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Using Artillery wisely in GBACW


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Using artillery in GBACW is an acquired skill. Where is the right place for your guns? There are two schools of thought - putting your guns on the front line, and placing them in the rear. Which is the right answer? It depends on the situation, and your comfort level, as we will see in these notes!


Greg Laubach asks:

"If attacking, how do you use artillery which is subordinate to a 
brigade commander?


Russ Gifford writes:

"In answer to Greg Laubach: I wish I had a good answer for this. I think playing arty well on the move is the toughest test in GBACW. They aren't tanks, and too many people use them like they are. In doing so, they waste shells, and often the gun's victory points fall to a mobile enemy as well.

Consider the Range Effects Chart in making decisions.

Point 1: Max Range

Clearly, the PA and the TB need to be back from the front, on a high point. They are looking for those units trying to use column to speed to the front. If you are on a hilltop, they can knock those unsuspecting unit out of column, or at least scare them! (It could make their commander more hesitant). Plus, if they are in column gives you an added shift, improving the chance to hit.

But think about it - and TSS is where you learn this trick - your enemy needs to get his reinforcements to the front. On a road, he moves 12 hexes a turn. In line? Far, far less. So even if all you do is knock him out of column, if he has to spend two points getting back into column, that's a win, right?

Point 2: Current Strength Multiplier

But the second clue is the Multiplier for the 1 and 2 hex range. Obviously, the Napoleon's need to be in the line, holding the VP hex.

Point 3: Consider LOS

Or - better yet, one hex back, if it can be one level up. With the LOS rules, with a defending friendly infantry in front, there are real advantages. The friendly Infantry stops the unit coming forward, and the arty can fire over the heads of the defender, and hit the attacker. If they are a Napoleon, that at 5 times their hit power. And if the arty are one level up, even if the attacking enemy dispatches the defending infantry, then the arty is ready, point blank for the counterpunch at 8 times their strength. 

Point 4: BUT -- look at the Sequence of Play - you need an Infantry unit stacked with the infantry - or at least in position to advance forward on the movement phase to stack with the arty.

"Why? Because the Seq of Play says that the enemy will get Defensive Fire before you get Offensive Fire. You need the Infantry there to soak up those shots."

"(Note a change in TSS rules allows the lower unit to fire from a stack, so that helps, too.) Also, if the Arty has to limber to run away, if stacked with a unit, the unit that stays behind takes the Withdrawal Fire."

"So what to do with the TA, a six pound rifle gun? In Cedar Mountain, I bring it toward the front, and leave it on a highpoint within overwatch about 4 hexes back. It becomes that unit that might pick on already routed units, or tries to be in position to breakup a stack that is defending as a strong point. It isn't much, but then again, at 4 hexes, if it has 4 guns, that is an 8 point hit. If the target is in the open, or is mounted cavalry, or on the flank, it gets bonuses. If the stack has both Infantry and Arty, it gets a separate attack against each type at 4 hexes, I think. Not bad for an arty piece that doesn't seem to have much punch."

"All of this works really well in Cedar Mountain, and TSS, where you have hills and longer lines of sight."

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"Pea Ridge seems like the biggest difficulty for this one. It is pretty flat, so there isn't a lot of natural positioning for guns. Plus, the front is very fluid in the early turns. As the Union rushes up the board and attempts to stop the Rebel advance, it is so easy to bring these guns too close to the battle and then lose them.

"That said, you need them on the line. You haven't got much else that can stop those Rebs!

"I've found the best I can do is unlimber them in a strong point - light woods or better, with a good field of fire that does not have cover. But it is important there is enough woods around the arty that the attacker has a hard time swarming the unit. So the small round top in the left flank in Pea Ridge is not a good place, in my humble opinion. It can be easily bypassed or swarmed, since the Union doesn't have the troops to hold it and they rout away from it. Plus, if the gun limbers and wants to get away - where is it going? Too much woods, and slopes to boot! Also there is the light woods -  the enemy can get plenty of protection as they advance toward the gun - or turn and simply bypass it, ignoring it! How painful is that???

"My method is to end a turn unlimbering the battery in a location with protection and a good field of fire. Then I take the troops on forward another turn. As the troops meet the enemy, they can will fall back toward the arty, each providing the other with some protection.

