Deadzone Designer’s Notes: Grids & Line Of Sight

Probably the most unusual feature of Deadzone is its combination of a board game grid and skirmish game Line of Sight (LOS). This needs explaining as I don’t know of another game that uses this approach.

 

The Challenge

Those of you who have played my other games will know that I like fast and simple games which include a lot of tactical decision making and choice. The challenge for me here was to bring that design ethos into a skirmish game environment and avoid as many as possible of the traditional pitfalls and difficulties.

These problems tend to congregate around movement and who can see what. Getting tape measures into and between scenery can be awkward and whether things are just in or just out of range is a frequent debate that is only made worse by the measuring being difficult to do accurately.

These problems tend to multiply enormously when you add a third dimension as we wanted to do here. We had all manner of plans for buildings and other terrain and it would be silly not to have that impact on the way the game played.

Gridded boards, on the other hand, have a habit of putting off figure gamers who find their placement of miniatures to be vague and unsatisfying. They want to deal with the exact positioning of their sniper and decide their careful use of cover.

LOS is the biggie. Can you take the shot or not? There have been all sorts of different approaches to this over the years, and most of them are quite fiddly and not very fast to implement. Some work in their own context but would struggle in the confines of a Deadzone board. For example, some rules require you to see a particular part of the model (torso or head or both), some require you to see a certain percentage of the models, whilst others require you to ignore the model and calculate an abstract volume which the model nominally occupies regardless of pose. Each has its merits, but how do you work out whether you can see 24% or 32? If you must see a model’s torso what if they have a backpack? And theoretical volumes? No thanks. Not in the clutter of a close urban environment where shots are often through windows, past bulkheads, girders or other urban clutter. Can I see the space above the model which it nominally occupies? Past that walkway and through that window? Not very practical, and certainly neither slick nor intuitive.

So there were a number of issues that were obvious from the start and all of which made rules skirmish traditionally fiddly and muddy to apply. How to get round this? Well copying what had gone before obviously wasn’t going to work so I had to think of a new approach.

What I’ve gone for is a hybrid system that takes the best of both the figure gaming and board game approaches.

 

The Grid

The Deadzone playing area is a 2 foot mat that is divided into 3″ squares, 8 on a side. The terrain conforms to this grid and is also made in 3″ square tiles. The art is of the concrete slab foundation that is common for Corporation settlements and military bases alike and so the grid isn’t so much imposed on a background as an integral part of the way it should look.

In the game the grid is used for movement and ranges (not that most things have ranges). This obviates the need for a tape measure. It is also used for scatter, avoiding the need for templates. It is used for area fire like suppression (called Blazing Away in DZ) or blasts from grenades or missiles (avoiding the need for the other templates).

The grid is not used for LOS.

 

I See You

So how does LOS work? Well, unlike games such as DUST, in Deadzone a model’s exact positioning matters. He is in a given square, but he is also in a specific place within that square. To make sense of why you need to know a bit about shooting stuff in Deadzone.

When you are firing with a model there is a choice of two modes depending on what you’re using. These modes are Point Fire and Area Fire. Each calculates LOS slightly differently.

Point Fire: this is an attempt to shoot a specific target exactly. The pinnacle would be the sniper’s head shot. The aim is to injure or kill the target.

Point Fire LOS is calculated by looking from the model’s perspective. If you take a model’s eye view, can you see the target? By seeing the target I don’t mean can you see 23.5% of its abdomen or anything silly like that, I mean can you see it at all: yes or no. That’s pretty easy to decide. If you can’t see it at all then you can’t shoot it with Point Fire. If you can see every last bit of it then you have a Clear Shot and this gets you a bonus. The likelihood is that you will be able to see only part of the model and the clutter of the environment will obscure the rest. That allows a normal shot.

As an aside, you’ll ask how much of which bit of the model you need to see? What about pony tails, guns sticking out or whatever? I’ve gone for the simplest approach: any of it. We are already abstracting a moving, living creature to a static miniature; already abstracting the fact that both sides will be moving, changing position and stance and so on simultaneously into random slices of time we call turns. The easiest thing to is to say if you can see any of that model then you can see enough to shoot. After all, the model doesn’t change pose during the game. You, the player, put the model where it is and you could have chosen a million different positions. If you missed the angle your opponent moves to in order to take a shot then why start an argument about what he can see then? Why not just let him make the shot he’s earned by his tactical acumen? Explanations aside, this works very well on the table, is lightning fast to play, and is as free from arguments as you’re going to get.

Area Fire: this is an attempt to keep the enemy’s head down or to drop in a round that has a blast area and so does not need to be perfectly accurate to do its job. Examples would be Blazing Away with an assault weapon, lobbing a frag grenade or popping smoke.

Area Fire LOS still starts with a model’s eye view – after all they’re still doing the shooting. However, in this case all you need to see is any part of the target square, and you can target an empty square if you like. This is a binary question: you can either see it or you can’t. There is no bonus for a Clear Shot at the floor.

 

Implications

What does this mean in practice? Well movement is extremely quick in terms of rules – the only bit that slows things down is the player’s decision about exactly where to move to, and I’m happy with players spending time thinking and deciding on their tactics (I just want to avoid taking time arguing about rules).

Scatter, blast areas, where people end up after they’ve been blown off something by grenades and so on is incredibly easy and sorted with a single dice roll (unless they fall off something or are thrown into a wall which needs a second roll).

