Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Talk About Flanking Fire

French Line Of Infantry, lathander1987
As I said in my last post, I think that going forward we should concentrate less on the how of moving infantry around, and more on the why. The complexity in the game should biased towards tactical positioning, instead of how slowed you are by terrain-type X.

By doing that, I also think that we can now reconsider an idea that Eriochrome had been suggesting, but that I had avoided due to fears of over-complexity. That of Flanking Fire. Or, as the more studious military types would say: Enfilading Fire.

The definition of Enfilade is pretty simple. From Wikipedia:
"A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis.[2] For instance, a trench is enfiladed if the opponent can fire down the length of the trench. A column of marching troops is enfiladed if fired on from the front or rear such that the projectiles travel the length of the column. A rank or line of advancing troops is enfiladed if fired on from the side (from the flank)."
That's a fancy way of saying "firing down the enemy unit's length". Basically if you can fire down the length of an enemy unit, you'll hit targets more easily because they'll overlap more and you don't have to swivel your weapons around as much.

Let's illustrate this idea with some pictures:

A line of infantry. Pretty standard. Maybe they're behind some cover, maybe not.

In tactical terms, they're going to be far more comfortable shooting a 'broadside' at foes approaching from the sides of the line. Either front or back. Which means that they like the enemy to be in their front 90º arc.

Like this Paladin.  He's approaching square-on to the line, which is what the green squad prefers. Because it lets each squad member see and shoot him.

But if the red minigun Knight moves over a bit, he'll get someplace that the green squad doesn't like. Which is closer to it's long axis. Or their side 90º arc.

It's the same if they're trying to advance quickly in a line around some terrain, but an enemy unit steps in front of them. Game over guys. That Paladin can now maximize his firepower and take out a lot more men!

So it would be a lot more safe for the green squad to move in a broad line towards the enemy. If there's terrain in the way, that's slower (because they can't move At The Double), but you gotta do what you gotta do. :)

Here the green squad has the red squad of Guard where they want them. But the Paladin is in Enfilade. Good thing he can't see the whole squad!

Just like in real combat, you can protect yourself from flanking by having another squad cover you at an angle. If the enemy engages one squad, the other will automatically have them in Enfilade. If you ever wondered what a 'Crossfire' is, this it it.

This principle is why all those old forts from the 1700's and 1800's have their walls laid out in a Star Formation. Want to assault one wall? Ok, we'll then fire down your line and massacre you from the other.

So What Should Being In Enfilade Do?

Let's consider this example:

Here, the green squad is engaged with 3 units, which represent the 3 levels of being (or not being) in Enfilade that I think is workable.
  1. The Red Knights (right) are directly in front of the green unit, and thus are not in Enfilade.
  2. The Paladin (middle) is in Enfilade, but is not directly looking down the line of the green unit.
  3. The Red Guard (left) are intersected by a line running through the long axis of the green unit.
Each of these positions is a progressively worse place for an enemy to be. The naval term for the 3rd position is "Crossing The T", and I'm going to use that term to differentiate between simply being on the flank (in Enfilade), and looking directly down the line.

I would formally define "Crossing The T" as having a line drawn through the long axis of the unit intersect any part of your unit. If you're a single-model unit, you have to be sitting on the line to be considered to be CtT.

So here's what I'm thinking.
  1. If you're not in Enfilade, you shoot as normal.
  2. If you are in Enfilade, then you get to re-roll your misses (50% more average hits).
  3. If you're Crossing the enemy's T, then you get double shots (100% more average hits).
Now, we could also have disadvantages to getting caught in an Enfilade. Shooting to your flank isn't easy, and we could do a mirror of the attacker bonuses. So if an enemy has enfiladed you, re-roll your hits when shooting at them. If they cross your T, then you fire as if moving at them. If you're already moving? No firing at all. Note that this isn't for all units you fire at, just ones on your flank. You could still fire normally at units who aren't Enfilading you.

Potential Benefits To The Game

In terms of potential benefits to the game, having Enfilade rules does quite a few things:

  1. It's a pretty unique and tactical mechanic.
  2. We would no longer need a 'penalty', either in terms of a to-hit modifier, or a 'snap fire' reaction for units moving At The Double. Because moving ATD means that you can't cross most terrain. Which will naturally bunch you up in a line pointed across the table. Let your enemy cross that line, and you're in trouble without any extra rules being needed.
  3. Moving ATD then becomes very good for moving laterally, but bad for moving towards the enemy.
  4. It makes the formation of your squad just as important as it's location.
  5. It makes our old bubble-movement idea (move leader, fill in around him freely) for swarms (choose leader at beginning of move) more interesting. As you'd have to choose between a formation that gets you extra movement next turn by throwing more models forward, or one that protects you by spreading out laterally.
  6. Table Corners become VERY important. Deploy diagonally across one and you're un-flankable.
  7. Taking objectives in the corners then becomes a very different can of worms than taking objectives in the middle of the table.
Potential Problems/Issues

The biggest problem is how do players accurately judge whether a unit is in Enfilade without a bunch of arguing.

The square artillery template from Flames of War works fine for working out the angles. But most 40K players won't have one. You can draw lines on standard GW blast templates like I have, but that's an extra step that new players would have to do for themselves.

There's other stuff you can use, like Chessex dice-pack lids, or GW fantasy bases, that are square. You could even use dice, though single dice are a bit small to try and match angles with. Most also come with rounded corners. So you'd have to put a bunch of them together to make a square large enough to see clearly and line up a tape measure with.

And even if you have a template, you'd also have to agree on what the 'center' of a unit is. So there's another potential for arguments. Flames has a similar requirement for pointing the artillery template back at the 'center' of a firing unit though, and I've never had any real arguments over that. So maybe it won't be an issue.


As far as gaming the system, you could bunch up and make it more difficult to see which side of a unit is longer.

Or just go with a perfectly squad formation and say 'Eff You!".

But we can solve that in 2 ways.
  1. By Having Grenade Rules (blasts suck for bunched-up units)
  2. By saying that if your unit formation isn't at least 2x wider than it is long, everyone is in Enfilade that shoots at you. :)

Then there's the issue of single models. Do we let them get Enfiladed?

I'm tempted to say that single models should have the last direction that they shot marked. Either with a die, or with (as above) some sort of token. That then establishes a 'front' until you fire again. If you don't fire, then you don't get a marker and you can't be Enfiladed.

Thoughts? Poke holes in this guys!

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