Happy (Un)Boxing Day! Tips for Board Gamers

Tabletop Games

Fealty boxFealty box

Typical box after punching out all the cardboard tokens.

Happy (Un)Boxing Day — by which I mean the day when you unbox your board games, punch out all the little cardboard tokens, rip the plastic off the decks of cards, and put everything into little baggies.

Wait — you do that, right?

One of the problems with games that have lots of punch-out cardboard sheets is that after you punch out all the tokens and throw away the sheets, then there’s a good bit of empty space at the top of the box. Witness my photo above (of Fealty, a Kickstarter game that just arrived last week). Now, this is clearly a case of overcompensating box but I’ll leave that aside for now. You’ll notice on the edges that there’s a good bit of extra space — and all that empty space means that if you set something on top of this box, it’s more likely to get scrunched. Particularly if you have a big stack of games.

So here’s a little tip I learned a little while back (sadly, too late for my original copy of Small World, for which this tip is particularly handy).

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Here's what all the punched-out sheets look like.

Ok, so this is what the box looks like when you throw all the cardboard sheets back in. (Sorry, I forgot to take a “before” picture from when I first opened the box.) It fills the box a little better — again, Fealty isn’t the best example because there’s still a little bit of a gap, but for many games the sheets will fill the box to the top edge. Put the lid on now, and you’ve greatly reduced the crushability.

Of course, that’s also a pain, dealing with all these cardboard skeletons every time you get out your game, right? So here’s what I was taught: take all those cardboard sheets, and put them underneath the box divider. It raises the level of everything, hides those cardboard sheets, and helps you save your boxes from damage.

Here’s what Fealty looks like with all the empty sheets tucked underneath:

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Not perfect, but much better.

In many cases (depending on the box divider) this trick will raise the level of the divider up to the top of the box. Not only does that help keep the box lid from getting squashed, but it also keeps all the little bits from sliding out of the wells — assuming you don’t already bag them up.

One more tip: if you’ve got games that include cards without their own tuckboxes or designated pockets in the box, they’ll slide around and get all messed up. Of course, you can put rubber bands around them, but rubber bands can dry out and snap, plus they can deteriorate and leave a line of hard rubber stuck to the cards. One solution is to make your own tuckboxes. Craig Forbes’ Super Deluxe Tuckbox Template Maker is one way to do it: simply measure the stack of cards, input the dimensions and it spits out a template that you can cut, fold, and glue. Or you can head to BoardGameGeek and see if anyone has designed particular tuckboxes for specific games. For instance, Agricola (which comes with piles and piles of cards and no box dividers) has a whole set of custom-made tuckboxes with labels.

Finally, you could try Hugo’s Amazing Tape. I haven’t tried this yet myself, but I’m thinking of getting some, particularly since I’ve got enough games now that making tuckboxes could become a full-time job. It’s a plastic sort of strip that apparently sticks only to itself. I’ve no idea how it works — magic, perhaps — but I’ve seen it advertised on BoardGameGeek and it sounds like it could be a great solution to shifting cards.

May your New Year be filled with lots of board games in well-organized, unsquashed boxes!

[This article was originally published on GeekDad last year on this date.]

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