Part One: Shelving and Other Storage Solutions
Eventually, for most board game enthusiasts, the conundrum of storing is going to happen.
Most board gamers start out with just one or two games that fit nicely on a shelf or in the closet, but once the bug hits, a dedicated shelf becomes a requirement. And then maybe another one. Then a third…and now you need to maximize space.
So what’s the best way to store games? And why should you care?
First of all, modern tabletop games hold their value. A game kept in good condition, with an intact box with no scuffs, dishing of the top or bottom, or crushed corners, is worth something. Don’t ever tape a box with sticky tape – it will tear the paper– or stack games 5 or 6 high, as the weight from the top games will dish the bottom boxes. If you have kept your games in good condition, they can be sold on or traded to other gamers. But they have to be in good shape and well taken care of if you want to get a good trade or price for them.
Plus, they look so pretty on display! The box art is meant to be appreciated.
Storing games in a climate controlled environment, away from damp, heat, and excessive humidity will keep the playing boards from warping and in good condition. It goes without saying that smoking around cardboard board games makes them really smelly! It’s almost impossible to get smoke odor out, too.
There are some great shelving options out there now. Here are some of the more popular choices.
One of the standards for game storage, due to the depth of the unit, as well as the sturdy construction, is the Kallax shelf from IKEA.
It also comes in white, and in a half size from this one. The problem with a shelf from IKEA is you really need to live near a store to pick it up (shipping is exorbitant) and you need to build it. This shelf runs around $140.00.
I have a half Kallax, shown here in use:
As you can see, the shelves are quite deep and tall enough for Euro game boxes. It’s a very heavy piece of furniture.
More commonly available from WalMart is the Better Homes and Gardens shelf, which looks similar.
However, it is not exactly the same in quality as the IKEA model, so you have to decide if convenience is worth a slightly less well constructed product. You also have to build this one, but it’s a lot easier to get. Selling for about $70, it’s much less than the Kallax.
A thrifty option is to find shelves at a local charity or resale shop. My local Habitat for Humanity always has a selection of bookshelves. I have found some really nice, quality shelving for $30-$50, so it’s worth checking out. Just make sure a shelf is sturdy enough to hold your games, and deep enough to fit the boxes vertically and horizontally. Game boxes can get tall and bulky. Bookshelves often don’t have the shelf width and height you need to store games but there is usually quite a variety to choose from. I have not yet found a Kallax but one can dream…
Another option is track shelving, which you can build if you have the space and the ability to change your walls (they are permanent, so if you rent, it may not be an option unless you want to patch and paint when you leave). Find track shelving at places like Home Depot. This is the bulk of my game storage. The advantages are it’s not that expensive, it’s extremely versatile, and it looks nice.
The system uses vertical hangers like this:
…and prefinished boards that sit on brackets that attach on the hangers. The beauty of this system is you can make your shelf heights adjustable, and the boards are quite wide, so you have deep shelving.
Here is an example of track shelving:
You can also get boards that are finished in a wood grain. One small issue is the brackets create a lower space than the rest of the shelf, so you have to find a shorter game to store there!
Now that you have a shelf, how do you store your games? Vertically or horizontally?
If you check out the box art on many Euro games, it becomes clear that they are meant to be stored vertically, like books. Vertical storage is advantageous for a couple of reasons – it frees up more space, and keeps the boxes from dishing and getting damaged. Games stored this way are also more accessible. Many game boxes are roughly the same height and width, which makes a pretty shelf display. Some games, though, are just too long or big to store vertically, so they have to be stacked horizontally. Three or four high is probably the most you ever want to stack, and make sure to put the heavy games on the bottom! Weight dishes the bottoms and the tops, and bows out the sides. Crushed boxes decrease the value, a lot, and they don’t look very nice.
For games that have lots of cards, it can make sense to store them horizontally unless you are sure the insert won’t have cards flying all over if it goes on its side. Those games tend to be heavy, as well, especially with expansions.
Once you have them on the shelf, then the decision of how to organize them is your next challenge. As you can see, above I have them by designer (Knizia and Feld are all together, but then it’s a hodge podge), or maybe just how they fit on the shelf will work. You can go by color, alphabetically, by genre, player count, complexity, mechanic, theme…just don’t drive yourself crazy. Good luck!
I have seen storage solutions where even large games are stored in large plastic bags or containers, which can make sense if you have space issues or the original box no longer holds the game and expansions.
My dog managed to destroy the box for my copy of Castles of Mad King Ludwig, so I now use a plastic scrapbook case for the game. Craft and hobby stores, such as Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and Joanne Fabrics all have interesting storage solution ideas. Try the scrapbooking areas for inspiration.
Bagging games in jumbo plastic ziplock bags (I think they are gallon size) is a great solution if you want to pack a full-size game for a trip, especially if you are flying and have limited luggage options. I love the look of game boxes, but sometimes it’s more efficient to ditch them. Just save those boxes somewhere. Saving expansion boxes is more debatable – I don’t save them myself, although some buyers will ask for them.
For long term storage, plastic tubs that seal are really the best solution. Cardboard boxes are too vulnerable to vermin and damp, so put them in plastic. Label those tubs — you’ll never remember what’s in there in a month or two. Hopefully you aren’t storing your games for too long, though — if you aren’t appreciating them or playing them, send them on to a new home that will.
So much for the big games, but what about the small ones? As you can see in the Kallax photo, I have small games in a basket. The Kallax can also hold removable drawer units that can store small games. Sounds good, but there is an even better solution that makes all those tiny games storable, and portable: ditch the boxes and get a photo storage box at the hobby store:
It’s called an Iris Photo Keeper, and sells for around $21 (full price is $40 at Michael’s but wait until they are on sale). Pro tip: at the store open the case and check to make sure the boxes inside close well — I have found the Iris are better made than some of the other brands. The photo keeper is great for storing and getting small card, dice, and micro games to a game night. Just keep the original game boxes in case you want to move any along in the future. It’s portable, convenient, and frees up a lot of space and clutter.
Here is (one) of mine – I have several! I have my small games labeled inside, with player count. It’s not the prettiest labeling job, but at least I know what’s in there.
Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to display your game collection proudly. Have your own storage solutions? Share in the comments!
Next: Part 2: Storing Inside the Box