As promised, thoughts on counters. There is a wide range of them available, ranging from chess and drafts pieces to specialist gaming counters, and they have some advantages.
The advantages are saving space, saving money, and (at least the way I use them) clear visibility of PCs or Stars.
- Saving space, because a stack of 15-20 counters takes up roughly the same space as one 30mm figure.
- Saving money, because counters are cheaper than figures – see below.
- Clear visibility, because I tend to use counters for NPCs (in roleplaying games) or grunts (in THW games), and normal miniatures for the PCs or Stars.
The main disadvantage is that they are very lightweight, so tend to go flying everywhere if someone bumps into the gaming table.
Sources are more limited than you might think, though. Setting aside things like chess pieces, one could use:
- Boardgame counters vary in price, usefulness, and looks, but you probably have some lying around anyway.
- Look on RPGNow or similar sites under “paper miniatures”, or search for that term, and you’ll find a wide range of 2D (counters) or 3D (paper minis). Again, price and quality vary widely; price is hard to judge though, since you could print out each one many times. My personal favourites are the Fiery Dragon Counter Collections, where about £8 will get you 180 counters, although fewer different poses than that. That’s about 4p to 5p per image, plus the cost of paper and whatever you base them on, if anything. I used to print them on photographic paper and superglue them to the bottom of Games Workshop 1″ square bases to make a durable counter, thick enough to pick up easily even with my fingers; I estimate that took the price up to around 10p or 15p per counter versus £2-£3 for a figure.
- The D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set includes about 50 counters for roughly £10. (Shop around and you can find it for less.) Even if you ignore the dungeon tiles, quickstart rules and scenario, that’s about 20p each, compared to a couple of quid for a figure. Admittedly, your choices of PCs are limited, but it’s a good selection of monsters.
Of these, after using the Fiery Dragon pieces for a while, I wound up using the ones in the D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set, because no assembly is required – making the Fiery Dragon ones up takes a fair amount of time, which I’d rather use actually playing.
Using counters and hexmaps is starting to transform my miniatures games into SPI-style boardgames, but I can’t get excited about that.