HeroClix Rules Review Rules Question

School of Hard Knocks – An Introduction to Knock Back

Greetings HeroClix Fans!

Today, HeroClix Rules Deputy Jeff “normalview” Orasky takes a closer look at how “knock back” operates in a typical HeroClix game.  Without further ado, we are pleased to present…

School of Hard Knocks – Introduction to Knock Back

BAM!  Juggernaut has just smashed Wolverine so hard that Wolverine is sent sailing through the air… happens all the time in comic books, but how exactly does that translate into HeroClix?  The answer, my friends, is KNOCK BACK.  Knock back is an awesome nod to comic book combat and adds an interesting (if somewhat random) wrinkle to the complexity of HeroClix.  But figuring out exactly what knock back is (and what it isn’t) and how it is used can be a bit daunting.  Here is yet another Rules Review to give you the introductory KB 101 you’ve been looking for.

What is Knock Back?

Let’s go right to the source and consult the rules.  From page 10 of the 2012 Rulebook:

When a player rolls doubles on a successful attack roll, the target is knocked back after any damage taken from the attack is applied. Knock back represents a character being thrown backward by the force of an attack.

So knock back is something that happens when you roll doubles on your attack roll, assuming that attack roll hit the target.  Cool.  Further on, we have:

A knocked back character is moved back one square for each 1 damage taken. Move the character in a straight line away from the attacking character—called the knock back path—even if that path is on a diagonal. If multiple characters take damage from a game effect that causes knock back, resolve the knock back starting with the character farthest from the attacker.

Because you rolled doubles and generated knock back, the target (or targets, because we see right here that we can knock back multiple characters) is repositioned away from the attacker 1 square for each click of damage the target took from the attack.  Seems simple enough, but why not give a practical illustration?

kb - pic 1

Cyclops and Wolverine of the X-Men are facing off against the Brotherhood of Mutants.  Uh-oh, Mystique has used her wily shape-shifting ways to sneak up on the leader of the X-Men!  Cyclops rolls to attack Mystique before she can stab him in the back and rolls two 5s… a hit and knock back!  Cyclops is dealing 3 damage and Mystique has no way to reduce that so she takes 3 damage.  And since she took 3 damage, she is knocked back 3 squares like so:

kb - pic 2 mod

It is worth noting that the section also specifies that knock back is always away from the character that caused the knock back.  So even if Mystique had been able to use Mastermind when Cyclops attacked her, the character damaged via Mastermind would have still have been knocked back away from Cyclops (the character causing the knock back) and NOT from Mystique.

So what’s next in the rules?

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.

Okay, so if the knock back isn’t on an exactly diagonal path, we make it an exactly diagonal path.  This keeps things simple rather than trying to guess at moving 1 square this-a-way and 3 squares that-a-way kind of thing (those who have been playing for a long time might remember how awkward that was…).  Want another example?  Sure!

kb - pic 3

The fiery Pyro is all set to roast Wolverine!  Pyro makes a ranged combat attack and rolls two 4s… a hit and knock back!  Wolverine takes 2 damage, but he is not on an exact diagonal to Pyro.  So when we go to knock back Wolverine, we need to find the square that is A) on the opposite side of Wolverine from Pyro and B) would be diagonal (not vertical or horizontal) from Wolverine’s current square.  He gets knocked back along that pathway.  Like so:

kb - pic 4 mod

Moving on in the rules, we find:

Movement along a knock back path ignores the effects of hindering terrain and objects on movement.

Very straight forward: hindering terrain (including any objects on the map) has absolutely no effect on knock back.  Just because a knocked back character “hits” a bush or gumball machine does not mean it stops its knock back prematurely.

Last, but certainly not least, we’ve got:

Game effects that activate as a result of a character moving are not activated by a character moving due to knock back.

So any and all game effects that care about “movement” are not bothered by knock back.  For example:


Whenever an opposing character given an action attempts to move from a non-adjacent square into a square that is adjacent to a character using the Hypertime team ability, it must roll a d6. On a result of 1-2, the opposing character cannot move to any square adjacent to the character using this team ability that turn. Characters using this team ability ignore it on opposing characters.

This team ability would normally require an opposing character to roll off before attempting to move into a square adjacent to the user.  But knock back is not defined as movement so if an opposing character is knocked back toward a Hypertime character, the team ability will not activate.

Once more, for emphasis since it comes up a lot, KNOCK BACK IS NOT MOVEMENT.

Knock Back Damage

Sometimes knock back will cause a character to hit a wall, or fall off the edge of elevated terrain.  When that happens, we get knock back damage.  Let’s check the rule book again (now on page 11):

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.


Now the battle is really on and Wolverine and Cyclops both find themselves tussling with the unstoppable Juggernaut and the fiery Pyro!

kb - pic 5

Juggernaut has been scrapping with Wolverine and both have taken some damage.  Suddenly, Juggy rolls double 3s, a hit and knock back on Wolverine!  Wolverine takes his 3 clicks (like I said, both have taken some damage and Juggernaut isn’t on his 4 damage clicks any more) and then is knocked back 1 square before the elevated terrain gets in his way and he must stop moving, 2 squares short of the 3 he should have moved.

kb - pic 6 mod

Since Wolverine ends his knock back early, he would normally be dealt 1 damage but the Combat Reflexes now showing on his dial protects him (more on that in the next article).

Meanwhile, Cyclops and Pyro are taking shots at each other and Cyke rolls double 5s!  Pyro is hit and knocked back off the elevated terrain like so:

kb - pic 7 mod

And we see in the rule book (page 11, again):

When a character is knocked across the rim of elevated terrain (i.e.: from a higher elevation to a lower elevation (see Line of Fire: The Rim, p. 14), the knock back path ends in the first square of a lower elevation and that character is dealt 2 knock back damage.

Even though Pyro would normally be knocked back 3 squares by Cyclops’s attack, when he changes elevation the knock back movement ends immediately and he is dealt 2 damage.

Finishing up… For now

There is plenty more to discuss with knock back (specific exceptions, odd-ball interactions, and such), but this article is already getting pretty long and you’ve got quite a bit to read through.   We will cover these more complicated situations in a later article. Let’s just finish up by pointing out that knock back damage (the stuff that happens whenever the knocked back character hits a wall or falls off of elevated terrain) is DAMAGE DEALT, which means that it can be reduced by any game effect that reduces damage dealt.  Toughness, Invulnerability, and Impervious can all blunt (or completely neutralize) the threat of knock back damage.  But knock back damage is not, by itself, an attack.  It frequently happens because an attack was made, but it is a side effect of the attack and attacks are not the only way knock back can be generated.  This means that game effects that depend on attacks to activate (like the Mystics team ability), will not be activated by knock back damage.

In summary:

  • Knock back (normally) occurs when a successful attack roll is doubles
  • Knock back is ALWAYS away from the source/cause of the knock back
  • Knock back is (normally) equal to the damage taken by the target of the attack
  • Knock back is NOT, NOT, NOT movement and will NOT, NOT, NOT activate game effects that kick in when movement occurs
  • If knock back is ended prematurely (by hitting walls or something), knock back damage is dealt
  • Knock back damage is damage dealt and can be reduced accordingly
  • Knock back damage is not an attack

Thanks once again for reading along today.  I hope you have found this information useful.  If you have any more questions about knock back or other aspects of the game, please feel free to send an e-mail to!

Jeff “normalview” Orasky