Geo Effects

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Translation: "I win."

Some Video Games incorporate maps into the fighting, and the terrain in them can add an element of "home field advantage" to the unit or monster on it. Whether it's a boost to Power Level, cover from fire, or more exotic things like invulnerability, or even randomly teleporting the character, depends on the game, map, and even color of the tile.

These effects add an element of strategy and chance to the game, making otherwise milquetoast maps and units dangerous and unpredictable as they interact with the environment to great effect, whole strategies can be devised around luring an enemy into a weak spot.

Outside of video games, Comic Books, Film and Literature are fond of assigning a given character or army an edge over opponents if they fight in an area they're familiar with or have had time to trap.

Also Truth in Television. Most military campaigns involve efforts to take advantage of large-scale terrain features like rivers; battles are often fought over high ground; and individual soldiers will routinely try to Take Cover behind the sturdiest terrain available.

Not to be confused with I Have the High Ground, which is only figurative. Field Power Effect is a supernatural variant. Mucking in the Mud is a common subtrope.

Examples of Geo Effects include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Sonic X, when Shadow tries to hunt down Cosmo on the Blue Typhoon, Tails uses his knowledge of the layout of the ship to launch Shadow out of a cannon, which actually succeeds in inconveniencing Shadow for about five seconds.
  • In the manga Blade of the Immortal, Magatsu's main schtick is taking advantage of his surroundings to overcome his (usually more dangerous) opponents. An early quote of his is "He who controls the land can conquer Heaven."
  • Likewise for Serpico in the Berserk manga, who tends to attack his opponents on specifically chosen ground that works in his favour. For example, he chose to ambush Guts (who could cut Serpico in half in a second on an open battlefield) on a cliffside where Guts didn't have room to swing or even draw his BFS, had very precarious footing and the morning sun in his eyes.
    • Serpico does this again in a second battle with Guts, choosing a room filled with pillars to stop his large sword. Guts cuts through them anyways.
  • Lelouch does this pretty regularly in Code Geass - it's the finishing touch on a maneuver that would have won the war no problems if he hadn't been called away, and is so successful that he does it again in the second series. His preferred tactic is luring enemies into position and then causing structural damage on the battlefield to collapse the ground under the enemy units, or crush them with debris from above.
    • Nothing's stopping his enemy du jour Xingke to use it on him. In a true Xanatos Speed Chess, Lelouch thought about drying the dam before the fight. Unfortunately, the water that is left certainly couldn't flood his army off, but it did make the soil muddy and sticky, reducing them to easy pickings.
  • In the Duelist Kingdom arc of Yu-Gi-Oh, this is used for certain battles: Water monsters placed over the sea or bug cards in the forest gained attack and defense points. In the French translation of the manga, this was hilariously translated as "Field Power Sauce".
    • This eventually became the basis of Field Spell Cards in both the anime and the Tabletop Games, which give certain monsters (usually ones of a certain Attribute, Monster Type, or Monster Archetype/Name Group) bonuses, regardless of who controls them, and go into their own unique card zone.
  • In Bleach, Hollows and Arrancar are much more powerful when fighting in Hueco Mundo because there is a much higher concentration of spirit energy in the air than in the real world.
    • Uryu and Chad also get a boost for the same reason (the latter moreso because of the particular type of spirit energy and the nature of his powers).
  • Holyland mentions how judo and other wrestling or grappling styles can be very effective on the street because getting thrown or taken to ground on concrete or asphalt is a very different - read: more painful - beast from falling on the mat in training or competition. Also, being on soft ground like grass allows the wrestler Tsuchiya to go all out without fear of hurting himself from a whiff.
  • Ranma ½: Invoked by Pantyhose Taro. Water fortress. Beneficial Jusenkyo curse. Enemies with more unfortunate Jusenkyo curses. Said curses are triggered by cold water. This isn't going to end well.

Comic Books

  • Spider-man once fought the Lizard on a train, winning by luring him into a refrigerated car and playing keep away until the temperature weakened his cold-blooded opponent enough to take him out.
    • Spider-Man is fond of this trope. He once managed to stop The Juggernaut (who had been simply ignoring Spider-Man's attempts to halt him) by covering his eyes and steering him into a newly-laid foundation of wet cement.
    • In another occasion, Spider-Man tried to fight Firelord, a herald of Galactus, this way, blowing up a gas station around him, hitting him with a subway train, and finally collapsing an abandoned building on him. It didn't work.
  • In Justice Society of America, Wildcat defeated Vandal Savage by goading him into following him across the street, where a fire truck hit him.
  • An issue of Young Justice saw the team trapped on the Death Planet of Apokolips being pursued by hordes of flying parademons. Robin managed to figure out the timing of the local fire pit explosions, and lured a bunch of mooks into the blast. Darkseid is a big fan of No OSHA Compliance.


