The board gaming hobby has increased in popularity exponentially over the last decade. And as numbers increased, it created space for enterprising small businesses to become viable. Board game accessories are now a big deal. So what are you missing out in?
The simple answer is loads. From Etsy sites to home made upgrades there are loads of clever and innovative ways to upgrade your favourite games. I’m not going to go into detail here, but instead give you a bit of an overview. Hopefully it will be enough to point you in the right direction.
Upgrade the components
Perhaps the most common board game accessories upgrades are components. Fancy dice have been around for years, largely thanks to the role-playing hobby. From metal to multi-coloured, you can even have them customised with your own logo on one side. I’d definitely suggest checking out Metallic Dice Games, for example – where you can get a 10% discount with the code ‘goplaylisten’.
But dice are now the tip of the iceberg. Games with resources are commonplace, so upgrading everything from your wood and sheep to the money and player pieces are commonplace. It started with simple wooden shapes. But enterprising firms now offer some fantastic handmade pieces. Such as those pictured below, from The Game Crafter. The most popular games (such as Terraforming Mars and Power Grid) often have sets of counters specifically put together to replace those in the box.
Sleeves & laminate
But it’s not always about the looks. Board game accessories can also add longevity to your favourite board games. Collectable card game (Magic, Pokemon etc) players have long used plastic sleeves to keep their cards in perfect condition. This helps maintains their value. But it also stops the cards becoming marked, which can be especially problematic for tournament play. This phenomenon is now firmly in the board game arena too, with many players sleeving their cards to maintain their quality.
Laminating is also growing in popularity. A big driver for this has been the huge growth of roll-and-write games. Buying new score sheets is clearly a false economy compared to laminating a few and using them repeatedly. But you’ll find nervous players laminating all kinds of other game components – from flimsy player boards to player aids. This is particularly useful for game extras you’ve downloaded and printed off yourself.
you can even take this to the next level. Games such as Zombicide and Terraforming Mars can really benefit from player board organisers. These are usually made from plastic or even plexiglass. And help keep important counters in the right spots.
Board game accessories: Box inserts
Another growth area is box inserts. While some publishers are making an effort to put compartments in the game boxes, many just leave you to worry about that yourselves.
Personally, I’m happy with throwing the bits in a few plastic baggies. But if you like everything in its place, there’s a whole world of inserts waiting for you.
- HDF: High density fibreboard can be laser-cut with great accuracy, creating super thin walls to separate components. This is super useful in games with a lot of sturdy wooden or plastic bits.
- Foam: Foam trays were formally purely in the realm of war gamers. They’re perfect for transporting more fragile game pieces such as detailed plastic or metal miniatures. Especially if you’ve gone to the trouble of painting them. But with many board games now having equally fragile components, foam inserts are now commonplace.
But this doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. One great budget solution is a simple plastic ‘bits box’. Pop to your local pound shop, or discount DIY store. You’re bound to find small plastic containers of nails, screws, picture hanging pieces etc – usually dirt cheap. Simply empty the bits into another container and you have perfect board game accessories.
Extras: Bowls, tables, chips & towers
Here’s a round-up of some other popular board game accessories that can add to the player experience. Just don’ blame me when your credit card bill comes in…
- Poker chips: Money can be one a disappointing game component. From flimsy paper to thin cardboard, it’s often overlooked by publishers. So a high quality set of poker chips can be a great addition to your game shelf. Simply grab them whenever you play a game with crappy money. I got mine from Premier at a surprisingly good price.
- Bits bowls: Your game table can soon get messy, especially if you’re a euro or Ameritrash fan. But a little imagination can go a long way to tidying things up. Get a few food takeaways? Save those little plastic sauce pots. Or what better excuse to grab some packs of Gu puddings? The perfect size for keeping components in!
- Dice towers: Rolling dice can be problematic on a bust game table. We all have a friend who can’t keep them on the table. Or who knocks over half the game pieces when they throw. So why not invest in a dice tower? They look great on the table, while also keeping things fair and contained. My favourites are the Legendary Dice Throwers from Drawlab – who also make amazing metal coins for your games.
- Game tables: Got a couple of grand burning a hole in your pocket? Then you could consider upgrading your game room with a dedicated board game table. The simplest ones have a removable top, with a baize beneath for gaming. Perfect, as you can leave a game set up and still have dinner in style. But the more you pay, the more you get – from drink holders to pull-out player shelves. Check out Geeknson, for example.
Are board game accessories a false economy?
Before you get your wallet out though, think good and hard about what you’re paying for. Because while good board games tend to have great resale value, components are a different story.
Tables, towers and poker chips are great because you can use them for games throughout your collection. But game-specific additions may add little to no value to your games. Just because you wanted custom meeples for your game, it doesn’t mean anyone else will be happy to pay extra for it when you get bored of the game.
But if you and your group are big on aesthetics, good board game accessories can make a difference. so let me know your favourites – and more importantly what I’ve missed.