Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hex War Games - Strategy Part XIV - Artillery Use

Artillery suffers from unique weaknesses and strengths.  Artillery requires time to setup, map its exact location, measure wind speed, etc.  The advantage of artillery is it can bombard at a great distance and bring incredible firepower to bear.

In game terms, for most modern games, artillery cannot move and fire at the same time.  Unlike infantry and armor, where it is simply 'commit and go', artillery requires some forethought to use properly.  Additionally, artillery is also expensive compared to other units.  This article will review the use and tactics of artillery.

Artillery Screen
First and foremost, artillery is not capable of surviving without units protecting it.  Infantry or armor can provide adequate screening units.  The idea is to keep the enemy from being able to engage the artillery in close combat.  Use of ZOC to limit movement of enemy units can provide this protection.
Effective and Ineffective Screening of Artillery Unit's by Using ZOC
In some games, artillery has a minimum range at which the unit cannot fire on units.  In this case, the ideal screen forces the enemy units to be kept within the artillery unit's minimum and maximum range.  With artillery support, units can form a more spread out defensive position as the artillery will bring firepower to points of critical contact with the enemy.

Unlike other units, which may retreat and advance at will, artillery requires knowledge of when an enemy assault will succeed and when it will peter out.  If an enemy unit or two advances within the artillery unit's minimum range and friendly forces cannot repel them, it is too late.  If the enemy attack would fail or be driven back, or if forces can be diverted to make it so, moving the artillery will waste at least two turns moving if it retreats too early.  This is situational, and requires experience in both the game system and the tactics employed, but the player must decide the right time to move.

Pair Artillery
One artillery piece is powerful, two is devastating.  Unlike other units, with the exception of air units, artillery should always be paired with another artillery piece, preferably two of the same type.  Pairing artillery provides many benefits including:
  • Simplified Logistics,
  • Leapfrogging Movement.
Simplified Logistics
Complex Logistics
In games with logistics, different artillery pieces may require different supply chains.  In these games, units with the same types of artillery may utilize the same logistics chain.  This means rather than protecting two independent logistics, a single chain may be protected.  In game terms, this means if a player has X units available to defend the logistics chain, all X may be used to protect the chain.  Alternately, if needed, some of the X units may be moved to the front line, replacing damaged or destroyed units and maintaining momentum at minimum loss to effectiveness.
Simplified Logistics
A major disadvantage of artillery is the inability to move and fire in most games.  Using paired artillery, it is possible to maintain constant fire on enemy units.  This is done by using one unit to attack while the other moves, thus the term 'Leapfrogging'.  
Leapfrogging Artillery

Leapfrogging can be used during an attack or a retreat.  When used in attack, artillery helps to maintain momentum of the attack.  Many times an attack will eventually lose steam, usually as the attacking units become damaged or destroyed.  At the beginning of an assault, artillery is within range and bombards the enemy units, minimizing casualties.  As the units advance, they outrun their artillery support, and the front line units become less effective faster, and become damaged/disabled.

Soon the assault pauses as the player must move weakened units out of line, reinforcements must move into their place, and the artillery moves forward to support position.  All of this gives the opponent time to reorganize and launch a counter attack against these weakened units which now lack artillery support.  Leapfrogging artillery helps maintain a constant stream of firepower to assist where needed.

In retreat, leapfrogging artillery assures the attacking units receive constant damage.  The concept here is to force the opponent to lose important units at critical junctures.  The loss of a single enemy unit can swing the tide of battle by shrinking the line of attack, exposing a flank, or breaking the attack in two.
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