  • All of the Home Alone movies give the preteen protagonist a massive home field advantage as they trap their house.
  • Presumably the Ewoks from Star Wars would not have had such an easy go of it if they had not understood the terrain so well.
    • And who can forget the High Ground arms race? In Episode I, Darth Maul stands over Obi-wan Kenobi, as the latter dangles above a bottomless pit. Maul fails to take advantage of the terrain, and Obi-wan leaps over his head and bisects him upon landing. Obi-wan clearly learned from Maul's mistake: He gains the high ground in Episode III, and when Darth Vader attempts to leap over him, Obi-wan slices three of his limbs off in mid-leap. Darth Vader then learns from his experience: When Luke gains the high ground in Episode VI, instead of jumping up, Vader stays where he is and throws his lightsaber at him.
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe includes a form of lightsaber combat devoted to using the geography and surroundings to your advantage. It's called Sokan, if you care. Lightsaber fighting also has a style of flying combat, called Trispzest. Here.
  • The characters in Gettysburg constantly talk about the high ground, including Little Round Top, throughout all three days of the battle. The first day both sides fear the other will march on the high ground (the Union did). The second day is the CMOA defense of Little Round Top. The third day they talk about the Union artillery on the high ground commanding the battlefield.

Buford: When our people arrive, Lee'll have high ground. There'll be the devil to pay.

  • In Kiss of the Dragon, Li's fight with Raffaelli grinds to a standstill twice when neither is willing to advance and fight where they would be at a disadvantage.
  • The Princess Bride: "You are using Bonetti's Defense against me, eh?" "I thought it fitting, given the rocky terrain."


  • Ender's Game and the parallel sequel Shadows series both feature terrain in battle as being important for victory. Memorable scenes in EG show the eponymous Ender learning to think in three dimensions for directing dogfighting in space, and the end of one battle in Shadows results from massive flooding of the battlefield.
  • In the eleventh book in the Wheel of Time series, we finally get a look at Mat's apparent military genius and he's surprisingly capable, showcasing ambushes from wooded areas and the like.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, the Gaunts are master of stealth, but particularly in forest, like those that had existed back on Tanith.
    • In First and Only Sergeant Blane makes use of the heights to hold off the Jantine Patricians; he takes care to ensure that none of fifty his men descend from their positions, not to lose that advantage. He and all his men die, but they hold off a vastly superior force for a long time, and inflict enormous losses on them.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novels, the Valhallan regiments he is attached to fight well on cold worlds.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Grey Hunters, while Ragnar is eyeing the Chaos forces arrayed against him, he factors in on his side that he has the high ground.
  • In the Warhammer 40000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, a PDF company has the high ground, which initially is considered an advantage in their favor. The advantage is mitigated by the fact the PDF troopers are not very well trained and have trouble compensating for shooting down an incline, so most of their shots miss because they are still aiming too high above their targets.
  • In And Another Thing, Hillman believes his people have the advantage in the fight against the Tyromancers because they have the high ground. He's not quite certain why having the high ground is advantageous, but the important thing is, they have it.
  • The Codex Alera books love to have traps and strategies relying on the ground they're fighting on, in part because Elemental Powers make them a lot easier to do on a massive scale. The final battle in particular involves diverting rivers to bog down the enemy and dragging veins of coal close to the surface, soaking the field in oil, and lighting it on fire.
    • However, the Vord manage subvert this against the Canim. Their final stronghold is on top of a massive plateau with only one access point making it impossible to break through. The Vord keep sending wave after wave at it while secretly digging underneath it to make a tunnel to behind the Canim forces, neutralizing the effect of the terrain.
  • Subverted in The Bible, the Aramites, having just faced a devastating series of losses fighting the Israelites on the hills, banked on this principle working on a divine scale to strike back. Unfortunately for them, they turned out to be wrong about it on several levels, and when they put it into practice, Aram's armies were defeated once again.

1 Kings 20:23: Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, "Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they."

    • This HAS proven to be good strategic advice for several enemies of Israel. The Israelis of the time had a decent grasp of guerrilla tactics, but no way to counter chariot charges - except for fighting in places where chariots were ineffective.

Judges 1:19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

      • They did go on to defeat the people in the valley, iron chariots included, in chapter four. Their earlier loss was because they weren't right with God.
    • Israelis were also notoriously poor sailors and considered falling into the sea to be instant death.
  • In addition to the standard terrain tactics, Red Storm Rising features a rare seaborne variant for the NATO amphibious fleet off Iceland, which causes navigational nightmares when it stages its landing in a rock-filled harbor. This pays off handsomely when the bombers of Soviet Naval Aviation tries to employ its favorite tactic, the Macross Missile Massacre: the antiship missiles are designed to be used in the open ocean, where the only radar and heat signatures are those of ships. In a harbor filled with volcanic mini-islands, many of the (surviving) missiles get confused and end up blasting empty rocks instead of NATO ships.

