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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back-to-Basics: Eyeballing Distances

One of the most important skills on the table-top which can be easily learned is eyeballing distances. Whilst it generally isn't going to decide games at higher play levels, the difference between newbie and mediocre I feel often revolves around gaming knowledge and being able to accurately judge differences. There are a lot of ways to do this. Let's look at a few.

Edit in: MC Tic Tac has done an awesome job of this before here.

In 40k, pre-measuring is a no-no. In Fantasy, it's the new rage (I hope this doesn't translate to 40k in 6th...). We'll obviously be looking at 40k here then. Now some things allow you to pre-measure (targeters) but more often than not you're going to have to go off your knowledge of the terrain and you're trusty eyeball and visual cortex. So we all know the board is 6' x 4'. Let's whip out some trusty primary school math and geometry and use that Greek dude's theorem for right angel triangles, Pythagosomethingorother (Pythagorean theorem for those of you who hate math). We know the board is 6 feet long and 4 feet wide so our 48" weapons can sit on board edges and fire straight across without having too many issues but when we start shooting at angles...well longer ranges are needed. Let's take a look at this diagram...

Not very elegant but without any measuring we've now got two more measurements and this can be done even further by getting out your tape measure and measuring ranges on a blank board from 12" and 24" in (two standard deployments). What this gives you is some raw numbers to go off of in your head. What this diagram shows us is spearhead deployment puts a lot more range between armies and even 48" guns will have issues reaching out and hitting you or even reaching you from their back corner into the centre of the board. At full length, even 72" guns (as rare as they are) are falling short of hitting the opposite corner but are still quite capable of hitting things in midfield. Let's now take a look at a pitched battle deployment cause I'm nice...

Moving those 12" in on both sides brings the concept of cornering into play as long ranged weapons can deploy forward and still affect midfield. Vehicles with weaker side armor can now be exposed. Still sitting back in your corner is going to limit your impact upon the other side of the board whilst still being able to reach midfield. Again, all of these numbers you can work out for yourself and you should have a rough idea of these numbers before you play a game. This really helps with your deployment and allowing you to see how the battle may unfold (which influences better deployment).

How then does this relate to actual eyeballing distances? Well you've got base measurements. I don't expect many to remember the exact distances from corner to corner and for each deployment, etc. but knowing the rough numbers gives you a reference point. You'll also find a lot of these reference points during the game. Remember, whilst pre-measuring is not allowed, measuring where your unit can go is allowed as you decide where to move your unit. Also during shooting make sure you and your opponent measure the distances even if you know the units are in range. This gives you more numbers to store away and an exact reference point on the map (if you've just been rapid fired, you can assault next turn for example). Once you practice this, you'll also be able to move that 12" range around the board in your head and apply it to other units. Once you practice this you can generally just eyeball it and be accurate to within a couple of inches. This is the point you want to get to as it opens up a lot of doors for you tactically.

For one it makes your army reliable and more efficient. If you misjudge a distance and cannot assault that turn, well your unit is in for a beating next turn. If you misjudge a distance and a unit can't shoot that turn, you've just lost valuable firepower. By remembering designated measurements on the board and finally being able to actually eyeball distances fairly reliably, you will rarely find yourself in situations where these events occur. If you find yourself having trouble with judging distances or these events happening I would recommend remembering those numbers and paying attention to in-game movements and work on eyeballing distances between units, etc. Even if you know they are in range take a guess and see if it can help you improve. Becoming efficient at this will really help your army on the tabletop and make the games go quicker!

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