Hex Marks the Spot
February 12, 2024 4:51 AM   Subscribe

"As is true throughout the history of innovation, whenever there is a problem, it usually turns out that multiple people arrive at similar inventive solutions. That was the case with the development of the hex as a basic unit of division in board games." Hex maps also have been noted to have problems. The internet is, of course, full of lists of favorite hex and counter wargames. (While a counter may be gorgeous, and may be found in your kitchen, it is not a kitchen counter, which can be dangerous.) Hexcrawls have been part of Dungeons & Dragons for a long time, though they have spread to other RPGs over time, though some people prefer pointcrawls to hexcrawls. It should be noted that hexes had ludic uses[SLPDF] prior to the modern era of board wargames and RPGs.
posted by cupcakeninja (21 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not really specific to board games but this breakdown over at Redblob is generally considered to be the standard reference for developers looking to implement hex grids for tactical/strategic video games or - more germane to this thread - implementing a hex boardgame / tiling system within a game or app. Lays out all the math nice and clean, whether it’s for coordinate systems or how to convert typical euclidean operations (line drawing, reflections) to hexspace.
posted by Ryvar at 5:27 AM on February 12 [18 favorites]


Seconding the Redblob page, I could not have programmed my game without it! Really clear visual interactive explanations.
posted by sudasana at 6:41 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Amit over at RedBlob even occasionally updates the pages from time to time to improve them.
posted by Harald74 at 7:06 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I'm currently (or at least on Friday) hexcrawling across Poland with my friends in the fourth edition of Twilight 2000.
posted by Harald74 at 7:07 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I've been plagued by hexes for 40 years now, each decade trying to find a better way to tesselate a war-game map . . .

10 years ago I came up with a pretty cool pixellation of a hex-grid, but now don't know what I want to use it for . . .
posted by torokunai at 7:11 AM on February 12


This is very much up my street right now. I've spent the past three days wrestling with hexes. There is only one thing pinned up in my physical workspace and has been for the past 3 years: a hexagonal grid reminding me of my chosen hex coordinate system.

My current headache is figuring out how to "mirror" a collection of hexagon sub-groups, each of which has their own set of coordinates, rotations, and mirroring.

Like everyone else above, I have been very dependent on the Red Blob guide.
posted by justkevin at 7:33 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this post, cupcakeninja! Tangentially related, inasmuch as it deals with the relationship between wargames and RPGs, but I just started reading The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity, and I think you might like it!

The RPG mechanics podcast Dice Exploder did a good episode about the hex (note that the podcast has moved off Substack, but hasn't yet migrated their archive).

One of my favorite applications of hexes is the hex flower, which, rather than a map, is akin to a random table with a "memory."
posted by icebergs at 7:39 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Not a programmer, just a gamer who likes hex grids, particularly since the Civ series made that transition for Civ V. I remember coming across somebody saying that there's a specific number of pentagons that one could throw into a Civ hex-map that would allow it to be an actual globe instead of just cylindrical, though I can't find that now, and am not a geometer so I have no idea personally whether that's true. But it seemed to me like a cool thing that the Civ games could do, especially if they used those pentagons specifically for Natural Wonder tiles, which are often impassable, and always non-improvable, anyway.

If anyone here knows whether this idea has any merit at all, I'd sure like to hear it!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:50 AM on February 12


And that’s why I have several large bins full of plastic Heroscape hex terrain!
posted by Ishbadiddle at 7:58 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I too Ishbadiddle...
posted by Windopaene at 8:31 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


That Redblob page is awesome, speaking as somebody who will probably never again attempt to implement a hex grid on a map.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 8:51 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


The GM in my current game uses an online GM's tool to draw the environs around the towns we start in. He prints out the maps showing what we've explored every couple of weeks, so we have a better idea of what the terrain is. One of the players (till he moved away) printed out a map on his companies plotter. It's cool having a map of your "game world" (actually a couple of towns, a whole lot of forest and some mountains) that covers the entire table and that everyone can see.
posted by Spike Glee at 9:07 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I'm a nut for hex grids. I think my first exposure was the sea maps in the Avalon Hill game Jutland when I was, honestly, too young for my dad to reasonably expect for me to make a solid attempt at caring about playing the AH game Jutland. But I've had a soft spot for them ever since, and struggled through developing one or two little hobby hex coordinate systems for a game or art experiment over the years. Such a satisfying complement to a square grid.

