In an earlier post I had said that the Germans have the weakest artillery in the game. While I still stick to that statement, it should not be interpreted as the Germans have bad artillery. On the contrary, German forces in FoW have access to the most varied types of guns and rockets in the game. Some of these types represent the best available unit among all the Allied and Axis armies.
However, because of their inability to take large batteries, their lack of special rules relating to artillery and overall cost, German artillery is rarely going to be a game winner on the table top. Simply because most German artillery is Veteran does not mean that its is comparable or better than Allied guns. Both the British and Americans can take multiple Veteran artillery groups if they so choose and these are still supported by excellent special rules. Most German lists normally have access to just one group of howitzer artillery and one group of rockets. It is how these assets are integrated into a German players battleplan that determines its effectivness on the board. This article will look at the more conventional types of artillery the Germans can field, namely mortars and howitzers. A follow up article on Rocket artillery will be coming soon.
Mortars: German mortars are comparable to most other armies. They are effective at pinning, laying down smoke, and being mobile. Their standard mortar, the 8cm GW34 is available in almost every German list and can usually be taken in platoons of up to six guns. A full battery of mortars gets to reroll their first range in attempt while also rerolling all hits under the template but cost around 210 pts. Standard groups of four can be very effective against enemy forces caught out in the open or Trained lists in general and are much more reasonable at around 145 pts. Also, since they are man-packed guns, 8cm GW34 mortars can keep mobile and evade enemy counterbattery fire if neccessary. Where these mortars traditionally have trouble is when going up against dug in forces. There have been multiple times in my games that simply pinning or smoking out an enemy platoon in preparation for assault was not enough and the 6+ firepower check was not going to be able to dig out enemy teams. Also their 40″ range can often leave all or parts of the battery out of range, diminishing the effectivness of the bombardment.
The German 12cm sGW43 heavy mortar attempts to allievate some of these problems with a longer range and much heavier shell, giving it an impressive 3+ firepower check. However these cannot fire smoke and only come in groups of four. They can be quite pricy being around 190 pts a platoon. Also, being light gun teams on large bases, their mobility is much reduced. Still they can be an effective way to destroy a dug-in enemy, especially gun teams.
Howitzer Artillery: German howitzers are good guns, are almost always Veteran, and are multipurpose. That is all your ever going to get out them though. While the Americans are forcing you to reroll saves, the Russians are laying down double-width templates with rerolls to hit and the British doing all three, your one modest howitzer battery does everything by the book. Terrain in your way? Better hope your spotters can see past it cause you dont have a “eye in the sky” air observation plane or a bunch of command teams who can spot for you. These kind of comparisons can leave a German player with an inferiority complex when it comes to the “big guns”, but German gun arty has some essential uses on the battlefield that only it can accomplish. The biggest advantage is the staff team and the abilty to call in an “All Guns Repeat” bombardment. This is the best way to dislodge a dug in enemy and is essential against gone-to-ground vets. With rockets or mortars you keep having to hope for that roll of 6, while once you get ranged in with your howitzer arty (it may take a few turns!), you can pound away indefinatly. Also of import is their ability to fire directly against targets. German artillery has good anti-tank value and can stop marauding enemy vehicals from just coming up and wiping out your guns. While not great at counter-battery fire, with its Veteran status a German battery can be spread out in a way that makes return fire from your enemies unappealing, leaving your battery unmolested. Also of some benefit is the fact that German artillery groups generally have more spotter teams per platoon.
The main gun in the German arsenal is the 10.5 cm leFH18 howitzer. It has good range, an AT4, 4+ firepower check for its bombardment, and can fire smoke. An AT value of 10 for its direct fire means that most medium tanks will be wary of straying into its open sights. A battery of four cost around 220 pts, so their not cheap but they wont break the bank either. As an all around gun, a German player really cant go wrong with the 10.5cm. Other types of arty might do certain tasks better, but this gun does everything well. If you dont know what your going up against, take a platoon of these.
Probally the most unique aspect of German artillery is their immediate access to heavy guns. The Allied armies must first choose a platoon of lighter arty before they can deploy their heavy guns. German lists have no such restrictions. The German heavy artillery piece is the 15cm sFH18. These guns can rain death with an AT5 FP2+ bombardment and AT 13 in direct fire. They do have several disadvantages in my opinion. First and foremost is cost. At around 320 pts for a group of four, they are a step up in price from the 10.5cm. The lack of a gun shield means they must be dug if the enemy has any way of directing fire on them. This can lead to wasted turns and increasing vulnerability of the guns. Properly employed however, they can be devastating.
Mechanized Artillery: The Wespe (armed with the 10.5cm) and the Hummel (armed with the 15cm) are potent weapons for a German player. Having your artillery mounted in vehicals means that your guns can move around at will, cannot be pinned by an enemy barrage, are immune to small arms fire, and can be spaced 8″ apart making enemy counter battery fire nearly useless. They can also swing as assault guns in a pinch, moving up and bringing direct fire onto an enemy. However these units can be quite expensive. Generally speaking for a platoon of four, cost can range from about 340 pts for Wespes and up to 440 pts for Hummels. When I take mechanized arty its usually only 3 Wespe to cut down on points. Relating to this cost issue, mechanized howitzer artillery can only be taken with panzergrenadier or panzer companies, meaning that all other platoons in the list are going to be more expensive anyway. Balancing this cost dynamic can be tricky in order to get enough units on the table for your force to be effective.
In conclusion, German artillery is very much dependant on playstyle. Agressive players may want to take more combat oriented platoons and thus take only the bare essentials in terms of arty. Often times this will mean small groups of mortars or Nebelwerfers (to be covered later) for pinning and smoke. Players going for a more balanced approach may find the 105cm howitzers to be a good asset. Those wishing for arty to mesh well with armoured or mechanized forces have available Wespes and Hummels. The key is finding out how all these guns help complement a German company. They should not be relied upon to win. Often times a German play does not have the time to sit around waiting for his guns to defeat his opponent.