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Artillery Combat

MIL 202

One of the cheapest and most effective ways to instill damage upon your enemy is with the use of Artillery. Infantry and Cavalry units, defending or advancing, can be dealt deathly blows from a distance by Artillery without the ability to retaliate. This is a guide to help you put your Artillery to its most effective use. The Artillery branch of the games is one that the Confederates are always at a marked disadvantage with. Federal Artillery, really, is the backbone of their army in most situations. Because of this it is necessary to have a good understanding of the following Artillery points: movement, organization, capture rules, combat mechanics, and strategy.


Artillery Movement


Artillery Units

Artillery units have a strength measured in number of guns. They can be either Limbered or Unlimbered. When Limbered, they can move but cannot fire. When Unlimbered, they can fire, but not move other than to change their facing.

Limbered Formation

Limbered formation is used by Artillery units and represents Artillery ready to be moved. While this is the formation you must use to move Artillery, it cannot fire in this formation.


Unlimbered Formation

Unlimbered formation is used by Artillery units and represents Artillery ready to fire. While in this formation, Artillery units cannot move, but may only change Facing.


Movement Restriction

With one exception, artillery cannot fire after moving in the same turn. This applies to both movement between hexes and turning in the same hex. However, under the optional Retire by Prolonge rule, an artillery unit can fire after retiring by prolonge.


Moving your Artillery can be a challenge once you are off the roads and pikes and into the fields and forests. Generally, Artillery in a forest is a bad idea as it will greatly restrict your ability to react to unexpected situations. Artillery can also not retreat through forests quickly enough to escape a reversal unless continuously supported by infantry within their hex. Moving your Artillery to higher ground in fields with clear fields of fire is the dream of every commander but not always possible. It is usually preferable to place artillery in open hexes or on roads because they can then limber and move in the same turn.  This could mean the difference in living to fire again or destruction.  If your line of battle where artillery placement is being considered is weak and subject to being overrun, then placing your artillery in positions from which it can quickly escape override more ideal placements taking advantage of line of sight and supporting fields of fire. However, if your line of battle is strong and is expected to withstand your enemy, or your position is one where retreat is out of the question, then placing them on the line with your infantry is more acceptable. More will be discussed on Artillery tactics at the end of this lesson.




Artillery in the games is separated into different classifications: the traditional Field Artillery pieces, Heavy Artillery, Horse Artillery, and Howitzers.


Field Artillery

The most common type of Artillery pieces are those belonging to the Field Artillery. They are organized into batteries of, usually, 4 to 6 guns. Early in the war both sides attached these Batteries to individual brigades or divisions rather than grouping them together into Artillery Battalions under a Corps or Army leader. Most of the games dealing with the first half of the war have the Batteries organized in such a manner. As the war progressed both sides began to organize the Batteries under Corps or Army leaders who could mass their firepower easier on a single point. Games dealing with the second half of the war reflect this change.  


Artillery is organized in the scenarios as either a whole Battery or they are placed in Sections of between 1 to 3 guns. The advantage to having full Batteries is that your fire is heavier and more effective. With Batteries divided into Sections you have the advantage of greater flexibility in the distribution of guns though at a cost of firepower. Another difference is that the loss of a full Battery will cost you heavily in Victory Points in the long run. But with Sections the loss of a couple of guns will not impact the point totals as dramatically as the loss of a full Battery will. Below is an example of a Battery organized in the two different ways. First, as a full Battery, and then, into Sections.


Heavy Artillery

The Heavy Artillery usually forms the backbone of any fortified line. Scenarios built around forts or around major cities will usually contain any number of Heavy Artillery guns emplaced around them. These units are very strong and can greatly maul any attacking units foolish enough to assault them. They are designed to act offensively as well and can take out enemy Artillery and men from a longer distance than a usual Field Artillery piece can. The negative side to the Heavy Artillery is that they are stationary units throughout the battle. They will have the word “Emplaced” in their Unit Information Box (see below) and can neither move nor change facing. That makes these guns all but useless if ever outflanked in a battle. But their usual placement, on a fort’s main line or within a city’s redoubt, makes this an unlikely scenario unless your line is breeched.


Horse Artillery

The rules and guns used for the Horse Artillery are the same as for Field Artillery with one major exception. Horse Artillery Batteries have twice the number of movement points as a normal Battery does. This allows them to keep up with the Cavalrymen and makes them especially tricky and dangerous on the field of battle.



Certain weapons, such as mortars, mortars can fire at hexes that are not visible from their location. However, when they do this, the fire is subject to a random scatter from the target hex of up to 2 hexes in any direction. In addition, the specific target unit is determined randomly from the units in the resulting target hex, if any. This is kind of fun in that you can bombard a suspected enemy position in the woods or out of direct sight. The downside is that they are inaccurate often enough to where you feel like you are just wasting ammo at times. Pictured below, these guns are better left behind your lines and used against massed enemy positions where their scatter is more likely to hit something.


