From the game room: Step up your game

An occasional post from Robert

Boring board game components got you down? There’s a cure for that – step up your game!

There is a large market full of ways to upgrade your board games, from deluxe versions of games offered by the original manufacturer to third-party add-ons, deluxe game components, box inserts, and playmats. You can, and some people do, end up spending more on the upgrades than on the original game. Now, I don’t advocate going that far, but some cool upgrades are available that can bring new life to a favorite game.  

A common upgrade for many gamers is to sleeve their cards. Thin plastic sleeves that envelop the cards used in board games will protect and prolong the life of your cards. Sleeves make a stack of cards thicker, which can cause problems packing them back in the box. And while sleeves can make the cards more difficult to shuffle, they will reduce the wear and tear on the cards, extending the life of your games. 

Several companies offer board game box inserts made of wood, cardboard or foam core to help you organize and store game components, reducing the time needed to set up the game and pack it back up at the end of the game. A well-designed insert may allow you to store the components of both a base game and its expansion(s) in the same box. (Or to store your sleeved cards.)

Then there are upgrades for the components themselves. For example, we recently upgraded some of the components for our copies of Splendor and Wingspan. For Splendor, we purchased a set of glass “gems” to replace the poker chip gem tokens that come with the game. These glass pieces are even colored and shaped like the gems depicted in the game. The set also came with heavy-weight “gold” coins to replace the gold coin poker chip tokens.

For Wingspan, we upgraded to wooden food pieces to replace the cardboard food tokens and wooden bird-shaped pieces to replace the wood action cubes. We also got wooden trays to replace the cardboard bonus point tracker and the plastic card tray. There are similar options available to upgrade the components for many other games. 

Another upgrade to consider is a mat printed on neoprene or other materials that help organize the playing area or replace the board (often upgrading the graphics or increasing the size of the board.) Playmats for individual players to organize their pieces, cards, tokens or components are available for some games. 

Lastly, many companies sell their games through Kickstarter or other crowdfunding platforms, which has allowed game publishers to offer multiple versions of a game, including a base version of the game and a deluxe version. The deluxe version often will include ornate miniature figurines (a.k.a. “mini figs” or simply “minis”) to replace the simpler pieces or tokens that come with the base game. Some people will buy the deluxe version of a game just to get the minis, even if they aren’t interested in the game itself. They want the minis to play tabletop wargames that use minis. These crowdfunded deluxe versions may include components, additional scenarios or expansions that may not be available in retail stores, so these types of upgrades may need to be purchased upfront or at a premium on the secondary market later on. 

Regardless of the degree of your involvement in the board game hobby, there is a range of options available for you to step up your game to a new level. Incorporating some deluxe components can significantly improve a game’s aesthetic table presence and enhance your gaming experience.