Counters and Tokens and Markers, oh my!

I firmly believe that the thing which attracts people to miniature games are the miniatures.  Honestly, if you want a serious simulation of warfare, there are much better and cheaper games out there that do not require all the time to build and paint.  They can be as detailed in gameplay as you desire.  It isn't just about how they look - because if all you care about is how they look then there are also many more visually appealing video games out there with simply outstanding graphics and sound.  It also isn't just about playing games with real people where you actually sit down together and share a real world experience for a few hours, because any table top game provides that.

No, miniature games are about the tactile experience of playing with three dimensional figures.  Both the look and the feel of pushing toy soldiers around on a  tabletop.  But what surprises me sometimes is how many people, while they may spend lots of time on the figures themselves, ignore anything else.  I've already talked about terrain, but what about the other, little things.  If your powerful mage typically casts a buff spell on your units, wouldn't it look much better and enhance the gameplay if, instead of putting down a cardboard chit or a glass bead, you actually modelled the effect.  Say you cast a flame cage around a unit - why not have some flames to put around them?  And if you general takes a wound, dice are sometimes the very worst thing to use to track these.  They are easily knocked over, or can be picked up to roll during the fury of battle.  If you are battling your hated enemies over a set of objectives - shouldn't these be piles of treasure or powerful grimoires full of spells, and not just quarters laid down on the table?

So I've tried to build the little extra tokens, counters and markers for my various armies.  But not only that, I've also tried to make them for the bigger events I run.

Many years ago, I played a game called Confrontation by a french company (Rackham).   All the models had cards you used with all their stats on them, as well as cards for spells etc.  One of the nice specifications for all their scenarios is that they were always described in terms of cards for size.  So if you were facing a portal, for example, it would be the size of two cards laid end to end.  A river was as wide as a card was tall.  The bridge was the size of two cards laid side by side.  Very nice for gameplay, but these were also the specifications for building that terrain.

Adepticon is next week, and I'm running the "Clash of Kings" Kings of War championship.  I try to provide the best playing environment that I am currently capable of.  I can't, unfortunately, do full size game boards (due to both lack of storage space, as well as the lack of transportation capability for them), so I do have to use 6'x4' pieces of brown felt (because the battlefield is never green grass, it is much more mud and dirt) to represent the battlefield.  However I have built hills, walls, trees and ruins for all of these.  Yes, the trees are on green felt to mark the area of the woods, but also so the trees themselves can be moved out of the way to make it more convenient to play the game.  I'm also running a campaign in a night (where each game directly affects later games) and a big battle.

The campaign, since it is a bit different, requires some new markers.  First up are campfires.  Sure I could have used tokens - but instead I created campfire tokens out of bits of sticks, hot glue and a bit of cotton.  Just to make the game look better.
Fires burning brightly on my messy painting table
I then realized that I can use these as objective counters for the big tournament as well.  I also needed scrolls - and I found a video where someone shows an extremely simple way to make them - using some very thin (1/16") dowels and masking tape - so I made up 36 of these as well - adding in decals that I ordered off from Armorcast.
Mystical scrolls of power
In the past I've done all sorts of other markers.  One of the first armies where I really applied this idea to was my WFB Ogre Kingdoms army.  One issue there is nearly every model in that army needs to be able to track multiple wounds, and dice just wouldn't do.  So I glued magnets on the back of their bases, and magnets onto extra skulls (from previous undead armies I had made) to track their wounds, and I have been complimented on these many times (and I guess I should take it as a compliment also when at a tournament apparently someone liked the idea so much they decided to steal it - literally walking off with my set of skulls).
Wound markers in action
Set of magnetized skulls
Not only did I make wound markers, but in their first book they had spells that worked differently than other armies, and required you to mark the units that had the spells on them.  The book had paper counters in the back for them, but those just wouldn't do, so I created my own spell markers for the Bullgorger, Toothcracker, and Trollguts (the spells worked by the butcher eating the appropriate item to give a unit the buff - so Bullgorger required him to eat a bulls heart to give +1 strength, Toothcracker was rocks to give +1 Toughness, and Trollguts was, well a troll's guts, for regeneration).  Unfortunately in the next book they changed the spells to work the same way they did for anyone else, but I still like my markers for them.
Markers for BullGorger, ToothCracker and TrollGuts spells
For my Confrontation wolfen, I made scrolls to identify when certain spells or effects happened to the models (such as a Predator of Blood becoming an Ultimate Predator), as well as skulls to indicate the wound level on each model.
The force that won best painted for me in April of 2006, where you can see the various scrolls marking models
When I run our Kings of War escalation leagues to get people to build and play more games, I give out league points if the participants do things like create their own wound markers, objective tokens, turn trackers, display boards or wavering tokens.  In the first league, I did three armies and made turn trackers, wound trackers and objective markers for all three armies
Markers for my Basilean army - using the angel wing theme

Goblin markers - using their hated enemies to track wounds

Ogre markers - Beer barrels seemed to fit them
Other people also made some pretty good ones as well
Keith Ambrose's elf objective markers

Beth Hill's Oriental themed Kingdoms of Men Objective Markers

Beth Hill's oriental turn counter

Amy Stamper's Steampunk objective markers for her dwarven army

Amy Stamper's steampunk turn counter

Keith Ambrose's elven wound markers.  Each head added to the base counts as a full die (i.e. 6 more wounds)
Keith Ambrose's turn tracker

So, in conclusion - you shouldn't miss the opportunity to enhance your army and your games by doing the little things like making your own counters.  They look great, give you a little bit more personalization, and you won't regret the time spent making them.


  1. Nice.
    Are your wound counters made from old Mage Knight bases?

  2. yes (and heroclix and mech warrior). I made up a custom wheel to go inside numbered 1-12.


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