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Last night it took me nearly 10 minutes to get a game from the bottom of my current stack of games and put everything back.

I'm convinced that stacking my board games on top of each other is no longer a reasonable solution, and is actually one thing preventing me from playing games as often as I'd like. Ideally it should be as easy to get a game out and set up as it is to turn on the TV, and while I can't realize that situation yet, I would at least like to get a little closer.

I'm planning on storing my boxed games on edge, with the internals separated in baggies, but this leads me to a few questions, which you will hopefully have a solution for:

  • Games in long thin boxes, such as monopoly and clue, tend to open if there's not enough pressure on the top and bottom, making removal difficult and/or tricky (incompatible with children) and causing them to spill their contents. Rubber bands slip off, break, and interfere with removing boxes from the shelf. Do I have any options here, or do I need to give up on storing games like I store books?
  • Limited space means I can't have a shelf for each size of game box. What are some good organization strategies or techniques so games are easy to find, and fit well next to each other despite widely varying dimensions?
  • What other organization strategies should I consider, or is there a way to use the stacking method while allowing games to be easy to remove and put away?
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Related: Cupboard size for storing board games –  Adam Davis Mar 21 '11 at 14:09

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I've also been trying to fit more board games in less space recently. Some notes so far:

  • The modern medium-square-box style of game works fine on the side in a bookcase; e.g. pretty much anything by Fantasy Flight or Days of Wonder. Catan and similar smaller boxes will work OK even on their end.

  • Old-style flat/thin boxes (Monopoly etc.) really don't side-stack well. (But frankly, they're also often inferior to modern game designs, so I don't mind leaving them at the bottom of a pile.) Other games pile really well sideways on top of a Monopoly box. If you're strong: Monopoly and Clue can go at the bottom, be pulled out sideways, and then the one you didn't play be lifted up along with all games on top of it to slide your chosen game back in underneath.

  • A lot of older games have bigger boxes than they need. If you don't care about resale value, your Monopoly and Clue sets will fit just fine in the Monopoly box. (If you're not bothered at all by losing the boxes, consider just getting a bunch of clear plastic boxes which do stack and repacking all your games in them. Add some sticky labels on the sides and you're done.)

  • In limited space, start by packing the biggest games in a corner first, then work outward. This makes the larger games less accessible - but they're often also the longest, least-often-played.

  • If rubber bands aren't working for you, try a long strip of velcro fastener... usually comes in the form of a long fuzzy strip with velcro on the end. It'll wrap around the box and seal to itself.

  • If you play any small pub card games (e.g. anything by Cheapass or Looney Labs), get a single case you can carry easily to fit them all in.

(I've got all my small card games and Icehouse pieces packed in a single old vanity case. Not only compact, but easy to take to the pub.)


My hints on internal organisation of the games:

  • Plastic baggies are OK for games with few counters, but clumsy for many. Any craft shop will carry subdivided plastic trays in various sizes, intended for storing beads and the like. They work very well for storing counters.

(For example, my Galactica set has the boards underneath with a plastic box on top with all counters and pieces divided by type, and the decks of cards lying rubber-banded alongside. All expansions fit neatly in the original box and we don't have to sort out the pieces before play, just take out the storage box and leave it by the board.)

  • Card decks rubber-band just fine. (Leave a couple of spare rubber bands in the game box for those moments when they snap.)

  • Consider preferring games with good storage trays built in! (Small World and Dominion spring to mind.)

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Card decks develop a noticeable bowing after a few years; after 5+, many rubber bands will leave a mark upon the cards, and after several years, most are brittle and/or have glued themselves to the cards. Ziplocks are a far better option than rubber bands. –  aramis Mar 22 '11 at 6:21
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@aramis: True, but not a problem for me. The probability of a card deck in any game in my house going unused for enough years for the band to go brittle or stick to the cards is zero. (Also, I use pretty high-quality rubber bands when called for.) Broad bands, not stretched too tightly, don't cause enough bowing to be noticeable for our group - cards wear through use faster than that anyway. For games which consist entirely of card decks, I use CCG card boxes. –  Tynam Mar 23 '11 at 8:39
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@aramis I tend to use hair elastics instead (eg: ladyjayne.com.au/ajax.php?pid=255&height=300&width=500 ) - the fabric covering means that they're less likely to mark the cards, and the wrapped deck is more likely to fit back into its tray insert than ziplock bags. Does have the bowing issue you mentioned, though. –  Margaret Mar 31 '11 at 13:31
    
