If you like nice bits for your games and are willing to pay a bit extra for them, you might want to check out Penny Gems. I came across these at GameStorm a couple weeks ago, when the designer Dave Howell was soliciting reactions for his Kickstarter video. (Yeah, that’s me in the video, going on at length about how cool they seem.)
I was at the Game Lab area waiting on somebody, and I saw a pile of these shiny glassy-looking gems in a pile. Since the Game Lab area was for playtesting game prototypes, I figured they must be part of somebody’s game, and I was pretty impressed with the appearance. Then Howell spoke up, threw me a handful of them, and asked what I thought about them.
Aside from the initial visual appeal, I had two immediate reactions when I actually handled them: first, that they’re a nice weight, kind of like the glass beads I’ve purchased as pawns for my Cheapass Games and so forth. Secondly, they have a great texture — they’re smooth, but not slick. The problem with glass beads is that they can be too slippery to handle, and these were something else that I couldn’t quite figure out at first.
After letting me fiddle with them for a while, Howell revealed the secret — he told me to look carefully at the edges. The reason they’re called Penny Gems is because it’s actually made from a penny, with the shiny stickers applied to each side. It’s a reflective foil sticker, and on top of it is this little bubble of polyurethane, which is incredibly durable.
So, what do you do with them? Well, if you have games that need extra bits (or you’re prototyping games) these will instantly make them feel classier. In fact, you might like them so much that you’ll use them instead of the standard wooden cubes and disks in your Eurogames. Whatever you want. All I can tell you is that if I had a big pile of these, I’d probably just stick them in all of my games. (Well, maybe I’d keep my meeples. I like meeples.)
Howell is pre-selling these on Kickstarter — you provide your own pennies, and he sends you a sheet of the stickers in various colors. Like I said, they aren’t cheap: the lowest pledge at $6 just gets you enough for eight tokens, one in each color. As the pledge amount goes up, the price per gem comes down. (Though it’s hard for me to imagine anyone spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on the gems, James Ernest–designed game notwithstanding.)
But if you’ve been hunting for some nice generic pawns you can use in a variety of ways, this might be just what you need. Check out the Penny Gems Kickstarter page here.