Monday, August 01, 2022

Miniatures Combat in the SIEGE Engine

 SIEGE Engine games tend to eschew miniatures in favor of a "theatre of the mind" approach. This is, admittedly, a factor of your preferences as a gamer, GM, and designer. One must acknowledge the utility of miniatures as a visual reference, though as a GM and player I (Jason) personally feel that they tend to devolve the game from an exercise in shared storytelling to a board game, moving pieces around and losing the drama. Folks can agree or disagree on that to whatever degree they like; in the end, it all comes down to preference. 

None of this, however, means that you can't do miniatures-based combat with SIEGE Engine games. Everything you need to do so is already inherent in the rules. Let's take a look and see how it breaks down, as well as some rules to simplify movement and tactics in combat. 

As a quick note, these guidelines are just some things I've been playing around with. They should by no means be considered "official" or "core" until they appear in a rulebook! Use, abuse, change, and adapt them as you like. 

909058 © Ivan Josifovic |

The Basics

The basics of using miniatures are already there; most human beings and demihumns can move up to 30 feet per round, or 15 feet and still make an attack or take another action.  

At their most basic level, that's all you need to use miniatures in your game; simply decide on a scale on your tabletop and let it rip. Usually, for the standard 25 or 30mm size miniatures, one inch on the tabletop equates to five feet (or roughly 1.5 meters if you use the metric system). You can use either a tape measure or a grid with one-inch squares or hexes like a battle mat to track movement. 

If you use larger figures like standard sized action figures, you may want to expand the scale on the tabletop, doubling or trebling the numbers so a two- or three-inch square equates to 5 feet; likewise you can reduce the scale for smaller figures. 

438746 © Robert Pernell |

Adding Tactics and Complexities

Many games that utilize miniatures combat get weighed down on tactical options. In the end, it's up to each group to determine how far they want to go with this. In general, a few basics should probably be added in to make the visual reference worthwhile. These include "fly by " attacks, retreats, gang-up attacks, line of sight and cover, difficult terrain, and pass-through fire. 

Before you can add tactics and complications, however, you need a proper map. This can be as simple as sketching out the area on a battle mat or paper; so long as you know where walls, doors, obstacles and the like are, that's all you need. It's important to know, for visual aid reasons, where lines of sight lie, which areas characters might have difficulty moving through, and where they can take cover.

Some GMs and players like to get especially elaborate and build 3-dimensional terrain. This can add a great deal of dynamic fun to your visual aid, but it's also expensive and time-consuming. 

Fly-By Attacks

When you come within five feet (one inch) of another figure on the tabletop, unless that figure is an ally, you must stop to engage them. If you do not and you choose to move past, the enemy gets to make a free melee attack against you as you run by. This is called a "fly by attack." The attack doesn't count against their normal attacks in a round. 

Retreating from Combat

If you are engaged in melee combat with another figure and wish to withdraw, you can move up to 10 feet as a "fighting withdrawal." If you move any more than 10 feet, the opponent gets to make a fly-by attack against you just as though you ran past them. 

Ganging Up

When more than one person attacks a single opponent in melee combat, all attackers get a gang-up bonus of +1 per additional figure past the first. Thus, if four allies attack a single opponent, all get a +3 bonus to their attack rolls, as it is difficult for the opponent to defend aganst all of them. Normally, up to eight figures can attack a single opponent, assuming they can completely surround it. If the figure has its back to a wall, only 5 figures can attack it. If it's in a corner, as few as three figures may be able to attack.

Line of Sight and Cover

You can't attack something you can't see. When determining line of sight, trace a straight line from the center of the attacker's space to the center of the target's space; if the straight line doesn't pass through a wall or other large object, you have line of sight. Otherwise, you can't target the figure or object in question. 

In some cases, the GM may rule that a target is partially visible. Targets that are partially visible or can't be seen at all are considered to have some degree of cover. Cover improves the AC of the target and is deteremined as listed in the various SIEGE Engine core rulebooks.

Targets with full cover cannot be attacked at all. 

In ranged combat, targets who are engaged with other combatants in melee combat gain cover based on how many people they are fighting. If the target is engaging 1-2 opponents, they have 1/4 cover. If they are engaging 3-5 opponents, they have half cover. If they are engaging 6-8 opponents, they have 3/4 cover. 

If you fire into a melee and miss the target based on the AC adjustment provided by cover, you instead strike the cover. This could mean striking an ally instead of your intended target.

Difficult Terrain

Difficult terrain is anything that makes it hard to move, from a rubble-strewn room to moving through a swamp. What constitutes difficult terrain is up to the GM, but if you encounter it, movement is reduced by 50% so long as you remain within the terrain. At the GM's option, a Dexterity save can allow you to move at full speed through the terrain, but failing the save means you fall prone and have to use your movement to get up again. The difficulty modifier for the save is based on how rugged the terrain is, again, at the GM's discretion. 

Difficult terrain can even come into play in otherwise organized areas. Consider a bar. A character in a bar must maneuver around tables and booths, or even leap over the bar to take cover. The GM is within reason to declare the bar difficult terrain due to the number of obstacles in the way. 

Pass-Through Fire

Pass through fire occurs when someone with a ranged weapon is poised to "cover" an area and someone moves through that area. If you use your movement to set up and cover a specific area instead of moving, you may, once per round, make a free shot at anyone who moves through that area, in addition to your normal attacks that round. To take advantage of pass-through fire in an active battle, the target must be within short or medium range of your weapon.

97165377 © Publicdomainphotos |

Zone-Based Movement

Another, more abstracted option for minatures-based combat involves dividing terrain into zones. Many miniatures skirmish-style board games use this option, providing boards that are already divided as such. Otherwise, the GM can create zones however they see fit. Using the bar area above, let's say the bar has a main room downstairs, a secondary dining room, a parking lot area in front, a back lot behind, and a second floor. The GM declares each of these spaces a separate zone. 

Characters in a battle can freely move about within the zone they currently occupy. They can move one zone away and still attack, so long as they have a clear path (a door; a window counts as difficult terrain and requires a full move to accomplish). As a full move they can travel up to 2 zones, but cannot attack. This eliminates the need to track specific inches of movement. 

There you have it: basic tactical miniatures rules for combat in the SIEGE Engine.

Memories from the Office of a Game Publisher – Office Space

Everywhere I look across social media I seem to be encountering two things. Economic news about the pending commercial real estate collapse,...