Prepare for Your Next Game as You Clean Up

When I get a game out to play, I want to be able to start playing as quickly as possible. One of the best ways to facilitate a quick start is to take the time to prepare the game for the next play when you are cleaning up at the end. I think it’s proper gamer etiquette to not only help pack up a game once you are done playing, but to first ask the owner of the game, “How do you want this put away?” Avoid asking the question, “Where do you want me to stick this?” if you have just soundly defeated the game owner. You may not appreciate their response.

I think there are three important things you should do as you put your games away.

Randomize

This covers everything from shuffling cards to mixing up tiles. Do this at the end and you can just deal cards or make stacks of tiles and get right into the game. My kids love to play Magic Labyrinth, which features a hidden maze that you can modify. I let them change the maze sometimes when I put the game away, so that by the time we play again, they have forgotten the maze that they built. Sure, I probably still shuffle again at the start of the game, but a little extra shuffling never hurt.

Organize Resources

I suppose this is a matter of preference. Some folks would argue that it’s just as easy to pick out a white cube from a pile of mixed cubes as it is to pick it up from a pile of white cubes. Maybe they have a point, but I think it’s better to group your resources into individual bags so that when you play again, you have easy access to the game bits. I guess sorting your Dominion cards is another example of this type of preparation. I’m not much of a war gamer, but I do know that my buddy Mike uses plastic boxes with sections to organize all of the chits and markers for many of his games like Combat Commander. I did the same for my copy of Command and Colors: Ancients.

Prepare Individual Player Bags

If a game has a standard set up for each player, then put all of the things that player needs into a single bag. If you start with a certain set of cards or with five gold coins, then put all of that into a bag. Typically, you will want to include the following:

  • Player wooden bits, dice, or plastic pieces of a certain color
  • Starting money
  • Starting resources
  • Player aids

Did I miss anything? What do you do when you clean up your games? Share some examples of game preparation in the comments, and don’t forget to join my FaceBook page. It’s an easy way to stay connected.

5 Comments

  1. My strategy is as follows:
    – Do I see playing this game a lot? Then I’ll take the time to organize it well, and will purchase a bead container, small tackle box, or other storage device to use. Bonus points if the container can be used during play, so the bits don’t have to be removed.

    – Otherwise, how long will it take me to review the rules the next time I play? If it will take a while, then I don’t organize it much, so that the other players will have something to do while I review the rules. That way, everyone has something to do!

    – Or, if I plan on selling it, I just make sure they are organized well enough to not be damaged as I haul it to a convention to sell it.

    • Scott, you bring up a few things I hadn’t considered. Why bother organizing a game if I only play it once or twice a year? I purchased Walnut Grove last month and I have a hunch that it will see regular play. I would love to find some small containers that would handle both storage and accessibility during the game.

      Giving people something to do while you explain the rules is brilliant; however, I am TERRIBLE at explaining rules. It’s almost a running joke with the people I play with regularly.

  2. Makes sense, though at the end of a long game night I’m more inclined to just shove everything in the box and call it a day. Or at least tell everyone they can go home, not need to stick around and help me clean up. I tell myself I’ll re-open the box and organize the pieces the next day…but I rarely do.

    I also have to admit to being a little stumped when we played & finished Hawaii last week. There are SO many different pieces, and my first reaction was to get little plastic baggies for all of them. Then I reconsidered whether ALL of those baggies were going to make setup easier & quicker next time…and I wasn’t sure. I think that’s a case where a few baggies of similar groups of things might be the best way to go, even though it means some sorting when you set up the game.

    I definitely like & use the idea of having each player’s setup pieces, reference card, initial money, etc. in pre-packaged baggies.

    • Sam Houston

      After I’ve played a game a time or two, I reflect on how best to store components to facilitate play. I love Euros but hate the setup time for them. Starter packs for each color are essential. I’ve designed some lovely bit organizers that can be opened & left on table for play, they should only include bits distributed during game. Anything that goes on board during setup goes into bags. (Catan, I’m talking to you). Oh, and to make cleanup faster I make sure to color-code the compartments so time is not wasted trying to fit bits into a too-small compartment.

      • That’s interesting. I hadn’t considered the idea of marking the compartments or bags with what goes in them. Usually, I just have a bunch of bags of the same size, so I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference. Do you have pictures of the organizers on the Geek?

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