"Since there isn't much good ground for arty in Pea Ridge, I look for some woods on one flank that slows people down, to keep them from running up on you, but open ground that funnel's them into your line of sight.  In Pea Ridge, I see this on the left flank at the edge of the field just beyond Leetown. 1313, 1212, 1011, or 1012 have worked for me, since they give a good field of fire looking over Oberson's corn field. I like the light woods protection if you do limber to run, and a road to sneak away on with a woods cover in your rear!

"Better, the light woods allows the arty to be unlimbered,  and flanked by friendly Infantry for support. If the troops went ahead to harry the opponent, they can fall back to the guns, and then step out of the way to allow the attacker to be hit with solid shots.

"On the right flank in Pea Ridge, Carr can bring up a gun to near the Elkhorn Tavern with a similar trick, or protect the side road.

"But realize, if you are the defender and you are trying to get close with Brigade batteries, all you can really do is try to sell your selves at a high price, since you will likely lose the gun.

"The only other option is to try to establish the guns in an arty park of sorts, and hold them in reserve for a later turn. And that's hard to do, too, in that you feel odd doing it when the guns are so needed. And then you have to find the leader to get them  moving!"


Tom Gaul writes:

"Does anybody have any real use for the Confederate Whitworths beyond annoying the Union columns marching up to the battle? Seems the Whitworths are too weak to actually cause damage. But maybe annoying the Union marching columns is enough?"


Greg Laubach writes:

"In answer to Tom Gaul: If the optional rule (15.65) is used which exempt the Whitworths from the overshoot rule, then they become more effective.  Find a location where they can overlook the field (Herr Ridge comes to mind), then target limbered artillery, unlimbered artillery, supply wagons, troops in column, mounted cavalry, or enfiladed infantry at one target per gun.  You may notice the next turn that your opponent has most of these targets within 70 hexes of the guns in defilade."

Greg Laubach writes:

"If you have a choice, use the smoothbores on defense and the rifled guns on offense. The smoothbores come into their own at close range (within three hexes) and within that range are often more than twice as effective as the rifled guns. They can also often be double-shotted or rapid fired, further increasing their effectiveness.

"Rifled guns on the other hand remain effective at much longer ranges than the smoothbores. This increased range allows a greater chance of finding suitable ground on which to unlimber and support an attack.

"On offense, always be looking for best terrain on which to unlimber guns to support an attack and take it first. Maneuver the guns with the troops so that the artillery can deploy as soon as the location is cleared of effective small arms fire.

"Similarly, be aware of terrain that the defender might use to deploy artillery and try to cover it with effective counterbattery fire before it is occupied.

"Many batteries (and most Confederate batteries) consist of four guns. Killing one gun of a four gun battery effectively shifts its fire strength one column to the left. Use counterbattery fire to make your opponents four gun batteries into three gun batteries.

"Often it is possible to shift ammunition between batteries with the same guns, so keep these units moving together. When you end up with a crippled battery, think about transferring the ammunition to an effective one instead of continuing to fire the damaged unit.

"Exposing a limbered battery to counterbattery fire is hazardous to its health."


Russ Gifford writes:

"Evaluate your guns for their strengths. The Whitworths and the 20 pound Parrot guns  have a great range. (In Gettysburg, the Whitworth can fire 70 hexes!) Give that range the chance to do something. Find the highest hill on your side of the line and use the gun to harass columns marching on the field. Knocking units out of column will slow down your opponent's reinforcements, or at least cause them grief as they try to catch up to the main column. Even if you miss, which happens with scatter, you might have two chances out of 6 to connect with the neighboring units in the column! While that may not seem all that important, snarling the approaching column can pay real dividends. And even when you miss, it might make your opponent consider their actions, and where he chooses to march.

"Napoleons and Howitzers on the other hand, don't have a great range - but within 3 hexes of the front they can make their presence felt - especially on the defense! Nothing is more dispiriting to the enemy than having their troops fight to the objective hex, only to find it is guarded with a Napoleon, whose guns are multiplied by 8 at one hex! A 4-gun section is almost a sure thing to take one point off the attacker when the situation is 32 factors of grapeshot!

"But if this is your tactic, make certain you have an infantry unit stacked with the gun - because a strength-point loss or two doesn't mean the enemy regiment will rout, and if he doesn't, he will try to melee your gun!

