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"Unit labels- love them, hate them, have pictures?" Topic

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2,673 hits since 24 Feb 2017
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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forwardmarchstudios24 Feb 2017 7:58 p.m. PST

I've been thinking about unit labels a lot recently. To me, the difference between a really good looking set of miniatures and a so-so set is often the way the units are labeled. I'm sometimes surprised that folks with incredibly well-painted figs… which obviously took a lot of time to paint… will then add haphazard unit labels, seemingly as an after thought.

I've been thinking over different ways to do labels recently as part of a project I'm working on (slowly…). Unless I'm seriously missing something, there seem to be two basic ways you can do labels: on base or off base. I personally lean towards off base, because then you can mix and match your generic units (with 3mm all French line are French line…), and make the entire set more flexible. In fact, although I've never seen anyone do it, you could use off-base labels to stack units, the way that hex-based war-games do. This could be quite interesting if developed the right way.

The cool thing about labels is how much information you can fit onto one. Every bit of information on the label is something you can take off the roster, or one less search through the rule book. On a smallish label you can easily fit not only the entire chain of command, but the stats for the unit, its casualties and morale level, even orders and supply/ammo levels. Labels can track more kinds of information with less clutter than markers do (red pompoms, green stones, white gaskets, etc). With larger scales this isn't a distraction, but with micro scales even smaller markers can dwarf the figures. In other words, with 3mm figures labels are almost required to keep the action on the table clear.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone on here has pictures of any labels they're particularly proud of, or any shots from a convention where someone did something interesting with them.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2017 8:34 p.m. PST

Hate them. I'd rather use a roster with a photo of the units next to the entry on the roster.

A small sheet that sits under the unit, and can be consulted / updated at need is a reasonable compromise.


David F Brown

forwardmarchstudios24 Feb 2017 10:14 p.m. PST

"I'd rather use a roster with a photo of the units next to the entry on the roster."

Interesting idea.

Yellow Admiral24 Feb 2017 10:48 p.m. PST

I don't mind labels that hide completely, such as the simple labels in the old Fire & Fury.

I've never liked labels that are visible during play, especially white paper slips. They kinda stick out like a sore thumb and erode the aesthetics we miniatures gamers spend so much time on.

If there is too much information to hide on the bottom of a stand (or it's just impractical to life the stands during the game), I prefer that each unit is uniquely identified somehow and I can find it on a roster listing it's abilities. E.g., a unique color or set of stripes or shape on the edge of the base facing the player, with a matching color/stripe/shape code on the roster.

Note that I actually dislike rosters quite a bit. My experience with rosters is generally negative – they slow the game and introduce errors. That said, many naval games just need them and some land games benefit from them, so there are some games I'm willing to play in spite of the rosters.

For status information, I used to think colorful markers were cool, but I've changed my mind over the years. Now I prefer markers that blend in with the terrain or at least the theme of the game – clouds of fire and smoke, special figures (dead, wounded, loading, waving flags or swords, etc.), bits of junk or rocks to count "hits", dust clouds (land) or extended wakes (sea) to indicate "going fast", and so on.

- Ix

pbishop12 Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2017 11:07 p.m. PST

I use very small labels on the back of the base for command staff, and the same on the back of the command bases only for battalion/regiments. Nothing obtrusive

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2017 11:27 p.m. PST

I never label units. At 25mm, it's pretty easy to identify squads and leaders. I do a pair of pretty much identical grav APCs (made from covered plastic soap dishes) that should get some kind of identifying marks.

Mako11 Inactive Member24 Feb 2017 11:49 p.m. PST

Hate them, though they are practical.

I suspect they'd be far less onerous if painted to match the bases, and terrain mat, but then it might be hard to read them.

Best options are to put some sort of markings on the vertical edging, or underneath, I suspect.

I've seen some people use rocks, etc. to denote different ones as well.

I was even toying with the positions of figs on the bases, to denote that too, and that works reasonably well, also. Might have to revisit that, since I've got some Cold War squad bases to work on.

Martin Rapier25 Feb 2017 1:32 a.m. PST

I don't use permanent labels, but I do always put some magnetic strip on the back edge of the base so if I feel the need, I can attach temporary labels made from steel paper.

Sho Boki25 Feb 2017 2:10 a.m. PST

Perfectly labeled Unit..

