Home » Ultimate Guide for Sleeving Your Board Games 2024

Ultimate Guide for Sleeving Your Board Games 2024

The Power of Protection!

Board games are expensive, so protecting your cards should be on the mind of any board game owner who wants to protect their beloved games from reckless kids, spills, and that one friend who doesn’t wash their hands after eating all the Doritos. But which are the best sleeves for your board games? In this article we’ll take a look at sleeve quality, quantity, and price for different leading sleeve brands, and give our personal opinion and experience.

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Pick the right sleeves for your board game

Sleeving your board game can be expensive, mostly if you buy quality sleeves. It depends a lot on how many cards there are, and the size of those cards. For example, the core box of Marvel Champions has 343 cards. We sleeve ours with Dragon Shield Matte Clear sleeves, which costs £9.45 per box of 100 from our affiliate retailer Zatu*, which means we effectively spent £37.80 on 4 boxes of sleeves alone (with some change from sleeves we can use for other games). The cost of the game on Zatu* is currently £52.99, which means we spent well over 50% of the game’s cost to sleeve it!

Numbers like this make people not want to sleeve their games, or simply buy the cheapest possible sleeves. That is a big mistake!

Let’s go over some options for sleeves we recommend, as well as some sleeves that people get fooled into buying, and why we don’t recommend them.

Cheapest sleeves (aka Penny Sleeves)

There are a lot of sleeves that come in big packs for a penny (or cent) per sleeve – hence the name ‘penny sleeves’. These sleeves are thin, slippery and the cards might even slip out of them. While these sleeves might protect your cards from greasy fingers, they will not save them from spills, damage during shuffle, bending, etc. They don’t feel nice to shuffle, they are not durable, they don’t protect the cards from scratches, they slip all the time, and most importantly – they don’t typically come in a wide variety of sizes. Why are they even on the market? The answer is that their only actual purpose is purely for storage. Trading card game players and collectors use them to store multiple copies of a single card in binders and boxes. They are more for collection, but unfortunately because they are still called “sleeves” a lot of people fall into the trap of buying them to protect their cards. Don’t buy these to sleeve your games!

Arcane Tinmen’s Dragon Shield & Board Game Sleeves

Dragon Shield is a brand of sleeves that we have been using since we bought Marvel Champions. As I mentioned previously, all of our encounter cards and villain decks are sleeves with dragon shield clear matte sleeves*. They are good quality, very durable but learn more on the expensive part. When we started they were the cheapest option out there, that was both good value for money and quality.

However, if we were to do it again I would personally learn towards their board game brand – Board Game Sleeves (BGS). While Dragon Shields come only in 63x88mm sleeves (poker size), their Board Game Sleeves* line come in all different sizes. They also come in boxes of 50 which means you are less likely to have extra sleeves lying around.

A Dragon shield box of 100 sleeves will come about 0.094 per sleeve (they always come with over 100 sleeves in case of damage), while their Board Game Sleeves of the same size are about 0.077 per sleeve (50+ in a box). While this isn’t a huge saving, consider that if you’re going to buy hundreds of sleeves, this can add up quickly.

The low price, the variety of sizes, the soft feel and the decent quality is why we would now recommend their Board Game Sleeves over Dragon Shield.


Another very good option is Gamegenic*. In comparison to Arcane Tinmen’s Board Game Sleeves, the difference is only in the dimension sizes. And when I mean “sizes” I don’t mean “standard”, “tarot”, “mini”, etc. I mean literally different measurements. We realised quite quickly that while different sleeve manufacturers use similar wording, the sizing of sleeves is not at all standardised! We’ll talk more about that in a minute. For example, the “standard” sizes are different – BGS considers 63x88mm “standard”, but Gamegenic says “standard” is actually 66x91mm. When it comes to the feel of the sleeves, quality and price, they are very close (if not even the same). Even better, Gamegenic’s “Standard” matte clear sleeves come in packs of 200 that cost roughly the same as a pack of 100 Dragon Shield sleeves, coming in at £9.45 on Zatu*, making them absolutely our recommendation for sleeving games with a ton of cards that need to be sleeved in identical sleeves.

Ultimate Guard

Ultimate Guard produces the best sleeves on the market – Katana*. But don’t jump into buying them for your board games. While we’re a Katana-loving household, the rest of their sleeves fall short in just about every way we care about, especially the sleeves that they market towards board gamers, and Katanas are expensive, at £9.25 for a pack of 100 on Zatu*, which is discounted from their steep RRP of £12.99. We use these sleeves for our Magic decks and our Marvel Champions hero decks, and while they feel amazing to shuffle, they’re designed for TCG tournament play, and sleeving all your games in Katana sleeves is a terrifyingly expensive prospect, if you can even find that many sleeves (they sell out fast!).

Ultra Pro

Ultra Pro* has a big range of different quality sleeves, but the one you want to look at is their Eclipse line*. The price is a bit lower than Gamegenic and BGS, but they tends to get very cloudy and dusty with time. If you are sleeving a game you play a lot (like us with Marvel Champions), we would pay the extra money for the better quality sleeves to avoid damage on both cards and the sleeves. However, if you are just sleeving a board game to simply have it sleeved, Ultra Pro Eclipse will do just fine.

Pick the right sizes and dimensions

When you first look at sleeves, it’s easy to think that the sizes are standardised, with names like “mini” and “standard”, but in all honesty the manufacturers may as well have named their sizes after Greek gods or mountain ranges for all those names actually matter. As I mentioned, Gamegenic and Dragon shield have different understandings of “standard”, but also there is “American standard”, “European standard” and “Japanese standard”, and none of these are actually… well… standards. So before you go buying sleeves, make a note of the sizes of your cards. Even the smallest millimetre makes a difference!

How do I find the right size sleeves for my board game?

