I'm working on a game where the order of players' turns matters quite a bit, and I'm having trouble coming up with a way of showing the order.

  • During the round, each player will take their turn. These turns happen in a specific order.
  • During a player's turn, they can take actions that will push themselves up or down a single place in the turn order for the next round. This pushes them past the adjacent player in the turn order.
  • You can't push yourself earlier if you're already going first. Likewise, you can't push yourself later if you're already going last.
  • You only get to take one turn per round.
  • Whatever is used to show turn order needs to show which player goes next during the current round.

An example might help. Round one, the turn order is Jim, Steve, then Betty. On Jim's turn, he does something that causes him to fall back one step.

Round two, the turn order is Steve, Jim, Betty. On Betty's turn, she does something that causes her to move up one step.

Round three, the turn order is Steve, Betty, Jim.

How do I show the turn order in a way that allows this behavior naturally?

  • A few games that have a similar sort of thing: Citadels (players choose roles at the start of each round, and roles have a fixed turn order), El Grande (each round starts with bidding, where bids determine turn order), Mice and Mystics (turn order is randomized and laid out as a queue. Some abilities/monsters can modify the queue) – bengoesboom Nov 6 '13 at 16:47
  • "Lifeboat" feature changing turn order midround, only difference from what you describe is that you switch places with someone else, so this allows jumping multiple spaces. It has one line of characer cards to show turn order, and that's it - we never had troubles remembering who already went this turn, but if you want to be sure you can add tokens to mark those who already had their turn. – Deo May 11 '17 at 0:25
  • After reading other answers I found out that for propper answer more input is needed on how "pushing down" and "pushing up" actually work. Let's say we have 4 players, Alice goes first for this round, Bob goes second, Charlie goes third and Diana goes fourth. Consider these examples: 1) Alice does "push down" action, Bob does "push down", Charlie does "push down" also and Diana does normal action. What is resulting turn order for second round? 2) Alice does normal action, Bob, Charlie and Diana all do "push up" actions. What is resulting turn order? – Deo May 11 '17 at 1:21

No matter what method you decide on, you will need to keep track of two things, the current turn order and the next turn order. I have a few options you could try:

Two Tracks

You can simply have two tracks that will show current and next turn orders. This is a simple solution, players can all stay in their seats and the turn will just jump around the table, this is good for certain games where the "player to your left" or "player to your right" kind of abilities do not exist.

Musical Chairs and Chips

This is good for games where "player to your left" or "player to your right" kind of abilities do exist. You have the players sit clockwise in turn order. And they will start each round holding a chip with their number on it. When switching turn orders throughout the game, players just switch these chips. At the start of each round, players will reseat themselves according to turn order.

Infinite Stacking Track

This is a bit complex, but the idea is that each player has a token with his color/team on it. And there is an "infinite" track, (this could just be a very long track) Initial turn order is decided and tokens are placed in that order on the track, whenever a player modifies a turn order, you simply move the token up or down the track, if a token already exists on that you place yours below that token.

This way, when a new turn is started, going from the first tile in the track towards the end and working from the top-most token down. You get an extra little mechanic where some tiles are blank, which means players after those tiles would need to work extra-hard to get ahead of those that are already passed them. The difference a regular track is that in a regular track you would just replace the tokens instead of stack them.

Double Secret Cards

This is a good method if at some point the turn order might be randomized, or you want to keep the turn order secret, similar to the Two Tracks suggestion you would have 2 sets of cards, one for the current turn, one for the next turn (maybe a different color on the back?) Players would start the game where both cards are the same number (turn order) and only when it's that players turn, he would reveal that he is the player with that number, (revealing the current card color) in this way, players can manipulate the turn order in secret (which adds an interesting element to the game).

The only pitfall is that players need to remember who they gave the next turn cards to, so they can also give them the current turn cards at the end of the turn.

  • Those are way too convoluted solutions. I've played "Lifeboat", a game where changing turn order mid-round is common, and it only has a single line of chatacter cards to keep track of it. – Deo May 11 '17 at 1:34

You could do this with a board that has two columns, one for the current turn and one for the next turn. Place coloured counters on the board to show the turn order, move the counters when the turn order changes.

