It was not uncommon for ancient or medieval commanders to use natural or man-made linear obstacles such as a ditch, series of pits, chains, tethered horses or camels, a stone or plashed-wood wall or hedge as a line of defense. Such obstacles were used to channel enemy attacks toward gaps in the obstacle or to strengthen weak points in an over extended line of battle. They are not equivalent to fortifications in terms of their advantage to the defender, but nevertheless are a considerable impediment to movement and may be impassable to mounted troops. The following variant for linear obstacles was inspired by a club rule forwarded by Rich Kurtin:
For purposes of this variant rule, a linear obstacle is defined as a terrain feature that inhibits movement by the attacker and provides an advantage to the defender. It does not include obstacles that can inflict damage independent of the defender, such as caltrops, staked or concealed pits, or spiked pavises.
A linear obstacle(s) totalling 12 inches in length may be included in the available terrain for deployment.
Linear obstacles may be crossed by foot at a flat deduction of 100 paces. Mounted troops must roll a 1-2 on 1D6 to cross a linear obstacle, and then at a deduction of 200 paces from the movement allowance. By agreement of the players, certain linear obstacles may be designated as impassable to mounted, or to specific elements such as Chariots, Artillery, or War Wagons.
An element is counted as defending a linear obstacle if it is in front-edge contact with a long edge of the obstacle and engaged in close combat or distance shooting by an enemy element on the opposite side of the obstacle.
Elements defending a linear obstacle receive a +1 bonus to close combat. If the obstacle provides solid cover (i.e., a wall, bank or hedge, but not a ditch), the defender receives a +1 bonus against distance shooting.
When engaging an element defending a linear obstacle in close combat, the attacker may not claim support bonuses for overlaps unless the supporting element has crossed the linear obstacle and is in contact with the defender's flank or rear.
An attacking element may not straddle a linear obstacle, but it may cross it and "L" a defender. Such an element may either conduct a direct attack if the defender is not engaged or provide flanking support (i.e., if you are on the same side as the defender, you ignore the obstacle.)
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Last Updated: Feb. 19, 1999Comments and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, firstname.lastname@example.org.