Greenskins have three available types of artillery (or orctillery, if you like), slinging spear, rocks or goblins against the enemy. In this article I will go through the advantages and disadvantages of greenskin artillery and give some suggestions on how to best use them.
- Large area of influence
- High damage potential
- Reasonaly accurate
- Narrow frontage
- No Animosity
How to use greenskin artillery
Greenskin artillery has many advantages, which is why I love it so.
Thirty five points gets you a Goblin Spear Chukka, which is a very low price for such a great unit. Heck, spend 230 pts on a Doom Diver, two Spear Chukkas and a Rock Lobber with a Bully and you will have a nice, diverse selection of war machines that are fun to use, quite effective and are still cheap enough to be sacrificed if you need to. As war machines are good against some of the things the rest of the greenskin army is not so good against, it is very nice that it is so inexpensive. The reason why greenskin artillery is so cheap is because of the low quality of their crew, though with a bit of skill (especially in deploying) this is not too hard to compensate for. Normally the limiting factor in how much artillery you take is therefore more often a lack of Special choices than a lack of points.
Whereas greenskin archers only have a 16" or 24" area of influence to their front (okay, so they can turn and still shoot, but they then become much less accurate), all greenskin artillery have a 48" range and can fire all around, which is very good. Being able to shoot right across the table means you can place your artillery quite far back to stay out of the way of nasty charging units. That way you are leaving no weak points in your battle line, something that is a big problem for greenskin archers. Place your rock lobber on a hill and it can shoot over the heads of units on the ground below and target just about anything.
One of the really good things about greenskin artillery is that they can put a hurting in enemies, and particular those enemies your infantry struggles to cope with. These advantages are: good strength, ignoring armour saves and (mostly) doing multiple wounds.
Greenskin artillery is either Strength 4 (with a nice template that will cover a whole lot of elves and Strength 8 at the centre), Strength 5 (with D6 hits) or Strength 6 (with the ability to go through ranks). In comparison, greenskin bows are all Strength 3. Good Strength makes it a lot easier to kill large beasties, such as Dragons, which greenskins can have problems with. The Strength 8 hit of a Rock Lobber can also be useful for taking out enemy chariots, provided you hit them, as any weapon with a Strength of 7 or more will automatically destroy a chariot if it wounds and the wound isn't saves (though I still think this is a stupid rule).
One of the biggest advantages of greenskin artillery is that all types ignore armour saves. Considering how difficult it can be to take out enemy knights and very tough infantry in any other way (apart from characters), being able to punch through full plate armour is great. This ability is the primary reason why I take artillery - my army otherwise consists of 95% models with Strength 4 or less and any such attack will bounce off a Chosen Knight of Chaos five out of six times (provided they even manage to wound, which is not very likely).
Spear Chukkas do D3 wounds if the enemy is wounded and fails his ward save (if he has one), while Rock Lobbers do D6 wounds (some people think they only do D6 wounds with the S8 central hit, but this is incorrect). This is only against those models that actually have more than 1 wound, but it is very useful against those and weighs up for the fact that you are likely to hit fewer of them.
War machines, since they either use the scatter and artillery dice to hit (in the case of Rock Lobbers and Doom Divers) or have a long range (in the case of Spear Chukkas), tend to hit quite often. Not all the time, but enough to cause most opponents to worry. How accurate they are depends on what you are shooting with and what you are shooting at, and the choice of targets is what decides which war machine is the best. Spear Chukkas get more hits against small units (especially considering that you can get two of them for the price of one other machine), the Rock Lobber gets more hits against large units and the Doom Diver falls somewhere in between there.
Doom Divers can maximum do 6 hits per turn and the fact that it does not use a template means that you cannot devastate large units with it, but the ability to steer the target spot D3" in any direction after scattering (even if you get a hit!) means it can be very handy when you just miss a unit. Since you pick a direction after rolling to see how far you can correct the shot, Doom Divers can also have a go at shooting at skirmishers, if you have nothing better to shoot at.
Obviously, Rock Lobbers are at their best when targeting large units of infantry on small bases, such as Dwarfs. They are also quite useful when the opponent has clumped a lot of his units together, as you will most likely hit something, even if you miss your original target. In these situations, Doom Divers are also quite good, though it makes
Tips to improve your accuracy can be found in my Tactics for Dummies article.
A war machine is firstly quite a compact little unit, which makes it quite easy to find a space to deploy it in. It does not take up a wide section of the battle line and even better, it only needs a very narrow line of sight corridor to the target.Wheres a unit of missile infantry needs to be very wide to get any effective firing - typically around 7" - a war machine is only two or three inches wide and can make do with a line of sight corridor less than 1" wide to the target. The narrow frontage makes greenskin artillery very flexible as part of an army and especially in a horde this can be vital.
