The 2008 Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Constructed Championship will be held at Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 16th and 17th, with $5,000 in cash prizes at stake! Check the Fact Sheet for full details.
Before tackling a highly competitive event like the Championships, it's good to be familiar with the latest Errata, FAQ, and Clarifications as well as all the relevant DCI tournament documents. The new DDM Oracle is another excellent resource.
Winning the roll for map choice has always been crucial. In the latest iteration of the Miniatures Battle Rules, the impact is slightly less, but it's still important. The player with the higher champion rating rolls two d20s instead of both players adding fixed numbers to their rolls, so a good champion makes a big difference. The player who loses the map roll chooses which side to setup on, instead of rolling again, so you'll always have some control over the battlefield.
In the Championships, however, there's no randomness in map selection, only in which sides the players set up on. The maps for the Constructed Championships are fixed for each round as follows:
Round 1: Dwarven Outpost
Round 2: Jungle Temple
Round 3: Flooded Ruins
Round 4: Dwarven Outpost
Round 5: Jungle Temple
Round 6: Flooded Ruins
Round 7: Dwarven Outpost
Round 8: Jungle Temple
Top 4: For the Semi-Finals and Finals, the higher-ranked player either chooses which of the above three battle maps to use and gives choice of map side to the opponent, OR gives map choice to the opponent and keeps the choice of side for himself.
General Battle Map Comments
These maps are all found in the Dungeons of Dread Starter Set, so they're widely available. Everyone should have plenty of opportunity to practice on these maps before the Championships.
All three of the battle maps are 22 squares wide by 34 squares long (22" x 34"). They are larger than the maps from the Fantastic Locations map packs (21" x 30"), which were prevalent in previous competitions. The larger size makes a difference in movement. Creatures need to move an extra square or two before coming into contact with enemies. In some cases, a creature's first attack will be delayed by a round because of this extra distance. With all three battle maps for the Constructed Championships being of the larger size, creature speed could be slightly more important than normal.
New Terrain Feature: River
Two of the three selected battle maps have River terrain on them, and not just a few squares. This terrain strongly shapes how those battle maps are played.
The rule for river terrain printed on the maps is straightforward: "River squares are difficult terrain for non-Aquatic creatures." This seems simple enough, but it has important implications. For example, per the FAQ, creatures may not shift into difficult terrain. River squares are difficult terrain for non-Aquatic creatures but clear terrain for Aquatic creatures, meaning Aquatic creatures may shift while in River squares, but non-Aquatic creatures may not.
Being able to shift is important. Aquatic, Burrow, Flight, and Phasing type abilities become more useful on maps with River terrain, so expect to see more of those creatures in the Championships.
Wandering Monsters and Scouts
The majority of victory areas on these three maps are very exposed to opposing start areas. Creatures with the Wandering Monster ability are likely to come under heavy attack on the first round of the game if they set up in these exposed areas. Their chances of accomplishing a task or even surviving are not good. Creatures with the Scout ability are still useful, but there will be occasions when it's best to set them up in your base areas instead of a victory area.
This map features River, Walls, and Difficult terrain.
River: The majority of this map's River squares are on Side A's half of the map. The opposing forces are likely to meet at the river, because side A's creatures will be slowed by it while side B's will not (at least until they reach it). That means the fight will occur either in the river or on or near the bridge. The map's one shared victory area is in the river, placing it well on Side A's half of the map. This can work in side A's favor if that warband includes some creatures that can take advantage of it.
Walls: The walls are clearly laid out on this map with only a few thin walls lining the edges. There are several diagonal walls, again mostly on Side A's half of the map, so that the walls interfere with the movement of Large creatures less than might be expected. According to the FAQ, the arrow slits for on Side B's half of the map are just for appearances. Then can't be used for establishing Line of Sight.
Start Areas: Both sides have two medium-sized start areas that are 3 squares deep by 5 squares wide on their short edges of the map. Because of the size, no more than three large creatures can set up in any one start area.
Careful setup is essential on this map, because a line of sight exists between two of the start areas! On the long side of the map nearest the bridge, it is possible for Side A's and Side B's creatures to set up with LoS to each other. Check your opponents' creatures for Range Sight attacks and powers if you want to start in either of these start areas!
Victory Areas: This map has three victory areas, one for each side and one shared. Both the shared victory area and Side B's victory area are located in or near the River squares and close to Side A's start area. Wandering Monsters and Scouts can be useful on this map, but there is a risk that any creature placed in the shared victory area is easily reachable by Side A for melee and ranged attacks and powers and by Side B for ranged attacks and powers in the first turn or round. Side A's victory area is easily reachable by Side B if that player is willing to risk being hit by a Range Sight attack in his start area. Side B's victory area is surprisingly well protected for being deep on Side A's half of the map. Only one square of all of the victory areas on this map is not Difficult or River Terrain.
Main Contact/Combat Area: The shared victory area and bridge on Side A's half of the map are where the majority of melee is likely to happen. The outpost building on Side B's half of the map provides cover for ranged attackers.
Terrain: Blood Rock, Difficult Terrain, Forest, Healing Font, Statue, Wall
Blood Rock: Always useful for generating additional chances of a critical, this terrain occupies a shared victory area almost exactly in the middle of the battle map. It's worth noting that the two squares of difficult terrain which form the artwork altar are not Blood Rock.
