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"Grid-Based Games are Faster?" Topic

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25 Jul 2016 10:36 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian03 Feb 2016 7:28 p.m. PST

Do you believe that a grid-based miniatures ruleset will be faster to play, than one in which measuring is required for movement?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2016 7:31 p.m. PST

I played in one which made up for the "simplicity" of movement with a lot more unnecessary gobbledygook.
I guess it balanced things out. grin

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Feb 2016 7:48 p.m. PST

Not necessarily.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Feb 2016 8:00 p.m. PST

If premeasuring is allowed in the non-grid game they might be depending on the players. But if it isn't then grid games, for some people, may take much more time.

Phillius Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2016 8:32 p.m. PST

The one grid game I have played did not strike me as being much faster than non-grid games.

But I have only played one.

lloydthegamer Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2016 8:54 p.m. PST

Having played several systems involving squares I have to say game play is much faster, less cluttered too with no rulers, etc scattered about.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP03 Feb 2016 9:16 p.m. PST

Other game design elements being equal, yes grid-based will be faster.

Martin Rapier03 Feb 2016 11:12 p.m. PST

As above, based on similar game mechanisms, vastly faster. It is enough to convert ruler based rules to use a grid, and the difference is noticeable.

If you go off and clutter up your nice game design with a ton of chrome, it may well be slower.

The main benefit is it avoids all that millimetres obsession with wheeling, and the sort of geometry wars some players like to indulge in.

It isn't a question of "belief" but demonstrably true, other things being equal. If you compare a hideously complex gr8 game with a simple ruler game, it isn't an equal comparison.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member03 Feb 2016 11:28 p.m. PST

Yes, definitely faster.

But you have to use the grid in smart way. Movement distances and ranges are a no-brainer (but, be careful when converting them to grids, see my post on link ).

But for line of sight, it depends. If you have a skirmish game (individual figures), with terrain elements at a finer resolution than the grid, LOS should be kept from figure to figure.

Orientation is another issue. No orientation? Grid-aligned orientation? Free orientation? I have used all variants in my games.

Footprints are another matter. For unit-based games, 1 unit should equal 1 gridcell, IMO. Having multiple units per grdicell, or having multiple gridcells per unit, usually requires a lot of additional rules. So, design the rules such that 1 cell equals one unit and vice versa. Exception are single-figure games, e.g. Wild West gunfights.

Grids can also facilitate other rules. E.g. in our scifi games, our firing rules require rolling a dice equal or larger than the distance in gridcells. An elegant range modifier made possible only by the grid.

Esthetics might be another matter, but there are lots of different approaches to deal with that.

As Martin said, using grids (square or hex or …) does away with the geometry wars. But even if the players are not too precise about their millimeters, using a grid helps tremendously because 1 gridcell usually equals the footprint of 1 unit, and that's the main cause of being able to manipulate the figures faster. As long as they end up in the gridcell, it's usually ok.

Some of my ramblings on the subject (posts on my blog labeled "Hexes"):

BrotherSevej03 Feb 2016 11:54 p.m. PST

Of course! But I've given up on the rulers & measuring tape, so I am biased.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 2:10 a.m. PST

I've gone back to the rulers & measuring tape (and turn templates, and angle templates, and straight edges, and lasers…), so I'm biased the other way. And I also believe grids play faster.

I just don't admit they play better. :-)

- Ix

warwell04 Feb 2016 2:22 a.m. PST


normsmith Inactive Member04 Feb 2016 2:29 a.m. PST

grids do allow for faster play and the eye can scan things like movement allowances and weapon ranges in an instant. also units can literally be plonked down in a hex, rather than precise millimetre measurement that others may expect of your manoeuvres and still be 'accurately placed'

Facing and therefore flanks and rear or zones of influence (control) are instantly and precisely identifiable.

Importantly to me with a bad back, it totally removes the need for leaning into the middle of a table to measure and precisely move units.

I do however come for a board gaming background in which those fangled shapes are just second nature and that may be an important factor. once your minds eye reads hexes, EVERYTHING is quantified at a faster rate than an open board allows.

For those who end up with facing / flank / movement arguements, grids remove that in an instance.

Sysiphus Inactive Member04 Feb 2016 3:31 a.m. PST

Depends on how fast your opponent plays. grin

Dentatus Fezian04 Feb 2016 5:32 a.m. PST

Of course it does.

That someone bogs down a particular set of grid-based rules with clunky mechanics is a statement of their nitwittery. It doesn't negate the obvious advantages NormSmith listed.

Bob in Edmonton04 Feb 2016 5:39 a.m. PST

Vastly. I find it simplifies decision about movement and AIDS in the resolution of combat (Los is obvious).

