Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Concept: How Should Artillery Work?

Fire Of The Guard Artillery, A. Blinkov
Sandwyrm here. Rest assured that I'm working on the shooting rules, but my kid had to go to the hospital last night, and my morning was spent at the doctor's office, so I wasn't able to get the first part of that done enough to post. However, Exgunner posted a very interesting comment to the Air Support post on how he thinks that Artillery should work. So hey! Let's discuss it! I like thoughtful ideas from new people. He brings some actual artillery experience to the table.

Here's what Exgunner has to say:
"HI everyone - been lurking a while, and not having an obvious place to put this comment yet, I thought I'd put it here (because there are similarities with air support - keep reading and you'll see the connection).

As background, I'm very much a newbie in the gaming world, so I'm looking at this from that perspective. I do have an army background in artillery, which colours my biases a little.

That's where my question/idea comes from. As I'm beginning to familiarize myself with 40K's artillery rules, I'm not that impressed with them. They are highly unrealistic. Specifically, with three factors (my thoughts/suggestions after each):

1) A bias toward scatter. Actually, "dumb" ballistic field artillery can be very accurate if crews are properly trained. I could understand if there was some kind of a mechanism in a game where less trained armies/less technically oriented races (your Gruins?) might have less accurate artillery. The simple reducing of scatter by BS in 40K doesn't strike me as a sufficient compensation for that - the difference is an inch or two on the table, where training would have a much larger impact on a real battlefield.

Perhaps weigh your BS equivalent in scatter-reducing calculations more heavily (double it? Triple it for more advanced or trained armies?) Or reduce the number of dice rolled for certain armies (say, 1D6 for Knights artillery/mortars and veteran Imperial Army units, 2D6 for average troops, 3D6 for Gruins, rebels, and the like?

Have categories for artillery (elite/veteran/average/crude or ramshackle...)

2) No mechanism for increasing accuracy as fire continues.

In the real world, if the first rounds fall off-target there is an adjustment. Few competent artillery units miss with the second shot. Indeed, much of the focus of recent research and development in artillery technology and tactics has been the desire to hit pretty much dead-on with the FIRST shot, because counter battery fire can be so quick to respond -- and that counter battery urgency is rooted in the knowledge that the second shot won't miss.

ON my first training run in the artillery simulator years ago learning to call down artillery fire, after only 20-30 minutes, I was consistently hitting on the second round fired. Even the less successful candidates consistently got it on the third round (this is called "bracketing" the target - one round short, one round long, the third will adjust and hit).

In 40K, this simply doesn't happen - it's all dice. All random. This makes no sense, when real artillery goes to incredible lengths to take random factors OUT of it as far as possible (modern artillery accounts and adjusts for temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, elevation, the rotation of the earth during the shell's flight time, the amount of wear/lifespan of the barrel, etc). And, this is in the 40th millennium, when starships and plasma and laser weapons are the norm - is artillery really stuck in the first half of the 20th century or earlier?

How about an artillery unit, like a mortar team, gets an increase in their BS equivalent or a reduction in the number of dice thrown for scatter with each successive turn (or gains an additional scatter dice for an extra chance to hit directly), provided that (a) they are engaging the same target; (b) the target has not moved, and (c) the firing artillery unit has not moved?

3) Very little for artillery observation.

GW's Guard units can take a Master of Ordnance as an artillery observer. Ironically, his fire is incredibly inaccurate compared to direct fire from artillery units; the whole point of a real Forward Observation Officer (FOO) is to make artillery support MORE accurate.

IN modern armies, even infantry and armoured officers are trained to do basic calls for fire when a FOO is unavailable. Having a dedicated, trained artillery officer acting as a FOO in a unit should result in much quicker and more accurate fire.

How about:

(1) Each command or HQ unit in an army have a basic ability to tell on-the-board artillery units to "fire on my target" as if the artillery unit were in line-of-sight, even if it isn't. The artillery unit would then hit at a level equivalent to an average (not veteran or elite) artillery unit in line of sight to the target. This would improve with second and subsequent rounds, if both target and firing unit did not move (it would be okay if the HQ/command unit did, though).

(2) Dedicated FOO models/units/vehicles can do the same, but with a higher BS equivalent/fewer dice, PLUS the ability to call for fire from orbit or off the board. Artillery units would then fire on targets the FOO can see, even if the arty unit can't, as if they were an elite/veteran unit in line of sight (especially on second and subsequent rounds on the same target, if target did not move and the firing unit did not move - same as above).

And one more crazy idea... This is where it relates to air support.

(3) Have command/HQ units and FOO units possess the ability to coordinate/call for airstrikes as well. Modern armies are starting to re-train their FOOs to do air support as well (the Canadian Army renamed their FOOs "Fire Effects Officers" some time ago and cross-train them to coordinate "fast air" and other air support).


Lots of good ideas here, but I won't be able to comment in detail until later tonight or tomorrow morning.

My only good experience with Artillery in games is from Flames of War, where you get 3 chances to range in on the target. With each missed attempt reducing your chances to hit if you do range in. But that's based on how things worked in WWII.

I am aware that things are much different now on a modern (Iraq, Afganistan, etc.) battlefield where you have unmanned drones to spot with, GPS/Computers to guide your first shots, and even a few exotic technologies like self-stearing artillery shells and anti-shell laser interceptor weapons.

Plus you can always just paint a target and have a B-52, B-2, or Predator Drone drop a bomb or missile on it from miles away and 30,000 feet up. That's a capability that I do want to be able to simulate in-game. As well as some countermeasures against it.

I also want everything but mortar-class weapons completely off-table. Which we can do because we don't have artillery minis to sell. :)

About the only thing I want to use from the 40K artillery system is the blast templates. Including the very large Apoc blasts. Which are closer to a realistic blast size for this stuff.

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