Things of No Interest: Review of Sleeve Kings Card Sleeves

Things of No Interest: Review of Sleeve Kings Card Sleeves

Welcome to 2019! I am here to start the year discussing card sleeves of all things! If you want to know why I care about sleeving - go check out my article from last year about To Sleeve or Not to Sleeve.

Full disclosure: I was provided with two packs of card sleeves from Sleeve Kings for review - I was not otherwise compensated.

Sleeve Kings ran a Kickstarter during 2018, which was fully funded. They should be fulfilling pledges sometime this month, and then their web store should start accepting orders. The premise for their sleeves (straight from their homepage):

  • Thicker Than Any Other "Standard" Sleeves - Most "Standard" Sleeves are 40 microns thick, a few are even 50 microns.  Ours are 60 microns thick! That is 50% more than most!
  • 10% More Sleeves Than The Other Guys - Standard sleeves come 100/pack.  We are the only brand offering 110 per pack!  10% more in every pack! 
  • The "Clear" Winner - Our sleeves are made from Cleartech™ Polypropylene.  Our sleeves are made from 60 micron thick sheets which are demonstrably clearer than the other guys.  You can actually SEE the difference.  Just as diamonds are rated on a clarity scale, even 100% polypropylene can vary significantly from product to product depending on how it is manufactured.  You will see the difference!  
  • Cheaper Than Other Brands  - Most brands retail for $3 or more per 50 pack.  We are offering ours for $2-$3 per pack for even the largest sizes and 110 sleeves per pack!
  • Buy Direct From The Manufacturer & Save!  - How are we able to offer these so cheap?  We ARE Sleeve Kings!  This is our brand!  We produce directly from the factory and sell directly to you.  There is no middleman!
  • "Tough As Nails" Guarantee We have created these sleeves with the most advanced polypropylene processing in the industry.  This means importing our polypropylene already in the right sizes from the middle east and then cutting and sealing our sleeves at our factory in China.  We have a special process to make our sleeve actually warp/bend before they split.  Our sleeves are guaranteed never to split.  Just how tough are our sleeves?  We dare you to try the "two finger challenge" on any other brand of standard sleeves and pull the sleeve apart to try to force the sides to split.

Ok, so the question is - do the cards match their claims? I requested two different sizes: small card and standard American. These are the equivalent to FFG Yellow and Green sleeves (41mm x 63mm and 57mm x 89mm). **Side note, if you ever need to know what size sleeve your game needs, visit this list at BGG). I choose these because I have sleeved Descent and it'd be easy to do comparisons against sleeves I know I have extras of and use regularly. 

The Sleeve Kings first claim is that their sleeves are thicker. According to the BGG Card Sleeve geeklist I just referenced here is the information for the various brands:
  • Arcane Tinmen: All sleeves are 80 microns.
  • Artipia: Standard sleeves are 40 microns. Premium sleeves are 90 microns.
  • BCW: Board game sleeves are approximately 100 microns. Other sleeves vary.
  • Blackfire: Most sleeves are 40 microns. Premium sleeves are 100 microns.
  • Docsmagic: Regular sleeves are 50 microns. Premium sleeves are 100 microns.
  • Dragon Shield: All sleeves are 120 microns.
  • Fantasy Flight: All sleeves are 105 microns.
  • Kaissa Games: Standard sleeves are 50 microns. Premium sleeves are 80 microns.
  • KMC: Standard and Mini sleeves are 100 microns. Perfect Fit sleeves are 45.5 microns.
  • LaTCG: Perfect Size sleeves are 63.5 microns. I have no information on their other sleeves.
  • Legion: Unknown thickness, but comparable to Fantasy Flight. 
  • Mage Company: 100 microns.
  • Mayday: Standard sleeves are 40 microns. Premium sleeves are 90 microns.
  • MTL: Soft sleeves are 40 microns. Thick sleeves are 90 microns.
  • Paladin (NSKN): All sleeves are 90 microns.
  • Sleeve Kings: All sleeves are 60 microns.
  • Swan PanAsia: Standard sleeves are 40 microns. Premium sleeves are 90 microns.
  • Tasty Minstrel: Unknown thickness, but comparable to Fantasy Flight.
  • Ultimate Guard: Classic Soft sleeves are 40 microns. Premium Soft sleeves are 50 microns. Supreme sleeves are 115 microns. Master sleeves are 160 microns.
  • Ultra-Pro: Deck Protector sleeves are 110 microns.

So they are thicker than some, but not nearly as thick as others. Also, of note - I believe Sleeve Kings is headed up by Seth (of Mayday games) but their sleeves are NOT the same as Mayday's nor are they made in the same factory or by the same process. So these are not Mayday sleeves, re-branded.

Interestingly, unless you buy fairly cheap sleeves (or worse, penny sleeves), you will find the Sleeve Kings' sleeves thinner. I'll have to say, I didn't find this to be horrible. The sleeves are only 60% of the thickness of most premium sleeves, but they don't feel cheap by comparison. When you have a large number of cards, the thickness starts to be noticeable, and so stack height starts to matter.

On their second point - nearly all of the brands sell themselves in packs of 50 or 100, so you do indeed get more. Does it matter that much? Depends on how much of a MAGO you are... I will say this, if you are doing a lot of sleeving, the cost point paired with the amount of cards you get is really good.