Can you find the label?

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 3:03 a.m. PST

It has to be un flashy, camo… I mostly use code nters that spend most time under the bases after being used for the Fow even then also often under bases.
Awful to spoil a nice terrain and good minis and bases with white written labels. These become " what you see". Sure is easy.

Boki, did you put the rgt number on collars of 8mm figs?

Sho Boki25 Feb 2017 3:26 a.m. PST

No :)
I cast Colonels and Generals with prebuilded labels.

After basing with green then labels will be marked as flowers – white, yellow, red, light green etc. By taste.
This Colonel's label readings tell us, that his Unit represent line infantry with regular drill and experience and no morale boosts.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 7:22 a.m. PST

I'll often paint the back vertical edge with some color to indicate which side the stand is on--sadly, not always obvious. Unit designations can be painted on that same edge, but I use 3mm or 1/8" bases, so the hand has to be fairly steady. More often, it's a slip of paper glued underneath the command base.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 7:27 a.m. PST

I'm divided on the matter.

WWII 20mm – no marking.
D&D 25/28mm – no marking.

ACW 20mm – 4 figures per stand each stand has regimental – battery ID. Command stands have names.

Colonial 25mm – mounted single figure – Platoon commander has platoon number – mounted officers have name.

Vietnam/future war – 25mm mounted single figure – each figure has three digit number: platoon-squad-trooper.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 8:14 a.m. PST

I do a few different things.
o casualties are wounded figures until 4 is reached and then a stand is taken off.
o dead are dropped off where a stand is lost. This is just for decoration to see where the battle was fierces.
o The colour stand has the unit id, grade and # of stands writen on it. (the smallest muli-stand unit is a regiment, so it also has the brigade it reports to. The brigadier has the division or corp he belongs to)

o casualties are flocked pennies and there are "5" and "10" labeled ones as well. Stands are not taken off unless the unit changes line<- ->column, since they would keep the same frontage.
o The colour stand has the battalion, #troops and nationality on it.

When I play other rules, I go with the flow.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 8:40 a.m. PST

I don't have a photo, but I made a "label/hit tracker" like this:

I made a magnet movement tray that holds the entire unit. It was green, flocked, etc. to blend in to the table.

I then made a label choosing earthy colors, printed it and stuck it to more magnet. Now it "sticks" to the tray but can be swapped out for differetn games.

Next I made a "hit tracker" using colored circles, again using colors that blend in a bit. And another little piece of magnet, this time with a piece of twig on it to act as a handle. This slides over the circles. As you "reveal" circles, this shows how many hits the unit has taken.

I'll post a picture later today.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 9:03 a.m. PST

I put the unit labels on the bottom of the command stands adn use a unit roster for gaming

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 10:44 a.m. PST

Not on my table.

Unit identification? That's what uniforms are for.

I don't have any problem with subtle markers or extra figures for tracking unit status, but little mobile billboards just make it look more like a boardgame.

14Bore25 Feb 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

I havd always old schooled it from well old school days and paint a number on top of but behind figures. Sometimes its a actual unit (2/8 for 2nd battalion Leib regiment) or usually in Russians a self designated number but same.
I have almost 5000, I couldn't keep them all straight

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 12:04 p.m. PST

I use color codes and names fasted to the back edge or the base back surface. There is also Sharpie markings on the base, black for cardboard and metal with silver for rubber steel and magnetic.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 1:24 p.m. PST

@War Artisan:

In order to tell which unit a given model came from I've taken to using "seed beads" on the stand. More color than some like, but a lot less than a label.

A white bead indicates the CO, a black bead is an FOO.

Third company of the orange battalion:


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 1:26 p.m. PST

It's also possible to using ground cover in creative ways, for example:

1st platoon has grass/flock on the right side of the base, 2nd platoon on the left, 3rd platoon to the rear, HQ to teh front.

You can also denote some stats this way. For example in Nuts! each figure has a "Rep" from 1 to 6. Most figures are 3, 4 or 5. So each figure has a few white stones on the rear of the base. 0 stones = Rep 3, 1 = Rep 4 (basically rep = stones +3).

Terrement Inactive Member25 Feb 2017 3:16 p.m. PST


forwardmarchstudios25 Feb 2017 3:16 p.m. PST

"I don't have any problem with subtle markers or extra figures for tracking unit status, but little mobile billboards just make it look more like a boardgames."

