Counter Sorting – Bags vs Trays

I’ve been a bag guy for a LONG time as I just never got into Plano boxes or counter trays. Bags are 1) cheap 2) easy to store in bulk for future games and 3) lay flat in boxes. They also facilitate easy sorting into platoons, companies, battalions, etc.

However, I think I’m also now a counter tray guy. I acquired two in my recent purchases of some TCS games and wasn’t sure what use I’d put them to. Something struck me to try using them for admin counters for TCS. I busted out my bags and loaded the trays up.

The trays sit nicely on my table and cut down considerably on the clutter, something I am very fond of. See below:



See my sorting below. The tray provides for easier and faster retrieval of admin counters which really helped me enjoy my gaming.


I’m sticking with bags for my units but really enjoy the trays for playing. Anyone similar?

12 thoughts on “Counter Sorting – Bags vs Trays

  1. I’m a recent tray convert. I’ve always disliked bags as they look a bit messy in the box, then you have to empty them to get the counters, and it’s often fiddly finding the right bag [particularly with larger games].

    I used craft-storage containers for a while, but they never fit in boxes well and were often a little too deep, making it difficult to get counters out.

    Then I took a risk and bought a bulk lot of the GMT trays and now I love them! I like how the counters can be easily sorted into their own area, they’re easily removed when needed, and they fit into boxes so neatly.

  2. I’ll use bags if they come with the game or if I have enough where they make a legitimate dent in organization. In other words one or two big bags isn’t enough. They have to do a reasonable job sorting.

    However, I will definitely use Plano-style bins if I am 1) really, really into a game. Meaning I am going to play it enough that the upgrade is worth it and 2) The bin fits in the game’s box.

    #2 is often a deal breaker, especially for CDG which don’t leave a lot of room for reasonably sized bins. Most other boxes aren’t deep enough to hold even slimi plano bins along with the maps, rules, etc.

    There are enough instances where I have a match for #1 and #2 though. In fact, I bought six Plano bins tonight!

    • I think what types of bags are used also helps. I bought a large amount of bags with a white strip where you can easily denote which units are in the bag.

      Then those are housed in a larger bag containing the smaller ones. It works and is cheap. I could see in games where you need to constantly retrieve units on a regular basis compared to games where you simply setup, which is what I’ve experienced in TCS.

  3. I use three different kinds of storage and sorting. Plano boxes for my 50k counters for Federation and Empire, just because bags would be so difficult to use and the plano-type boxes snap close which is important when you move them from con to con.

    GMT type counter trays for OCS, GTS, SCS type games as they work well for keeping the units organized and easy to find.

    Plastic zip loc bags for wooden token games such as BitE or Setters of Catan.

    Each for the situation that works best.

  4. For me it depends on the game. I use bags and a couple of small plastic boxes for GMT’s Napoleonic Wars, for example. That game uses a relatively low number of counters, though, and the only natural sorting method is just my nationality. For most games that demand something more organized, but that I can store in the original box, I try to use counter trays; I laid in a stock of dozens from the Gamers and still haven’t run out (despite my wife stealing a bunch of them for her craft stuff!)

    I’m mostly out of the business of massive game systems that require separate storage solutions. But… I’m thinking of getting back into ASL, which would necessitate a solution that will handle massive numbers of counters. Which would kick me back to something like the plano box solution again.

    • Yeah for TCS there are quite a few counters so I find two separate trays helps.. And I could definitely see where something like ASL would work well with planos. Of course planos just seem like pimped out trays.

  5. Wow, is that what tidy looks looks like?
    Sad I know, but these days I do all my gaming on the computer. Bag or tray, guess I could use the bag over my head can’t do that with a tray!

    • Yeah often I look past some monster games as it seems they were more designed for VASSAL than actual play as my primary enjoyment is spending time away from my computer. Feels good pushing cardboard. In that way, TCS has some good playable monsters, not so much in grand scale but CG games of Leros, GD 42, etc certainly near that definition. Not to say I have anything against VASSAL, just not my preference.

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