6 cheap and easy hacks to organise your board games
Bag it up, bag it in. Let me begin.
People have short attention spans. This goes double for young children and the friends you've finally convinced to play a board game for the first time.
Even some of the best board games out there can have a nightmarish amount of card, plastic and wood packed into their unassuming cardboard boxes. Banish those bad memories of introducing friends to Gloomhaven or the Game of Thrones board game, only for unpacking everything and arranging it on the table to take an hour, and make setting up your favourite board game quick and easy with these simple hacks to organise your game components.
A simple place to start: sandwich bags (~8p each)
The humble baggy is the simplest way to organised games. Pop down to your local supermarket and for a few quid you’ll have enough resealable sandwich bags to organise a decently sized collection. Some publishers are even starting to include a wad of baggies in place of a box insert. When you're organising components up into baggies, it can be useful to make bags of the starting components for each player. This makes starting the game super quick and, as long as you remember when you pack it away, you'll save lots of time.
A more crafty solution: bead boxes (~50p each)
Not to cast aspersions on the baggie - they’ve saved players from opening their boxes to find a chit salad the world over - but if you want to up your organisational game, bead boxes are the way to go. Baggies are useful for organising, but when it comes time to play the game you generally need to dump everything out of them - leaving you with a pile of plastic that the first gust of air will scatter across the room. Cue bead boxes. They’re a little more expensive but you can find bulk packs on Amazon or at your local craft store for a fairly reasonable price. Not only will they organise your box, but you can take them out, chuck them on the table and they’ll keep everything organised while you play.
Now to activate your trap card: deck boxes (£2+)
As good a pal as bead boxes are, they’re usually not big enough to hold a deck of cards. Bigger baggies will do this fine but if you want something a little more premium, deck boxes are the way to go. Simple deck boxes can be picked up from your friendly local game store for about a pound - we’re not looking for some gilded, hand-carved, rose quartz deck box on Etsy here. These chunky cuboids will slot nicely into game boxes and their sturdiness helps brace everything else, preventing your bag from becoming a giant maraca. Some small games will even fit entirely within a single deck box!
Clean up your chit: stationery supplies and cosmetics containers (£2-£10)
If you pop into your local Superdrug or Rymans, you’ll find a goldmine of bits and bobs to organise your games. Pill organisers and stackable screw-top cream pots make excellent token organisers for hobby games like X-Wing: The Miniatures Game or Warhammer Underworlds. Desk organisers and and small stationary boxes offer sturdier solution than baggies and bead boxes. They’ll cost a little bit more but they’re still cheaper than buying a dedicated premium insert. For your big luxury board games like Twilight Imperium, Gloomhaven or Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5, investing in some pots to organise all those expansions and Kickstarter stretch goals reduces those extensive setup times and just makes for a more pleasant user experience.
Make some efficiency cuts (Free)
Get out your knife and plunge it into the dodgy plastic insert that came with your latest purchase. This not only symbolises the cutting of ties with your disorganised past and the banishing memories of hour-long token-sorting sessions, but it’s also the next handy tip in this guide. When you find that your game came with an insert, don’t be afraid to cut it up and just use the parts that actually work. Some sections will hold things really well while others spill their contents no matter how carefully you handle the box. You can cut your insert into parts, saving the most useful sections and replacing the rest with some of the hacks previously mentioned. If you’re really short on space and feeling ambitious, you can even shrink the box itself town to make it more space efficient. For a bonus crafty tip, the ramekins that come with Gü puddings make great token organisers while you play.
“Stuff the budget, I’m feeling fancy” (£20+)
If you’re in a spending mood or there’s a game that’s got a special place in your heart then buying a custom insert, specially designed for the game you have in mind is the way to go. On the cheaper end, Folded Space make foam board inserts that won’t add too much weight to the box - a real consideration if you have to lug them to and from meet ups. Feldherr are another good option for lightweight, reasonably priced custom foam trays, though their selection is more focused on miniatures games. Then there’s a world of laser-cut MDF inserts. You’ll find brands like The Broken Token online or at specialist stalls at games conventions. They’re the sturdiest option but also the most expensive (and heaviest).