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Posts Tagged ‘Counter clipping’

Counter Clipping: In Search of a Better Solution

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

by Dave King

For some reason the issue of clipping die-cut counters periodically generates energetic debate between those who do and those who don’t clip. But when seen as akin to trimming the flashing off a plastic model before beginning assembly or off lead miniatures prior to painting, one wonders why wargame publishers don’t include instructions on clipping with their games. Clipping should more properly be viewed as a necessary step in preparing a game for play.

When die-cut counters are punched from their frames, the corners inevitably fray to some degree. Clipping largely eliminates the problem of these corners snagging each other in counter-dense games, which can jostle whole battle lines or cause stacks to tumble.

Proponents of counter clipping will tell you their counters are also easier to handle, neater looking, and allow more counters per compartment in sorting trays. Many non-clippers will still use a hobby knife to cut counters free from the frames that hold them, thus minimizing ragged corners. Others simply use the counters as they break free from the frame, no trimming of any sort, considering themselves purists of the hobby.

According to several informal, unscientific surveys, slightly more than half of all wargame players trim their counters as part of prepping a game for play. Of course, that means about half the players do not clip. So where did this counter-clipping thing begin and where is it going?

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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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Counters, frames, and loud cursing…

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

A situation familiar to everyone who ever bought a new wargame: with pleasure you look at your counter sheets and the appealingly designed counters and markers of your new acquirement, but before playing the wargaming gods have set the punching of the counters.

The ideal case is that the slicer was properly adjusted during the manufacturing process, so that in fact the counters are already separated, but only so far that they can be easily punched out by the customers. However, when this adjustment is not carried out correctly (which is very often the case…), it could happen that the counters are already punched out of the frames and mixed up in the game box or that they can be punched out of their frames only by violence.

The customer doesn’t like either version because on the one hand the counter chaos is a nightmare for a wargamer (counters could be absent, may be damaged, must be assorted with great difficulty, etc.) and on the other hand the counters could be damaged if someone tries to punch them out of their frame “against their will”.

Counters which are fixed tight to their frames tend to rip off their surface or cover paper when being punched. Another problem is that after the counters are separated, some relict pieces of paper may remain. This is not only unattractive – it is even disturbing during play.

So, what to do in this case?

Preparing the wooden board and tools

There are different ways to punch new counters out of their frame and every wargamer has his own method.

For example, you can cut them out with a sharp carpet knife along their punched line – but always keep in mind that this method is dangerous because you might slip off and cut a counter in two – which could ruin the entire game. You should never forget that in a consim often each counter is in use, and, if only one is lost, you have to use a replacement – painted by yourself on a piece of paper, a blank counter or whatever. That is anything but pretty, especially if you spent $150 for such a game.

Roller knifes are very popular too, because they are more easily to handle and don’t tend to leave the punching line, but even here it largely depends on whether you press too much (and slip off from the punched line, too) or to soft (which makes repeatedly rolling necessary – bad-looking counter edges are the result then).

Very careful...!

We have developed a very easy, but effective method and are willing to share our deep secret with you 🙂

You need a wooden kitchen board, not too hard (and of course one you don’t need any longer in your kitchen, better ask your wife before using it 😉 ) and a sharp knife – best if it is triangular formed (a bit wider on the back) and a small hammer.

You put the counter-sheet on the board, put the knife with its blade in one of the punching lines and bash the hammer with a hefty stroke on the backside of the knife’s blade. This separates the cardboard in a very precise way, the counters are still in their frames, while the knife can’t slip off because it finally hits (and sticks in) the wooden board.

The results are nice looking, almost perfectly cut counters

Afterwards, you lift the knife out of the board and continue all along the first punching line. Once all counters are detached out of their frame, you can now separate the single counters bit by bit in this cute fashion.

With this method, you’ll get very nice counters, which will have none to little (depending by the quality of the cardboard and the sharpness of the knife) small pointed corners of paper relics. In most cases the counters don’t even need treatment with a nail clipper or something – so this system is much faster than every other system once you get the hang of using the knife with the hammer in quick routinely strokes.

If you are in need of a treatment for your counters (maybe you have bought a used game with poorly loosened counters or didn’t read our clever advise 😉 than you have to become familiar with the “High Art of Counter Clipping“.

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