Sunday, January 19, 2014
Imperial Guard Tactics: Artillery the Big Guns!
Today gentlemen we will be starting the coverage of the Imperial Guard artillery, and as they say "infantry win firefights, tanks win battles, artillery win wars." First up today will be the Ordnance Battery and all the variants it can take. Later on I will cover some of the other artillery in another post. As a long time guard player I have had a few basilisks in my army and they have always been one of the bread and butter units for the IG. When this codex came out, I was wonderfully surprised to see all the different artillery variants that came in the codex, it was great to see more options in the heavy support other than leman russ or basilisk. This is not to say the old units don't have a use, but having all the choices is amazing. Recently I have taken to using MoOs to make up for artillery as I run an almost entirely infantry army, but that is mostly a fluff choice not a this/that is better one.
The first thing is you have the Ordnance Battery, which is a HS choice that allows you to take up to three artillery tanks in a single squadron and FoC slot. So for those that love artillery you can bring up to 9 and blast the enemy to rubble. You don't have to but this eases the pain of choosing a valuable HS slot. All of the tanks are open-topped (you can buy the upgrade), have a heavy bolter, searchlight and smoke launchers, BS3, AV 12 10 10 HP3. All can replace the heavy bolter with a heavy flamer for free, don't because ordnance rules will prevent you from firing if you fire the main gun (flamers can't shoot snap shots). They can take all the usual vehicle upgrades, dozer blades, HK missile, extra armor, camo netting, in addition to the enclosed crew compartment. The only upgrades that are really worth it are Camo netting and the enclosed compartment. The others aren't bad, but you start spending points that don't really provide the boost to justify the points. My opinion with IG is that it is better to spend points on more models then adding upgrades to a single model (with exceptions).
The first on the list and the old warhorse of the IG artillery. Its 25 pts less than a leman russ and it comes with the earth shaker cannon. It is ordnance, barrage 1, Large Blast, with a 36" - 240" range with a S9 AP3. So Ordnance is the first thing, basically you fire all other weapons as snap shots if you fire the main gun. Its barrage so you can fire under its minimum range of 36" but you will always scatter fully even if you have LoS. Now here is a misconception I have seen about barrage and I want to clear it up. I have encountered people who believe that if you fire a barrage weapon and have LoS, you cannot subtract the scatter from BS. Also they have stated you do wound allocation from direction of fire and not blast center.
This is wrong, the rules for barrage state that they are treated as a blast weapon with following exceptions: Barrage can fire indirectly, that being it can fire its weapon at targets out of LoS or at targets within its minimum range. If it does so it scatters fully unless a hit is rolled. *Note it says nothing about not subtracting BS if targets are in LoS and not within minimum range.* The second part is that for the purpose of wound allocation and cover, it is ALWAYs determined from the location of the center of the blast marker. In the book these exceptions are separate clauses and not connected, this is important in that they are not drawing from each other, ie one does not draw conclusions form the other. So if you have LoS and are not in minimum range, you do minus BS and do take wounds from the center of the hole. rant over.
The basilisk is not the cheapest or most expensive artillery tank, it has the best all rounder gun, but nothing special that the other ones have. The main weakness of the basilisk is that its minimum range is 36" meaning you are going to be scattering a lot for most of your shots. This really isn't horrible but it can be a pain when you can't hit anything, the flip side being you are most likely hiding this guy behind cover and shooting indirectly anyways. Since there really is no benefit to not hiding it, that is the way to use it, take the squadron (or lone one) and hide it behind cover and target the largest mass of troops or vehicles and open fire. The key is target priority and to minimize the effects of scatter. Do not hope that it won't scatter, anticipate the scatter and target areas of the field with enough target to give a high probability of hitting something. Since it has high S and AP but it doesn't have ignores cover or other neat tricks, it is a great all rounder but not specialized enough to really focus on any one type of target.
