Mechanic Monday – Grid Movement

Many games utilize maps of some sort; especially war games. Games such as Risk and Axis and Allies are known for their realistic map interpretations; players moving their units across the country borders as they do combat. Other games use an alternate method of movement; grid based. This is most often seen with a map being broken down into hexes or squares.

BGG has the first dated game using grid movement as Hnefatafl (year 400); I’ve never heard of the game, but the system is used in chess and checkers so its historical existence is not in question. The system itself is quite variable as well; as seen in Chess. In Chess each player is given the same equipment and starts with the same pieces and positions as their opponent the pieces, however, hold the variance. Some can only move straight, others diagonally, nights like an L. Other games with the square grid system play differently; checkers has players limited to diagonal motion. The D&D Adventure System grants players near complete freedom in motion with a limit only to how many squares they can traverse.

Hex based movement is equally variable; games such as Memoir ‘44 position players on a fairly preset map with hexes covering the entirety granting players 6 directions to go from any hex (card depending) other games, such as Clash of Cultures, introduce a varied map; in which the hexes are revealed as players discover them.

The variability of the mechanic makes it viable with many themes; though most will fall back to some form of combat; though this is not always the case. We can see games such as Formula D use the mechanic partnered well with die rolling to represent car racing; Decent partnering with cards and dice to throw players in a fantasy dungeon; while Forbidden Desert/Island use the mechanic with action points to have players attempting to survive above all else. Each of these themes is one that has little to do with the others; and there are yet more themes that could be shown as examples. So long as a theme encourages movement a grid can be used to model the motion.

The above games also show varied partnered mechanics; movement, aside from in racing games, rarely makes up the win condition and thus grid movement can not carry a game alone so as to lead to a sole mechanic. Mechanics such as dice rolling, hand management, and action point allotment partner well so as to flesh out ways to gain points or meet goals and accomplish quests.

I look forward to seeing in what ways the mechanic is used in the future. More games are being released now than any other time in recent history and the new games are varied in mechanics as well as in theme. As more designers experiment with the mechanic I am excited to see how grid movement can grow. In the last few months I have played my fair share of grid based movement games, but I would love to see in interpreted in a new way or a new theme that I would never have expected.

What are your thoughts on Grid movement? What games do you think use it well; or poorly? Do you think it will grow in popularity over the next few years or will it fall from use?

Let us know on social media; and come back tomorrow when we look at Memoir ‘44!

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