Tabletop Games

  • Owing to its origins as a tactical wargame simulator, Dungeons & Dragons has cover, concealment, and various modifiers based on terrain, varied in different editions.
    • Player's Options: Combat and Tactics provided more detailed model for tactics, so it considered more terrain effects than core AD&D.
    • The Horizon Walker from 3rd Edition gets "insight bonuses" to various things when he's on a terrain he's previously mastered.
    • An optional class feature for the ranger class introduced in the 3rd edition sourcebook Unearthed Arcana was "favored environment", which did the same thing as the horizon walker's ability. In Pathfinder, this became a standard ability for all rangers.
  • Based on D&D's Unearthed Arcana, "favored environment" was brought in as a buyable feat for anyone in Mutants and Masterminds, although the bonus is capped as with all other bonuses, meaning that a character with it is just as good as everyone else in their given terrain, but a bit worse everywhere else.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a class of creature abilities collectively known as "landwalk", which makes a creature with it unblockable if the other player has a land of that type (plainswalk, forestwalk, etc.). There are also some creatures that can't attack unless the opponent had an appropriate land type (like Sea Monster), but this is much less common. There are some other spells that may fall under this, like Familiar Ground.
    • Because what land a player controls determines what kind of mana he has access to, abilities that only work if the player controls certain kinds of land are often used as a proxy for an actual mana cost, such as in the Hedge-Mages of Eventide and Naya's Wild Nacatl.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, units get 'cover saves' for being in cover, either in area terrain or behind obstructions that partially block the enemy's line of fire. In addition, most units and vehicles are impeded when moving through certain types of terrain, with a rare few special units that are unaffected.
    • Also, both the Kroot and the Catachan jungle fighters get extra bonuses when fighting in a jungle or forest terrain.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Battle units in cover are harder to hit, and ranged units may fire in two ranks if they are at a higher elevation than the target.
  • In BattleTech, terrain is one of the main factors in battle. Most all cover hinders line-of-sight, and in cases involving a series of mountains or valleys between two combatants, advanced rules explain how to draw a graph to simulate whether or not line of sight is present.
  • GURPS has cover, cover DR, concealment, visibility, attack from above/below, g-force gradients etc. Even the effects of fog on the damage done by laser weapons have official stats.
  • In Heroscape, height advantages are a major part of combat, and one character being just one level higher than another can make a huge difference. Some units, like the Dumutef Gaurd and Marro Drudges, also get special bonuses in a certain kind of terrain.
  • The old hexmap-and-cardboard-chits wargames of the 1960s-80s by Avalon Hill and SPI have rules for improved defense by woods, mountains, rivers, road movement, and so on.

