School of Hard Knocks – Even More Knock Back!

Published on March 28th, 2013

Greetings HeroClix Fans!

Previously, we’ve explored the basics of knock back .  However, there are many game effects that can influence the way knock back functions.  There are ways to prevent knock back, ways to cause knock back in different ways, and even some ways to pick and choose when you are knocked back.  In the previous article was the HeroClix KB 101 course, consider this the graduate level seminar…

Common Corner Cases – Map effects   

For purposes of this discussion, map effects will cover anything on the map (terrain, character configurations, map edges) that might interfere with normal knock back.  We’re not focusing on the character’s dial (powers and such) at the moment.

Let’s begin with other characters and how they impact knock back.  Recall from our last knock back article that Cyclops and Wolverine were throwing down with the Brotherhood?  Well, that battle is about to get a bit more complicated:

kb - pic 8

Last time, Juggernaut knocked back Wolverine and Cyclops knocked back Pyro.  We’ll say the same things happen this time, only now some other characters are in the way, and see what happens.

First, let’s look at Wolverine’s knock back path.  Juggy knocks him back, but Sabretooth is in the way… does that mean Wolverine is dealt knock back damage?  Is hitting a character the same as hitting a wall?  Well, the rule book (page 11) tells us:

If the knock back path would cross a square occupied by another character, put the knocked back character in the last unoccupied square adjacent to the square occupied by the other character. Stopping in this way does not deal damage to either character.

So, no, Wolverine would not be dealt any damage for being knocked back into Sabretooth.  Yes, the path of knock back is blocked, but being stopped by a character is not the same thing as being stopped by terrain.

But what if Sabretooth was re-positioned slightly?  Consider this arrangement:

kb - pic 9

If Juggernaut knocks back Wolverine now, there is no character directly along the knock back path to prevent Wolverine from flying through the air.  Even though it looks like he might have a hard time squeezing around Sabretooth and Blob (let’s face it, everyone has a hard time squeezing around Blob), the path is along that direct diagonal line and nothing will impede Wolverine on that line until he hits the elevated terrain.

Now how about Pyro?  Before, Cyke knocked him off the elevated terrain, but this time around Mystique is sitting in the square Pyro would have been knocked into.  Does he fall on top of her?  Does he go into another, lower square?  Page 11 once again has the answer:

If the first square of a lower elevation along the knock back path is not able to be occupied, the knock back path ends in the last square of the higher elevation and that character is not dealt knock back damage.

 

It seems that Pyro lucks out; not only does he not take any damage at all for knock back, he doesn’t even move.  He stays right there and can take a shot at Cyke in retaliation next turn.  Note that this would work not only in this particular case, where Mystique prevents Pyro from occupying that lower square, but if ANYTHING prevented Pyro from occupying that square.  A chunk of blocking terrain would work just as well in this case.

                        Now that Pyro has taken his lumps, let’s segue from the character interactions on knock back into some odd map effects.  First, let’s say Pyro does retaliate against Cyclops and Pyro rolls double 6s!  Take that, Slim!  The only place Cyclops has to go, though, is off the map… and we can’t do that.  From page 11 again:

A character’s knock back path can’t continue beyond a square that blocks movement, elevated terrain of a higher elevation or the edge of the map. If it would do so, the character’s knock back path ends in the square before its path would cross into any of these areas, and the character is dealt 1 damage, as shown in Figure 10.

 

As far as knock back is concerned, there is no real difference between the edge of the map and a wall or square of blocking terrain: the path is blocked, so damage is dealt.  Be careful generalizing too much with this, though… the edge of the map is NOT actually blocking terrain or a wall.  Any other game effect which actually cares about blocking terrain would not have anything to do with the map edge.

 

So far, these kinds of map effects are not specific to any one map; they can be applied whenever and wherever they arise.  Some maps, however, have orange special terrain and that special terrain may have additional, knock back related rules.  For example, the Deep Space terrain on the map from the set Super Nova has the following special text:

 

A successful attack that does not otherwise knock back a character occupying space terrain knocks back that character a number of squares equal to damage dealt -2, to a minimum of 0. When targeting a character occupying space terrain with Force Blast, roll two six-sided dice instead of one. All knock back ends immediately when a character enters the first square that is not space terrain. Characters occupying space terrain are not dealt knock back damage if their knock back paths are ended by the edge of the map.

 

Not only is it possible for any attack that causes damage to generate knock back, doubles or no, but pay particular attention to the bit that says, “All knock back ends immediately when a character enters the first square that is not space terrain.”  Specifically, the “All knock back” part.  So any knock back, whether caused by rolling doubles, by using Quake or Force Blast or another power, or by these special map rules, will end immediately if the character is taken outside of the special terrain.  “Does that mean the character is dealt knock back damage?” you ask.  Not unless that square would normally block movement anyway (like if there was a square of blocking terrain there); terrain that blocks movement is what typically causes knock back damage, not the simple ending of the movement.  Additionally, note that if the character is knocked back into the edge of the map, there is no damage in this special terrain.  In other words, this map tends to have characters shooting around like pinballs, but very little knock back damage tends to occur here.

