Which do you prefer: Hex or Square tile maps?

I'm fooling around with making a turn-based tactical fantasy game for kicks and to practice programming, and I was curious which people prefer playing: hex based (like Fantasy General or HeroScape) or square based (like HOMM, MoM, D&D 3E/4E) tiles, and why?

I'm trying to do 3D hexes right now, and it's a bit of a pain since I've never done hexes or 3D programming before. I realize it would be easier to do 2D hexes, but I want to incorporate elevation, and can't think of a good way to depict elevation in 2D hexes (I suppose I could do color like a topographical map, but then I couldn't use colors for different terrain types).

Also, most of the examples I find online about hex-based programming all seem to focus solely on how to do the data for the hex-map, but none provide much help on how to actually draw them well. Anyone ever done something similar or know of a good resource?

It really depends on what you're trying to do. Hex maps are generally preferred for the big scale, outdoor wargaming kind of stuff, but look like absolute ass when you're trying to do squad level stuff like a D&D party, especially if you're modeling indoor areas.

Since you're already doing things by computer, have you considered going for a tile-less system? Like the excellent Temple of Elemental Evil, the PS2's Phantom Brave / Makai Kingdom or actual tabletop Warhammer?

As for drawing them, when I farted around with something similar I just ended up creating meshes for the tiles.

I prefer hexes, but I don't know that I can give a perfectly rational reason.

I started Turn-based combat games with HOMM 2 which was hex based and started HoMM 5 recently which uses squares. The square grid just feels unnatural, it feels like hexes allow more subtle unit placement and it feels weird to attack across a corner.

As I say these may not be rational reasons, but they are mine. Good luck, interested in seeing what you come up with.

I get a warm and happy feeling with square tiles, probably going back to an early fascination with TSR's Pool of Radiance. That was my first computer experience with the type of miniature combat I had only seen previously with pencil & paper DnD games. Master of Magic was like that too, if memory serves.

Of course, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic and Civ 4 are hex based and they completely rock. Take away the nostalgia factor and I prefer hexagons.

A hex upon square tiles!

I much prefer squares. An 8 direction isometric system with square tiles is easy to understand. You can move in 4 compass directions or 4 diagonals. With hexagons you have 6 directions and *no* diagonals. If the scale is big enough then hexes can work but if the scale is too small you end up with problems where pathing is no longer realistic.. One thing I really hated about Fallout 1 and 2 is how characters moving up or down would fishtail rapidly. So hexes that are oriented to have flat faces at north and south are much preffered.

The nice thing about hexes is that move distance is more consistent. With squares, moving diagonal sends you a lot further then moving in a straight line. With hexes, moving the same number of spaces in any direction sends you about the same distance.

You ever see the board game Heroscape? The hex tiles themselves are flat but are stacked to give each space a discreet elevation. The main limitation is you'd be stuck with kind a stair-step look but this is actually a good thing for the sake of simplicity when it comes to calculating movement and elevation levels. I'm no 3D modeler nor am I 100 percent certain if that's the kind of advice you're looking for but this might be a good bet in terms of simplicity and playability.

imbiginjapan wrote:

You ever see the board game Heroscape? The hex tiles themselves are flat but are stacked to give each space a discreet elevation. The main limitation is you'd be stuck with kind a stair-step look but this is actually a good thing for the sake of simplicity when it comes to calculating movement and elevation levels. I'm no 3D modeler nor am I 100 percent certain if that's the kind of advice you're looking for but this might be a good bet in terms of simplicity and playability.

I'll note that, in Heroscape, the hexagonal grid makes calculating range much easier than a square grid-- rather than having to find the hypoteneuse of a right triangle, you just count adjacent tiles. Of course, since you're writing code, figuring out the hypoteneuse isn't exactly a taxing thing.

Oh, and Heroscape is awesome.

EDIT: DOH! A filthy skimmer is me. I just noticed that Switchbreak basically said the same thing I just said.

