Paul Elliott
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Okay, so I'm not really a grognard--I'm a long-time Eurogamer who has become more and more fascinated by wargames. So, I don't understand much about hex-and-counter games (I guess this is actually my first game with both). I want my counters to look nice and to last for a very long time. Is there anything I need to do? I've heard about "clipping" counters and "spraying" the countersheet with some sort of clear finish. What purpose would this serve? Is it worth it for me to do so? More importantly: how do I do it right? Help me to become more of a wargamer!
 
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dead gerbil wrote:
Okay, so I'm not really a grognard--I'm a long-time Eurogamer who has become more and more fascinated by wargames. So, I don't understand much about hex-and-counter games (I guess this is actually my first game with both). I want my counters to look nice and to last for a very long time. Is there anything I need to do? I've heard about "clipping" counters and "spraying" the countersheet with some sort of clear finish. What purpose would this serve? Is it worth it for me to do so? More importantly: how do I do it right? Help me to become more of a wargamer!


Clipping is cutting the corners off each counter - some wargamers do that so the square counter better fits in the hex space (you'd think we'd have hexagonal counters It also removes any rough corners that might cause stacks of counters to topple over when you place them next to each other.

It's not worth doing with Combat Commander IMHO as this game uses oversized hexes and you won't get many counters in a stack, and having 2 stacks of counters in adjacent hexes they still won't be touching.

Spraying the counter sheet is only necessary if the ink on the counters is likely to smudge or wear. Combat Commander printing seems pretty high quality to me, I haven't bothered to coat the counters.

Only 'protection' I suggest is:

1. Put your cards in sleeves (those they sell for CCGs are ideal)
2. Get a sheet of clear plexiglass and when you play put the mapsheet under the glass and the counters on top of it - that'll help reduce the wear on the mapsheet.
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Trevor Murphy
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Clipping the edges very, very slighty to get rid of any tiny shreds of linkage-paper also makes the counters look nicer, but it's admittedly sort of an OCD-feeling activity.
 
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David desJardins
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If you separate the counters by pulling them apart from one another, the counters will "rip" apart from one another at the corners. This produces a slightly irregular look, and it also sometimes causes the counters to "fray" at the corners. It may also be possible to distinguish the face-down objective counters from one another (although I don't think this is likely to be a big problem).

There are two solutions: you can cut the counters apart from one another with a razor or exacto knife, which gives a clean separation at the corners. Or you can clip the corners (e.g., with a nail clipper) after you separate them. Either approach is a bit time-consuming, so it really depends how picky you are.
 
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John Di Ponio
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Putting the cards in protective sheets is always a good idea. they will last forever that way!
I got into clipping counters about 2 years ago. It really helps with the look of the counter and stops the 'fraying' that occurs after removing from the counter sheet.
There was a guy that made a device for clipping counters. It is made of plexiglass and works GREAT!!! The counters are all uniform. Of course this takes TIME considering you are clipping each counter 4 times!!!! Not bad for a game with a few hundred counters...but monster games take a while! I will post the link to the device if I can fnd it!!!!!

John
 
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John Paul Sodusta
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I made my clipping jig from the corner of a CD case.
 
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Alan Kaiser
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Here is what the counters will look like if trimmed:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/1277445#1277445

Note that, as I mentioned in that article, you don't have to trim the corner off. You can trim the hanging pieces off the counter and still keep the counter square.
 
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Curt LeMay
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Over the years, I have both clipped the corners and squared off the corners with an exacto knife. They do look better, and large stacks are more managable. I think the squared corners look the best but are the most time consuming.

I had always joked that on the day I clipped my last counter, the world would end. As I was finishing up my last hundred ASL counters, I noticed the sky start to darken. A strange smell filled my nostrils. Brimstone...
 
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Ethan McKinney
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Counter-clipping jig: http://www.dicetower.20m.com/

See the end of this message for another reason to spray counters.

As John Sodusta said, you can make your own jig from the base of a CD case. Just carefully cut off one corner, no more than 1/8" from the corner along each side. (I think that's the right amount: look at your counters, measure, and adjust accordingly.) Be very careful to get rid of any burrs, jagged edges, or the like. They can tear or gouge the surface of a counter surprisingly easily.