Line of Sight becomes the intuitive approach that I used when I was 7, peering over my Airfix soldiers to see who they could see among the defenders of my wood block forts. It’s literally so simple a child could do it. Can you see any of the model/square you want to shoot at: yes or no? It couldn’t really be much easier.

However, simplicity and speed of use haven’t stopped this allowing for all manner of exact positioning advantages and a great deal of jockeying for position among the walls and rubble of the battlefield. That’s the combination I was looking for: simple and fast rules plus lots of tactical decisions and skill.

 

A Brief Note On Cover

It’s worth mentioning that I have abstracted cover slightly in a similar way to area terrain in a normal skirmish game. Terrain is another difficult area to simulate well, so in Deadzone I have ruled that a square is defined as cover or not. This means that the modelling aspect is allowed free reign, and that you are able to easily add more cover if you like with a wide variety of options. In rules terms it makes cover valuable but not excessively so, and adds texture and tactical variety to the battlefield.

 

Results

The end result is fast, clean and intuitive whilst retaining the details of positioning and allowing skill in setting up ambushes or crossfires. I’m very happy with it and can’t see why nobody used it before.

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99 Responses to Deadzone Designer’s Notes: Grids & Line Of Sight

  1. crimsonsun says:

    Seems straight forward enough, though 3×3 sounds very big as a square for 30mm models, and also seems strange in terms of placement of the models upon the matt, due the square being far bigger than the models base. Obviously you have not covered movement, but it surprises me that you have decided on such a large grid size, though it makes verticals very simple.

    I am intrigued! Crimsonsun

    • Quirkworthy says:

      You can get up to 4 models per side in a single square. Some of the larger models count as 2 or 3 models for this limit.

    • Jerry says:

      1. I like the idea of judging cover based on the edge the shot crosses that is simple nd intuitive.
      2. Cover could be defined by 2-3 degrees depending on how substantial / height / type… light (obstruction but flimsy) medium half height (barrels /cases/ large window), heavy anything else (walls/ equipment etc)
      Effect saving roll or reduced attack.
      3. Posture – Modifier to Defence (positive) and attack (negative) for crouch and prone.
      Prone could be positive modifier for aimed shot

      The modifiers options:-
      A. to dice result
      B. or no of dice .
      C. a cover dice with different sides to add to the survival (roll) a 4 light or 6 medium or 8 heavy depending on the cover to counter a shooting die result .
      D. Maybe a eight sided dice with 4 heavy/prone symbols 3 medium/crouch and 1 light/Stand to counter highest shooting dice.

      Whatever system is chosen it would increase the tactical value of terrain and shouldn’t add to much complexity eg.Is the edge the LOS crosses blocked and if its Heavy or target prone add a 8 sided die, if its medium or crouch add a 6 sided , if its light and 1 to highest survival die.

      As mentioned the system isn’t modelling point in time rather a short period. I am imagining soldiers adopt a pose for these periods except when taking a shot action then they are quickly moving stance and the alpha rules cover that.
      For stance place the 6 or 8 sided die by the soldier to show prone or crouch. Use it and put it back after defence roll, change /remove by using a short action.

  2. tornquistd says:

    An interesting post. I have noticed that after playing a lot of DKH on a grid going back to moving by measuring now seems fiddly by comparison. I guess it all boils down to how intrusive a grid or hex pattern is with the scenery otherwise why not move using a pattern. Measuring for range it still seems natural to use a tape perhaps it is because we expect shots to travel in a straight line.

    It seems you are on track to make yet another interesting rule set. It is disturbing that you are generating rules that I find so compelling faster than I can become proficient with them. 😦

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I wrote this to explain how it fits in just perfectly with the actual combat environment typical of fights within Deadzones: http://www.manticblog.com/?p=7521

      • tornquistd says:

        You made up this background about the containers on your own? Not doubting you just curious about the inputs into the generation of the background. I like the projection of real experience into fantasy to give it depth and realistic grit. I think your Deadzone environment description does a good job of doing that.

  3. Sounds wonderful, and like an impossibly reasonable middle-ground to sate table-top mini gamers and classic board-gamers. I will say that I don’t fully understand your points on cover, as the language was a touch unclear.

    Meanwhile… can it be said that things in Deadzone’s rules might give broad-stroke insight into future plans/rules for Warpath 2.0?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      A square is defined as being cover or being clear. As far as the game rules are concerned, exactly how you model cover is not important. The terrain sprues will offer a variety of alternatives.

      Warpath is Alessio’s game, so that’s down to him. I’d love to write a future edition, but haven’t been asked to do so yet. We’ll have to see how we go 🙂

  4. Peter says:

    I’m looking even more forward to trying out this game. Trying to make a game fast to play while keeping a lot of tactical dept in it is a very admirable goal and you defiantly seem to have the balance about right.

    Keep up the good work and the posts coming 🙂

  5. sho3box says:

    Lots of food for thought there. Some questions:

    1) Can multiple models occupy the same square?
    2) Do models have facing?
    3) Do occupied squares block LOS?
    4) Do models block LOS in any way other than actually blocking LOS “in real life” if you know what I mean ?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      1) Yes, see above.
      2) No.
      3) Can you see the target: Y/N. What blocks the LOS is immaterial. It’s simpler than you think.
      4) No.If I understand your question. See (3).

      The above is true for aimed shots. Area fire is a little different. Whilst you can expect to be able to snipe a single round between two friends, you can’t exactly empty a whole clip through the same gap safely.

      • sho3box says:

        I rushed those questions out, so 4 & 5 are more or less the same question. You answered my initial questions fully, thanks.