Video Games

  • Many modern RTS games like Command & Conquer, World in Conflict, Company of Heroes, etc. allow infantry to enter fortified areas like buildings or forests, which give them massive defensive bonuses. Naturally, there are ways to get them out like using grenades or flamethrowers.
  • World in Conflict is actually all over this trope. Not only can infantry hide in houses (giving them crazy defense, as long as it stands) and woods (rendering them invisible as long as they don't open fire), but tanks can shoot further and more precisely down from slopes; all units move faster downhill (and vice versa); anti-air batteries, while unable to enter the forests, can stand on its edge, rendering them invisible from one direction. Obstacles are also correctly limiting the shooting range (even mobile units: a heavy tank can easily take a shell for an AA unit just by standing in front of it), so it's actually a good idea to hide your AA in the depths of a nuclear blast crater once the radiation dissipates.
  • Advance Wars and Fire Emblem have forms of this too, some terrains provide better cover than others (AW: better defense, FE: better evasion). In fact, TBS are generally pretty big on terrain effects.
    • The final levels of FE 10 has only effectual cover terrain—some that gives mad defense bonuses, some that give mad evasion bonuses, and some that increase magic resistance.
    • Also in Advance Wars, many characters are more effective in certain terrain. For example, Kindle has higher attack and defense in cities, while Koal operates better than others on roads. Terrain bonuses are increased with Lash, Jake has the edge on plains, etc.
      • Weather works similarly. Everybody has much lower mobility in the snow, except for Olaf, whose attack, defense, and mobility are all increased. Fog of War puts everyone in a bad situation but Sonja, as well.
      • Finally, bonuses of this type (such as stronger attack on the sea) can be given to any character with the abilities system used in Dual Strike.
    • In Fire Emblem, units also receive defensive bonuses for standing on terrain features like forests, towns, and mountains.
  • Gadget Trial has similar effects with Advance Wars above, but with the addition that air units also receives terrain defense bonus.
  • Disgaea is the Trope Namer (but not the Trope Codifier). You can use the Geo Effects to your advantage. The effects range from stat boosts to making evil clones of your team to kill every round to outright invulnerability. You can also destroy the Geo Effects, and doing so will change the colors of the squares they're on to match the destroyed Effect, or destroy the squares if it's a Null. Setting up a chain that destroys all the Geo Panels will injure every enemy onscreen and earn you a massive bonus at the fight's end.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has something like this, as different troops have different native terrains and have no penalty when moving on them.
    • The third game of the series, troops actually have an extra movement point on their native terrain, in battles. As movement also decides in what succession the units get their turn, this can be crucial even in the late game, because somehow it seems as if Angels are just one point faster than devils, and other such ridicules.
  • In the RTS Rise of Nations the Russians have a "Russian Winter" bonus that means enemy forces on their territory suffer an extra 50% attrition.
    • The attrition mechanism in general is also an example: Enemy units were slowly worn down if they spent time in enemy territory. Russia was just better at it.
    • In a more straight example, rocky terrain could not be built upon (unless it happened to be an oil spring), but did offer a 33% defensive bonus to infantry.
  • The first season of the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime had field power bonuses, which gave certain types of monsters attack power ups based on where the duel was taking place. The Card game has Field Cards, cards that effect the entire field. There are series of cards that will power up various types of monsters (Such as Umi for Fish, Sea-Serpent, Aqua and Thunder Monsters) but since cards don't typically stay on the field very long in the current metagame, Field Cards with more than just attack power ups are typically preferred, such as The Sanctuary in the Sky, which keeps a player from taking damage when their Fairy type monsters are attacked.
    • The field terrain of the anime are better paralleled by the system in Duelists of the Roses, where the monsters moved across a gridded map with varying terrain, boosting some types of monsters and weakening others.
  • As the name implies, the Geomancers from Final Fantasy are based entirely around this.
    • Final Fantasy XI allows the weather to affect spells. It's most apparent in Dynamis or Limbus, where double dark weather can cause 400+ HP healing Cure 4's to get cut down to about 310...
      • The day of the week and the moon phase can also affect spells. Especially notable in that, during a full moon, a certain werewolf boss can singlehandedly fend off 30 players and over 40 allied NPCs (which are actually stronger and last longer than players in this game) while not breaking a sweat, due to being able to fully heal every few seconds. This turns campaign battles into a Luck-Based Mission in the San d'Oria areas, because an attack by the werewolf squad during full moon is either a moderately easy win or a nearly guaranteed loss depending on the moon phase.
    • The battle grids of Final Fantasy Tactics include elevation. Furthermore, weather effects some elemental attributes: if it's raining, use Thunder spells (which do more damage) rather than Fire spells (which do less). If it's snowing, use Blizzard spells for a similar boost. Further furthermore, weather can grant penalties for moving through already-rough terrain, namely slogging through swamps in the rain.
      • Furthermore one class, the Geomancer, actually had an attack that was different depending on what terrain he or she was standing on.
      • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 also has its own version of Geomancer. Not only the terrain type, but the weather also influences what they can do.
