In the examples they show the 'Progress Tracker' used as a single line with (in some cases) multiple tokens, representing opposed tests. In the comments under the article, Black Pine noticed that the pieces could also be arranged in a 'cross' configuration. While this may be unnecessary, it could serve as a center piece on your table instead of maps and figures. Here are a few ideas I've had about using the Progress Tracker.
It could provide a nice visual object on the table to illustrate an encounter. The spacers on the tracker could be used as milestones to indicate an increase in the Party Tension Meter, encounter goals, or force tests. This can cause some real life tension making for some exciting mini-sessions.
Again, I would probably not use this behind the screen. I use a 8.5"x11" dry erase board for the quick stuff. I would lay the Progress Tracker out as a visual aid for my players to create drama for encounters and scenarios.
This is an opposed social test where the players are trying to make their point while the opposition does the same. You could use skill checks, augmented by the strength of the argument. As the opposition makes his way up the his track, the players make their way across theirs, with up and down shifts based on the success of the rolls and the quality of the roleplay.
The example I gave in the preview comments:
Build the track horizontal and vertical. The vertical track is a raging fire (made of red pieces). Combine it with the creature moral example listed in the article, where you have to run the creatures off and escape before the building burns down. Use black misfortune dice to track the spread of the fire. Maybe have people start taking damage once the fire marker rises above the horizontal plane.
You could use the Progress Tracker to conduct a rooftop chase scene. Start a certain number of spaces apart then move the pieces along the track to the right as successes for climbing, jumping, and endurance are passed or failed. This is where the puzzle fit pieces come in handy. You can added on to the track as the chase progresses if it is drawn out. The spacers could be milestones on the chase. When you hit a milestone, roll for a 'chase event' such as a blind alley, an unfortunate slip, a burst of speed, or difficult ground.
The players are trapped in a room slowly filling with gas. The key to the door is somewhere in the room. Each search roll takes time and increments the gas marker. The difficulty is insanely hard in the beginning and gets easier as the search is conducted. Alternately, you could leave it hard and have spacers that force toughness tests as they are crossed. A failure means someone passes out. The rest keep searching.
The players are trying to ply information from a town drunkard. The objective is to get him drunk enough to talk, but to get the information before he passes out. You might construct the track in the form of a 'T', with the horizontal track representing the progress of the interrogation and the vertical line representing the fortitude of the drinker. You might add more than one vertical line if the players are drinking as well. Spacers could be places for tests or milestones in the information gathering process.
I closing, though the Progress Tracker is by no means an 'essential game component', it can provide a great visual aid to manipulate the emotions of your players. My player love mini-games and I love designing them. I'd love to hear other ideas to add to my player torturing arsonal