Friday, March 4, 2016

Area of Effect Images

When I was working on the 1st Edition of Book of War, at some point I drew out models of some of major area-of-effects (namely, fireballs and breath weapons) to see how many character figures would fit inside them (i.e., be normally subject to hits). I find that I keep wanting to refer back to them for many different types of work, but I always forget where I have them filed. So for personal reference here there are on the blog.

Now: Keep in mind, as usual, that I interpret the distances in inches literally on the tabletop, as given in Original D&D Vol-1 and Vol-2 (Men and Monsters); and assuming the same scale as the figures used, so about 1" = 5 feet. The prescription that appeared in Vol-3, that 1" = 10 feet, I ignore. (See the sidebar on house rules for more discussion.) The figures and counters that I used are at the standard 3/4" (or 20mm) square base for men; or 1×2" (25×50mm) for horses.

Also, my general assumption is that there is some spread between figures; that is, a few feet between ranks of soldiers, or some amount of scattering in the face of melee/ missiles/ magic fire. Here's what that "sparse" crowding looks like:

Areas of Effect: Sparse Crowding

As you can see, a fireball catches about 7 men; the red dragon breath cone catches about 14 men, the green dragon cloud a similar 15, but the blue dragon's line is smaller with only 7 men encompassed (further reduced for lesser types like black and white dragons). For cavalry, the numbers would technically be reduced (3, 5, or 8 figures hit by breath). But for simplicity in Book of War, I rounded off and said that all of these attack forms hit about 10 men, that is, 1 figure at mass scale.

However, perhaps you don't share my assumption about men being spread out a bit in most cases. If the figures are packed maximally "dense", then here's what you get instead:

Areas of Effect: Dense Crowding

In this case, a fireball hits about 13 men; and the breath from red dragon hits 26, green dragon 30, blue dragon 13. Here we find 5, 8, or 12 cavalry figures in a dragon's breath area. In principle, this might argue for the red and green dragon breath types to hit up to 3 figures of men at mass scale; but all of the others (like fireball) still round off to 10 men, so I think that gives extra evidence for the simplicity of the Book of War rule that only 1 mass figure can be affected.

More generally, I find that keeping this in mind helps to adjudicate at any time we're abstracting the action away from actual figures on a tabletop (for example, when using random/abstract opponent selection as in the AD&D DMG).


11 comments:

  1. After basing a whole lot of figures at 1", I decided for simplicity to make everything at a 1" scale, but even then, I think your approach still works. Or I've ruled for simplicity's sake that it does :)

    Are those Battlesystem counters I see? :) Was that scale 3/4" for figures as well?

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    1. Yes, yes, and yes. :-) Those Battlesystem counters are indeed 3/4" squares for foot and 1×2" rectangles for cavalry. Which also matches classic Warhammer and Book of War.

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  2. I always stunk at war games, so forgive this question but: what is the advantage of 1 inch per 5 foot scale? Not just that scale, actually, but any scale. I mean, I know you have to have a standard but what is the difference/advantage between 1" equals 10 yards and 1 inch equals 5 feet?

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    1. It's that 1" = 5 ft matches the scale of the miniature figures. If you vary from this, then the figures' length, width, and height don't cover the right amount of space, and you forever have to be correcting for it during play.

      Say you play D&D at 1" = 10 yards. In 10 yards about 6 people across should stand, but you can only fit 1 figure in that space on the table, so what do you do? If there's a 10 ft. pit it's only 1/3 the size of a figure, so a player will think they can easily step across it. A 20 ft. high castle wall is only at chin-level to the PC's figure. A purple worm figure will be 6 times larger than its own tunnel on the map. The number of figures that can fit in a hall, a room, a ship deck, a castle tower, around a throne or altar don't work out. And on and on forever.

      Here's AD&D by the book: Fireball has 2" radius area. But the 2" indicates 20 feet. But the 20 feet is represented by 6 inches on the table. It's madness! See: When an inch is not an inch in AD&D.

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    2. That was one of the things I appreciated about 2nd Edition - they dispensed with inches entirely and expressed everyone in feet and yards. Several years in, of course, Combat & Tactics reintroduced some real rules for using miniatures, using 5-foot squares and many other ideas that would be carried over into 3rd Edition. They also had the good sense to include a Master Weapon Table in the book with all of the ranges converted into squares and reiterations and clarifications of special rules for unusual weapons.

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  3. Doesn't Chainmail have a big troop roster of facing widths for various figures?

    Also I assume that the ranks will remain the same width but the distance between ranks will increase as movement speed increases (so, troops moving at full speed will expand that gap and close it up as they slow down).

    I also assume that open formation on a battlefield is a typical practice to reduce the impact of area-effect spells, unless tightening up for melee is more important. But we have historical insight into area-effect attacks vs. men in WW1 and WW2 shelling. How did they deal with it? Did the relatively heavier reliance on trenches in WW1 make a difference? Were WW2 tactics more informed on explosive shelling?

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    1. Basic Chainmail never specified figure sizes. The Fantasy Supplement gave a few different options; one could either use a 30mm or 40mm base size for men (with proportional values for non-humans). Gygax's later Swords & Spells did have a page-long list of specified base sizes for each unit type (men 5/8", horses 1", modified by weapon types, etc., etc.). So maybe you're thinking about Swords & Spells.

      I agree with you that there's likely some spacing between ranks... particularly so if we think about man-to-man scrum actions like we usually see in D&D. I don't know offhand where you'd get data on that for WWII. Frankly, my notion (from documentary movies, I suppose) is that marching drills have always been at a close arms-distance away from each other.

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    2. I'll also say that I once asked Gygax about the presumed spacing issue on ENWorld, but I think his answer was mostly ambiguous (variable with situation?) and I don't know how I'd track it down at this point.

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    3. re: WW tactics: what I meant was have you seen anything on tactics used to keep infantry from being blasted? Was it more important to keep them together regardless of the risk the whole unit could be destroyed? Did they consider it better to keep a unit together to reduce the chance of some casualties in exchange for a chance of complete casualties? Etc.

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    4. In early WW1, armies were still using outdated tactics from the 19th century; that was one of the reasons for the atrocious casualties at places like Verdun. Despite this, grouping of troops was essential. Many of the British losses at the Somme occurred when they attempted an offensive move and simply didn't have enough concentrated manpower and/or firepower to succeed. Granted, their "wave attack" tactic did leave space between each wave (except for the brief period during which a wave was overtaking the previous one) so that artillery or machine gun fire wouldn't hit as many men at once, but even then, the individual waves were nothing to sneeze at in terms of troop concentration.

      In WW2, infantry tactics took place on a smaller scale, but unit cohesion was still critical. Many armies (including the Americans as well as pre-Stalingrad German doctrine) suffered difficulties as a result of tactics that involved splitting up the squad into two or more teams; each team simply didn't have enough firepower. The Germans had great success later in the war by maintaining a tighter unit formation focused on protecting the squad's machine gunner and counting on him to actually neutralize the enemies. On a practical level, the MG team was the keystone, so if they were lost then the entire squad was crippled anyway and whether or not some extra riflemen had been lost was irrelevant.

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