Friday, November 30, 2012


Area Terrain

Area Terrain is terrain with a designated boundary.  Usually, it is on a base, and any models on that base is considered to be in the terrain and subject to its effects.  Sometimes (as with a forest made of individual trees or a ruining set of walls) players will need to agree on where the boundary lies before the game begins.

All models within area terrain are subject to the same effects (usually providing concealment and or cover).  Line of sight may be traced freely into and out of area terrain, regardless of incidental features that may be modeled to represent the terrain.  Indeed, as with a typical forest base, objects representing the terrain, such as trees, may be shuffled around the base or even removed entirely to make room for models.

Line of Sight may not normally be traced through area terrain. (You might want to make exceptions for particularly low-lying terrain, such as bushes.

Linear Terrain

Linear Terrain is terrain that provides directional Concealment and/or Cover.  Usually, it covers things like low walls or hedges.  However, it only provides these benefits from a direction passing over the line of the terrain. Line of sight and fire from behind the line is unaffected.


Ruins are a sub-type of Area Terrain.  They usually consists of a base of rubble and some sticking-up walls.  Sometimes, they have multiple stories (usually open in the back to allow you to set models on them. Ruins need some special rules:

  • Models may trace line of sight through any part of a wall with windows or significant gaps in it.  We may assume the models move around to find the windows or knock firing holes.
  • Models may move through any part of a wall with windows or significant gaps in it.  This is true even if the windows don't seem big enough to fit a model.  We will assume the models can knock holes, climb, or blast a way through.
  • Truly solid walls with no openings do not confer line of sight, or permit movement.  It's either one or the other.
  • If the ruins have multiple floors, we will assume they can climb up and down freely and don't need to find stairs or elevators specially to move.  Movement up and down a floor is (by default) 3", even if the floors are a bit farther apart than that.
  • Ruins are very difficult (4+) terrain for vehicles moving within the terrain.
  • You cannot trace line of sight through Ruins, across the base.

Geek Notes

I really hate true line of sight rules, and much prefer rules such as these, for their flexibility and practicality.  (And not having to micromanage every move with a laser pointer.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Early Playtest Thoughts

Playtest Thoughts
I set up a small table in my basement, using some leftover terrain, and ran a few scenarios of different models against each other, using the stats from my 40k post a few weeks ago.  (Steve and I have still not gotten around to running some test games -- it's just been too crazy here, what with the flu and the hurricane, and all sorts of other stuff.)  I have lots of 40k models, so they are easiest to mess with for now.  I intend eventually to collect one or more play-testing armies -- maybe for Mars.  But for now, I'm testing with what I've got.

Some preliminary thoughts:

When running two equally-rated Guard armies against each other, the Suppression mechanics seem to work like they are supposed to -- discouraging charges across open ground.  Even light terrain makes a huge difference in whether they can survive.

Once I added some Chaos Space Marines to the mix, I began to encounter possible mechanical snags.  With even minor cover, the CSMs became almost impossible to Suppress.  When firing at the CSMs, the Guard needed 5s to hit.  If the CSMs were in cover or cowering, this went up to a 6+ or 7+.  Then they needed 5+ to wound, and the CSMs got a 2+ save.  Even when massively outnumbered, they could hold of Guard almost indefinitely.

I cannot, at this juncture, decide whether this situation reflects a defect in my system or not.  Any real game would point the forces appropriately, and players would have a wider selection of special weaponry.

As I proceed, I need to consider the following:

Should the to-hit rules be revised to make it easier to hit highly skilled targets?  For example, I could rewrite the rules, so that it requires a 3+ to hit less-skilled targets and 4+ to hit equally and more highly-skilled ones. This would remove one pip off many to-hit rolls, making mass fire by low-skilled troops more effective.

Should the Suppression threshold change? For example, I could make all hits count towards Suppression, not just Wounding hits. This would make it easier to Suppress highly armored targets, without making them easier to kill. I could change the number of hits needed to Suppress a squad (say, equal to half instead of all its members) making all troops easier to Suppress.

Does the Firefight phase look right? I often had units snake into range, with half the unit able to Firefight and the other half being in Shooting range. It did not always look visually, as if targets just at 12" were up in the enemy's face, blazing away. I could change this by modifying the Firefight distance, or even merging it with Melee.

