oohs and aaahs at BottosCon, especially if I set them up to my Dice Boot (which, I fully understand, has no use in a diceless game like Up Front, but that won't stop me from setting it up).

Here's the thing about all of the accessories that I, as a board gamer and war gamer, like to use - all of them enhance the play experience. That's why we're there, to enjoy the whole experience, from the tactile feel of the pieces to how well the cards shuffle to having dice with a decent heft in your hand. Counter trays, baggies, Plano boxes, sleeves, discard trays, poster frames or plexi, all of these go into making the game a more pleasant experience, in large part so that the game itself becomes easy to focus on. As such, I have no problem spending "more" money for these accessories, within reason. Dominion is a prime example of how I should have jumped into sleeving earlier with this game, although I'm happy with the storage solution I have right now.

I should mention that in UF, you discard face down, so it's important to remember which deck is the draw deck, but I fix that by  simply putting the deck tracking counters on top of the draw pile. That's been about the only drawback - I don't want to put a sticker on the trays yet while they still look nice, but fortunately there's an easy fix.

Now I'm going to go out and buy a ton of interlocking bead containers for games that have lots of bits like Le Havre that Plano boxes don't work for.