This week's Marble Madness made me want to explore more marble powered game helpers.
Up until now, I was using magnets to track initiative on my referee screen and it works just fine. But handling marbles is more pleasant, and the noise the marble makes when it lands in the hole, it underlines the turn shifting.
I ended up designing a board with three tracks, one to place the ordered participants, one to track whose turn it is, and one to track combat rounds.
There are 12 holes for the turn, with 1 flag in red for the opposition and 1 flag for each playing character, that should be sufficient.
Since I had marbles to unequivocally mark the round and the turn, I tried at first to print flags or labels to attach on top of marbles for each of the characters and for the opposition. The weight of the plastic attachment pulled the centre of gravity away from the board and the resulting flags were sagging. I ended up printing (densely) the ball and its label plus a bottom appendix so that the centre lies close to the iniative board and the flag stands straight.
The "flags" should be easy to pick between two fingers and shuffle around to set the initiative order. The flags face the players, hopefully from every corner of the table the initiative round can be easily appraised.
It's a bit unnecessary, but I added a round tracker behind the initiative tracker. My first prototype had holes laid very close one to the other, whereas the other tracks must be spaced by at least the diameter of one marble, as the round tracker wasn't supposed to host more than one marble.
For the second (currently final) prototype, I went with the same spacing between holes to allow for markers to be placed for time limits, events, etc to place in future rounds. It could be useful to mark the end of spells or to indicate (red flag) when a bomb detonates, ...
The combat round tracker has 25 holes which is too much, but it could serve as an exploration round tracker, flags could be placed in holes for torch extinction and other resource consumption tracking.
My hope is that this system is friendly enough that I can delegate its use to one of the players. I'd merely place time limit flag on the round tracker. We will see how it is received and interpreted by the players next week.