To do the actual clipping, get a Trim (brand name) fingernail clipper. Go to your local hardware store and buy these. The other brands, like Revlon, that are sold in drugstores and other places, are complete crap. Of the two non-Trim clippers I've bought, one had a big snaggletooth sticking down from one side of the upper blade and the other had a blade that wasn't fully formed on one side, so it didn't cut all the way to the edge of the clippers! Useless for trimming nails, useless for trimming counters. Trim clippers are even cheaper than the other brands much of the time.

Now, spraying counters. Yes, if you think you're going to play the game a lot, it's a good way of protecting them. Make your decision before you punch out the counters, because spraying individual counters is a disaster (the spray gets around the edges and can glue the counter to whatever you're spraying on). I like to put two small strips of wood under the countersheet to hold it above the surface of whatever it's resting on.

If you need to spray outside (so that the fumes don't give you babies with gills, or just give you testicular cancer or whatever), you'll need some kind of spray booth. Otherwise, wind can make spraying very difficult indeed; worse, dust and dirt can get blown onto the fresh laquer, permanently adhering the junk to your beautiful counters. I simply use a large packing box (the biggest cube from UHaul, for instance). Put it together and line the bottom with newspaper. Put down supports for the countersheet to rest on and set the countersheet on them. When you spray, make sure you do it from the correct distance (usually 12-18") and make sure that your "strokes" start and end past the edges of sheet. When you have the sheet sufficiently coated, quickly close the box top (put something on top of it to keep it closed). Wait about five minutes, until the lacquer is dry to the touch. Put countersheet aside to dry completely and go on to the next sheet. Only do the back of the first sheet after you've done the fronts of all the sheets. This is to avoid uncured lacquer from adhering to laquer on the supports or elsewhere. (Incidentally, closing the box up is good for the environment. It gives all the spray time to land on a surface and dry, rather than floating off into the air.)

Besides durability, some people like a matte finish on their counters. There's a slight legibility advantage, depending on lighting conditions, some people like the feel better, and the counters have a little more friction, so it's harder to knock over stacks send counter zipping across the map. If you look at older wargames, you'll find that many of them used matte finishes. It's only in the last few years that game companies have gone almost exclusively to gloss finishes for both counters and maps, for reasons I do not understand. Consumer demand does not seem to be driving it: a lot of people say that they prefer the matte finishes.
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Paul Elliott
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Thanks for all the helpful advice! That answers my question well.

By the way, does anyone know where I could pick up a piece of plexiglass to cover my game boards. I've been meaning to get one to use with my other games with paper or thin cardbaord maps (Here I Stand, Hammer of the Scots, Europe Engulfed). Any recommendations--either online or at actual stores?
 
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Alan Kaiser
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Most home centers (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) have sheets in several types and various sizes.
 
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Jesse Herro
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dead gerbil wrote:

By the way, does anyone know where I could pick up a piece of plexiglass to cover my game boards. I've been meaning to get one to use with my other games with paper or thin cardbaord maps (Here I Stand, Hammer of the Scots, Europe Engulfed). Any recommendations--either online or at actual stores?


I've always been a big fan of the poster frames you can get from Target/Bed Bath and Beyond/Fred Meyer etc.

They have a card board back, a clear plastic front and long black plastic pieces that clip on to the sides to create the frame.

I have about 12 of them in my closet with maps from various games in them.

For combat commander, the 24x36" size nicely holds the 2 player aid cards, the track display and a map.

I have the player aid cards on one side, the track display on the other side and the map in the middle.

A bit of blue tack holds down the player aid cards and the track display so I can take off 3 side of the frame and lift the plastic to easily change maps.

Works great for me.

Also, counter clipping is almost a hobby in itself. I find it oddly theraputic and cant stand to play games with untidy counters. But, that's just me...ahem...
 
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To head off the next questions:
- The size of plexiglas you need is a matter of personal preference. I use 18"x24" which is big enough for one CC map. I use 2 sheets for a map twice that size (and those are common wargame map sizes.) It's a convenient size to carry, they are aboutt he size of my tub I carry my games in. It's about $5 per sheet.

- No, you don't have to buy the more expensive Lexan (polycarbonate), unless you want to. It cost twice as much and is more scratch resistant, but I haven't found scratches to be a problem.

- You can use wet erase "overhead projector" markers with the plexi for rail games of drawing features for a playtest map or similar. Erases easily with a wet paper towel. The Emptre Builder board never gets dirty this way.
 