        I am glad that Deadzone features a suppression mechanic (Blaze Away, which I am guessing is an atea effect shot). I am hopeful that it interacts with/replaces any morale system. Morale rules often feel like a clumsy afterthought so I am interested in how you have planned to deal with it (or not).

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Blazing Away is indeed area fire. I’ve decided that running away isn’t really appropriate for these two armies, though I may do something with it for others. That said, these are fairly elite forces in all factions and in the small timescale of a fight it would seem unlikely that morale would be eroded so badly it would cause a model to run off. Temporary pinning, on the other hand, and going berserk are both included.

          The effects of pinning are part of the scale of aggression i’ve used to define models, which is the nearest I’ve gone to morale.

      • zergos says:

        Are there any rules for collateral damage through shooting? Say, for example, I shoot at a Marauder Goblin Sniper who is hiding behind a Ripper Suit (same grid) and the shot misses. Any chance the shot will hit the Suit instead?
        Also: Are there any plans to integrate “radical reconstruction of the battlefield” during the game, for example blasting a hole into a wall?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          No rules for collateral damage from inaccurate shooting just yet (apart from explosives). There may be weapons with blast effects that would need this, and it could be added later. I have a number of things that I keep as options and which I watch as I play. Things that don’t come up in several games tend to get left out. Rules have to earn their keep and those that don’t apply in most games struggle to do that.

          Blowing up stuff is something I’d love to do and have tried a couple of approaches. The big limitation is that people will have to physically change their buildings if they blow out walls in the middle of a scrap, and that is reliant on how they’ve assembled them (and not glued them in place or added details or scratch built…).

          Still trying to get something in that is clean and practical.

  6. Andrew says:

    Interesting… I really like the grid idea though I wasn’t expecting Point Fire line of sight rules, but you’ve made it about as simple as it can be thankfully! From playing Dust Tactics I really came to appreciate no measuring and being in cover simply being defined by the square you’re in so I’m glad you’ve gone with similar, and the Point Fire and Area Fire rules sound like they’ll be really fun for a skirmish game. Dust Tactics occasionally feels like playing Draughts which wouldn’t really work as a skirmish game, so it seem you’ve come up with a great solution. Looking forward to the Alpha rules and I’m already looking at my (unassembled) scenery wondering how I could make it suitable for a grid!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Rather than draughts, Deadzone feels more like a game of Necromunda or Infinity that’s been speeded up 5 times.

      As long as your buildings fit in 3″ or multiples of 3″ you’re golden. Any little pieces like barrels, crates or barricades can be used to mark areas of cover. Easy!

  7. This certainly sounds interesting. The proof is in the pudding of course, but it seems like you have found a good balance between squares and free movement. The system in Dust Tactics was a bit too far in one end of the spectrum for me, but the idea has always appealed to me.

    One question though: you mention, toward the end of the post, that a square is “defined as in cover or not”. Coupled with what you stated earlier, about being able to shoot what you can see, I take it that LoS is only used for determining if a model can be shot at and not wheather it’s in cover or not. That is to say, if a model is totally blocked by terrain you can’t shoot it, but if anything of it is visible it doesn’t matter where in the square it is located, as the square itself defines cover.

    Is this a correct reading of your post?

  8. James D says:

    Looking forward to testing out this mechanic as it seems very playable. Any chance of a fantasy version by Mantic down the road?

  9. ph3brickid says:

    Well I’ve just drawn up a 8×8 grid read for the alpha rules on Friday, what good is revision for my A2 exams anyway!? 😉

    • ph3brickid says:

      *ready

    • ph3brickid says:

      PS. Smoke Grenades!!! 🙂 I asked about them yesterday, glad to see that they’re definitely in.
      PPS. 275k goal reached, bring on the deluxe mats at 300k, I think that’s probably the most important goal as far as improving the quality of the game components.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Yes the mat’s lovely. Was playing on it today. My absolute favourite bit about it is that it has a non-slip backing so the mat goes nowhere and can’t be jogged about. It’s seemingly complete resistance to creasing is pretty cool as well.

        Smoke probably won’t be in the Alpha as I’m trying to focus on the core rules, but the core is quite a bit. Once people have a grasp of the basics from having had time to read the Alpha we can start to put out some of the fancier odds and ends. Also, it’s really the Rebs and Marauders who want the smoke rather than the Enforcers. Mind you, Plague 3s might like it though…

        • Rolex says:

          I love the mat. I just pledged for 5 extra.
          It would be nice if mantic gave us a printable grid on file (for A4 and A3 sheets) for the testing.

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  11. Rob says:

    I have great respect for your game design after learning Dreadball. This game looks to be another amazing effort and I am looking forward to it. I love your philosophy of keeping the rules simple and most importantly, consistent. I love that in DreadBall a rule exception is the exception.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Rob. That’s the aim. Of course I always think I can do better so I’m looking for even cleaner than DB. Mechanically that may happen, though the subject matter requires far more variables (different weapons, troops, missions, etc) so the end result actually has more options.

  12. Aswin Agastya says:

    Hello,

    I’m actually thinking along of something similar. Large grids with multiple units inside. However, because it’s a boardgame with counter, I can’t exactly use true LoS. So instead I use the following rules.

    A figure does not only belong to a space, but it also belongs to a node (corners of a space). LoS are traced from the nodes, while movement and firing range are traced by space. This allows for corner shooting, which I found largely missing only after played a healthy amount of the new XCOM.