Garth in the Park04 Feb 2016 6:00 a.m. PST

Yes, I've found them to be both faster and simpler, mostly in good ways.

But they tend not to look as good.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 6:07 a.m. PST

I am a great advocate/believer in grids , but would readily accept that some players find them much slower or more difficult to game with. Conquerors and kings was our first gridded game back in 1990! also Square Bashing, Hammerin iron, Vikings andPBI use grids too. The forthcoming vietnam do so too.


Dave Crowell04 Feb 2016 6:24 a.m. PST

I find grid based games to play faster. I don't find that multiple units per grid space needs to add complexity.

I started playing map&counter war-games and almost all of those were hex or square grid. Playing on a grid just comes naturally to me.

Phil Sabin's "Lost Battles" is an excellent example of multiple units per gridcell with no great complication. One unit is declared the "lead" unit for combat with the others in support.

As for clunky rules and excessive chrome that is possible in any format. There are many games that I don't play because I find the rules clunky instead of elegant. Some are grid based, some are free measure.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 6:28 a.m. PST

Grids, properly executed, can speed play. They can also slow it down. As much as anything it depends on who you play with. My gaming clubs are pretty relaxed so measuring and angles do not take any time. We might check a 45 degree arc of fire once a game. So things designed to get rid of "geometry wars" are, for my money, solutions in search of a problem.

My issue with squares is they often greatly reduce my options – how do you refuse a flank using squares? There's always an open corner. Or allow "turns" inside a square which leads to how many fire points can fire in each direction etc. etc. You're adding a lot of rules to cover a situation where a unit would be deployed at a 45 degree angle to the main line.

They also can create a lot of LOS oddities which really bother me. If my LOS passes between the intersection of two diagonal squares is it blocked? Does the terrain get treated as perfectly filling the square to alleviate this? This can make for a grossly over simplified battlefield.

In the end I find they really water down the game a lot.

Personal logo Martian Root Canal Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 7:08 a.m. PST

Not necessarily. Movement? Probably. Other things, like formations, lines of sight, etc.? Not so much. It ends up being a trade off.

Darkest Star Games Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 7:08 a.m. PST

Faster… unless you're playing Pathfinder…

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 7:56 a.m. PST

You can run into other issues, like how to handle figures hiding at building corners and stuff like that, but generally, the same rules in my experience will go a bit quicker for sure.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 8:55 a.m. PST

One great advantage of grids is that you move a unit from one "area" to another "area". The fact that you have not managed exact positioning , attitude and action means that you are behaving more like an overall commander rather than the commander of each and every unit. A commander tends to send troops to do things without constantly reminding them of what formation or relationship space to adopt. An example of this would be infnatry in PBI. They are sent into a building sqaure by the platoon cmmander. the rules assume they know how to use scenery , set up firing positions and occupy the area. If the rule set asks you to place each figure in an appropriate position and relationship to his fellows. Then the player is being the lance corporal or soldier buddy. A platoon commander would more likely tell a section to "hold the barn until the other section gets there" He is less likely to remind the men to put themselves where they can see and shoot at the enemy.



martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 3:23 p.m. PST

Although the term is "grid" we tend to just use dots. The mats that big red bat stocks can come with grids already on them. My usual table covering is one of the GW green cloths with dots on it.


RudyNelson04 Feb 2016 3:39 p.m. PST

Yes they are. We have converted a numvber of miniature game systems to hex based systems. they do play faster. I did Coastal Command for PT boats; glory= skirmish rules 1750-1913; our near future DBA style warfare and a new no dice combat system by comparing tactics. All played a lot faster with hexes.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 7:08 p.m. PST

Yes indeed they are faster. Just don't play the one called "Advanced Squad Leader".

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP04 Feb 2016 10:29 p.m. PST

@Kenneth: Hotz Mats for one:

Martin Rapier04 Feb 2016 11:18 p.m. PST

I made all my gridded cloths myself. Piece of cloth, ruler and marker pen. Dots at the corners are quite sufficient.

For more grandiose games, area movement and stacking works fine, see e.g. Lost Battles, Square Bashing, To the Last Gaiter Button etc.

One unit per grid area can cause all sorts of weirdness, particularly in eras where individual formations are very dispersed. Ymmv of course and it depends what you are trying to achieve.

(Phil Dutre) Inactive Member04 Feb 2016 11:55 p.m. PST

I am a big fan of grids, but I absolutely agree they are only a mechanic and need to be firmly entrenched in the other rules. As mentioned before, things like troop density, line of sight, orientation, terrain density, are things that need to be considered.

Saying "this ruleset uses a grid" is about the same as saying "this ruleset uses dice".

