I just spent...well, a bunch of money on card sleeves over the last couple of weeks, for a total of 7 games.

It's the age-old question of the boardgamer, or at least those gamers who play games with cards.

To sleeve or not to sleeve their cards?

An sleeves example

What do sleeves do?

For those who don't know, sleeves are a good way to protect your cards from wear. If cards are shuffled a lot, they start to wear down, and maybe you start being able to tell what the card is just because it has that smudge on the back of it.

That isn't a good thing when it's all supposed to be unknown information! Especially for games like deckbuilders, where you're constantly shuffling your deck.

It can become a nuisance.

Yikes! A really bad Magic: the Gathering card

But sleeving cards? Is it worth it? Is it mandatory?

Obviously, the answer to the latter question is "no," (though some people can't imagine that answer), but ask the first question to a bunch of gamers and you'll get a lot of different answers.

What's my take on sleeving cards?

It depends (Empty Chair: "way to be decisive!")

For me, the question is "how much are the cards shuffled?

Deckbuilders, it's almost mandatory, though it's taken me a while to sleeve Arctic Scavengers and Trains. (I will be as soon as I get the sleeves)

A card from Trains

Those cards get shuffled a lot. The decks that you're getting cards is shuffled when you start the game. When you purchase the cards, they go into your deck and you are constantly reshuffling your deck. Your starter cards especially start showing signs of wear and then you can look at the top card of your deck and say "oh, that's an Apprentice (if you're playing Ascension) because of that crease that's down the back."

Then there are games where the cards aren't shuffled at all.

That would include two games I own, Planet Steam and Olympus. There's no need to shuffle them, they are never secret.

Cards from the game Olympus

Or maybe another game may have cards shuffled at the beginning of the game but never again. Unless you play the game a lot, those cards are probably safe (think the little cards in Blood Bowl: Team Manager).

Some of the mini-cards in Blood Bowl: Team Manager. They don't get shuffled much.

Some people won't even play their copy of the game until all of their cards are snug in their protective vests.

Some others think sleeving is horrible. It makes the cards feel terrible in their hands, it makes them hard to shuffle (which is certainly true) and they would rather just play the game until it can't be played anymore. If they want to keep playing it, they'll eventually buy another copy of it.

So how expensive is sleeving?

I can only give you Canadian prices, but obviously the higher-quality sleeve, the higher the cost.

The standard sleeves I use for most of my games

Fantasy Flight Standard clear sleeves can cost me $3.50 CDN for a pack of 50 sleeves. Mayday has cheap sleeves that I use for Marvel Legendary because there are enough cards in that game to choke a small city. But their quality is pretty bad.

Some games come with cards of a special size that require non-standard sleeves, but those can often be found for around the same price.

Those who really love their games and want to bling them out may buy sleeves such as Dragonshield, which are much more expensive.

And some don't like clear sleeves, but want sleeves with a coloured back so you can't see the back of the card. This can help if your cards are already worn on the back. It also helps with custom made cards (such as many fans have made for Firefly: the Game),  because they feel no different than the regular cards (all cards are equal in sleeves where you can't see the back).

Some coloured sleeve ideas

So those are some of the reasons and issues with card sleeving.

It all depends on what you want, and there really is no wrong answer (though some gamers would say there is).

What do you think? Do you sleeve your cards? Or is that heresy because games are supposed to be enjoyed, not kept pristine?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think!