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View Full Version : Height Maps in Combat: How to Manage it?



Mr. Mask
2016-02-16, 01:21 AM
If you're fighting sky pirates, are playing with planes or space craft, or just have a combat that involves any major difference in height or flying, you may want to keep track of altitude.

Normally in board games, the X dimension is enough to track the combat, a 2d grid is plenty. But when working with dragons, levitation, and other forms of easily changing height (sometimes just hills or stairs), things can get more complicated. If you have just a couple of fliers or just fudge it heavily, it's fine. People on the ground can't attack people in the air with swords. But if you want to have an encounter based around flying, or a campaign based around it, differences in height are a major feature.

Have you played a game that had interesting ways to keep track of what altitude a character is at? Do you have any ideas or advice on how to manage and calculate such?


I was considering things like using checkers. Have a few levels of height and place checkers under the character to represent their current height level. This of course is limited to about four checkers (five levels) before your stacks are getting pretty precarious.

Another idea I had was similar, but instead having a single numbered checker. This lets you know exactly how high or low a character is, and only requires each character to have one of each height level (so if there are ten levels, that'll add up fast).

Beyond those, I'm presently unsure of a cleaner way to make it clear what altitude a character is at.

Airk
2016-02-16, 02:22 PM
Checkers works; So does just placing a "height die" next to them on the map. Figuring out ranges and (worse) areas of effect, however, is pretty icky.

Honestly, I try to avoid worrying about height whenever possible.

AMFV
2016-02-16, 02:32 PM
I would use a few separate maps for each elevation, and combine that with checkers. So you have five checkers, then you're at elevation map 1, which should be easier to make, since it'll have less on it. Then maybe a third map, if you desperately need it. Which should be above quite a bit of terrain, that would be my method. Depending on which game system you're using of course.

JoeJ
2016-02-16, 04:33 PM
Standing the figures on top of a d6 works. If the height is due to a terrain feature, all you need to do is draw it on the map.

goto124
2016-02-17, 01:30 AM
Use a shelf! Draw grids and put the figurines on it, and the shelf is ready to use as a combat map, with the different levels of the shelf representing different heights!

... I don't know how viable this really is.

Lord Torath
2016-02-17, 10:17 AM
Spelljammer's War Captain's Companion had rules for multi-level combat, and had tables for figuring your range based on flat and vertical distance. In small-unit combat (no more than 5 ships or so) I don't see it making a huge difference, and I wouldn't really want to use the system for more ships than that, anyway.

In a Sky-Pirates game, it can have more of an effect - ships at higher altitude may be able to fire on ships at lower altitude, but be immune to return fire. The Dragonlance board game used checker-like discs for tracking elevation. Other than that, I'd say use "altitude dice"

Leviathans is a naval-airship game; you might see how they handle altitude: www.monstersinthesky.com.

Mr. Mask
2016-02-18, 03:49 AM
Thanks guys, this is some great material and ideas. I'll try to work out what's the simplest for my means.

I did run into one other awkwardness, however. What if the normal height level is 3, and there are 2 levels below it characters can go to. Should you just commonly stack characters on a couple of checkers or such? I considered the idea of checkers of a different colour to represent going down rather than going up. So, 5 blue checkers is level -5, 5 white checkers is level 5. That does mean you need to do an extra calculation to work out the exact height difference, but it is a simple one.

Any thoughts on this?

Joe the Rat
2016-02-18, 12:26 PM
If you don't start on the "deck," I'd put them up a few checkers. The advantage here is that you have a clear visual representation - the figure that is higher up in the game is higher up on the game board. using negative color becomes counter-intuitive: Someone at Blue5 (-5) ends up being physically above someone at White1 (+1), even though the in-game relationship is reversed. Also, it's easier to count the height difference.

I like checkers over poker chips - the thicker profile gives you more height, but you may not have enough for all the participants.

Lord Torath
2016-02-18, 02:44 PM
If you don't start on the "deck," I'd put them up a few checkers. The advantage here is that you have a clear visual representation - the figure that is higher up in the game is higher up on the game board. using negative color becomes counter-intuitive: Someone at Blue5 (-5) ends up being physically above someone at White1 (+1), even though the in-game relationship is reversed. Also, it's easier to count the height difference.

I like checkers over poker chips - the thicker profile gives you more height, but you may not have enough for all the participants.I'll agree with Joe here. Avoid using "negative" colors to avoid confusion.

Although poker chips are generally flatter than checkers, and easier to perch miniatures on top of.

Slipperychicken
2016-02-18, 03:27 PM
Last game, I just ripped a bit off a post-it note and wrote a height value on it.

Also, you know the little plastic boxes that basic dice sets come in? We'll typically put a mini up on one of those. They're about the size of a grid square, they hold a mini pretty far above the mat (well above other minis, so it's clearly over their heads), and they're quite stable. If you really want to, you can fit a small mini underneath ("inside" the plastic box. IIRC it works pretty well with those pathfinder pawns) to convey that one mini is directly over another.

AMFV
2016-02-18, 04:25 PM
Last game, I just ripped a bit off a post-it note and wrote a height value on it.

Also, you know the little plastic boxes that basic dice sets come in? We'll typically put a mini up on one of those. They're about the size of a grid square, they hold a mini pretty far above the mat (well above other minis, so it's clearly over their heads), and they're quite stable. If you really want to, you can fit a small mini underneath ("inside" the plastic box. IIRC it works pretty well with those pathfinder pawns) to convey that one mini is directly over another.

Oooh you could do a tray with tackle boxes, so you'd pull out one tray to move something a certain distance, and hat way you could have real representation (although that's a lot more work so it'd have to be a game where that comes up a lot) if you do that, you should document it.

Laserlight
2016-02-18, 10:39 PM
There's a space combat game called Attack Vector: Tactical, which makes it manageable to move in 3D and figure out your facing with respect to each other ("I'm shooting my dorsal guns at the port side of his stern"). It uses something like your "stack of checkers" idea, with a few different colors--white = 1, light blue = 4, dark blue = 16, so you don't have to stack more than half a dozen tiles for most combat ranges.

I'd use a hex grid to make counting the map distance simple. Print out a table so you can look up "distance on the map 8, altitude difference is 4, total range is 9" instead of having to work out square roots in your head.

Storm_Of_Snow
2016-02-19, 04:09 AM
Last game, I just ripped a bit off a post-it note and wrote a height value on it.

Or get some white cardboard, put some sticky back plastic on it, cut it into squares and write the heights of each flyer with a whiteboard marker, so you can rub them off as they change.

As for differences in height, Warhammer 3rd edition used height ranges of +10, +20 etc, and you added the height range to the horizontal range to shoot at anything airborne.

lacco36
2016-02-19, 04:18 AM
An idea for fliers - how about taking a wooden skewer, putting some lines on it to represent different heights and put it into a cork "chip" (small circle) or any kind of holder to hold it vertically? You could then use any kind of sticky paper/rubber band/small flags to move up/down to represent height.

But that's only an idea :smallsmile:

Steampunkette
2016-02-19, 04:20 AM
Generally I use Roll20. So for my height map I just use the Green Bar on a given token and list height, there.

At a glance players can tell if they're close to an enemy's height, and it makes diving and the like really dramatic as the bar drops like HP.

The only problem happens when people stack up multiple characters in the same spot at different heights.