In our continuing examination of the physical culture of wargaming, we should stop and consider the typical wargame counter:
It is a representation, a stand-in. It denotes a particular kind of force or unit or grouping manipulable by the player. People argue all day, in places where such things matter, about using representational figures or NATO symbols or made-up icons to depict different types of units, about whether the first number on a counter should be attack value or armor thickness or movement points.
Or perhaps the counter is a status marker, a chit that provides information about the state of the game—broken, suppressed, mired, impassable, out of ammo, out of control. Here be there trenches, dug into the map:
Standard semiotics stuff. Counters are signifiers. This is not a half-inch square of cardboard—this is a platoon of T-64s that has suffered damage but remains battle-ready. Nothing new here.
But in some games, counters also serve as tools to enhance gameplay beyond merely standing in for some object or state that the game wishes to portray.