What I find helps with the basilisk is to not think of targeting units, but of targeting sections of the battlefield. You want to use basilisk batteries to deny sections and avenues of the field to your opponent and force him to huddle up or spread out to avoid the blast but unable to hide from your other fire. Don't worry about specific units, shoot at large concentrations of vehicles and troops and the basilisks will do their job. When you start trying to snipe with basilisks that is where you will have issues. Don't rely on luck to get your hits, use target priority to maximize your chances. Now the next gun I will talk about can help out in the accuracy department but really isn't necessary to make them effective.
The griffon is probably one of may favorite units and is my favorite artillery tank. It has the same profile as the basilisk except for its gun. It has the Heavy Mortar 12"-48" range, S6 AP4 Ordnance, Barrage Large blast and has accurate bombardment. This allows you to reroll the scatter dice. It is the cheapest artillery at the same cost of a Hydra. You can almost take two for the price of one basilisk. That alone is tempting. I like these as they are cheap, mobile, and are focused on infantry killing. Yeah it doesn't have high S or low AP, but three accurate large blasts will cause a lot of wounds. Forcing your opponent to roll will mean even marines are going to be dying. You don't need low ap to be successful. With the armies of Tau and Eldar rolling around, you are looking at a very cheap and effective peice of artillery with the only draw back being that you are either going to FW or kit bashing to get one.
This is by far the best artillery piece to take in a mech list. The reason being due to the newer ordnance rules allow you to move and fire the main gun, and since you fire the heavy bolter as a snap shot any way there is no real bonus to hiding it. Its cheap enough that the crew compartment is worth taking on this guy, and the only one I would argue taking extra armor on. It can move and keep your mechanized infantry covered and deal the anti infantry damage that the army needs, since most mech armies have anti tank but lack the high wound dealing anti infantry damage. This is great because it has a small minimum range and can benefit from its BS if it does have LoS. You hide it early on and can then move it up as your army advances. Its cheap enough that you should not be afraid of moving it and losing it.
The other way griffons are used is to bring accuracy to your other artillery. The common tactic is to place the girffon in a squadron with two other basilisks. The griffon fires first and "ranges" the target with its accurate bombardment for the follow up shots of the basilisks. This is a decent tactic but it has upsides and down. The up is that it really increases the accuracy of your shot with the griffon's rule plus if the griffon has LoS it can also reduce scatter as it has less minimum range. This makes for accurate basilisk shots. The down side is that you are limiting your shots to targets within 48" or have to sideline the griffon, so you can encounter situations where it will be unable to fire. The other is that the two weapons don't quite go together as the griffon is anti infantry all the way while the basilisk is an all rounded. You will find situations where the giffon shot has no effect because it can't hurt the target or doesn't have the AP to go after the same units. This is not to say this is a bad combo, jus that it has draw backs to an all basilisk squadron as well as benefits.
The other one I like to pair it with is the colossus as it is another straight up infantry killer, but needs the accuracy boost the griffon provides. Both of their weapons go well together as infantry killers and with the Colossus ignoring cover, it really is important to have the shot hit home, the advantage that the griffon brings to the table. All in all the griffon is one of the best in the artillery category and just gets the job done. Its cheap and effective and is a force multiplier in what it can do with your other artillery tanks.
Ah the siege mortar, another one of my favorites. It has the Siege Mortar as the main gun which is 24"-240" S6 AP3 Ordnance Large blast 1 barrage. Ignore the cannot fire directly part, that has been FAQ'd. It also ignore cover. This is awesome. I love this guy as it is a pure infantry killer pure and simple. At S6 it can still hurt side armor 11, 10 vehicles, 12 if necessary, though the best way to do it is to target groups of vehicles, mainly clumps of wave serpents or other vehicles that rely on their jink save to keep them alive. This one is the most expensive though as 15 pts more than a basilisk, so you are paying for its abilities.
