Warhammer 40k Effect Markers

TyranidPsychicDominionSo, back in the day (I think it was fourth edition, but maybe it was in 3rd edition), Gale Force Nine released a set of vehicle damage markers, and markers for various unit effects like “pinning” or “broken.”  I picked up a set, but I find that I don’t often use vehicles in my games, so they generally don’t get used–at least not for their originally intended purpose.

Anymore, they wind up serving a variety of roles.  Except in the very rare instance where they count for what is printed on them, they generally are flipped upside down and marked with various dice to symbolize whatever buff/curse is on a particular unit.  Most often, this has been used to represent Catalyst (Feel no Pain), but really anything with a lasting effect gets indicated by these markers.

For the most part, I don’t think I get them mixed up all that much, but it would be quite easy to do.  There are also a variety of effects in the game that I denote with just dice laying on the table.  I wind up using red dice to indicate wounds taken, green dice often denote mysterious forests, and blue dice mysterious rivers/lakes.  There are yet some effects that I have no viable way to represent, so I leave them to the whimsy of my addled memory (which is always a mistake).

PersonalTraitMasterofManoeuvreI’ve been looking for a better way to handle this, but since my army looks good, I wanted to be careful to go with a really slick looking solution.  Dwez over at Confessions of a 40k Addict does some pretty nice markers and posts the templates for free (click that link for the examples).  While they look good, I just fear that they’ll fall apart or bend/fray at the gaming table.  There are also some solutions crafted with a button maker available on Ebay, but they’re close to $1 per button.  Granted, I have a ton of money invested in this silly game, so what’s $1 more?

The problem is that between the Warlord Traits, Psychic Powers and Unique Army/Unit effects–for even just the two armies I play with any regularity–that would still mean dozens of buttons.  Add in a sufficient amount of terrain (Mysterious forest, water, archetypes, objectives, etc.) and you quickly jump up over $100 for a few buttons.

I got to thinking that maybe I’d be better off buying a button press and making my own–though I quickly shied away from that (did you know that button presses alone can be upwards of $300??).  So then I started asking around the button making hobby community and found someone that agreed to make custom buttons for far cheaper–I just had to come up with the designs.

AdaptiveBiologySo, having never played with photoshop, I downloaded a free trial and started tinkering.  I’d been provided with a template as to how the graphics would lay out on the buttons, and been given free reign from there.  The first night I came up with a few designs, and I’ve since done up about 30 different buttons.

The problem is that I think I got too far ahead of myself.  While I really like the look of these designs, I fear that they’re going to be far too intricate to be represented on a 1″ button.  So, before I go any farther, I’ve asked the button maker to provide a sample.  When I gave him the art originally, he didn’t seem to have any qualms, but I’m still leery, so we’ll see in time.  I suspect that I’ll ultimately have to tone down the designs a bit, but I figured that I’d share what I had thus far as I’m pretty proud of my inane tinkering in photoshop.

I’ll post later an example of the button progress and what, if anything, I do to “fix” their level of detail.


8 comments on “Warhammer 40k Effect Markers

  1. They do seem overly intricate, especially at the “three foot distance” check. The text is so small, and the images so detailed, that it’ll be tough to tell what they are at a glance.
    What makes Dwez’s and those eBay button markers look goo is their simplicity. Large, block lettering in a bright color on a dark or contrasting background. You can read most of them from tabletop distance.

    One thing you might consider is using actual bases and bitz for your markers, though you can’t use them for everything. For example, I planned out a series of six 25mm bases that represented the six Space Marine warlord traits. The only one I’ve done so far is Imperium’s Sword (Warlord and unit get Furious Charge for the Assault phase, one use only). I took a couple of Black Templar scabbarded swords, crossed them, and stood them up on a base. I based the thing to match my army, and have it follow my Warlord around the table as a reminder. When it’s used, I remove it from the table. Easy as pie.

    For Nids, it’s tougher, but you also have a ton of pointless or rarely-used bitz that can do the same sort of thing. Take those adrenal glands that come on all your sprues and add them in clusters to a 25mm base, 1-6. So, for Warlord Trait result #1, put one of the adrenal glands from a Tyrant or Carnifex on a base. Paint and base to match your army. For result 2, attach two of the Warrior-sized versions to a base. Same for three through six.

