This page was last updated on 1 January 2008.

Gaming "Hints from Heloise"

There are a lot of things out there which game designers and players can use to there advantage that you will never see in a game store. Here are some neat products and ideas to make your gaming experience more productive. Many of the ideas on this page came from other people -- I'll try to give them credit them where possible.

Gaming resources on the Net

Clip art for do-it-yourself counters

This is an 850k file containing tanks, ships, infantry, ships, and some assorted other things. I'll try to take a look at the file and give a more detailed accounting. Special thanks to Kerry Anderson, designer of Marine:2002 and proprietor of the Microgame Co-op for providing me with this file.

Web Grognards: The website for wargames

Variants, errata, reviews, shareware, and links for every wargame known to mankind.

Winchell Chung's incomparable 3-D Starmaps page

Great graphics, better explanations, freeware star viewers, and tons of data.

Winchell Chung's incomparable Nomograms for Wargames page

Don't know what a nomogram is? All the more reason you should check it out!

Neat game supplies you never knew existed

Map sheets: Available in a wide variety of hex and square sizes, from Chessex and The Armoury (among others). [More to come!]

Counter-sheets: Available in a wide variety of colors, from Chessex, and The Armoury (among others). Some come pre-printed with standard military symbols, others are totally blank. [More to come!

Neat non-game supplies with gaming applications

Plastic self-standing picture frames: Many games, especially tactical games where players control a few discreet units (such as naval miniatures or tactical space combat games) require that the players plot movement and keep track of damage and ammunition expenditures. Oftentimes players laminate the sheets upon which this information is recorded. It occurred to me one day that plastic self-standing picture frames would be a good substitute for lamination: You can write on them with an AV pen, and because they do stand up by themselves, they both hide the sheet from the opposing players and take up less table space. They cost a couple of bucks each, and come in a variety of sizes. The only drawback I can see to them is that the largest size that is commonly available is a frustrating 8x10, although I once found a discarded frame that measured 8.5x11. It came from our marketing weasels, so it may have been a special order from some marketing supply catalog. If so, you might be able to find it at an office supply place as a marketing literature stand.

Neat little tricks

Using permanent AV pens on laminated materials: PROBLEM: You want to use the "laminated sheet and markers" approach for tracking info in your game, but water-based AV pens rub off and smear to easily. What do you do?

ANSWER: Use permanent AV pens.

"But Chris," you say, "the problem with permanent markers is that they are, well, permanent. I want to use those sheets again, and probably even update them in the middle of the game."

Ah, but permament markers AREN'T permanent -- they're just impervious to water (and perspiration). They are NOT impervious to ...

(wait for it) ...


  • Write on the laminated material with permanent markers.
  • To erase, scribble out the writing with a wide-tip dry erase marker, and then wipe off.
This works even for erasing one item while leaving surrounding items. Only the stuff you actually overwrite will erase.

Vertical gaming: Many people I know have modified counter-based boardgames to be used vertically, on a sheet of light steel affixed to a wall. Of course, to do this you need to make the counters stick to the wall -- I've seen it don three different ways.
  1. Counter holders: At least one company (although I can't remember who it is makes magnetic counter holders. Since this is a game-specific application, they are relatively pricey, but they do have the advantage of being non-permanent.
  2. Magnetic tape or business card backing: Office supply places generally sell packs of business-card-sized magnets intended to turn business cards into refrigerator magnets. They sometimes also sell rolls of magnetic tape, that are just about the right width to do an entire strip of counters at once. Both cut easily. Simply affix the counters to the adhesive backing, and you are ready to go. Of course, your counters now have magnets glued to the back of them, and double-sided counters may have to be physically split in half to separate the facings.
  3. Color photocopier and sheet-sized magnets: This is my personal favorite. Photocopy the counter sheets onto 8.5x11-sized labels (Avery and several other companies make them -- check your office supply store) and then attach them to one of the magneting solutions above. This method has the advantage of not damaging the counters while being cheaper and easier to use than counter holders.
Keep in mind a couple of things while pondering whether to use any of these methods. First, magnets are polarized, so it makes a difference which way you affix the counters. Second, games with large stacks of counters in close proximity, or stacks of large counters, don't do so well, both because of polarization and because there's a limit to how high you can make the stack.

Storage solutions

Cigar boxes: Perfect for the storage of miniatures. Many people I know add sheet magnets to the bottom to hold steel-based miniatures in place -- or, conversely, add a sheet of thing steel to add magnet-based minis in place. The latter has the advantage of allowing the minis to be used for vertical gaming, on a sheet of light steel affixed to a wall.

Toys every gamer should own

Laminating machine: One of the best purchases I ever made. It comes in very handy for laminating charts and small maps (especially variant maps from magazines), and I once even considered purchasing an extra rulebook for a particularly favored game and laminating the whole thing. This thing is very useful around the house as well, turning business cards into luggage tags and laminating training certificates and the like. A laminating machine capable of doing 11 inch wide docuements costs a shade over $200.

I did get a few skeptical reactions from friends and coworkers, but it usually went like this:
"Why on earth would you buy a laminating machine? [3 second pause]
Could you laminate something for me?"

Got a hint you would like to share? Please let me know!