Wednesday, November 1, 2017


The popularity of by-unit activation systems (usually randomised) brings up a related challenge: keeping track of units and activations, especially when repurposing figures from other sets of rules. This was the problem I faced when using my individually mounted Napoleonics for a version of Brother Against Brother, a system that uses randomized unit-activation. I wanted a stand-alone system that I could use that would be quick, user-friendly, visually appealing, and useable with other rules. Here’s one man’s solution: ED M'S UNIVERSAL ACTIVATION MARKERS (as pictured above).   In this post, as usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX

THE MATERIALS: These can be broken down into flocking materials and construction materials. I’m sure that most readers don’t need to be instructed on how to flock their bases, but for the sake of recording the complete process, I’ll include my flocking steps.

Flocking: Woodland Scenics Blended Turf Green Blend (T1349) and Earth Blend (T1350); Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement (S191), which is a pre-mixed white glue and water solution; acrylic paint (brown and green); small cups; and a disposable eye dropper.

 Construction: Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating (1303)--or a fixative of your choice; Avery Full Sheet Labels (5353); Scissors; Circular 25mm (1”) wide, 3mm (1/8”) thick bases--or a size/shape of your choice; and Cardstock (roughly the thickness of wargame counters).


The first thing to do is to create the graphics. Any basic graphics program should work (you could probably do it in MS Word as well). I used MS Paint, which comes bundled with every Windows system. I created a set of 1/2” black counters with white numbers/letters (in Tahoma 20 point font). Your colors and font choices could differ.


Print out two sets of counters on a full-sheet peel-and-stick label. 


Then spray the sheet with the Krylon Crystal Clear. This gives a nice satin appearance and also protects well. You could experiment with other fixatives as well (check craft or art stores for other options). 

Left: Mount one set of markers on cardstock. Cut them out (right) to create the the chits that you will draw from a container to determine activation. 

You still have one set of markers remaining. Cut them out and peel and stick them to the round bases.

Paint the reverse of your markers green.  You're now ready to go from naked to flocked markers (step one). 


I use brown for my base color (above left). When putting the paint down, I overlap the edges of the paper maker. This helps to keep the edges fast to the stand (the peel-stick label has a tendency to curl at the edges over time). I then apply the Green Blended Turf (above right). This process gives your graphic the neat appearance of emerging from a window in the flock. Wait a bit for the paint to dry and proceed to step two.


This is an extra step that I do with all of my bases, and it’s where the Scenic Cement (the white stuff in the above picture) comes in. I know that I could mix my own concotion of white glue and water, but instead of messing with all of that, I just buy the ready-made Scenic Cement. A little bit goes a long way, so it’s value for money in terms of effect and ease of use. The Scenic Cement both seals and bonds the flock, so not only will it prevent your bases from shedding, but will bind the flock together into a cohesive layer, which helps keep the corners of your markers from peeling up over time (and in other applications it helps to keep figures on bases as well).

Put some Scenic Cement in a small cup or other container and apply with an eyedropper.


While the Scenic Cement is still wet, sprinkle the Earth Blend flock over the marker. The Scenic Cement will bond all the flocking material together.

Although it’s not very pronounced in the image, the Scenic Cement causes the green flock to darken when dry, and the lighter Earth Blend sprinkled on top provides a nice highlight that adds another dimension to the look. This is my go-to mix. I recommend that you experiment with other flock combinations for other effects.

Your markers are now ready for use. Although in practical terms there is no difference, I find that using letters for artillery and numbers for infantry works well for players (and myself when running a game)--your mileage may vary. I also made a few blanks (just black fields) that I could use as fakes (if these were used for hidden movement) or for some other temporary need.

Above, two infantry units and one artillery unit at the beginning of the turn.  Numbers and letters are showing, signifying that none have been activated.   
Above, Infantry #1 and the Artillery (A) markers have been flipped to green-side up, signifying that they have been activated.  Infantry #2 has yet to activate. You can tell when the turn ends quite easily by scanning the table: when all markers are face-down (green), everything has activated.  At the end of the turn, flip all markers face-up.   

These markers would also work for games with hidden movement or spotting rules where you need to place a marker on the table until the unit is revealed.

Use in good health! 


  1. Nicely done, lovely markers...

    1. Thanks, Phil,
      Although markers on the table are often a drawback, these avoid that (and I think add to the look of the game in a way).

  2. Neat idea! Are the markers assigned to each unit static throughout the game (marker #1 remains with the same unit) or does player reassign all on table activation markers after each turn?

    1. Hi Jon, the markers conform to whatever system is in use and aren't a system in themselves. However, now that you mention it, they do allow you to do something novel like swap or reassign numbers quite easily, which could add all kinds of interesting dimensions to a game or scenario.

  3. Good idea - could be useful across all kinds of rules and periods.

    1. Indeed, thus far they have proven to be "universal" (for once, only a modest bit of hyperbole on my part!)

  4. Very nice! It’s good to see what some thought and effort can produce.

    New to your blog so I’m enjoying a look around.


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