Forest: A large percentage of this map has Forest terrain. Unlike Kings Road, however, the forest here mostly screens the start areas and does not occupy the center of the map, which is where most of the combat will occur. Fighting in and around Forest can be tricky, so it's wise to review the Forest rules beforehand and be sure you understand their ins and outs. As with water, high-mobility creatures with Flight, Burrow, and similar abilities are very useful for dealing with both Difficult and Forest terrains.
Healing Font: Located in the center of the other shared victory area on this map, this Font is definitely more powerful than the one found on the Broken Demongate map. Its location means that it's likely to be visited frequently over the course of the Championships, to great effect. The ability for a creature to heal 20 hit points at the same time that it scores Victory Area VPs is pure gold. Despite what its name might imply, the Healing Font is not difficult terrain, thus it does not hinder movement or prevent shifting.
Statues: There are six statues on this map, all with the same one-square Yuan-Ti artwork. As this is the only map in the championships with statues, it probably isn't wise to use creatures that rely on statues to be effective, such as the Animated Statue.
Walls: The majority of Wall terrain on this map screens the start areas, and the rest channels access to the main temple area and the two shared victory areas. There are no diagonal walls on this map.
Start Areas: Both sides have three start areas along the short edges of the map -- a pair of 3x4 areas in or near the corners and a 2x4 area near the middle. If your warband contains more than one large creature, odds are high that you'll need to split your warband between start areas. Start Area B is arguably the better of the two choices, because Forest and Walls completely screen Line of Sight from Start Area A to both of B's corner areas. It is possible, on the other hand, for creatures from Side B to move through the screening Forest and hit portions of A's start areas with ranged or area attacks in the first round.
Victory Areas: Each side has its own victory area, located near the opposing start area, as well as two shared victory areas near the center of the map. Side B has an advantage in victory areas, as both of the shared victory areas are one square closer to its side and its sole victory area is in a more protected spot than Side A's victory area, which is quite exposed.
Main Contact/Combat Area: The layout of the map funnels combat toward the two shared victory areas, where the Blood Rock and Healing Font are located. The majority of melee occurs here.
Trivia: This map made its first public appearance during the 2007 Limited Championship finals.
Terrain: Difficult Terrain, River, Teleporter, Wall
River: As with the Dwarven Outpost, River terrain is a major factor on this map, dividing it in half. Creatures that depend on walking to get from point A to point B -- i.e., most of them -- can't cross the map without wading the River. The shortest paths across are 7 squares. Most land-bound creatures will spend two or even three rounds crossing this obstacle. That's not all bad news. Warbands that are heavy on creatures with Flight, Burrow, or the Aquatic type will have an enormous mobility advantage here. What's more, warbands that can inflict damage from a distance, whether with ranged, area, or close attacks, can cause great destruction to an enemy that must slowly wade the river before bringing its power to bear.
Teleporter: The teleporters are major features on this map. There are only two instead of the insanity-inducing number that Teleport Temple had, but clever control of the teleporters can still swing the game from defeat to victory and vice versa. Controlling the teleporter lets you bypass the river. As with any bridgehead, guard against using the teleporter to drop a few creatures across the river only to get them cut off and destroyed piecemeal. Even if you don't plan to use this terrain to launch your own attacks, you need to control at least one of the two teleporter squares to prevent your opponent from using it against you. Both teleporters are located in victory areas, which only increases the importance of controlling them.
Walls: There are a few diagonal walls on Side B's half of the map, mostly allowing easier movement along the bank of the river. The six 2x2 walls in the river disrupt lines of sight and provide cover to creatures crossing from bank to bank.
Start Areas: Similar to the Dwarven Outpost Map, each side has two medium-sized, 3x5 start areas. Because of their depth, if you have more than two Large creatures, you'll likely need to split your warband over both start areas. Regardless of that, you probably want to split your warband between both start areas. It's possible for enemy creatures to be placed in the start areas so they can see each other even before anything moves! This enhances the strength of range-based warbands. Splitting your creatures over both start areas reduces the odds of all your creatures being hit by a single area attack before they get a chance to activate.
Victory Areas: There are only two victory areas on this map, located near the opposing start areas. They each contain a teleporter in the center of their 3x3 space. Given the proximity of the opposing start area, it is difficult to take and hold your victory area early in the game. On this map, it's possible for neither side to score any points for victory areas during a game.
Main Contact/Combat Area: The teleporters/victory areas are likely focal points for combat if control over them is contested. Otherwise, most combat seems to flow up the sides of the map over the river as creatures try to get from one start area to the opposite on the opposing river bank.
All three maps provide interesting strategic choices. In the final analysis, however, warbands that focus on melee with little or no ranged threat are likely to do poorly on these maps. Mobility is always key, and creatures with high speed and enhanced movement (Flight, Burrow, etc.) will be especially useful.
Best of luck to everyone in the Championships!
About the Author
Jason Sallay (aka Foxman) lives in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) with his wife Carolyn and two young boys. He 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 RPG sessions and then began playing the skirmish game "to get more use out of them."