    Why not individual grids then? Well, first the ranges will be shorter, therefore simple. Secondly, there’s “interspace” movement, which is sort of “free” and do not trigger Opportunity Fire. So a figure can enter a space, on a node unseen by the enemy, creep in the space to a node that will give him visibility to the enemy and make the shot. I’m not sure whether this will cause gamey situation or not. I could make a creeping figure harder to be OpFire-d instead of not allowing OpFire at all.

    Finally, instead of giving space cover/no cover status, I’ve gone with edge: blocked, hindering, or clear, which I think pretty obvious. The reason for this is this allows a space to give cover when shot from certain directions only, so flanking is still possible. A figure can only gain cover from an edge of its space that is also connected with the node it belongs to. So a figure in an enclosed room lose cover if someone adjacent to the wall on the other side fires at it.

    (sorry if this is confusing, but it’s still very much in development).

    • Quirkworthy says:

      That all sounds reasonable enough. Regular nodal game boards always make me think of Go, which would be an individual version of what you’re talking about (without the LOS) if I understand correctly. I take it that you’re only dealing with 2 dimensions not 3. That last one causes all manner of extra headaches 😉

      Good luck with your design!

      • Aswin Agastya says:

        Thanks! Maybe I’ll tackle 3D after I get the command and control done, which is way more important that combat and movement mechanism. Even with pseudo-elevation in 2D game, there is no clean way to do it! I still remember trying to make a clean system on archers firing over wall and different elevations… *shudders*

        Your solution solves a lot of problem. Soldiers are not static, so having them in a certain wide space makes a lot of sense. You also automatically limits how many soldier can fire from a confined position. Heroscape uses similar true LoS, but nudging a soldier in a much wider space feels way more intuitive.

  13. Sounds like a great solution to LOS for the gaming side of things. Perfect for the Scientist backer level where people buy a fancy boardgame. What about us modellers? Will there be any guidelines for what is acceptable converting?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Absolutely. Convert what you like 🙂

      • Are you not worried about players converting their models to all be in the prone posistion? I mean I’m happy to apply Weaton’s Law and just not play those sorts of people, but it sounds like the kind of problem that could occour so I wonder.

        You mentioned models being in a specific spot within a square. Is this choosen by the played when you enter a square?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Worried? Not at all. If you convert models to prone then they won’t be able to see over things, and as the LOS is drawn from the shooter’s eyeline they won’t have a shot unless they peek round the side… when you can see them again. It really isn’t an issue.

          Specific spot? Yes, chosen when you move.

  14. SR says:

    I very excited by this game and backed it good and early. I have a couple of questions about cover.

    Is cover dependant on perspective? The in-game shots have an L-shaped concrete barrier, which we could define as cover or open depending on where the fella trying to shoot you is. And can I ignore some cover if I’m sat on a tall building with a sniper rifle?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Each square is defined as being cover or not before the game begins. In addition, bits of scenery block LOS regardless of whether they are counting as cover or not.

      Height does a couple of things in Deadzone. Firstly it gives you a flat +1 when you take a Shoot action, partly because of the angle but also partly because you’re more likely to be surprising the target.

      Secondly, you are also much more likely to be able to get a Clear Shot (being able to see the whole of the target model) which is another bonus.

  15. Jon Larsen says:

    As far as extant board games w/LoS rules go, AT43 – Dust – Okko – Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft/Ashardalon/etc – Descent, & I believe, Super Dungeon Explore, Dungeon!, Sedition Wars, Zombicide, and Monsterpocalypse might be a few current examples.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Lots of games use LOS rules from the centre of the square. How many of the games you listed use LOS from the model’s eye view?

      • Jon says:

        Sorry dude. I meant to say Heroscape.

        That system’s model’s eye LoS includes targeting rules that show which specific bit can be targeted vis a vis whether that part of the figure is shaded or not on the model’s stat card. I’m pretty sure that CVN never intended the whole cloak debacle that followed, however.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          That’s the problem with any “some of the model” approach. However you define “some” you’re bound to end up with arguments – which is why I’ve gone for the whole model (base included) as the only obviously unequivocal option.

  16. euansmith says:

    I had hoped that we were not going to see anything like “True” Line of Sight in this game. I feel it has a negative effect on modelling and basing and can be fiddly to do.

    * If a target is in a dynamic pose or one a landscaped base, the figure will be less easy to hide.

    * If the attacker is in a crouched or prone pose, it will be unable to shoot over some terrain; even though the character portrayed by the figure could stand up to do so.

    * A cluttered 3D terrain can make it difficult to get your head anywhere near the attackers line of sight.

    I’d hoped for something more like the Area Fire, working as follows:

    * Draw a Line of Sight from the centre of the attacker’s square to the centre of the target’s square.

    * If this LoS crosses a square of LoS Blocking terrain, the shot cannot be made.

    * If the LoS crosses any Obscuring terrain, the target is in cover. This is the normal state of affairs and no modifiers are applied to the attack roll.

    * If the LoS crosses no Obscuring or Blocking terrain, the target is caught in the open and the attacker gains a bonus.

    * If the attacker is at a higher level than the target, the attacker gains a bonus.

    * If the target is at a higher level than the target. the target gains a bonus.

    * Higher terrain counts as Obscuring terrain if the LoS passes into it and Blocking terrain if the LoS passes through it.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      This is basically what I started with. It’s the sort of system I used in Project Pandora and Dwarf King’s Hold and works fine on 2D. When you start using it in 3D with complex urban terrain it becomes a right old headache. Because it is so abstract it also produces unhappy situations when a model doesn’t look like it should be able to take a shot but is allowed to.

