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Area terrain and ranged attacks?

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Blake's picture
Joined: 01/05/2009

Though I enjoy games played on a gridded board (either hex or square) I'm more drawn to area terrain like that found in Risk or Diplomacy, and I would prefer it if the wargame I'm working on could also use area terrain as well. However, ranged attacks are fairly important to the game at this point, and I'm I having trouble gauging whether or not these two aspects of the game can be comfortably combined. At this point I have two ideas of how to do so:

1. Somewhere in the middle of each area is a dot (the "center" of the area). When checking for range and line of sight, a player simply draws a straight line from the dot of the area they are firing from to the dot of the area they are targeting. Assuming the line does not pass over any areas that block line of sight, range is measured simply by adding up the number of areas covered.

2. When checking for range and line of sight, a player simply draws a straight line from any spot on the edge of the area they are firing from to any spot on edge of the area they are firing to. Assuming the line does not pass over any areas that block line of sight, range is measured simply by adding up the number of areas covered.

Unfortunately, I'm a bit afraid that most people will be turned off by either of these two options as they may just appear too unusual to be believable, or perhaps even too cumbersome to implement. Any thoughts? I'm also more generally interested in what others think about the relationships between area terrain and grids separate from the issue of ranged attacks. Do you prefer one over the other, and why?

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
The table top game Mage

The table top game Mage Nights used range combat from a center dot on the figure base. That was a hot game for a period. Range was calculated by useing a ruler though. I'm sure that's not what you want. Have you tested your idea or had others sit and play with this range combat? It should be pretty clear by how they feel when they use it or if they like using it. This is just a guess but if it feels awkward it probably doesn't fit or needs modification.

Joined: 01/21/2009
Scales and Confusion

Ok. The first seems workable. Just put a dot in the center of each region on the board, rather than making people eyeball it.

This is a very odd question. You don't seem to have a scale for your game. Games with territories tend to also have pieces representing thousands of soldiers. A single infantryman is an occupying force in RISK, for instance. In a game with a scale of this size, ranged combat ceases to really apply. Without missiles, you can't shoot from England to Germany. It just doesn't work. With missiles... Well, that's a cool idea. Missiles don't get enough love in wargames. Of course, confused scale is not a problem. It makes no sense, but that doesn't matter. What matters is making a good game. I also don't know your theme, so it could make perfect sense in your game. And, as I have said, it doesn't really matter. It's just a point that I thought should be made. Mage Knight is an example of a much smaller scale game. Each Mage Knight figure represents one creature, as far as I know. I have played exactly one game of Mage Knight in my life. I was ten.

Blake's picture
Joined: 01/05/2009

brisingre wrote:
This is a very odd question. You don't seem to have a scale for your game. Games with territories tend to also have pieces representing thousands of soldiers.

The scale will be tactical, with a piece on the board representing either an individual or a small squad of contemporary day soldiers (multiple pieces will be able to be in the same area/hex at the same time). Hex based maps (the logical choice for me in this situation) strike me as kind of dry aesthetically, but excellent for incorporating ranged fire. If I decide to treat all ranged attacks kind of like missiles--not needing to check for line of sight, just range--territories will be much much easier to incorporate. However, at this point having obstacles that block line of sight seems like it would add a lot to play.

The Magician
Joined: 12/23/2008
Blake, when you think about

Blake, when you think about your idea for this, does it make you uncomfortable? I guess it probably does or you wouldn't have posted this. Blake, every time you think about your idea, do you like it? If you like it but have an uneasy feeling about it here is what I would do. This may not be the best advise but it is the best I can give. Go for a good walk, I like walks at night for this, think about what you like about the idea and just hold that in your mind, try not to reason out too much just be with the part about the idea you really like. Likely, a thought will come to mind that you will realize just the way it needs to be and that will feel right and you will have no doubts about it. When you hold a question long enough, your subconscious will start giving you answers. And when you hold something you want to be in your mind, your subconscious will deliver the rest of the ideas. That's probably not the sort of feedback you were looking for but it's a thought.

Joined: 12/01/2008
I struggled with this very

I struggled with this very problem on a tactical level game myself.

Non-regular spaces are elegant ways of tracking movement, however they are a nightmare for dealing with line-of-sight and range (when ranges can be greater than 1).

