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Subject: How many counters is too many? rss

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geoffrey d. hurn
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I am designing (or trying to design) a board game. How many counters is considered too many? I realize monster games at ConsimworldExpo have thousands of counters but they also have a game board that is several square feet. The game I am designing has a map board 30" x 28". It is based on a series of science fiction books about two competing interstellar powers. One power has approximately 1600 warships and the other has 2100. Combined together and assuming each counter would represent one vessel I am looking at a counter manifest of 3700+ counters. I have thought about grouping ships into taskforce or squadron formations. So I put to anybodys opnion, how many counters is too many?
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Steve S
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I'd say 3700+ certainly qualifies.

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Jim Cote
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Let's estimate that your board has about 900 spaces. That's over 4 counters per space, filled. Or 40 counters per space, 1/10th filled. Seems a little ridiculous.
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Steven Wyman
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That is too many.
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Kevin B. Smith
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I am not a wargamer, so assuming yours is wargame-y, I think you should focus on getting input from people who are generally comfortable pushing lots of units around. Having said that, I'm firmly in agreement that 3700 is too many.

As for the other part of your question: Yes, I would think that grouping them into 10's, squads, or even fleets, would be a reasonable approach. You might also re-think the assumptions that got you to 1600 and 2100 units per side. Is this based on existing work that you cannot change? Or can you change the backstory, perhaps to reduce the counts by 10x, to make the game more manageable?

Aside from complexity and fiddly-ness, you'll also want to think about component costs (if you hope to publish), or ease of assembly (if your focus is PnP).
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Boaty McBoatface
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It may be a bit high. games like Federation and Empire can get unwieldy after a while. On a standerd size map 400 counters is more then enough 1000+ is too many really.
 
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Stephen Keller
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You really have to find some way to scale those numbers back. 1600 vs 2100 may be your vision but it poses a few problems.

Space will definitely be an issue. Cost of your game will be another. Game set up and the actual part of moving all these pieces around without spilling them/making a mess is a big issue too.

A straight forward solution would be to slash those numbers to 160 vs 210 and tweak your economic numbers in game to adjust for this. Another way to deal with large numbers is to have your ships represented by different sized stackable discs. You could have the largest disc be 500, then some 100 discs, then some 10 discs, then some 5's and some 1's.

I remember the pain of sorting/counting out the pieces for Dust. That was an 800 piece game and that was a 6 player game. It also became problematic when you had a large military force on one space. Spillage was an issue.
 
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Richard Pardoe
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gdhurn wrote:
The game I am designing has a map board 30" x 28"..... One power has approximately 1600 warships and the other has 2100.


Others have mentioned the space factor, but let me help put that in perspective. Consider Case Blue

That game had 2800 counters (ie 10 counter sheets) just for the units and another 840 counters (ie 3 counter sheets) for game markers (you haven't even mentioned those yet), but fits all this on NINE (9) 22x34 maps instead of the 1 you are considering. (And even then, not all the units are one the map at one time.) Oh...and the cost for this was $165 for pre-order a few years ago. Don't know what that might cost these days.

Do you really want a game with a lot of this?


(Yes, this is a smaller scenario with only a few units, but you get the idea.)

Edit...another monster game with tons of counters and tons of maps: War in the Pacific (second edition)
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J Chav
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You could also have counter that can track themselves. So maybe you have a fleet and it has 10 units of life and represents 1000 ships. Just scale thing and you can have different ways to break up the fleet into smaller groups. Just adjust the life of the tokens.
 
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gdhurn wrote:
It is based on a series of science fiction books


Have you obtained a license to use the contents of these books in a published game (or are they perhaps your books)? Would you be OK with publishing the game with changed names, so that even if your battle roster is on some level faithful to the source material, it wouldn't really matter because your units could not be matched to their "real" counterparts? Or are you not looking (or expecting) to publish the game commercially anyway?
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Sweetgotham
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Kaffedrake wrote:
gdhurn wrote:
It is based on a series of science fiction books


Have you obtained a license to use the contents of these books in a published game (or are they perhaps your books)? Would you be OK with publishing the game with changed names, so that even if your battle roster is on some level faithful to the source material, it wouldn't really matter because your units could not be matched to their "real" counterparts? Or are you not looking (or expecting) to publish the game commercially anyway?


You beat me to it: this is a huge issue. The golden rule on this sort of thing is that no publisher is going to want to bother with paying a licencing fee without a very good reason (like, the game will sell a ton of units) coupled with the manufacturing cost of what you are proposing- this whole thing needs a serious re-think.
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Mike Jones
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yeah, with that small of a board it will probably be WAY to much to handle.

Think about the stacking and heaven forbid the bumping soblue

You mention a manifest of 3700+ counters. It will probably be way over that if you do anything with 'missles', space mines, objectives, shuttles, fighters, 'space men', debris, non-combatant ships, etc.
 
