Thursday, December 17, 2015

Case Study 2: Counter Design

While I eagerly await your playtest reports, I figured why not talk about the thinking behind some of the counter design, and give some advice for making your own copy. Counter design is something that often fails to receive the attention it deserves given the amount of time we spent staring at and groping the counters.

Playtest counters in progress courtesy of Keith Tracton, check out his awesome custom warhammer game map under the counters!
First off, what do the counters exactly represent? The units represent either divisions, brigades, or regiments of men, horses and guns, anywhere from hundreds to thousands of gem generally. Other counters depict historical leaders, supply depots, and various status markers that depict things such as Disruption or No Supply. Historically, an infantry brigade in this time period had a frontage of about .3 miles, hence the map scale of .3 miles per hex. Division counters represent the concentration of the unit's firepower (strength points.) (A common misnomer is that counter stacking limits has to do with how many men can fit in a hex, but this view is incorrect. It rather reflects the command capacity of the generals/officers leading the troops in that hex.)

Kevin Zucker published a series of magazines on game design through OSG and in one of these magazines is a detailed article about counter design. The counters for my game were made with the following paraphrased guidelines established by Zucker / OSG:

*Make important information clear and readable
*Make counters pleasant to look at
*Hierarchy of information
*Function & Form

Crude counter diagram by me. 

The first thing you are meant to notice is the counter's background color which indicates the nationality. Second is the name of the unit, and along with the name of the unit we get its corps attachment making it clear to see which commanders command which units, & we get a division stripe below that to make it easy to locate subordinate units to a division. Breakdown units are also featured prominently to remind the player of their possible usage. Then we receive all the relevant information top to bottom, left to right, from unit type, to strength, to initiative, and finally to movement points. The counters give one all the information they need to know about the units without having to reference any outside information, and are functional and if I may say so, nice to look at.

Keith has made counters I believe at 5/8ths of an inch, the game counters will be 1/2 inch, nonetheless feel free to make them whatever size is easiest to read, though you may run into some counter density problems.
 To make your own counters, I recommended printing out a counter sheet and gluing it (or whatever) to some cardstock (dont forget both sides of the counters. Use a craft knife and a metal ruler to cut out pieces (carefully.) A cutting board is necessary to protect whatever surface you are doing this on. there are individuals out there with die cutters who can make you counters as well. For a map, you can either print it out yourself and tape the sections together, or go to a kinkos and have them print it out. Do so to the dimensions specified in the rules. Happy gaming!

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