They look cool, they can advertise your prowess if they’re a tournament exclusive design, but they’re not going to make any real difference to your game, are they? Actually, they really do.
First of all, using a playmat gives you a defined play area to stick to – really handy if the game you’re playing involves lots of cards all laid out at once – they can spread pretty far if you’re not careful, and the more table space you have to keep an eye on, the harder it’s going to be to not miss something. Some playmats take this a step further by marking out specifics areas to put certain cards down, giving you in effect a game board to use.
Then there’s the playmat surface itself. That soft surface provides multiple services: it protects your cards from any rough surface on your table; it makes it easier to pick your cards up (anyone with short nails knows what I’m talking about here; that tiny bit of give in a playmat is a godsend); and it stops your cards sliding around on the smooth table surface (trying ‘tapping’ a card on a polished table surface and see how many times it will spin before it stops). There’s a huge variety of playmats out there, from ones specific to certain games, such as the Magic: the Gathering range or the Game of Thrones range; to more generic ones such as the HCD playmats and their awesome anime and fantasy designs. Or if you prefer, you can get smart, plain playmats to keep things simple. There’s also playmat tubes to keep your playmat neatly rolled up and kept safe while it’s in your bag or on your shelf – and they come in different colours too!
Now this is a bit of a sore point with many dedicated TCG players: people who don’t sleeve their cards! Those players who want to keep their cards in mint condition – either because they’re a collector or because they want to trade or sell them later – but still play with them are going to require sleeves. Cards that are regularly played with get scuffed, dented, scratched and torn; there’s no way to avoid the natural wear and tear of constant shuffling and dealing. If you’re not bothered by your cards being a little bit scruffy, fine, but you may find that eventually they’ll start to get too damaged to play with properly; they might not shuffle properly any more because some have bent corners, or maybe one or two key cards are so scuffed that you can identify them from the others when they’re face down in the deck. Then you need to invest – either in card sleeves, or in a new set of cards! There’s even more variation in card sleeves than there is in playmats; Ultra Pro, Ultimate Guard, Legion Supplies, Arcane Tinmen and more provide card sleeves in a variety of designs, so you can choose from loads of colours or find a design that reflects your personality or deck design. They come in different sizes too, to fit anything from the tiny American mini cards to the larger square or Tarot sized cards in some board games, and anywhere in between.
Deck boxes are probably the one accessory TCG players can’t do without, or at least not for very long; the cardboard boxes you buy your decks in won’t last forever, and you’ve got to transport and store your cards in something, right? So pretty much every TCG player is likely to pick up at least one deck box at some point. Many miniatures games also rely on cards as a means of laying out what each miniature can do, so there’s a good chance that a deck box will come in handy for you if you play X Wing or Malifaux, for example. But there are so many options!
Card folders are a brilliant way of keeping your cards safe, flat and easy to look through … provided you’re not planning on playing with them too much! Constantly moving cards into and out of a folder isn’t good for the cards or the folder, so they’re generally the province of collectors. If you have a lot of cards you don’t play very often and you want them in an easy to browse storage solution, a folder is ideal. If you want to trade or sell the cards, a folder is perfect – people can look through your cards without ever getting their grubby fingers on them! Additionally, with folders becoming almost as varied as deck boxes and sleeves, you can once again theme your folder to match the collection inside. Want to keep the cards from specific sets separate? Ultra Pro offer folders for each Magic: the Gathering and Pokemon set with relevant artwork. Want to organise your collection via characters? The most popular Pokemon and MtG characters have their own folder designs too! Want to keep your most rare cards in a super-special folder? Check out the Dex-Protection folders I mentioned earlier.
Having said that, X Wing players bring out folders holding all their cards at tournaments and pick out the ones they’re playing with that day, so you may find folders useful for transporting to games if you’re not looking at them for TCG card storage.
Miniatures Carry Cases
Unless you play all your games of X Wing / Malifaux / Infinity / Halo Fleet Battles etc. at home (unlikely), you’ll need something to transport your miniatures in. And if you’ve ever tried transporting them in any old box or bag, you’ll know that even if you use copious amounts of paper, bubble wrap, packing peanuts or any thing else to protect them, they’re not good enough. Getting out your beloved models – often painstakingly assembled and painted – to play a game and discovering that an arm or a wing has snapped off in transit is frankly heartbreaking. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies producing carry cases for miniatures! Most will be boxes or bags with foam trays inside, which will have sections cut out for you to tuck your miniatures safely into. The really good cases even tailor the trays by cutting those sections to the exact shape of certain models! Feldherr have an excellent range of X Wing and Armada specific foam trays that you can buy separately from the cases, to make sure those ships aren’t going to move an inch while you’re transporting them. Malifaux offer their own carry case too, specifically designed to keep their own models safe in transit. They’re not always cheap (though there are budget cases out there, it’s definitely a case of getting what you pay for with regards to quality), but if you’re a miniatures player, be sure to budget for carry cases, because these really are essential bits of kit.
Don’t most games come with their own dice? Well … mostly, yes, but there’s a BUT in there. Board games that require dice will come with them supplied, but in many cases you can bet that unless they’re custom dice designed especially for that game, there won’t be enough of them. If you don’t like making your rolls in two or three parts, you’re going to want some extra dice to hand.
If you’re playing TCGs, dice generally do not come supplied ( except with some of the bigger boxed sets). You don’t always strictly need dice to play most of the games, but they’re super-useful as life counters or token counters, or if you don’t want to have loads of glass beads or what-have-you piled up on one card if it levels up.
Certain RPGs require loads of dice (Exalted, we’re all looking at you) and they don’t come with the rulebooks! Some require you to have a set of dice of different values (Call of Cthulhu, Dungeons and Dragons), while some use the same value dice in differing quantities (Shadowrun, World of Darkness).
So that’s why you might need to buy dice – but which ones? If you didn’t already know, they come in differing values, from the familiar six-sided dice (D6), to the D20 of D&D fame. In fact they commonly go as low as D4s and as high as D100s! Once you know which dice you need, then there’s colour – they come in all the colours of the rainbow, and sometimes more than one colour! So you can have a matching set or a multi-coloured one (matching sets are handy if everyone needs a set of dice and you don’t want to get them mixed up). Then there are awesome luxury dice, novelty dice – oh and if you’re spending money on dice sets, you’ll probably want to pick up a dice bag too!