Matt Carlson: Game On! Travel Coins

Many boardgamers spruce up their games with additional bits and do-dads that improve the look and feel of a game to improve the gaming experience.  One common improvement is to replace paper or cardboard versions of coins/points/money. Some gamers will bite the extra cost and even go with custom metal coins for their games.  However, those of us on a budget often fall back on poker chips. Poker chips are easy to read, stackable, and make change easily but their size and weight make them less desirable when heading out for some gaming away from home.  One answer to the problem is the Game On! set of travel-sized anodized metal coins, currently up on Kickstarter.

At GenCon, I was given an early production Game On! Travel Coin Set to check them out for a review.  I’ve played with them off and on since then and they seem to be holding up well. Here are the stats on the sets, along with my opinion for each stat.

All 10 colors, with the white “1”s on top and silver “50”‘s at right.  Note, it was hard to get the lighting right so that one could see the “gold” and “silver” at right are pretty decent metal-ish colors. (see below for a closeup of the “sheen” on the gold.

The coins come in a wide range of 10 different denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000.  While I’m certainly going to use the lower ones the most, it’s nice to have some of the high values in case a game likes to use inflated numbers.  While one could have more coins with lower denominations instead of the higher values, but with both 1’s and 2’s running around, it would be a rare case where you run out of lower denomination coins.

The coins are about the size of a quarter, but just over ½ the weight and almost twice as thick.  The thickness of the coins makes it easy to stack them, and who doesn’t want to have their money piled up in little stacks?  My one complaint here is that you can’t squeeze a stack of coins on the top and bottom. The stack isn’t stable under pressure and they explode outward.  You have to hold a stack on the sides. The coins are made of aluminum (think high quality Mardi Gras coins) so are distinctly less heavy than a quarter. However, they are a definite step up from cardboard or cheap plastic.  I find one or two coins to feel somewhat light, but holding four or five at a time gives a pleasant “heft.” The coins are anodized with bright colors, so are easy to pick out. For the colorblind, the raised numerals are clear to see on all but the black coins, which are sometimes harder to read in dimmer light.  One final nice touch is that the coins are double-sided with one side having a marked border, making it easy to tell each side apart.

4 Coins vs 4 quarters

As one might expect, there is a plethora of possible uses beyond simply replacing currency a boardgame.  Examples given include: Using the gold/silver/copper colored coins for currency in a role-playing game (the gold and silver are good, although the “copper” is pretty much brown.) Measuring distances in a wargame – each coin is roughly 1” (25mm) so could double for a measuring line (the Kickstarter points out you can even use the different colors of differing values of movement points.)  Stand-ins for figurines (or CCG tokens), particularly if you want to track an on/off status like “bloodied” in an RPG or “tapped” in a CCG. While those would be of secondary concern for many boardgamers, there might be some overlap for those of us with multiple gaming hobbies. (Hey, I bet you could play poker with them!)

My Thoughts on the Set:

The colors of the coins are great (especially the gold and silver which are not metallic, but do have a nice metal-ish sheen.) I like the size of the coins, particularly their thickness.  It would be nice to have a bit more heft to them, but that would somewhat defeat the purpose of a travel set. They stack well, but I really wish they could have interlocked or something. If I pull a stack out of my case I have to be careful if I’m pinching the stack from the top and bottom as they have a tendency to be unstable.

On that note, each set of coins come with a nice double-zippered case filled with foam to allow one to arrange the columns of coins however you like, with room left over for cards, dice, pencils, etc… in the top pocket.  I slightly prefer the preproduction case I was given, which was slightly smaller than the final version but still held all of my coins.

It is slightly difficult to peg down the best use of these coins.  At home, I’d be tempted to break out my set of (decent, but not high-end) poker chips, although I do appreciate the bright colors of the Game On! Coins.  It would come down to form vs function. Functionally, my fairly nice poker chips would have a better look and feel but the Game On! Coins would not scream “Poker Chip” when put out by the game board.

At around 2 lbs (for my 240 set + case) the weight of these coins are still significant.  It would come down to whether I was willing to add the weight of yet another sizable game to my stack of games to bring along in order to simply have prettier money/chips.  A simple evening of gaming might not be enough for me to bother grabbing the case. However, a day-long or even a weekend (short convention) of gaming would make it useful. On any sort of luggage-limited situation (such as really anything but a car trip) I would give up the coins in order to take along another game option.  Unfortunately, this might also apply to situations like the holidays. Yes, we travel by car, but the amount of gaming going on might not be enough for me to chuck the case in with the other games.

Ironically, while poker chips might replace the coins’ use at home, the travel coin set would make an excellent set of travel poker trips.  I could easily see myself bringing these along to have the option of a classic poker night.

Verdict:

Game On! Coins have a lot going for them.  They are lighter (thus more portable) than standard poker chips so travel well.  They’re considerably less expensive than fancy metal coins, so give a great “bang for the buck” when replacing money or tokens in a game with less than ideal bits.  The size (diameter and thickness) are great, and while I would wish for a bit more heft – that would somewhat defeat the purpose of them being “travel sized.” As one might expect, they are stackable so play fine on the table but they unfortunately don’t pass the “pinch test.” (Which I really only run into when taking the coins in and out of the case.)  Game On! Coins are a good option for a player who wants to add a bit of “bling” functionality to their game at a lower cost, and for gamers who want to use that additional flair when not at their home base of operations. As for me, I expect to bring my coins along whenever I’m already bringing three or four games along for an evening (or longer) and bust the coins out for in-home gaming with my boys where the colors and footprint (size) of the coins will compliment our game.

If you’re interested, the Kickstarter for the coins is live for a few more days.  I have no connection with the Game On! Coins folks other than a set of coins I received to review.

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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One Response to Matt Carlson: Game On! Travel Coins

  1. Fraser says:

    The greedy algorithm would say use { 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, …} however since US currency does not use that, it does not seem to be popular with poker chip manufacturers.

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