Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural state runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. 

Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldiers works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. 

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Chapter 6: “Weak Points and Strong,” [29-31].

Before I encountered The Bearded Bastard, I had a misconception about taking the “high ground.” The Bearded Bastard taught me otherwise (through a long and frustrating process, of course).

Many wargamers think that taking a hill on the tabletop can give them some kind of advantage; and it can, particularly if the hill is the scenario objective or it has some kind of immediate use.

Yet now I see hills as a possible detriment.

See, I used to think: hills can give me a bonus in melee combat because my forces are on the high ground.

Now I think: what’s the point of that bonus if my opponent is smart enough not to charge me up hill?

I used to think: being on a hill gives my forces clear line of sight to the surrounding terrain.

Now I think: being on a hill gives my opponents a clear line of sight to me.

I use to think: My archers (or other missile troops) might have greater range on a hill to shoot at opposing units.

Now I think: What rules will my opponent invoke to take this advantage away from me.

I used to think: A hill on the tabletop represents a significant rise in elevation.

Now I think: In most wargames a hill is more like gentle rise, just enough to obscure line of sight–especially in games where hills don’t reduce movement rates.

I used to think: Putting my miniatures on a hill made them look cool, imposing.

Now I think: Half the time my miniatures tip over!


What are your thoughts on hills in wargaming?


Next on The Art of Wargaming: The Season of The Bearded Bastard.