What do I want the game to become, aesthetically?  What setting should I adopt, and how should it look on the table? In most games, the setting eventually shapes the rules.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Conventions and Courtesy

Conventions and Courtesy

What follows are some conventions I've found work well over the years: 
  • Players may measure anything on the battlefield at any time. 
  • Players may declare their intent in any phase (particularly in movement).  The other player should respect this intent as best they can as the game progresses.  So for example, player might say, "I intend that this unit stay out of Firefight distance"when they are moving.  If you get to the Firefight phase, and it turns out one model is an inch over line, then player B should politely allow player A to move their model back so that it stays out of Firefight distance.  This rule is designed to prevent acrimony, not permit cheating.  If your opponent declares an intent that is clearly impossible, you should say so. 
  • Models may move a bit more or less than their movement distance if it is necessary for them to stand up properly on terrain, to avoid being knocked off the table, etc.  When they shoot or move, players should remember where they  "really" are for measuring distances.
  • If you can't agree on something, whether a tricky rule, or whether something's in range, then roll off.  Higher roller wins the argument.  Then, when the game is over, you can work out a dispassionate solution for next time.
  • Don't be a dick.  The WWPD rule always applies.
Geek Notes

One of the things I liked about Flames of War when I started playing was its emphasis on courtesy.  The intent rule and the pre-measuring rule eliminate most of the arguments common to many games.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sample Template Weapons

Sample Template Weapons

These are sample template weapons, from a WWII-ish milieu.

Fragmentation Grenade
Small Template
Indirect Fire
2-inch Mortar
Medium Template
Indirect Fire
3-inch Mortar
Medium Template
Indirect Fire
75mm Howitzer
Medium Template
Indirect Fire

Geek Notes:

I'm a bit concerned that the Large Template may be too large for a single howitzer, especially since under my template rules a battery of them would begin to stack the Large Template.  I have therefore made it a medium one, on the assumption it will be using multiple tubes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Indirect Fire Rules

Indirect Fire Rules

"Are you sure this silly looking thing will work?"
Many weapons fire a barrage on an arc.  They have slight modifications to the normal rules for line of sight and targeting.  An indirect fire weapon may target any valid enemy unit within range and line of sight, regardless of whether it must fire through friendly units.  They are usually also template weapons.  

Many indirect fire weapons use a Spotter.  The Spotter is a model or models associated with the weapon.  It always moves as a separate unit from its parent.  The firing unit may trace line of sight from the Spotter when firing at a target.

Most indirect fire weapons are terrifying explosive weapons.  They usually cause more Suppression than normal firing.  This will be indicated as Suppression X, where X is a multiplier applied to the number of wounds inflicted for purposes of determining Suppression.  So for a Suppression 3 weapon, each Wound inflicted counts as 3 Wounds for counting Suppression only.

Many indirect fire weapons, such as artillery, are too clumsy (or dangerous) to fire in the Firefight phase.  These have the No Firefight rule.  They may only be fired in the Shooting phase. 

Other indirect fire weapons, such as grenades, are so short-ranged as to only be useful in the Firefight phase. These have the Firefight Only rule.  They may only be fired in the Firefight phase.

Geek Notes

With these rules, I'm laying the groundwork to describe artillery, mortars and grenades for a historical or quasi-historical modern army.  (Such as the Martian Colonials.) 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Template Rules

 "Hmmm.  Did I hit that guy or not?"

Some weapons fire a template, which will be noted in their rules.  In order to fire a template, the controller of the shooting unit must nominate a target model in range and line of site.  Place the center of the template over the target model.

Templates must normally be placed with their longest dimension on a line perpendicular to the direction of fire.  (Any exceptions will be noted in the weapon's rules.)  This is of course irrelevant for circular templates, which have no particular direction of orientation.

If the firing unit contains of multiple template weapons, each template may be placed on different models.
Alternatively, a battery of identical weapons in the target unit may fire together. If fired in this manner, all the templates must be placed touching or overlapping so that both templates lie along a line running perpendicular to the direction of fire and crossing the target model. The longest dimension of all templates must align centrally with the same line.  The target model must be in the approximate center of the line of templates. (This sounds complicated but it basically means make a T.  The target model is the cross of the T, and the top is the two templates.) 

Count the number of models from each unit under each template or templates (friend or foe).  A model is under a template if any portion of its base (or hull) is under the template, but not if the template only covers a protruding arm or a gun barrel or some such.  If a model is under more than one template, then it is counted multiple times -- once for each template that covers it.

Then roll to hit for any units, using an RoF equal to the total number of models covered in it, based on this count.  Use normal modifiers.  The owner of any units struck assigns hits normally, with the exception that all hits must be assigned only to models under the template or templates.

If the template covers friendly models, then the firing unit must immediately roll Leadership.  If they fail, they become Supressed, as they try to correct whatever error led to friendly fire.