Hexes for me. You can always handle it like Battletech tabletop, 2D with the elevation for the hex in text if it isn't a 0 and a modifier for movement (use an extra move to go up/get an extra move when you go down).
Behold my 1337 web skilz!
__
/ . \
\1x/

. __
/ .. \
\-1x/

Hexes, definitely. Elevation is usually denoted by shades of one color, often brown, with other terrain features using different colors. So if you have 3 levels of height, you use a light yellow brown, brown and dark brown for your levels, then you still have all the other colors for other terrain features.

I'm going to plug one of my favorite Hex based 3D tile games for the Xbox. Dai Senryaku 7.

They did a stellar job of creating a 3D-ish hexagon based modern war simulation similar to Advance Wars. Air, ground and sea units all with elevations on essentially a 2D map of sorts. It's not the prettiest game but the depth to it is amazing for simulation fans. It's backwards compatible with the 360 and only $3 at Gamestop. Also, if your local Gamestop doesn't have it, they can check the inventories of other stores for it.

Edit - Just saw Eezy's post. It's very similar to that idea.

Here's a pic...
IMAGE(http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://media.teamxbox.com/games/ss/1022/1099334185.jpg&imgrefurl=http://previews.teamxbox.com/xbox/899/Dai-Senryaku-VII-Modern-Military-Tactics/p1/&usg=__ofjtyo2AVKeOhH0zmlK-GsFRYEE=&h=480&w=640&sz=255&hl=en&start=13&um=1&tbnid=yZtf69W2L_JtNM:&tbnh=103&tbnw=137&prev=/images%3Fq%3DDai%2BSenryaku%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Dactive)

Tamren wrote:

One thing I really hated about Fallout 1 and 2 is how characters moving up or down would fishtail rapidly. So hexes that are oriented to have flat faces at north and south are much preffered.

This is more of an animation issue than anything. You can place units on a hex grid but have them run as though on a gridless system to eliminate fish-tailing.

My 2 cents: Squares may be more suitable for certain kinds of environments that are naturally very rectangular, such as urban settings with lots of buildings and roads. Take X-Com for example. So I guess it depends on the scale and setting of your game. From my limited experience, hex is usually used for outdoors (plains, fields, etc., such as in HOMM), but if you have indoor stuff (castles, etc.), squares seem a more natural fit.

EDIT: Not that it's impossible to do urban settings well in hex (see Fallout 1/2). But I imagine it's a little more painful?

D&D Minis also use squares, and they penalize diagonal movement with 1.5 cost (you count every other diagonal move twice).

D&D Minis also use squares, and they penalize diagonal movement with 1.5 cost (you count every other diagonal move twice).

Not anymore in 4th Edition D&D. Diagonal movement is the same as axial movement which boggles my mind.

I wonder what if you could feasibly convert square-based 4th Ed to hex-based 4th Ed... hmmmmmmm

No strong preference. They both have their advantages and drawbacks. Implementation-wise, squares are certainly easier.

In a perfect world, I prefer hexes, but squares are easier to improvise.

Lots of great responses, thank you!

I've been kicking around design for the game I wanted to make for many years now, and originally it started as a fantasy version of X-Com and kind of evolved from there (kind of a mix of XCom and the old Knights of Legend system, if anyone remembers that). I was going to do a square tile isometric engine originally. Then over the years I switched to hexes (I don't remember why now). I haven't really put much thought into it until recently when I bought HeroScape for my wife for Christmas. I was blown away by how fun the HS combat engine and terrain is, yet still simple. I decided I wanted to borrow a lot of elements from it, which is why I wanted to build it as a 3D hexes for elevation, etc.

But part of my design involves both outdoors as well as indoor areas, so not sure how hexes would work for that (probably not too well). I've played every game listed in this thread so far, including Dai Senryaku 7 (though I only put a couple hours into that). I grew up on tile based games, all my favorite games from the old days used them - Pool of Radiance/Gold Box, Fallout, Master of Magic, Civ 1. But I love the elegance and simplicity of the HeroScape 3D stacked hexes and combat system.

My vote is for square tiles.