      As soon as we switched to the current LOS system the game suddenly speeded up about 25% and started to make a lot more visual sense.

      I don’t think that the issue with conversions is nearly as bad as you imagine. As the model is static whatever its pose or base, you can position it to best make use of cover each time you move. If it’s sticking a leg out at a funny angle then just turn the model so that the offending limb is pointing away from the enemy rather than round the corner where they can see 🙂

  17. Donesh Gillin says:

    Have you considered having each model take up a specific cylinder of space based on base size? Using the actual miniature causes issues for dynamic sculpts/conversions and doesn’t feel as clean. LoS can then be drawn from part of base to part of base without other worries.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      That’s the Warmachine/Hordes system. It works OK when most of the table is empty as WM/H tables tend to be. When you have a close in urban mess then it starts to be a lot more of a pain because you’re measuring from and to theoretical invisible volumes rather than real objects. It’s also abstract, and I’d rather go with intuitive and visually accurate than abstract for LOS if I can.

      I can’t really see any practical benefits to this cylinder system. See my comment on dynamic poses above. To me the real LOS feels massively more clean than working with abstract and invisible volume that ignores what I actually have in front of me.

      Like I said, works OK for the PP games because they’re so open. Different context here.

      • Donesh Gillin says:

        I don’t find the measuring to and from invisible volumes comes into play that often. Often it simplifies down to finding a LoS path to and from both bases. I prefer picturing the miniatures in question not stuck in a static pose but doing their best to take advantage of the cover available to them as well.

        The system presented sounds much more like Infinity’s system. In actual play I find that its not nearly as intuitive or visually accurate as I would like. The different perspective each player has on their own side of the board matters a great deal. I find it makes LoS far more fiddly then I would prefer when playing that game.

        For example if a miniature has a particular dynamic pose and LoS is drawn from the head you may not have the ability to position the offending limbs out of the way.

        • Gareth says:

          I have to agree with this. I am a Press Ganger, so am somewhat biased towards Warmachine, but I have played 40k with true line of sight and had many arguments. Whereas with Warmachine, I rarely see those arguments. Arguments over measuring and movement are another thing… 🙂 I think Warmachine’s method of determining LOS is very tight and the best I have used.

          Maybe laser pointers/levels can alleviate any issues if people are picky?

        • Quirkworthy says:

          @ Donesh – I can’t remember what Infinity does for LOS and haven’t got the rules any more so I can’t comment on that.

          If you want to stick your head out of hiding then you’re out of hiding anyway so it doesn’t matter what your limbs are doing.

          What is not visually accurate or intuitive in looking from a model’s head to its target? How is looking from an imaginary thing to another imaginary thing more intuitive?

          @ Gareth – the huge difference between this and WM is that Wm has very open battlefields. That makes theoretical invisible things easier to conjure with because you can get in and around things more easily. As you say, LOS is not generally an issue in WM. I haven’t played 40K in a very, very long time and have no inclination to do so. However, having just checked the current 40K rules I can tell you why they have arguments and DZ will have far less: they require you to have a clear view to part of the “target’s body (the head, torso, arms or legs)”. That’s where your arguments come in – what constitutes a bit of the body as opposed to armour, tabards, etc? For reasons I’ve already discussed, I’ve gone for an all or nothing approach because it is vastly simpler. Can you see ANY of the target model? That’s a pretty simple Y/N question almost every time, and if it is so close to call that you’re unsure then I think it would also be so in WM or anything else.

          So whilst I agree that 40K has all manner of arguments about LOS, it is unfair to tar DZ with the same brush because it uses a different and far less contentious system.

        • Donesh Gillin says:

          Hopefully this gets put in the right spot. I tried, apologies if its not.

          In dense terrain having to position the head to get LoS on one target may force dynamically posed limbs into position to give LoS to a second target.

          The issue with drawing LoS from the models eye view is it leaves its ambiguous and thus more open to player judgement. You are forcing players to try to get as close as they can to the same viewpoint. This is going to be slightly different between different players, it may also be blocked by all this great 3-d terrain that is coming with the game.

          If I’m drawing LoS from base to base this is done with a more top down view of the battlefield. This removes a great deal of the ambiguity created above. Its also nice because its much easier to demonstrate the connection point for LoS on both bases exactly.

        • David says:

          I’m interested to give this a try, but I also have to admit I prefer the Privateer Press volume system too. It gives both the players and the sculptors complete autonomy, and it represents your soldiers “moving” or “shifting” in their positions. You might draw LOS to a cylinder of volume of a guy you can see really easily who only has 10% of the model obscured, but you’re still getting penalized for accuracy because maybe he’s just popping out after being flat against a wall. Looking at things like the sniper too he’s only ever shooting guys kneeling, why can’t he stand up and take a shot? As a note the height key templates makes this form of LOS very fast to determine.

          I do really like the idea of the system of multiple models in the same square, and am very excited to read the first go through of the rules!

