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Handling omni-directional movement in a tabletop game

9 replies [Last post]
Joined: 05/25/2010

So i've been wanting to make a tactical tabletop game about possitioning and board control. The obvious answers are there in front of me but I've been trying to think of something more free form than a grid or hex based system. Specifically I want to have a game that allows you to move in any direction. Now games like Pirates (the popout collectible game) and Warhammer 40k (amongst others) have systems that are omni directional but they both require rulers (or some other method of measuring distance, like the length of a card).

I'm trying to brainstorm a way to have gridless movement in a tabletop game and have had a few ideas but all are either too loose (as in there is no way to regulate the movement so it's fair) or are basically ruler alternates. The one idea I keep coming back to though is dual sided cards that "flip" to move.

Basically these cards would be roughly playing card proportioned and to move them you would flip the card over so that one of the 4 edges of the card acted as a "hinge" attached to the table.

This has a couple of benefits, It allows really interesting design of a game where managing which side of your card is up durring which turn is crucial to gameplay. Possibly cards that can only attack when side A or B is up, or cards that grant certain bonuses when a certain side is up. This seems like a unique enough idea that with careful design of the pieces could be diverse enough to build a fairly good game around.

Also there are no rulers, and no other pieces required to play but the cards themselves.

Some major drawbacks exist though, You can't use tokens since the card is constantly flipping and I'm worried it will be very hard to not "mess up" the cards. Specifically making sure you don't drop or rotate a card incorrectly.

My question is this, do you think this system is possible or has something like this been done before? Or is it too unwieldy to be practical? Any input is welcome.

Joined: 08/11/2010
Two cards per object?

Perhaps instead of flipping cards, you could have two for each object; you move the object by putting one card down in such a way that it overlaps at least part of the other, then picking up the other card. This gives you more flexibility than flipping because you're not required to move exactly the length of the card; you could also theoretically have all four card sides have effects.

But if the cards are ordinary playing-card type cards, you're still going to have problems where e.g. a stiff breeze destroys the game (I've seen this happen to card games before).

OTOH, you could do something similar with tokens - have two per piece, move by placing the alternate token so that it touches the current one. If the tabletop is guaranteed to be flat, you could even attach the tokens to cards that show the movement radius of the piece.

Third thought: Each token has a small piece of string attached to it; you can move by placing the alternate token anywhere you want as long as you can touch the current token's string with the alternate without moving the current.

Any, just a quick brainstorm; I hope it's helpful!

rcjames14's picture
Joined: 09/17/2010
Existing Games

Your design reminds me of two published games:

Disc Wars (1999):
Dice Land (2003):

Both use flipping as a means of movement, and integrate status changes into that mechanic. One uses flat discs, the other uses 8 sided dice, but both are made of cardboard. Disc Wars was discontinued soon after it came out, but CheapAss Games is still printing expansions of Dice Land. Neither has fared very well in the marketplace or on the BGG rankings. So, the mechanic is probably either underdeveloped or infeasible.

The rules for Dice Land don't indicate to me that the game itself is a bad idea. It adds an interesting physical dexterity element to what is ordinarily a strategic game. But, CheapAss Games isn't known for commercialization, so it is entirely possible that game with high production quality (plastic dice, color art) might work. But, in that case, it is more likely to target the kid market than the serious war gamer market. See Bakugan Battle Brawlers.

Joined: 05/25/2010
Both of those games exhibit

Both of those games exhibit something I want to avoid. With a relatively complex movement mechanic and the inherent complexity of double sided cards, I want to keep the rest of the game as simple as possible. Those games both seem to have, at least at first glance, a high level of complexity in their "unit" designs for each card/dice/token. Were I to implement on this idea I would most likely have a set number of unit types (say 4) and then give each player and equal number of each. Something like 4 of each or something. With a simple base you can let the player decisions make up the bulk of the game, instead of the card design. It's the difference between mtgand chess. I want a more chess like game.

Does any of that make sense?

Thanks a bunch for the links though, it's always interesting to see how others interpret a mechanic

Clay's picture
Joined: 08/30/2010
what about circles?