 

Here’s another example, from the SHIELD Helicarrier map:

 

Orange squares 10,000 feet below squares. Characters can’t move into or occupy these squares. If a character’s knock back path is stopped by one of these squares, deal that character 1 additional unavoidable damage.

In this case, not only does the character take knock back damage for being stopped by the orange squares (a character can’t move through them, so knock back is stopped), but the knocked back character would be zapped with some additional, unavoidable damage even if it would otherwise ignore or reduce knock back damage.

 

We don’t really have the time and space to go over every single possible exception based on special map rules, but hopefully these few examples have given you enough of an understanding that you can figure out what happens if something else comes along.  And if not, you can always ask us if you have more questions!

 

Common Corner Cases – Powers and Abilities

Moving on, we are now focused on the characters themselves instead of the maps.  There are four common powers that provide exceptions to the knock back rules, two combat abilities that might be important, and a whole gaggle of special powers and traits.  An important point to keep in mind during this discussion is some of these effects prevent knock back from occurring.  You would check for these kinds of effects BEFORE any damage from a knock back causing attack is applied.

Let’s look at those common powers first.

Charge

Pretty simple: Charge causes the character to ignore knock back.  If a Charge-having character is hit with doubles, attacked with Quake, or would otherwise be knocked back, it just doesn’t happen.  Charge ignores that knock back.  Keep an eye out for this… I’ve seen players forget this many, MANY times, focusing instead on how Charge lets a character move up and attack.  Also note that this is no way optional; you can’t choose to “turn off” Charge if you want to be knocked back by an attack.

ForceBlast

Also pretty simple: assign your power action, pick an adjacent character, and then roll the d6.  Boom.  Instant knock back.  Players tend to poo-poo Force Blast because it doesn’t cause huge damage or let you zip around the map attacking at will… but they also tend to forget that there is absolutely no attack roll necessary (doubles or otherwise), that powers like Shape Change or Super Senses offer no protection, and you are guaranteed at least 1 square of knock back (maybe a lot more).   WS Nightcrawler being a pain in your neck?  Bounce him off the edge some elevated terrain!  Old KC Green Lantern too hard to hit?  Slam him into the wall once or twice and he becomes much easier to manage!   Force Blast isn’t as ubiquitously useful as Hypersonic Speed or Outwit, but it can be awesome in the right circumstances.

QuakeA little more complicated than Charge or Force Blast, but still pretty easy once you break it down.  Basically, your character attacks all adjacent opposing characters with one single attack and its damage value is locked at 2 for the duration of this attack.  After the attack is over and damage has been dished out, any character that took damage from this attack is knocked back accordingly.  So, barring critical hits, you can knock back characters either 1 or 2 squares with this power (depending on how much damage the characters actually took).  No doubles are necessary… all you have to do is hit and damage your target(s) and they will be knocked back. This power is particularly awesome when used against groups of characters with little/no damage reduction (most any Minion fits that description).  Note, that there are no special rules in place if you do happen to roll doubles when you attack with this power; you don’t get extra knock back for rolling doubles or anything like that.

CombatReflexes
This power actually has two parts related to knock back.  The first part allows you to choose to knock back the character in situations in would not normally be knocked back.  Is Wolverine taking too much of a beating from Juggernaut?  If Wolvie can use Combat Reflexes when Juggernaut successfully attacks him, you can choose to knock back Wolverine even if Juggy didn’t roll doubles and make an escape.  Please note that this only allows you to choose to take knock back in cases when you normally wouldn’t… it does NOT let you choose to ignore knock back in cases when your character would be knocked back normally.   Also note that this part of the power lets your character be knocked back even if it normally CAN’T be knocked back.  For example, Charge normally ignores knock back, but a character that can also use Combat Reflexes may choose to be knocked back even those Charge tries to say “no way”.

The second part kicks in AFTER a character has been knocked back.  Once knock back is actually happening (either because you choose to use the first part or because of some other, knock back-causing effect), if the character would then be dealt knock back damage for hitting a wall or something similar this power ignores that damage.  It doesn’t reduce the damage dealt, like Toughness would, but flat out ignores it.  This can be an important distinction if certain other game effects are in play (the Armor Wars Battlefield Condition, for example, increase damage dealt if it is reduced… this does not reduce damage dealt, so Armor Wars would have no effect).