There are several things you need to take into account when dealing with sleeves.

  1. Size matters to the millimetre. One millimetre smaller and the card won’t fit.
  2. Don’t buy perfect/ideal fits. Your sleeve should never be perfectly fitting your cards. The space on the sides it’s called a ‘buffer’ and it’s very important to prevent cards from scratching, bending and leaving the sleeve. That said, too much buffer is bad, as it will bend the sleeve and make it less effective. You want about 1-2 mm.
  3. Check the dimensions on the pack, not the size name used by the provider. As mentioned above, there is no universal naming standard, so the names mean nothing.

Another inconsistency is the dimensions on the box. Most sleeve packs will tell you the size of the cards they fit, not the real size of the sleeves themselves. Make sure you read the box carefully before purchase, or just ask at the store.

Once you’ve figured out how different manufacturers refer to the size of card that you want, it’s often a good idea to stick with the same manufacturer to ensure you don’t end up with sleeves that are sized differently.

Yu-Gi-Oh and Chronicles of Crime sleeved in Gamegenic European Size

Find out the card sizes of your board game

There are several ways you can find out the size of the cards in your board game.

The first thing you should do is check the box or the rulebook. Depending on the publisher, they might have not only the number of components but also their sizes. Fantasy Flight games for example likes to tell you how many of their packs you will need.

If the publisher hasn’t told you what you need, then check online. You can check Board Game Geek or Sleeve Your Games for the sizes of the cards. They will also offer you Amazon links to the packs, but we recommend checking your local game store first to compare prices (or if you’d like to support us, try one of our starred Zatu links*!). Amazon has many retailers and you don’t know who you’re buying from when you click those suggestions. Reddit is also a good source of information on card sizes and sleeves other people have used, but that research is more time consuming.

And lastly you can measure them. If you measure your cards make sure you measure them in millimetres, and that every millimetre counts. Most boxes and packs of sleeves will have the dimensions in the metric system. Bringing one of your cards to a local game shop and measuring it against the pack is absolutely an option!

Some popular games such as Catan, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, or 7 Wonders, can be mentioned on the packs of sleeves, on the manufacturer’s page, or even in the game shop. But that is not a very reliable way mostly for less popular games, so go prepared.

Terms on Sleeve Packs

When you look at the packs you will see different terms that sound like they are describing what to expect from the sleeves, but there’s a lot to get your head around. Here’s a quick list of some terms you might see:

  • Clear. Self explanatory. The sleeve is transparent and you can clearly see the image. While these are nice, they can be slippier than other sleeves, and might have glare in brightly lit rooms. BGS and Gamegenic clear sleeves also don’t have that much glare to them but can’t vouch for other brands.
  • Frost or Non Glare. These sleeves will look a bit cloudier. While I don’t have a problem with that, Matt, for example, hates how the images look and sometimes has trouble reading cards across the table. They might also be bad for people with bad eyesight, and if you don’t hold the cards in your hands they can be a lot harder to read.
  • Matte. This means the sleeve is not very glossy and slippery. They have resistance, so they will be easier to pick up from the table, and won’t slide around as much. We highly recommend getting this type of sleeve.
  • Microns (µ). this is how thick the sleeve is. You want to aim at around 70-100µ. Higher micron thickness means that the sleeves will be thicker and when put together the cards will take more space. Around 50µ (I don’t think they go lower) are far too thin, and that is usually what penny sleeves are.
  • Soft. This means the sleeve has a soft feeling to them. Not a lot of significance except they just feel really nice to shuffle and play with.
  • Perfect or ideal fit. Don’t buy these. These are sleeves made to perfectly fit your cards (no buffer) and are for double sleeving only (for Trading Card Games).
  • PVC-free & Acid-free. This is a term left over from comic book collecting. As most sleeves on the market are PVC and acid free, I won’t go into details. What this generally means is that the sleeves are not harmful for your cards, but you’ll probably only get sleeves that harm your cards if you buy some weird knock-off brand because they’re cheaper. As previously mentioned – don’t cheap out on your sleeves!
Difference between Clear and Matte sleeves from the same manufacturer.

Should I get clear or coloured-back sleeves?

Generally we recommend clear sleeves for your board games. A lot of games identify decks and cards based on their backs, and that’s open knowledge you’re supposed to have to play the game. Unless you want to buy different colours for different decks, there is not a lot of point paying more coloured back sleeves over clear. As coloured-back sleeves are mandatory for competitive trading card games, they might not come in the size you need for your board game.

That being said, there is a place for coloured-back sleeves, for example with Marvel Champions, we have our individual decks with coloured sleeves to tell our decks apart, as we’re both using similar player cards that can be played under each others’ control, and it can be easy to get cards from each others’ decks mixed up in certain situations.

Cons of sleeving your board game cards

There are some things to consider before buying a bunch of sleeves to sleeve your favourite board game. Because of the buffer when sleeving cards, they will be wider than originally printed, and because of the thickness of the sleeves, the decks will be taller. This means that in general they will take more space. Space that most board game publishers don’t consider when creating their inserts. For example, one of our favourites, Mysterium Park, which fits so nicely in the box, won’t fit with sleeved cards, which is deeply annoying. That means you will have to get rid of your insert, modify it (if that’s even possible), or have a look through Etsy and see if you can find a custom printed insert for your box that fits sleeved cards, or even a custom storage box if you really love a game.

This can be an expense that costs even more than the game itself, so you have to consider very well how often you play this game, who you play it with and is it even worth the extra investment.


We heavily recommend sleeving your favourite games. That being said, we also understand that some games might not see a lot of play, and others might end up cheaper to just replace the game when it gets damaged than sleeving and buying inserts. Regardless of what you chose to do, we hope this helped you understand the complicated world of sleeving board games.

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