    Of course, you can’t do the same for psychic power markers or terrain and effects.

    • Yeah, Dwez’s are very simple, but look good. I’m guessing these will just wind up being a first draft and I’ll go with a cleaner final solution like he offers.

      I like the idea of your customized ones, but with so many variations needed, I’m sure I’d get confused (not to mention the fact that I don’t want to model/paint so many custom markers–it’s far easier to do it in photoshop, even though that software is a bit of a PITA).

      I like the “three foot” rule you’ve mentioned though, and will try to use that on my second draft…

      On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 6:56 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


  2. Something you could (should?) do to try to keep things simple is rely on colours and/or symbols to indicate categories. So, instead of writing ‘warlord trait’ on the button, just have it so that every warlord trait, from every army you field, always uses a blue background. Have wound markers always use red backgrounds, and so on. That way the colour allows you to replace two whole (large) words.

    I like TheRhino’s suggestion above too. Using bits can be combined with colour coding different effects too.

    • I’ve yet to get the proofs back, but something like this is bound to happen. I can probably lose the “Warlord Trait” option and just go with a color code, but I want to ensure that I keep the name of the trait (as a reference point) and a general summary of what it does.

      I think the biggest victim of these changes is going to be the artwork. Of course, the proof could come back looking fantastic (though I don’t see how), so we’ll see in time…

      On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 9:06 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


  3. I like how your designs take the guessing out of the equation and they look fluffy but might have a bit too much visual noise. I’d go for using symbols instead of pictures and simple bold colors matching your army(s). I like the descriptions on the button but without a button to look at physically I can’t really judge if it’s too small or not. Otherwise great idea.

    I’ve been looking around for some markers myself but haven’t seen anything I want to dump the $ on and can’t bring myself to make any from scratch as I’m still focusing on working on my army. If yours turn out awesome (as your projects usually do) I would be interested in meeting your button maker.

    • I’ll definitely keep you in the loop. When I get an estimate on how much it’ll cost to get them made, I’ll let you know before I order so you can have a set too if you’d like. His initial pricing seemed more than reasonable, and made me think a set of 100 buttons would be something like $25 or so.

      On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 9:26 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


  4. Thanks for the mention folks. warhammer39999 you make a point mine do wear a bit over time but given how cheap and easy they are to produce I can quickly replace any that look tatty and if I leave some behind at tournaments it’s no loss.

    However I have admired the button ones for their durability but more importantly anyone who wants to adopt a system, however they do it, to represent powers/wounds is on the right track in my book. I find it slightly distressing to see dice being used, people pick them up or knock them over accidentally and then you have to debate what wound it was showing. The only problems with markers is making sure they stay ‘attached’ to the respective wounded model and finding a way to swap out the marker when it takes another wound – mine are quite small so it’s fiddly.

    My designs are supposed to be easy to identify, both for myself and my opponent, just to make the game run smoother. However, I always count my wounds up, instead of down, which seems the opposite of the way most people play and so adds confusion to a system supposed to prevent it. The 40k universe is filled with contradiction though 😉 Therefore I say if you’re happy with your design then go with it. So long as you can identify what does what then that’s OK and the more you play the more you’ll adapt to the system and perhaps decide changes need to be made.

    One alternative suggestion is to use the design but glue them to bases or wooden discs and then a coat of varnish. I’ve seen some other hobbyists that do this and they look really cool and durable. Alternatively you could use ‘tiddly-winks’, someone at Throne of Skulls used them as Tau Marker Lights, with Tau icons on some transparent blue ones, nice. The only problem with this is they’re round which is a bit of a pain to cut out so you could either look into any circular labels to print them on to solve the cutting problem or just go square. I went square on my second gen wound markers as they’re much easier to cut out and the marker is less likely to warp than the triangular ones.

    • Those really all sound like good suggestions. The button idea was just something I’d stumbled upon through ebay, and while I thought they were great, they seemed rather pricey. If I can get a more simplified design, I think the vendor I have lined up will work out fantastic though. She’s shown me some samples (and is even mailing them to me for free-despite my insistence that I should pay shipping). I have a feeling these will turn out great–but time will tell.

      Props to you for coming up with free templates for everyone to use.

      Oh hey, what format do you do your markers in? I wonder if they’d translate to button form rather easily?

Have something to add?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.