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Juhan Voolaid
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It really buggs me, when a game has too many components. It is makes it more difficult to set the game up and handle all the tokens during the game. For example Battles of Westeros - seriously, wtf, a box full of stuff.

Too many components is the sign of weak game design.
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Steven Metzger
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Play a few eurogames...PLEASE.
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Stephan Rasmussen
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Jux_ wrote:
It really buggs me, when a game has too many components. It is makes it more difficult to set the game up and handle all the tokens during the game. For example Battles of Westeros - seriously, wtf, a box full of stuff.

Too many components is the sign of weak game design.


I love games that include lots of stuff. I just love it and in todays games they mostly seem to have a function in the game also.

But yeah.. that many space ship counters seems way unnecessary and impossible to actually cope with when playing.
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Curt Woodard
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I have found that too many components on a small board is a pain in the butt. I found that out with Farmish and it's 220+ chits. Yep, *only* 220 or so but they were meant to fit on a map grid of 9x9 squares.

You wouldn't think that's too bad but chit spilling is a major problem with the game (as is the size of the board and the size of the chits).

I would consider 3700 to be WAY too much.
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Stephen Keller
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fierman wrote:



weak gamedesign??



Yup, a prime example of weak game design.
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Leo Zappa
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On a board of that size, I'd say 500 counters tops. I'd also suggest using just task force markers on your main strategic board, with off-map task force cards where each player can secretly stack counters representing squadrons onto different boxes on the card. Each box on the TF card represents a task force. There are a number of games that use this mechanism and it is a good way to introduce an element of "fog of war" to your strategic game.

I'd say each then that you would have two kinds of counters:

1) Task Force counters - represents a grouping of squadrons
2) Squadron counters - represents a grouping of similar starships. Perhaps you might have a "dreadnought squadron" counter which might represent 10 dreadnoughts. When in battle, "hits" scored are actually dreadnoughts destroyed, and would be indicated by a "hits" or "casualties" marker placed on the squadron counter. So, a "10" strength dreadnought counter which loses three ships in a battle has a casualty "3" marker placed on it.

If squadrons represented ~10 ships each, you could easily get your game down to less than 500 counters. If Task Forces held up to 10 squadrons each, you could get down to less than 50 counters on the strategic board, which seems like a good number. Battles could be fought on a tactical board or simply off to the side of the strategic map.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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So, 30"x28" is 840 square inches / 3700 tokens is 0.22 Sq In per token. For a square token, that's means your tokens would measure 0.05 in x 0.05 in (1.27 mm) just to cover the board completely. That means there are 100 token in a .5"x.5" area. So even with stacking, you would need 100 token in a stack at .5"x.5". And they are still completely covering the board.

I suspect that means there are too many tokens.

EDIT: Oops.
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Tommy Occhipinti
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jmucchiello wrote:
So, 30"x28" is 840 square inches / 3700 tokens is 0.22 Sq In per token. For a square token, that's means your tokens would measure 0.05 in x 0.05 in (1.27 mm) just to cover the board completely. That means there are 100 token in a .5"x.5" area. So even with stacking, you would need 100 token in a stack at .5"x.5". And they are still completely covering the board.

I suspect that means there are too many tokens.


In fairness, this calculation is not quite correct. The counters could be almost .5 inches square (but not quite) and just cover the game board.

None the less, this number of counters is clearly untenable. I think even 370 is probably pushing what you can do.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Oops, calculator failed me. It's square root function is wrong and I didn't notice.

Still, that's covering the whole board with tokens and no space between them.
 
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Geoffrey,

For comparison's sake, World in Flames Deluxe has about that many counters (3600) with five maps of about 33 x 24, and is considered a playable "monster" with some believing there is too much unit density. So you are talking five times the unit density there!

gdhurn wrote:
I am designing (or trying to design) a board game. How many counters is considered too many? I realize monster games at ConsimworldExpo have thousands of counters but they also have a game board that is several square feet. The game I am designing has a map board 30" x 28". It is based on a series of science fiction books about two competing interstellar powers. One power has approximately 1600 warships and the other has 2100. Combined together and assuming each counter would represent one vessel I am looking at a counter manifest of 3700+ counters. I have thought about grouping ships into taskforce or squadron formations. So I put to anybodys opnion, how many counters is too many?
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Rick Weckermann
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The number you seek does not exist.
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Way too many... And, I thought the game I was working on was starting to have too many at about 1000.

Can you add a mechanic to your game that allows you to use less pieces, but still do the same thing?

They are space ships yes? So why not start with X many on the board... and the rest get to Warp/Hyperspace/WormHole in later. Allowing a player to recycle their "dead" ships as new ships.
 
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geoffrey d. hurn
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Wow! Lot of responses! Thanks! I think I will trim it down to 25 counters each side for a total of 50 counters and an additional 50 counters for informational purposes. Again thanks for all of the responses!
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