      • Elevation has a very large effect on common magic, summoning, and ranged attacks. Crossboys, while having higher damage than bows, have a range limit. Bows receive better range the higher you are, but fire in an arc. A limit to the height difference between where one is standing and their target is a given with most spells. The game has many less obvious ways to turn things to your advantage. This is before glitches or a certain One-Man Army are added to the mix...
      • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance doesn't deal with weather, but the elevation of certain locations can be a real problem depending on where you are. There are some battlegrounds where all the opponents are at the top of a mountain, and you're stuck at the bottom, out of range for nearly everything, even with magic and ranged attacks.
      • Not as much of a problem if you had the right skills. Jump has the same accuracy regardless of your height (but sadly nerfed in the later games for no reason). A lot of your weapons don't work but combos never miss. Illusion magic is also quite powerful (especially when combined with Magic frenzy in later games) with Totemas rounding it out. You always can use Assassins that are fast enough to always go first and can have their movement range increased. With the right skills, Assassins can evade and kill everything in the first game (but sadly, not the second).
    • In Final Fantasy XII, the weather in a given area can affect the effectiveness of certain weapons and spells. During rainy weather, for example, bows and crossbows are less accurate, while thunder and water spells do more damage and fire does less.
    • Mog of Final Fantasy VI is based around this. But his Dance ability, instead of conforming to the local environment, simply changes the background to the relevant one. ie: You're fighting in a cave? Mog wants to fight underwater. ...and now you are. There is a failure chance for these background changes, so there's an advantage for using the dance native to the current terrain, which will always succeed.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri has a whole bunch of terrain modifiers. Xenofungus makes Mind Worms faster and stronger; on the other hand, ground units moving through xenofungus become painfully slow. Rover units get an attack bonus on open ground. Infantry get one when attacking a base. Bases get more or less rainfall depending on which side of a mountain you put them on... the list goes on. Terraforming units ("Formers") can construct a whole bunch of additional structures to give squares extra bonuses (or remove their penalties).
  • This is one of the major factors in Battle for Wesnoth, which has varying defensive bonuses and movement rates for each unit type on each terrain type. Elves are best deployed in forests, merfolk really have no business being out of the water, and may the Gods help you if you try to fight a dwarf on a mountain tile!
  • As with Wrath Unleashed. Each character has a specific "element", and each stage has at least one element associated with it. Characters whose elements match the stage they are fighting on are damaged less by stage hazards and receive greater bonuses from powerups.
  • Super Robot Wars loves these. They even have tiles of the HP/EN-regenerating sort. Mostly, however, they're there to discriminate against ground units - anything without a flight system has to spend an extra turn or two slogging through mountains or water, and winds up not being able to kill as many enemies once they actually get to the fight.
    • In later games, the movement penalties are mitigated somewhat by the units' own terrain ratings - a unit with an overall S-rank in a terrain isn't as bogged down - or their movement types.
    • Recovery and defense tiles are actually invaluable in any of the several missions that start you out with a few units and ask you to survive until your Cool Ship shows up with your proper army. The Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger team is routinely subject to this.
    • The game also uses this against you as well. One of the final missions in Original Generation 2 had two boss-level characters appear on tiles that gave a 30% restoration to their HP and EN.
    • Super Robot Wars D and J have small battle puzzles that task you with surviving and/or destroying a few enemies within one or two turns. In many of them, half the puzzle is finding out exactly where you can stand that lets you soak/evade the enemy attacks and counterattack.
    • It should be noted that (at least from the third game onward) flying units aren't always better. Flying units won't receive HP and EN bonuses from the aforementioned regen tiles or gain valuable cover, and moving a unit in the air will drain a bit of the unit's energy, while moving along the ground will not. And to top it all off, it traditionally costs flying units 5 EN per turn to stay in the air, plus 1 EN per flown square.
    • And then you have space battles, where it typically costs everyone 1 EN to move a square, there are fields of debris, and the occasional terrain with HP/EN regeneration. Alpha 3 even includes one space stage with a large -%20 EN (thanks a lot, Buff Clan!).
  • In the Total War series of strategy games, terrain plays a big part of the game with elements like elevation, bridges, forests and rivers that can be used to give players an advantage. For example, fighting downhill is a lot easier than uphill, units tire much more quickly if they have to march uphill or if they're in deserts (unless they are originally from a faction that's desert based like Egypt, Numidia or the Moors, which gives another dimension to strategy). Forests can be used to hide units, which could be brought on as an ambush on unsuspecting enemy forces, or to hide a part of your army so your opponent thinks your army is smaller than it really is. Bridges are excellent chokepoints and are easy to defend but hard to capture.
    • In fact, height differences can be extremely important, as a team of archers behind and above your front line can shower arrows directly at the enemy (over the heads of the line troops) rather than firing at an arc (and averting No Arc in Archery !). This can easily devastate an enemy army, as direct fire is extremely lethal.
