D&D Miniatures08/09/2007


Know the Terrain
A Primer for the 2007 Championship Maps



The 2007 D&D Miniatures Championships will happen at Gencon Indy 2007 in Indianapolis, IN. Cash prizes of $5,000 are up for grabs, and the winner has an opportunity to work with the Wizards of the Coast R&D department to develop a D&D miniature of their choosing!

Map choice is a very important consideration when designing any warband but especially one for top-flight competition. Top players agree that winning map initiative may be the single most important roll of the game -- that one roll can dramatically swing the balance of a match. It follows, then, that the side initiative roll is critical, too.

To equalize the far-reaching consequences of those dice rolls, map choices for the championship are preset -- each round, everyone will play on the same map. The types and compositions of warbands played at the championships will be shaped heavily by these maps. For the 2007 championships, the maps are:

Round 1 -- Market Square
Round 2 -- Blue Dragon Lair
Round 3 -- Field of Ruin
Round 4 -- Marketplace
Round 5 -- Blue Dragon Lair
Round 6 -- Field of Ruin
Round 7 -- Marketplace
Round 8 -- Blue Dragon Lair
Top 8 -- TBA at the show

Let's look at each map in the order they will appear.

Market Square

Market SquareThe Market Square map comes from D&D Fantastic Locations: City of Peril.

The Market Square map is the smallest of the three maps, measuring 21" x 30". It is one of the most symmetrical maps in play, but its two sides are far from being mirror images, and there's ample variation to keep it interesting.

This is the only map at the Constructed Finals with terrain introduced after the release of the War Drums rulebook -- the Market Square/Stall terrain. The latest DDM Errata/FAQ file has an update on how this terrain works (see Market Square, Market Stall), or check the clarification article.

Important factors for this map --

Start Areas -- Both sides have two large start areas on their edges of the map. This allows for careful positioning of creatures and for multiple large bases. Either start area should be big enough to hold most or all of a warband. It is possible to gain first-round line of sight between portions of the A and B start areas, however, so careful positioning is needed to prevent early strikes.

Victory Areas -- Only two small victory areas are marked near the center of the map, one for each side. They are separated by a large statue and market squares which prevent scouts/wandering monsters from easily accessing the opposite victory area. Both victory areas have many adjacent Market Squares/Stalls providing protection to creatures occupying the victory areas.

Exits -- Both sides have a three-square exit area abutting one of the start areas. It's a good idea not to place any creatures in the start area next to your exit squares if you are concerned about their ability to make morale saves if there is any possibility of a first-round attack targeting your start area.

Main Contact/Combat Area -- The two centrally-located victory areas are where most, if not all, melee will occur for control of those areas.

Blue Dragon Lair

Blue Dragon LairThe Blue Dragon Lair comes from the D&D Icons Gargantuan Blue Dragon set.

The Blue Dragon Lair and the Field of Ruin are both 22" x 34". The extra four inches (4 squares) of length mean that warbands will take slightly longer to reach one another than on the Market Square map. This is a bigger handicap to slow warbands than fast ones. Also of note is that both the Blue Dragon Lair and the Field of Ruin are Epic-legal maps. Epic maps tend to be more open with fewer choke points and generous, three-square-wide pathways.

Despite being very asymmetrical, the Blue Dragon Lair map is surprisingly neutral to both sides.

This map also has the distinction of being the only (announced) map in the 2007 Championships with diagonal walls. The latest Errata/FAQ has an update on how diagonal walls affect charges.

Let's examine some important features of this map --

Start Areas: Both sides have one large start area and one smaller start area. Even more than on the Market Square map, it is possible to gain first-round line of sight between sides A and B. Careful positioning is called for if you need to prevent this.

Victory Areas: The Blue Dragon Lair has three victory areas -- one shared, central area, and two player-specific areas in diagonally opposed corners. Side B has a slight advantage here, but only if it contains incorporeal or burrowing creatures -- from B's smaller setup area, they can reach the shared victory area with only 8 squares of movement. Side A needs 13 squares of movement to pull off the same trick. For creatures that need to go around walls, both sides are about equidistant from the central victory area. This slight advantage is balanced by Side B's exclusive victory area being generally more difficult to reach than Side A's, but it's also less exposed to line-of-sight attacks.

