In this instalment of the system behind Combat Patrol I will look at the line of sight rules. The development of the line of sight rules for Combat Patrol went through many versions before the final system currently used was settled upon. The issue with a game at this scale is that you want to eliminate ambiguities but still have a system that allows individual soldiers to peek around corners, hide in doorways and generally use the terrain to its utmost.

A few systems were tried and dismissed as they could not completely capture the nuances of man-to-man combat. An exploration of the various systems tried will give you an insight into how the game ended up and what the design intention was. I need to stress that this is not a criticism of the different systems per se, just how they relate to Combat Patrol.

Centre hex dot – this is a well established system that is relatively quick and easy to use. Although this system did work initially as the game was developed additional rules kept needed to be added to cover specific situations, a by product of having so few line of sight routes. In the end the system was too limited to reflect the scale of the game board too many special rules were needed.

In the example below Sgt. Davis is at a hex adjacent to a window but the line of sight between him and Pvt. Holtz crosses a wall. The game needed a soldier at a window to be able to look out and realistically view the terrain outside. Various rules can achieve this but as the game developed they became too numerous and complex.

Next we tried allowing line of sight to be traced from anywhere in a hex to anywhere in the target hex. This system was more flexible than the centre hex area but caused too many problems with determining the cover status of the sighting and target soldier.

Below a line of sight from anywhere in Pvt. Gott’s hex to anywhere in Sgt. Davis’ hex can be traced easily. However what cover the soldiers are using is more difficult to ascertain. Is Sgt. Davis standing in the open or using the corner of the wall as cover. Also what cover is Pvt. Gott using, is he in the open, partially concealed behind the corner, or completely concealed by the corner? The game ended up with far too many exception rules and so this system was shelved.

It was clear by now that even with a hex scale of 2-3m determining exactly where the sighting and target soldier were within the hex was important. This led to looking at the hex vertices to provide more specific points of reference. Using a single hex vertex would provide no benefits over using a centre hex dot and so I started to look at using two vertices. After many different attempts the system has settled on the use of two hex vertices as sighting points, this effectively divides a hex into six distinct areas and allows a more exact placement of a soldier within a hex. Sighting points are the two vertices that a soldier’s counter is facing.

Combining sighting points with a soldier’s field of vision forms the basic line of sight system in Combat Patrol.

Revisiting the first example above. It is now clear that Sgt. Davis can see Pvt. Holtz (and vice versa as line of sight is reciprocal, as long as the target soldier is in their field of vision.)

You will also notice that Sgt. Davis’ sighting points are red. This indicates that Sgt. Davis can claim the cover for the window. Pvt. Holtz in the above example is taking a very risky move, if he or one of his comrades could get a decent shot at Sgt. Davis they might get him to flip to his defensive stance. In a defensive stance soldiers have no line of sight pass objects such as windows, doors and walls, effectively he is keeping his head down.

Revisiting the second example the situation is also clearer.

Pvt. Gott has a red sighting point therefore can use the corner as cover. Davis has only white sighting points therefore he can not use the cover of the building.

Now unless Sgt Davis was taken by surprise by Gott he should have taken up a more advantageous position. For instance if he changed facing he also could have claimed corner cover.

That brings me to the end of the Combat Patrol basic line of sight example – there is of course much more such as stone walls, doorways, upper stories, ditches, trees etc….
The line of sight rules were without doubt the hardest part of the design process and took some 18 months to two years to get right – I am pretty pleased with them. The system allows no ambiguity during play and resolves checking line of sight quickly whilst still giving each individual soldier the options to use the terrain as they wish in a realistic manner.

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Comment by Peter Perla on August 15, 2008 at 8:12pm

Very interesting discussion and clever solution. I will be looking for opportunities to steal it!

Comment by Dave Murray on August 11, 2008 at 1:04pm
An apology for anyone I haven't responded to yet. My blog post about LOS generated quite of lot of email questions. I think I replied to most of them but then my inbox crashed - if there is anyone who has not recieved a reply from me yet please post to me again and I will reply as soon as possible. Thanks.

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