      • Even more important if you command troops that have a hard time firing in arcs, like slingers, because they might even devastate your own units if they are standing behind them on the same terrain (or a lower) level.
  • In Warcraft 3, ranged units who are at a lower elevation than the units they are attacking have a chance of missing said attacks, though spells and whatnot are exempt from this rule. This was also present in StarCraft.
    • Also, in StarCraft, higher elevation increases a unit's range when striking at lower terrain. The expansion Terran campaign displays this very well, since one notable mission has higher terrain forming "gates" to your starting zone. Camp a few Siege Tanks on the higher zones, give them some Anti-Air support, and they'll never get anywhere near your base.
    • In the Wings Of Liberty campaign for Starcraft II, several missions have hazardous terrain effects which can be used to one's advantage. In one, The Devil's Playground, there are periodic lava surges, which will quickly kill anything on the low ground. One of the game's achievements is to use one of these lava surges to kill a Brutalisk.
  • Likewise, in the Command & Conquer games, units that are on higher terrain tend to be harder for enemies to hit, although the exact percentage this is isn't revealed in the game or manual. In Tiberian Sun, GDI has amphibious units that can attack on land and then retreat to water, while Nod has burrowing units whose advantage lies in being able to bypass terrain completely for sneak attacks.
    • Likewise again in Red Alert 3 where each faction has at least two amphibious units and practically all mobile structures are amphibious as well; the Empire of the Rising Sun's virtual entire military force is amphibious in some form or another.
  • One of Total Annihilation`s innovations was doing this before its Blizzard and Westwood counterparts - units on higher ground can shoot and see at a longer range, and mountains can also block the sight range of a unit on the ground.
  • Bahamut Lagoon loves this. Structures heal, swamps and spikes hurt, and a ton of stuff slows the characters down. And they all be affected by the right element.
  • In the first Civilization certain terrain types could slow down units and grant defense bonuses. At the fourth game terrain has different effects on different units, units can be trained to take advantage of certain terrain types, units defending inside their home region have a bonus, etc... Different terrain types also yield different production and then there are special resources such as cattle and oil. A large portion of the games can be spent first racing for good spots and later improving land.
    • The similar Colonization made terrain types about the most important factor in building a colony. To simulate the asymmetrical warfare of the American War of Independence, in Colonization the player's units are all much weaker than the regulars and cavalry of the expeditionary force sent by the King, but they gain large terrain-related bonuses, while the European troops have difficulty fighting in the wild frontier of the American continent. This forces the player to get his units out of his cities and fight a terrain-conscious guerilla war, which is different from what fighting a defensive war in a Civilization game is like.
    • Some of the games of the series actively prohibit units such as chariots and catapults movement in jungle or mountain tiles. Sometimes, this can be overcome by building a road to transport them on, but obviously this can be hard to do in enemy territory.
  • Most Paradox Interactive games have this to a greater or lesser extent, ranging from attack penalties in forested or mountainous terrain or when crossing a river in Europa Universalis, to the detailed system in Hearts of Iron 2, where most terrain types except flat plains inflict penalties on the attacker and benefits to the defender. Said penalties vary from the fairly minor (a 10% or so penalty for attacking forest terrain) to the extreme (50% penalties for attacking jungle terrain, 66% penalties for attacking urban terrain). Furthermore, the latter game also had a penalty for night combat.
    • The weather penalties are even more unpleasant (-80% for frozen). Woe betide you if you end up fighting in, say, mountains in the winter, making your units essentially worthless without specialised troops and some very good commanders.
  • Eternal Sonata has this in the form of it's light and dark battle system. Standing in a lighted portion of the arena gave you access to different special attacks than when standing in shaded portions, and some enemies changes forms when moving between light and dark areas.
  • In Dawn of War, the RTS title based on Warhammer 40,000, units take less damage and regenerate morale more quickly when in cover. They take more damage when in 'negative' cover, such as crossing a river. Dawn of War II uses a system closer to the one in Company of Heroes.
  • Archon is (partly) a virtual board game version of this trope. In the original version and Archon Ultra, light-side pieces are stronger on white squares, dark-side pieces are stronger on black squares, and on top of that, about a third of the tiles on the board cycle back and forth between white, black, and shades of gray. Archon Ultra spiced things up further in the real-time combat sequences - swamps on a gray square would slow down non-flyers, lava would injure most units, and if you were fighting for a power point, you could park yourself over the power point to regain health.
  • Mega Man Battle Network has various elemental panels which, depending on your element and chipset, may cause you to heal, slide around, take ongoing damage, etc. Using a rock attack on a scissors panel increase the damage dealt, and usually removes the panel effect as well.
    • Panels ranging from grass panels, on which wood-elementals regenerate, ice panels, where non-water types slide, sand, which slows movement, lava which damages non-fire types, poison which drains the health of everything (including anything wearing Float Shoes), holy panels which halve the damage intake of anything on it and a gate to hell.