This is great in the current armies that you face, as it has the AP to take MEQ and most infantry are getting wounded on 2s. This is also great at dropping those pesky bikers (marine or eldar), blasting them apart with no saves. This is a great unit for clearing objectives and digging out defending infantry. Other armies have ignores cover, this is one of ours. Its drawbacks are its price and actually obtaining the model. This is one of those that I really hope come in a new artillery kit, if we are lucky. It has the range of a basilisk, with less minimum range, so it can go well with basilisk to round them out. Though I personally like them with griffon's. The two go well together and since they focus on killing infantry, you don't have to worry about having one being out of the fight. The griffon brings accuracy that guarantees the unit gets what it pays for. Also a squadron of two colossus and one griffon is less than three basilisks.
It comes down to what you are facing and what you want it to do. I think they are great in the current meta and can do so much against bikes, eldar, tau, and marines. It is just a great unit that is still not that expensive. I would argue that almost any all rounder generalist army should have one of these in them.
The Medusa is the last one, and it is the only one that is not barrage. Its 5 pts less than the colossus and has the Medusa Siege Cannon. It is 36" S10 AP2 Ordnance large blast. It can purchase bastion breacher shells which give it 48" S10 AP1 blast and gets 2D6 for armor penetration. This piece is ok, its a gun short and sweet. It doesn't have barrage so it needs LoS. If you want to go tank hunting, go with the Bastion breacher shells. Its great at killing vehicles and will still hurt everything else. If you already have anti tank, then keep the normal gun, its still ordnance and S 10 and will kill vehicles when you need it. But if you are going to use it in a generalist roll keep the regular shells, but they are cheap enough that there really is no reason to not take them unless you want to keep the large blast.
Its kind of a cheap mans vanquisher and in some ways is better since its S10 AP1. It is however much less durable and has to stay in LoS to be effective. Since this guys has to have LoS, the cammo netting can be a good upgrade as you should be placing this guy in good position in good cover, the netting giving you the boost to your save. It will be a save you need, as soon as you open fire shots are going ot be coming at it next turn. It does not have the durability of a LR to take the hits. You will have to watch out a lot for units like broadsides and markerlights as they will tear them apart.
This one is honestly the last one I would take as their are other anti tank and similar weapons. That being said it can be very good. As its not commonly brought, its a good little trump card you can throw down that will surprise your opponent. Now a good one will recover and you cannot count on this. Using terrain and movement properly, you can pop out and shoot at a target, destroy it and then scoot away. Use terrain to keep it protected from return fire and only exposed to the target it wants to kill. It has decent range and awesome firepower and can really bring the pain. You are really going to have to babysit it and it's the hardest to use as it can't just be left in the corner to fire at what it wants.
To wrap it up, all of these are pretty good and have their uses. The basilisk is in some ways overshadowed by the other artillery here. The basilisk shines in apoc where it makes its range known and the boards are big enough that it can stay back and doesn't have to worry about its minimum range. In normal games it doesn't really get to make use of its range and it is very often firing at targets in minimum range. It doesn't have special rules or weapons that give it an edge. It is a solid gun that can hit anything on the board, but can't pinpoint its fire without help. With the advent of servo skulls as BBs, this now is a great way to bring basilisk back and make up for their only real weakness in their scatter.
Servo skulls are awesome for artillery. If you are bringing lots of big guns, you need to be bringing them, plus you can be presciencing your artillery with your inquisitor as well, so now you can have a full battery of basilisks that have the same effect as the griffon but don't have to sacrifice firepower. This really is a great route to go. I love servo skulls and the do double task of protecting your artillery by keep scouters and infiltrators back as well as giving you accuracy. It is probably your best force multiplier and really allows you to go artillery heavy and make the most out of it.
Artillery is great in all lists as IG lack the durability and firepower in regular guardsmen and it gives IG the punch it needs to event he playing field. Colossus are great right now, making Tau, eldar and SM pay for their advances. Hopefully the near future will see a new artillery kit that brings all of these models into plastic and will see them on the field far more often. Hope this gives you ideas and feel free to leave your own as always.