I kind of like that look though, almost like looking at a map of a battlefield in a history book. I was even thinking that a cool thing to try would be to put markers down that say how many men are supposed to be represented in, say, each division or corps, to give some real context to what the figures are supposed to be showing.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 9:58 p.m. PST

It would be interesting to see how many gamers who don't like unit markers because it ruins the look of the game use chips, dice, counters, colored stones/beads, etc. as morale markers, casualty markers, markers to denote action, etc. All of which, IMHO, detract much more from the look of the game than unit markers.

Lion in the Stars26 Feb 2017 7:53 a.m. PST

For status information, I used to think colorful markers were cool, but I've changed my mind over the years. Now I prefer markers that blend in with the terrain or at least the theme of the game clouds of fire and smoke, special figures (dead, wounded, loading, waving flags or swords, etc.), bits of junk or rocks to count "hits", dust clouds (land) or extended wakes (sea) to indicate "going fast", and so on.


While it's a scifi game, my big complaint about Infinity is all the markers that end up on the table. They really kinda ruin the effect of the high-detail models and terrain.

When I label units, all I do is paint the back edge of the base(s) with a set of colors. Often I use the old US Army branch colors: Blue for infantry, Red for Artillery, and Yellow for cavalry.

Mako11 Inactive Member26 Feb 2017 11:02 p.m. PST

For skirmish games like that, I'd put a unit number, or name on the figure, unless they're really different, and easily recognizable on their own, and then keep a separate roster off table, with the chits, etc., there, instead.

Pics of the figs would even work, if you have unique poses for each and every one, to make things easier, if you don't want to put numbers, names, or other identifiers on the bases.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Feb 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

For many of our games we use small white stones to show hits, medium gray stone to show "shaken" or equivalent, and pieces of stick/branch to denote disordered.

One of the real problems with these systems is after moving your units you have to move a whole little cloud of sticks and stones.

Murvihill27 Feb 2017 9:50 a.m. PST

For Napoleonics I paint the corner in one national color and put the battalion/squadron number in another national number. With each (French) battalion 8 stands you have to do something or you'll never be able to keep track.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 3:50 a.m. PST

Irregular figures and many other companies have animal figures. Mount them on penny stands. Sheep is shaken, donkey is stalled, goat is retreat, pig is routed, dog is pursuit, etc. Give each player a key on their roster sheet. Flocked pennies or wounded figures for casualties.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

I guess that's what we use flags for in Naps to identify individual units. Back packs also have the number painted on the British infantry units and the same could be said for many of the French cavalry regiments. Casualties are represented with casualty figures.
Any thing else can be kept with a Roster.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

Labels, casualty caps, charge or status markers; call them 'detritus' or call them 'Chadwicks' are an abomination that should be banished from the table.

Sho Boki28 Feb 2017 7:19 a.m. PST

You want me to banish from my table all officers, sergeants, flagbearers, drummers/trumpeters, fallen troopers, cantinieres, surrenders, routers, shouters, artillery loaders, firers and ammo carriers? ;)

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

Hate them. I put a number on the bottom of the bases and provide an OB with those same numbers. We just match up the numbers. My previous wargame group would not allow paper tags affix to bases because they just looked awful.

When I moved to a new town, the players there consider paper tags as essential. I was somewhat taken aback.

I think they had been doing it for many, many years and are just blind to how horrible they look. Plus they only put the tags on the command stand. So they are pretty much useless.

They also use blue and yellow plastic propellers off a toy top that they fired off. They use them to mark unit moral etc. They are absolutely terrible.

I bought some cool markers from Litko made specifically for the rues we use. The majority wanted nothing to do with them, so we don't use them. Go figure!

Id do use painted prone figures to mark when a unit goes prone.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

Hi there

Sheep is shaken, donkey is stalled, goat is retreat, pig is routed, dog is pursuit, etc. Give each player a key on their roster sheet.


Cool, does anybody actually use such a schema. It does have the benefit of the animals being broadly army and period neutral.

David F Brown

khanscom28 Nov 2017 8:54 a.m. PST

Labels should be out of sight. For Command Decision I used a painted bar on the rear vertical edge of the bases-- red for command, green for self- ordering elements. Everyone else could be functionally identified by the figures alone.

