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The Art of Counter Clipping

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

Carefully clipped counters can look great, if you don't overdo it...

Read the related article “How to free my counters from their frames”  here

What if something happens while you are separating the counters from their frames, or what if you buy a used and punched game? What if you always have to watch these ugly paper remains on your otherwise beautiful counters? Then your only chance is to do some counter cosmetics – and we proudly present a classic flame war theme:

Counter Clipping – yes or no?

Wargamers are divided into three factions here:

  • Group A rejects any counter treatment. Counters are used as they come out of the frame – period. Wargamers of this faction tend to use a very careful counter separating and punching method. In general, no cosmetic treatment is necessary; little paper lappets are accepted. On the other hand, some gamers from this faction couldn’t care less about their counters (in fact, this is only a minority – the average consim player has an almost religious relationship to his games – as it should be 😉 )
  • Group B accepts the necessity of cosmetic treatment if counters are punched out without much care, because untidy counters spoil the aesthetic impression of a game (and, by the way, one could encounter problems when grabbing a counter with tweezers). This is why this type of player cuts the paper lappets with a sharp nail-clipper after punching and gets a satisfying result.
  • Group C thinks counter punching is only the initial act. This act is followed by a religious ceremony: clipping the counter’s edges. The following pictures give a good impression of counter clipping in perfection:

Clipped counters in perfection

On the left, you see clipped counters in perfection: clean and regular. Very few material was removed from the counters, thus conserving its die cut form (if you don’t have much talent or time, counters tend to become hexagonal, in extreme cases even circular). The reason for this radical treatment by the “Total Clipping Faction” is that counters fit more easily into the map board hexes, which enhances the optical impression and allows easier gameplay.

Alas, some problems are related to this counter treatment:

It’s very difficult to provide a regular treatment to all counters – you need time, a quiet hand and sharp eyes. Some games have 2000, 4000 or even 6000 counters – and you can imagine how long it takes to clip them all! This is no problem for the followers of this cult of the nail clipper, though. They are looking forward to clipping the game for months and spend evenings and evenings clipping their counters, it’s really a form of meditation for them.

If you fail in clipping some counters correctly, the final picture will be quite irregular – which spoils the intended aesthetic effect.

Finally, in some games you could encounter rules problems: some games define a LOS being blocked by a counter. If you change the counter’s appearance – the original form intended by the designer -, you could spoil a game. You may also face trouble with your opponents who prefer playing with un-clipped counters.

As a result, we cannot recommend this radical method of counter treatment to an unexperienced player who’s not that good with their hands.

This is how the ideal counter should look like

By the way, don’t be confused: both methods of counter treatment (groups B and C) are called “Counter Clipping”, but – as mentioned above – there is a great difference between only clipping the paper dips with a nail clipper and trimming all the counter edges. Sometimes eBay sellers offer a game with “clipped counters”, simply meaning the minimal treatment which actually increases the game value. On the other hand it can be a bad surprise if you buy such a game, hoping for only minimal treated counters, but getting a game with radical clipped counters. In extreme cases, these counters can have a circular form when someone without any talent tried to clip the counter’s corners…and the eBay seller only shrugs and says: “But I told you that the counters were clipped….”

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