Counter Culture: Rounding the Corner

I’ve long been a proponent of the view that much of the pleasure derived from paper and chit wargaming comes from the physical culture of the games, from interacting with the games rather than actually playing the games themselves. Most wargames are not ready to play out of the box: they require some effort on the part of the players to prepare them, most often punching the die-cut counters out of their trees.

Unclipped Counter. The horror!

While some publishers have made great strides towards the “punchless” countersheet, notably Legion Wargames, whose “Easy Punch” counters pretty much fall out of the trees owing to some extreme die-cutting, the vast majority of counters come with a stubborn attachment to their sprues. Once the counters are punched (preferably, cut out via hobby knife), they still exhibit nibs and bits on the corners—or, in some egregious cases, along the counter sides—where they were held to the counter tree and to each other.

Take our Climb 2 counter here, from Avalon Hill/Multi-Man Publishing’s Advanced Squad Leader. These don’t come out of the Plano very often, so perhaps one could be excused for dropping this counter, with its ragged, uneven edges, onto a game board. And indeed, there is a minor schism in the hobby between those who tend to these nibs, the clippers, and those who do not. I’ve examined the reasons to clip or trim counter corners in the past, and I am unabashedly in the clipping camp, for aesthetic reasons as well as practical reasons.

My tool of choice for years was a trusty hobby knife with easily replaceable blade. I’m minimalist in my trimming, trying to strike a balance between uniform counters and taking off as little of the existing counter as possible. Some people swear by nail clippers (hence, “clipping” counters), but they’ve always taken a bit more off than I prefer, and they strike me as being a bit imprecise. And don’t even get me started on counter clipping jigs. Clipping counters should not be a mass production project, even when one has thousands of counters to process—I like to examine the counters as I clip, particularly for operational level games with much variation between units.

But, after a recent trimming extravaganza to get a game ready for a wargaming convention, I was about ready to join the non-clipping camp. Four hundred counters, four trims per counter. Blah. That’s a lot of knife work, I made some poor trims towards the end, and my fingers cramped all day thereafter. Surely a better method exists?

Behold, the counter rounder!

We who are about to trim, salute you!

OK, sure, technically it’s a scrapbooking tool, like so much else in this universe, but this corner trimmer works. It slices off the corner with a pleasing curve, and the precision guide here assuages my fears of uneven or too deep clips. Though nail clippers ostensibly provide a curved clip, I’ve never seen them do work this precise.

I’ve got a 2mm radius trimmer, so only a small amount of material comes off, but it’s just enough to remove the fuzz and provide some degree of uniformity. Larger trimmers exist, and I’ve seen pictures of some seriously rounded counters, but for my purposes, the 2mm is ideal and works well with both half-inch and five-eighths counters.

Before & After Counter Rounding

The model I purchased, from Oregon Laminations via Amazon, wasn’t entirely cheap, though it came in at less than a typical wargame runs these days. Models without the registration guide and thick plastic handle can be had for less, but the deluxe model really is the way to go. I’m not sure how many trims I’ll get before the blade loses its sharpness, but it looks to be made from some pretty serious steel, so I’m wagering I’ve got tens of thousands of cuts for my money, every one of them uniform and ever so neatly rounded.

Now I just need to find a game to clip.

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