The problems I encountered:
1) Making a line has it's own problems in the first place, and for better or worse, this will probably put your game into a "hard-core" category all by itself. The best way I've come up with is using the shadow cast by a ruler to map the line. Using string or the edge of the ruler itself couldn't always get precise enough in tricky situations, especially with all the pieces on the board (see point 2). So while the shadow worked best, it is still speed bump in the flow of the game.

2) Using a dot at the center of spaces and making a line, dot to dot: Frequently, you will find that the LoS line passes over the edge of an important space. Due to the ways of making this line, it can be hard to tell if the line is inside, outside, or directly on the border of another space without taking lots of time to: check it, check it again, argue about it, etc. Meanwhile the game has ground to a halt.

3) Depending on your spaces, you can get some really strange results with regard to ranges that make sense. It gets worse as the spaces are more different from one another. So the tendency is to make them more regular, and as you do that you find you are moving towards a sloppy hex arrangement. At that point you might as well use hexes.

I found the priority was in making LoS and range calculations as fast as possible. Not only will you want speed in resolving them from played moves, but also, players will be trying to compute several solutions during their turn before they even make their final move.

In my own solution, I was forced to resort to hexes, albeit large hexes that could hold multiple units. This also had the benefit of players remembering certain configurations as blocked or not blocked, making mental plans quicker. A regular grid will also allow the creation of an "emergency" reference chart to resolve disputes should there be a question as to the exact placement of the line.
There are alot of ways to do this, but I ended up making a visual reference sheet that had every possible angle out to range 10. (Note: that's every possible ANGLE, as opposed to every possible hex-to-hex, which would take a reference BOOK) You picked the correct line, and then looked to see where that line passed in regard to the "problem hex". Now, it wasn't fast, and it wasn't something you would want or need for most of the game, but it could conclusively settle arguments or physical limitations when making the proper LoS line.

simons's picture
Joined: 12/28/2008
A few questions, then ideas


Intriguing idea. It seems like it would have the potential of greatly simplifying things over more traditional tabletop and hex games.

I have a couple of context questions, which might help with regards to long range. First, what is the setting (future, fantasy, US civil war, etc)? With that, what kind of scale are you looking at (i.e. the average space will be approximately how big in real life)? Are we talking a hectare, or something smaller? How many spaces are going to be on your game board? How regular are your shapes going to be? I do agree that if they are all the same size and shape, you almost might as well use a grid, but if they are as irregular as a South American map, you could get into real trouble. What, kind of terrain are you looking at making? Lastly, how different is each game going to be from the next? If Axis & Allies, the game is exactly the same from the onset. With Risk, it changes each time (though the board stays the same).

So, all those questions aside, I do have a few thoughts. The first, if each piece of terrain is actually 3D, and the models are 3D, you could have the players actually look to see if one model can see another (the tactic they use in Heroscape and most tabletop wargames). This might work better if you used the dot idea (but could run into trouble if not everyone was the same size). This might be harder to design, and drive up the cost of the game though (unless it was all just paper cut-outs), but would be fast during game time. Also, theoretically you could try to design your board in a way that it was fairly obvious which dots could see the others (using a line test), and also include a small handbook to clear up any arguments (the benefit to this, I think, is that over time players will probably be able to memorize which of the contested spots can see which other ones).

And one other idea for ranges: if you’ve ever played Blood Bowl (I haven’t, but have watched), when you are throwing a pass, they include a piece of plastic, that lets you measure how far a short, medium, and long pass are. Theoretically you could do the same with your game. This would be getting into more table-top realm, and might become more complicated (you might also need to include distances in the handbook), but might clear up a problem if you have irregular territories.

I hope any of that helps.


Mitchell Allen
Mitchell Allen's picture
Joined: 08/09/2008
Color-Coded Ranged Attacks?

We used paperclips on a RISK board, when we added missiles and aircraft. Different length "chains" for different hardware. Not much better than a ruler, though :(
Another idea that came to me while reading the replies is to use some sort of color-coding system.
If you made concentric rings on your map, and colored each ring, perhaps the range could be determined by hardware and by "distance" to each ring. Of course, that presents its own problems as one could argue that his hardware could "reach" half-way around the circle! One way to deal with that is to bisect the rings at 90 degree angles and limit the ranges accordingly.

Maybe that ruler isn't such a bad idea, after all...



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