*Disclaimer* I was sent this sleeves free of charge, and would like to thank Ultimate Guard for their product. I would also like to state that sleeves are generally not what I review, but given that these fall under the board game category, here I am.
As a long time card game player, I am incredibly familiar with the evolution of sleeves over many years, as well as how each and every sleeve from each of the major companies feel. So when Ultimate Guard sleeves came out recently, I was curious as to how they would hold up with the competition, given how comprehensive their coverage is in regards to sleeve size. So what did I think? It will probably help to know that I am incredibly partial to the Ultra Pro line of Matte Finish sleeves; I am aware that they only come in card game size, but I still use the quality of those sleeves as a benchmark for others.
As far as sizing goes, Ultimate Guard definitely delivers. I, an avid board gamer with tonnes of games in my collection, still couldn’t find a game to sleeve for some of the sizes. The sizes do fit as labelled; 7 Wonders size does in fact fit 7 Wonders, and with only a little extra space at the top of the sleeve. It’s not as slick as Perfect Fit is for card games, but it does the job well enough, considering how many different sizes they come in. There are (I believe) no other companies which make sleeves with such an expansive range as Ultimate Guard, so for those of you out there looking to protect a game where you just can’t seem to find sleeves that fit, your answer may have just arrived.
As far as doing their job goes, Ultimate Guard does it just as well as any other sleeve does. They will protect your sleeve from spills, wear and tear by providing an outer layer for the cardboard in the centre. In fact, I have found that Ultimate Guard sleeves seem to be more malleable and stretchable; they are less likely to randomly decide to snap should you accidentally force them to stretch in a way they shouldn’t. So far, everything is looking pretty tops for Ultimate Guard right? Well…
There were definitely some negative things I have to say in regards to the sleeves. As far as their so called “premium” quality goes, I found myself left wanting. They *barely* feel better than the cheapest options available on the market, and those are marketed to be cheap. This probably comes as a result of their thinness and stretch-ability, but I believe that I would have sacrificed that for some much more sturdy and better feeling sleeves. Whilst it may not matter as much in board games as it does in card games, to me the beauty of many other companies is the nice finish on the sleeves, something which Ultimate Guard is lacking (at least on the board game sleeves). In addition, another issue with the thin sleeves is that after a *single* shuffle, the corners of the sleeves gave in and started to bend. Again, not all board games require constant shuffling as card games do, but this was a big ‘no-no’ for me as far as quality goes.
I was a little disappointed in Ultimate Guard overall. I concede that the sheer range of sleeves they have on offer is impressive and would definitely recommend them for games for which there are no other sleeves on the market, but for games which have other options, I cannot with an honest heart suggest Ultimate Guard over them.
Hopefully Ultimate Guard address the issue in the future. Lin found a similar problem with the ‘Premium Soft Sleeves’ in his review of the X-Wing range of Ultimate Guard products. Luckily an alternative is available in that size with the ‘Supreme Sleeves’, which according to Lin, hold up much better under normal play conditions. Perhaps we’ll see a ‘Supreme Sleeves’ alternative for board games in the future.
You can also check out Harrison’s review of the ‘Standard’ sized card sleeves, deck boxes and folders here.