Non-marking game tokens material suggestion?

We play a lot of games at work at lunch time. Many of the games we play have secret roles and secret votes (games like Avalon, and Secret Hitler). Those roles/votes are printed on cards which are given to each player at the start of the game.

The problem is that after a while, the cards we use get marked somehow. Which makes certain secrets a lot less secret. We’ve used card sleeves, but those get used up or marked pretty quickly too.

Once I get my GF, I’m hoping to cut some tokens out of something that is a little more permanent than card-stock. Ideally, I’d like something that is not easily marked. Currently, I’m thinking of cutting them out of acrylic. Perhaps black acrylic, and etching the roles/votes on the front and painting the etches white.

My only concern is that fingerprints will show up on them fairly easily (“marking” them somewhat temporarily). We can clean off the fingerprints before each game.

I figured there is a really deep fountain of knowledge here on this forum. Does anyone have any better ideas than acrylic for making non-marking game role indicators?

Thanks for any insights.


just finger all of them, problem solved. alternately, wouldn’t wood work out okay? perhaps i’m misunderstanding what you mean.

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I was just playing Secret Hitler this weekend. After we spilled beer on the boards for the 2nd time in one night i decided i would cut some wood versions once i get my GF. I hadn’t even thought about the cards, but i like the acrylic idea.


I was going to make little “coins” for Werewolves when I got my laser.
I even mocked up an example in Tinkercad to use with my 3D printer

As far as the backs go I’d totally do a textured/matte finish. That way if you’re worried about fingerprints they should be way less visible.


Wooden markers would have unique grain patterns that could be easily identified.

Even Delrin would get marks eventually. I don’t know if there is going to be a bulletproof material, just materials that are going to be a little more resistant to the wear and tear. Fortunately, with your Glowforge, it should never be too big of a problem to make new tokens.


not with a little effort. take a board with some parallel grain and cut out a series of tokens along the grain. it would be extremely difficult to detect. and even then, just painting them with a matte finish would take care of it.


Wood would not work, since it has a distinct pattern.

From the back, all the cards/tokens need to look identical. So we don’t know who has which token.

Imagine we are 6 players, 2 people get a token that says “bad” and 4 people get a token that says “good” on the front. Only the player with the token sees the front of it. No one should know what role someone else has.

The problem is that we eat while we play. So inevitably, someone will handle a card/token with dirty fingers or splash some soup onto it, or something like that. If someone dirties a “bad” token, we all now know that the “dirty” token is a “bad” token. As soon as we notice that someone got the dirty one, we know his/her role.

I need something that is resistant to that. I think acrylic would wipe off pretty easily, but I’m wondering if there’s some other material I’m not thinking of that would work even better.

please see the response above you, this can easily be mitigated. wood is not as distinctive as many of you think.

alternately, enforce napkin use, lordy, haha.


You underestimate how often we play.

Some of us have noticed tiny little marks or discoloration on cards. We don’t look for them, and we try and play as if we did not notice it, but once you see a pattern, it’s really hard to ignore it.

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no, i don’t, your level of play is hardly unusual. noticing a bent card is much easier than deciding grain patterns. and that’s assuming you didn’t bother trying to match up the grain - this isn’t that hard. additionally, like i said, there’s paint, and if you’re that convinced you can detect differences, there’s a million different wood products you could use that don’t show grain.

also if you’re that hard / messy on games, i’d consider disposable items that get tossed out after a long session. using something like hardboard would be cheap and easy, and good enough to last (i mean if you drop it in the soup that’s still on you i guess).


Would wood with a nice coat of matte spray over top help?


MDF tends to be pretty consistent and cheap.


Make a themed laser-cut box to draw from which you draw the tokens? This would overcome the triviality of many minute differences. In the fraternity we would draw black or white marbles out of a black lined box.


It wouldn’t be the cheapest option, but get some metal slugs/coin blanks, and use something like Cermark to put the information on one side of the coin, leaving the other side blank (or put a uniform logo on that side, so the coins can be kept “face down” for players.)

Then keep the coins in a bag and draw blind from there as opposed to shuffling and dealing cards.


Check out the Ring Lord. He’s got tons of different metal things - dog tags, business card sizes, rounds, ovals, hearts, etc. in different materials (although primarily aluminum). Engrave one side. The anodized coating engraves well.

I’d go with those (I like the 2x3 business card sized blanks) before acrylic because they’re thinner and easier to handle.

If the backside’s coating starts showing markings, just engrave some more.

Or, if you’re really clever try creating designs where one can be changed to the other. Then if the “card” starts out as “good” and gets marked up, pop it back in to the GF and turn the “good” token into a “bad” token. Anyone who had learned the wear marks and knows it’s a “good” token will be unpleasantly surprised when it turns out to be a “bad” one after it’s been re-lasered :smile:


Another option would be to vary the game mechanics.

Replace the text on the cards with just numbers or letters, and then draw up a new “lookup table” every week or two. So one week C1 might be “Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies” and the next week it might become “Everyone Lives.”

Thus mitigating any card recognition benefits long term.

Edit: I’ve never played either of these games, so I don’t know how involved doing this would actually be, but hey, it’s an idea. =P


wear latex gloves while you play.
Also use a robot arm for each player to avoid food stuffs, oils, bent edges, etc.

Then put each player in a different room with a remote connection to their individual robot arm, and webcams to see each other and the board.

Finally, replace each player with a bot that has been programed to play fair and not notice patterns, stains, bent edges, grain direction, tells, sweat, or moon phase.

Now go for a walk.


I’d vote for these:

cleaning should be easy and only take a few moments if they get dirty.
Anodized dog tags or pet tags could be another good option. Just make sure to make a large enough order so you don’t have minor variances in tint/coloration.

Also consequences must be severe for anyone who bends a card/token.


I love the anodized Aluminum idea, but experience tells me that they will wear pretty quickly as they rub together. Especially the cheap mass produced blanks which have very thin anodizing.

I personally would go with Delrin, It is tough, wear resistant, and opaque. The mill finish is not very shiny, so fingerprints are less of an issue. Your only problem may be getting a paint that will stick in the engraving.


From your description of play, it is more a concern that the cards/tokens are visible face-down to all players during game play? This the importance of not being able to recognize from tie back, rather than just choosing blind.

How about engraving a halftone pattern (or other fine repeating pattern) on the back of the entire sheet before engraving and cutting the face side?