Timeless poem about war by Private S. Baldrick, entitled ‘The German Guns’.*
Today, Duncan looks at the place of heavy artillery in the brave new world of Flames of War version 4.
Now that v4 is out in the wild the game, the ‘meta’ and the style of some armies is all up for grabs as we all learn the nuances of the new rules set. One of the things that I think that needs to be revisited is the inclusion of heavy, and by that I mean over 105mm, artillery; does it have a place in v4? Is it overpriced, under-priced or in the Goldilocks zone? Let’s have a wander through the 3 Flames of War periods and investigate what v4 means for the Long Tom, Big Bertha and Stalin’s Sledgehammer.
Why Heavy Artillery?
In my personal experience I never really used heavy artillery in v3. As a predominantly German player I struggled to either find the points for a full sized 4 gun battery or felt that the short 2 gun battery really didn’t provide the consistent punching power that I was paying upwards of 150pts for.
Version 4 has also thrown into the mix making light calibre guns better at digging out infantry and guns whilst reducing the effectiveness of artillery as an indirect anti-armour weapon. It has also allowed mortars the ability to range in – not a big deal for them but does mean that the 120mm and 160mm mortars are now monsters – and made rocket artillery hit an area the size of the Isle of Wight.
Before I go on I will caveat that these are my thoughts around either the armies I run or observations of lists that I’m interested in and it’s not comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination – so any and all thoughts welcome!
So where does it leave the big gun?
Roles and Round-a-bouts
For me the role of the heavy artillery in my v4 armies will be to indirectly dig out infantry and guns. That’s really going to be it 95% of the time. There will still be a place for firing a 150mm+ barrage at tanks AT3 can still make a lucky bail out or two possible and with the standard 2+ firepower you can really make an opponent pay for those costly rolls of one.
I also thing that the use of direct fire heavy artillery give the unit another dimension – especially for self-propelled variants. It won’t be cheap or as effective as it was in v3, with the auto-kill of big guns now going to making infantry and guns now rerolling saves instead, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot and should not be attempted.
The direct fire element should not be overlooked. More often than not rocket artillery and mortar come unstuck to some annoying little recce platoon or such like simple running the gauntlet and then over running them. Even with a RoF 1 gun you can still at least fire in self-defence and deter those little bees from swarming all over you.
Finally smoke. Firing 105mm+ artillery as a smoke barrage – what a waste! Not at all – with the change in smoke barrages to just one per battery, per game, a short battery of heavy artillery let you have access to another precious barrage. It won’t matter in every game but it is an option that will be available to you. I really like the change in the smoke barrage rules; one a game but no shooting through over 12” means if you have a manoeuvrable element to your list you can do some incredible repositioning using multiple barrages of smoke and dash moves.
So looking at specific periods the easiest to discuss units is MW with the 15cm Lorrain Schlepper being the sole incumbent of the heavy artillery mantle. If I run artillery in my Afrika Korps lists then I always reach for the Lorraine Schlepper over the standard 10.5cm battery – it’s cheaper, it’s armoured, it’s mobile and when it’s ranged in it hits like a truck.
Schlepper’s gonna schlep – my new favourite MW unit
For 12pts (2pts less that the 10.5cm battery) all you practically lose is access to smoke but you gain +1 firepower. That means ranged in on infantry or guns the target teams will only be passing their save, on a 3+ save 45% of the time and 4+ save 25% of the time and with a 2+ firepower you should be hammering them down in short order.
My armies for EW are both centred on the Hellfire and Back book: Leichte Pioniers for the Germans and Australian Divisional Cavalry for the British. In my opinion both suffer for the EW artillery tax – a battery of 10.5cm in EW is 360pts and 395pts for CV 25pdrs but there are some interesting options still.
For my Aussies a battery of 4 x 18/25pdrs and 4 x 4.5” Howitzers is 440pts – that is only 180pts for the extra 4.5” howitzers. That would free up the 18/25pdrs to either occupy themselves in a more direct fire roll or if I get really lucky to Mike Target and bring both batteries down on a juicy target. Yes they are only FT being Aussies but I think 180pts for a battery of 4.5” howitzers is a bit of a steal so don’t be surprise if you see me scouring eBay for a box!
German artillery support in the form of 100/17 Italian guns… cheating on every level!
