Do You Sleeve Your Board Games?

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I know we are among friends and I should stay away from taboo topics. You know, things like Politics, Religion or Do you sleeve your board games?

Yes, there are times when I sleeve my board games and I think you should too. Sleeving your board games is a personal choice and it doesn’t just come down to a cost/benefit decision. Let’s investigate this a little deeper.

In this article we’ll find out what sleeves are and why they can be useful. You’ll discover the pros and cons of card sleeves and leave you with the ability to decide if you want to invest in them.

Do you sleeve your board games

Table of Contents

What are sleeves?

Sleeves are plastic pockets in which your cards can sit snuggly inside. The sleeves provide a level of protection from dirt and liquid that the cards would not get without them. The sleeves themselves vary in style and thickness.

Some sleeves may have a clear front and colored back. So, if you want to see both sides of the cards then make sure you go for the clear type.

Different sized card sleeves

If identifying your cards before drawing them would lessen the game play. Then having a solid color back to conceal them in the deck will be perfect.

The thickness of sleeves vary from around 40 microns all the way up to 120 microns. Anything less than 60 microns is considered light. When you hear someone say penny sleeves they are usually referring to this kind of thickness. The penny sleeves get their name from the fact you can buy 100 for around $1.

Penny sleeves are OK and they provide a level of protection that is better than none at all. You do get what you pay for though and I would recommend you buy something over 60 microns for durability.

Over 60 microns and under 90 are mid quality and are a good option. Over 90 microns are the more premium quality sleeves. You will find these will provide lasting protection for your cards.

I have started to use Titanshield 100 micron sleeves as they are reasonably priced and I like the feel. Also, the card handling is good too.

What is the point of card sleeves?

The obvious one here is that the sleeves protect your cards from sticky fingers, fluids. Or anything else floating around a game board that could damage your cards in some way.

There are other, not so obvious, reasons that you might want to sleeve your cards though.

To prevent cards getting marked

If your cards get marked you will be able to identify them. If that gives you an insight into what is coming up then it may detract from the gameplay.

For example, in Forbidden Desert one of the decks has ‘Sun Beats Down.’ This will reduce every unprotected character’s water by 1. This could lose the game. If these ‘Sun Beats Down’ cards get marked in some way then you will know when they are going to be turned up. This kinda ruins the game. Protecting the cards makes sense.

I have an article on Strategy For Forbidden Desert Board Game which may be of interest if you’ve not come across the game.

They are easier to shuffle

Some consider that overhand shuffle is also easier with sleeves. Sleeving your cards also makes mash shuffling your cards easier.  This is a good way to make sure you get a well shuffled deck. See the images below which demonstrate mash shuffling.

Mash card shuffling

Mash card shuffling

  • Cut the deck and ensure you conceal the underside of the deck.
  • Hold the two decks loosely and insert the corners of one into the other deck.
  • Push the cards together to complete the shuffle.

Peace of mind

When you have friends over you can relax and have peace of mind. Knowing that your friends can have a good time without cringing at every spilt beer. If they are not as careful as you then you have protected your games. Accidents happen and this way you can relax and not worry about it.

Are sleeved cards easier to shuffle?

There are several styles of shuffling cards. Riffling is not recommended as this can bend the cards over time. Overhand and mash shuffling are the most common methods for board gamers.

Overhand shuffle

I have seen some people say that they find it easier to overhand shuffle their cards. Especially when the cards are small and the sleeves give that little bit of extra size.

Mash shuffle

Mash shuffling though is a lot easier and definitely worth sleeving. It also protects the edges of your cards from mash shuffling damage.

For those who don’t know what mash shuffling is then take a look and this useful video below.

The final choice

You can see that sleeving your board game cards is not always to add protection. Sometimes it is to make sure you can’t identify cards and keep the integrity of the game you are playing.

Other times it could be a purely personal choice, maybe you like the feel or find it easier to shuffle the deck.

There is value attached to your board games that is personal to you. To sleeve or not will depend on the value you assign to your board games.

Let’s take a final look at the pros and cons of sleeving.


Sleeving protects your cards
Extends the life of your board game
Makes shuffling easier
Gives you peace of mind


Can be costly to sleeve
Sleeved cards take up more storage space

If you are like me then I am attached to my board games and want to look after them. So, as long as the sleeving doesn’t detract from the game experience then I am happy to sleeve. Also, it took some practice and I now find mashing cards easy. This improves the games and makes sure that the shuffle is thorough.

So, the choice is yours and only you can make the decision. Based on how much you value your games.

Go on, give them a try. I would recommend trying out a few packs and seeing what you think. Try an 80 micron, 100 micron and 120 micron pack. You can check out some great sleeves at Amazon by clicking here. It is only by trying that you can decide if sleeves will suit you.

How to sleeve cards quickly

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