Tabletop Games: Storage and Mobility

Storage solutions interest me. As you accumulate games, how do you make them conveniently available, visible (or not), and portable? For small collections, stacking up a few boxes in a closet works perfectly. Over time, collections become not-small, and there is no consistency on box size between companies, so you can easily end up playing a cross between Tetris and Jenga every time you take your games out or put them away, and then some games are packed so perfectly you forget you own them for months because you cannot see the box.

So what are we looking for in storage? Size standardization is a great thing, with the notion being that we will take the games out of the original boxes (trash or carefully store in pristine condition, according to your gamer type) and put them in something conveniently modular. The modules need to be of different sizes, because some games are large with lots of bits while others are very small, but most boxes have a lot more air than you need. Boards and rules usually need to be stored separately from game pieces because of sizing issues; indeed, the large boxes are usually because of one large board and a few tallish pieces, so you need large overall dimensions. Game pieces should be able to be stored separately, again needing different sizes of compartments for different games. Transparency and space for labeling are great, because you want to know what is in storage (and find it). I would also want to be able to pull out one game without upsetting the whole apple cart, and for larger collections you want to be able to take some subset of your collection along in mobile storage. Bonuses include if the containers for pieces are also functional during play.

Pausing to note that audience participation is encouraged, please discuss your storage needs and solutions in the comments.

I first found a need for board game storage when I got into Dominion. Dominion boxes are large with internal dividers taking up most of the space, and there are many Dominion boxes. You can find a dozen variations at Board Game Geek of inserts and dividers that people have made. I went with a simple plan: I got a large card box (holds 4000? I have had it for years, something like this) and a box of plastic baggies, and they served perfectly for Dominion. (You will note in the link that the bags come in boxes of 1000, so I have been giving them away ever since.) Each bag is the right size for a set of kingdom cards, Dominion takes up most of the box with room for a couple other games. It is a bit bulky, but it stores conveniently and gives me access to the whole game in about the size of two Dominion boxes. And then there are all my other games, which are stacked up next to that box. It is perhaps time to move to a more all-encompassing solution.

Most of the storage solutions I have seen for gamers have been Kickstarted, either starting the process or expanding someone’s operation:

  • Go7Gaming, for example, seems to specialize in inserts for existing game boxes, and they Kickstarted game chests that expand the idea. I recall being tempted at the time but not wanting to spend $200 on a box. (This will become a recurring theme. It turns out that customized storage solutions are not inexpensive.)
  • The most attractive one I saw was earlier this year, the GameFolio system. It is designed with portability and modularity in mind, with lots of pouches for pieces, nicer materials than the other custom solutions in these bullet points, and good transparency so you can see both what game is in each box and then what pieces are in each pouch in the box. Downsides are cost, not a lot of visibility once everything is in the folios, a lack of space savings because most games look to be 1 per folio, and the portability trades off against in-home storage. Were I to use this system, I imagine I would need a lot of folios, which would then fill bookshelves. Again, great portability and modularity for taking games elsewhere, and I seem to do most of my serious gaming elsewhere, but I would need something like spine labels to see what is on the shelves, and I do not really want to add $10 or $20 onto the cost of every game to have enough folios. Still pretty and tempting, and these folks will be at Gen Con next week, so I will probably have a look at them.
  • A current Kickstarter project is the BITBOX. This is more of an in-home solution, boxes designed to fit into an IKEA shelf. This seems more compact than the GameFolio, separating the pieces and the boards a bit more to achieve much more compact storage of pieces in boxes and drawers. It has more internal customizability, with different box sizes and inserts you can use rather than the fixed options in the GameFolios. You lose transparency but get labeling space; you lose the attractive and functional folio layout in favor of compact boxes. These folks add some mobility back with a mobile box that fits the same boxes, which is nice. The major downside is that these are cardboard. While tabletop gamers do not have a lot of room to talk about spending money on cardboard, even sturdy cardboard is still cardboard. It is a lot like my current Dominion box in cube form with drawers. Cost is a bit lower here; if I were getting this with my current collection, I would probably need about $132 for the campaign plus $35 to IKEA, which would put most/all of my games in 4 cubes with a box to take some on the road.

