LPG - Vertical LOS

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This article is part of Warmachine University's Learning to Play the Game (LPG) series, which is "Intermediate Training" aimed at new players who are still learning the core rules.
(See also Basic Training and Advanced Training.)

When it comes to seeing "over" things, Warmachine uses a hybrid of true-line-of-sight rules and abstract base-size-only rules. Most players simplify it down to only-abstract rules, and this practice is so common that many players don't even realise they're playing with house rules!

Note: For the purposes of this article, the reader should taken it as a given that all normal horizontal LOS lines are blocked. i.e. you can't draw LOS "around the side" of the intervening model/terrain.

Intervening Model

If you have to draw LOS through a model, that model blocks LOS to everything behind it that is of equal-or-smaller base size. Essentially it casts a "horizontal shadow" behind it and anything in the shadow cannot be seen.

Example 1: The huge base model cannot see the small base that is behind the large base.
Example 2: The small base can see both the large base and the huge base.

Vert LOS 1.jpg Vert LOS 2.jpg

Top down view illustrating how, for the purposes of this article, the reader should taken it as a given that all normal horizontal LOS lines are blocked.

Intervening Obstruction - As Per the Book

Obstructions block LOS based on true line of sight ... but the attacker and target have an abstract model volume. So the obstruction cast a "triangular shadow" behind them and any model that pops out of that shadow even a little bit can be seen.

Example 3 & 4: The huge base model can see the small base behind the building, and vice versa.

In other words, if you can see a model over an obstruction, that model can see you.

Vert LOS 3.jpg Vert LOS 4.jpg

Intervening Obstruction - House Rules

Determining LOS over an obstruction as per the book is a pain in the ass. You need to put a ruler next to each model of the correct height to match their volume, then measure a line in mid-air between the two rulers, and try to see if the obstruction blocks that line.

So instead, the commonly-played house rule is that obstructions block LOS in the same way models do, casting a "horizontal shadow". This house rule is even more common in areas that use 2D terrain.

Important for House Rules - Some players House Rule obstructions as tall enough to block LOS to everything, and others House Rule obstructions as blocking LOS to everything except huge bases. So make sure you check with your opponent beforehand.

Examples 5-7: Players have agreed to pretend the house is the size of a large-based model.
Example 5: The huge base model cannot see the small base that is behind the building.
Example 6: The small base can see the huge base over the building.
Example 7: As before, but with 2-D terrain.

Vert LOS 5.jpg Vert LOS 6.jpg Vert LOS 7.jpg

Intervening Forest or Cloud

When it comes to seeing "over" forests and clouds, they are effectively infinite height. You use the regular forest/cloud LOS rules regardless of the volume of the attacker or the target ... unless the target is a huge-based model. Huge-based models can always be seen over forests and clouds.

The regular forest/cloud LOS rules are covered in 101 - Terrain Rules.

Official Rules

Page 34 of the 2020.02 edition of the core rules

Many game situations such as charging or making attacks require a model to target another model. A model must have line of sight (LOS) to another model to target it. Simply put, having line of sight means a model can see another model. When a model “selects” or “chooses” another model, it need not have line of sight. A model’s controller can check its line of sight at any time.

There are several steps to determining whether one model has line of sight to another. These steps are listed on p. 34. If any step results in a model’s potential line of sight being blocked, return to the first step and try a different line. If no line can be found to pass all steps, the model does not have line of sight to the desired model and cannot target it.

If you can draw any straight line between the bases of two models that crosses over any part of the base of a third model, the third model is an intervening model.

Line of sight can also be blocked by terrain. To determine whether a model’s line of sight to another model is blocked by terrain, consider each model’s volume. Every model occupies a volume of space above the bottom of its base determined by its base size. See the callout “Determining Model Volume” on p. 35 for details.

In the following descriptions, Model A is determining line of sight to Model B:

  1. Draw a straight line from any part of Model A’s volume to any part of Model B’s volume that is within Model A’s front arc.
  2. The line must not pass through a terrain feature that blocks line of sight.
  3. The line must not pass over an intervening model’s base that is equal to or larger than Model B’s.
  4. The line must not pass over an effect that blocks line of sight, such as a cloud effect.