Line of Sight (LoS) in Antares is easier than it seems but sometimes complicated by hangovers from other rulesets or other experiences. The key, I think, is to read the rules then accept and apply them as they are whilst varying them according to the materials you have on hand.
All wargames rules have to abstract terrain and line of sight. This is simply because we cannot be 10, 15 or 28mm tall and neither can we have an infinitely varying table which allows for true ranges (around 10m+ even for the effective range of a modern rifle at 28mm scale), true surface changes and proper height, tree, bush-shapes, scrub-patches, fence and telegraph pole interruptions to line of sight. Things have to be focused onto a game we can handle with figures we can model, paint and push around. It’s a wargame, not an accurate, to-scale simulation. 🙂
Frankly, it’s pointless thinking or doing otherwise: no wargamer I know has the same terrain as I do and, frankly, we cannot expect every rules writer to cater for everyone’s terrain. I, for one, want to play rather than read through myriads of exceptions! 🙂
The Antares rules are pretty clear on that: right at the start (p.3), Rick is clear that the Antares wargame rules imply a collaboration where two (or more) opponents are participating in a social contract to have fun. We also have to accept the limitations of our simulation. This means that Antares does not have ‘true’ Line of Sight: no wargame I know of really does, even if its only because the terrain models are not exact either!
So, when LoS is to be measured, we have to accept compromises. Nobody has absolutely exact terrain, nor absolutely exact building and hill heights. Further, given that the ranges on the table mean our models should probably be only 2-3mm high, at most, these are key points to be kept in mind.
In all the following sections, the relevant page numbers are given.
Anything we have to consider?
The key items to remember for LoS are Light Terrain, Obstacles, Open Terrain, Dense Terrain and High Ground. The word ‘intervening’ is also key as occupied terrain or obstacles do not block LoS. All of these are discussed in the chapter ‘Terrain’ starting at page 50, but particularly on page 51, and the section on Line of Sight in the ‘Shooting’ chapter from page 24-26.
How to measure LoS (p.24)?
You need LoS for shooting. A unit has LoS if an unobscured, straight line can be drawn across the table surface from the centre of a model’s base to the centre of the base of at least one model in the target unit. LoS is checked by drawing this straight line across the table surface.
I have one of those useful laser-line dongles from Warlord/Army Painter, not the laser pointer one but the one that draws the line on the table. It can be useful but, in truth, I rarely use it: the line across the table is quite clear.
This line is absolutely key and governs everything else, so check LoS using this first. It seems there might be an exception to this but, in reality, that only applies to a particular kind of wargames table.
What simple things block LoS (p.24-25)?
You can’t draw LoS through other models’ bases (important for those large, Outcast units) or through the bodies of models that, for want of a better way of putting it, overhang their bases, such as vehicles. Neither can you draw LoS through another unit’s formation as, simply put, whilst our models move in stop-go motion, they are simulating a constantly-moving environment.
Terrain features block LoS, too: a single piece of dense terrain blocks LoS, as does two pieces of light terrain or obstacles (or a mix of the two). Even if your model can see over it (if you get down to their scale) it is worth remembering that their targets would be scooting along from every tiny bit of cover they could get, trying to make sure that every little oddity in the intervening terrain gets in the way. We can’t model that intervening terrain!
I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth noting that only those models that have LoS can shoot and only those targets to which LoS can be drawn by any of the shooting models (or their spotter if shooting overhead) are valid targets (see p.30).
Troops in a defensive position behind obstacles do not force their opponents to have any LoS Acc penalties for shooting across the obstacle (p.56). Instead, the troops gain a Res bonus.
What about hills and such (p.25, p.57)?
Ahah! If you’re not careful, things can appear to get awkward. The rules (perhaps unfortunately) say that ‘intervening rising ground that obscures the target from the shooter’s point of view’ blocks LoS (p.57) and ‘intervening hills, slopes or rising ground that obscures the target from the sight of the shooter as judged from the position of the shooter’s head’ (p.25).
The reason this is unfortunate is that this phrasing is based on, and applies to, a nicely undulating wargames table and properly-sized hills. For other tables, what it is actually saying is that undulating terrain that doesn’t rise too high won’t block LoS whereas hills probably would – a pretty sensible approach! Unfortunately, neither I nor any of my friends have the luxury so we have to use other ways of representing hills.
Most wargamers I know of use shaped, flat slabs of polyboard or similar to represent the surface area of a hill and to put their models on. I have a few, gently sloping hills but the slopes are deliberately gentle and similar to the flat tops of the polyboard: done that way so the figures don’t fall over! Given the models are 28mm+ high and often on a 2-3mm base, it is pointless ever placing such hills on the table if the rules are read and applied absolutely literally.
This means you have to apply the rules to the terrain you have, in my case the poly-shapes. Here, you have to choose how the hill rules apply (p.57 and p.58) to your terrain: it’s unfair to demand the rules writers write for youo own terrain! It’s best outlinging how othe rules on hills work before the game. When doing so, a few common-sense questions to ask are:
- Is the hill going to be High Ground or just a hill? This is important as hills can block LoS drawn through them (p.57) whereas High Ground not only blocks LoS drawn through it (from one side to the other, for example) but also allows models on it to see and be seen (read: have LoS drawn to and from them) over lower terrain and units.