I was about to post and make the "make diagonal movements "cost" 1.5" suggestion, before I stopped being a filthy skimmer and saw that this was already brought up.

Along similar lines, my vote is worth like 15 other peoples' votes.

Cool image, Tannhauser. I was trying to remember how fallout got hex maps and orthogonally walled buildings to work out. Looks like it makes blocking a doorway really difficult though.

I prefer hex, but it can be troublesome. For example, Fallout has it both ways, while the characters move hexagonally, the terrain is based on square tiles. The tiles the terrain works with are large compared to the hex grid the characters are constrained too, if I remember correctly, a single tile covers most of four hexagons. So it doesn't become too obvious that an entire hexagon is blocked off by a wall or object that only covers part of it, because they are so small in comparison. I'm not sure how else you would get hex to work in an indoor or urban environment, except for the oddball solution of making walls conform to the hex grid. All around, it seems simpler to work with a square grid.

IMAGE(http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/2241/20070001ag6.jpg)

Khoram wrote:

I realize it would be easier to do 2D hexes, but I want to incorporate elevation, and can't think of a good way to depict elevation in 2D hexes (I suppose I could do color like a topographical map, but then I couldn't use colors for different terrain types).

Are you tied to a top-down view? With an angled viewpoint, it isn't hard to convey elevation. I remember Cyberstorm did this, and it worked out well:
IMAGE(http://img213.imageshack.us/img213/5637/216468ec9.jpg)

Someone was fooling around making a 3D clone of Cyberstorm and got this far:
IMAGE(http://img530.imageshack.us/img530/9108/csclonev006bsx6.png)

JoeBedurndurn wrote:

Looks like it makes blocking a doorway really difficult though.

Just a single hex of passable space. Before they added the shove command in Fallout 2, you could get trapped in a house if a NPC stood in the doorway and refused to move. You would be trapped unless you attacked or killed them.

Yes I agree, square grids are much simpler. But if you've played HeroScape, it has straight walls that somehow fit between the hexes on the grid and don't look too bad (though I haven't tried to extrapolate how it would work for an entire building or dungeon).

Here are some pix for reference.

ETA: Wow, Tannhauser, that last pic is exactly what I'm trying to do! Similar to what VirtualScape (HeroScape map creation tool) looks like. Doesn't look like the guy doing it is releasing his source code, though... ah well Maybe it will give me some ideas though!

It depends on a lot on what you are doing, IMHO.

Electronically, square tiles. The Fallout example above is a lovely case as to why. Also remember that the orthagonal complexity isn't as big a deal. In that case the computer does the math so all the Pythagorean stuff is a slam dunk. Your language probably has a library function that will help.

If you're doing it physically like in a board game or minatures, hex all the way. Battletech's system listed above works about the best I've ever dealt with, and copes with the most disparate situations. The only thing it really fails on is slope (if it matters to your machine what angle you're going it gets complicated).

Not to derail, but I've often wondered if Cyberstorm is worth hunting down. Is it?

Eezy_Bordone wrote:

Not to derail, but I've often wondered if Cyberstorm is worth hunting down. Is it?

It was okay in its day, but looking at the screenie posted above, I'd say it hasn't held up well.

I don't have a preference, but most of my favorite turn-based strategy games use square tiles.

Hexes, even if walking in one direction can sometimes be goofy.

Running Man wrote:

(snip) Civ 4 [is] hex based (snip)

If only this were true.

I vote for hexes in general, although square can work if done right.

syndicatedragon wrote:
Running Man wrote:

(snip) Civ 4 [is] hex based (snip)

If only this were true.

I vote for hexes in general, although square can work if done right.

Yeah, Civ 4 is definitely not hex-based.

I prefer hexes but I'm okay with either. I agree with whomever said that hexes tend to work better for larger, outdoor environments.
You might be interested in this article from one of the PopCap co-founders on why casual gamers shy away from hex-based games. Link
It's not terribly in-depth, and I don't know if you need to be concerned about the preferences of the casual gaming market, but I recall reading it recently.