To sleeve or not to sleeve, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler for the games to suffer or to protect them against a sea of troubles. There are some pros and cons when it comes to sleeves. Hopefully this blog would be a helpful guide for you.
But wait, what are sleeves? Remember when we were young, our moms or dads would wrap our books in plastic wrap or have our ID pictures laminated. That is the same thing with sleeves in board games: sleeves are thin plastic protectors that come in different sizes and colors. Sleeves protect your cards from damage. There are even some who would cover the box itself! (There is even a whole argument about sleeving vs. not sleeving in the context of just enjoying the game, but we won't go down that rabbit hole.)
It protects your board game from wear and tear
We want our games to last long, hopefully a lifetime. Sleeves protect your games from wear and tear. This is especially true for games that are played often.
Some games that are highly encouraged to be sleeved are those where the cards are the main components (like Ticket to Ride), or rarer/more expensive games (Ticket to Ride anniversary edition). You may also want to protect cards of social deduction type games (like Resistance or Coup). The card backs need to be protected from scuffing, since they are shuffled often and the card backs need to be identical to each other.
It protects your games from moisture
Sleeves also protect your cards from the bane of most paper products: moisture. We can’t help it if our palms are sweaty, especially if we are playing an intense game of social deduction (it’s hard to lie!). Sleeves give you peace of mind. You don't have to worry if the table is slightly damp from a drink or heavens forbid, someone accidentally spill on it. Board games are very social so we tend to eat/drink when we play. Save yourself from the heartbreak of replacing a whole deck just because someone accidentally bumps his/her drink on a card.
PRO TIP: save those silica gel desiccants you get from shoe boxes and pop one or two in your board game box. It absorbs moisture from within the box.
It helps with shuffling
Most sleeves make shuffling easier, and you worry less about nicks and dings on the cards themselves. The plastic reduces the friction, and makes it slide against each other like butter.
There is a caveat though: not all sleeves are created equal. Thinner sleeves often feel cheaper and are more prone to tearing but they are perfect for games with a lot of cards. There are games where you riffle shuffle the deck a lot, or you slide/tuck them under a game board like 7 Wonders. For those games, I suggest investing in higher quality sleeves.
You can use sleeves to protect other things
Sleeves can be used in other things, not just board games. You can also use it on your high school studio photos, notes from your crush, and kpop photo cards.
Now that we have presented you with some reasons why to sleeve your games, let us show you a comparison of the sleeves that are available in the market.
Microns are the unit of measurement used to determine the thickness of a card sleeve. Values range from 40 microns all the way up to 120 microns. Usually, thinner sleeves (40 microns) are cheaper and prone to tearing. Thicker sleeves (90+ microns) are stronger and of higher quality. Thicker sleeves are bulkier and feel more lux. Con: shuffling a deck of cards or fitting them back into the original box would be a bit more challenging with thick sleeves.
There are also colored sleeves. You can customize and choose your favorite colors (or color of the KPOP group that you are stanning). Other considerations for choosing sleeves are clarity (matte or glossy), perfect fit (you don’t want extra plastic hanging out) and ability to be double sleeved (for when you really want to protect a card).
When not to sleeve?
All this talk about sleeving might convince you to sleeve all your games. You can totally do that, but that would also be an investment in your part. You might be asking yourself... should I buy sleeves or just buy a brand new board game. My suggestion is that you take these criteria when you would want to sleeve.
- Games that are played a lot and you shuffle a lot
- Social deduction games
- If you lend your games to friends (share a game, win a friend)
- Your favorite games that you want to protect (You may even want to double sleeve)
Games that you can do away without sleeves
- Games with cards that are laid down on the table like Codenames
- Games with weird card sizes (too big for sleeves)
- Games with tons of cards
At the end of the day, the decision to sleeve or not to sleeve is up to you. The important thing is that we play more games and have quality fun with our friends and family.
Let us know your thoughts about sleeving and other ways you protect your board games.