Counter Culture: To Scan or Not to Scan?

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Like many wargamers, upon acquiring my very first scanner, I didn’t turn to the big pile of photos that needed to be digitally archived or the sheaves of important papers documenting my life that would benefit from being duplicated. No, I grabbed a bunch of unpunched countersheets and began scanning away.

Over There In Here

Initially, I was scanning as large as I could, with absurd resolutions, lossless file formats, and correspondingly massive file sizes. But then I had to ask myself just why I was making these scans.

Did I want to be able to print out a fresh countersheet in the event that I lost a counter, or was I simply interested in creating a reference copy? And if I just wanted a reference copy, why didn’t I just use the collective effort of the Internet, which had already put scans of most countersheets online on sites like iSimulacrum? Several game companies even provide counter manifests with their games as a matter of course, a practice that stretches back into the days before easy access to photocopiers and scanners.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that making countersheet scans serves as a means of tinkering with the hobby, as many wargamers do when we lack the time to play the damn games. Whether it’s clipping counters or putting rulebooks into page protectors or reorganizing the Planos, we often play with our games rather than actually play them.

This “counter culture” that surrounds the physical aspect of wargaming is, I suggest, one of the reasons that computer wargaming, either against an AI or against a human opponent, simply hasn’t supplanted paper wargaming, despite the many advantages that computers bring to our fiddly hobby. A paper wargame requires convoluted mechanisms for hidden units, space to set up and store between sessions, and the ever-present danger of a clumsy finger or curious cat knocking over a tall stack of counters in a densely packed area. Computer wargames can hide units with ease, only take up space on your hard drive, and are fairly conscientious about keeping your counters orderly.

I’m hardly a wargaming Luddite, but still, there’s just something about sorting through a pile of counters, picking out the requisite units, taking in the whole expanse of the map with one glance, and sitting across from your opponent that a computer wargame can’t match. I don’t foresee the physical aspects of wargaming being bettered any time soon.

I haven’t done any countersheet scanning in a while, but I’d be interested in hearing other gamers’ approaches to scanning. Lossless or lossy? Resolution? See, I have this nice new scanner . . .

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