Cheap Ass Counters

I have never been an enthusiastic buyer of miniatures. Sure, I have more than a few that seem to have come into my possession and before my eyesight dropped off a cliff I was semi-competent at painting them – but they have never been something I have embraced with glee. Eye-watering prices combine with difficulties in transport to make them impractical. And yet, remarkably, for games like D&D I actually love minis and grids. So what am I to do? Make an alternative!

[Note: I have been told that this is a well-known technique out there in gamer world? Well, I had never heard of it, so I’m going to assume others won’t have too. Sharing is caring.]

Instead of using minis, I have started using 25mm magnetic counters embellished with artwork from Magic the Gathering cards. There was a small initial investment but after that, you’re looking at less than 10p per counter.

There are a few clear advantages to these little counters.

  1. The artwork is great, colour and plentiful. Just ask your Magic playing friends if you can pillage their backstock of commons. They will have hundreds. Or go to your FLGS after a pre-release and ask what they do with the left-over cards. They are usually happy to give them to a good home.
  2. Magic’s art is pretty diverse, especially when it comes to representing women. The more cards that are brought out, the broader the range of images you can draw from. That said, you will find you end up with a lot of goblinoid and undead foes. This is rarely a bad thing.
  3. The counters are highly portable. Using the tubes that coin collectors transport their pieces in, you can happily stick a selection of 40-50 counters in one stack. The tubes fit easily into an All Rolled Up. 
  4. Magnetic whiteboards are available from stores like Wilkos for £5 and are an amazing resource. Not only do they work great for these counters, but they also double as a handy mapping surface.
  5. The magnetism also means the counters can stack easily and relatively firmly, making it less likely that they are going to fly off across the table.

How to make them

You will need:

A stack of spare Magic the Gathering cards (preferably commons unless you want to cause someone to have a moment when they see a ruined rare…)

A pair of scissors

A 25mm Palm Punch (

25mm self-adhesive magentic dots (

A plastic tube to store the counters (

Step One
Choose your Magic card and cut it in half. Sometimes you have to trim a little more off the card, but remember to err on the side of caution. You can always cut a little more off, but if you cut too much you might end up with the image border in your counter and we don’t want that.

Step Two
Use the palm punch to line up the image so that the face is central to the hole. Pop the palm punch to cut the counter out. Catch it – they fly off everywhere.

Step Three
Carefully stick the counter to the magnetic dot. They are really sticky, so you get one chance to get this right. Don’t stick it on face down – that’s a waste.

Step Four
Rinse and repeat and then slide your counters into their tube. An army of monsters and characters you can hold in the palm of your hand.