Sleeve Kings on the left, FFG on the right

As for their next point - clarity. I found their sleeves to be slightly clearer. What I can't actually say is whether this was due to the reduced thickness or or the material or whatever, but they are slightly less cloudy than the FFG card sleeves (not that I find FFG sleeves to be particularly "cloudy"). Also, please don't try and judge the clarity based on my inability to take great pictures with my phone. In the picture above, you can't tell much difference and it really isn't that different in person either - as I said, it is slight.

Sleeve Kings' sleeves are a hair wider

While we are looking at the above pictures, I'll take this opportunity to point out size differences (as opposed to thickness). Now, the Sleeve Kings' sleeves are all 0.5mm wider than most of the competition. Honestly, it isn't super noticeable. If you are sleeving a heavily shuffled card game (Star Realms or a deck builder like Thunderstone) and you only had one or two of the wider ones, you might be able to pick them out on width - I have noticed size differences in other brands before and in other games I've sleeved and it hasn't bothered me or been advantageous in any way I've seen, but if you are a MAGO, it might bother you if your sleeves are not uniform.

Interestingly and despite the width difference, the sleeves are actually snugger than the FFG ones. The are also shorter, leaving less extra sleeve at the top. Does any of that matter? Not that I can tell - it doesn't seem to make it easier to shuffle (you'll still have to avoid bridge shuffling since you will still catch cards in the opening). I honestly hadn't ever noticed the extra space on the sides of the sleeves using the FFG brand, but for whatever reason, Sleeve Kings do fit better (ie less space between the card and the sleeve edge). Sleeve Kings has made a point of stating these are not Mayday sleeves, but if you use Mayday sleeves - these fit a lot like their premium ones.

And now we get to the Sleeve Kings' final point, and one that they have made a big deal about - the strength (and quality of the manufacturing). Let me first say that with clear sleeves, I generally do not have an issue with ripped sleeves (I don't use penny sleeves as I've indicated a number of times). The sleeves I've had issues with are generally because of two materials (sleeves with an opaque back) that split when sleeving or after a bit of use. That being said, I gave their sleeve challenge a go, ripping up FFG and Sleeve Kings' sleeves, and here's what I found.

If you put a couple fingers in FFG cards and pull, they rip - right down both sides and without too much effort. These aren't bad quality sleeves, so don't get the idea that FFG sleeves rip if you look at them wrong, but it didn't take much effort to try to rip them.
FFG small FFG standard
Now, when I tried the same with the Sleeve Kings' sleeves, it was tougher. 40% of the sleeves I pulled on, I was not able to get them to rip down the seem and all I ended up with was a bunch of stretched out sleeves. The rest ripped, but admittedly with a bit more effort. Which is to say, their claim that their card sleeves are stronger on the seams appears to be true, and I agree that they are when using their finger pull test. As I have not fully sleeved up a deck builder/shuffle heavy game, I can't say how they'd stand up over time (as far as splitting goes when played with heavily).

Sleeve Kings Sleeve Kings Sleeve Kings

Conclusion

So, would I buy and use these instead of FFG sleeves? Yes, maybe. Sorry, that's a terrible answer. Let me explain why I use the sleeves I currently do and my main reservation. 

For boardgames with non-magic sized cards that I want to sleeve, I typically use FFG sleeves. For deck builders or LCG/CCG (anything "Magic" sized) I use Ultra Pro card sleeves. I don't think they are necessarily the best or that they are my favorites, but the price and availability are decent. I can find either brand all over the place - I can get Ultra Pros at Walmart if I want. FFG sleeves are pretty readily available at any FLGS and on Amazon. I long time ago, I compared Mayday premium sleeves to FFG and preferred them over the FFG ones for many of the same reasons I like the Sleeve Kings' sleeves (which I'll state here in a second). The only reason I don't use Mayday premium sleeves now - I couldn't get them. My FLGS carried them, but they couldn't get them back in stock, so they never had them and they were constantly unavailable online as well. I eventually decided that the (small) differences didn't matter as much as being able to actually get sleeves easily.

So that's really my only hesitation. If Sleeve Kings can keep up the supply chain (beyond the first part of this year) then I'd easily recommend these sleeves. As this is a new brand/company, there isn't an evidence either way except for my past history with Mayday (I also have no clue if Mayday ever got their supply issues worked out as I stopped using their brand). 

Pros

  • Sleeve Kings fit the cards better and they are shorter (less gap at the top of the sleeve.
  • They are 40% thinner than most premium sleeves without feeling cheap
  • They are stronger on the seams than thicker sleeves
  • Their cost is good. 110 sleeves @ $2-3 is a really good price. FFG sleeves are more than twice that cost.

Honestly, the thinner thing is really appealing. With a game like Eldritch Horror where you have 1300+ regular sized cards (assuming you are an expansion fanatic), storage is an issue. For deckbuilders this is also a problem. I've stopped buying Legendary expansions because I am out of room for more cards. I'd say if you are just starting out with a game you want to sleeve, these are a great choice. I don't think I'm going to go about re-doing/re-sleeving all my games, but if they are able to keep them in stock so that they are easy to get, I will likely choose Sleeve Kings for my sleeving needs in the future. 


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