Once you've been delving into the board game hobby for a while, you discover there is more to it than just the games themselves. There is a whole swathe of board game accessories that lures you deeper into the rabbit warren of our wonderful and amazing hobby. In this article, I want to look at some options and give you an idea of what you can add to your collection to make your gameplay experience even more exhilarating.
If you've followed my blog for a while, you will probably know that one of my favourite board game accessories are metal coins. Whenever I can afford to, I will always purchase the deluxe edition of a game, if it comes with metal coins instead of cardboard tokens. The clink and clank of metal on metal is enchanting. The weight of the coins in your hand is soothing. Adding to your coin balance is much more satisfying when you can hear the coins and feel their weight, as opposed to game money that is cardboard or even paper. At the same time, paying for things feels a lot more painful, because you can almost literally feel your money stash getting lighter.
Suddenly, the money in a game plays a much more important role. It's like the One Ring that is its own character and has its own mind and desires. Metal coins really enhance the gameplay experience and I do really strongly recommend you consider getting yourself some.
However, even though buying separate sets of metal money is very enticing and some of the designs you can find when you peruse suppliers such as Board Game Extras or MeepleSource are just amazing and possibly are the perfect fit for your favourite game, they are also usually quite pricey. So maybe consider using actual money, maybe from another country, in your game instead. It's likely to be cheaper. Also, there are many listings of decorative coins and tokens on various online shopping sites that will provide a good hoard of metal coins, as long as you don't need a lot of different denominations. Ultimately though, buying a deluxe version of a game that includes metal coins is the better option, in my view.
Speaking of deluxe editions, when I purchased Brass: Birmingham, I chose the upgraded version because it came with poker chips. These weren't just cheap poker chips either, but the now-infamous Iron Clays. Again, you can buy them separately, but it's also more expensive compared to buying Brass's deluxe edition. Irrespective of how you get hold of them though, using poker chips in games is nearly as good as using metal coins, if not better, depending on the game you play.
Any games that have a stock market or similar will most likely benefit from poker chips over metal coins, while the latter are great for games where you purchase multiple goods to trade, if that makes sense. For example, I've got the metal coins for Clans of Caledonia and also Genotype and they really enhance the gameplay a huge amount. The poker chips for Brass are a must, but they are also a gamechanger for games such as Luzon Rails.
Another essential, in my view at least, are dice trays. Of course, that's only for games where you roll a bunch of dice. Dice trays come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but I would always recommend you ensure that wooden ones or trays made from other hard materials do have a soft inlay, such as felt, for example, otherwise the noise of rolling a handful of dice is going to become annoying very quickly.
I think dice trays are essential for games like Oath, Tharos and Wingspan, of course, which does come with a dice tower that functions like a dice tray. So, yes, if you think having a dice tower is something you want to try, because you find it hard rolling lots of dice, then a dice tower can take the role of a dice tray, again bearing in mind that there is some sort of noise buffering built in, so nobody gets a headache.
Being able to contain dice and reducing the chance of them flying everywhere, knocking over components or jumping off the table, never to be seen again, is very useful. It also means all the dice are kept in one place and you can pass the dice tray around if everyone is drawing from a shared dice pool for example. Speaking of passing around, dice trays can also function as component storage for the same reason, which is a great feature.
The last thing I want to talk about are realistic resources, but before I do, let me just touch on card accessories. Many of you love card sleeves. For me, they're a waste of plastic. I much prefer a well-loved and worn deck of cards than having to pay good money for good sleeves and adding to the pile of plastic our hobby already creates. However, I do understand how relaxing it can be to sleeve a large deck of cards and how it gives you the opportunity to look at every card in detail. You get a real feel for the cards.
There are also card holders, which can be useful. Some board game tables, another area of board game "accessories", which I won't go into, come with built-in card holders. They can be really useful, if you find it hard to hold cards in your hand or if the game expects you to somehow manage fanning out 20 or more cards, which is going to be a struggle for most of us. Personally, I've not tried card holders yet, but they're definitely worth looking into.
So, after this little excursion, let me return to realistic resources. I would argue they are nearly as important as metal coins or poker chips, but they do rank a level below those. At the same time, I think I would put them above dice trays or dice towers. A game with realistic resources does look really stunning on the table. However, I do know that many of these upgraded resources are made from plastic or resin, so they're not my first pick. I'm thinking more about custom wooden tokens. In a similar vein, custom wooden meeples are, of course, something to think about too. I think when a game comes with these, it does look a lot more interesting on the table and makes it much easier to identify the function of these components in the game.
Finally, don't worry, I've not forgotten minis, but all I want to say about them here, is that I think they are another source of plastic in our hobby that we should try and do without. I do understand that miniature painting is a hobby in itself and I don't want to deprive people of this past time, but I also ask us to find a balance for our hobby and think about whether a bunch of plastic miniatures is really necessary to get an amazing game experience or whether custom wooden tokens or even cardboard standees (except, they also usually have a plastic stand, unfortunately) would do a job that's nearly as good and is more environmentally friendly.
So, this was my quick excursion into board game accessories. Now it's your turn. Have you found certain accessories to be absolutely vital? Are there certain games that just need a specific upgrade or that you just had to buy the deluxe version of? Please share your experiences with and thoughts about board game accessories in the comments below.