This is the second month of artillery and the first month where we will look at a specific national abilities when it comes to artillery. I wanted to begin with the US forces and their artillery. Not for any particular reason but they just came up first. I find that the US can make some of the scariest artillery batteries in the game that, if constructed properly will provide fire support that you have never had and rain death on your opponent like they have never witnessed.
So without any delay lets bring on the US artillery batteries!
The US Artillery
First I want to look at the nation specific rules and how these will effect your play style. The rules are as follows:
- Excellent Communications
- Under Command
- Hit ‘Em with Everything You’ve Got
- Time on Target
This rule is amazing. It essentially means that if you have no way to spot for your artillery you need to go back to basic training! The fact that your 2iC and platoon command teams can all act as spotting teams with only a +1 modifier to range in means that you should be finding targets for your guns every turn. You should still always use an observer if you can since you will range in more effectively, you just have more options now. This rule should be kept in mind every single time you move a platoon command team in order to give as many overlapping angles onto the enemy in order to land your artillery in a spot with the best template positioning.
At first glance this seems amazing, however you will soon realize that unless you are fielding chemical mortars or using just the right list this tends to be a moot point. While ignoring the +1 to range in for all your makeshift spotters seems great the restrictions are heavy and do not allow for use with most of the artillery I have encountered. In large part, use it if you can but don’t ever count on it to help you out.
Hit ‘Em with Everything You’ve Got:
This rule is just insane. At first glance it seems like it just allows for bigger batteries, which granted is always nice. However, this is not where this rule shines. This rule is insane due to the fact that it allows you to orient your template in multiple ways which maximizes your templates effectiveness! Page 130 about positioning the template states that you use one of your participating platoons as the aiming point. This means that if you have 2 different batteries joining together then you are able to position the template with either battery as the aiming point which gives you a huge advantage in template positions that the enemy just cannot account for. It also, of course, allows you to potentially use different template sizes etc. (More on this later)
Time on Target:
Here is your other great rule. This is what allows US artillery to be used effectively on the attack as well as the defence. It gives huge flexibility by forcing re-rolls for enemy saves if you range in on the first attempt. This is also the reason that you want to take advantage of all of your extra spotters to ensure you are re-ranging in almost every turn. Time on Target (TOT) bombardments also give US artillery the best ability to kill enemy tanks. It is also one of your most effective tools for counter battery when combined with an AOP. (enemy guns are usually not concealed as Heavy and Immobile guns do NOT benefit from concealment in foxholes!)
You didn’t have enough spotters so you have a flying one as well! This means that TOT bombardments on enemy tanks are going to almost always be in the open and making them most effective. I use the AOP almost every turn as it also allows you to re-roll your last attempt to range in just in case the dice decide to hate you. The US AOP also has the advantage of providing column security which helps push away enemy ambushes (little off topic so we wont go into this, but it is amazing!) which again allows more flexibility of your artillery spent points to support you in offense or defense.
Now lets examine how to best use your different artillery weapons!
Light and Medium Mortars:
Lets be honest, as a US player these are really the same thing for you because unlike other nations your light mortars are gun teams and resemble medium mortars with only slightly less effectiveness. I see these as being of two purposes to the US player. They can provide smoke screens and they can also provide you with some cheaper platoons for reserves.
I find these to be extremely lack-luster in comparison to your other choices. They cost nearly the same as your artillery howitzers and are not as effective in my opinion. Leave them at home if you can bring 105mm or 155mm guns.
Most people probably look over these but I find them to be invaluable for two reasons. First of all they do have that slightly increased AT over mortars which gives you AT3 meaning you can more reliably bail tanks and can even kill them now, even if it is unlikely. However the real reason has to do with the ability of them to provide another observer that can be used for your 105mm and 155mm Howitzers.
*Remember that any observer with a staff team can be used to spot for ANY other battery with a staff team without any penalties.
I also find that typically I use them for smoke but having the observer that can spot without penalities for your bigger batteries and slightly more options with direct fire capabilities and AT 3 bombardments is worth the 5-10 points they cost over medium mortars. One of the best things about this battery is its synergy! It is often a weapons platoon which means that platoon command and 2iC command teams ignore the +1 penalty for ranging it in. This also frees up its observer so it can be used for the batteries that will take penalties if ranged in by command teams (105mm and 155mm).
Somehow these guns are cheap, I have no idea why as they are amazing! First I do want to separate these into the two different versions. We have the gun shield variety M3A_ and the no gun shield airbourne howitzer the M3. Let me begin by addressing the M3 which is probably the most cost effective and combat effective artillery in the entire game and realistically should receive a fairly hefty price increase in all honesty. 6 of these guns are only 155 points including an observer which is frankly just ridiculous! The US player can get 12 M3 guns which are a very respectable AT4 with a firepower of 4+ for 310 points which is cheaper than a lot of people pay for 4 guns of their own without all the fancy US rules. The 105mm howitzers with gun shields are great as well and can be used just as effectively but with a slightly higher cost in points due to a slightly increased direct fire AT and a gun shield.
105mm Howitzers of some kind should always be your core of any artillery battery for the US forces.
These are great for obvious reasons when viewing their stats. However they are more expensive as well. I personally enjoy them because they can be linked with 105mm batteries via the Hit ‘Em with Everything You’ve Got rule to great effect. This will create a mixed battery which will result in an AT5 FP3+ bombardment as long as your ratios are at a minimum 1/3 of your guns being the 155mm and 2/3 of your guns being 105mm. This allows you to be extremely cost effective. You can pay for 4 105mm guns and then 2 155mm guns and get an amazing bombardment of 6 guns with AT5 FP3+. You cannot ask for much more here!
Alright so that is a lot of specifics so lets look at some conclusive and combining strategies and thoughts.
If you are going to utilize US artillery (You should have your national rules support it!) Then you want to have a minimum of two batteries with a staff team in my opinion in order to take advantage of shared observers and your Hit ‘Em with Everything You’ve Got rules. You also want an AOP since it helps you take advantage of your TOT rules.
Not necessarily nation specific but using your medium mortars can be great for platoon numbers and reserves. However if you can the 75mm battery is probably one of the best artillery battery support platoons you can buy. The flexibility and utility that it adds is immense. It can be used to hit infantry in the open, smoke, provides an observer for other batteries and usually does not take penalties when ranged in by 2iC and platoon command teams using the Under Command and Excellent Communications rules. I really cannot stress how useful this platoon has been when I am building a US artillery battery!
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