For your example if Jim is Red, Steve is Green and Betty is Blue, then start with this:

   Current      Next
1    Red        Red
2    Green      Green
3    Blue       Blue

During round 1 Jim falls back, so swap the Red and Green counters in the Next column:

   Current      Next
1    Red        Green
2    Green      Red
3    Blue       Blue

At the end of round one, remove all the counters from the Current column, move all the counters from the Next column into the Current column and place counters in the Next column to match the new Current column.

   Current      Next
1    Green      Green
2    Red        Red
3    Blue       Blue

Each player can have a double sided token, with one side grayed out indicating that their turn has been taken.

These tokens can be placed on a track that indicates turn order. Once they start their turn, they flip the token to the grayed out side. If they take any actions that change their next turn order, simply move the token up or down the track as appropriate. Play then moves to the next unflipped token.

At the beginning of a new round, all tokens are flipped back to their coloured side.

  • This is what I was coming here to suggest. (That or dual tracks, but this seems more elegant to me.) I feel like I've seen this mechanic but I cannot remember in what game. – Monica Cellio Feb 3 '14 at 21:28
  • This. Game "Lifeboat" has similar system with line of character cards determining turn order, and they do switch midround. We used tokens to mark characters that have already taken a turn, but later dropped them because we never had trouble remembering who already went that round. – Deo May 11 '17 at 0:16

It seems like you would want a track showing the current turn order. The game boards for Kingsburg, Macao, and Powergrid all use a track like this. While Kingsburg and Powergrid determine turn order at the start of each round, Macao is more similar to what you describe; players can change their turn order during their turn.

Just have the action that players take allow them to move either up or down the turn track. You can either do exactly like Macao, and allow a player to stack on top of another player on the turn track (and whoever is on top goes first), or make it so that when you move up on the turn track, you swap positions with the person above you, so you never have 2 people on the same spot.

In terms of knowing whose turn it is next right after your turn, as long as you don't have the ability to change 2 other players' orders relative to each other, there shouldn't be an issue. At the end of your turn, you see who is the highest person on the turn track that hasn't already had a turn this round. Even if you moved up or down; that won't change; the next person who should go is whoever is highest on the track.

If turns are really long or complex, such that you are concerned with players knowing for sure who has or hasn't had a turn this round yet, you could have players flip their marker over at the end of their turn (and the other side of the market is different). Usually when we play Power Grid, after a player has obtained a plant during the auction, we'll move their marker up off the turn track to note that they are now out of the auction phase.

  • Another game with this property is Caylus. – Erik P. Nov 6 '13 at 19:41
  • But if the turn markers are moving along the track during the round, how can you tell who should take their turn next? – Joe Nov 6 '13 at 23:47
  • I've updated the answer to address that. – GendoIkari Nov 7 '13 at 0:37
  • Changing players' turn orders relative to each other is the whole point, actually (see the example I gave with Jim, Steve, and Betty). – Joe Nov 7 '13 at 0:46
  • 1
    @Joe, That's what I thought. In which case you don't need to worry about changing the track during the turn; you can still know whose turn is next based on who is highest on the track (that hasn't already had their turn). – GendoIkari Nov 7 '13 at 17:51

If you have player tokens/counters already in the game you could track turns with a single set and the dual track method mentioned above (trying to introduce fewer new components).
Basically track one is 'current turn' order, track two is 'next turn' order. The first player is the one with their token in the highest position of the 'current turn' track. When their turn is complete they move their token to the first open space in the 'next turn' track. An exception would occur if the first player did a 'push down' maneuver (they would then place their token in slot two). The player with the next highest token on the 'current turn' track then plays. When they are done they move their token to the 'next turn' track, on the first open spot - in this case slot 1 since player one did a 'push down'. If player two also did a 'push down' it would essentially negate player ones' 'push down' since they would be moving to slot 2 and player one would be moved back up to slot 1. When the last player has finished the only thing left to do is slide the tokens back to the turn track.

