Tokens for Skirmish wargaming

A few thoughts on tokens in skirmish games and various styles I have been trying.

I like all gaming, I can’t think of a system I actually don’t like. Recently the skirmish games that run on smaller tables with more complex rules have been floating my boat more and more. These crunchier rules sets often introduce states that need tracking and this leads to tokens.

I’m not against tokens, I love them. The look and feel of a really nice piece of laser cut and etched acrylic is the best of the plastic crack.

But an advantage of these skirmish games that play with lower numbers of figures on a smaller tables, is that they allow more time to devote on making it all look super sharp. Sometimes a sea of tokens can detract from the look I feel.

Historical games with the larger figure counts often come with more streamlined rules that require less tracking. This pic of a game of Bolt Action we put on last year has very little clutter on the table detracting from what was 18′ x 4′ of nice terrain and painted figures presenting a nice spectacle.

The vista afforded by nice terrain and figures in a historical setting definitely benefits from a lack of tokens.

I’m not a fan of blinds either for historical games, they are a great game mechanic but they can detract from the visual appeal of a game if they aren’t done in a muted fashion.

For some games like Infinity, the bright look of fluorescent tokens lends itself to the look of the game in progress.

In the above pic, the representation of smoke and mines, and the thermo optically camouflaged troop looks epic to my eyes. For a while my wargaming table at home even had a blacklight to really make the tokens pop!

We’ve played a lot of Fallout Wasteland Warfare which is a token heavy game system. The cardboard tokens supplied are many and they are fiddly small. The video game nature of the subject and the general excellence of the system have meant that the tokens here have never bothered me too much.

We play on decent terrain with painted figures, exactly the scenario where I have started to feel tokens are becoming a problem, but Fallout gets a pass. A great game and the tokens are ok.

Acrylic can be clear, fluorescent, opaque and translucent and choosing the right acrylic and colour can make a difference to the legibility of the etch and how distracting the token is.

We played Skirmish Sangin for a few weeks whilst waiting for the second edition of Spectre Operations to arrive.

I originally made clear tokens for skirmish sangin in the hope they’d blend and get lost in the scenery. The problem was they did, they were also illegible.

I cut rounded triangle shapes with a cut icon at the top to denote states, in the pic below you can see icons for kneeling and prone. Even with the icons the clear acrylic tokens were difficult to read (my eyes aren’t what they used to be).

In the end I went for opaque muted green for the general tokens and a translucent red for morale and wound markers.

For a long while I was very happy with the look. The token soup appearance shown in the pic wasn’t bothering me. Then one day, it just started to draw my eye too much. The figures in the pic were excellently painted by Lawrence and I’ve put as much effort as I can to make a good show of the terrain. The whole thing could be more immersive without a carpet of acrylic on show.

For our first game of 2nd Edition Spectre Operations I had a set of acrylic tokens I’d done for first edition. We used dice for suppression (yellow) and bleed out (black), and the wound marker has a hole for a 6mm die to show the level of wound.

Spectre uses a lot less tokens and in play I wasn’t finding it too much of a problem.

As a trial I’ve decided to use MDF tokens. These have the advantage of being easier for me to do and cheaper. The etching doesn’t need colouring (I use wax crayons to fill the etch with colour) and the material is cheaper.

I’m hoping they look a little more tactical and muted on the table too.

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