Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Protip: Custom Gaming Tokens

Something I have noticed time and again is that a lot of gamers are refuse to put any money, time or effort into their gaming accessories (aside from dice, in most cases). I know people who eagerly drop hundreds of bucks on miniatures but stubbornly avoid buying or making decent blast templates, objective markers, tokens and similar components and instead use hastily made cardboard cutouts or just borrow from their opponents.

It's even worse if the accessories cannot be easily bought from a hobby shop. This is, I think, also one of the chief causes of many gamers' reluctance to try new gaming systems (even if they don't have to buy any new models) or to design a system of their own. Regardless of how neat a free ruleset they find on the internet is, many people consider it an insurmountable obstacle if the system requires special dice, tokens or templates, even if printable files are included with the ruleset.

So let me show you just how easy it is to create good quality components. Learning to do it can open up whole new vistas of gaming, allowing you to try out all those obscure little wargames you can find online.

First off, you obviously need the designs in electronic format. If printable tokens for your chosen game are available to download, you're already set. Otherwise, you have to design them yourself. This isn't as hard as it sounds if you have any sort of decent image editing program.

If this sounds unappealing, let me remind you that gaming tokens are usually very small. This means that you don't need fancy graphics, in fact it is much better to keep them simple so you can easily tell what's what at a glance. Even using a very respectable 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution, a 3/4" token will only be 225 pixels to a side. This is small enough to draw pixel by pixel even if you have zero talent.

If you aren't even feeling up to that much, you can borrow graphics from other sources. Google image search is great for this. Searching for "icons", "buttons", "symbols" and "clipart" will usually yield a variety of useful images that just need cropping and resizing.

Another source of simple graphics are fonts. Your computer likely comes with a few fancy font sets by default. You can explore fonts by typing out every letter in a word processor, but it's easier to look them up in the Character Map, where you can easily select the "letters" you want and copy/paste them into your image editor.

Once you have a good selection of images for your tokens, arrange them into a larger image for printing. If you don't have the means to print them nicely at home, take the file to a local print/copy shop and have them printed on a self-adhesive sheet. This costs maybe around a buck and one sheet is plenty for most systems.

Cut out the tokens with scissors or a hobby knife. I prefer the latter as I can make longer cuts swiftly.

Why print on self-adhesive sheets? Because this allows us to glue the tokens to a firmer base, such as cardboard or plasticard (sheet styrene). To save time, I cut my tokens into strips of 4 and glue each strip to an equally sized strip of plasticard. I want double-sided tokens, so I glue another strip on the other side.

I then make the final cuts, separating individual tokens. By doing it this way I make one cut instead of three (two layers of printed sheet and the plasticard in between).

The final product. What you see here is a single afternoon's work, starting from zero. I still have plenty of tokens left to cut later, but for now I have enough finished for a small game. As you can see, printing stickers even allows us to create custom dice on the cheap.

You'll have to excuse me if I don't share this particular set as I have borrowed the icons from many sources, including some commercial image libraries.

Well, that's all for now. I hope I've convinced someone that making tokens at home is very doable and shouldn't be a deterrent to trying new rulesets. Ta ta!

1 comment:

  1. Cool tip. I'm one of those assholes, who always postpone the making of proper tokens and templates, but I'll agree that a little effort can go a long way towards enjoyment of the game.