        • Gareth says:

          Yeah, fair enough, what you say about terrain congestion does make sense as I think back to my Necromunda days. I think perhaps my negative experience with TLOS in 40k is colouring my view of it. When I started playing WM/H, it was a nice change for me, and highlighted in my mind because of it. My apologies, I did not mean to imply anything negative about DZ or to associate it with the perceived “failings” of another game system. Each system should be experienced separately before any judgements are made. I think I understand the viewpoint better, and I look forward to trying it out!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Both the current DZ system and WM/H uses a similar concept – measure from one fixed volume to another. I just find it simpler to measure from a physical object to another physical object rather than an invisible theoretical volume to another invisible theoretical volume. When it comes to getting a model’s eye view, both systems require much the same getting behind a model to see at that model’s own height. It’s usually the height that’s the issue in LOS rather than the top down view which is fairly obvious and easy to check in either system. In terms of judging whether a model is visible over an obstacle or through a window with DZ you can usually tell easily enough without bending down to look, whereas with WM/H you’d have to be using a widget to decide how tall a thing you were actually measuring to and from.

          As I said before, I think it’s the different environmental context in which the games play which makes the WM/H system less useful here.

  18. recrispi says:

    I have a question. If I choose a square to be cover and place two ammo boxes to indicate it. Then I place a miniature in that square and an attacker targets my miniature so that it is between the boxes and the attacker (let’s say a clear shot), does my miniature count as in cover anyway?
    Thank you.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Yes. You define a square as cover in the same way as you would define an area of a tabletop battlefield as woods, marsh or whatever. In reality some of those areas would be more or less dense and more of less easy to traverse, but in game terms we treat them as homogenous.

      To pay more attention than usual here, what Deadzone does in this case is gives you both the bonus – the shooter for a clear shot and the target for cover.

  19. Chris Parkin says:

    You say the LOS rules will be simple, fast, and reduce arguments. Unfortunately the rules you have described are just a slight modification of true LOS, which IMO is the worst. It’s not simple and black and white because you need to work it out from the shooting models perspective. So you and your opponent are going to be pulling out lasers and bending over the table trying to agree if from the shooting model’s eye level they can see any part of the enemy model, sounds like the start of an argument to me.
    I’ve played wargames since 40k 2nd edition was released and by far the smoothest and lest egregious LOS rules I’ve ever come across are Warmachine and Hordes’ volume by size of base rules. There’s so much abstractness in wargames already I don’t why be make such an issue of LOS needing to as realistic as possible, it baffles me.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      40k’s version of LOS is importantly different from Deadzone’s because of the requirements in 40K to see specific bits of a model. That means people argue about whether the bit they can see counts as an arm, torso or whatever. Deadzone requires you to see any part of the model, and that is far easier to determine. Can you see it at all? Y/N.

      I appreciate that PP’s imaginary volume LOS is popular as are their games, however it simply is not as intuitive as whether model A could see model B if they were both real people. There is nothing to calculate, nothing to imagine in terms of invisible shapes, and no widgets to find, make or buy. Just look. Determining LOS in the midst of complex terrain is not easy for any system, and as a volumetric system still requires you to draw a line between two points I don’t see how it is any simpler. Because you are drawing a LOS to invisible things that would seem to make it more complex, not less so.

      • Jon says:

        I think the key to the “argument” argument…is that sometimes [and how many/game is really any pundit’s guess…], but SOMETIMES person A and person B are NOT going to agree on whether a figure can see another figure at all.

        One key component that the chattier type of game designer typically brings up when it comes to arguments is not “my system can speed up gameplay by synergistic player interaction”, but more of “when an argument comes up – do X, Y, or Z”. Because, arguments happen. I’m not saying you have to dedicate a section in your rulebook ala Alkemy, but hey – the old base to base measurement corridor…at least in times of disagreement…is an effective and non-arbitrary method. At LEAST as a backup methodology.

        Pretty quick too. Just sayin.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          Shooting through doorways and windows and over barricades is normal in DZ and highly unusual in WM/H. This makes height a big issue for LOS and invisible imaginary volumes are more fiddle to deal with than physical objects.

          All LOS systems have a cusp at which people will argue if they’re inclined. When you reach the fine line between can and can’t be seen there is potential bickering. If you are dealing with a 2D environment that is largely open as in WM/H then a base corridor might work. When you are dealing with a 3D environment which is generally not clear and open it creates a number of problem sand slows things down.

  20. Chris Parkin says:

    Not to mention it disuades amazing conversions on scenic bases becasue those models are now much easier to see. And for those cynical players (that do exist in 40K) it promotes converting models to be crouching or laying down. I seriously think you can do better.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ve tried every system that has been suggested by anyone in the comments before I got to this. There is a world of difference between this and 40K’s “true LOS” and after trying all manner of different versions on the table this one worked best for me and my playtesters. Of the people that have played, nobody wanted any of the other versions once they’d seen this in action. Now if you are already invested in PP games and are used to that system then I can see why it would appeal. It added faff and time when we tried it (and I’ve used it often enough to understand how it works).

      It does make a small difference in a limited number of situations if you’ve converted your model in a particular way. However, making a model short to hide behind cover easily also means they cannot see to fire over it and will simply have to expose themselves around the side instead of over the top. Hardly seems like a real issue or a deadly exploit to me. If they want to hide and do nothing else in the game then they just wasted their points on that model. I’m happy to play fools who do that 🙂

      • fiendil says:

        I’m a big fan of abstract area terrain, as used in Warmachine and Epic, but when the game suits TLOS, then it’s a good tool. If you’re using an urban environment, without woods, forests or jungles, in a small scale skirmish game, then yes, TLOS is a good thing.

  21. Chris Parkin says:

    Thanks for the quick reply but I have to disagree. I understand there will always be complexities when you’re dealing with tight urban terrain but you’re simply moving the argument from ‘I’m pretty sure I can see the head’ to ‘I’m pretty sure I can see the end of the ponytail, or the tip of his gun…’.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Any system of LOS has to deal with shots that are obviously possible and those which are debatable. The disadvantage of the 40K stem is what constitutes the edge of the real target is too easy to argue about. Is that a bit of the torso or just a big lapel on his greatcoat? Does that shoulder pad count as a legal target? I don’t know.