Ottoathome05 Feb 2016 1:40 a.m. PST

Grid games are no faster than free movement games and I have the statistics to prove It.

When I developed my rules, "Oh God! Anything But a Six!" I used industrial engineering methods to evaluate it. That's essentially doing time and motion studies on the game, just like you do in manufacturing environments to evaluate "productive" and "non-productive" time, the aim being to maximize the former and minimize the latter. "Productive" time we decided was moving troops, discussing the game, rolling dice, and hands and eyes doing tings on the table. Non productive time was measurement, arguing, reading rules, clearing up contradictions etc. Well in pursuit of this we ORIGINALLY used a simple square grid (4" squares) to reduce all special relationships to one so we could evaluate how the rules and the interleaved sequence of action worked. Then we took off the grid and allowed for the inefficiency of having to measure to be put back in. This was done after we streamlined the game sequences and turns to where we had gotten all of the impedimentia out. We didn't like the aesthetic and material confines of the grid. What we found out was that the additional time to measure and move trivial, and in many cases infinitesimal and such that it wasn't noticed at all. Under the gridded system it took about 8 minutes for a player to move 80% of his troops in a 250 figure game. (these are averages over many games). When we did away with the grid and players had to measure, the time needed for movement was about 8.43 minutes on the average. That may seem like a lot, (and in an industrial line an increase of 5% would be serious, but the mitigation came in the question that people actually were having fun doing it, which caused an interesting debate if the measurement could then be considered "productive" or "non-productive"

As one player noted, counting is simply another form of measurement and takes longer than you normally think.

In any case, we also found that by the time we went BACK to free movement we had so streamlined the other processes of that game that the normal friction that requires more involved measurement wasn't in the game at all any more and things could move very quickly.

Dexter Ward05 Feb 2016 3:57 a.m. PST

Otto, your statistics prove that the grid speeds the movement up by 8% (not 5%)

It also speeds up shooting – no ranges to argue about.

Whether or not you think the speed up is worth the constraints a grid imposes is another matter, but there's no doubt grids speed up the game; you just proved it!

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Feb 2016 6:54 a.m. PST

If you want to speed up games play with people who don't argue about a few mm of movement or range and will come to an acceptable compromise quickly. You don't need grids, just sensible co-operative players.

USAFpilot05 Feb 2016 7:53 a.m. PST

Grid games have simpler movement/maneuver rules than non-grid games, which have to dedicate lengthy descriptions on how units move and the vast amount of varied geometry that can result. And if the movement section is not well written or detailed enough it causes confusion and holes in the rules. The ultimate grid wargame is chess which has very simple rules, but very nuisanceed and complex play.

Grid turns analog into digital, thus eliminating all the grey areas.

Ottoathome05 Feb 2016 12:58 p.m. PST

Dear Dexter

Go back and read the post. You didn't pay attention.

The whole exercise was NOT on speed, but on efficiency of play of which speed was only one part of it. Second, you cannot simply deal with "speed" the questions is the speed of movement on a grid, within the context of speed of the game. Savings of a grid will be worthless if you have extremely complex rules and nit-picky players, as Gildas facit has stated.

The whole point of the IE process was NOT speed, but satisfaction. Until any speed factor is nested in that, it's a pointless exercise, and grids will slow the game down as much as free movement.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Feb 2016 2:32 p.m. PST

Yep, grids speed play in my experience. Been gaming since 1969 and found this true from experience. Play about 150 games a year. This is a chat so there will be different views… fine.


Ottoathome06 Feb 2016 2:06 a.m. PST

Want to speed up play? Don't need grids. Buy an egg-timer. Flip the timer and let the players have at it. Of course, any unit they touch AFTER the timer goes out is removed from the field.

Watch your gamers squak like you're castrating them without anesthetic.

It can be done.

RudyNelson08 Feb 2016 4:13 p.m. PST

I do not often have to debate free movement and grid games. I am not sure how you can argue that free are faster. Yet some may think so. In grid actions the grid makes the designer convert movement to Movement points though in most cases foot troops move only one or two hexes depending on the scale. There is no need for constant measurements with a ruler in either movement or firing.
Weapon ranges have also been converted to hexes based on scale. So determing what is in range is faster.
Command and Control, supplyand other aspects are faster as well.
I have ran the same game system in both grid and hex a large number of times and have not seen a hex system play slower.
Just my opinion.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP11 Feb 2016 8:03 a.m. PST

of course. you would have to be willfully daft to not think so.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Feb 2016 12:41 p.m. PST

If playing fast is your goal. Grids look terrible and I hate the pressure to get the game over with in two hours.

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