20 Dec Board Game Card Sleeves – To Sleeve or Not to Sleeve
As one who began gaming in the Magic: The Gathering community, it has always made sense to me to sleeve cards. It’s a minimal cost for the amount of protection offered. Although sleeves occasionally create issues storing the game, there are plenty of manageable solutions available. It also helps that publishing companies continue to reconfigure game inserts to accommodate for sleeves, providing more space to do so. With this growing trend, I never questioned my habit of constantly sleeving my favorite games.
That was until I perused a board game forum where users were complaining about the trend of sleeving cards. I couldn’t understand why anyone would be so adamantly against a means of protection, but clearly there was a large group of gamers outraged about the use of sleeves. Pondering this for a bit, I began to realize where these gamers were coming from. Their passion derived from the idea that games were being purchased and protected, yet rarely got played. In their mind, board games have slowly moved from a fun hobby to a collectible good. These gamers said that games were meant to be played, not stored in pristine condition. Their outrage was a call to play more games and to embrace the game as is rather than taking precautionary measures to protect its value.
This proposition really had me thinking. I certainly have games on my shelf that I haven’t played yet, and games that are fully sleeved that rarely make it to the table. Had I been treating my games as a collection or a source of gaming opportunities? As I continued to think about the games I sleeved and which ones I chose not to, I recognized some patterns. Small-box card games (except The Fox in the Forest) tend to remain unsleeved in my collection mostly due to the fact that buying new boxes and sleeves would cost as much as the games themselves. Games I have played only once or twice also remain unsleeved. Where it gets interesting is the games that create a middle level of interest (multiple plays). In looking at these games, the ones I tend to sleeve are the ones I use a lot in my job (I work with college students) and the ones that utilize a standard American-size card. If they use smaller cards or European sizes, I generally don’t go out of my way to buy different sleeves. Then there are my favorites. All my favorites are sleeved because I want to be able to share them for many years to come.
As I look over my sleeving habits, I do question how many games I sleeve and whether or not it is necessary. After all, that’s a ton of extra plastic, and our environment is not going to be thanking us for that. Sometimes, using sleeves can remove the nostalgic, tactile element of gaming as well. Sleeves can even remove a certain thematic touch in games. When I bought Seasons, I made the poor decision to sleeve all of the cards in sleeves with solid green backs (they were on sale). While I love Seasons, every time I pull it out to play, I find myself wondering why I have yet to place clear sleeves around the beautiful cards. The green sleeves just dull everything out. Clear sleeves would protect the cards (which I definitely need with how often I play Seasons) without pulling anything away from the experience.
Another sleeve brand that I recently purchased were the Sorcerer sleeves. These sleeves were purchased in a bundle, and the back shares the same artwork as the backs of cards. While I can see the appeal of this (which is probably why I initially bought them), I once again wish I had just used clear sleeves. The color saturation looks worse on the sleeves than the cards and I will have to find more of these specific sleeves if I ever run out. Clear sleeves would have shown off the artwork and would have also been easily replaceable.
Overall, I would say I am pro-sleeving if the game gets to the table often or is played around particularly messy audiences, but I completely understand some people’s apprehension with the idea of sleeving all games. I can also see why the critics are pushing for a more stripped-down experience. How do you feel about sleeves? Are you an avid sleever, or might you be one of these individuals I ran into on the forums protesting the use of sleeves altogether?