The Drow Outpost map has been available for over two years. Every tournament-legal map that has been released shapes the types of warbands built and how they are played, and the Drow Outpost is no exception.
Originally released in Dragon Magazine #337 in November 2005, this map quickly gained the distinction of being the hardest tournament-legal map to acquire. All other tournament-legal maps are available for purchase in the D&D Miniatures Game Starter Set (War Drums), one of the Fantastic Locations sets, or in one of the D&D Icons sets.
When a new D&D Miniatures expansion is released, the retailer kits distributed to stores that month contain a poster displaying all the creatures in that set. In the July 2007 retailer kit, the Drow Outpost map was printed on the reverse side of the Night Below poster. This made the poster for Night Below the most sought-after set poster ever.
D&D Worldwide Game Day is an annual event celebrating Dungeons & Dragons. In November 2007, the map for the role-playing portion of the event also included a copy of Drow Outpost on the reverse side. Each venue received five copies of the map, and with nearly 1,400 locations worldwide, that means nearly 7,000 copies were distributed. Despite the volume being released and the number of different methods of distribution, this map can still be difficult to acquire, especially outside North America.
So how important is this map? Is it worthwhile to own? One important factor in competitive play is practice. A player using Drow Outpost may gain a slight advantage over an opponent if that opponent hasn't had much experience playing on this map.
Do people use Drow Outpost? Consider the Grinder for the 2007 D&D Miniatures Championships as an example. The Grinder is the 'last chance' tournament at GenCon to qualify for entry into the Miniatures Championships. This is an open event, meaning anyone can play. The Grinder is without a doubt the most competitive tournament in which to play short of the Finals.
In 2007, 50 players took part in the Grinder. The top three maps by use were:
Hellspike Grotto (8 Players)
Obviously, Drow Outpost is one of the most popular and competitive maps.
The Start Areas for Sides A and B are in diagonally opposite corners of the map. Each side has only a single Start Area.
Both sides have plusses and minuses, but Start Area A has one significant advantage -- it is possible for a creature to gain line of sight to a portion of Start Area B on the first round. A Medium-sized or smaller (single-square) creature with speed 6 can get line of sight in a single move, leaving it free to launch a spell, special ability, or ranged attack in the same round. If the opponent doesn't see this coming or sets up his pieces carelessly, that can allow a telling first strike. Creatures can be positioned toward the far corner of Start Area B to avoid this, but doing so places them further from the victory areas and almost guarantees that Side A will grab an early VP lead. Without superior speed, it is difficult for creatures in Start Area B to contest the middle of the board on round 1.
(Pit squares are outlined in the illustration for clarity.)
Each side has one victory area of its own plus a shared victory area bridging the chasm in the center of the map. The individual victory areas are, of course, farther from the start areas and more difficult to reach than the shared, central victory area. Side B's victory area is slightly easier to reach than Side A's, and Side B can gain line of sight to the shared victory area easier than Side A can.
Both individual victory areas are within easy striking distance of the opponent's start area and vulnerable to ranged attacks on round 1 or melee attacks on round 2. This reduces the usefulness of creatures with Scout, Wandering Monster, and similar abilities. Having only three victory areas further reduces the effectiveness of the Scout ability, because Wandering Monsters compete with Scouts for limited placement space.
The central, shared victory area is a significant choke point. The majority of combat takes place here. A single Large creature can block creatures without additional movement options (such as flying, shadow jumping, teleporting, etc.) and prevent them from entering the victory area. As a result, this map favors warbands with a Large titan creature that can block the bridge while benefiting from ranged support. Multiple flying, mid-cost attackers can also do well on this map because of the ease with which they criss-cross the central chasm to attack and evade. A warband that features multiple non-flying melee threats, especially Large-sized ones, is often at a disadvantage on this map.
Although normal movement is restricted through the center of the map, lines of sight are not. Creatures occupying the central victory area are exposed to ranged attacks, spells, and special abilities from all directions. Blockers and ranged attackers of your own can help in that regard.
It is worth noting that a Medium-sized (or smaller) creature spends 13 squares of movement to reach the central victory area from either start area. A Large creature needs to move 15 from Start Area A or 14 from Start Area B to reach the central victory area.
The upcoming rules revision introduces small but significant changes in movement costs. From start area A the costs remain unchanged. On Side B, creatures up to Large size can reach the central victory area with just 12 squares of movement. This means that for Side B, any creatures with speed 6 can reach the victory area in one turn, something that Side A cannot do. The tradeoff for easier movement is increased exposure in Start Area B, as mentioned previously.
Exit Areas, Routing, and Rallying
The Exit Area for each side is located close to its start area, near the center of the short edges of the map. Given the ease of obtaining early-game line of sight against Start Area B, there is a distinct possibility that some of Side B's creatures could rout off the map before they have even activated.
Assuming that Side B avoids that humiliation, the majority of combat takes place around the central victory area. Most creatures need two rounds to rout off the map from near the center. Side B has a slight advantage here because its exit squares are within line of sight from the central victory area, meaning it's likely that a routing creature will stay within sight of its commander and get at least one chance to rally. Not so for Side A; routing creatures can disappear behind intervening walls, making them difficult or impossible to rally. The vague bright spot in that situation is that the central victory area is 15 squares from Exit A but only 14 from Exit B, meaning that player A might have a shot at rallying a high-speed creature that would get off the map in one round if it were headed for Exit B.
Obviously, with the removal of the Morale, Routing, and Rallying rules from the revised rulebook, these considerations are not a factor. When playing under DDM1 rules, however, it pays to pay attention to these factors.
Pits are a major feature of this map. They control the flow of combat and divide the map nearly in half. The hotly contested central victory area is adjacent to Pit squares, making creatures with the ability to push, pull, or slide other creatures extremely valuable on this map. The save to avoid falling into a pit is only DC 15, so the risk is low, but it's still a danger. Even a small risk of losing a high-cost piece to a single bad roll gives a player the shudders.
In DDM2, there is no longer a 'save' to avoid falling into a pit. When a defending creature is moved onto a pit square as the result of an attack, the attacking creature makes a second attack roll (using the attack that moved the target). If the attacker hits again, the defending creature plummets to its doom and is eliminated. This change means that when positioning near pits, you must weigh the odds carefully when facing creatures that can push, pull, slide or otherwise move your creatures. Creatures with low AC or Defense are more vulnerable to these types of attacks.
Because of the pits, creatures with the ability to fly or teleport are very useful on this map. That's especially true for Side B, because its creatures can reach their individual victory area much more quickly by crossing the pit than by going around. Being able to skirt the central choke point and strike into your opponent's backfield can also be a valuable option.
All in all, even though the Drow Outpost map can be difficult to acquire, it will, no doubt, remain a popular battlemat well into the future.
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