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Wizardry 1 divided your characters into front & back row, meaning only the three characters in the front could physically attack & be attacked. The problem was that this limited party composition. For example, Mages and Priests could still cast spells from the back row, but the Thief class was useless in combat - it was too weak to be in the front row, but unable to cast spells from the back row.
Final Fantasy I "solved" this by making front & back rows more subtle - everyone can hit everyone, but characters in the front row deal & take full physical damage, while those in the back take & deal less.
A better solution came in Wizardry V, with the addition of weapon range. Now characters from the back row could attack as well, as the game's manual anxiously explains.
Recently, Lords of Xulima spiced things up, adding horizontal range: characters with short weapons can only attack adjacent enemies. In the image below, the far right goblin can only be attacked by the right-most Warrior or the bow-wielding Thief.