Monday, September 19, 2011

Board and Card Games on the Go

Technology is great, but I'm a huge fan of old fashioned card and board games. I'm often invited to gaming pot lucks and meetup groups and always seem to bring an arm load of games so we'll have plenty of choices. Unfortunately, lugging around boxes of board games is a pain so I always ended leaving something behind, often the very game someone was looking forward to playing.

Recently I noticed the contents of most of the games were much smaller than the boxes they came in so I came up with a system that allows me to take a virtual library of board and card games pretty much anywhere.

Here's a photo of just some of the games I've included:

...and here are those same games (plus many more) condensed into a few bins and bags:

It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out you can put cards and board game pieces into a few boxes to save space, but the types of containers make a world of difference.

Cards were probably the easiest part once I found the right containers. Plano Molding Company makes a wide variety of plastic containers, but one in particular seems to be just about perfect for card games. It's model number is 5325 and is described as a "Jumbo Card case 11.25 x 8.5 x 3.75". I tried model 5305, but while it's a perfect fit for euro cards such as Dominion, once I sleeved them they no longer fit. This jumbo card case gives a bit more room to allow for card sleeves as well as a wide range of card sizes.
This box contains the basic Dominion set plus the Intrigue and Prosperity expansions with room to spare:

For smaller decks of cards I store them sideways so height isn't an issue and they are all easily accessible:

As you can see from the photo above, I make use of extra space by bagging game pieces and placing them along side the cards. I've made sure to store all the pieces and cards for a game in the same box to avoid confusion. If you have games that did not come with small bags for the pieces, most stores with a craft section sell small zip-lock baggies that are perfect for dice and wooden markers. Baggies also work well for small decks as they keep the cards together without damaging them like rubber bands.

If you've tried this before you're probably saying that this is all fine for cards and small pieces, but many games have big boards that wont fit in these boxes. I measured my boards and most modern games are in packages no larger than 11.5" x 15". My original idea was to pick up an artwork portfolio (zippered folder) as it would be perfect for carrying around a bunch of cardboard, however I had trouble finding one the right size at a decent price. I soon realized that the size of my boards were about the same as a notebook computer. I ended up using an old laptop bag to carry my boards as the computer compartment is not only the perfect size, but it's padded for protection and has a strap to hold everything in place. The flat sections gave me a perfect place to stash rules where they won't get damaged.

I also had a spare netbook bag which was the perfect size for some of the smaller boards in the event that they wont all fit in the big bag. I still think a portfolio might be a better solution, so if you can find one for cheap that will fit A3 paper (11.69" × 16.54") let me know.

Eliminating Overlap (aka. Currency)
There's one final area where you can eliminate components from various games and end up with a better play experience and that's money. Some games call it gold and in others they're just called chips, but many games use some sort of currency and keeping track of a bunch of paper money isn't my idea of fun. My solution is a set of mini poker chips from MeepleSource. They're very reasonably priced and will provide you with enough chips and denominations that you should be able to leave the paper money at home. You can also purchase additional chips in various colors to customize your set. As you can see, I purchased many different color chips with the denominations printed on them so everyone knows what they're worth.

Note: Some games require that you keep your resources secret and provide paper currency with the same backing on all denominations. In this case poker chips will not work since your opponents will be able to tell how much you have.

I hope some of this overview of my board and card game packing system has been helpful. I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions you might have.