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Basic Gaming Tools

As a hobby, tabletop gaming can become more involved than you might think. There are certain gaming tools that every tabletop player should have to create a more complete gaming experience. Here are six suggestions every player needs in his or her Gamer/Player Toolbox:

A Tape Measure

Wait, are we playing tabletop games, or building a house?

You won’t need to worry about this if role-playing games are more your thing!

But if you want to become more involved in miniature wargaming, then you need a way to measure your army’s movements. This means using something like a ruler or tape measure. The latter is more commonly used, simply because of it’s versatility. It’s much easier, precise, and less clumsy to measure distance around, between, through, and over terrain and miniatures with a tape measure.

Also, they’re just cool. Leave the toolbelt, take the tape measure.


Most tabletop games involve using dice of some kind. They are crucial gaming tools! And there are SEVERAL types.

For most every role-playing game (or RPG), you typically need a set of polyhedral dice — 7 differently-sided dice that come in a multitude of (awesome) colors and sizes. RPGs like Star Wars: Edge of the Empire use a specific set of dice unique only to that system. There are also sets of standard 6-sided dice (also known as pips), which are widely used for wargaming.

Here’s the thing about dice… gamers are quite partial to, and superstitious, about them. It’s why we tend to have lots and lots of dice. LOTS!

If your dice rolls are making you lose your battles (because dice do that to you — it’s a conspiracy!), that’s your cue to switch to a fresh set, and place the offending set in dice jail. Also, we generally don’t let people touch our dice. Lending them to another player places your dice at risk for bad gaming juju and “contamination”.

But be warned! Buying dice is like eating a bag of chips — you can’t have just one set! All dice are not created equal. Therefore, you will need prolific numbers to ensure your army’s or character’s victory. Huzzah!

Rule Books and Codexes

To play a game, you need to know the rules. A player’s handbook, rule book, or codex, becomes your “Bible” of sorts, and is one of the most important gaming tools you could own.

If you’re getting into RPGs, the player’s handbook guides you through creating your character, as well as understanding your character’s features, skills, and abilities. New adventures within any RPG system are released every so often. If you’re planning to be the Dungeon Master, or DM, these are helpful for creating new quests for your band of adventurers.

In wargaming, there are several books you might need, depending on what armies you want to use for gameplay. As new armies are released, so are the new books that accompany them.

You may find yourself obsessed with your player handbooks. It’s ok, and we’ll be the first to tell you — that’s good! Being knowledgeable about rules, characters, and armies means you will spend less time having to look them up and more time actually playing the game.

Pen and Paper

You can go old school with these gaming tools — a notebook and pencil will do just fine. Or use a laptop. Either way, you may want to make notes on your game session. This is particularly true for almost every RPG. Actually, it’s essential for almost every RPG, especially if you’re playing a full-blown campaign.

Unless you have an eidetic memory, you’re going to want to write down key moments throughout the game — names of non-player characters (NPCs), places, magical items, clues given by NPCs, etc. This helps you to have a record of them for reference in future sessions.

Keep everything — your character sheets, maps, images, notes, etc. — in a binder or notebook. If you’re involved in multiple RPG campaigns, keep a SEPARATE binder or notebook for each game. (Here’s a player tip: Place a copy of your character sheet in a sheet protector and use that while you’re playing a session. Use a wet-erase marker to write on the sheet protector to easily change your stats.)


“Eldar, and Beholders, and Germans… oh my!”

Next to your imagination and creativity, miniatures are pretty much the centerpiece of several tabletop games. You just can’t have a proper WWII Bolt Action battle without your Axis or Allied armies, and the terrain and buildings upon which to traverse and ambush!

In miniature wargaming, you absolutely need miniatures to play. This actually leads into the hobby side of tabletop gaming (assembling and painting, which we’ll talk about in another blog post!). You can still play even without painting them. (But seriously, you’ll want to, because it’s just cool-looking. And you can gain points in actual gameplay.) Depending on the game and the army you want to assemble, you can buy sets or individual minis. Bolt Action, Konflikt 47, Warhammer 40k, and Age of Sigmar, are just some games that require miniatures.

Other tabletop games, like Mansions of Madness or Walking Dead: All Out War, come with miniatures, which you can paint if you choose. There are also expansions and additional pieces, which help add to storylines or give you different abilities.

If you are focusing on role-playing games, you don’t necessarily need a miniature as a player character, but they do add a 3D layer to the game. Use of minis depends on how your DM wants to enhance gameplay. He or she may have a ready arsenal of them to represent your character, the various monsters you might encounter, and also terrain or rooms/dungeons you may venture through.

Imagination and Critical Thinking

Ok, so this last one isn’t really a “thing”, but really, it’s a THING!

When going into battle, you don’t just go full-force without some sort of plan, right? Well, maybe you do. But in tabletop gaming, the outcome of the game is largely dependent on your use of your wits, cunning, problem-solving, and imagination. Ok, and dice.

Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends would pretend that the living room floor was a river of hot lava? The couch was the safe zone, and the only way to get across the living room to get to land to find the treasure was to hop on the other pieces of furniture. Then you could safely land on them without touching the floor, because otherwise, you’d get burned alive! Remember that? Remember?

It’s like that.

This is highly essential when you’re role-playing. In wargaming, you don’t necessarily have to pretend that you’re the general of your army. But you DO need to be strategic and decide how you want to move forward during skirmishes or battles. This means using your brain!

Tabletop gaming, unlike video gaming, relies most of the time on what YOU decide to do and how YOU decide to play (well, ok, and dice rolls — seriously, DICE!). You’re not relying on artificial intelligence, or programming, or algorithms. It’s about thinking ahead, being creative, and solving problems on the fly. Basically, MacGyver your way through!

It’s Just a Start!

Every tabletop gamer has his or her own essential tool kit. These are just the basics, and (we think) a great starting point if you’re a newbie to tabletop gaming.

Are there any fun or unconventional gaming tools (or tips) that you like to use? Comment below!