Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Gale Force 9 and Alea Tools: Tabletop Gaming Markers

At GenCon, Gale Force 9 was showing off their DM's Token Set, which was the first released item for their D&D Token Sets. I looked at it skeptically - there were some good ideas, but the DM for our tabletop game already uses Alea Tools - he has one of the Game Master Packs.

But the pricing difference made a true apples to apples comparison of those two products impossible. Or, at the least, unfair in the extreme.

So I was excited when Gale Force 9 rolled out their PC Token Sets. Since I play a Cleric in my face-to-face game, I picked up the Cleric Token Set at my FLGS. They make token sets for most (if not all) of the PHB classes. Rangers, for example.

The token sets are about $13, which is not that different from the Neo-Markers Player Pack made by Alea Tools, so now I can do an apples to apples comparison.

And, having used both, I can fairly easily compare them.

So, the contents:
Alea Tools Player Pack: Ten unlabeled one-inch circular magnetic markers in six different colors. For just a little more, you can get one of their GM's Packs (there are three available).

Gale Force 9 Player Pack: 1 "Status Tile," 1 Action Point marker, 1 Mount token, 1 Teardrop-shaped Bloodied token, 1 Dying token, 1 Light Source marker, 1 "Marked" token, 1 "Full Defense" marker, 1 Invisibility Standup, and 13 tokens in three different designs. Most of these are in a "dragonscale" shape that allows them to fit to the one-inch base of a D&D Mini. Or to one of the Alea Tools markers.

Now, the art on the GF9 Packs is nice. And the fact that you can use dry-erase (or wet-erase) markers on them is a bonus.

The Status Tile is almost like a mini character sheet, with spaces for hit points, statuses, and other effects. I don't like the art on this tile, because it doesn't resemble my character. In fact, they could have saved a couple of bucks by having a more generic version of this particular part of the set. But then people would have griped about the lack of art. Especially when compared to the rest of the set. I also find its surface not great for markers - it's too smooth, and the marking pen has trouble gaining traction to drop ink. Pencil & Paper was more convenient overall than this tile.

How useful are the tokens?  The "Mount" token - when combined with Kobold Quarterly #15's article on mounted combat - is likely to be useful. The "Marked" token? Not that useful for a Cleric. I can't think of any Cleric powers that Mark a target - but I could be wrong. The "Invisible Cleric" cutout figure? Not honestly all that useful. How often is your party invisible? Especially the non-Wizard members of the team? Every one of their player sets has a different "invisible" cutout. In practice, you will probably only need one or two cutouts at most. The "Light Source" marker? Theoretically it could be very useful. But not in any game I've played. In any edition. This is a good candidate for a GM's pack rather than a Player's pack.  The "Bloodied" and "Dying" markers are ... useful. To a point. And the Dragonscale-shaped markers? They're nice, as long as your character doesn't plan to move around. And the unlabeled aspect is both good and bad - are the glowing hammers a +1 to attack?  A +1 for an ally to attack? Maybe they're a defense bonus? An indicator of vulnerability to Radiant Damage? The same goes for the other two types of tokens.

Also: What are the odds I'm going to need thirteen tokens in play?

So what does Alea Tools bring to the table?

Ten tokens in six different colors. They're sized to fit under the standard 1" D&D miniature bases. But they won't stick there unless you've attached magnets to the bases of the figures. Alea Tools does sell magnets with a sticky side that are designed to be attached to the bottom of the minis. Remember the complaints I had a few paragraphs back about the unlabeled aspect of the GF9 tokens? These have the same problem. But some colors here are pretty straightforward - a Red marker is "Bloodied." The colors are - in some ways - more intuitive than the art on the Gale Force 9 sets. And the magnetic aspect makes these easy to move as a stack when your character moves. The drawback is that - if you have a lot of markers - your character's mini will tower over the rest of the party.

All in all, neither one is a bad buy. I give the edge to Alea Tools in this one.

I'm also keeping my eye on Glowing Glyph's Condition Crowns (Photos here and here) - unfortunately, their Twitter and Facebook accounts haven't been updated since mid-August (as of the time of this writing, that is), so I don't know if it's still a viable product or if it fizzled.

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