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Normal Distribution – Lines of Fire Part II: I Can See You From Here

There is actually quite a bit to cover this week. First up, there are links at the end of the article to the latest Player’s Guide. Once again, there is a Restricted and Unrestricted version so that you can keep your documentation as current (and low page count) as you wish. For those not familiar with how these documents are set up, a brief run down. The Unrestricted version is the most complete guide to playing Heroclix available. It contains every errata and clarification that is deemed necessary for understanding the game outside the rulebook itself. The Guide is divided into two major parts. The first part covers the rulings and updates themselves. Very little text is duplicated from the original materials (like the Powers and Abilities card, Feat cards, character cards, etc.). The original goal with the guide was to have a “one stop shop” for any Heroclix material you needed to look up. That’s where part two comes in – it contains the most accurate updated version of any game element text. If nothing has been changed (or updated with a new release of a card), it’s there just like it appears on the game element. If there has been a change, then it is included in what you see. You could print out just Part 1 and have everything you need to understand all the nuances. Part 2 is about having the most current wording available in an easy-to-find layout.

The Restricted version is just an edited copy of the Unrestricted version. Since the Unrestricted version contains a lot of information about retired elements, the Restricted version is our attempt to provide a slightly smaller document for players that only want to focus on the most current releases. The Restricted version is made up of 2 parts that map to the same parts in the Unrestricted version. In fact, if you search for the dagger symbol (†) in the Unrestricted version, you will find all of the retired elements that have been removed from the Restricted version.

Finally, you will notice that some text is in red – some underlined and other crossed out. The underlined text is material that has been added into the Guide from last month. Text that is crossed out is material that has been removed since last month. In the next Guide, the crossed out material will be gone and the underlined material will appear like normal text.

ELEVATED LINES OF FIRE

Enough about documentation; let’s get into this week’s lesson. Last week we talked about some easy ways of finding the midpoint between 2 figures and how that can make determining a clear line of fire easier. This week we are going to focus on lines of fire and elevated terrain. Throughout most of this article, I’m going to talk about drawing a line of fire from an elevated character to a grounded character. That’s just to make the discussion easier. Lines of fire are reciprocal – which means if there’s a line of fire from character X to character Y then there is also a line of fire from character Y to character X. Now, it’s true that the powers/abilities of one may block the line of fire to the other, but for our purposes here, we’re just trying to learn the squares the lines of fire travel through. Powers and abilities affecting that line of fire would be a different lesson.

Elevated Lines of Fire Core Concept – When drawing a line of fire between an elevated and grounded character, the only single square of elevated terrain that the line of fire can travel through is the one the elevated character occupies.

From the square Ultron occupies, he is able to draw a line of fire to Captain America. The only elevated square the line of fire goes through is Ultron’s. In order to draw a line of fire to Sentry, notice how the line of fire passes through the square with the red dot in it. That is a square of elevated terrain and it is not the one Ultron occupies, so the line of fire is blocked. If you want to be sure it crosses that square, finding the midpoint makes it pretty clear that some part of that line must cross the elevated square.

Since no one complained too much about last week’s math, I’m going to bring a little bit of math into this lesson, too. There are two important 45 degree angles at work here to help you visualize where Ultron can draw a line of fire to.

Look carefully at the diagram above. As Ultron’s lines of fire extend along the perfect diagonals away from his square, everything inside those 2 lines are squares he has the potential to draw a line of fire to (terrain will play a factor to this). Anything outside the “cone” is going to cross one of the elevated squares Ultron does not occupy and therefore would be blocked.

Most of the time someone asks for help checking a line of fire between a grounded figure and an elevated figure, it is something that visualizing this “cone of fire” allows me to do with just a glance. And the big percentage of those checks are not checking the line of fire from the elevated character to the grounded character. Most people remember to “check the diagonal” when checking the line of fire in that direction. It’s when they are going from the grounded to elevated character that they seem to lose this focus. That’s where the rule about reciprocal lines of fire comes in. If you’re going from grounded to elevated and you’re not sure if the line of fire is clear, reverse it and check the line of fire from the elevated to the grounded character. If it’s clear, then the original line is clear as well.