If your game is played only with cards then I would suggest two (or more) turn order sets. Similar to what we have above, each player has a turn card from set one. When player ones' turn is over they draw the top card from set two (unless they played a 'push down' in which case they take the second) and turn in their set one turn card. The turn sets may need to be different colors to more easily keep track. Also, when drawing a set two card you may need to place it sideways (or something) to show that it's not in play yet. At the end of the last players turn, all of the set one cards have been turned in. Put them in order to draw from next. Set two cards should be placed upright and play proceeds with player one.

There have been a bunch of good comments. I hope you are able to find something helpful among these posts.

  • I also thought about this solution. Let's look again at your example of both player 1 and 2 doing "heavy" action, non-cards version. The way you resolve it let's them both keep turn order and it's perfectly fine. But in case it's not what game designer wants, here is an altered set of rules: when player takes normal action, they take leftmost vacant space on "next turn order" track; when player takes "heavy" action, they skip leftmost open space. This way if p1 and p2 both take heavy action but p3 does normal action, p3 jumps both p1 and p2. – Deo May 11 '17 at 0:57

One solution would be to create a "track of tracks". To speak somewhat more formally, one could utilize an analogy to a permutation matrix.

Two kinds of objects are necessary for this:

  • A "ruler" marked "1st, 2nd, 3rd," etc. for each player, with sliding markers on them, which can be slid along the length of the ruler to indicate in which position that player is.
  • A square board, at least long enough to accommodate the number of players; it should be labeled with a grid, with cells labeled "1st, 2nd, 3rd," etc. sequentially as one descends a column, and identical through the rows.



Then let me work through its mechanism as through the example. At the beginning of the game, the initial order would be set by setting each player's ruler to their order, and then placing it (vertically) over the column of that order.

+| |+| |+| |+
|JIM|| ||| ||
+| |+| |+| |+
|| ||STE|| ||
+| |+| |+| |+
|| ||| ||BET|
+| |+| |+| |+

During the game, the names in the columns (in sequence) will correspond to the current turn's order, and the rows will correspond to the next turn's order. Thus, when Jim falls back one step, he indicates this by sliding his marker down one place on his ruler, and Steve's marker on his ruler up one:

+| |+| |+| |+
|| ||STE|| ||
+| |+| |+| |+
|JIM|| ||| ||
+| |+| |+| |+
|| ||| ||BET|
+| |+| |+| |+

At the beginning of the next round, the rulers are rearranged such that the "1st" row player is in the 1st column, the 2nd row in the 2nd column, etc.:

+| |+| |+| |+
|STE|| ||| ||
+| |+| |+| |+
|| ||JIM|| ||
+| |+| |+| |+
|| ||| ||BET|
+| |+| |+| |+

And the order is Steve, Jim, Betty, etc. and so continues the example; each player takes their turns in order from left to right, tracks order changes by sliding the markers on the rulers accordingly, and at the end of each round, the rulers are rearranged back into a diagonalized order across the grid.


It seems to me that your goal is to have flexible turn order system, but having to also deal with rounds is what makes it problematic.

Rounds are not necessary for a game to function, and if you don't have rounds, there is no problem of keeping track of different turn orders for different rounds.

Tokaido, Patchwork and Red November are examples of a game systems without rounds, but with "timetrack" instead. When player takes an action, they move their pawn on time track forward various amount of spaces, depending on how "costly" this action is. Player with pawn furthest back on track moves next, so if you jump far ahead it will be a while till it comes back to you, and if you do small moves you can have several turns in a row before you jump somebody else.


Many games with such systems have plates/tiles with marked turn orders that are passed out to players each turn and sit next to them on the table. It's much like the concept of a Dealer Button in poker, except that there's one for every position in the ordering. This can be seen in games such as Risk 2210 and Scepter of Zavandor. As a benefit, special rules relating to turn order can also be conveniently placed on the tiles - for example, in Zavandor, players in certain positions get higher or lower prices as a form of anti-feedback loop, and the order plates serve as a friendly reminder.


Citadels uses a system where, at the start of a round, each player gets to pick their place in that round. Specfically, you draw a card that has a certain ability, and that card also has a fixed place in the turn order. Each round, you can pick another card (if another player hasn't already snatched it).

There is a certain interaction between those characters, namely the wizard and the assassin can greatly hinder the turns of people coming after them. Also, before the first player gets to pick their character for that round, a number of cards (depending on the number of players) is put aside closed.

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