For the Leichte Pioniers neither the s10cm K18 battery nor the 15cm sFH are cheap – 585pts and 480pts respectively – and in an already expensive list even the short batteries are too pricey to include. Looking at alternatives if I was to instead run the Pioniers as CT Infanterie Company instead we can cheat… I mean recruit some Italian allies in the form of a battery of 4 x 100/17 howitzers for 165pts. Yes they are Italian with all the whacky special rules that brings but for the just 20pts more than a German battery of 2 x 10.5cm guns you get the full battery of Italians. Sold.
Editors Note. This is of course proper cheating as these guns are only 100mm not the big guns we are looking at in this article. They are, however, an excellent buy for an EW German list.
Duncan has been suitably chastised for this error.
This is much trickier for me that EW in that I have tonnes of stuff but all for Normandy – the ability to run 21st Panzer as well as more conventionally armed forces for the Germans and 6th Guards Independent Tank Brigade for the British… so where to start?
I think the British is probably the simplest as I think for most LW British players despite the rules changes not a lot will change in terms of support. 25pdrs are, at this point of the war a bargain and a mainstay, and the BL 5.5” guns are fairly ubiquitous already. I have a single battery of 25pdrs as the Infantry Field Battery, Royal Artillery option – cheap as chips for 150pts and I think I will be adding a short battery of 2 x BL 5.5” guns too.
The British answer to the big gun question.
Why the short platoon? Well I am already tight for points as Churchills aren’t cheap themselves and I love my Crocodiles to support them so a full platoon of BL 5.5” guns is roughly the same cost as a platoon of Churchills. However, for a meagre 130pts I can get the short platoon which gives me access to the additional smoke, a 32” direct fire weapon to threaten either dug in infantry or small vehicle platoons and once ranged in a way to indirect pin and dig out infantry.
For the Germans let’s look at the 21st Panzer individually to start with as it’s got some strange options that skew it compared to other German lists.
Once again 15cm Lorraine Schleppers are an option and I have used in v4 the captured 12.2cm FH396(r) howitzers. I think both have suffered now under v4 at this LW stage.
More captured kit put into good use by the Wehrmacht
The Lorraine Schlepper suffers from there being a 10.5cm option of the same vehicle which has one fewer firepower at 3+ but is 50pts cheaper for a battery of 4 vehicles or 40pts at the optimised 3 vehicle battery which is not insignificant.
The 12.2cm FH396(r) howitzers are some of my favourite guns – I love captured kit – but they have no smoke and they have lost a point of indirect AT and their firepower remains the same at 3+. They have suffered the hit of all artillery in v4 but recouped none of the direct benefits. This makes me sad.
The other options in the 21st Panzer – like rocket artillery and multiple 81mm mortars means that I think we should move on to look at another of my favourites the Hummel.
3 x Hummels is 305pts which is not cheap, and clocks in a 65pts more than the 10.5cm equipped Wespe, which is again problematic. Their direct fire range is both 24” and the AT13 vs. AT10 in the Western theatre is not really a boon either. So it’s not looking great for the mighty Hummel so I’m going to skip ahead to the hidden gems of the Grille 15cm (sIG) H and the 15cm sIG33 platoons.
The BIG guns arrive in the form of the 15cm Hummel
In v3 I steered so far away from these units that I partly forgot that they existed, but now in v4 I think that they are a real snip. The Grille H clocks in at 175pts and the 15cm sIG33 platoon 145pts – BARGAIN! Yes you are re-rolling successful hits with only a 2 gun battery for each but the threat is tremendous. The re-rolling of infantry and gun team saves in v4, and I know I’ve harped on about this continuously, is a really big deal and both these gun platoons have the magical 2+ firepower so anything you hit will stay hit.
The 16” direct fire range of the short 15cm guns is problematic for the sIG33 but the Grille H can still make use of its hull mounted gun as a pseudo assault gun if require.
Is there a place for the heavy artillery in v4? Absolutely yes.
Has its role changed? I think so
Will we still see it gracing the green baize of the table top? I hope so
There has always been an argument as to whether long range, heavy artillery should be represented on the table top – I like it. It’s cool to see, it can be scary but while it is on the battlefield it is vulnerable and I can plan for and around it. My belief is that we are all still learning v4 in the context of the legacy of v3 and we need to look again at those units we always took as closely as those we never took.
I will be expanding my options a will report back again having tested some of these thoughts in the crucible of conflict but in the meantime why not let us know your experience of Big Guns in v4?
Until next time
*not the Vengaboys song of the same name… sorry I’ve got that in your head now haven’t I…