Rulebook 2011 – Terrain and Lines of Fire

We are stepping our way through a variety of new mechanics that the 2011 HeroClix Rulebook introduces and today’s topic is terrain. Of all the changes in this new rulebook, I think this is one of the smallest changes that has the most dramatic impact.

HeroClix is one of the “flattest” games you can play. There’s grounded. There’s elevated. And…. That’s it. Maybe, just maybe, you are playing “old school” and you are using soaring rules and you get a third level.

Is it really believable that in all of the maps that we’ve had in HeroClix that all of the buildings and mountains and such have all always been the same altitude? The game needed… more.

Changing Elevations

Before we get to that, let’s talk a moment about stairs and ladders. Having 2 different means of changing elevations that behaved differently was a complication for the game that it was felt was just not necessary. So the rules for stairs and the rules for ladders are being combined. The two squares that share an edge between two elevations that allow for a character to move between them now follow a single set of rules:

  • When moving, you must move through each of these two squares in order to change elevations (unless you have an ability like Flight or Phasing/Teleport that allows you to ignore elevated squares for movement purposes).
  • Two characters occupying these two squares may make close combat attacks against one another.

That’s it. There is no “pseudo-adjacency” for stairs that doesn’t apply to ladders. There will be no question which two squares one must go through to change elevations. One set of rules for stairs, ladders, and any other means of changing elevation. Here’s a sample of what you may see on an upcoming map.

This looks a little different from what you usually see. While you can see the way a character would move up from grounded to elevated, and you can see the usual red boundary line that indicates elevated terrain, you also see a “1” and a “2” in triangles. What’s that about?

Elevated Terrain

With the 2011 rulebook, we introduce elevated terrain. Oh, wait. We already have elevated terrain. So what we’re bringing you is the ability to establish a “height” to that terrain. On maps with more than 2 elevations, we are going to be using small triangles where you change elevations so that you know just how high up your character is.

Does this mean all of your current maps are invalid/unplayable? Not at all. Maps that do not use elevation level triangles follow all of the current rules of HeroClix – you just treat the grounded terrain as “level 1” and the elevated terrain as “level 2”. There’s no need for the numbers when there are only the two levels.

If you are already familiar with lines of fire and the way that elevation factors into the equation, learning to use multiple levels of elevation is relatively simple. In fact, in terms of 2 elevations, the rules are the same. Simply replace “grounded” with “a lower elevation” and replace “elevated” with “a higher elevation” and all of the same principles apply.

Elevation levels that are lower than the line of fire in question are treated as clear. Elevations that are “higher” than the line of fire in question are blocked. When we start to look at this in action, it’s pretty simple and we’ve got some examples to show you.

Here we have Thor and Loki. You can see that they each occupy terrain that is marked “level 3” and there is elevated terrain between them that is marked “level 4”. If Thor were to try to draw a line of fire to Loki, it would be blocked because elevated terrain that is higher than the level of the line of fire blocks that line of fire.

Similarly, if we position Thor and Loki like this – they are still both on terrain marked “level 3”, but now the line of fire crosses terrain marked “level 2”. The line of fire between these 2 figures is clear. The hindering and blocking terrain there on level 2 does not influence the line of fire at all – more on that below.

When characters are on different levels of terrain, the lines of fire behave just like they do now when the only 2 terrain levels affecting the line of fire are those 2 levels. In this picture, we have Enchantress on level 2, Thor is on level 3, and Loki is on level 4. Enchantress and Thor can draw lines of fire to each other. Thor and Loki can draw lines of fire to each other (in fact, since Thor has 2 targets, he can draw a line of fire to both Enchantress and Loki with one attack). It is the line of fire between Enchantress and Loki that is blocked.

The line of fire between Enchantress and Loki travels between levels 2 and 4. That line of fire will be blocked by any terrain that is higher than level 2 except for the square the target occupies. Level 3 is higher than level 2, so it blocks the line of fire. The map we are previewing here doesn’t have any “cliffs” to show this, but there will be maps where you will have, for example, a level 1 square sharing an edge with a level 3 square. While there would not be any stairs or ladders allowing you to “jump” levels like this (though Leap/Climb and Fliers could), the line of fire between those levels would be clear.

Indoor and Outdoor Terrain

When Armor Wars released the first 2’x3’ map, we were introduced to our first indoor/outdoor map. From the beginning there have been questions and issues with how lines of fire outdoors interacted with indoor terrain. Could two characters that were outdoors draw a line of fire to each other over indoor terrain? Could you draw a line of fire from outdoors to indoors? Vice versa? Do the walls of the indoor terrain count as walls that could be destroyed or were they more like the edges of elevated terrain and couldn’t be destroyed?

So, with the new rulebook, a lot of this gets cleared up. Firstly, the walls that make up the edge of indoor terrain can definitely be destroyed. Secondly, indoor blocking terrain (and consequently, indoor walls) is considered to exist at all elevations. This is different from outdoor blocking terrain which will only exist at the elevation of the terrain.

The map in today’s preview is an outdoor map – that’s why the blocking terrain in figure 2 didn’t block the line of fire. If we were indoors, then that blocking terrain would have been on all levels, and would block the line of fire.

All of this talk of elevation levels has a dramatic impact on [Giant] and [Colossal] figures. But that will be in the next preview when we start the Powers and Abilities Card.

Knock Back Path

Like wild cards, this is one of those rules that seems to get tweaked with every rulebook. Knock back is one of those things that happens in battle that is just so cool. To me, it’s one of the most “comic-book” like activities that happens in the game that isn’t a special power of some kind.

Explaining the direction that a figure being knocked back goes has always been easy – when the line of fire is along a specific horizontal, vertical, or perfect diagonal line. It’s the odd angles that always led to questions. Since HeroClix only uses “squares” to represent distance, when players are told that the path must be in the “furthest” direction, that would always lead to knock back directions that don’t communicate the flavor of being “pushed away” as knock back is supposed to.

For this years’ rulebook, we started with the challenge of how to define the choice of directions so that it is clear which of the directions are truly “away” from the attacker. In a moment of clarity, the question was raised – “what if there isn’t a choice?” Could we find a way to word the knock back path so that it was always clear which square the knock back path leads to?

If the knock back path is not along a straight horizontal or vertical line, then the knock back path follows the diagonal line starting with the square that is on the opposite side of the target from the attacker, in both the vertical as well as horizontal direction.

Here’s a diagram that shows the various things that are being described in this paragraph:

Thor has hit Loki and rolled doubles, so there is knock back. Obviously, the line of fire is not on a vertical, horizontal or perfect diagonal, so we need to figure out the knock back path. The first instruction tells us that it “follows the diagonal line”, so there are only 4 choices for that (labeled A, B, C, and D). Next, we’re told that they have to be on “the opposite side of the target from the attack” – that narrows the list of choices to A and C. Lastly, the instructions say “in both the vertical and horizontal direction” – the grey lines illustrate the “vertical and horizontal” lines that are being implied by this. There is clearly only one square that is opposite from the attacker in both directions – square A – and that is the path that the knock back will follow.

Okay! That’s a lot to take in for one day. Next time we’re going to start on the Powers and Abilities Card and see how these multiple levels of elevation influence characters that are a little… taller.

By Lee

Leo handles the behind the scenes on and, making sure everything runs smooth. He's a big fan of Social Media, and you can find him on Google+.