LINES OF FIRE BETWEEN ELEVATED AND GROUNDED

There are four kinds of game elements that can affect your line of fire. Remember that we are specifically talking about lines of fire between an elevated character and a grounded character. All of these things can behave differently if the line of fire is between 2 characters at the same elevation.

1 – damage-standard characters – if the line to your target crosses a square with a damage-standard character in it, it remains clear. These characters do not block an elevated/grounded line of fire.
2 – damage-giant character – if the line to your target crosses a square with a damage-giant character in it, it is blocked. These characters block an elevated/grounded line of fire.
3 – Blocking terrain (this includes walls and other sections of elevated terrain) – if the line to your target crosses blocking terrain, it is blocked.
4 – Hindering terrain – I left this one for last since it is the one game element with an exception. Generally speaking, hindering terrain does not affect the elevated/grounded line of fire. However, if the target (not the attacker) is occupying hindering terrain, then it DOES affect the line of fire.

LINES OF FIRE AT THE SAME ELEVATION

Grounded lines of fire (i.e., a line of fire between two grounded characters) are straightforward. Every square with terrain in it affects the line of fire normally. Hindering terrain causes the opposing character to get a defense bonus, blocking terrain prevents the line of fire, and characters and elevated terrain both block the line of fire.

A line of fire between 2 elevated characters is also straightforward. If the line of fire is exclusively elevated (meaning it doesn’t cross over any grounded squares), then it behaves just like a grounded line of fire – all the effects in between the attacker and the target influence the line of fire normally. When the line of fire between two elevated characters is going over grounded terrain, any terrain in those squares do not influence the line of fire. Grounded hindering terrain does not provide a bonus to the target and grounded blocking terrain (including barriers) does not block the line of fire. Even most characters do not affect the line of fire. The only things that can affect the line of fire between elevated characters from a grounded position are damage-giant characters – if the line of fire crosses one of these, then it is blocked. Take a look at this scenario:

Ultron seems to have a lot of targets from his current position, but let’s look at them one at a time.

1 – Thor – the line of fire to Thor is blocked. Both figures are elevated and there is a square of elevated blocking terrain between them.

2 – Giant-Man – this line of fire allows for the attack to be made. We’re going to talk about Giants some more below, and we’ll follow up on this line of fire then.

3 – Sentry – Ultron can not draw a line of fire to Sentry as Giant-Man blocks it. A grounded damage-standard figure would not prevent the line of fire between these two elevated characters, but since Giant-Man is, well, a Giant, the line of fire is blocked.

4 – Captain America – This line of fire is clear. Although the line of fire crosses hindering and blocking terrain, all of those squares are grounded, so they do not affect the line of fire. Giant-Man is not in the line of fire nor is the elevated blocking terrain near Thor (I’ve put a small x on the map to pinpoint the midpoint of this line so you can see how these squares do not get crossed).

GIANT LINES OF FIRE

Since we bring up Giants, it’s worth it to talk a little bit about how lines of fire with them behave… a bit differently. As much confusion that there is about them, I think you’ll find it’s a lot easier once you review it in one fell swoop. There are 2 key rules in the Giant Size ability, both quoted below.

Characters with the Damage_Blue symbol do not block lines of fire to or from this character. This character and a character on elevated terrain draw line of fire and make ranged combat attacks against each other as if they were both elevated, but terrain effects still apply normally.

The first rule (in blue) is simple and it applies to all lines of fire – grounded to grounded, grounded to elevated, or elevated to elevated. If there is a damage-standard character along the path of the line of fire, that character does not block the line of fire. It’s like they aren’t there.

The second rule (in green) is the one that has generated questions in the past. First, let’s explain when to use this rule. If the Giant is elevated and the other character is elevated, this rule does not matter. They will already be drawing lines of fire to each other as if they were both elevated. If the Giant was grounded and the other character was grounded, this rule wouldn’t matter as neither character was on elevated terrain. And the last “it doesn’t matter” scenario is when the Giant is elevated and the other character is grounded – as again, the giant would be treated elevated regardless.

