What’s In The Box?!? – Useful Board Game Accessories
This’ll come a shock to approximately no one, but I really enjoy playing board games. I figured out a while ago that the stuff in the box obviously makes the game, but there are a number of things you can purchase that will take your gaming experiences from fun to awesome. Let’s talk about board game accessories.
Accessories may not be the best word, but I want to talk about all the things you can get as a board gamer that aren’t a game. Some of these are common sense, some of these may surprise you. I try to keep a game accessory bin with a mix of the contents below in it. I will be including some links, but I do not make anything off of you clicking the links or buying things from the stores listed, except for my Etsy store of course. I’ve broken the accessories into groups – things that help while playing, things to help with set up and tear down, ways to better take your games with you, and other useful accessories. I’ve also included some suggestions for games that utilize the given accessory well where applicable.
GeekUp Bit Bowls
BoardGameGeek makes a variety of accessories that I think are wonderful to have on hand. The one that I use the most often are the Bit Bowls. They’re bowls that lay flat until you fold them, then they are square bowls that are great for a variety of bits in games. You can use them to hold resources in a game or for individual players so their pieces don’t run everywhere. They come in 13 colors and in two different sizes. I think the smaller ones are the more appropriate size for most games, but the large size are also nice.
One thing that was mentioned to me that I generally agree with is while you’ll want to put the yellow resources in the yellow bowl, if it’s a close match in colors, it can be hard to spot the pieces. It’s a minor issue, admittedly, but it’s still something to consider. Also, if you have a silicone allergy, you may have issues touching the bowls. You can see the bowls here. You can also find designs or make your own out of cloth and buttons.
GeekUp Card & Bit Holders
Another accessory sold by BoardGameGeek are Card and Bit Holders. They are also made of silicone and are in the same 13 colors as the Bit Bowls. They work as card stands to help hold cards upright as well as a set of 5 small sections to hold resources for each player during the game. While they can be used for individual players, they’re also useful for just holding up cards that need to be seen by everyone or holding small number of tokens. I’ve not gotten to use these much so far, but as a demo person, I think being able to offer card stands to players is a good idea. You can see them here.
Not all games call for a dice tray, and not all gamers like using them, but I’ve found they can be handy for both keeping the noise of dice rolling and containing wild rolls. There are a large variety of dice trays out there. I’m a fan of the one that Chip Theory makes because it’s simple and I got it for “free” for buying enough Too Many Bones stuff. However, it is leather, which some folks aren’t a fan of. They also offer neoprene ones that are like mousepad material. They’re nice, but as they don’t lie flat, dice can potentially be cocked when you roll them. If you’re looking for something easy to do at home for a dice tray, you can always get a shadow box frame and attach a piece of felt to the back. This allows for more customization with the colors and is much easier to find at most local craft stores.
Poker Chips / Coins
I hate paper money with a passion. It feels cheap, it is a pain to pick up, it gets everywhere, and it damages so easily. There’s one exception to this – Millennium Blades has you wrap stickers around a stack of 10 bills. This helps it not be just a small piece of paper, meaning you can pick it up much easier.
There are a number of ways to replace paper money. Poker chips are an obvious choice, as they are relatively easy to purchase, are consistent in design (within a given set, at least) and aren’t going to run away at the first light breeze. Of course, taking them along with your game may double or triple the total weight of what you are taking. Mini poker chips are also useful, but are a little harder to find consistently. They can also still weigh a good bit. Meeple Source used to make a set of wooden money discs that I’ve used, and they’re nice. They’ve retired that design and have a new one, which I think also looks good, but I have not used this set. Of course, wooden money works really well for some games, but some people prefer a nice sound from their money. Der Coinmeister makes a variety of aluminum coins that come in a variety of colors, but these are more expensive than the wooden discs.
These can always be used to track points, health, or other things as well. Different replacements will work better for different uses, of course. The short version is if you want to replace your money or point tokens, try out someone’s set of any of these and see what you think. Your needs may not match mine. I used to use a mini poker chip set, but the weight was frustrating, so now I use the aluminum coins from Der Coinmeister. I like the feeling of metal, the light weight of the aluminum as opposed to poker chips, and the case is a nice touch. That being said, they sent me a set to use and review, which I’ll do once I get to use them more at the table. I do wish the coins were better for stacking, but they’re still well made.
Games with unfortunate paper money always benefit from replacements, but Power Grid really shines with replacements.
Since we run an Etsy shop that sells bags, I’ll admit that we’ve become bag snobs. Some games have you pull randomly from the box lid, others come with thin bags that are too small for my giant hands. If you have any sewing ability, making a small bag would be easy. We find it’s just a nice thing to have for some games, but it’s certainly not as widely used as other things in the accessory box.
The Quacks of Quedlinburg and Arkham Horror LCG both really benefit from bags, but I may be biased for these. 😉
It may seem silly to bust out your smartphone when you’re playing analog games, but there are a number of apps that are great. Chwazi is a simple way to randomly pick a first player or to pick groups for a team game. You can get it for Android or iOS.
I’m also a big fan of tracking my game plays. For some, this is about seeing how often you win. For me, it’s about seeing what all I play and seeing how often I play a given game, a given kind of game, or how long it’s been since I have played a particular title. While you can do this on BoardGameGeek.com directly, their mobile interface isn’t the best. BG Stats is a great app that will log plays, help you run challenges for yourself (like playing 100 new games in a year), and give you access to stats about the games you play.
