British artillery represents the most powerful long distance firepower in the game. Backed by a plethora of excellent special rules and the best heavy artillery in Flames of War, a British commander has access to a truly terrifying arsenal.
This article will analyze the various artillery rules for the British and also breakdown the two main cannons that will make up the tommy arsenal. I will also explain the basic tactics of British artillery and what its uses and limitations are on the table.
The most basic rule that instantly gives British batteries an advantage is the fact that they are allowed to take eight guns per battery in two gun troops.
The consequences of such an advantage is that British batteries are extremely difficult to eradicate or even weaken. The large number of guns also allows for large areas of ground to be covered in direct fire (never underestimate the deterrence of 8 artillery pieces forming a rear defense layer). Another advantage of the large batteries is that the battery may be broken down into two gun troops during the game and fire two separate bombardments, or they may come together to fire larger attacks with the single staff team servicing both troops. Larger batteries also mean more smoke templates for concealing an advancing force. Above all, the large batteries directly correspond with the excelent “rounds on the ground” and “mike target” special rules.
The first doctrinal rule is “rounds on the ground”. Historically, royal artillery would call in different bombardments based on the situation at hand, usually preferring to smother their target in a deluge of shells to cause pinning or general chaos. A “murder” would be called in to bombard a small area with all of a batteries guns. In FOW a murder allows any combined battery with Six or more guns between both gun troops to fire a single artillery template with re-rolls to hit. The murder is especially useful for trained lists since it allows for a much higher percentage of hits on the opponent. The second fire mission is the “stonk” which was used in the Second World War to cover longer areas of ground with a delusion of the overall concentration of guns in a battery. In the game, a “stonk” can once again be fired by any battery with six or more guns and allows for the placement of a double width artillery template, but with no re-rolls to hit. The “stonk is especially effective when targeting entire enemy platoons that are strung out, or for veteran batteries that do not require a “murder” to consistently hit.
Another crucial rule addition to the “rounds on the ground” doctrine is the ability for any battery that fires a “murder” or “stonk” to re-roll its first failed attempt to range in. This rule is often overlooked but is in fact a huge bonus and basically gives your artillery the same range-in benefits as mortars. When combined with the Air Observation Plane (AOP) which allows you re-roll your third failed attempt to range-in, a British battery using “rounds on the ground” can have a staggering five attempts to range-in!
Once a British player has successfully ranged in on their opponent (more than likely) they can call upon their most devastating artillery rule; “mike target!” When a Field Battery, Royal Artillery repeats a Stonk or Murder bombardment using the All Guns Repeat! rule, the entire regiment joins in. As a result any teams caught under the bombardment must re-roll successful Saves. “Mike target” makes any ranged-in unit think twice about staying put and when combined with a “murder” allows the British player to re-roll misses while their opponent re-rolls saves. Mike target also allows for an excellent counter battery tool as enemy artillery will likely not be able to move. These excellent rules for the royal artillery allow it lock in on a target and obliterate in with continued mike targets.
The QQF 25 pdr, is the main field gun for the British and Commonwealth forces and represents the manifestation of British artillery doctrine. The 25 pdr has an 80″ range with a 5+ firepower check and anti tank 4 when firring bombardments. At first glance the 5+ firepower check appears to be significantly weaker than most field artillery in late war and indeed it is. However, keep in mind that the main role of the 25 pdr is to quickly deliver shells in large quantity onto its target. The lower firepower check is not as limiting when one puts it into the perspective of the special rules listed above. The 25pdr also has a secondary role that is by no means insignificant as a direct fire support weapon. With a 24″ range, AT 9, rate of fire 2 and a 3+ firepower check, this little gun can provide excellent mid range support behind the line. The ROF 2 will severely hamper any infantry assaults or any light armor from entering its range. The 25pdr is especially effective when integrated into the overall defense of a force, allowing it to provide up to 16 defensive fire shots in a 360 degree arc when properly deployed.
The BL 5.5 gun is the heavy hitter of the Royal Artillery and is hands down the best heavy artillery piece in the game. The 5.5 has an 88″ range with AT 5 and a 2+ fire power check when firring bombardments. The 5.5 can produce the most devastating bombardment in the game when it is allowed to “mike target” a dug-in enemy unit with a murder or stonk. Enemy bases will fly off the table as 2+ fp checks are easily passed to destroy re-rolled saves on enemy units. The 5.5 also has the best direct fire statistics in the game for an artillery piece. With a 32″ range, ROF 1, AT 13 and a 1+ fp check, this gun can be used as a legitimate tank killer if it is allowed. The only down side is the ROF 1 and the lack of a gun shield, meaning 5.5s must be dug in to perform effectively in a direct fire role.
British artillery is an excellent representation of the firepower based, methodical tactics a British force can use. At first glance it is apparent that Royal Artillery is designed to find a target and smother it with shells over several turns. The mike target rule allows for any player to take their time to soften up enemy resistance before moving in with infantry or armor to assault. Opponents of British players are not dumb, however, and will quickly realize that death awaits if they remain under you ranged-in marker for more than a turn. Your opponent will attempt to limit your mike targets at any cost and this can actually work to your advantage. One key tactic of the Royal Artillery is dictating your opponents movement, by forcing them to constantly move or not move into areas you have previously ranged-in on. This tactic can be especially devastating when you manage to range-in on a unit in or around an objective, making it extremely hazardous for any enemy unit to try and contest it.
As a result of the many attempts to range in, Royal Artillery is also excellent at locking onto dug in veterans who are concealed and gone to ground. With an AOP and “rounds on the ground” a British player has the best chance out of any nation to get a successful range in. I have personally been saved by my fifth role to range-in on veterans at the last moment. This also means that units caught out in the open are easy pickings for British Artillery since they are easier targets to range-in on.
Despite its many advantages, Royal Artillery batteries do indeed have limitations. First and foremost, never expect artillery to win a game for you single handily. Though it is a must take addition in my opinion, it by no means is always a game winner. The 25pdr will show its weakness when attempting to kill enemy armor as a result of its low fire power check (even bailing vehicles can be difficult). The large size of the batteries can also be a liability since they are hard to conceal and easy to target by enemy artillery.
All around, the guns of the British Royal Artillery represent some of the most potent long range artillery in the game. No late war British or Commonwealth infantry player should ever leave home without at least taking the 8 gun battery of 25pdrs. At around 260 points for most lists, the battery is not only effective but very cheap for what it can do.
Very good article describing British Artillery docrtines and operations in World War Two http://nigelef.tripod.com/maindoc.htm