Range Finders

Rangefinder Array
When I started playing GQ, I was bothered by how long it took to resolve shooting. I like the gunnery system - it's streamlined and elegant, and captures a lot of the "feel" of era gunnery with very minimal mechanics. Unfortunately, in practice the process of measuring each shot and looking it up in the Straddle Table slows the gunnery phase to a crawl. To help solve this problem and speed up the game, I decided to make pre-measured "range finders", and cut out all the fiddling with tape measures and tables.

For the sticks, I settled on 3/16" fiberglass rod, which I found at Tap Plastics. It's cheap, light, can be cut and sanded pretty easily (with the proper skin and breathing protection), takes paint, and won't warp or bend or break even at small diameters.

I cut the rods into lengths matching the maximum ranges of each set of guns in the Straddle Table. The "shooting" end I sanded off at an angle, so that I could have a point for the originating end of the shot, and also so I could have a flat tab to write on.

I painted the sticks in alternating colors, to represent the range bands in the table (one range band for each die score, from 0-9). In the middle of each range band, down one side of the stick, I wrote in white ink the d10 score needed to hit at that range, and the maximum armor that could be penetrated. On the flat tab at the shooter's end (die score 9), I wrote the range of calibers the stick represents.

I painted the range bands in colors, to maximize the use of visual aids to the gaming process:
  • The farthest three range bands (die scores 2, 1 and 0) are painted in alternating blues. These are to represent plunging fire at extreme ranges, a house rule I like to play with in the WWI era. Hits in the blue range bands give a -1 to hits on the blue (hull) die.
  • The middle range bands are painted in alternating grays, since there are no special modifiers for shooting at these ranges.
  • The nearest three range bands (die scores 9, 8, and 7) are painted in alternating reds. These represent the "minimum range" band from the Straddle Table. Since I use color-coded dice, the red range bands on the stick indicate a -1 to the score of the red die when calculating hits. This also visually indicates the ranges at which rapid fire is possible.
These range finders also have several unintended advantages:
  • Gunnery is now so visual and intuitive, even exhausted last-day-of-the-convention gamers can get through it without confusion.
  • It's much easier to explain shooting to new players.
  • It's now very easy to see just how the ranges of the various calibers compare - and just how badly your opponent outranges you.
  • They increase the visual appeal of the game. Gamers love toys.


Below are some notes that might help you if you decide to do something like this yourself:

  • Danger: In retrospect, I shouldn't have sharpened the ends of my range finders, since I managed to make innocent gaming props into somewhat dangerous weapons as a result. If you do this project yourself, I suggest you don't sand down the end to a point. Leave it blunt, either rounded or squared off.
  • Scale: These sticks work great when playing at "centimeter scale", where 1 cm on the table is 1 inch in the rules. At this scale, the longest WWI range finders are just over a yard long (37"). Were you to do this at actual book scales, however, all the range finders for battleship gun calibers would be between 6.5' and 7.8' - probably too unwieldy to consider. This is really a 1:6000 scale prop.
  • WWII: I don't own any WWII lead, so I don't have any WWII range finders. I have considered it, though, and I realized that the extreme ranges of big WWII era guns will make for some heinously long measuring sticks, unless some compromises are made. I'd say the maximum length of any measuring stick should be 120 cm (just shy of 4 feet), the maximum range of shooting without spotter aircraft. Since it's rare for a game to feature spotter aircraft, this would cover most of the GQ1 games played, and speed up most of the shooting even in games that do have spotter aircraft. It won't slow the game too much to pull out the tape measure for those rare shots over the horizon, since the range finder stick will tell you if the target is outside the "1" range band, and the tape measure only needs to tell you that the target is inside the "0" range band.