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I have a large number of independent variables which I would like to represent on a physical game board. One idea I had was to implement these using rotating disks, a little like the metal spinning mechanism used to select numbers on some types of lock.

Would it be possible to implement these spinning mechanisms on a physical board game as smaller plastic spinning disks? Have any games made use of this idea? Three or four of them would have to fit on a little square with many of these little squares on the board.

Alternatively, is there some other mechanism that would solve the problem more elegantly?

Here is a picture of what I am considering implementing. However I am not sure of the feasibility of adding about a hundred of them to a board.

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What are the numbers for? Perhaps each player could have a sideboard; in the game Wolsung (the resource game not the skirmish game) the players collect resources on a sheet they keep in front of them. Might it be possible for players to collect cards that represent their teritories and then put counters on those cards that represent resources or such like? –  CLockeWork Jul 11 '13 at 8:22
Who is your target audience? What is the intended age range? –  Pow-Ian Jul 11 '13 at 12:24
@Pow-Ian , 13+ Pretty much any mature audience. Although I'm sure I could ultra simplify a children's version. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 20:11
@CLockeWork , I was considering each player having a sideboard for some other variables but specifically to understand exactly what I am thinking of imagine a tiny version of risk where each country has population, wealth, & one or two other variables. They have to be transparent to all the players & multiple sets of these per sq. The reason they have to be on the board is because the resources and people can be captured. There will already be movable pieces for the armies. If I gave each player a card for each sq. it would be too opaque and destroy the purpose of info that should be public. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 20:15
@CodeCamper - In light of your other question, and your comments there, I've rewritten this one to be less specific to "spinning disks". This makes the questions distinct enough to stand on their own. –  ire_and_curses Jul 12 '13 at 2:34
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5 Answers

One solution I've seen to this is a cardboard disk with a hole cut out; the disk can be rotated to reveal any of several items below. Battlestar Galactica does this to track resources; Chaos in the Old World tracks both advancement towards victory and threat. This photo offers a pretty good close-up.

Using 100 moving-parts dials sounds problematic. It would be a huge effort to set up, expensive to produce, and there's a lot of pieces to break. Assuming that each number to be tracked is small, another solution would be a six-sided die for each number, or using a few counters in a specified location.

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That is almost exactly what I am looking for except each territory needs the spinning device. That picture is almost exactly what I was thinking of. The problem is the numbers need to be transparent to the players for each territory. What type of counters could I use? Take your example with the Battlestar Galactica suppose something like that(4 numbers) but in each square maybe about 2-5 inch square. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 1:47
How about a small cardboard square with a number on each side? When the value changes, you rotate the square so the appropriate number is on top. –  sitnaltax Jul 11 '13 at 1:57
There will be at least 4 players and the numbers for simplicity sake I can summarize it from 0-9. Preferably 2 digits 00-99. The problem is I need several of these numbers constantly updated on multiple squares but it is more than just 1 number. At this point my concern probably will be compactness and durability. The square can be as large as 5 inches so I'm debating having some sort of multiple sliders on each territory. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 2:07
It sounds like your game wants to be a video game. The machine does a great job of handling many more details and components than people reasonably can on a board. –  sitnaltax Jul 11 '13 at 2:49
@CodeCamper As long as you're trying to force yourself to simplify, you could consider simplifying this part of the game. –  Jefromi Jul 12 '13 at 4:34
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It's not uncommon to use dice to track values, turning them to the appropriate side.

For instance, in Shadows over Camelot, knights use D6s to track their health in this way and for no other reason (i.e. they're never rolled).

If you need to track higher numbers, consider using D20s or even two D10s to get numbers from 00 to 99.

The advantage with this is that they don't take up board real estate and they're easy to understand for new players. A downside might be that they're easy to knock over, but most board games suffer from knocking the table.

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Two D10s might work although it is so stationary I wish I could somehow build it physically into the board. But right now my square space to put this is about 2 inches but I can increase it to 5 inches. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 8:58
I Like this Idea but I would say make cavities in the boar where the dice can rest or elevate the board with feet and make slots for the dice to sit in so they would be almost flush with the board. This way they are not in the way and you can roll them over easily. –  Pow-Ian Jul 11 '13 at 20:21
Good idea! Where can I purchase 10 sided dice in bulk? I wonder if I should do base 6 just because of the abundance of 6 sided dice and the cube shape. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 20:46
EXTREMELY clumsy in play. It's the cumbersome in Shadows, with a d6; it's far worse with a D10 or d20, as consecutive numbers are not adjacent, except on specially made spindown d20's. –  aramis Jul 12 '13 at 5:35
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Dials have been used on a number of board games.

They have usually been used on the main board as randomizers; in this role, the archetypical ones are Life and Nuclear War. Life uses a plastic base affixed to the board and a plastic wheel setting on a pin in the base, which is spun. In Nuclear War, its a plastic arrow connected to a hub, and the hub passes through a hole on the cardstock display.