Navelgazer, that sounds like a variation on a truncated icosahedron, basically, e.g. a soccer ball tiling; the pentagons create nodes around which the hexagons cluster in groups of five, and where a plane of hexes would just tile flat forever you end up with a 3D surface that meets back up with itself. There are variations where instead of a single hexagon you have a large plane of hexagons/triangles, which would be more suitable for a large-scale Civ map sort of deal, but I don't recall offhand the details of making those happen. Definitely an established approach to approximating a globe, though, yeah.
posted by cortex at 9:07 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I remember coming across somebody saying that there's a specific number of pentagons that one could throw into a Civ hex-map that would allow it to be an actual globe instead of just cylindrical

The Rimworld globe is an example of this, and it requires 12 pentagons.

Redblob would also be my first stop for Rimworld-style map generation at the biome/region level. Basically taking the Voronoi structure underlying mapgen4 and mapping it to the mixed hexagon-pentagon tesselation.

Edit: on preview, looks like that’s formally named a truncated icosahedron, though if I were chatting with another developer about it I’d just call it a geodesic and trust they understood what I meant.

particularly since the Civ series made that transition for Civ V

Civ 5 demo’d next door to Bioshock Infinite’s first closed door “public” demo at Gamescom 2010, which meant I had a cumulative eight solid hours of sitting around chatting with Jon Schafer (who was only 25 at the time!) between journalist groups over three or so days. He’s probably said this in countless interviews but I can confirm that his key insight for the series was that the tactical gameplay of the military unit stacks was holding the franchise back, and he went with the gameplay behind the classic hex-based SSI Panzer series as replacement. While it was somewhat polarizing at the time I’ve always thought it was one of the smarter high-level design calls I’ve seen, especially from a designer at that age.
posted by Ryvar at 9:22 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Hexagonal grids have some interesting applications in real life. Canada has a hexagonal grid overlay for the entire country that is used in certain data gathering.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:06 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Hexagons are the Bestagons
posted by Schmucko at 2:50 PM on February 12


hexes are so cliche. I favor the vastly superior octagonal grid on a hyperbolic plane
posted by Baethan at 3:07 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


This campaign died. Have a hexcrawl.
posted by charred husk at 4:00 PM on February 12


Navelgazer, that sounds like a variation on a truncated icosahedron, basically, e.g. a soccer ball tiling; the pentagons create nodes around which the hexagons cluster in groups of five, and where a plane of hexes would just tile flat forever you end up with a 3D surface that meets back up with itself. There are variations where instead of a single hexagon you have a large plane of hexagons/triangles, which would be more suitable for a large-scale Civ map sort of deal, but I don't recall offhand the details of making those happen. Definitely an established approach to approximating a globe, though, yeah.

I've seen something like this in Goldberg polyhedra. Effectively you can think of a Goldberg polyhedron an icosahedron whose faces are tiled with a hexagonal grid. If you line the grid up right and arrange the triangles symettrically, the grid edges will match across the triangular faces and you end up with 12 pentagons at the corners. Schemes like this one are used to categorize viruses and other cell components. It works for non-icosahedral geometries too, and with a bit of futzing it can make more topologically interesting shapes.
posted by crossswords at 4:44 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Fun post, cupcakeninja. Takes me back to my young grognard days.

Also: shouting with nerdy glee when the tv series Babylon-5 showed a military command using hexgrids.
posted by doctornemo at 6:14 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Canada has a hexagonal grid overlay for the entire country that is used in certain data gathering.

Today I learned this. It looks like the data format supplied as open data is particularly messy. Since these hexes are meant for the cellular telephone industry, I am unsurprised. As a famous hex-grid dweller was wont to say: “@!#?@!”
posted by scruss at 6:33 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


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