Thursday, January 27, 2011

Timely Topics - Do you use Card Trays for Gaming?

Card Trays. Do you use them when playing games? Or any other kind of card holder?

I used to think the idea of card trays was kind of silly. You should be able to hold a bunch of cards and fan them out and play them easily, right? 

But, sometimes, if you think about it, things can get a little awkward, especially with games that come with two (or more) types of cards you have to manage. How do you hold them in your hands? Each type in a different hand? Maybe. Or, you hold them in your hand all sort of mixed together. But this can be troublesome if you get them too mixed together, and it can be a lot of cards to hold. 

So, you most likely resort to separate piles and playing goes something like this: Look at one set. Put it down. Pick up the other set. Look at it. Put it down. Forget what was in the other set. Put down the current set and pick up the other set. Oh wait, I need to look at both together. Pick up the other set in your other hand. Scrunch your hands together to manipulate them. Then fumble around until you almost drop them all!

Blech! What a pain!

My friend, Bob, was all for card trays when we started playing games a couple of years ago. He would bring his Ingenious tile trays as they were just the right size to support cards and a lot could be put onto one tray. Usually he got out 1-2 trays so he'd have lots of room. He used them for everything, even Dominion!

When he pulled them out he would always ask if I wanted to use one and I'd politely say "No, thanks."

However, I think the turning point for me may have been when we played the Settlers of Catan card game. There were a LOT of cards to manage sometimes. And, they were these funny little square cards.

He was using the card trays and I was fumbling around. You have resource cards and development cards and sometimes you get a lot of them! I began to see how those trays might be handy.

"I'll try out those trays now!"

This was back in April 2010. Fast forward a few months. I decided I wanted my own card trays. I searched and searched and found all variety of trays that are available. Wood ones. Clear plastic ones. Curved ones and straight ones. Trays with 1 slot, Trays with 2 slots! Trays with more slots! Trays with blue spots! Trays with red spots! Trays with who spots! Oh Suess, got a little carried away there!

Anyhow, you get the idea. Lots to choose from. Most were really expensive. The less expensive ones looked, well, less desirable. The ones I wanted always seemed to be the pricey ones.

Then, I finally ran across an online game store, Uncle's Games, that had some great looking trays! And they were reasonably priced! They were plastic, had 4 slots, and were fairly long but not too long (at least from what I could see in the pics and from the measurements)

So, I ordered two sets of 2 and waited patiently. A few days later they finally arrived! I pulled them out of the box and, boy, I could tell right away they were going to be perfect.

The next time Bob came over to play I pulled them out. He took a look and seemed interested, but I think he still pulled out his faithful Ingenious card racks. Well, the rest of the story is a little foggy - either one day he didn't bring his card trays, or maybe he decided to just give them a go when I offered, but he did end up trying them. Eventually, he stopped bringing his Ingenious racks and just started using mine when he came over.

I love my card trays. I sometimes forget to bring them with me and, when I do, I often regret it. I need to remember to bring them to the EGG and GameStorm conventions this year!

We played Race for the Galaxy tonight and each used 2 trays. With the advanced 2-player game you have 9 action cards. In addition, you can have a hand size of up to 10 regular game cards. That's a lot of cards to manage!

Well, here are some pics of them in action (ok, it's a fake setup and I forgot to take a pic mid-game, but you get the idea):

Game cards on the left, action cards on the right in a separate tray.

Closer shot of the action cards.

Side view showing the slots for cards.
They also can hold dominos and other thick tiles!

Here's a direct link to these trays: Domino and Card Trays

At the time of this writing they are only $8.99 USD. I ordered 2 sets and, with shipping, it came out to around $25 for a set of 4, so about $6 per tray. Not too shabby considering the use I've gotten out of them!

(No, I didn't get paid to advertise these. Some of my friends like them too and wanted to know where I got them. I decided to post here so that they would all know how to find them!)

What interesting solutions do YOU use for managing cards? Or, do you have any other great ideas for managing game components in general during the game? I'd love to hear about it!

Ok, now go play a game. Or maybe two. Play one in a car, a boat or a shoe! Play a game inside. Play a game outside. Play a game underwater or going down the slide! Play a game on the floor! Play a game in the air! Play a game in the dark, if you aren't too scared!

Oops, sorry, did it again.


  1. Nicely written... got me thinking about the wooden card trays I purchased (or traded for) a while back that I always bring to the library game night and never get used. :-(

    Maybe I can start pushing them on the unsuspecting.

  2. Yes, definitely. Especially if you know it's a game that could benefit from it. You will probably experience resistance at first. If you get a chance to play a game there that needs them, if you use them others may follow.....

  3. Neat article. They come with Memoir '44 and that's the only time I've used them but every time I played that I would think, "Man, I've got to get me some of these I could use for Bang!, Dominion, etc.

    You're blog post reminded me of that so I've added a couple of these to my Amazon wish list. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for kind words, John. I played Memoir '44 once last year and found those card trays really useful, too. That was another thing that probably pushed me towards finding card trays of my own. An excellent game and well thought out/nicely done components.


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