Artillery- Old Relic, Now Viable?
Back in the throes of Fifth Edition, in April 2011, shortly before the inception of this blog, I wrote an Artillery article. It wasn't hard to write. Artillery really wasn't the best of units, and it sorely needed an update to stay relevant. That update has come, and it really is a radical overhaul. In other words, exactly what Artillery needed. Of course, 'overhaul' and 'success' don't always go hand in hand. Therefore, a re-examination is needed.
The main problem old Artillery had was that it married together infantry and vehicles, but gained more weaknesses than strengths in doing so. Now, the gun model has decided to file for divorce from its superior vehicle spouse. They are now as tough as a Talos, with T7 and a 3+ Save, with two Wounds. The old artillery gun was blown up if it was so much as glanced by a bolter, so from that perspective the new model is clearly better.
From the point of view of anti-tank guns, T7 is slightly tougher than Armour 10. A plasma gun needs 4+, as opposed to 3+, a meltagun 3+ as opposed to 2+. It's also not affected by Armourbane, although this does mean it's affected by Fleshbane and Poison, which I find rather bizarre. The gun model has gone from being glanced to death by a bolter to being stabbed with a small venomous knife and somehow being damaged. I'm really not sure which is worse sense-wise. Still, I'll pay that price for the other benefits.
It's not all bright and rosy, though. The new wound allocation system has thrown a fresh spanner in the works. Of the three Artillery units currently in existence (Big Gunz, Eldar Support Weapons and the Thunderfire Cannon) two of them have small crew counts. This means they need to put the guns in the line of fire, as if they die the guns are useless. Admittedly, the rules gods have given you pseudo-T7 for the whole unit, but this means many an AP Low weapon will be shot at you, and you will be reliant on Cover. The AP4 Autocannon really scares Support Weapons, and one 2+ Wound is all the Thunderfire gets before the crew expires. And these are the most expensive Artillery units.
And then we come to Big Gunz. Want another T7 meat shield? 3 points. Want 3 Kannons? It's only 60 points, 78 with 6 extra Krew. In comparison, Support Weapons are 150 for 3 D or Vibro-Cannons, a far more significant investment. I'm not sure about the Thunderfire yet. It gets Bolster Defences (but it's the SM one and therefore not as good as the GK one), and between the two models you have Talos levels of resilience, but only one crew and so vulnerable to snipers (guns can't Look Out, Sir!).
In the original article, I laid down two solutions to Artillery. One was to make them a detachment to Troops and therefore not make them compete for Heavy slots, the other to weaken them and make the random allocation less 50-50. The official solution is much more outside the box (which I should have done more of), and I think it's a better solution too. GW have fixed Artillery! Hurrah!
Or is it?
You see, there is a rather big sting in the tail. Now that the unit's core DNA is shipshape, the actual units still need to be addressed. Big Gunz are stupidly cost-effective compared to the other two units, Eldar need a universal 20% off points sale, and Marines need the GK Bolster Defences and at least the option of Servitor crew.
Now that the rules design has been addressed, we need to go back to Codex design and tweak that. A RulesMan's work is never done.