The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Show Me The Money

Ray Smith

August, 2002

Bohnanza card back The variety of techniques used for keeping score in games is extremely diverse. From the tried and true pencil and paper or the good old scoring track around the board, to the efficient cards of Bohnanza, to the horrific sliding scale of Capitol. Whether you are collecting points, tokens, gems, dollars, mana, or whatever, for many games it still comes down to some sort of monetary system you need to keep track of.

Since score keeping gets very generic, many small games don't even bother with a scoring mechanism, and just tell you to use whatever you want that you have on handócoins, washers, bottle caps, tooth picks, dead flies (see Lunch Money), etc. But, for some of us, that just isn't good enough! Here are some other alternatives:

Paper Money

More game companies, such as Mayfair and Cheapass, are now selling packets of play money separately. The price is right, and the functionality is flawless. Mayfair will also even sell you a tray to separate the denominations.


Even simpler and easier than paper money. By turning any polyhedral die, you can represent how much money you have. Change the size or color for various denominations. Um, just be careful not to bump or drop them.

Glass Blobs

These glass markers, melted marbles, whatever you want to call them, have hit the scene big time. They can be purchased in almost any color, are very cool looking, and really add class to the presentation of a game in progress. Since they are also being used for fish tanks, terrariums, and room accents, you can usually find them really cheap in places like craft stores, instead of buying them as game pieces at top dollar by the tube. I've purchased bags of them at a bed and bath store! With these, however, you may need to determine a value assigned to the different colors of the markers.


Those wonderful, small, 0.75 inch plastic poker chips come in extremely handy not only for money, but to use as markers, mounting DTP counters on, playing pieces, and more. Cheap, many colors, stackable, and versatile. But, finding them is sometimes a pain. Stores don't usually carry them, so you need to jump on the net and send away for them. The large 1.25 inch plastic poker chips are usually accessible at any five and dime, or drug store, but being so humongous, they are usually relegated to only a monetary role. However, if you want to go that route, and also flaunt your ostentatious gaming habit, garner the "ooohs and awwws" from your minions, and get something for the gamer that has everything, you gotta get a set of professional, clay, poker chips. They look cool, feel cool, and even sound cool clunking together. Available in a rainbow of colors and styles, they are also customizable with your choice of embossing. Unfortunately, a nice set, with case, will run you just under a C-note.

This entire article was inspired to me by my frustrations of finding an adequate method of tracking the money of two very different games: Illuminati and Godsfire. Both suffer greatly from incredibly inferior money componentsóIlluminati with dinky little paper money, and Godsfire with even smaller, really thin, counters. You couldn't laugh, breathe, or move while playing without destroying their entire economies! Illuminati was easily fixed with the trusty, small, poker chips in four different colors to represent four different denominations (1, 5, 10, 25). Godsfire was more of a challenge since the denominations had to fit in half-inch boxes on each system chart, and on ship counters! I opted for a bunch of 10mm six-sided dice in two different colors (black for values 1-6, red for 7-12). Much easier to maneuver, and they don't blow away!

- Ray Smith

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