Since Combat Reflexes has two different effects on knock back that activate at two different times, it is completely possible that your character may not actually get to use both parts during the same attack.  Let’s continue the example above, with Wolverine choosing to take knock back from Juggernaut… we’ll Juggernaut hits him for 3 damage, Wolverine takes 3 and clicks onto a click with Regeneration.  Then he is knocked back 3 squares and, unfortunately for him, hits a wall and is dealt 1 knock back damage.  Since he now has Regeneration and not Combat Reflexes, he can’t ignore this knock back damage and it may very well KO him.  The opposite is also true: say Wolverine was on a click with Toughness and Juggernaut rolled doubles when he hit Wolverine.  Wolverine takes some damage, lands on Combat Reflexes, and is then knocked back because of the doubles.  During the knock back, he falls off of some elevated terrain, but the newly revealed Combat Reflexes would let him ignore the 2 damage normally dealt for being knocked back off of elevated terrain.

Now for the combat abilities mentioned before:

Flight

As you might have already noticed, that ability doesn’t say anything at all about knock back.  Instead, what we really care about for this discussion comes from the discussion of knock back in the rules book (page 11):

 

Characters using the Flight ability (see the Powers and Abilities Card) which are knocked back off of elevated terrain are not dealt knock back damage, though they still end their knock back path in the first empty square of a lower elevation.

 

So when a character that can use Flight is knocked back off of elevated terrain, it would not be dealt any damage.  Flight has no other effect on knock back (they are still repositioned normally, still dealt damage if stopped by a wall, etc), but since falling causes a big fat 2 damage dealt, this ability can really save your character’s bacon and is well worth remembering.

 

GreatSize

Right there at the beginning of the ability, simply put, these characters can’t be knocked back.  So, short of Combat Reflexes granting a choice on the matter, your Giants and Colossals won’t have to worry about knock back.

 

Moving on to special powers and traits, I want to point out that there are many, many, many related to knock back in some way, shape, or form.  It is well beyond the scope of this article to cover every last one.  Much like the special map rules, though, I’ll select a couple and hopefully you’ll be able to use these examples as a guide for other effects.

 

Repulsor Rays: After Iron Man hits a character with a ranged combat attack and actions resolve, you may knock back that character an amount equal to the difference between Iron Man’s range value and the number of squares to that character.

 

Using this power requires a bit of math, but is otherwise pretty straight forward.  If Iron Man hits a character with a ranged combat attack, and that character isn’t at the absolute edge of Iron Man’s range, he will knock it back.

 

There are a couple interesting wrinkles, though.  First, Iron Man doesn’t even need to damage the character, just that hit it.  So Impervious could reduce the damage from the attack to 0, but Iron Man could still knock that character back a couple squares if it was close enough.  Also worthy of note is that this power causes knock back AFTER the action resolves.  Normal knock back occurs DURING the action.  In this case, it is actually possible to generate knock back twice: Iron Man rolls doubles and hits, knocking back his target.  Then, after the action resolves, check how far away the target is and, if close enough, knock it back again.  Potentially a very deadly combo if the character is actually trapped in a corner and has nowhere to go… Iron Man can just keep bouncing it off the walls.

 

The Living Bomb Burst: All damage dealt by Blastaar causes knock back.

 

This one is deceptively simple.  When it says “all damage dealt by Blastaar”, it really does mean ALL damage.  For example, let’s say Blastaar is wielding the Infinity Gauntlet and now has the ability to use Poison… well, when Blastaar uses Poison and damages any adjacent opposing characters, those characters will also be knocked back by that damage.

 

Swat: All damage dealt by Red King causes knock back. When the knock back path of a character knocked back in this way is stopped by another character, deal both characters 2 knock back damage.

 

Normally, being knocked back into a character causes no knock back damage.  This particular power not only causes knock back damage to the character that was knocked back, but also to the character that stopped the knock back.  Two points of interest here are A) we are still talking about knock back damage, so it can be reduced/ignored by anything that would normally reduce or ignore knock back damage and B) ANY character ending the knock back will cause this damage (and be damaged), so watch how you position your own friendly characters or you may end up damaging them accidentally!

 

Common Corner Cases – Miscellaneous

 

Finally, because it didn’t really fit in anywhere else, keep in mind that multi-based characters can’t be knocked back.  Many multi-base characters are already Giants or Colossals (so Great Size also prevents knock back), but for those that aren’t, the rule book tells us on page 15 that knock back is a no-no:

 

Multi-base characters can’t be carried or knocked back. They can’t be placed by the Telekinesis power.

 

Got it?

 

So that wraps up our second discussion of knock back.  Hopefully, between the more basic, general knock back article presented earlier and now this look at some of the exceptions to the general knock back rules, we’ve covered all the bases.    If you have any further knock back questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  Who knows, maybe your question might be the genesis of a third article!

 

Thanks once again for reading along today.  I hope you have found this information useful.  If you have any more questions about this article, send an e-mail to HeroClixRules@gmail.com or hit the Rules Deputies up on the forums!

 

Jeff “normalview” Orasky

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