      By making the thing you are measuring to a simple and clear cut target (any part of the model) you remove the fuzziness. All you are left with is the unavoidable residual difficulty of determining some marginal LOS. PP’s system is no better as resolving these marginal calls (though I absolutely agree it’s better than 40k’s effort).

  22. Chris Parkin says:

    Ok, keeping in mind you have actually played the rules and I haven’t I could be talking out of my arse so I’ll give the Alpha rules a go with my gaming group and give some constructive feedback.

    Re coverting models to laying down or crouching I was thinking of close combat orientated models but I guess in a skirmish they will be limited in number anyway so perhaps not the same as an army of crouching and laying down Orks.

    • fiendil says:

      If it became an issue of people reposing their melee models to be flat on the deck, and people did this for an advantage at tournaments, then the TO just needs to add in a rule to the rules pack that says eyeline must be at least a certain mm off the deck for each model (with exceptions for the various dog sized models), otherwise you’re playing with the TO’s unconverted set, using other models, or just going home without a game.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’m going to try a game or two with only prone and kneeling models on one side. I think I know what will happen, but as ever the acid test is on the tabletop.

      • euansmith says:

        No doubt the Alpha rules will generate an awful lot of more informed feedback once the players start to try thing out.

      • James 'Maz' Marsden says:

        Would love to see that!

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Yup. me too. That what the Alpha’s for!

        I also think I have some more worthwhile thoughts on the whole LOS thing and I’ll start a new post on that to untangle it a bit.

        • James 'Maz' Marsden says:

          I honestly don’t see the issue.

          Seems pretty cut and dried to me.

          But to be fair my gaming group aren’t über competitive and so these arguments will be relatively few. That’s not a knock on anyone else’s group btw.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I think that the real problem isn’t with Deadzone rules at all. What seems to be the basis of most folk’s comments is that 40K uses a clunkier system than Warmachine and that 40K refers to their system as “True Line of Sight” (a debatable description if ever there was one).

          As people seem to have a negative experience with the 40K TLOS system they are assuming that all systems that use a similar systems must be equally poor. I believe that assumption is false.

          And I can prove it.

          Anyway, new LOS article tomorrow.

  23. In a tight urban scenario, I’m not sure how you’ll get a models eye view in order to be able to determine LOS to another model. It’s not like you can put you head where a model is an actually check to see if you can see another model maybe in a window overhead. I guess with a laser pointer you could do it.

  24. Sam says:

    Played it today, really loved it.
    Game went so fast due to no measuring.
    Felt more like a squash court or extreme fighting cage than a game board. Amazing.

    Seemed a bit easy to stop the Missile Launcher from shooting via Blazing Away.
    Have you considered if the first guy to roll Survival against the grenade triples it, he throws it back?
    I’d love that.
    Both games had the Enforcers saved by the bell. I am getting walkways.

  25. RMBLees says:

    Have you considered using tokens and/or dice to mark damaged buildings, and areas filled with smoke.
    The token marks the area. The dice can be adjusted to indicate the degree of damage/visibility, or alternatively just use the binary system used elsewhere; either there is smoke, in an area, or there isn’t as indicated by the token.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I considered and even tested this. Smoke works fine (more on that soon). The issue comes when you might want to shoot through a gap in a wall which you’re imagining as damaged. Imaginary stuff doesn’t interact well with real LOS.

      • Sam says:

        I’d love optional rules for knocking over walls, I’m planning to leave my Deadzone sprues un-glued and magnetise them if they need them. The more things knocking into other things and stuff blowing up the more fun. Ask Michael Bay. Hmmm. Bad example!

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’d really like to have destructible terrain as well, and I’m working on a couple of options at the moment to see what I can fit in. Blowing stuff up is very dramatic!

  26. Sam says:

    It seems like with the simplified (lack of) measurement system and LoS there is a lot more room for fun stuff that would be low on the list of priorities in Necromunda or Infinity.

  27. Is Deadzone designed specifically to work in an ‘urban’ setting or would it translate easily to a 2’x’2 table filled with woodland terrain?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The background of the Deadzone story means that the vast majority of battles will be in and around temporary/new Corporation bases of one sort or another so that’s what I’ve been focussing on so far.

      Of course, it would not take a great deal to adapt the rules to any environment, and if I don’t I’m sure others will 😉

  28. Matt says:

    Hi Jake, long time fan, first time commenter: 90s-era White Dwarf formed my adolescence. I’d just like to say I appreciate you replying to all the comments here, and you’re taking the heat remarkably well!

    I think you need to address the genuine issue of some of the official models (e.g. the Enforcer Sniper and Engineer) being modelled in a crouching position. Yes, they will take better advantage of cover, but they will be hampered in terms of being unable to see over that cover to… you know… snipe.

    This is fine for short races, like goblins or dwarves, who will need to avoid cover in order to fire: nice and thematic (stoopid goblins, tuff dwarves). However, for human-sized races, it’s a problem. The Enforcer Sniper will rarely be able to fire from cover, and will almost always need to be positioned in the open: all because of a decision to model him differently from a regular Trooper. However, I do like the idea that support roles, like Snipers and Engineers, would tend to take advantage of cover.

