Throughout World War II, artillery proved a decisive factor, causing General George S. Patton to observe, "I do not need to tell you who won the war. You know, the Artillery did."
In Tide of Iron, artillery can be the single most destructive force available to players. It is capable of destroying multiple squads and vehicles with a single attack. When artillery is utilized correctly, it can break up all but the most resilient defense lines and even clear obstacles such as razor wire.
In Tide of Iron, artillery is represented through Strategy cards, which players can purchase with command points. This week we will review how artillery works and the impact that it can have on your scenario. Let’s start by taking a look at the “Offensive Artillery” Strategy card from the Artillery I deck.
You can only activate “Offensive Artillery” during the Action phase, and it will cost you one of your actions during that turn. Activating the card will also cost you 3 available command points, which you earn by capturing command objectives. When you activate an Artillery card, you must resolve each bolded keyword on the card in order.
This number represents the difficulty of establishing clear communication as well as the process of receiving authorization from headquarters. When you activate the card, you must first roll one die.
If the result is equal to or greater than the “establish contact” number, contact is successful and you resolve the rest of the card.
If the result is less than the “establish contact” number, you fail to establish contact and you cannot resolve the remaining effects of the card. Fortunately, you get to place the card in your play area and try to establish contact again next round. Thematically, you either lost contact or your request for support was denied.
If you successfully established contact, the next step is to determine the target hex. This is the hex in which you want the barrage to hit, and it is marked by placing the target token on the hex of your choice.
After you place the target token, you must check to see how accurate the attack is. Drift can move the target token to a different final hex location, possibly missing the intended hex entirely. To determine drift, you must first establish the drift number, which is dependent on which friendly unit has line of sight to the target hex. The three possible drift numbers, which are dependant on the quality of the observer, are explained below.
No LOS: If the target token is located in a hex not within LOS of any non-fatigued friendly unit, the drift number is 6.
Normal LOS: If the target token is located in a hex within LOS of a non-fatigued friendly unit, the drift number is 4.
Enhanced LOS: If the target token is located in a hex within LOS of a non-fatigued squad containing an officer, or the target token is located in a hex either containing, or adjacent to, any friendly unit, the drift number is 3.
After you determine the drift number, roll one red die and one black die.
Now look at the black die. If the result is equal to or higher than the drift number, the attack is accurate and hits the intended target hex. In this case, the red die has no effect and you continue to resolve the effects of the Strategy card.
If the result of the black die is less than the drift number, the attack will drift that number of hexes away from the target hex. The black die shows you how many hexes to move the target token and the red die shows you which direction by referencing the north directional marker.
It is important to note that a player may not voluntarily cancel Artillery cards, even if the final target hex will hit his own units! Choosing your target hex is the most important step, since drifting artillery may result in friendly fire.
After you determine where the artillery strike will hit, you must then dish out the damage!
All Artillery cards feature area attacks, meaning that they will affect an entire hex, rather than targeting just a single unit. The number in parentheses is how many firepower dice you roll, scoring successes on results of “5” and “6.” Each unit in the target hex then rolls its defense dice separately. You can find more detailed rules for area attacks on page 32 of the Tide of Iron rulebook.
Wide Blast Radius
Some Artillery cards, such as “Sustained Blanket,” feature the Wide Blast Radius keyword. This attack will affect all hexes adjacent to the target hex. The number in parentheses is how many firepower dice you roll, and the attack is resolved in the same manner as an area attack. The keyword “Wide Blast Radius” usually represents a suppressive attack; suppressive attacks excel at pinning infantry, but do not have any effect on vehicles. The firepower rating for a wide blast radius attack is always lower than its area attack and therefore they generally inflict fewer hits, but they can disrupt more squads over a larger area.
A couple of cards that deserve special mention are the “Spotting Round” and “Increased Priority” Artillery cards.
The most obvious benefit of the “Spotting Round” card its ability to increase the accuracy of your artillery strikes. Another bonus is that your Artillery cards are not discarded if you roll 0 or 1 successes on your artillery attacks. It is possible to establish contact, hit your target hex perfectly with no drift, and then miss with your firepower dice! Not only does this waste precious command, but it can also be a big investment in actions. “Spotting Round” gives you some relief if you botch your dice rolls by allowing you to make another attack next round.
“Increased Priority” makes all other Artillery cards more cost effective by lowering their command cost. The card’s other ability is equally as powerful, as it adds +1 to your die result while you are trying to establish contact. Not only is this a tremendous value for only one command, but it also has a “+” symbol, which allows you to draw an additional card during the Draw Strategy Cards step of the Strategy phase.
As you can see, the effectiveness of Artillery depends a little on luck but mostly on the skill of the player. Choosing the correct target hex and using officers as observers for line of sight are the keys to your success.
The Artillery deck also plays a large psychological role in the game, because of the potential threat that is poses to your opponent. Keep in mind that Strategy cards are placed faceup when they are drawn. If you have an Artillery card with a wide blast radius showing, this can force your opponent to spread out his units, lest they become vulnerable to one devastating attack. The threat of a massive area attack will also make him think twice before he commits several of his units to hold a vital victory or command objective. Artillery can be a very effective deterrent, forcing you opponent to spread his forces across the board instead of consolidating his firepower. One viable strategy may be not to purchase an Artillery card and simply keep it on the table as a potential threat. Purchasing cards like “Spotting Round” and “Increased Priority” is an inexpensive way of strengthen your leverage even more.
My next briefing with review the rules and applications of Fortifications, Obstacles, and Cover.