- Which bit of the hill is High Ground? It’s best to have High Ground represented by two-layer high hills or (p.57) by specific pieces of rocky outcrop or cliffs that you can declare as High Ground.
- Can you see across any slopes? Like many others, my poly board has slopes around it purely for aesthetics. Frankly, we assume that the hill actually gently rises all around it and that the hill pieces themselves only mark the problematic bits – in all games, not just Antares. Given this, it means the hill piece blocks LoS drawn across it.
- Do you really want the complications of calculating flat tops or LoS over curved tops, etc? It’s not in the rules other than for the specific case for undulating tables and, no, I don’t want to. Neither does anyone else I’ve ever played with. Given the scale we’re on, we assume all hills have ridges along their centreline that obscure those behind it; if several units are on a hill, they’re not obscured unless the ridge line gets in the way. It’s a common-sense implementation of the Hills-and-LoS rule which produces easy-to-use, easily-remembered results – and players buy into it, declaring their own troops aren’t able to get LoS because of such a simple application of the rules.
The thing is, to write all this down in a way that satisfies every possible interpretation frankly becomes incredibly awkward, cumbersome and impossible – and I’m a writer!
What this means is that there is no way any rules writer, even one as experienced as Rick Priestley, can cope with all the types of terrain gamers put on the table without going completely abstract. GoA is built for a good-looking table and tries to cope with good-looking terrain. However, this means that the players have to make it clear what low buildings can be seen over from High Ground (in effect, the buildings act like Light Terrain for LoS purposes) and just what constitutes High Ground (see p.57).
What about buildings? (p.59, p.60)
Buildings block LoS if they are in the way just like Dense Terrain. It’s only three-storey-high buildings or those that you designate that are classed as High Ground. Of course, you can draw LoS over lower buildings if you are on High Ground as not all buildings are High Ground.
However, there is a gotcha in that when shooting at targets within buildings, the shooters can claim targets on the higher levels are on High Ground (p.60) ‘for the purposes of drawing line of sight’ to the target. In other words, buildings may not be as useful as might be thought.
In practice, we designate which buildings can have the benefit of High Ground for the same reasons as hills: no set of buildings are the same. One, apparently single-storey building, may be much taller than another that has several storeys.
Hmm, High Ground (p.26)?
If a model is on High Ground then it can be seen over Light Terrain, Obstacles and units that are on lower ground. If shooting from one bit of High Ground to another, then every piece of terrain on lower ground is ignored. High Ground could be tower fo some kind, if it’s tall enough, as well as the top storeys of a three-or-more storey building.
This may be a heavy simplification, but otherwise we’re into measuring angles and such.
It’s also worth noting that ‘Buildings’ are actually types of terrain (see pages 50, 59 & 139) so we must be careful about interpreting the word ‘terrain’. To make it clear, buildings which are High Ground and those which aren’t should be specified before the game starts. Further, it is worth stating which buildings are low enough so line of sight can be drawn over them from High Ground as it is perfectly possible to do so. You may want to be reasonable, here, though as Rick’s page 3 rule has to apply: “wargames are […] collaborative affairs in which, win or lose, it is the adventure of battle that matters most.” If a unit is hunkered up close on the opposite side of a building from that High Ground, then it probably can’t be seen!
Large creatures (p.25)?
Models which are Large can be have LoS drawn to and from them over other, regularly-sized models. They are still subject to other LoS restrictions for obstacles and Light Terrain as those items of terrain are not the clean-cut representations we may have on the table!
Occupied or Intervening (p.25)?
Quite simply, if a model is in a piece of terrain it is occupying it; if not, the terrain counts as ‘intervening’ for the purposes of calculating LoS and/or Acc penalties. Occupied terrain typically gives a Res bonus, though.
If a unit is hunkered down behind an obstacle, the same thing applies: the unit gains a Res bonus but not ‘intervening terrain’ Acc penalties are applied to those shooting at it.
It’s best not to overthink the LoS rules and remember that everyone’s terrain is different. Decide at the start what each piece of terrain actually is (Dense, High Ground, etc) and use markers if it helps.
If you want to go more complex, it’s up to you but it can get a bit messy. If, for example, someone is hunkered down in the shadow of a solid building, even just one storey high, we sometimes use a simple, common-sense approach such that if someone on High Ground some distance away is shooting at them, and they can’t shoot back because the building’s wall is in the way, the targets can be classed as not being in LoS. Normally, the shooting player points out he can’t shoot at the unit and throws mock curses at the defender for his good use of terrain – it’s a collaborative game, after all. 🙂
Such an interpretation is personal taste, though well within the overriding attitude recommended on page 3. Strictly speaking, the rules may not apply and we are fully aware that other gamers don’t like such a loose approach. For us, though, such a harsh interpretation is counter to the ethos of the game.
And that returns us to the point: writing to cope with every piece of terrain every gamer has is impossible. All we can do is read the rules, apply them the best we can to what we have and remember we’re here to have fun, not partake in an intense, mathematical study. Given our simulation, LoS rules just cannot be perfect.
Come to that, I’ve yet to find perfection in life, either. 🙂