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Subject: To sleeve or not to sleeve, that is the question rss

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Juan Medina
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Not too long ago I wrote a geek thread talking about my experiences with different types of sleeves, manufacturers, quality and other related matters. You can find that here: Hi! My name is Juan and I am a sleeve-aholic..

Since then I have received a number of questions and replies on the matter where people were concerned about whether or not they should sleeve their cards.

I think sleeving is largely a matter of personal taste, but I will try and enumerate here pros and cons, when I consider it necessary and when I don't as well as other personal views. These points may help you see what I think about the issue and let you decide by yourself if adding sleeves to your cards is the kind of thing you want to do.


PROS

- You make your cards more durable to regular use. This not only includes scuffs in the artwork, but also creases and bending marks.

- The occasional food or drink related accident is less likely to affect your cards permanently. Note, however, liquid inside a sleeve due to capillary action requires immediate attention. I never allow liquids on my game table, I use side tables for that.

- Replacing a single sleeve is trivial when compared to replacing a card.

- Shuffling your cards by merging deck halves on the sides simplifies constant shuffling and is less damaging to your cards on the long term.

- Using colored sleeves is a very simple way to sort cards visually really quickly.

- This is a very subjective statement, but I would venture to say the value perceived for a used game goes up if the game is sleeved. This usually shows care on the part of the previous owner and a game that will be closer to mint condition.

- You will have a constructive avenue to feed your OCD behavior.


CONS

- Invariably your initial game cost will go up and in a handful of cases your sleeves may be almost as expensive as your game (or even more!).

- You are pretty much guaranteed your box or box insert won't fit the cards after sleeving.

- Sleeved cards have glare under certain lighting conditions.

- Stacking large sets of cards, particularly with regular thickness or brand new sleeves is likely to cause the cards to slide making the stack unstable.

- Premium thickness sleeves have relatively sharp corners which may bother some players.

- Speaking of bothering players, I have found out that people that like to sleeve cards are perfectly Ok playing a non-sleeved game, where people that do not are more commonly inclined to dislike a sleeved copy.


When should I sleeve a set of cards?

I do sleeve all my cards if at all possible but these are the situations where I think you most definitely should sleeve your cards:

- Instances where the cards have constant use or where the dynamics of the game are likely to cause some rough handling. This would include cases like the voting/mission cards on The Resistance, cards that get passed around constantly such as the ones in 7 Wonders or Cockroach Poker or cards that may be downright slammed to the table and moved around fast such as in JAB: Realtime Boxing.

- Cards that are shuffled constantly. Deck building games are a perfect example of this. Dominion, Thunderstone and similar games will require constant shuffling. I have seen unsleeved copies of the aforementined games where the cards feel flimsy just out of use. Sleeving a deck building game is an expensive behavior. My copy of Dominion and all its expansions (so far) is sleeved premium thickness. All other deck building games (again with expansions) - Thunderstone, Resident Evil Deck Building Game, Heroes of Graxia - as well as LCGs - A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Warhammer: Invasion, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game - are sleeved with penny-sleeves because the cost of doing otherwise would have been too much.

- Cards where minor defects may effectively give away information they are not supposed to. This would include cases like The Resistance or Werewolf where a minor mark may be leveraged by an opponent, mostly without intention (as they say, opportunity makes the thief). For this I use colored background sleeves.

- Card sets where you will mix your cards with opponents but need or want to separate them quickly between rounds. For this, I use colored background sleeves.

- Print and Play cards and custom cards can be easily included in a game when the cards are sleeved.


When is it not necessary or undesirable to sleeve cards?

I have gone great lenghts and great cost to sleeve everything, but sometimes I do admit it was not probably necessary at all, or it was just not practical to do so. These are the cases I think fit this statement:

- Cards that are single use per game in long games are the clearest case. This would include all the cards in games like War of the Ring (First Edition) or Talisman (Revised 4th Edition) where you shuffle the cards at the beginning of the game, and if a card is used at all during the game, it is very unlikely it will be used again.

- Cards that need to fit a particular gizmo such like the ones in UNO Attack!, Lie Detector or Guesstures.

