MY WAY: Measuring Tapes

I go through measuring tapes faster than anyone I know. I break, lose and loan them away at an alarming rate. As a result, I've had a rare opportunity to compare and contrast the various measuring options out there.

I always carry two measuring tapes in my "gear box". Why? Because players forget their stuff and I hate sharing a measuring tape. Yes, it's a dumb pet peeve -- spending an extra ten bucks to eliminate the frustration of spending 30 seconds of looking for the measuring tape at the beginning of my turn is totally worth it.

I've gotten in the habit of keeping a "loaner" with me. That also means my extra measuring tape sometimes goes on permanent "loan" -- which, lucky for you, has made me a bit of an expert on self-retracting, pocket tape measures.

There are lots of measuring tools, but you really want a retractable metal tape measure (the flexible, spring-loaded metal kind that you can clip on your belt) as opposed to a soft cloth rule (like the ones used for measuring pipes or clothing). The cloth ones sound interesting for measuring assaults and non-linear movement until you try it out. Trust me, it's not good.

So what SHOULD you look for in a measuring tape?

  1. Tensile Strength: As you extend a flexible rule, it will eventually "break". The further it goes before breaking, the higher the tensile strength of the material. Since most games take place on a 4' x 6' table, you want a measuring tape that will do close to 48" without breaks.  Both the GW and GF9 tape measures break at around 45" -- my 16" Craftsman measuring tape breaks at 72".
  2. Measuring Distance: Most measurements in the game are in the 18"-32" range. But it's the 36"-48" measurements that separate the good measuring tapes from the bad ones. This means you don't even want to look at a tape measure that's less than 6' long. Both the GW and GF9 tape measures are 10' long, which is a great distance.
  3. Tape Width: Most tape measures that are at least 10' will have a rule width of 1". This is a handy piece of information to have because it can easily establish if an enemy is at least 1" away from your models. Don't be tempted to buy one of those tiny keychain tape measures with the skinny tape. You'll hate it; I promise.
  4. Compactness: Retractable measuring tapes are made of a 1" wide steel rule that's 10' long, wrapped around spring mechanism and often housed in a metal case. That's a lot of metal, so it's not going to be light. That's why I recommend a 10' measure instead of a 12' or longer measure -- it's lighter and easier to fit in your dice box.
  5. Durability: Believe it or not, measuring tapes break. There's all kinds of stuff in there that can go wrong. I've broken tangs (the little metal end hook) and springs and brakes. When the tang breaks off the spring sucks in the rule and that's the end of that tape measure. You want to look for at least two sturdy rivets on the tang. Three would be better, but two is generally good enough for a 10' rule.
So which measuring tape should you use? If I had to pick between the Games Workshop tape measure ($8) and the Gale Force Nine tape measure ($7), I'd go with the Gale Force Nine version every time. Both are decent ruler for the game, but I've had fewer problems with the GF9 tape than the GW tape -- and GF9 guarantees their product.  

True Story: Two years ago, I was in the middle of a heated Gladiator tournament at Adepticon when my GF9 tape measure broke (stupid tang). I ran into the GF9 store in the dealer's area to purchase another one. When I showed them that mine broke -- admittedly from not taking good care of it -- they gave me another one for free! That's pretty awesome!

>>So that's a quick look into my gear box. I'll be happy to hear your suggestions and answer any questions in the comments section or via email ( And, yes, I'd really love to hear about the creative solutions and cool products you've found!

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