Counter (collectible card games)

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Glass beads that are often used as counters

In collectible card games (CCG), particularly in the seminal CCG of Magic: The Gathering, a counter is, in game terms, a representation of an effect generated by a card that is in play or has already been played. In physical terms, it is an object that serves said purpose.

Effects that involve counters include:

  • In games where creatures are used, counters may be used to represent creatures generated by card effects, sometimes referred to as "token creatures".
  • Time counters may be placed on a card to act as a countdown timer. Such counters are removed at designated intervals, usually once per the controlling player's turn, and an effect takes place when the final time counter is removed.
  • Accumulation counters can build up, usually at a rate of one counter per the controlling player's turn, until enough counters exist to trigger a card effect. When the effect is triggered, the required number of counters is usually removed. Most cards that accumulate counters can continue to do so as long as the card is in play.

None of these uses should be confused with effects that negate (or counter, as in "counteract") cards.

Customarily, counters used in CCGs are small, easily carried objects, such as coins, tokens, Bingo chips, etc. Various game manufacturers sell tokens specifically intended for use in CCGs, from cheaply made cardboard tokens and glass beads to higher quality metallic tokens.

"Life" counters[edit]

In CCGs, a "life" counter refers to any item or device used to keep track of the number of "life points" possessed by each player (used in many games to determine victory). Though items as simple as a polyhedral die can serve, devices have been made available by game manufacturers for the purpose, usually involving a rotating dial with numbers marked in increments. Some players even use stacks or piles of game counters to keep track of life points.