- Some inserts are so well designed that you may not want to get rid of the insert or the box. Dominion, Jaipur and Jamaica are good examples. Note I digress and figured out I rather sleeve the cards on these cases, but it was with some pain that I did let go of these inserts or modified them to suit my needs.


Irregular cards and sleeving

In a handful of occasions I have acquired a game that uses non-standard card sizes, or cards in weird shapes.

This bothers me quite a bit because I want to sleeve everything (didn't I say that like ten times already? OCD I tell you ...). Apparently I am not alone as attested by this thread Rant about card sleeves....

I do search wide through the net, comic book stores and art supply stores for viable alternatives. I have gotten lucky with some weird and old sleeves found in the corners of some clearance shelf or from an overseas provider.

There is always the alternative of modifying and cutting sleeves that are close to the size you need, but I am not that handy. A laminator could get the job done, but that is expensive and I reserve it for large player aid cards and similar things.

In this particular case I forego sleeving the cards, but I get extra careful when using them, which bothers me a little. I do sleeve the cards because I want to play them often and having to look after the way me and my fellow players take care of the cards is a minor nuisance that I rather not have.

Some offenders in this category are: Heroscape games, Famiglia (Friedemann Friese seems to like non-standard cards on his games), Mission: Red Planet and Catan (this last one amazes me, for a game with such widespread acceptance you would think sleeves would be available).


Questions and answers

Most of these are made up or are paraphrasing actual commentary and questions I receive on some other threads.

Q. Don't you think it is easier or more cost effective to get a new copy of the game than to spend time and money on sleeves?
A. Not really. I dare someone to get a second copy of War of the Ring (First Edition), Aladdin's Dragons and tell me it is cheaper or be lucky enough to even find a copy of the Ghost Stories: B-Rice Lee or Alien Frontiers: The Space Crane promos. There is also the cost of storing extra copies of the games. I would think that my game library storage would have to add about half its size if I had to keep duplicate copies of all the games I absolutely want to have sleeved.

Q. Don't you think your sleeved cards look like that plastic covered sofa my grandma had on her TV room?
A. Yes, they do. However both grandma (in her infinite wisdom) and me share the view that there are things that are hard to replace, yet you want to use. My goal with sleeving is to play my games as many times as I want without having to worry much about the cards being damaged.

Q. What sleeve size is required for ( your game name here )?
A. Mayday games has a very concise list of board games and the sleeves required for them using Mayday stock. You can find that information here http://maydaygames.com/. They list games from all brands.
Fantasy Flight lists their sleeve size on the main page for each of their games. Go to their webpage and look for the game you want it will say which type and how many packages you need. Fantasy Flight main webpage is http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/ and their supplies store can be found http://store.fantasyflightgames.com/catalog.cfm?CatPos=204. Fantasy Flight only list sizes for their games, but they equate in general to Mayday game sizes.
I talk at length on sleeve sizes and qualities in my other thread Hi! My name is Juan and I am a sleeve-aholic..

Q. Do you suffer from OCD?
A. I did not think so until I got into board gaming, now I have my doubts.

Q. I don't want to get rid of my beautiful insert after sleeving my cards. What should I do?
A. Hard to respond in general. Some inserts can be modified cutting them and using tuckboxes to fit the cards. Some you can get rid of partially. I did that with the insert for Jaipur and En Garde by cutting out the card holding section and placing the leftover insert against the edge of the box. Many times you can fit the cards on compartments meant for other bits and still keep most of the insert. Sleeving implies losing inserts. Get used to it.

Q. I got the right indicated size of sleeves for my cards but they did not fit. What is wrong here?
A. Unfortunately from time to time you will get a particular batch of sleeves that is not Ok or that was mislabeled. Contact your manufacturer, I have found they are very agreeable to replace defective product with no hassle involved other than the wait.

Q. Why is there extra length on my card sleeve? Did I get the wrong sleeve size?
A. Manufacturers point out the best sleeve size for your card, and sometimes that is the best they can do. Mayday games is pretty good about producing sleeves that closely match well known card sizes. Fantasy Flight produces catch-all sleeve sizes that almost always have some extra size around the card. I personally don't mind some extra length as it helps keep the card inside the sleeve. Oversized sleeves (like penny-sleeves for example) actually help in merge-shuffling.