With any of these Kickstarter options, long-term sustainability is a worry that comes to mind. Boxes break, collections grow, things get lost, and can you still get more ten years from now? You are back to random box sizes and a gaming area that is 80% pretty and 20% like your plastic food storage tubs in a dozen sizes (or just completely re-do it?). That brings back some interest in just starting with assorted boxes and bits of plastic that fit nicely together.

Folks at Board Game Geek have some lovely solutions, like these plastic bits boxes, although I find this fine lady’s somewhat more scattered solutions more interesting. She is using lots of smaller plastic boxes within other boxes, which loses a lot of compactness but grants a lot of modularity and functionality within a game. (She also has a great recommendation for silicone muffin cups as a highly portable and compact way to hold pieces during play, which is great if you use something like baggies rather than lots of little boxes. The link there is for ones that might not be safe for food, but for $3 delivered I am willing to try it for game pieces.) Toolboxes are a common recommendation at Board Game Geek, and her page reads like the craft/scrapbooking version of that, with recommendations for bead organizers and food containers from The Container Store.

You may have guessed that part of this post is just me thinking aloud and saving links, while asking you for your opinion. Having a blog is great for that. Almost done.

As I am pricing things, BITBOXes do not look that costly relative to other options, although again cardboard. I am wondering if I can effectively recreate the GameFolio system with existing storage and travel solutions. For example, this rolling tote serves the same purpose as the GameFolio bag, complete with zippered side pouches, transparent internal dividers, and wheels and a handle. My worries about $20/folio go away when Amazon’s line of packing cubes comes $20/four and in a variety of sizes, complete with mesh tops for visibility. We have already given up on the perfectly uniform modularity, so you can also toss in something like a bead box, packing envelopes, or makeup bags for different bits, game sizes, etc. That sort of solution takes us in the GameFolio direction (portability over in-house storage and visibility), using the rolling box for both storage and transport, probably keeping some games on the shelf (in the storage folders) or in the original box, then swapping into the rolling box what you want to take with you.

So that is what I am pondering. How are you storing your games, do you like it, and how would you want to store your games?

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “Tabletop Games: Storage and Mobility”

  1. I primarily use bead boxes from craft stores. For most games, one box of whatever size packed inside the original game box is fine. For some, like Game of Thrones, where each player needs dozens of pieces of varying types, I like to have a small segmented box for each side so I can just pass those around the table, which shortens setup time.

    I’ve considered getting rid of the original boxes when reorganizing shelves, but the poorly stacked mismatched shapes are still more attractive than the prospect of nondescript containers.

  2. My physical game collection is relatively small, so less storage problems, but currently mouldering in their original cardboard boxes on IKEA shelves in a storeroom with tropical humidity. Not recommended.

    If/when I ever get around to ideally re-organizing them, I am going straight for the transparent plastic visibility options with labels.

    Over the years, I find that’s the most sensible kind of storage solution for me, because I need to -see- what I have all laid out in front of me. Stuff that goes into opaque containers proceeds to vanish from my mental model/collection.

    IKEA SAMLA boxes are going to be the main stacking unit. They’re modular, come in different sizes, and it’s IKEA, so it’s relatively cheap and one can probably still get them 10 years from now (unless they discontinue that particular product.)

    Anything smaller than the SAMLA boxes, and I’m partial to using the transparent type of takeout food containers.

    Anything smaller than those, and I’m probably going to have to resort to clear Magic card containers, clear dice boxes (the single figure display type, black on the bottom, clear on top), or stuff scrounged from our local $2 store from Daiso Japan. ( – lady’s got a nice set of photos showing off the display boxes available.)

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