The other common mode is as a choice indicator. The most notable use being Avalon Hill's Dune boardgame, but several other designer games make use of them. Almost all of these use a pair of cardboard wheels with a plastic hub, sometimes 1 piece, sometimes 2 pieces, separate from the main board.

Rarely used, but I've seen it done, is a cardboard disk with a hub which drops into a hole drilled into the board. Chaos in the old world does this with 4 dials.

Another mode is just a marker which sits on a dial printed on the board. Supremacy, Imperial, and a many others use variations on this, either linear as with Supremacy, or circular as with Imperial. Note that this allows "overloading" a given track by having multiple markers on the same track, as with Supremacy using a black disk on the player board for Nukes and L-Stars, and colored disks for Neutron Bombs (on the Nukes track) and K-Sats (on the L-Stars Track). One of the optional rules is to use colored markers for the action type bids, placing them on the turn outline as if it were a track.

So, yes, there are multiple ways to create and use pseudo-lock-dial displays, and spiners. Plastic hub and arrow assemblies are standard parts commercially available in bulk. Plastic hubs are available as well. Bindery Screw Posts can be purchased as well, which can be used with cardboard or plastic wheels to bind them to cardboard boards.

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I made some measurements on my current prototype and right now my design has 2.25" x 2.25" space to fit in some mechanism to contain at least 3 numbers preferably 2 digit although if it turns too impractical it can be 1-10 or 0-9. The game is already implementing pieces and chips for other things but I need to fit at least 3 numbers in this space that will be transparent to the players(my mini model has 4 spaces but the final version will be 25 spaces which is scaled down from my computer version which has 100 spaces) so whatever mechanism I choose it will be a lot of them not just one big 1. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 7:14
I think the only problem with the plastic wheels used typically in games to incorporate randomness is that they are huge and my purpose is merely to keep track of some attributes which need to be visible to all players on the playing field easily. Some links and pictures would be great if you could add them to your post. I can make the squares a maximum of 5"x5" although right now it is about 2" and I need to fit at least 3 numbers. Right now I am trying to sketch some sort of sliding mechanism to see how that would work although I am almost positive I can't fit it on my small squares. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 7:18
I keep looking at this combo lock and I can't help but think if only I could get little plastic combo locks and make my board to have a little depth I could fit a bunch of numbers in a relatively small space which can be easily incremented and decremented but I can't find a particular name for such a device or if it exists. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 7:19
Use a 2.25" diameter wheel, a 1.75", and a 1.25" diameter wheel, stacked. A single shared hub runs through the center of all three and down into the board. Put the arrow pointing to the selection in the corner of the 2.25" square... –  aramis Jul 12 '13 at 5:32
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Depending on how your board is arranged, you could try using stiff rectangular strips of numbers instead of circles, which might be easier to make. You'd need a big enough 'window' that players with large fingers can easily slide the strip up and down (or you could just make people use a pencil eraser to push the strip -- style the pencil and now you have a cheap, nifty component!).

If you're OK with just a two-digit number, a pair of disks or strips could work -- the left one represents the 10's place, and the right one the 1's place.

If you're still prototyping game mechanics, the dice-based suggestions are great, but there's definitely an aesthetic difference between dice sitting on a board and numbers embedded in it, especially if you have other objects on the board. Good luck!

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Thanks! I am okay with a 2 digit number but worst case scenario a 1 digit number will due but I'd have to round some of the mechanics, my goal right now is to simplify as much as possible. Currently 2 inch squares of blank space(there is other space but that will be used for the moving pieces) I can potentially make the blank space up to 4 inches. The aesthetic difference you mention with the dice is precisely why I wanted to have something built in the board or more stable and separate from the movable pieces. I was also thinking about maybe some stacking mechanism but it would be too much. –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 20:21
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You could just write the numbers on the board. Wits and Wagers gives each player a small plasticized card and a white board marker, you could have similar built in to the board. If there are different types of numbers, you could use different colors as well as different sections of the whiteboard to keep things clear.

This is probably a more expensive option, but it would be quite space-efficient. A 2"x1" rectangle should provide plenty of space for three 2-digit numbers.

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Right now the square is 2"x2" but I can size it up to 4"x4"(don't really want to if I did I would call it the Jumbo version). The numbers have to be incremented every round although the white board is certainly an interesting idea it might become frustrating for these particular variables since they can go up every round by 1 or 2. Although thanks for this whiteboard idea I might use it for another component, do you have a link to where I can get them / pictures? –  CodeCamper Jul 11 '13 at 20:23
@CodeCamper Here's a picture of the Wits and Wagers components on BGG, you can see the cards and pens in front of the two players. The pens can be bought at any office supply store, there's probably a lot of options for how to do the white board, none of which I'm informed about. –  Gregor Jul 14 '13 at 17:45
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