There’s nothing quite like it… Ripping the clear cellophane off the box, struggling to lift the lid due to the vacuum created within it, excitedly popping the tokens out of the cardboard, seeing and feeling the new meeples for the first time, choosing which colour you want to play, the first shuffle of the cards, and that unforgettable moment when you finally get to sit down and play your brand new board game!
But what happens when that new game becomes a family staple? When the “new game” feeling switches to “family favourite” and the cards in the deck become slightly dog-eared, the meeples look worn and the tokens have been rattled around the box multiple times just by taking it down from the shelf. What happens to your love of that board game when you open it up and all the components have become jumbled up, making game set-up tedious and time-consuming? How can we stop this from happening? How can we keep that “new game” feeling for longer? How can we make our favourite games the best versions of themselves? With accessories of course!
Organisation Is Key
As a board game fan, nothing hurts me more than a messy game box. Tokens strewn across the holder where the cards should be, missing dice because they’ve somehow fallen below the plastic insert (how does that even happen?!), cards bent at the corners because they hit an emergency stop against the side of the box. All these problems are easily fixed with small and easily found accessories which give your game boxes a slap of organisational pizazz!
Most modern games have seen a dramatic improvement in the standard and quality of their box inserts - take Wingspan or Lizard Wizard for example - each component has it's own dedicated place within the game box where it fits securely until the next time you take it out to play. But what about your older games, or the newer ones you love where the pieces still seem to fly out everywhere, regardless of how careful you are? My own personal examples of this are Akropolis (as much as I love this game, I just can’t get the tiles stacked well enough to stop them ending up all over the place the next time I bring to out to play!) and Betrayal at House on the Hill (the cards… the cards are always EVERYWHERE!). Fear not avid gamer, Zatu has your back! With a fantastic range of box inserts available, Zatu will allow you to breathe a sigh of organisational relief when it comes to improving your board game box hygiene! Here's one for Betrayal, which you can find by clicking here.
Another absolute must-have for me when it comes to organising my game components are cheap, cheerful, transparent little pieces of plastic which have become fondly known in our household as baggies! Small, grip seal bags are one of my favourite things to see when I open up a new board game. They are the perfect way to store loose components such as tokens, meeples, counters and dice. Grip seal bags are cheap, easy to find online and I believe they are absolute essential accessories when it comes to improving your board game experience, as don’t forget, how nicely and easily your game packs up will impact on your experience of playing it!
More often than not, keeping your game components organised on the table can be just as hard as keeping them organised in their box. Games like Rush M.D., Pandemic and Takenoko have small components and tokens which are essential during play, but can be hard to arrange on the table to allow all players access to the common “pool” or “component bank”. Enter token silos! Stackable trays in different sizes and configurations which allow you not only to keep your tokens safe and secure in the game box, but are removable, so they can be set out on the table during gameplay in reach of all players, preventing your loose components ending up all over the table, or even worse, on the floor!
Protect Your Deck
Card games are some of the earliest games I remember - Top Trumps, Snap, Jack Change It and Solitaire to name but a few. As board games have grown and developed, there has been an increase in the inclusion of cards in our games, from shared decks which players must draw from like in Here To Slay, drafting style games such as 7 Wonders or cards depicting resources owned by a player, as seen in Catan. Regardless of their quality, cards unfortunately are the easiest to damage and often are the first components to fall victim to general wear and tear which is common with all loved and replayed games.
There are two accessories which I would recommend for anyone who is aiming to keep their cards pristine and in top condition. The first is card sleeves. Sleeves provide the perfect little layer of protection from grubby fingers, unseen dirt on tables and from friction against the play surface. Relatively cheap and in a variety of sizes, shapes and finishes, sleeves are the unsung heroes of any card heavy or deck building game. Modern board games recognise this, with many games such as 7 Wonders stating in the rules and on the box which size of sleeves are required for their cards. You wouldn’t leave your house undressed, so why should your cards have to come out of their box without their own little, purpose built outfit on! A word of warning, however - make sure you double-check the card size before purchasing sleeves. Unfortunately cards don’t have a changing room where they can try before you buy!
My second recommendation to enhance your experience when it comes to cards is a play mat. Whilst this isn’t necessarily an essential addition to your game, it does improve the enjoyment of playing board games which feature cards heavily in their mechanics, such as Dungeon Mayhem or Sea of Clouds. Not only does it give your sleeved cards a bit of extra protection from the harsh landscape of the dining room table (or wherever you choose to crack open your favourite game!), but it makes your cards SO much easier to lift back up off the play surface, preventing all those horrible bends and creases! Playmats are easy to store and come in a variety of sizes and colours, making them easy to coordinate with your game’s theme or just your own style or preferences!
Control Your Rolls
Dice are a nightmare. Take it from me (as someone who is a D&D player and a self-confessed dice addict), dice are the bane of any board game player’s existence. They end up everywhere, regardless of how carefully you roll them and you spend more time on the floor looking to see what they’ve landed on (or indeed for where they’ve gone!). Zatu have once again come to the rescue with their great range of dice trays and dice bags! With a variety of shapes and sizes, their dice trays can be unfolded for easy storage and transport and provide the perfect little arena where your dice can wreak havoc (in a controlled and contained way!). When the fun’s over and you’re ready to pack up, their plush velvet dice bag gives your dice a snug, cosy little home where they can wait safely for the next game!
Sometimes with games, it’s hard to remember everything. Who’s closing in on 10 victory points in Catan? Who made a suspicious play in Coup? How many points did I score for my garden tiles in Akropolis? Lots of games nowadays come with handy score pads which allow you to calculate points based on the game’s different methods of scoring, however, some don’t and nearly every game (certainly of the ones we own anyway) don’t actually come with a pen or pencil!
Thus, my final suggestion for accessories which could improve your gaming experience is very simple - a notepad and a pen (or pencil). Two items which are cheap, easy to buy in bulk and can be stored with your game so they are available for the next time you play! Whilst a scrap piece of paper serves just as well, nothing is more frustrating than spending the nail-biting wait at the end of the game to find out who has won, frantically trawling through drawers to find that one pen in the the house that actually works! Trust me, save your future self the agony and buy a pack of pens or pencils and throw one into each game box that needs it!
And there you have it - a whistle-stop tour of some of my favourite must-have accessories which I find have completely heightened my board game experience! Whether you’re a neat freak like me, who loves organisation and good board game “hygiene”, someone who wants to protect their game cards from the wear and tear that comes with the accolade of being your favourite game or someone who just simply hates when you can’t find a working pen to tally up those vital end of game scores, I hope my suggestions will help you towards having the ultimate board game experience!