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Quote:
Also, counter clipping is almost a hobby in itself. I find it oddly theraputic and cant stand to play games with untidy counters. But, that's just me...ahem...


Being new to hex & counter wargames and OCD, I am very pleased to encounter this.
 
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elbmc1969 wrote:
Counter-clipping jig: http://www.dicetower.20m.com/
Now, spraying counters. Yes, if you think you're going to play the game a lot, it's a good way of protecting them. Make your decision before you punch out the counters, because spraying individual counters is a disaster (the spray gets around the edges and can glue the counter to whatever you're spraying on). I like to put two small strips of wood under the countersheet to hold it above the surface of whatever it's resting on.

If you need to spray outside (so that the fumes don't give you babies with gills, or just give you testicular cancer or whatever), you'll need some kind of spray booth. Otherwise, wind can make spraying very difficult indeed; worse, dust and dirt can get blown onto the fresh laquer, permanently adhering the junk to your beautiful counters. I simply use a large packing box (the biggest cube from UHaul, for instance). Put it together and line the bottom with newspaper. Put down supports for the countersheet to rest on and set the countersheet on them. When you spray, make sure you do it from the correct distance (usually 12-18") and make sure that your "strokes" start and end past the edges of sheet. When you have the sheet sufficiently coated, quickly close the box top (put something on top of it to keep it closed). Wait about five minutes, until the lacquer is dry to the touch. Put countersheet aside to dry completely and go on to the next sheet. Only do the back of the first sheet after you've done the fronts of all the sheets. This is to avoid uncured lacquer from adhering to laquer on the supports or elsewhere. (Incidentally, closing the box up is good for the environment. It gives all the spray time to land on a surface and dry, rather than floating off into the air.)

Besides durability, some people like a matte finish on their counters. There's a slight legibility advantage, depending on lighting conditions, some people like the feel better, and the counters have a little more friction, so it's harder to knock over stacks send counter zipping across the map. If you look at older wargames, you'll find that many of them used matte finishes. It's only in the last few years that game companies have gone almost exclusively to gloss finishes for both counters and maps, for reasons I do not understand. Consumer demand does not seem to be driving it: a lot of people say that they prefer the matte finishes.


I have a can of Testor's brand Dull-Cote spray for plastic models. Is this what you would use for spraying counters?
 
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I used to think that clipping counters was for complete losers, until I played Ted Raicer's copy of Paths of Glory at WBC and loved the way the counters felt. Board wargaming is a very tactile activity (one of the reasons I'd rather play in person instead of online), and having nicely trimmed counters helps a lot. It also makes stacks of counters easier to handle, but even a single counter that's trimmed has a measureable difference.

Some people like to clip their counters so as to keep the units fairly square, but I prefer mine to be rounded, perhaps 1/32" in, so that the counters are arguably octagonal. The counter doesn't feel like it's rounded at all, and I find it improves ease of manipulation on the board.

And yes, I do trim my circular counters as well.

All I need now is a few pairs of tweezers and my journey to the geek side will be complete...
 
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elbmc1969 wrote:
Besides durability, some people like a matte finish on their counters. There's a slight legibility advantage, depending on lighting conditions, some people like the feel better, and the counters have a little more friction, so it's harder to knock over stacks send counter zipping across the map. If you look at older wargames, you'll find that many of them used matte finishes. It's only in the last few years that game companies have gone almost exclusively to gloss finishes for both counters and maps, for reasons I do not understand. Consumer demand does not seem to be driving it: a lot of people say that they prefer the matte finishes.


Back in the old days, I think SPI's games printed counters that had no varnish finish at all. A printed sheet with no finish tends to pick up oils and dirt pretty quickly and so wear out faster. But a sheet of unfinished counters will reflect no glar and so are very easy to read under overhead lighting. I think AH used a gloss or semi-loss varnish for most of the counters in their games and they seemed to wear better over time.

FFG uses cardstocks with a linen texture for their counters. I love the look and feel, but the raised portions of the printed surfaces (due to the linen texture), whether finished matte or glossy, tends to wear over time and a weird, white "cross hatching" begins to appear on the counter face as the ink is rubbed off (if the game calls for the constant handling and flipping of counters).

I think glossy counters with a smooth surface finish and a spray-coated with a nice, matte sealer look, feel, and wear the best.
 
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