Summary

Well, that was my take on what was left to talk about when it comes to sleeves. I hope some of that will give you pointers as to whether or not, or when to sleeve your cards. It is not an endeavor for every player, but one I happen to enjoy as part of the amazing hobby that is playing board games.
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I've only sleeved a few games but enjoyed reading your back and forth. Thank you.
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Great read and agree with every point.

I choose to sleeve my games because I often host rather large groups of teens, and I don't trust them to be as careful as they might or should be.

Case in point, my ripped in half Ticket to Ride board. grrrrr.

I really wish production designers would consider the sleeving crowd. Those of us who truly appreciate the clever organization of a good insert are the exact same customers who sleeve. The Dominion box is soooo close to fitting premium sleeves. Why? Why cruel world?
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Juan Medina
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mamahonu wrote:
Great read and agree with every point.

I choose to sleeve my games because I often host rather large groups of teens, and I don't trust them to be as careful as they might or should be.

Case in point, my ripped in half Ticket to Ride board. grrrrr.

I really wish production designers would consider the sleeving crowd. Those of us who truly appreciate the clever organization of a good insert are the exact same customers who sleeve. The Dominion box is soooo close to fitting premium sleeves. Why? Why cruel world?


I get exactly what you mean. On occasion I do play with kids (my Cockroach Poker being the most played game) and I am sure I would not let them play on their own with the games if they were not sleeved.
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Cons:
* If the game is expandable or collectable, you're committing to sleeving future expansions.
* Boardgame and tokens take wear and tear as well, but cannot be protected as easily.

So have you contacted the admins if you could add this as a BGG wiki entry? You certainly put in a lot of work here!
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Juan Medina
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Sam and Max wrote:
Cons:
* If the game is expandable or collectable, you're committing to sleeving future expansions.


Oh yes. 1900+ dominion cards in FFG sleeves don't come cheap. I do keep extra packages in case something comes up for some specific types. FFG Euro are hard to come by and right now FFG is out of stock!

Sam and Max wrote:
So have you contacted the admins if you could add this as a BGG wiki entry? You certainly put in a lot of work here!


Thanks for the kudos. I will research about moving this to wiki, as certainly it is something a good deal of players look for and something that could use more than my biased opinion
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Rakeman wrote:
This argument may make sense for card only games, but what about games with components other than cards? If you don't laminate your boards, shrink wrap your cardboard bits, etc., why obsess over the condition of the cards? Your cards may look brand new, but everything else will get wear in the long run. How often do your cards get worn to the point of unplayability? If it is less than 1 in 10 games, odds are you would save money just rebuying the one game that gets worn too much to play anymore. There are exceptions you noted, such as War of the Ring, but it does not seem that this would be the case for the majority of games.


This is a very valid point, if I look at the whole thing from the standpoint of playability. If you account for the value you give to the state of your game collection then it is not as clear.

As for the rarity of the game, I wish I had the forethought to figure out which games will be hard to come by in the future and which won't, I just can't tell. Games that I was able to get earlier this year are already out of print and somewhat hard to find. I don't want to risk having to pay through the nose to replace a game that I don't feel is in the shape I want when I could have done something to prevent it, while at the same time enjoying it.

The article was meant to be limited to sleeves, but not precluding other means of protection. Cards just tend to be the flimsier and most handled element on many board games. I would say next in line would be the game boards, chits and meeples/cubes, but the manipulation of those is in my opinion substantially lower to that of cards. I do my best effort to keep game bits other than cards as protected as possible. Recently I bought some plexiglass sheets (acrylic) to put on top of the boards. I do add a layer of lacquer to my wooden dice. I check the chits for cleanliness when putting the games back. My wife and I have a pending project to put self-adhesive film into some of the most used boards, and in some cases we have reinforced the joints with tape.

I guess it is just on my mindset to take care of things best I can instead of getting new ones to replace them. I come from a culture where taking care of what you manage to obtain is ingrained, mainly because economics don't allow you to replace things easily. Sleeving cards, laminating, etc ... are ways to reinforce the concept that the games are something I am passionate about and deserve to be taken care of to be enjoyed for a long time.
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Typically I sleeve with the open part to the top: 1) It feels natural to do it that way to me, and 2) if any cards are loose, they are less likely to fall out while in my hand.