Since a full crew is only 1 on the melee factor, if you are going to put your guns up on the line, then you must put infantry with them, or you will quickly lose the guns in melees."


Greg Lauback writes:

"Being a big fan of artillery, I was puzzled as to how to bring all of those Confederate guns [in Pea Ridge] to bear on offense. In most of these games as the attacker, I look for artillery positions that will support movement toward the final goal and take those positions first. In Pea Ridge, I found two hexes on the whole map that worked. Clearly, new artillery tactics are needed for the terrain in Pea Ridge that would probably translate well to Corinth and Bloody April. I'm still working on this one. I did find that unlimbering in an enfilade hex of a mounted cavalry unit works wonders. Also, unlimbering behind a line of attacking, green troops can work in light woods. I didn't try unlimbering in a hex adjacent to the enemy, or this in combination with stacking a high morale artillery unit on top of a low morale unit in an attack."

Russ Gifford says:

"On the attack, or on the defense, Tom Gaul showed me that guns don't have to be on the front lines, risking capture, to have an impact. The 4 to 6 hex range is a nice place for attacking (and defending) artillery to be effective - if you have a slight rise so they can see over their own troops.

"You are just far enough to be outside full power range of any small arms attackers  but you can be behind your own troops. If you are on a hill, it gives you a 'view' of the battlefield.  Your artillery can be deadly in this case, since your opponent likely has plenty of inviting targets - your regiments! - that require his attention. This means you can mass two or three batteries together and dump 12 to 20 points on a strong point within 5 to 15 hexes. No scatter - all you have to do is hit!

"Stacks of units, especially with leaders, become targets very quickly! (Thanks Tom! I didn't need that leader anyway!!)

In a stack, one hit might bounce through the lines, allowing you multiple chances on the different units in the stack. (Assuming we are 3 hexes are more away from the stack. See 8.22 in both GBACW & in TSS 2nd - slightly different in each. Also remember, if ANY unit in that stack takes a casualty, ALL units in the stack have to check morale! 13.44

"This means any result can be devastating to your opponent! (See Russ waving his hand?) It will change their game plan in a hurry! This is really true if the leader in the stack dies, or takes a ride backward with a routing unit! And think about it -  if only 1 unit in the stack fails a pin check - the stack is pinned! 9.84)

"No doubt about it - artillery is powerful in this game. But it can be difficult to use it effectively unless you think about it. They aren't tanks, so you have to plan where you want them to be a turn or two from now."

Greg Laubach adds:

"As far as artillery gaminess goes, [artillery] are hard to hit (shift 1 left in the woods, even when unlimbering in your face), the crew takes two hits to kill (as good or better than some CSA regiments), the morale's are always high, they pack more punch than any small arm at range 1, and there are no VP costs for getting a crew killed. In a game like Pea Ridge, where there is little or no chance of your opponent mounting a counterattack, littering the field with abandoned L1's and N1's may not be such a bad idea. At least they are doing something instead of creating dust at the rear of a column for the entire game. Legitimately though, stand alone batteries along the front did seem to dissuade enemy cavalry from trying to filter through the lines."

Russ Gifford writes:

"Defense in Corinth: The nasty types of arty, and the fact they can set up on the edge of the few clearings, means tough slogging for the CSA. Worse, due to the slow nature of woods, even an effort to avoid the clearing means the battery might still have time to pivot facing if they need to. And if the situation is desperate, the rapid fire rule for Corinth is a killer - and that's NOT a pun, but a FACT. Then there is the other fact that to truly win, the goal is to take those Union artillery redoubts, and the arty in them have great fields of fire and all the advantages. I believe Johnny Reb HAS to aim for a first day victory on points, or it just is not going to happen."

Russ Gifford writes:

"Bringing up the guns: when I am on the attack, I usually bring up the guns behind my troops, while they are in position to screen me from the enemy LOS when I unlimber. This does pay bonuses - remember 6.23 - but also if any of my screening troops are driven off in defensive fire, my guns will be unmasked in time for fire next turn. (Can't enter a new hex and fire in the same turn. 15.0)."

Russ Gifford mentions:

"PS: Don't overlook the chance to fire a single battery on a routed units. If you tag them with a hit, and they suffer a casualty result, in their already shattered state they will automatically run further away (13.33) - likely out of range of that leader that would have rallied them at the end of the turn. I think that is a reasonable use of guns in the Civil War."


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