Insider 7/29/2010

The Long Road to Tokens

We wanted our new tokens to be a complete redesign from our original HORDES tokens and licensed products in the past.

Each set needed to cover all of that faction’s most common effects, work for any of their warcasters, and be adaptable to incorporate future additions to the army so there’s no need to add more tokens with each new WARMACHINE & HORDES expansion.

This was a design process that began before WARMACHINE Mk II went into development but had to be put on hold once Mk II became a reality. It wasn’t prudent to design tokens for effects that might not exist in the new edition. However, this delay allowed some time to really dial in the concept of the token sets.

Representation of the spells proved to be the most difficult. Having sculpted some of my own custom tokens in the past, my initial idea utilized 3D representations of the various spells and effects. While it would have been awesome to have an icy fist next to a unit to represent that they were under the effects of Freezing Grip, it simply wasn’t practical to make so many plastic molds. Physical representations, while visually appealing on the tabletop, also might not clearly convey what they represented.

The spell tokens would have to be more generic. We experimented with a number system and clips that could attach to a warcaster’s spell card (ask Doug Seacat about the infamous paper clips & pennies sometime). My opinion was that all the information had to be indicated on the token without referencing anything else.

Out of this, the dry-erase tokens were born. The spell token design is based on how spells are represented in our illustrations¬: circles of glowing runes hovering in the air. The circular pattern creates an open area that can be written on with a dry-erase marker to represent whatever spell your warcaster has in play.

Spells, upkeep spells, and animi all have different appearances to make them easily recognizable on the tabletop. One of my initial designs for the upkeep spell token had a recessed area for a focus counter to plug into. The player could place a focus on the upkeep spell token when paying the upkeep fee and essentially leave it there until he dropped the spell. He wouldn’t forget about upkeeping the spell, and his opponent could see that the focus point was paid. Unfortunately, this idea was scrapped. It was determined that dry-erase marker ink would inevitably get wiped into the recesses of the token, ruining its appearance. When using upkeep spells, though, I still place a token on the smaller ring, and I no longer forget to pay or drop upkeep spells!
For the rest of the effect tokens, it was simply a matter of deciding how many of each to include in a set. There are many more effects than could be represented. Rather than make the sets overly cumbersome (and expensive), we settled on a part count and price point and worked within those guidelines. I sat down with the development team and worked out the most practical organization of the effect tokens and spell tokens for each set. Consequently, factions that tend to be more spell heavy have more spell tokens.

One of the primary ideas is that the tokens are easily identifiable—too many designs clutter the range and increase the time it takes to find the one you’re looking for. The customizable faction tokens are for the odd effect that doesn’t come up very often and for tracking stat adjustments from abilities.
I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about the Choir Hymn “check box” tokens. You can expect to see more of those in the HORDES sets. Abilities like the Kriel Prayers and Bad Juju, which can have one of three effects, use a similar check-box token. Controlled Warping, which is different for each Warpwolf type, utilizes its own customizable token similar to the spell tokens. As HORDES games tend to see a lot more fury on the board, the HORDES token sets will include 20 fury tokens.

As far as which markers to use, the best markers I can recommend (and it’s what I use) are Expo® Vis-à-Vis® wet-erase markers, #16074. They have a really fine point and won’t damage the surface of the tokens.

It’s been a long road, but I’m very satisfied with the end result. The goal in all of this has always been for a product that will be visually appealing and represent the in-game effects clearly and accurately. There’s been some trepidation on the forums, which is understandable when anything undergoes change, but now that the tokens are out, the response seems to be overwhelmingly positive.