Whereas greenskin missile units can only be relied upon to be able to fire effectively for four turns out of six, war machines have no such problem. Being able to fire 50% more often than archers can is a huge benefit and one of the best things about artillery.
As with most of the things in the greenskin army, the cost of bullies (a mere five points) gives a good indication of how good they are, which is to say that they are not amazing by any means. However, they will occasionally prove to be very useful, such as for example when a unit of Wolf Riders flees through the war machine crew. Without a bully, the crew would have had to take a Panic test, quite possibly on their own Leadership of 6, assuming that the General was not nearby. With a bully, however, no test is needed.
The disadvantages of greenskin artillery are pretty much the same as for other artillery, with one little exception.
You might as well accept it; if your war machine crew get into combat, then they will lose the vast majority of the time. Occasionally you may find that a charging fast cavalry unit rolls badly to hit and does no damage and a lucky Break test keeps the crew in combat, butmost of the time a machine that is successfully charged is dead.
Adding a bully helps a bit, since attacks have to be allocated to him and it reduces the chance of some crew surviving, but not by much. Having the General near to help with Break tests can also keep chargers occupied, but a greenskin General will most often want to move forward, so it is only in the first turn or two you get the benefit of this.
The other advantage archers have over artillery is that artillery cannot move and fire in the same turn. However, as archers who move gain a to hit penalty, their firing will be rather limited and so it is no great difference. What it does mean is that you have to take some care in placing your artillery, since they have serious problems re-deploying if they end up in a bad spot. Set them up in a position where they will be able to fire and be careful about moving other units into their line of fire. Having units Squabble right in front of my artillery so that it cannot fire that turn has happened to me more than once and it is annoying every time.
Greenskin artillery actually has a unit disdadvantage and that is that when the spell Waaagh! is cast, war machine crew will run away from their machine and try to charge nearby enemies. This can certainly be a bad thing and the crew of one of my Spear Chukkas once charged an Exalted Daemon. Not a good career move.
You can't do much about this other than to not cast the spell and quite frankly it is so good that crew running away from their machines is usually an acceptable loss. On the happy side of things, the crew will not usually run so far away that they will not be able to get back to their machine next turn and even if they are unable to fire the machine until the turn after that, at least your opponent will not gain any Victory Points for the abandoned machine.
How to use greenskin artillery
Thanks to having a quite high damage potential while being at the same time quite easy to take out, using war machines can often require quite a bit of skill to use right. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years.
The basic question any war machine owner will have to ask himself when deploying is this: Do I want to deploy somewhere with lots of nice targets, or do I want to deploy somewhere my artillery will be difficult to take out? If you get a deployment zone with one hill in it, then it might be tempting to cram three or four war machines onto it so that they will all have good lines of sight, but this makes for a very easy target for enemy flyers, fast cavalry and war machines engaging in a little counter-battery fire. Personally I tend to go for the second option. By deploying my war machines spread out, they are less of an obvious target and will often be ignored by the enemy, which gives them more chances to fire. Considering how cheap greenskin artillery is, I feel I can afford to place them in sligly less good positions.
So what is a good position? In my experience there are basically three types of places you want to deploy war machines. Firstly, on hills. These give a great field of fire, since artillery stationed there can see over units on lower levels. Of course this also means that a lot of enemy units can see whatever you deploy on that hill, which can be a bit of a disadvantage if your opponent has a bit of flyers or war machines of his own. Some people like to claim that missile infantry deployed on ground level are good for shooting at war machines on hills, since all ranks in the unit can fire, though I remain unconvinced. Missile units don't often have very many ranks anyway, tend to have much shorter range than war machines (and will therefore need to move forward before they can target them) and due to missile hits being randomised between the machine itself and the crew, I am not worried.
The second good place to deploy war machines is on ground level, behind and between your other units. Since war machines only need a tiny glimpse of their target, they can for example be deployed behind a line of infantry, so that they just have line of sight to enemy units in between the friendly infantry. This also makes it difficult for opposing units to charge the war machine, as they will have trouble getting past the units in front (though flyers just fly over). It might be tempting to deploy a war machine so that its line of sight is initially completely blocked, planning to move the blocking unit out of the way in your first turn so that you can get an unobstructed shot off, but with most units in the greenskin army suffering from Animosity, this can often be quite risky.
