Space-Saving A&A Force Markers

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    This subject came up briefly yesterday in connection with another discussion thread.  In case it might be of any interest, I took a couple of pictures and prepared the following more detailed description.

    The original 2001 A&A Pacific game contained optional devices called task force markers, which consisted of six numbered plastic roundel holders and six corresponding numbered cards printed on stiff cardboard.  (See the “Blocks as Markers” picture below for a photo of a roundel holder and its corresponding card, with a few ANZAC ships on top of the card.)  Their purpose was to allow a whole group of ships to be represented on the game map by a single marker (the roundel holder), which is convenient for situations in which lots of ships need to be crammed into a tight space…for instance, if opposing forces with multiple ship types meet in one of the smaller sea zones, with adjoining land forces also needing to be represented in the same area.

    These task force markers were a handy concept, but they had some limitations.  First, there were only six of them.  Second, they were limited to depicting groups of sea units, not land units or air units.  Third, the plastic roundel holders weren’t as small as they could have been; they offered convenience, but not necessarily much of a space saving.  And third, they were technically limited to the US, the UK and Japan.

    When HBG came along about a decade later, the company produced a line of products which neatly solved these problems: various sets of land and naval task forces…

    …which consisted (for each of the nations depicted, each with a distinctive printed design) of a large card on which a group of sculpts could be gathered and a small token designed to be placed on the game map.

    Prior to HBG’s development of these markers, however, I had worked out a home-brewed alternate method of depicting forces with markers, which is what I’ll be describing here.

    I have a large collection of coloured square wooden blocks, each one measuring about 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch (2 x 2 cm).  Their thickness isn’t consistent, but they tend to be about 1/4 inch thick (7 mm).  Most of them come from the Command and Colors: Ancients line of game, and a few from the C&C: Napoleonics line.  I have about 15 separate colours and shades in my collection, and as you’ll see from the “C and C Blocks” picture below some of these colours are good (or at least acceptable) counterparts to the A&A sculpt colours.

    The blocks also happen to be almost exactly the same size as Scrabble tiles, which (of course) represent every letter of the alphabet, most of them in multiple copies.  (The tiles have a small subscript number representing the point value of each letter, but this number can be ignored.)

    As illustrated below, the C&C blocks and the Scrabble tiles can be combined to create force markers.  Each force requires two block/tile pairings: one stacked pairing to go on the map (serving as a force marker), and one side-by-side pairing to be placed next to the group of actual plastic sculpts which are represented on the map by the force marker.  Each group of sculpts, plus its identifying block/tile pairing, can either be placed on a stiff 3 x 5 index card (which is convenient for handling the sculpts as a group), or can be placed off the map (as shown below) on any available free surface.  (Although not shown in the picture below, my customized Global 1940 table has wing extensions on each side of the map for just such purposes.)

    The stacked block/tile pairings are about one-quarter the size of the original A&A roundel holders, so they’re easier to fit into a small sea zone or land territory.  Unlike the roundel holders, which are blue and which feature a ship design, the stacked block/tile pairings are generic in appearance and therefore better suited to representing either sea unit groups or land units groups or air unit groups.

    Strictly speaking, the coloured blocks aren’t necessary to make the concept work; the Scrabble tiles alone would suffice.  Since I already have the blocks, however, I prefer to use them paired with Scrabble tiles rather than using Scrabble tiles alone, for two reasons.  First, and most importantly, it adds a colour-identification element to the force marker on the map.  If a tile alone was being used, players would need to look off the map to see what colour of sculpts was located next to the corresponding lettered tile, which is less convenient (especially if a large number of force markers is being used on the map; if it’s just a couple, then obviously it’s not much of a problem).

