Now, you all know me; I like my kubelwagons wheeled, my schwimmwagens floating and my nebels well and truly werfed. But there is a disturbance in this natural order of things; the salvo seems to be on the decline and, like the Echidna, the Sloth and the Kiwi, in order to prevent them from dying out completely, we have to understand why they are under such pressure.
I can’t remember the last time I contemplated putting a salvo template weapon system into a Flames of War list. I’d guess it was nebelwerfers for my Germans, as I have some painted up for Tunisia, but I honestly can’t recall. The nebelwerfer has gone from the darling of V3 to the damp squib of V4 – why is this? What has happened? And surely we should try and Save Our Salvos?
Salvo Templates – The Issues
Right, let’s start with some of the issues with including a salvo template in your force. These are not universally true; they are not anything other than my own conjecture and, most importantly, if salvos are rocking your world, fabulous, I want to get there too but this is what I see as holding me back.
That’s right, it is a massive area of kaaaablamo that you can cover with a salvo… 100 square inches of kaaaablamo in fact. This is great and one of its key boons over a standard template; it does, however, mean that there are 256 square inches of the table (10″ x 10″ of the template and 6″ of danger close” where your own teams cannot be because of danger close. That is pretty massive.
One of the things I struggle with is using this massive template effectively. It feels like you almost trip over yourself trying to use it, especially if it is the only bombardment weapon you have.
It Does One Thing
That is right; it does one thing really quite well…
and it will do that for two or three turns…
and then be run over by armoured cars…
or an elderly man with a limp and a small terrier called Wee Jimmy.
Generally speaking, there is very little a salvo-armed unit can do if you can get to it. It will likely be its only weapon and, generally, it has a poorer indirect AT so anything armoured will not really be bothered by its fire at all. Where a conventional artillery unit can still blast away with direct HE fire, the salvo is reduced to relying on something else to keep it safe.
So, with only one weapon system that is designed to fire indirectly, you could be forgiven for thinking it will be doing this turn-in and turn-out, you will be lucky. Most of the salvo-toting options you have are either soft skins or gun teams and that means motivation matters.
Armoured artillery is almost always more useful than towed or truck mounted, and there are options in that regard; Sherman Calliopes and Panzerwerfer 42 but they are either limited in their deployment options or are just really expensive in terms of points.
Let’s do a quick comparison between two Bagration German support units; the Panzer Werfer 42 and the Wespe.
Their armour is essentially the same and their Hit On 4+ is identical. They can both Stormtrooper if needs be and both are as reliable as can be in terms of Skill and Ranging In. The Panzerwerfer is slightly slower but if you are Cross Country Dashing with your armoured artillery either something has gone spectacularly wrong or amazingly correct.
Finally, there is a small difference in Motivation which may be relevant and the unit size favours the Panzerwerfer in terms of being able to have either 2 or 4 models in a unit. The downside of that is that it does make the unit even pricier.
So now we are down to brass tacks…
Both artillery units have smoke bombardments, and a self-defence MG and the Wespe have a slight advantage in terms of range. That being said we can call that a wash on a 6ft by 4ft table as both will be able to reach their intended targets.
The Panzerwerfer has the bigger salvo template BUT has less indirect AT, less Firepower and no option for direct engagement to defend itself. The real kick in the pants though is that a four-model Panzerwerfer unit cost 16pts which is 7pts, and nearly double that, of a three-model Wespe unit.
So forget everything but the cost and the question is do you have in the German Bagration army list the luxury of spending an additional 7% of your points on your armoured artillery support? Even if you could take a 3-model unit it would work out at 12pts, it’s a really, really rough sell.
Save our Salvos
So, why take a salvo template? I mean I’ve just spent the last, however long, bemoaning them and trying to show that they are over costed, underpowered and in-your-figure-case not on the tabletop.
Well, the answer is simple really; because they fit your army design, and your game strategy better. That they help you get to your win condition faster and most importantly of all… they fit your army and its historical background.
Take my T-27 Xylophone Rocket Launchers. They are going to be an integral part of my US 2nd Infantry Division force because, during the Brittany campaign, the 12th Field Artillery Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Division was given experimental ground-mounted T27 4.5” rocket launchers instead of their normal 105mm howitzers.
The battalion found them somewhat effective, but the launcher system lacked the volume of fire needed to dislodge the enemy which led to the development of the T-27 Xylophone with paired-up launchers and mounted on the back of a 2½-ton truck for better mobility and stronger bombardments. Now, we don’t have ground-mounted T-27 but for flavour and uniqueness, I’m bringing the T-27 truck-mounted launchers.
Aside from this wholesome flavour, they will also bring something unique to the force – the three Ps (PLENTY OF PINNING POTENTIAL). In an evolving landscape of bulky, poorly motivated troops having an asset that will cheaply pin down and disrupt your opponent and fix their forces in place is a real boon.
Think FFI, Volksgrenadiers, Beach Defenders and other 4+ or 5+ Motivation rolls for unpinning. Think of those PaK43 Volksartillery units rendered useless by one well place salvo, think of those Beach Defenders that cannot reposition as they are being forced to keep their heads down.
That is the key for me, small cheap pinning platoons. Two Xylophone Rocket Launchers are 3pts. That is pretty awesome to just throw down a big old pie plate of a template down on the side of the table you are not planning on attacking down. Or Range In where your opponents’ reserves will arrive – yes only two teams means re-rolling hit rolls but the size of the template means that you should be creating a potentially large volume of target teams.
The other thing that small salvo units are useful for is counter-battery fire. You can hit more guns with a bigger template and maximise your chance of pinning or smoking your intended target.
- Have a plan. I mean this is usually helpful in most games but for the salvo to give you that bang for your buck you have to know what you want it to do and how it is going to do it.
- Keep it cheap. Salvo templates are pointless against armoured targets – think of them as big area mortars – so keep the cost of the unit down if you can so if it is rendered useless you only have a minimal investment in the unit.
- Think historical. There is little better than a themed force in full swing. Think about what you are representing on the tabletop and how you want it to look, feel and play.
- Keep it simple. Don’t get suckered into thinking that six nebelwerfers are going to blast you to victory all by themselves. More than most units salvo armed units need to work in cohesion with the other parts of your force.
- Know your limits. You have a clear strength to your artillery unit armed with a salvo weapon and clear weaknesses too. Don’t get disheartened if your opponent picks on those weaknesses, stick to your plan, stick to your strengths and keep at it.
So keep your salvo templates close and your schwimmwagens closer and I’ll be back soon with a cup of single-origin, cold brew flat white artisan coffee (but for the love of all that is good and right and just, not pumpkin-spiced anything! What the blue, blue $£&* is that all about?!) with more thoughts from the hipster’s beard.
Of course, we know there is one more salvo weapon coming… stay tuned for our British Bulge coverage – Lee