  • In Age of Wonders (at least second and third) games unit standing higher/lower than target gets to-hit bonus/penalty for ranged attacks. But sometimes standing behind elevation may be safer due to miss chance for cover. Also, different attack abilities use different trajectories, so catapult can lob stones at ballista while completely shielded from its javelins.
    • Also, if playing for the elves, it is better to build your city in a wooded area and then add a structure that hides the entire city from the enemy. The only way to find it is by dumb luck or by looking if any roads are leading to it. You can build a dozen cities in the enemy's backyard, and they wouldn't even know it.
  • Infantry in Company of Heroes use the "cover dots" system. Any place chosen as a destination is rated for the cover it provides, indicated by a colored dot. As in real ranged warfare, it's absolutely vital.
  • In Legend of Mana, each Artifact has an inherent mana level that spills over to its neighbors when planted onto the map. Good luck figuring out what this actually means for gameplay without a walkthrough.
  • In Pokémon, the terrain affects very little in battle (just a few moves, like Nature Power, Secret Power and Camouflage). What does affect battle is weather. The weather at the start of the battle is determined by where you are (clear is the default), but it can be changed by certain moves and abilities. A full list of weather effects can be found here, but the most common ones are damage to certain types of Pokemon and increased or decreased damage from certain move types.
    • One particularly weird one is the move Moonlight in generations III and IV having it's effect boosted by bright sunlight (because moonlight does not have a weather condition).
      • The fact that moonlight is really just sunlight reflecting off the moon makes this a case of Fridge Brilliance.
        • In the original Japanese, Sunny Day is called Clear Sky. That's why it works at night and helps Moonlight.
    • The environment also determines Burmy's form (and the form that female Burmy will take when they evolve into Wormadam).
    • And there's Castform, a pokemon with the special effect to change type (AND appearance) depending on the weather (Sun, Rain, or Snow). It also comes with the attack Weather Ball, which works the same way.
    • In the upcoming Pokémon Black and White games, you can make your own Geo Effects, by using three specific moves in different combinations.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, your conscripts have various attributes that give them bonuses (or penalties) depending on various conditions, and the type of ground they're walking on is one of those conditions.
  • Front Mission does this with terrains. There are three leg types (bipeds, quads, hovers), and each goes with inverse suitability in terms of terrain navigation vs. jumping ability (eg, bipeds suck at navigating swamps but can jump to top of buildings etc.)
  • Used in Ground Control and more so in its sequel, where certain icons light up to tell you if you have extra cover provided by trees or buildings.
  • In the Elemental Lighthouses in Golden Sun and its sequel, any party member who matches the lighthouse's element will recover some PP at the end of each turn in battle.
  • Brigandine has a few such effects, including better defense in the forest (IIRC), but the powerhouse placement is during sea battles... especially one in which the ocean tiles take up almost the entire map, and the land units are restricted to a couple small connected islands. On ocean tiles, water-class creatures can heal over time, have boosted stats (again, IIRC), and can make use of some abilities that they can't make use of on land. You do not want to be sitting next to a Hydra unit who's found a piece of water to camp on.
  • Using the high ground in Blitzkrieg is a very good strategy. First, units on top of a cliff can attack units below without being seen. Second, to be attacked, an attacker would have to circle around the cliff and come up the back. The only drawback is cliffs are such obvious places to base ambushes from, the enemy can respond to this by shelling the area with artillery fire.
  • In League of Legends, there's the concept of "brush" or "bush", which are patches of vegetation that confer invisibility. And a few characters can also fiddle with the ground itself, to hinder opponents, benefit themselves or both.
  • In the Age of Mythology expansion The Titans, choosing Gaia causes "lush terrain" to grow around your buildings, which provides a Status Buff to your units fighting in it.
  • In Yggdra Union, some units have a "specialist" terrain type (e.g., forest specialist). Units gain an advantage when fighting on this type of terrain and are much more likely to win duels.
    • Some maps have stationary catapaults on them. The army that includes catapaults in their formation gains an advantage and their units are more likely to win duels.
  • In the Touhou Project fighting spin-offs Scarlet Weather Rhapsody and Hisoutensoku, each weather type has a specific effect that can turn the tides in a fight. Example? Typhoon: all knock-back is ignored.
  • Minecraft has various weather effects and day cycles. When it rains, the sky grows dark enough for some monsters to spawn in the middle of a field and the rain also extinguishes wild fires. Thunderstorms do the same thing, but make the sky darker and the lightning bolts can strike mobs for damage (including you), set flammable blocks on fire, change pigs into zombie pigmen, or make a creeper super charged for more explosive damage to everything. When it is daylight outside, monsters can't spawn and zombies and skeletons catch on fire from the sunlight. When night falls, all the baddies come out to play, making exploration in the fields more dangerous.
    • Similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, the landscape can be a hindrance or an advantage to the player. With enough height, you can strike mobs below you while they cannot reach you. If there's a huge drop off nearby, you can attack a mob and push them off a cliff for major damage or outright kill them.
    • Endermen simply hate the water. If they are outside when it is raining, they will teleport all over the place trying to seek shelter. Rainstorms are good if you want the Endermen to stay away.

