Artillery Basics

    Artillery can win battles and save you long casualty lists, if your side is dropping it. It can also stop you dead in your tracks, pin down your men, and give you an extra long list of KOs. The only problem with artillery is that you can never have enough of it. Artillery is usually expensive in games, and most players are comfortable with only a few batteries. When choosing artillery, remember that larger caliber's are better at causing damaging hits. The process of using artillery involves selecting a spotting unit. You can select any area on the map for the barrage (within range), but artillery that is actually plotted to a spotted area will be more accurate (the spread pattern will be low). Remember that the spotting unit can move, but whether the strike is accurate is determined by whether the spotting unit can see the target area when the shells start to impact. In WWIIOL, the use of artillery will probably involve some type of coordinate plotting. Make sure if that your spotter and artillery crew are insync.

    On the attack, you'll want to use artillery to hit enemy positions that you can't reach effectively with your ground forces, to hit areas in advance of your ground forces where the enemy may be laying in ambush, deal with those nasty antitank positions and to lay smoke to cover your advance. The biggest problem with artillery when on an attack mission is spotting the enemy, otherwise your shells may hit nothing except the ground. You'll have to reconnoiter the enemy to find out where they are. If you don't have any "volunteers" or aren't willing to sacrifice a necessary support unit to do the job, there's always the reconnaissance battalion. Spotting does not have to be a sacrifice, its just more often than not the spotting unit will themselves be spotted and suffer the vengeance of guys that he's raining death upon. Also, there is a difference between spotting the enemy, and spotting for the artillery. One unit can reveal the presence of an enemy unit that you'd like to paste with artillery shells, while another one actually calls down the artillery. So long as the one calling down the artillery has a LOS to the newly-revealed enemy position, your artillery fire will be on target.

    Don't forget that when artillery is raining down, that sometimes players, including myself, are just outside the barrage area when the shells start to impact and when we see that the enemy is decimated by the first blast, we'll want to rush in for the final kills. If you forget to check with the ones who are wanting to move in and mop up, then it's your guys who'll suffer the shrapnel and concussions. When you plan artillery, make sure you check the area to make sure your troops aren't the victims of friendly fire. You can always cancel a barrage in progress. In fact, sometimes this is a good idea if the enemy has moved and your guns need to save ammo. Even if you don't move into the impact zone, the impact zone may come to you. Artillery can miss, sometimes by as much as 500-1000 yards. When you have troops this close to the impact area, you need to be extra cautious to make sure that your spotter can see the target, and that the spotter has the best artillery knowledge available.

    On the defense, artillery placement is a little more difficult, since the enemy will be moving. However, the fact that they are moving makes them very easy to see. If you can stop them from moving or slow them down, this will make your artillery that much more effective. Mines and lots of direct fire are good for this. Air strikes are also good at spotting the enemy before they move into sight. This might be handy if visibility is low and you want to breakup enemy concentrations before they come into view. Yet another defensive use for artillery which few players take advantage of is using the bombardments to rip holes along the roads that the enemy could use to move rapidly towards your positions. Artillery which is larger than around 75mm will make pretty holes in the ground. A hole in a road immediately reduces the class of that road to a crater, meaning that enemy units will not be able to zip along at the road movement rate. Along a long enough stretch of road, this can actually slow the enemy down by more than a few minutes. Road intersections and bridges are ideal targets for this kind of bombardment, but just about any area which is going to be used as a path is also a possibility. Just don't do it too close to your own forces for the obvious reasons, and also because holes constitute a form of cover (which I presume you do not want the enemy to have). In military lingo, this is known as "interdiction fire". You could also use artillery to convert an otherwise flat, pancake-like surface to one as full of holes as Swiss cheese, if your forces are going to need some cover at the base of the hill they need to assault.

    If you're on the receiving end of a barrage, there are only two and a half things you can do. One, get out of the area. Send your troops into as wide a dispersal pattern as possible away from the impact zone. Two, sit tight and ride out the storm. This isn't such a bad idea because your troops will probably take a lot more casualties trying to get outside the impact zone than they would if they just hunkered down. If you're in the open, on the other hand, it's probably a bad idea. In any case, when you're under a barrage your troops will still suffer more casualties if they are classed as moving, so if you have to move, do so only to make some necessary attack or get out of the area. The last half thing you can do is try to kill or blind the spotter. You have no way of knowing who's doing the spotting (sometimes, you cannot even see the spotter), so killing the spotter is not a solution likely to be effected in time to make any difference. Blinding the spotter is a lot easier. Just have your troops lay smoke all around themselves and hope that this will work. If it works, of course, the barrage will still come down, it just won't be as accurate. If the enemy has plenty of bothersome artillery that is starting to really impact your ability to get the job done, you'll have to take the objectives or leave the area. The only way to really stop it is to win the battle as quickly as possible. Artillery is the enemy's way of saying "I'm just not going to let you sit there and concentrate your forces for an attack that I can't hope to stop." You'll have to keep moving forward, ever forward, and, if you just can't take the objectives, backward, ever backward. The only good news is that the enemy could always run out of ammo!

    Airpower is an altogether different breed of the same species. It's called down much the same way, but the effect can be varied. Some aircraft are good at attacking infantry and powerless against tanks and vice versa. Generally, only aircraft with 20mm or larger cannons, or 250lb or larger bombs are adequate to deal with medium to heavy tanks. Wing-mounted rockets are not as effective tank killers as are the well-placed bomb. Just as artillery can miss and hit your own men, aircraft can mistake your men for those of the enemy, and unload with everything they've got. This usually causes a reevaluation of your immediate tactical situation. In fact, aircraft generally will hit the first thing they see that is within about 500 yards of the radioed target, Anyone who thinks friendly fire from aircraft is unrealistic ought to check out the history of the Army Air Corps in World War II. In Sicily, nervous American AA gunners killed almost 500 of our own paratroopers by shooting down the transport aircraft. One year later, in Normandy, the Air Corps as part of Operation Cobra dropped a small percentage of the total bomb load about 1500 yards short and hit assembly areas of the Cobra attack forces, killing a similar number. Just imagine what it was like for the intended targets: The German forces. One other the danger of aircraft is that they can get themselves shot down. This is no big deal if they already hit the target, unless they are on a glide path right into your own troops. Generally the climb-away path should be towards the enemy, but you can't control that -- it's up to the pilot. Once a plane is in the crash phase of 'crash and burn' and heading for your troops, there's nothing you can do, but hit the deck. It's just one more thing to be aware of when wanting to call for air strikes.

    A single plane can come back for another strike also if it sustains no damage from ground fire. The plane may hang around and wait for additional strike requests. If the plane has already dropped whatever bombs it has, it won't have any more, but it could still open up with cannons and ordinary machine guns . Don't hesitate to keep bringing the fly boys back to do some more work for you. If your pilots have to brave an area where there is a lot of AA, you'll want to bring your strikes down in big waves. The reason for this is that the AA will tend to shoot it's bolt against the first or second aircraft that swoops down, leaving the subsequent strikes to come in, choose their target and unload without too much harassment from the poor, dumb enemy troops on the ground. Some players don't like this fact, but I challenge you to be a ground commander and tell your troops not to shoot at the first plane that comes streaking in from above! Sometimes, it may even be worth your while to consider using your own ground forces to suppress or destroy heavy enemy AA positions, so that your planes have an even easier time. Artillery is ideal for this. A simple rule of thumb is if enemy AA is dense, overload the defense.

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