The notable exception is when I sleeved my Quarriors cards with solid color sleeves from Ultra Pro that I had on hand. I used different colors so I could sort the cards quickly. Putting the open end up, the little foil hologram on the sleeve covers part of the necessary card information. In this case I sleeve open end down where the foil dot was generally out of the way.
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Rakeman wrote:
My first thought was "Great, now I can't play it until I get the fixed sleeves in the mail." Then I saw it sitting there on my shelf and I asked myself, "Why?" After all, I bought the game to play it with friends and family, why should I care if the cards get scruffy after hours of enjoyment as long as the game is still playable? I bought it for the enjoyment of the gameplay, not to admire the pristine condition of the cards.


100% in agreement. I don't hold back in playing a game before sleeving it. I do give value to keeping the game in shape but never over the value of playing it.

Rakeman wrote:
I would much rather my money go towards the companies that make the games than to the companies that make sleeves. That is just how I feel, though, gamers who utilize the sleeve companies more often may wish to support them.


Another great statement. If there is one thing I love about the hobby is the amazing companies behind it.

I am quite happy with the discussion generated and your counterpoints. They certainly add substance to what otherwise would only be my biased OCD driven view of the board game world

All these are good views that people reading the article can use to determine whether sleeving is for them or not. Good deal!
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angramainyu wrote:
Question for the sleeve-a-holics, from someone who just sleeved their first cards (Citadel role cards): Open part of the sleeve on the top or bottom? And why?


I usually sleeve with the open part on the top. There is probably no good reason for it other than it is what it feels natural to me, that is, the bottom of the card rests on the bottom of the sleeve.
 
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riastradh wrote:
Typically I sleeve with the open part to the top ...
The notable exception is when I sleeved my Quarriors cards with solid color sleeves from Ultra Pro that I had on hand. I used different colors so I could sort the cards quickly. Putting the open end up, the little foil hologram on the sleeve covers part of the necessary card information. In this case I sleeve open end down where the foil dot was generally out of the way.


I love UltraPro quality, and I am pretty sure that hologram has a purpose, but sheesh, I don't like that little silver dot at all!

Good idea about the Quarriors coloring. Mind if I put it as an example in the thread? (don't want to steal your idea there).

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Rakeman wrote:
Yes, it has been a very interesting discussion to me as well. I think most board gamers are obsessive about one thing or another - myself, organizing components is my latest interest


Oh, don't get me started. Last Monday night I spent about three hours sorting out all my Memoir '44 stuff so it would all fit inside the Campaign Bag. I might write an article about it
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PrivateMeggido wrote:
Catan (this last one amazes me, for a game with such widespread acceptance you would think sleeves would be available).


Sleeves may not be available, but replacement cards are available separately.
 
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PrivateMeggido wrote:
Rakeman wrote:
Yes, it has been a very interesting discussion to me as well. I think most board gamers are obsessive about one thing or another - myself, organizing components is my latest interest


Oh, don't get me started. Last Monday night I spent about three hours sorting out all my Memoir '44 stuff so it would all fit inside the Campaign Bag. I might write an article about it


Oh man! Organizing components (along with resorting shelves to fit new purchases or to try a different style of organization) is almost as exciting a part of the hobby as actually playing! And you can do it by yourself! With the door locked! So no-one can comment that you're "playing with yourself" again!

I expect there will be hordes of disdain heaped on this post by gamers who happily eat cheez-poofs while riffle shuffling their unsleeved out-of-print Mare Nostrum resource cards. They'll tell us we're no "fun", and that we "miss the point" of social gaming. And then there'll be those who hurl accusations of OCD/hoarding, etc at us (I really wish my partner would stop hacking BGG just so she can insult me).

But consider this: car collectors spend infinitely more time polishing, assembling/disassembling/reassembling, painting, chroming and otherwise pimping their automobiles than they do actually driving them. There are whole TV channels dedicated to that shit, and no-one makes fun of them. I know all about this, because my Puerto Rican neighbor is in his drive tinkering all weekend every weekend, and no-one makes fun of him. (Full Disclosure: Actually, I do, mercilessly.)
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JustPeachy wrote:
Sleeves may not be available, but replacement cards are available separately.