I was thinking that if you wanted the movement to be omni directional you could use circle tiles so that you weren't limited in direction just in distance.
Maybe just sticking a simple graphic on both sides of a bunch of checkers
to playtest the "messing up" of the placement could give you an idea of the heft the pieces will need.

oh yea... is this a 2 player or more game? would the pieces be the same for both players (like chess)? will there be projectiles or do pieces need to occupy the same space to attack each other? or is it like checkers in that any piece you could flip over/through you could capture?

the idea sounds like it has some real potential for "variants" like: capture the flag, last man standing, King of the hill.
hope this helps.

Joined: 05/25/2010
More than likely the teams

More than likely the teams would be symmetric like chess, or at the very least they would be asymmetrical but set.

Lately I've really enjoyed the idea of games that have asymmetrical game objectives. Where one player is attempting to prevent something the other is attempting to do. So seeing as that's my mental flavor of the month I might try that and do something like "package delivery" where player A is attempting to escort a special, defenseless, unit across the map while player B is attempting to prevent the delivery.

Giving each player set pieces would be great and the game would play like a mix of chess with possibly an element of American football kickoff returns where blocking and routes are extremely important.

As for projectiles or not, I'm honestly undecided.

Clay's picture
Joined: 08/30/2010
I've been kicking around the

I've been kicking around the idea of a sports game where the pieces have an "area of affect" defense where the value gets weaker further form the piece.
When you place pieces close to each other their defense values combine to create a "gauntlet" the opposing player would have to "penetrate".

Piece stats would be roughly:
Movement: 5-10(distance)
Penetration: 5-10
Defense: 3-7
Pass: 5-25 (distance)
Catch: 3-5 (roll a d6 for success check)
The board is probably gonna be 50x20

My idea was to have direct opposite pieces like the defensive and offensive line-ups in Football but simplified so that each piece was exactly opposite.
But instead of having separate objectives to balance the two piece types I figured I would use a "school yard" draft where I-pick-then-you-pick until there are no pieces left. (hope that made sense, I'm still not great at writing manuals/directions)

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is you could use a sports style "pass" ability so that your game was a kind of suped-up "keep away" where you have to decide who to give the "package" to, a fast/weak piece or hunker down with a slow/strong piece. You could even do something odd like have the "package" be so large that it would take multiple pieces to move it.

I'm not the biggest fan of projectiles BUT I think that it could really depend on the board and the possible "lines of sight" and different areas of defendability ESPECIALLY with different game objectives. Maybe only the attackers have projectiles and the defenders have shields or some other device to protect them.
I too have been fascinated by the trend of asymmetrical game objectives and think there is a lot of re-play potential in them.
hope this helps.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
If you want to go analog

If you want to go analog without rulers, the only way I can see is to make a dexterity game.

mdkiehl's picture
Joined: 12/10/2010

When you said omni-directional I thought you meant a game that is played in 3d space, with movement in X,Y and Z. I immediately thought that it could be done with round, thick tiles or cards (like one of the other posts said above) but with a hole in the tiles to attached sticks- to allow for Z movement. Hexagonal tiles might make it easier for players to fix things if the tiles get bumped out of place... not "omni" though.

I've wanted to do something like this for a space adventure game. Let me know how it goes.

Matthew Kiehl

Evil ColSanders
Evil ColSanders's picture
Joined: 12/08/2010
2 edges

I can already break your system by hinging together 1 long edge to 1 long edge and get an extra inch out of movment when going in a straight line. If you can hinge at one corner, it makes flanking (and turning in general) B.S. Unless you have a limiter of something like, "a card cannot be rotated more than an angle of 90 degrees from the previous card".

A fix for the card-type movement:
When the cards are used for movement, from the second card on, cards must have two of it's edges within the area of the last card played.

This way, movement is lost when you turn and the angle of your turns are limited.

Personally, I like the Song of Swords system. They have 3 flat, long plastic pieces cut out at 3 different lengths marked "short, medium, long". The characters have stats and a movement of short, medium, and long. You bust out the length marker and move up to that length. To further improve this, I use those bendy, fuzz-covered, pieces of wire that you find at a Micheal's arts and crafts store. Cut them to the 3 specific lengths and now you have perfect movement you can manipulate any way you want.

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