A few housekeeping notes. First of all I had some problems logging in to the blog despite the fact that the article was ready on the second so my apologies for the delay but it took me some time to get things working again at the back end of the blog. Secondly with the extra time and the sheer length and depth of the topic I decided to split it into 5 separate blog posts. I will look at each of the major nations separately (US, British, German, and Soviet) I am also going to begin with a bit of an all around thoughts about artillery. Things that apply in large part to all nations.
This article on generic artillery rules are what I am going to start. So lets get to them then!
I thought that there was a few things I wanted to cover that apply to most nations and while the exact implementation for each nation is different it does apply to most of them. We are going to look at these different artillery ideas:
- Support or building a Battery?
- Mortars or Howitzers
- Effectively using Staff Teams
- Smoke (Sorry Soviets)
- Self-Propelled or Static
- Concealing Your Guns
Support or building a Battery:
I find that this is most often the idea of using either a single platoon of artillery verses building a network of several platoons (usually 3+) If you are looking for a single platoon to support your company then I often find that you should stop looking at mortars. These are the most effective platoon on their own and can also be a great cheaper platoon for reserve missions. I immediately think of medium mortars for this roll. They can smoke, pin artillery and infantry, and rain death on infantry in the open.
However, if you want a battery then you are going to want to take 3 or more platoons and find ways to have them work together (even if in reserve) in the most effective way. This is going to end up taking a large portion of your points and MUST be balanced with still taking enough combat platoons so as to not leave you as just an artillery battery and nothing else. It is tough to do and not all company lists even have the opportunity to create a battery. One of the keys to utilizing an artillery battery is going to be playing fast as well as you will want as many turns to rain down your devastation as you can. This means that if you are a slower player then you may need to practice playing quickly or stick to support roles for artillery.
Mortars or Howitzers:
While I touched on this already a bit in the first point I wanted to expand on their roles. Mortars are ideal for mobile fire support and their smaller range limitations also reflect this. They will often need to move and advance with your main thrust. Also never overlook medium mortars ability to direct fire and take out dug in targets. (particularly gun teams) Medium mortars are also your most economic way to field smoke and flexibility in a list. Heavy mortars provide some of the best fire support around with their increased firepower and AT these can easily help with AT capabilities, digging out a fortified position and even smoking in the case of US and British Heavy mortars. Personally I find that Heavy mortars are my favourite all around use of artillery and I often try to work them into my list if I can and am not building a battery.
Howitzers on the other hand are different for a few reasons. First of all, they can direct fire. This is actually something that I find to be a drawback as it increased their cost (except for Soviet ZiS 3s and British 25 pounders). Otherwise you are paying for something you almost never use. For this reason it is best to take Howitzers in batteries or just use mortar support.
Effectively Using Staff Teams:
This probably seems a bit silly to discuss but I wanted to talk about one thing in particular that I see getting overlooked a LOT of the time in my games. One thing that can be hard to see value in is a platoon that issues board control, even if it doesn’t end up killing a lot of enemy points it can still contribute heavily to winning a game. A great example would be some long range Heavy AT guns that hold down a flank and force armour to find a way around or advance slowly through cover. Well I want to propose that artillery can do the same thing in a very similar way. Artillery does not need to fire every turn, especially if it is at risk of being counter batteried. This means that when artillery gets ranged into an excellent position, usually a choke point of some kind that is going to force the enemy to be under your template or go WAY around (A bridge for example), it should consider not firing but keeping the ranged in marker in place. I have done this a couple times with my Hummels and it has seemed effective on my part and then I have been told by my opponent later that it was a huge deterrent for them and really forced them to be put off balance and not know what to do. We often practice not firing with other platoons and seem to forget to do the same with our artillery at times.
There is one rule that tends to be overlooked a lot I find. Page 127 “Spotting for other platoons”. This rule allows a spotter who has a staff team to spot for another platoon with a staff team without any penalties. This means that you can quickly multiply your spotting capabilities when you have staff teams. This can be a huge reason to use some of the light howitzers that come with staff teams as they can provide more observer coverage for your damage dealing platoons (even if the light howitzers are in reserve their observer starts on the table!)
Smoke: (Sorry Soviets)
I have often found that it is far more effective to use smoke than to actually fire your artillery bombardments. Look for targets that will block lines of sight by smoking choke points in visibility (between forests or hills for example) Unfortunately this does require the enemy to be in the right position which they wont always oblige you with. But it can be a great thing when it works. If you have several platoons of medium mortars or light howitzers it can be quite easy to completely cover the enemy in smoke which is great when you are outgunned or out-ranged. Remember again, your artillery does not always need to be killing in order to be effective.
Probably one of the most useful ways to use smoke is to block an observer from seeing the ranged in point which will immediately stop the ability of the enemy artillery platoon from repeating the bombardment. It must be an exact team that is spotting and repeating a bombardment so if you can kill or smoke the spotting team the enemy must re-range in.
Self-Propelled or Static:
This is an old age debate and is hard to create hard and fast rules for. It often depends heavily on your list. Alas we will do out best to create some guidelines. One of the most important things to consider is the advantage of being one or the other. Static guns are usually unable to move if needed to and even with transport are not very effective at redeploying. They are cheaper though which is a huge plus!
Self-Propelled (SP) guns are more expensive but can redeploy if they end up out of range and are more defensible from enemy armoured cars and infantry because they are usually armoured which mostly shuts down light arms fire. The best reason to take SP guns though is that they cannot be pinned down which means that they will be firing every turn you want them to and you will never waste a turn being pinned down. This is the absolute best reason to take them if you can afford them. It will almost always allow you to win a counter battery engagement with enemy artillery positions. I find that for artillery I take SP whenever I can manage to afford it as it makes a huge difference (with some obvious exceptions to artillery that unpins easily)
Concealing Your Guns:
One must remember that heavy, immobile and AA guns are NEVER concealed by being dug in and must be concealed by terrain. This means that some very clever placement is often necessary. I find that the edge of a forest or in a crop-field are some of the best choices. It is not always possible to conceal your guns but if you can you want to try and it is something that is often forgotten or overlooked.
Before adding artillery to any list first decide what you want to accomplish with it and determine if most or all of those jobs be completed by simply adding mortars or do you need a few platoons to create a battery? All in all I am not sure there is a lot of conclusions that can be drawn from this without simply re-hashing some things. So instead feel free to discuss things on our forums as usual here!
Stay Tuned for Time on Target next month when I look specifically at the US artillery.