Exits: The exits for both sides are easily accessible from either start area and equally easy to reach from the most likely combat spots. Side A has three exit squares, Side B has four, but the difference is trivial in play.

Main Contact/Combat Areas: The shared victory area in the center of the map is likely to be the scene for the majority of combat. Depending on points and victory area control, however, it is possible for combat to shift toward either of the non-shared victory areas.

Field of Ruin

The Field of Ruin map comes from the War Drums Starter Set.

As noted above, Field of Ruin and the Blue Dragon Lair are the same size -- 22" x 34" -- which makes them larger than the Market Square map. This map will be played on only twice during the tournament, compared to three times for each of the other two maps. In terms of symmetry, Field of Ruin falls somewhere between the Market Square map and the Blue Dragon Lair.

Some players find it hard to tell where this map's wall squares start and end, because the grid lines tend to blend into the map's base art. The latest Errata/FAQ includes a small copy of the map that clearly outlines which squares are wall squares and which ones are not (see Field of Ruin).

Field of RuinHere are important factors for the Field of Ruin --

Start Areas: Both sides have one large and one small start area. It is possible to gain first-round line of sight between sides A and B, but of the three maps in play, this one is the easiest on which to prevent that from occurring. Both of side A's setup areas contain difficult terrain, and this can make it more difficult to move creatures out of those start areas. As usual, Large creatures are the most vulnerable to this.

Victory Areas: This map has the most victory areas of the tournament maps -- no less than five. Besides a central, shared victory area, each side has a large victory area located near the opponent's main start area and a smaller victory area near the opponent's secondary start area. Creatures with the Scout ability have many setup choices on the Field of Ruin.

Exits: The exits are centrally located on each side of the map and six squares wide.

Main Contact/Combat Areas: The shared victory area in the center of the field is likely to be the site of most of the combat. It is possible, however, to move around the walls of the central area and strike it from front and rear. Because of this possibility, combat to either flank of the shared victory area is also frequently seen. The passages to the sides are cut off from the central victory area, so it's almost impossible for figures engaged in one area to support allies engaged in the other. The side-specific victory areas are so exposed to the opponent's start areas that they are rarely used.

Top 8 Maps

The top eight players from the Swiss rounds will advance to the final three, single-elimination rounds. The maps for the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final will be announced at the tournament. Will any of these be all-new maps, or will they be previously published maps? Perhaps the map from the upcoming Legend of Drizzt Scenario Pack will make an appearance. Those who show up will know first!

Final Thoughts

One common feature of all three maps hasn't been discussed yet, and it's crucial -- the absence of forest terrain on all of these maps. Maps with forest terrain tend to favor warbands that rely on mobility (e.g., those with plentiful ranged attacks, area-effect spells, and flying creatures). The maps chosen for the championship favor warbands that can get into melee and slug it out rather than warbands that rely on finesse, delicate maneuver, and keeping away from the opponent. This is not to state that warbands based on those tactics cannot succeed, rather that they will have a hard time preventing themselves from being based and pinned down by melee-oriented warbands.

The current popularity of the Large Shadow Dragon shapes the style of warbands currently being played. The ability of Market Squares/Stalls to block line of sight and line of effect appear at first to be useful defenses against them. The Shadow Dragon's special ability of Hide and its high mobility, however, go a long way toward negating that apparent advantage. Furthermore, on all three maps, it is impossible to prevent a Large Shadow Dragon from using its Shadow Jump ability to jump in and breathe its cone attack into an opponent's start area on the first round. Expect the Large Shadow Dragon to shape the types and compositions of warbands in the 2007 D&D Miniatures Championships.

Map initiative is crucial. It's one of the best reasons for shelling out the points to put a high-rated commander in your warband. With predetermined maps, however, the need for a high commander rating diminishes somewhat. Warbands can be built around a slightly lower-than-average commander rating without risking everything on a bad setup initiative roll.

About the Author

Jason Sallay lives in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) with his wife Carolyn and two young boys. He first started playing D&D in 1987 and hasn't stopped since. He works in the IT industry in desktop support. Jason originally started collecting D&D Miniatures for his tabletop game and then began playing the D&D Miniatures game "to get more use out of them."

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