Yes, you are right they are available and for a very reasonable price. That is probably the reason why sleeves are not available. Isn't that kind of a circular logic statement?

I wish other games offered that officially, though I cannot complain. In the rare cases I managed to lose a card or a component the publisher of the game has done what they could to get me a replacement. I had an issue where I lost 7 cards and they sent me a full replacement set.
 
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Con: Coolstuffinc never has the ones you need in stock when you are placing a game order.
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I only sleeve games if they're going to undergo heavy usage. In my case, I have only sleeved Citadels, and I plan to sleeve Tanto Cuore. The LGS's game library means that I rarely get to use my copy of games.

Generally speaking, for card games, I would always sleeve them particularly since some companies use really dodgy card stock.

Thanks for the read, Juan.
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Another con.
You can get accused of cheating if you are caught with a card "up your sleeve"
Sorry I couldn't help myself shake
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Con: Sleeves are like those plastic couch covers my mom used to have on. We had a couch we were never allowed to touch. WTF?






I hate sleeves. Out of some 400 games or so, not a single sleeve used. To me they signal a distrust of the players, and its rude. I LIKE the wear of cads. It shows love. If it marks them I trust people I play with will not cheat via the mark. If it destroys them and the game has been loved that much (never happened) then the publisher deserves the replacement I would have to buy.
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I found sleeve to be very useful for testing out games.

I printed about 300 Harry Potter CCG and sleeved them with some Pokemon card as backing.

Plays great.

Now I am trying acquire a real set

 
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Vaughn wrote:
Con: Coolstuffinc never has the ones you need in stock when you are placing a game order.


True. Stock on sleeves is a pretty volatile thing. I am not sure what the reason behind that is, but as of now, both Mayday and FFG have some of their sleeves out of stock. This is from time to time a common occurrence.
 
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dssims wrote:
Another con.
You can get accused of cheating if you are caught with a card "up your sleeve"
Sorry I couldn't help myself shake


In some cases, you get accused of cheating if using the wrong type of sleeve. Magic players have had this issue, so rules are usually pretty clear on what sleeves are allowed on official tournaments.
 
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PrivateMeggido wrote:
I love UltraPro quality, and I am pretty sure that hologram has a purpose, but sheesh, I don't like that little silver dot at all!

Good idea about the Quarriors coloring. Mind if I put it as an example in the thread? (don't want to steal your idea there).


I like them too, and I can usually find a duo pack of 100 sleeves for a passable price, although they do tend to inflate the deck size from thickness. The dot they call the "seal of durability". Nothing more than a brand stamp.
And yeah, post it where you want, I'm sure I'm not the first to do it.
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PrivateMeggido wrote:
Q. Don't you think it is easier or more cost effective to get a new copy of the game than to spend time and money on sleeves?


fwiw, A friend of mine doesn't sleeve his card b/c he'll sell the game when he goes overseas. The price he can get it used overseas is as much as the game new in the states! So you could add to the FAQ that *overseas* gamers have a good reason to sleeve their cards!

Also, if you sleeve your cards, they be damaged if you use a rubber band around the stack of cards. You definitely do not want to use a rubber band around unprotected cards, because, if you leave the game unplayed for a long time, the rubber band will degrade and "stick" to the cards. Of course, you can use a tuck box and unsleeved cards, or use card holders (eg. Dominion).
 
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Geosphere wrote:
Con: Sleeves are like those plastic couch covers my mom used to have on. We had a couch we were never allowed to touch. WTF?

I hate sleeves. Out of some 400 games or so, not a single sleeve used. To me they signal a distrust of the players, and its rude. I LIKE the wear of cads. It shows love. If it marks them I trust people I play with will not cheat via the mark. If it destroys them and the game has been loved that much (never happened) then the publisher deserves the replacement I would have to buy.


I totally understand what you mean. This aspect of sleeving bothers many people (I mentioned it in a couple spots in the article). Again, I never put care of the games above playing the game, ever and I don't suggest anyone does. I am like the mother or grandma that covers the couch with plastic so you can jump up and down on top of it without me worrying much about it.

This goes to show personal preference is the key factor when deciding whether to sleeve or not, which in the end is what matters. You do what feels right to you.
 
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