Web Comics

  • VG Cats had a comic on this based on Star Wars Episode 3. "I have the High Ground."
  • The Order of the Stick: Miko's first battle against the team probably wouldn't have gone so well if it weren't for a raging storm that gave V trouble casting spells and made it impossible for Haley to hit with her bow...and convinced Durkon Thor wanted her to win.

Web Original

  • Combined with cutting edge weaponry, the fact that they always take time to scout out the areas in which they will be operating, (looking for good positions for heavy weapons emplacements and sniper teams, setting radio-controlled mines, and so on) is what makes the Sword Agents of Tarot such a threat to the superheroes of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe.
  • The obligatory Whateley Universe example: in "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl", the supposedly unstoppable Team Kimba does a simulation where they get blown to pieces by ordinary basesline soldiers who use Geo Effects and sound tactical planning against them.

Real Life

  • Take Cover is essential to modern infantry tactics.
  • The Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-40, which ended with a ceasefire and Finland losing only a small part of its territory to the Soviet Union while retaining its sovereignty, is a prime example of how this trope can be applied in real life. Despite being outnumbered 3 to 1, the Finns made full use of the winter season, forested and mountainous terrain and long nights to wreak havoc on the Soviet troops, who were more used to fighting in warmer climates and were still reeling from a lack of leadership and morale due to Joseph Stalin's Great Purge two years earlier. An additional bonus was that the Finnish soldiers wore white snowsuits to blend in with the terrain and were excellent cross-country skiers.
  • The greatest Russian military commander of the Napoleonic and Second World Wars was General Winter, ably assisted by his cousin Major Mud. Crossing the Russian countryside in winter, late fall, or early spring without the use of a paved road was essentially impossible, and played havoc with the movement of troops and supplies for both the Grande Armee and the Wehrmacht.
    • Please note that cold weather, mud and large distances are conditions that apply to both parties equally. If a German soldier had to endure -20 Celsius cold, so had his Soviet counterpart, and having a sheepskin jacket and felt boots to stay warm isn't a terrain advantage, it's superior planning. If Napoleon had to dispatch a better part of his army to guard the supply route, it was his own lack of planning and failure to crush the opposing Russian army quickly and near the border. If Germans had to haul supplies and reinforcements all the way from Germany, USSR hauled entire machine plants east of Urals, reinforced the front with troops transferred from Far East, and never complained about it. The list can be seriously expanded, but the point is that blaming these failures just on geography alone isn't going to work, to say nothing of the fact that it is insulting.
    • They're not saying the terrain did all the work, they're saying one side knew how to make the terrain work for them and one side didn't.
  • Much of Switzerland's ability to remain neutral is based on the fact it's surrounded by mountainous terrain and trains its army to specialise in mountain combat (even the tanks they use are more or less perfect for defending Switzerland and nothing else).
    • Most of Switzerland is above the altitude required to cause altitude sickness. Most of the Swiss are acclimatized to living at this altitude, but most other people are not. This is a very significant advantage because everything a soldier does is the exact worst thing to do when dealing with altitude sickness.
    • Switzerland also controls a large amount of the water supply for several countries.
    • The main reason that Switzerland has been able to remain neutral for so long is savvy diplomacy; this trope really only gives insight as to why they've been able to fight off or at least deter anyone whom diplomacy couldn't placate (with the notable exception of Napoleon).
  • Knowing the terrain and using guerilla tactics in Vietnam gave the Vietcong such an advantage that the US was unable to gain a conventional victory. Combined with pressure at home to leave, rising costs and lack of local support, the US was forced to withdraw and leave the south Vietnamese government to fend for itself... and perish.
  • Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the oldest tactical and strategic manual in existence, includes chapters on how to use terrain to best military advantage.
  • One incident during the wars between the Spanish and the Dutch saw a Dutch army led by William the Silent breaking the Spanish siege of Leyden by destroying the nearby dikes and flooding them out. (He later founded the University of Leyden to commemorate his victory.)
    • The above situation was inverted just over two centuries later when the French invaded the Netherlands during the wars of the First Coalition, taking advantage of a cold winter and the resultant frozen rivers/harbours to not only counter the above Dutch tactic, but also take the Dutch navy with cavalry.
  • Often a common tactic used by Alexander the Great in the Persian campaign. The use of a small passage surrounded by coast and hills was exploited in The Battle of Issus, with Alexander flanking the Persian troops from the hills and solidly defeating them; in the Battle of the River Hydaspes, Alexander used the rain and the raging river to keep his movements secret from the Indians and maintain the element of surprise. Also subverted by Alexander in the Battle of Gaugamela, a battle Alexander won, despite the Persians deliberately choosing the large, flat plain because it benefited their larger numbers.
  • At the Battle of Thermopylae, 1500 Greeks (including the famous 300 Spartans) held off 250,000 Persians for three days and recorded almost 100,000 casualties by bottlenecking them in the eponymous cliffs.
    • Also, the Athenian-led Greek navy pulled their weight as well. Despite a rout at Artemision at about the same time as Thermopylae, they met Persian navy shortly thereafter at Salamis, holding a narrow strait in much the same way as at Thermopylae. This kept the Persians from bypassing the Greek defenses for southern Attica and the Peloponnese, allowing the Greek alliance to win the war despite the destruction of Athens.
  • Britain is an island kingdom, and as late as World War II, their navy was feared worldwide.
    • Scholars are actually divided as to whether the sea made Britain impregnable or vulnerable from all sides (hence the need for a strong navy might make this an inversion).
      • Seeing as Britain has been uninvaded for almost 950 years, we can probably go for impregnable.
        • Eire's an island as well, and that didn't noticeably stop it getting repeatedly invaded in the last few centuries.
      • Heard of the Spanish Armada? One hundred twenty ships set sail for England. They anchored off the coast, waiting for reinforcements to begin an invasion. A preemptive strike by the British sent them sailing north. They sailed around the northern end of the island and headed back toward Spain, but they were hit by a nasty storm. Twenty-four ships were sunk or wrecked, in addition to the ones destroyed in the battle. About seventy ships sailed home in humiliating defeat, never even having set foot on land.
        • Britain has been invaded during the Revolutionary Wars, during the war of Austrian Succession, by the forces of the Netherlands during the Glorious Revolution, during the Second Anglo-Dutch war, by France during the Italian wars. It was also invaded during the first Barons' war but this predates the existence of the Royal Navy by three centuries. Additionally, England lost the war despite beating the Spanish armada, Drake's own armada being met with the same level of failure.
  • Terrain was most likely the largest factor that contributed to the Union victory at Gettysburg. Not only did the Union hold the high ground, giving their artillery a huge advantage, but the Confederates were forced to attack across a large, open plain with no cover from Union artillery and gunfire.
  • Much like the Gaugamela example, the Romans tried this one on Hannibal at Cannae, selecting a wide open plain where the Roman heavy infantry could just roll over Hannibals outnumbered forces, and where any ambush would surely be spotted. This didn't work as the Romans plowed straight into the middle of a Carthaginian encirclement anyway. The only survivors were the ones who cut through the Carthaginian centre... and kept on running.
    • The guy who organized the Roman retreat happened to be Scipio Africanus, the man who eventually defeated Hannibal. Needless to say, the Romans learned their lesson.
    • It took them awhile. Hannibal was a master of Geo Effects and used them in two earlier battles to defeat Roman armies. First at the Trebia where he encouraged the Romans to charge through an ice cold river. Second at the Lake Trasimene where caught a Roman army in an ambush between the lake shore and the wooded hills where his light troops were hidden.
  • The Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolution was this in textbook form. It all started when relatively small group of colonial militia had taken their (semi-legal) cache of arms and supplies atop a small hill, and a troop of regular soldiers was dispatched to disarm them. Command hoped that the militiamen wouldn't resist the attempt to confiscate their weapons, and if they did it was hoped that they would quickly give themselves up or scatter when things got serious. As it was, they were determined to resist and had the discipline to hold a line and pick the regulars off in droves as they attempted to scale the hill. The rebels inflicted several times their own casualties on the government forces by the time the hill was taken. It showed that the situation was truly beyond the diplomatic solution everyone had been hoping for, and that the rebels' militia could prove more than a match for the government's troops. General Incompetence was astoundingly common throughout the war on both sides, but the most important lesson of the battle was apparently half-remembered at best as time and again British colonials tried directly assaulting the government's fortified positions.
  • Altitude has an effect on breathing; thus, performing in sporting events in higher regions can be more difficult than in lower. People from the high ground (who are more used to less oxygen per breath) have the advantage everywhere, but it's much more noticeable in the mountains.