Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Customer Vital Prep for Card Games, Part 1

Greetings all!

This week's mailbag question comes from Luke in Phoenix, Arizona.  Luke is a long-time miniatures and tabletop gamer who has broken into the living card game scene with Warhammer 40K Conquest, the season's FFG LCG hit, and asks for help with what card sleeves, accessories, and storage items he will need.

TCG players need the same sorts of things that LCG players need, and this is one of those areas where new stores never seem to have the right line-up of items right out of the gate, so I figured this would be a great topic for The Backstage Pass!  Moreover, there's enough discussion here to make this a two-post series.

I'll address these items in order of least to most controversial.  Today in part 1, I will address storage generally (for the collection), followed by storage specifically (carry-along).  Next time in part 2, I will discuss dice and tokens, and finally sleeves.

Surely, many of you are familiar with this behemoth:

This is BCW's 5-slot "shoebox" with a 5000-card capacity.  For a long time this was the bottom line in full collection storage.  Many a gamer has had a garage rack full of these babies, often in a room other than his or her garage.  However, I'm here to bring you a new testimony:

This is BCW's 4-slot "shoebox" with a 3200-card capacity.  And it's the only one most gamers use anymore.  Why?  Simple.  It fits in these:

IKEA's Expedit and Kallax series of shelves, and all the ancillary variations, are sized perfectly to take 3200-count shoeboxes, and won't fit 5k boxes at all.  And, as I discovered during my law school sojourn from the industry, something like 107% of all people have Expedit or Kallax shelves in their homes or apartments these days (all figures approximate).  Thus it has happened that the smaller card shoebox has become the prevalent size, and Procrustes rejoices from beyond the grave.

Accordingly, store owners will want to make sure they have abundant supplies of all the white cardboard storage options, but especially the two large shoeboxes, in approximately a 2:1 ratio of 3200-count boxes to 5k-count boxes.

What about portable storage?  For many years, the gold standard was this:

Three-ringed binders full of Ultra-Pro 9-pocket pages were a mainstay for over a decade in the TCG world.  The pages remain a perennial SKU at game stores.  However, for most players, these are no longer essential.  Three-ring binders just aren't used.  They are clunky to carry, they protect cards poorly, they aren't used on shelves at home (the 3200-count shoeboxes have taken over on that front, as they are easier to sort cards in and out of, especially sleeved) and as a result most players aren't buying them.  Stores will still use binders of card pages for their own stock in many cases, as they deploy well for customer browsing of a singles collection.  But for players, there are better options, such as these:

Ultra-Pro Premium ProBinders appeared within the last year or two and have grown to be the go-to portable storage option among most card players I encounter.  There are plastic-exterior versions that cost a bit less, and leather-exterior versions that cost a bit more.  In either case, the inner pages are side-load, fit sleeved cards, and are made from a nice linen-esque non-abrasive material.  They either zip up or close with an elastic strap, depending which version you get, and overall protect cards far better than other binder options.

There are still the classic portfolios, of course:

These binders are not terrible as such, but they're pretty bare-bones.  You can't fit many cards in them and they don't protect super-well, but they cost little and are good enough for many deployments.  For store owners, I recommend keeping all of these items available and in many varieties.

Conversely, stores and players alike can basically ignore binder products like these:

Art binders, much like art deck boxes and art sleeves, are dead money now, and I'll discuss that more in part 2 next time out!

To be continued...

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