The Matildas carried a set of 1 or 2 colored pennons to identify squadrons and command vehicles. Regiments were denoted by tank names (D (fourth letter) names for 4th RTR, e.g.).

Additional detail for chain- of- command could be found (if required) on labels underneath the bases.

grahambeyrout03 Dec 2017 3:21 a.m. PST

I am now having to work out some system. Whatever it is, it will be coded. I despair when I see a game with superbly painted figures with plastic rings looped over them, units of figures with dice attachments, white labels the size of billboards, not to mention lovingly crafted landscape complete with rulers, dice, rule books, order cards etc scattered all over. A model railway enthusiast would not put up with it. Yes I know markers are necessary, but if one goes down that road, and the gameplay is the thing, why bother with figures, just use wooden blocks or play a board game.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2017 3:26 a.m. PST

Pints of beer left behind Hougomont and a sausage roll or two next to La Haye Sainte is my abiding memory. But above all everyone seemed to be having such a good time, I confess it did not bother me too much. At least they can be removed!

I do agree that the rings especially do look really odd

Brownand05 Dec 2017 12:17 p.m. PST

Does somebody have pictures of good labels; what I have seen isn't very attractive.

Three Armies05 Dec 2017 4:20 p.m. PST

I'm with Deadhead pints of beer and the odd pie on a table is acceptable but curiously unit tags are not, I guess it's because we all love to 'read' uniforms ;) .

Grumble8710625 Dec 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

For Command Decision, I base my stands of figures on plastic rectangles about 2 mm thick. While the top has sand, flocking, etc, the back side of each stand is painted a neutral color. On it, I paint colored dots. Each company in a battalion has a different color, and the stands have one, two or three dots and so forth to designate platoon numbers within the company. One dot designates the command infantry platoon.

The battalion HQ stand has one dot for each of the colors of the companies under its command. So for example a battalion may be comprised of a navy blue, a spring green and a brick red company, and the HQ has one dot of each of these colors.

Support elements (mortar platoon, AT platoon, Engineer platoon etc) also have one dot of each color in the battalion. Players do, however, need to keep track of whether the support platoons are under direct battalion command or attached to a certain company for a specific game.

One benefit of this fairly unobtrusive system is that for the most part the dots are not readily visible to opponents, thus preventing "game-y" targeting of the command infantry platoon in a company to slow down their maneuver.

The only time I've seen this system seriously break down was in a very large paratroop drop where platoons landed all over the table and it was very difficult for the players to sort the companies out by color. When they were all mixed up, grey and light blue, or black and navy blue, were very hard to distinguish!

Poniatowski Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Mar 2018 4:14 a.m. PST

I hate them, but sometimes I find a colored dot might be in order when playing games with masses units, especially skirmish, single figure stands….

I avoid doing it, but sometimes those HUGS Strelkovy ptns or skirmish ptns blend together on the table top and folks cannot keep them separated.

Elenderil31 Mar 2018 12:27 p.m. PST

My 6mm dark age units don't have easily identified uniforms! A small label at the rear of the base colour coded for nationality and stating troop type helps ease play enormously. Different numbers of figures and base depths as per ADLG also helps.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP01 Apr 2018 1:05 p.m. PST

For unit ID I do the following. The bases are painted green on the top and white on the bottom. (Use flat oil based paint, flock the top. The command stand has the unit name, the nationality (for white uniform units) and a number written on it. The bottom of the stand of that unit has the number written on the back.
The roster sheet has:

0 the Unit UD,
0 the number
0 the number of stands and CMD if a separate command stand is used
0 the number of stands
0 the fighting values (morale, meee, fire, type).
O skirmish capability/grenadier capability

When the entire army has a similar uniform (such as ACW), the back base of the stand is painted (2mm?) with a colour on the left or right side or the entire back. This makes it easy not to mix up units.

I do use casualty figures for partial stand losses. For some eras, (ACW), I will take off stands for losses. Napoleonics is a combination of wounded figures and a side tally.

I don't like litter paper on the tabletop. I count TEN (at least) pieces of information in my list above. I can't see putting that on a piece of paper attached to the unit, big enough in print to do any good. Nor putting it all on the back of the command stand.

Last Hussar28 May 2018 12:55 p.m. PST

I don't mind them, but I like them well done or in a style.

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