It is only when there is an elevated character drawing a line of fire to the grounded Giant that his rule has an effect. It grants the line of fire to act as if the Giant were actually elevated instead of grounded. Practically speaking, what does this mean? Let’s look at the same list of things that could impact the line of fire between an elevated and a grounded character:

1 – damage-standard characters – Nothing really changes here. These characters were going to be ignored anyway.
2 – damage-giant character – Nothing changes here either. These characters were going to block the line of fire before and they are going to do so now.
3 – Blocking terrain – Here is where the Giant Size ability comes into play. Normally drawing a line of fire from elevated to grounded through one of these squares would be blocked. But when you draw that line of fire from an elevated character to another elevated character, it would be clear. With a Giant Size character, since you treat them as elevated, blocking terrain does not affect the line of fire, even though the Giant is grounded.
4 – Hindering terrain – Nothing changes with this. Normally the hindering terrain does not affect the line of fire and again here, it does not affect the line of fire. It is probably important to point out that the other part of this, regarding a character occupying hindering terrain, also does not change. A Giant that occupies hindering terrain still gets a bonus for his defense.

Remember that line of fire Ultron drew to Giant-Man? Well, now you understand why it was good to go. The grounded blocking terrain does not affect the line of fire between the elevated Ultron and the Giant-Man who has the line of fire drawn to him as if he were elevated. It is worth pointing out, though, that since he is standing in hindering terrain, he still gets a +1 to his defense if Ultron decides to attack him.

There is a fifth type – the damage-colossal characters – but those are few and far between and we can cover those next week in a short wrap-up.

WRAP UP

I’m hopeful that this week’s article helps people understand the rules for line of fire, especially how they interact with different elevations and Giants. But if the last few days of response has demonstrated anything, it’s that we can make things easier for people by providing a good reference tool. Take a look at the Line of Fire Assistant PDF.

To use this chart, determine the elevation and damage type of the two characters involved in the line of fire. Find the row that has these 2 types of characters. Next, Check the types of terrain and characters in between (remember elevation is important) that fall on your line of fire. The table tells you how to treat each of those squares for line of fire purposes. Remember the line follows the “worst case”, so even if there are 6 squares of clear terrain between the 2 characters, it only takes 1 square of blocking to prevent the line of fire.

CHALLENGE #2 SOLUTION

Given what we’ve discussed, let’s take a look at last week’s challenge. The target that generated the most discussion was Fenris Wolf. As a double-base figure, Thor can try to draw a line of fire to either square. However, when you look at those lines of fire, you can see that the midpoint of each line crosses the square of elevated blocking terrain.

Fenris Wolf is a damage-giant figure, so when Thor draws a line of fire to him, you treat Fenris Wolf as elevated. Is a line of fire between two elevated characters blocked by elevated terrain? It certainly is. So Fenris Wolf is not a legal target.

As for our other targets, in the image below, green lines indicate clear lines of fire and red lines stop at the point where they get blocked.

The Fire Demon is a grounded character and there is grounded blocking terrain between him and Thor. That blocking terrain prevents Thor from drawing that line of fire.

Surtur is a giant, so while the grounded blocking terrain is also between him and Thor, the special rules for Giants come into play and Thor draws the line of fire as if he and Surtur were both elevated. An elevated to elevated line of fire is not blocked by grounded blocking terrain, so Thor is good to go targeting Surtur.

The Rock Troll is occupying hindering terrain so while Thor can easily draw a line of fire to him, the Rock Troll will get a bump to his defense because of his location.

Finally, the grounded Hand Ninja who though he was so smart didn’t realize that Thor’s line of fire from elevated terrain isn’t affected by grounded hindering terrain unless he occupies the square. So Hand Ninja’s Stealth doesn’t activate and Thor can target him as well.

CHALLENGE #3

This week, poor Iron Man is facing off against the hordes of Asgard. Iron Man is on his starting click with Speed: 10/Running Shot, Attack:11/Energy Explosion, Defense:18/Invulnerability and Damage:4/Extremis (Iron Man can use Outwit and Perplex. When Iron Man is not using Outwit, he can use Super Senses). All of the opposing figures are on their starting clicks as well, conveniently standing in alphabetical order: (back row) Enchantress, Fire Demon, Hela, Karnilla, Loki, (front row) Malekith, Rock Troll, and Valkyrie. Iron Man’s first instinct was to perplex up his damage to 5 and take a shot at Loki, who is the highest point character on the board. But an attack is available for significantly more damage.

The challenge for this week is to enable Iron Man to make an attack that is most likely to cause the most amount of damage to be taken. What should Iron Man do this turn? Hint: He may be making more than one action.

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