@Margaret: I grew up in a hairdresser's, so how did I never think of this before? Thanks, good idea. –  Tynam Mar 31 '11 at 16:16

Storing on side? Being an old-school wargamer, three things come immediately to mind:

  1. Counter Trays
  2. Ziplock Baggies
  3. Box Bands

There used to be plastic vacuformed couter trays (with lids) available; probably still are. Other equivalents are small plano boxes, and sewing organizers, many of which will work, as well, for keeping bits organized.

Ziplocks, in assorted sizes. Jewelry sized (3x4"), snack sized, and sandwich sized give you lots of storage options with little overage and space waste. Stuff in ziplocks will slide within, but won't mix-n-mingle.

Box bands come in several types... one is just a large rubber band. Better quality are the genuine "Box Bands" which make an X shape. Also, one can make short sleeves from paper, transparency sheet, or light card; glue or tape these into a 3" wide sleeve, and it will keep the box from opening while on the shelf. Tyvek also has been used for sleeving boxes; it works great, and you might be able to get some scrap from a construction site that's more than large enough for banding boxes.

For the more esoteric stuff: if the bits won't survive sliding about, it may be time to adjust an insert. If the insert holds stuff nicely, but the lid doesn't hold stuff down into the insert, but you have the counter sprues, see if putting them under the insert holds it up enough. If not, buy some self-expanding insulation spray foam. Measure how much lift you need to secure the bits tray against the lit. Empty and remove the insert. fill the back of the insert to an even layer in stages; leave a bit of space. Using masking tape, raise the edge of the insert the needed amount, then fill to that level, and trim. Let dry thoroughly. Place back in box, load, lid, and test. Then, finally, make a box band to hold the lid on.

Some bits trays just badly suck... for those, replacement is the best option.If good with papercrafts, one can make card dividers, full height of the box less the rulebook's thickness. I've friends who've done this; me, I'm not a papercrafts-person. One can also buy sheets of sponge-foam. Cut to size, and using a really sharp knife, cut slots. If you want a smooth finish, cut every slot 1/16" thicker than desired, and then paint (while empty but assembled, and nowhere near the box!) with wall paints, latex &/or acrylic... this seals up the pores, and provides a plastic or latex shell; use several thin coats to avoid wicking deep. (I've done this for instrument case repairs, and for minis storage. The latex acrylic was an accidental discovery...)

Oh, and for reference, insul-foaming an insert makes it MUCH more rigid. It adds some weight, but it also means an insert that will last for YEARS.

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It seems to me if your games are getting crushed or it's taking so long to get at the bottom ones, your stacks are too high. I suggest dividing your shelving so that you have only about five games high, which keeps the weight down and makes removal, even via sliding, easy. In college, I used milk crates for this purpose, stacked 8x6 so nearly 50 different cubbies for games. (Now I use a custom built shelves). If you have a little more dough to spend, you can get stuff at major retail outlet or office supply companies.

Things like this are great at storing games, just make sure they're deep enough.

Random Shelf from Target

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If you are worried about the bits and pieces floating around inside the box, definitely go with plastic bags or a small craft organizer. Box inserts are designed for flat storage, and components can often float around insider the box if it is tipped.

Some games have more of a gap between the roof of the box and the top of the divider than others (see Castle Ravenloft/Wrath of Ashardalon). For these, you need to repack your components. It won't solve the issue of preventing some oddly shaped boxes from opening up on their sides, but at least the pieces won't get mixed up.

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I was just coming to make this point. The box insert for A Game of Thrones insists upon being stored top-up. And for that game in particular - I like the box insert! I guess I could replace it with a baggie-per-house, but I just...haven't. Uh oh. Now I'm thinking about replacing the box insert with baggies and condensing that game and its two expansions into a single box... –  gomad Mar 29 '11 at 18:09
    
I'm a big fan of tossing the insert and creating enough room to fit in expansions. I did this with both Small World and Last Night on Earth. At that point, the boxes do get fairly heavy. Unless you have perfectly equal sized boxes, you don't want to be stacking them at that point anyway or there will be some crushing. –  Gundabad Mar 29 '11 at 18:21

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