Please Do NOT Pass the Doritos!

Eric M. writes…

Hey, Father Geek!

I have two great kids who are starting to love to play board games! The only problem is, they have no real sense of keeping the game in good condition. I’m a collector of games (over 200 and going strong!) and always do my very best to keep my games in tip-top condition. I do realize I am asking a lot from an 8 and 6 year old, but I strongly feel that every game I buy, even if it is a Hasbro game (smirk) is an “investment”.

Do you have any tips on how I can best communicate to my kids the proper way to store, play, and treat games? I was thinking of putting everything in tubs and plastic bags to save the boxes, but that just seems (1) bulky and (2) overkill.

Then again, I do love my games…

Much thanks for your wisdom, O’ GEEKS OF FATHERHOOD!!!

Eric, this is a very good question.  Everyone of us wants to keep our games in good condition, even if we do not use the moniker of a so-called “collector”.

The only way to absolutely guarantee that your board game will stay pristine is to never play it; never take it out of the shrink wrap for that matter.   Since this sounds so very rigid, and the question posed implies that you are willing to accept some mitigated risk, allow me to go over some board game care techniques, and then finally answer your question about how we can help bring our kids into the fold of helping us care for our precious hobby.

Board Game Care:
Board game care comes in two forms, first the care and storage for the game itself, and second the care for the components of the game.

How do you store your games? Many gamers I know contend that stacking them side-by-side is a preferable means of storage. You will not inadvertently crush a game box, and you have easy access to all your games without having to worry about upsetting the stack. A downside of storing them in this fashion is that pieces can fall out of their trays. To avoid this, employ the little plastic baggie technique to keep all the bits properly sorted.

It is more extreme to do something like you suggest, but it can be attractive to have games organized in a uniformly sized set of containers. As you state, if you do like your games, this may be worth it. Perhaps a good compromise is to separate out a set of games that will be the “kids games”. Store these in a separate spot that is accessibly easy to your two kids so they can enjoy them on their own. However, mentally you need to write these off because inevitably the “accidents” will happen. A piece will get knocked into the vent, a card bent in half, or a box top sat on. No matter what you do, kids are still going to be kids, but you can at least scope down the destruction.

Here are a few tips (in no particular order) to help keep your components in good shape:

Use card sleeves
This may sound simple, but if the game employs cards, then putting them in sleeves will greatly help. It protects from unwanted residue transfer from handling, and it helps reduce the wear-and-tear of holding, drawing, and shuffling.
Use plastic baggies for storage
As mentioned above, keeping your bits in a baggie helps to organize the pieces for storage, but is also helps reduce wear on them. You will not have to dig around a mixed bin to find what you need, and when you store the game, they will not all jostle together.
Be judicious about what snacks are allowed at the table
Tom Vasel (of The Dice Tower) has said that the three forbidden foods at his table are: Doritos, fried chicken, and salsa. I tend to agree. Those three things make me cringe when thinking of combing them with a gaming session. No good gaming session goes without snacks, but be careful about what is available, and consider keeping snacks on a side table to avoid the reach-and-drop phenomenon.

The Parenting:
Your question asked for advice on communication. I am no expert on this, and you can probably teach me a thing or two, but there are a few tenants I try to follow when working with kids. These are:

  1. Establish a clear set of rules. I often find myself falling into the trap of just assuming my kids will know what proper etiquette is, or will just know what boundary to not cross. Many times, I simply need to sit them down and clearly communicate some simple rules to them, and then ask them to repeat them so I know there was understanding.  It is also OK to have a refresher course if it has been awhile.  You do need to be careful to keep the rules simple and easy to follow. Examples would be things like, “always box up the pieces when you are done playing”, or “never eat Doritos during a game”, or “do not riffle shuffle the cards”.
  2. Establish a clear set of consequences, and then stick to them. Failure to follow the rules needs to have a consequence. I am a firm believer of making the consequence fit the crime, so maybe take away their favorite game for a couple weeks. Whatever your family uses for discipline, you must first communicate the expectation, and then consistently follow through on the consequence.
  3. Let them know how important it is to you. At six and eight years old, your kids are still wanting to do everything they can to please you. Sometimes, just letting them know how important it is to you that your games are maintained will be enough to spur them into being careful.
  4. Show them. After all of the talk, be sure to spend time playing with them and show them what you mean. Maybe get an old deck of cards and show what a bad riffle shuffle can do to them. Show them how to unbox and rebox a game without hashing up the corners.  Leading by example will enforce everything else you have told them.

In the end, you can do everything right, and still lose your investment. After all, as parents, we knew what we were signing up for. Despite my best efforts, look what my two exuberant boys did to our copy of “Five Little Monkeys”.

About Brian

Euro Board Game Aficionado, and Father of Two, Brian played many family board games while growing up, but launched a foray into real geek gaming in 4th grade with his exposure to Risk, and then many sessions of Axis & Allies. Gaming in all forms has always been woven into his life with different phases including: video games starting with the Atari 2600, role playing Marvel Super Heroes, launching massive Battletech scenarios, blowing his small amount of bank on Magic: The Gathering, and then finally strategy board games. Settlers of Catan (1997) was his first introduction to the Euro-style game, and he has since been forever hooked. He embarked on a new stage of life in late 2006 with the birth of his first of two boys, and now cherishes the opportunity to learn the game of parenting. His desire is to raise two respectable men who still want to play a game with daddy even when they are father geeks themselves. Brian goes by the handle Vree on Board Game Geek.
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