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Board Wargame creation

I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone else out there is trying to build a wargame?

I am. North Africa 1940 - 1942.

It would be great to discuss issues with fellow researchers.

I am currently really struggling with counter creation and map creation. They both appear to be very costly in time & money.


Staff member
I have worked several board games and taught simulation design at the CGSC. As the designer you must first decide:

- What is/are the key decisions you want the player to make? This is directly connected to what you see were the things that made a leader successful/failure in the battle/campiagn you are modeling. Do you want the player to use combined arms? Airpower? Plan logistics? Use artillery? Intelligence?

- Given the decisions you want the player to make, what level/echelon does that placed him/her at? Are these tactical decisions? Operational?

- What time scale is needed for problem/requirements for decisions to manifest/occur?

- What information does the game need to generate/display for the player to make those decisions? How does a player implement their decision into the game?

Board games have limitations in the amount/type of information they can display. Also remember that a real commander had a staff and subordinates to make many of the decisions that happen in real life. In a board game, there is only the player. How is information provided to the player and how are his/her decisions implemented are challenges. For example, if units consume fuel by gallons per day, but players must make supply decisions based on forecasting for the entire theater three days in advance, who is doing the calculations?

There are two main design approaches: design for cause (DFC) and design for effect (DFE). DFC is when a player makes a specific series of decisions that is causal to the result. Deciding to fire at a certain range, using a specific type of ammo, at a specific angle is DFC. Deciding to use artillery and air, while combining two infantry units with an armor unit, when attacking an enemy unit is DFC. Creating a armored division counter with certain attributes that assume the commander is using the assets within its organization it so is strength is greater is DFE. Using air points to support an attack is mainly DFE. Using supply lines distances instead of supply points that must be moved and consumed is DFE.

These are just some initial comments.

Pista! Jeff
Its the time honoured juggling act of realism against playability and trying to find a course of action that honours both.

I try to keep the complicated time consuming maths to the design stage in creating a combat system or movement system or supply logistics system. So that the execution of same can be relatively quick and simple. It isn't easy!


"I thought it might be interesting to see if anyone else out there is trying to build a wargame?"

Obviously, by my name, I do. I previously designed a 1941-42 North Africa game and am now designing a 1940 game.

"I am currently really struggling with counter creation and map creation."

I go to office supply stores and obtain sheets of cardboard sold in various sizes, colored highlighter pens, and one very fine point black ink pen. I cut my game counters out of the cardboard sheet with a razor blade knife. To divide the cardboard sheet to the proper counter size, I use this carpenter's tool:


It will allow you to make perfectly straight lines, the exact distance apart for your counters and act as a straight edge for your razor blade.

I color my counters with the highlighters. Once dry, the fine ink pen will work for your symbols and numbers. If you want to get fancy, spray them with clear spray paint afterwards.

To make my map, I get online and find a free hexagon design that I can print out on paper in the hex size I want. I always use bigger than 1/2" (12.7 mm) hexes. My current board uses 13/16" (20.6375 mm). You can tape two or more sheets of hexagon graph paper together by applying tape to the BACKSIDE of the two sheets once properly aligned. By taping the backside, the tape does not get in the way of drawing roads, names, or applying colors to your hexes. If you want a stiff gameboard, simply tape it to a cardboard sheet.

I use internet Zoom maps with "Measure Distance" function to make the map. I never use "battlefield" maps as I find the scale and roads shown to be unreliable. On my eastern map, I placed Tobruk and El Alamein on it first, measuring both longitude and latitude. The next landmark I put on, say Sidi Baranni, I measure it's location from both Tobruk and El Alamein. The two measurements should agree on the same hex. I do this for all landmarks.

I seldom color the map board except where necessary. For example, all my water hexes along the coast are blue. Yet none of the other sea hexes are colored to save highlighter ink and a lot of time. Only the edges of the escarpments are colored, using a brown sharpie, indicating a ground unit cannot cross that line without a road.

You may have trouble getting your combat rules for 1941-42 to also work for 1940. My 1941-42 game was accurate to approximately 5% casualties for reproducing any historical battle which is very high precision. Yet when I added 1940, nothing worked. It was not even close to working. The Italians of 1940 used different training from 1941. They had mountain training and their top generals were told to use the untested "War of Rapid Decision" which does not work. Add in the Italians are on foot and they are completely different from 1941, requiring completely different attack factor calculations and a different combat results table.

Ask if you have questions.
Wow! Thanks. Can you show me some photos of your counters, or even of the stages of the counter creation? They sound really good.
I have tried buying coloured card and cutting out the counters but they never come out quite square or exactly the same size. Also the pen ink always smudges as the card colour seems to have a slightly glossy finish.


I have tried buying coloured card and cutting out the counters but they never come out quite square or exactly the same size. Also the pen ink always smudges as the card colour seems to have a slightly glossy finish.
You'll need to buy white cardboard with a tan backside. As you have discovered, you cannot write on a gloss surface. So you'll have to start with white, then color it with a highlighter. Here is what I mean by a highlighter:


Highlighters have a fat, flat point that color a large area fast. I generally use blue for German, orange for Italian, and red for British. In my other games I use green for US and yellow for Japan. Your black pen (sometimes called an "Indian ink" pen) has to be really FINE. The office supply store I use let's me try them out before buying. It should write in the thickness of a human hair. My current pen is a Precise V5:


This precision is a MUST because, for an army ground unit counter, you must create/draw the rectangle that designates the type of unit it is (parachute, infantry, armour, artillery) but also include above it if it is a battalion (ll), regiment (lll), brigade (x), division (xx) or corps (xxx). If it is motorized artillery or infantry, you'll also need to include two dots (for wheels) below your rectangle.

You can stop there if you play the game with dry hands but, if your fingers are ever moist, you'll smudge the ink on the counter. This is prevented by spray painting clear paint on the counters. Now they'll never smudge. Of course, make sure the ink is dry before spray painting.

In my own games I do not use the oval armor symbol on my counters. I draw a tank. It's way more self explanatory. Also, all my tank pieces are battalion size so I can skip the "ll" designation. It makes for a much better looking game piece. Likewise, I draw a parachute with three lines intersecting down at an angle for parachutists as that too is far more obvious. Again, I make parachutists all battalion size.

I do not use regiments in my games but brigades as every regiment is assigned its own artillery. So why make two pieces when they operate as one? I only separate them into two counters when using 1,000 yard hexes and then the infantry regiments become individual battalions. So no matter what, I never use regiments.

Avoid using 1/2" (12.7mm) sized ANYTHING. It's too small. Yet ANYTHING bigger works just fine. Don't ask me why. It just does. Here's where I got my free hexagon map paper:


It's the third one down in red. It will print out in black, virus free. It's also saved to your computer should you ever need it again. I use this same grid for naval games as well. Let me know if you're using ships and I'll explain how that works so you're not trying to move a huge stack of ships on the same hex.

You will have to get that carpenter's tool in order to make your counters all square and the same size. Let me know when you have it. It must have a measuring ruler on it. That measures your game piece size.