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Design Discussion: Counters

Dead counter by Sam Alcarez

One thing that most miniature games have in common is the use of counters. I fell in love with miniature gaming because of the immersion that comes with the visual experience. One of the things that has always detracted from that visual experience though is all of the on board clutter that comes from counters littering the field of battle. There have been some more artful approaches like upright blast markers, but cardstock or plastic counters have a hard time preserving the look and feel of my game area.  I am one of those extremists that has an assortment of fully modeled counters for some of my armies just so that I can maintain an attractive play area.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I love in-game effects like being drugged, set on fire, knocked unconscious, shocked, etc. When you have a lot of in-game effects, you need counters to keep track of them all. In my early playtesting of Broken Contract, the field was littered with ugly counters to keep track of. And they got in the way of the models too, so I started studying other games to see what I liked about them.

Character Dashboard by Sam Alcarez

Some games use lists making counters an absolute necessity. Others use cards that you can sleeve and check boxes on with a dry erase marker, but the cards are playing card size or smaller and don't account for every in-game effect. Others use mid sized character dashboards where some wounds and effects are logged on the dashboard but others are still marked on the board with counters. And finally, there are no more than a handful of games I know of that strive to keep all notation on the dashboard. After playing some of these games, I started to feel strongly that this was the way for Broken Contract to go.

Restrained counter by Sam Alcarez.

We're working to make sure every in game effect has a corresponding counter to place on the Character Dashboard. The exception will eventually be dropped equipment and prone models. The equipment pack that was the last reward added to the Kickstarter will be ideal for dropped weapons and prone models can currently can be laid down. Ideally they should get sculpts to represent them so people who paint their models don't get them all chipped up.

I think for those like me who got into miniature gaming because of the look and feel of the models played on fully modeled boards will really appreciate this attention to preserving that. Though I know, without a doubt, some will use the game cards, without the dashboards, and will litter the table with the counters just like they always have. This will give everyone the option of playing the type of game they want to play.

Our first public play testing session in the Milwaukee metropolitan area is this Thursday at Realm of the Dragon in Wauwatosa, WI. You can get the full details here:

Broken Contract Playtesting at Realm of the Dragon

Thanks for reading!
-Nick

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