Reading Contour Lines

There is some confusion out there on what the slope lines mean and how to read them.  Here are a few examples to clear things up. 

It may look a little messy at first but I actually like these old style slope lines much better than modern day contour lines.  It is easier for me to visualize up and down. 

In this example, Red is up on top the hill.  They can see down to Blue at the lowest elevation, sitting behind the stream.  Effect:  Red will have cover here if attacked by Blue.   

Red has dropped back here behind the ridge now.  They are on the Reverse Slope.  There is no line of sight between these units.  Effect:  Red will have cover if attacked by Blue.   

In this example, Blue is at the highest elevation.  They are up on top of the hill.  Red is still on the hill but further down the slope.  White is down at the base elevation at the lowest point.  Effect:  Blue will have cover here if attacked by Red.  Red will have cover if attacked by White.

Here, Red and Blue are both on the hill.  The issue is that they are both on the same slope.  There is no cover here for either side.  I would treat combat between these two units, the same as if they were on clear terrain. 

4 thoughts on “Reading Contour Lines”

  1. Thank you for this simple and clear explanation. It is fun to use the old maps properly!

    This is quite different from the days of AH’s Panzer Blitz, and checking clearly marked hex spines. One actually has to study the map, just like Napoleon’s staff.

    Once I got used to it, reading the Austerlitz map was just as intuitive, and much more satisfying, than reading “game boards.”

  2. Thanks for the article, it may be enlightening for people who are not used to old maps. One clue to take into account is to locate the rivers and streams, these are in the areas with the lowest height in the area, logically.

    Normally I read the level lines well and I have no problems when interpreting the maps, But I have a doubt in example # 2 not because of the position, but because of the rules of benefits per hill, if blue attacks red, it would be in a superior position, would not have the benefit, right?

    • Great question! This is a tricky situation. In short, I’d say yes! Red does get the benefit of the hill here.

      Why? If Blue marches up to where they can start to fire at Red, effectively, they both have cover. The problem is that Blue is attacking so they must advance up and over that top which exposes them. They present a full target while standing upright and advancing. Red can crouch and still maintain much of their cover effect.

      What would happen in Kriegsspiel? In real life? Both sides truly do move simultaneously. As Blue started to crest the hill, Red would rush up and close that gap. Red could more easily get to that ridge and fire down the slope at Blue. Blue would already be tired by that point, after marching up that entire slope.

      It is a trap. Red is hiding behind the ridge, making it look undefended. Most likely, they would have a few skirmishers on the ridge watching the Blue’s progress. They would signal for the Red unit to rush up to the ridge and start firing down just in time. -That’s how I imagine it playing out, anyways. Most likely result.

      Any historical evidence for this? Well, ask Napoleon if the Wellington’s troops benefitted from their reverse slope deployment? Wellington used this a lot. I’m thinking he wouldn’t have done it if it didn’t work.

  3. I was noticing when I was looking at the Bull Run map, that if you look at it from a bit away, as opposed to having your face right on the map, you can actually see the hills rising up in an almost 3D effect. Very cool.

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