Wednesday, November 02, 2016


I'm a compulsive sleever these days. Most of my games are sleeved (and those that aren't make me twitchy). And it's because I know the life cycle of a game - they print an initial print run. If it sells out quickly, more are printed. If it sells out slowly, it may or may not get an additional run. If it doesn't sell out after a bit, it goes on clearance and will never be reprinted.

I also know how much wear I put on my games. Deckbuilders especially, as it's "take two turns and reshuffle" for most games for a good long while. That puts a ton of wear on the cards.  So I sleeve my cards as much as I can.

I always try to sleeve out-of-print games, too. I spent a few hours recently sleeving The Great Khan Game, because that would be a crazy-difficult game to replace at a reasonable price.

Some games also change slightly from print run to print run. Some of my Cutthroat Caverns cards are mismatched just enough that you can pick them out when unsleeved. Sleeving them fixed that right away (now if only someone would make a 90x90 sleeve that isn't a penny sleeve for my event cards ... ).

I have one friend who - every time sleeves come up in discussion - expresses distaste for them. Every. Time. And I just don't understand the hate.  Sure they make it a little bit more difficult to shuffle - but not much, and it gets easier with practice. It's not like we're stuck in the mid-nineties when card sleeves were not tournament legal for Magic: The Gathering and other collectible games.
At the dawn of the Magic era, card sleeves existed for the storage and display of collectable [sic] cards. The idea that cards will retain a collectable [sic] value while also being played was revolutionary. Most early players refused to sleeve their cards. Sleeves available at the time fell into two categories: “penny” sleeves-- cheap, flimsy, and thin, and “top-loaders”-- two rigid plastic sheets bound together. In 1995 Ultra-PRO became the first company to sell card sleeves specifically designed for use during game play.
So said Wizards of the Coast in 2004. Those 1995 sleeves by the way? Sucked.  They were awful. A huge improvement over the other two types listed, but still bad.  They're much better, now, than they were at the time. But now Ultra-PRO has much more competition, too.

So what changed in the sleeving world?  The market's focus shifted.

The original penny sleeves were a loose fit that were a huge pain to shuffle. They were also wildly inconsistent - if you didn't buy them all at once, there was no guarantee that they'd be the same size (which effectively made for marked cards). This is because they were designed to hold baseball (and other sports) cards. Baseball cards are printed on a thin cardboard rather than a cardstock, so they sleeves needed to be a bit looser. And no-one in their right mind shuffled baseball cards, so the sleeves of the day didn't need to slide off of one another.

Once Magic cards started to be worth actual money, however, people wanted to protect their investments. The sleeve companies saw that there was interest in sleeves you could use for play, and they responded, to everyone's benefit.

Not long ago, a friend and I went to his FLGS to buy some sleeves.  He'd recently purchased Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China, and wanted to protect it. With good reason - it's a fun game, and sleeves will extend that fun because - again - deckbuilder.

So I checked this geeklist for the Legendary games (they all use the same size, as they're mostly cross-compatible), and the box for a number and told him confidently, "You need 400 of the Fantasy Flight Grey sleeves." Which matched my memory from sleeving Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deckbuilding Game.

Side note: I really like the Fantasy Flight Supply line of sleeves for most sizes. They're high-quality, well-fitting, come in enough sizes to fit most of the games that are out there, and - most importantly - they are consistent from run to run. They don't make every size I'd like to sleeve, but they sure try.

That geeklist, by the way, does have occasional errors, but it's correct much more often than it isn't. 

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