The third good place to put artillery is far out on the flanks. If your opponent does not have a lot of cheap, fast units, then going over there with a slow unit to take out your artillery may just be too much bother. Being out on the flank tends to mean that there are fewer of your own units getting in the way of a good shot (always a problem in a greenskin army) and you might get a chance for a bolt thrower shot at the flank of a unit of knights.
Simply put: Use your artillery to shoot at those things your other units cannot deal with on their own. Mostly this will be fast and hard-hitting enemy units, though very tough semi-unbreakable units (Stubborn Dwarf elite units, for example) also make good targets. When shooting at something, make sure you have enough firepower to stand a reasonable chance of doing some damage. A single Spear Chukka with a perfect shot at the flank of a unit of Chosen Knights might do a great amount of damage, but it might just as well miss entirely (or roll a 1 to wound the first knight, something that seems to happen depressingly often). If you want something to get heavily damaged, then three war machines with line of sight to the same target makes this much more likely. Remember the old greenskin saying: "Everything counts in large numbers - if it's not in large numbers then it doesn't count." It is also a question of having the right tools for the job - a Spear Chukka firing at Skaven Clanrats will rarely do enough damage to justify the effort of picking up and rolling the dice, so shoot at something else instead (or stop taking Spear Chukkas against Skaven).
To be honest, greenskins do not have a lot of units that are well suited for protecting the artillery. You could deploy some archers nearby or have some Squig Hoppers or Pump Wagons in the area, but on the whole I find that the unreliability of these units make them less suited to guarding anything. Therefore, instead of acting like a Dwarf and protecting my artillery, I tend to rely on deployment to make it more difficult for my opponent to take it out. Okay, so there are some things I do. Firstly, I tend to move the other units in my army so that the artillery can see no more of the enemy than it really needs to, which also limits how many enemy units can see my artillery in return. Secondly, I make some effort to use my fast-moving units to take out his fast and fragile war machine hunters before they get behind my lines and start causing trouble. These units also make good targets for magic missiles. However, if a unit of Chaos Furies start rampaging around behind your lines then there is little you can do to stop them.
Amongst those few things, spells that do not require line of sight (i.e. the Foot of Gork or Gork's Warpath) can work, but are difficult to cast. Moving a war machine (few people seem to be aware that this is an option) might not save a machine, but it can often make sure that the enemy unit cannot simply overrun into your next war machine. War machines, especially those with goblin crew, tend to lose combats anyway, so if charged you should weigh the pros and cons of choosing to flee. For the machine itself this tends to not make much matter, as it is lost anyway, so what you are looking to do is to limit what the charging enemy unit can do in their next turn. Ideally speaking they should have to spend (at least) another turn manoeuvering before they can do anything useful. Similarly, the chance of getting fleeing crew back to the machine again so that you can fire it once more or at least conserve victory points, is so slim that it is not worth worrying about. The machine is lost and what you want to do is to avoid losing another. For flying units this can be hard to avoid as they can charge in any direction, so in that case you will often want to hold, hope that some of the crew survives (Bullies makes this much more likely) and that the enemy units fails to restrain pursuit and flies off the table. Okay, so you won't be able to do anything to them next turn while they are gone, but they have to waste a turn as they cannot charge on the turn they come back. For non-skirmishers, on the other hand, what you want is for the enemy unit to end up facing away from all the action, which is most easily accomplished by moving the machine.
For a long time, I fielded a team consisting of one Spear Chukka, one Wolf Chariot and one unit of five Wolf Riders to protect a flank and it worked surprisinly well. The cavalry and chariot would support each other so that enemy units would have to advance cautiously or they would be combo-charged by the two units and while they crept slowly forward I would shoot them with the Spear Chukka. Fast cavalry units, because they function so differently from war machines, work surprisingly well with them. Harassing units so that the war machine gets more time to fire is one thing. Fast cavalry units being used to counter out other fast and fragile units wanting to take out the war machine is another use mentioned above.
Should anything actually nasty threaten the war machine, then the fast cavalry may interpose themselves between the war machine and the enemy unit, blocking their intended charge and angled so that should the enemy unit charge the fast cavalry, they will end up chasing them away from the war machine, or end up facing the wrong way and unable to charge it next turn as well. This last tactic is a bit of a gamble, since a fast cavalry unit will often be as expensive as the war machine they are setting out to save, if not more. Not actually sacrificing the fast cavalry unit and instead fleeing from the charge and hopefully rallying next turn is generally recommended and it certainly helps if the General is nearby. Finally, fast cavalry units can take out enemy war machines, who are actually surprisinly good at counter-battery fire a lot of the time. An Empire Great Cannon has a good chance of hitting a Rock Lobber and will need a 2+ followed by a 3+ to destroy it, which is not good odds for the greenskin player.
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