    One easy solution would be to make all walls and barricades a quarter of the height of a standing human. This would mean that a crouching Sniper (half height) can always see over an adjacent wall, so as to fire. The same Sniper would still get a significant cover advantage over a standing Trooper (full height) standing behind the same wall.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Hi Matt, I’ve heard this thought a few times, but I just don’t find it to be a real issue on the tabletop. Most of the shots I take are round cover/walls not over it, regardless of the model’s pose, and this isn’t an issue for kneeling or even lying models.

      Whatever height or pose a model is in, there will be some situations that they cannot take a shot. For smaller models this could be a barricade, but then what height do you make it? Making it really short looks fine for Zees, but looks silly against the humans who supposedly built it. Surely it should be built in proportion to the race that made it.

      Remember that we’re dealing with something like a dozen races, not just 2. I don’t think that we are going to find a height which looks perfect against every model.

      • Matt says:

        I agree that this will work for measuring line-of sight from crouching/short models who are standing behind a tall obstacle, such as a Necromunda bulkhead, with a vertical half of their body/head exposed. No problem.

        My problem is low obstacles, such as linear walls, rows of crates, etc. A Trooper, modelled in an upright pose, can shoot over the top, or around the side. He pays for this by being more visible. His Sniper buddy, while a small target himself, can’t see to shoot over the top at all, and has to jog all the way over to the end of the wall and fire around the side: all because the modelling team chose to make him crouch.

        That is fine – and thematic – for specific stunty-sized races like Zees. They can’t see over a 4′ wall any more than I can see over a 7′ wall. It’s a feature of that race.

        But it’s a problem when some of my humans can’t see over a low wall just because they were modelled that way, and aren’t allowed to unbend their knees and stand up. Likewise, my Troopers can never crouch down like a Sniper. It’s a failure of the rules to take into account the whims of the modelling team, or the whims of players who like to customise the official miniatures.

        Perhaps you could bring in decent fluff explanations, for example ‘Snipers are paranoid about giving away their position, so always remain in a crouched position during an engagement’. This is something you, as rules writer, can do, to compensate for potentially unforeseeable modelling decisions. There just needs to be a good reason in-world reason why Snipers and Engineers are always crouching, and can never stand; while Troopers and Medics can never, ever crouch.

        Thanks for taking the time to stick YOUR head over the parapet and respond to these comments. I, for one, really appreciate it. 🙂

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I disagree. You say that this “It’s a failure of the rules to take into account the whims of the modelling team, or the whims of players who like to customise the official miniatures.” Actually I think that this is exactly what it does do – it does account for the unknowable positioning of the models.

          The reality is that I don’t know what poses all the models will be and don’t want to get in the way of people converting models as they choose to. Most people convert because they enjoy the modelling and painting aspect of the hobby and I’d like to encourage that rather than stand in the way.

          So, if we have an unknown pose for the models we have to choose one of two approaches. Either we use some abstract system that ignores the pose, or we ignore the problem because experience on the tabletop suggests that it is far more theoretical than actual. I’ve gone the latter route because it is simpler and adapts to anything. What you have in front of you is what you have in game. You don’t have to imagine invisible volumes or different positions to look from or to. What you see is what you get. This is the simplest possible approach.

          In practice, because you have complete control over where you put the model and the pose is a known quantity beforehand, it is rarely an issue. I expect there may be some scenery set ups which would cause more or less problems, but the stuff I’ve been using hasn’t cause any noticeable issues so far. I can’t remember anyone complaining in any of the games that they couldn’t get a model to do what they wanted because of the LOS and/or pose.

  29. Matt says:

    Thanks Jake! I completely understand all of that. For what it’s worth, I think your decision – to focus on the physical model as seen – is a good one: considering all the terrain, and the skirmish scale, I think it’s more appropriate that the more abstract Warmachine system of imaginary volumes.

    I understand that a model being small or large-sized gives both benefits and drawbacks. It’s a neat way of making a difference between a goblin and a troll, without even needing any rules! It will also be a neat way of making a difference between stealthy, defensive units (crouching Enforcer Engineers) and bold, offensive units (upright Enforcer Troopers).

    My question is about the realism of human models being effectively locked into being either crouching or upright positions, and all the positive and negative implications that go with that state, purely depending on the model. If we only use the official miniatures available so far, all my Enforcer Engineers are going to be in a state of perma-crouch, with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails. I have no way of making that human stand up, to make a shot over a low obstacle. As I said earlier, I suppose this will be fine, as long as the stance of the model is nicely related to the role of that model: i.e. Snipers and Engineers are stealthy; Troopers and Medics (?) aren’t.

    I just forsee this being a difficult sell in terms realism: why can’t my humans ever unbend, or bend, their knees? I think it’s a bigger problem than you seem to think it is. But that’s your perogative as a designer of what looks to be an awesome, awesome game, that I have already pledged money to. 🙂 Cheers Jake.

    • Frank says:

      Hi, long time reader but first time poster. Just my opinion but I think something that may be overlooked in this kneeling shot vs crouching shot discussion is when you move the model it can go anywhere in the cube. This means their need never be stuff in the way unless you the player want it to be. For example, if we were talking about a cube full of crates that counts as cover, you could place the sniper on top of the crate, he will see everything, but still count as having cover. Alternatively you can place him at the corner of the crate to make sure he can take a shot you want and not give your opponent a “clean shot”. The point benign there is no limit of inches stoping you placing the sniper wherever you tactically decide you need to. To me, the fact that position is a tactical choice rather than a mechanics choice is a big strength of the game.

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