Thursday, 30 August 2012

It's all about the terrain

A lot of games we play utilise WYSIWYG = what you see is what you get; the effects are often WYSILOB = what you see is lots of bickering
Within our regular gaming group terrain and how it is handled is not a subject of constant discussion but it is the subject of constant commentary.   Often containing one or more of the following words – What!? - Rubbish! - Really? - Pointless! - Wanker!  Depending on which rules are being used terrain or scenery can either be as depicted by the ‘piece’ or it may confer an effect.  A wood is a good example of this; does a wood on a base mean that the whole base is wooded or just where the trees are located on the base?  This will lead to either or both of these statements “I can see across the base but don’t have line of sight? That’s a load of shi…”, “I can shoot across the base (WYSIWYG) as I have line of sight, and you are not in cover Ha! In your face!”

For me WYSIWYG is just lazy.  Provocative?  Probably.  What I mean by this is that in a number of cases once the core rules of the game are written and by this I mean movement and shooting etc. there is an almost palpable feeling that some game developers sigh and say eff it, let’s say it’s WYSIWYG and I don’t have to write so much.  Harsh?  Nah!  For a lot of gamers it makes things easier too.  I don’t have to learn as many rules about terrain and the various effects on troop types.  Perhaps it will make things easier in pickup games. 
Not that our group play many pickup games, it isn’t that we don’t mix well with others but others don’t mix well with us.  That however is another post and to avoid taking this on a Billy Connolly style diversion I will get back to discussion at hand. 
The problem comes when a critical moment, pivotal even has both players at eye level over the table, and others called away from their own games, to judge whether a shot is possible.  At this point it would be easy for me to drag into this a real life example about how hard it is to see through trees, how difficult it is to see over trees even from a second story window and how difficult it is to engage targets moving between cover but I won’t.  What I will do is draw a comparison with computer games which is easier to identify with.  I don’t play as many as I did in the past but how easy can you hit a moving target with a bow in Skyrim?  Whilst world of tanks will allow you to hit the front idler (the sprockety bit at the front of the tracks) which is just poking out behind a building it isn’t that easy and definitely feels gamey.
Rule sets that cover terrain in detail do alleviate the problem but give the player yet more to learn, which can put off a more casual gamer.   The extra rules pay off over time but in the short term could lead us to being caught out by a rule we didn’t know and nobody likes being caught out by something either negates their carefully wrought plan of attack or allows their opponent to take advantage where you felt your Hussar/Tank/Dragon was protected.
The solution for terrain in any game set I believe is Discuss, Declare, Inspect and Question or DDIQ (dick) for short.  Before the game starts Discuss the limit and effect of terrain before it is important.  Declare what you are doing e.g. “This unit is in cover at the edge of the wood.”  That way the 10% of a figure exposed is no longer the preamble to being called outside for being a cheating twat!  Ask your opponent to Inspect your deployment if the scenery or figure prevents it from being accurately placed and adjust if required.  Finally ask you opponent Questions, “Am I able to move/shoot through this gap?” before taking the action.
This should lead to a faster less quarrelsome game.


  1. Good points!
    Who didn't have these ill discussions like
    "I can see the barrel of your tank gun. I'll shoot it!" - "No! You can't! Nobody would ever hit that by purpose!" -.-


  2. Discussion is especially important if not playing a regular opponent.

    I'll play whatever is the convention but I'm happier with the more abstract "the base is the terrain" type rule.
    WYSIWYG is the the convention we play so if someone sniper shots a tank shell through a window in a ruin 400ft away at me, they're getting one right back!

    Then there was the time my black orcs got shot because their toes could be seen underneath the tree stand they were behind..... Quite recent that one (in gaming calendar terms)but I'm over it now *twitch*

    1. Then you are not for wysiwig either is how i read that