Sunday, 25 October 2009

Going Tactical - Bring on the BIG guns

I love artillery and as a guard player, I really do have a lot to choose from, It's like been a kid in a sweet shop, but I don't really think any of them belong in the 40k game, especially in 5th edition.

Why is this? Well, it's down to True Line of Sight. In previous editions of the game, one of the founding rules concepts is that 40k is a game of abstract scale. IE 36" is not same as 3 sets of 12", when you looked at the table, you were looking at a map, that bunker wasn't a bunker, it was a bunker complex, those two tree's were a heavily wooded forest.

With the inclusion of True LOS, all this changed. That bunker was just a bunker, those tree's were just a couple of trees. Everything on the table becomes what is was, rather than a representation. What you see is what you get. Well, if that's the case, then abstract scale goes out of the window. You can't say that a building is just a building and then park an artillery piece behind it and fire over it to hit something in the other side, it just makes no sense.

You see the problem is that 40k isn't a wargame, it's a fantasy battle game. It's full of stuff that just wouldn't happen in a wargame. It's probably the reason why it isn't taken seriously by proper wargamers.

Now, I like tactics and strategy, and I often try to include these into my games of 40k by creating special rules and campaign rules that support these. So, with artillery, here's a few things that I've done in the past with friends to bring a bit of wargaming to 40k......

Artillery has been a major part of all modern conflicts from WWI onwards and played parts in many of the conflicts before the 20th century. The one thing that made artillery excellent was the idea that you could have guns safely in your rear echelon and still damage the enemy. There's no way in hell you'd have heavy pieces lined up with your infantry on the front line, so useless they could fire directly, we banned them and we also banned them firing indirectly. This didn't apply to troop weapons, just any that needed a vehicle to move it.

With them gone from the table, we needed to represent them in the game. This was done in a few methods.

Off Table support

We simply counted them as being behind the lines, and used a spotter much like the current MoO, which was more realistic if not a little annoying to the enemy, with them not being able to do anything about them, but then that's the point of artillery. An alternative to the MoO are preplanned strikes very much like the Grey Knights orbital bombardment.

There's plenty of playing around you can do with this option, from spotter rules to fire missions, to planning pretimed creeping barrages, even to coin a phrase, broken arrow fire missions. With a little effort you can add a whole new tactical level to the game with offensive and defensive artillery support.

Multitable games

Best saved for big point games and multiplayer games, but they're absolutely great fun and add a whole new level to the game. The basic idea is that you have another table setup to represent the artillery positions. You can then call in support fire from the rear table to the front line table using various spotter/fire mission rules.

Where it gets interesting is how you deal with this rear table. In the past we've allowed players to allocated deep striking units to attack the artillery positions. It becomes a whole new game, with player having to decide how much of their force they want to put aside for attacking/defending these positions. Too much and you could be lacking on the front line, to little and you'll be feeling the pain on the front line.

Campaign rules

Campaigns already add a whole new strategic level to the game and artillery is just one element. In past campaigns based on hex maps (the old mighty empires), we've allowed artillery pieces in forces neighbouring a hex currently in conflict to support their forces with off table artillery. Combined with a relaxation of the FOC, this encouraged the players to develop specially artillery support armies and artillery hunting forces. There's just so much possibility.

Give them a go, I'm sure you'll have a blast, a very large blast. Out of interest, have any of you guys used alternative rules for artillery support? I loved to hear them, feel free to add them in the comments or even blog about them. I'd love to hear how you making things a bit more tactical.


Anonymous said...

My group sometimes uses separate-table artillery for our Apoc games. We allow both deep-strikers and regular reserves to deploy on the artillery table(s), since the latter can always be considered as a counter-arty force that is running in tandem with the main force. Whomever owns the artillery (or on the same side) can also deploy units to that table at the start of the game, plus DS and reserves as normal.

From a gaming perspective, it becomes a matter of weighing how many points you want to devote to clearing out the artillery (or conversely, protecting them) without crippling your main force too much, since whatever units end up on the second table can't re-deploy back to the main table (we've yet to rule on whether teleporting units or those that can re-enter reserve can do so).

Admiral Drax said...

This is brilliant, Colonel!

Despite guns being (once) very much my 'thing' I've never really toyed with this: I've just remained frustrated with the abstractions and (recently) opted instead for griffons.

But jeez - I think I'm going to have to give this a go!

How do you balance things points-wise? Or do you just not worry?

Col. Corbane said...

Depends on the game Drax. If it's simply off table, then it's normally part of an attackers army used as part of an assault. In which case we balance it with defensive assets for the defender - bunkers etc.

If it's multitable, then it's down to how many points you want to put into artillery or deep striking troops to take out the artillery.

Or sometimes, we just say sod it, what if ...

Arquinsiel said...

The problem is you're thinking of 40k "artillery" in the entirely wrong manner (and forgetting that 1st and 2nd ed were true line of sight, and this is a 1-1 model-unit ratio game).

Artillery in the 41st milennium is.. big. This stuff... not big. It's almost universally self-propelled too. A large portion of the IG artillery corresponds to WWII German Tank Destroyers or Assault Guns. The only real exception is the Deathstrike, which had it's range upped insanely in the most recent incarnation and is.... rather silly.