Geek Notes

I have tried to design rules that are simple, sensible, and do not make major exceptions to the normal firing sequence.  Many games use rules that scatter templates.  Frankly, I find the pain in the ass associated with such rules outweighs any momentary joy I gain from seeing a template land on the wrong unit.

Another common question is whether a player can deliberately target a friendly unit or piece of ground.  There are a number of play advantages to such a strategy -- foe example, by locking any enemy unit into place with cheap troops and then bombarding the crap out of them.  Most games disallow such friendly fire, as the troops involved would (presumably) recoil from such bloodthirsty orders.  On the other hand, accidental friendly fire seems entirely likely.  I'm hoping my rules will penalize such tactics without disallowing them altogether.

Astute readers will notice that in this system, templates do not automatically pin a target.  This is because templates might be used to represent things besides artillery or mortars.  Any extra suppressive effect will therefore be covered by rules associated with the weapon, not templates per se.  Likewise, many weapons (like mortars or artillery) are too clumsy to fire in the Firefight phase.  This too will be addressed in weapon rules, and not in the Template rules.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Template Sizes and Shapes

Template Sizes and Shapes

Ok, so if I want to have templates, what size and shape should they be?

Unless and until I have my own manufacturing facilities, I think it's best to write my rules for existing gaming templates, rather than force players to make buy or make new ones.

There are several commercially available templates.  IIRC, the most common ones are:
  • The Games Workshop small blast template, which is 3" across.
  • The Games Workshop large blast template, which is 5" across.
  • The Games Workshop flamer template, which is teardrop-shaped and about 8" long.
  • The Flames of War template, which is a 6" square.
  • The Flames of War double template, which is 6x12".
  • The Flames of War quadruple template, which is 12"x12"
  • The Games Workshop Apocalypse blast templates, which is 10".
  • The Games Workshop multiple template, which has several clustered large blast templates.
  • Warmachine templates, which are about the same as the Games Workshop ones. 
As Flames of War's rulebook explains, artillery barrages actually make a squarish shape in aggregate, even though individual shells make a round blast. I don't see the exact shape and size as mattering all that much, as long as both players are using the same style.  The square ones, of course, will cover more models on average than the round ones, but that just means square-player battles will be more deadly on both sides.  So I am going to categorize templates into three sizes, and give players as much a choice of product as I can:
  • Small: Use the GW small blast template or equivalent. It will usually cover only two or three moderately-spaced models.  It represents things like grenades.
  • Medium: Use the FoW 6"x6" template or the GW large blast template or the equivalent. It will usually cover six to eight moderately-spaced models.  It represents mortar barrages and the HE shells of tanks.
  • Large:  Use the FoW 12" x 12" template, the GW Apocalypse, or the equivalent.  It represents barrages from field artillery or the HE of enormous direct-fire guns.
Honestly, I cannot see much use in the flame or multiple templates.  The FoW 6" x 12"  template suggests several uses.  If I do want to use templates to represent a machine-gun spraying an area, then the longer shape might be useful for representing a lethal zone perpendicular to its facing.  Placed parallel to a gun's direction, it could represent a beam weapon's path of destruction.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Template or Not

To Template or Not?
"But my model was less than half under the template!"
Most beer-and-pretzel wargames make some use of templates for explosions and the like. But are they necessary?

As I see it, templates offer two really powerful advantages.  First, they are visually evocative. 
A rigid, transparent template makes it easy to determine an area of effect on the model battlefield. When you lay down a template, it's easy to imagine the explosion, the flames, and the smoke.  Steve even has some little blast clouds to enhance the effect.  Anything that is visual like this, simple, and fun, should be encouraged. 

Second, the presence of template weapons encourages players to spread their models to the maximum coherency distance.  You want as few models under that template as possible. Narrow spaces or choke points become death-traps.

On the other hand templates lead to arguments.  When you hold a template at any distance above the table surface, visual parallax means that two different players will see slightly different models under it. Partial models are an even bigger problem, since you're now disputing whether a millimeter of hand or base is in or out of bounds.  I've seen disputes over templates get quite acrimonious -- and, often, no player is clearly right.

Why not just replace explosion templates with a high rate of fire?  Templates and rate of fire are pretty much the same - they determine how many models can be hit.  Many modern direct-fire guns are spray weapons, not carefully aimed, yet they typically use a rate of fire, not a template. Just assume that an explosive weapon can hit a whole squad and give it a fixed RoF.  (10 for example.)

Overall, I am cautiously pro-template. So my next few posts will propose some rules, sizes, and weapons for templates.