    Second, it permits a greater potential number of force markers to be used.  If tiles alone are used, only one player can use a given letter because there would be no way to distinguish visually between two forces both designated as (for example) “A”.  This limitation isn’t a severe one in practical terms: 26 letters divided between, let’s say, 6 players, works out to 4 letters per player (plus a couple of leftover extras), which ought to be adequate.  The block/tile pairings, on the other hand, offer enough potential pairings to satisfy any imaginable game requirements.  Eight block colours (the US and China are both green, since I only have one shade of that colour), multiplied by 26 letters (assuming one owns multiple Scrabble games, which isn’t really necessary), works out to a theoretical maximum of 208 distinct block/tile pairings…which, to put it mildly, is a very comfortable safety margin, since these force markers are really only meant to be used in tight areas (rather than as a systematic replacement to having sculpts on the map itself, which is a big part of the fun of playing A&A as a physical board game).
    Blocks as Markers.jpg
    C and C Blocks.jpg

  • '17 '16

    Nice topic Mark…

    I think my reading comprehension is low today… the Blue fleet marker with the roundel holder, was that from HBG or the 2001 Pacific game?  That’s a pretty cool marker.  Your Scrabble-like system seems pretty cool too… I can see that working on cluttered maps.

    As a fan of going “chipless” on my games (which admitably are mostly limited to 1941 and 1942SE and cant compare to the clutter of Global), I used the reverse procedure to unclutter the map… instead of trying to “shrink” the armies/navies by using task force markers, I simply enlarged the maps to make the zones bigger to accommodate more units comfortably!  lolz.

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10


    I think my reading comprehension is low today… the Blue fleet marker with the roundel holder, was that from HBG or the 2001 Pacific game?

    It’s from the 2001 Pacific game, but you can see a picture of it on the HBG site:–Tokens-Pacific-2001_p_347.html

  • '14 Customizer

    Nice work Marc.

    This actual issue became a problem in our last game session. We had way too many ships in the Seazone off of Queensland. Some of the ships drifted into the seazone off of New South Wales and we had a dispute. I have enlarged my map and even made certain seazones larger like the English Channel but you never know where that fleet may move so enlarging the map helps but it does not solve the problem. I dislike using anything that hides pieces from the gameboard but the downside is to have cluttered seazones where you can’t tell what’s in the seazone anyway. So I may have to break down and buy these Task Force Markers from HBG. I have a lot of their roundels and love the Laser cut on brown hardboard which is the same material they used for these task force markers.

  • '14 Customizer

    During the game we were playing we decided to use the coasters that HBG sends with your orders as a place for these ships. The coasters are like a huge roundel. Then we took a small roundel and wrote a number on it and the coaster.

    HBG sends one of these coaster with each order for free but you can buy a set of 5 for 75 cents.–USA-_p_388.html

  • '17 '16

    Amazing idea… I have a ton of those HBG coasters… never thought of using them in the game (but I always end up with Soviet and UK coasters for some reason, I never get US or German coasters).

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    That coaster idea is great, Cynanight.  And I like those airplane stands in the picture you posted, which introduce a nice vertical separation between the air units and surface units.  Amazing paint jobs too!

  • Hi, guys…

    CWO Marc: Great idea! I have made a few customized markers as well, it can be done in all number of ways…like

    Cyanight’s excellent pieces 🙂
    What material did you use for the transparent airplane stands? Plexi?


    Battle Markers - Units - Land - All.jpg
    Battle Markers - Map - Land - All.jpg

  • 2021 2020 '19 '18 '17 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Nice work!  I see that you also painted national identification roundels in miniature on the plastic units themselves; that must have taken a very fine brush and an awful lot of squinting.  😄    Out of curiosity, do the small markers consist of a stack of chips glued together to form a fixed block or are they simply a stack of loose chips which have been topped by a customized chip?

  • Cheers!

    I have glued together 6 chips to make the stack, primed + painted, then added turf/grass on top, and last the painted piece. I didn’t want to use something that could be confused with units in the game, so i chose some random colors…

    The nations roundel is fairly quick to paint, and once you get the technique right (holding brush + type of brush) its easy. My global units set is just over 1600 pieces, all have nations markers 🙂

    The large piece where you place all your units is made of a wooden disc, with speck/filler + turf/grass + some “realistic water” (transparent acrylic medium, basically paint with no color/pigment)


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