One other application that I sometimes find useful is Scorekeeper XL. It’s a digital score tracker that lets me easily manage the scores of a number of players and track them round to round. While not the normal usage, I also like using it to track the rounds in some games by adding a player called Rounds who loses a point every round. There are many apps that do this same job, I just happen to like this one.
When I do demos at my FLGS (If you don’t know what this means, read up on Board Game Jargon here), I like using a large roll of neoprene that lets cards slide a little better, but also gives a little padding on the table. This helps with both noise levels with some games and makes picking up cards or stubborn pieces much easier. For some games, a personal playmat would be plenty of space.
Most LCGs and CCGs benefit from a playmat, with Arkham LCG being a personal favorite.
Brick of dice
Having a small number of easily read dice can be helpful in many games. Making an easy substitution of dice for small counters can make things play much faster. Having a variety of colors can be nice for different tokens, such as tracking health, mana, or money.
Small plastic bags are super useful for containing player pieces or groups of bits. I tend to like two sets of baggies most. 3 x 4 inch bags are great for small decks of cards or small amounts of bits. 4 x 6 bags are great for larger decks or bigger components. You can get these bags in bulk at many craft stores.
2 oz sauce cups
Think about the little plastic cups that you usually put ketchup or salad dressing in. They’re great for a small amount of liquid, but they can also be great for small amounts of board game pieces. One of the big advantages of the cups over baggies is they’ll stay relatively self contained when you put them out on the table. You can get larger cups if the game calls for them as well. I got mine on Amazon, but you should be able to get them at most party supply or similar stores.
If a deck of cards is particularly large, it may make sense to get reusable tape. You can get this from a number of places, including some game stores. It is a roll of a tape like material that only sticks to itself. It has a little stretch to it, which means you can use it on your cards and they won’t separate. It’s also reusable and is great for all size of cards. If you can’t find this locally, you can look for self-adhesive reusable tape on Amazon — just be aware it is also used for some adult bedroom activities, and some brands market it as such.
While I take games more seriously than most, it’s still good to have solid options for getting your games from point A to point B.
Board Game Bags
At conventions, lots of places give out bags with purchases, but you can also get a free bag from CoolStuffInc when you go by their booth. They’re a good size for games and while not the most hearty, the price is certainly right. It’s better for storing games on their sides, which may be an issue for you.
BoardGameTables have a few designs for a HUGE bag that could easily knock over things if you weren’t paying attention. They’re big enough to hold a large number of games, but it’s not the best for keeping games organized. While it does keep the games flat, it works best for pulling games out when on its back, which means the games are stored vertically. I’ve had my version 1 since BGG.Con 2018 and it’s great for lugging a number of larger games at once. I also got one of their newer bag designs and I really appreciate the updates. The name tag, the shoulder strap, and the duffel handle are all welcome additions. I just wish it still had the handle on “the top” like the first iteration. My major complaint about this size bag is that it can get unwieldy and while good for an individual on the go, at conventions it can just clutter up the aisles and get in the way.
While the bag options are nice for carrying large games, sometimes you don’t want to tote around a bunch of larger games. Sometimes you want to be able to take a number of small games with you. I’ve had a Quiver for years and I absolutely love it. It’s amazing for taking a number of small games, especially card games, with you wherever you go. It’s small enough to not be too much of a pain and holds a surprising amount of stuff. I love it for taking my LCGs around as well, but it’s great for any small box games. You can buy one on Amazon and while it may be a bit pricier than other options, the quality is very high and I’ve never had an issue with it.
If you’ve ever played a legacy game and you needed to write on something, having something that you know will write on a card or board is useful. Multiple colors are nice, but just tossing an extra fine point permanent marker in your bag can be great. It’s also super useful if you’re the kind of person who gets things signed at conventions.
Paper cutter, Laminator, and Dry Erase Markers
If you make any print and play games or print out errata, FAQs, or other game aids, a paper cutter and laminator are great to have. Paper cutters have evolved when scrapbooking hit mainstream years ago and you can get a small one for cutting out cards or print outs for not much. I’m a big fan of this one from Fiskars, but again, you can find a number of different options at your local craft store or online.
A laminator is almost a must have for anyone who likes roll and write style of games. Making the sheets reusable is perfect for both making a pad of sheets last longer and for decreasing the amount of space a game can take up. I’m a fan of the Purple Cows laminator that Amazon has, but the model I have doesn’t seem to be sold anymore. The one I linked seems similar.
If you laminate sheets that you need to write on, you’ll obviously need some kind of dry erase markers to use on them. I’m a fan of these ones from Amazon because they are inexpensive and work well. You can also go for a nicer set of markers, like these ones.
1 Player Guild Coin / 1st Coin
I know it’s silly, but I keep my 1 Player Guild coin in my pocket as something to fiddle with while other players are taking their turns. It also doubles as a random player chooser (yes, I am aware of the irony). You can also get similar coins from any number of online stores or at conventions. Plastic, metal, laser cut wood – there are a ton of options. These are great for me as a reminder of who went first in a game where it matters, but I more often use the coin as a reminder of whose turn it is in games that I have to walk away from playing to help other people out.
I’m not the average gamer, I get that, but maybe you’ll see something in that list that inspires you to up your gaming. Maybe you know of something that I missed – I’d love to hear about it.