Artillery Capture

This optional rule was discussed in the Optional Rules guide but should be touched upon again here. It was designed, in theory, to allow for the capture of enemy guns and the ability to turn them on their former users. This was to add a greater sense of realism when capturing enemy Artillery during a battle. Instead of captured guns just “vanishing” off the map when overran in a Melee they would remain in place where they could be used by the side capturing the hex. They could also be subsequently lost again and regained by the enemy. Guns that are overrun in a Melee will have the word “Overrun” stamped across their Unit Information Box. The side capturing the guns also receives three additional artillery rounds per gun captured (i.e. capturing a 4-gun battery would increase your total Artillery ammunition by 16 and take away 16 from your opponent).


In theory it sounds like a good idea. It is much more realistic than guns simply vanishing off the map when overran, right? Now for the discussion about why most people, including me, dislike Artillery Capture.


Cannons that are Overrun are automatically downgraded to an “F” rating and there is no way to improve this rating for either side that subsequently controls the guns. Captured artillery is incapable of further movement from the hex they are captured in. They may change facing and fire but they cannot limber and move away. Any firing that they do is done with just a 50% effectiveness. They can also not move from an unlimbered position into a limbered position. They are a completely stationary unit.


It gets more complicated.


The game gives the side that captures the guns the Victory Points for them only so long as they occupy the hex. If they leave the hex, or are routed out of it, the guns are left behind (which are stationary, remember) and they do NOT keep the points for their capture. Further, captured cannons are only available for use when you occupy the hex with a friendly unit. This can include infantry units, cavalry units, your own Artillery units, and even a supply wagon. Only a lone leader sharing the hex with a captured enemy Battery is incapable of firing it and the guns are suddenly “Uncrewed”. If you return to the hex the guns will be in “Captured” status again and able to fire after another turn.


This means, in order to maintain your points for the capture, you are stuck having to leave a unit in that hex indefinitely (or must reoccupy it before the end of the game).


But, wait, there’s more! Should you recapture lost artillery pieces from the enemy you will find them suddenly Uncrewed! Which is surprising since when they were Overran originally they were magically manned – but, whatever.


These unmanned guns must be recrewed before returning to action in the battle. A non-disrupted unit must occupy the same hex with the artillery and have full movement points available to recrew a Battery. You would then highlight the infantry unit and the Uncrewed Artillery unit and go to the Command drop down menu in the game and then click on Recrew Battery. Twenty men per gun will then be deducted from the regiment you use to recrew the Battery. [That number will change based on the Parameter Data in the scenario.] It is best to use a lower quality unit rather than your crack troops to recrew an Artillery unit as the recrewed Battery will have a quality of “F” no matter what. The Artillery unit will also mirror the fatigue level of whatever force you use to recrew them. The only good news is that the guns are now free to move again and can rejoin the battle fully.


Still want more? Here you go!


If you capture an enemy Battery, and must leave the hex, you can Spike the guns first to prevent their use once more by the enemy. To Spike a Battery you must move an infantry, cavalry, artillery, or supply wagon unit into the same hex as the guns. Then highlight the unit to be spiked and select Spike Battery from the dropdown menu at the top. The friendly unit must have all of its movement points and not be disrupted in order to Spike the enemy guns. Spiking captured guns make them completely useless to either side for the remainder of the battle. You receive 15 points per gun Spiked so long as you still hold those Spiked guns at the end of the battle. The word “Spiked” will appear on the unit picture after they are Spiked.


Commentary: By now you probably understand why most people just play with Artillery Capture turned off. There is a lot to remember with Artillery Capture and it is easier to just play with “vanishing guns” instead.


Artillery in Combat


Losses Inflicted


When determining the number of casualties an Artillery unit will inflict upon an infantry target you can use the same formula used for Fire Combat. Just like small arms each Artillery cannon type is given a standard range effectiveness at certain distances. By right clicking your Artillery unit you can check its armament in the Unit Information Box. To know the standard range effectiveness always check the Parameter Data. Below, in the grid, is the range effectiveness table for Napoleon Artillery pieces as an example.


But there’s a catch when it comes to determining effectiveness. It’s hard to explain so check the numbers below as I navigate this. The Parameter Data gives you, for each weapon type in the game, a range for the weapons and an effectiveness number at that range. For artillery that effectiveness number is, by default, representative of a two-gun section. A singular gun does not fire at 1400 effectiveness at range 1 – it fires at 700.


As an example, to estimate casualties using Artillery, let us say a two-gun section of Napoleons is firing at a range of 4 against an enemy unit with no other variables in play. The two Napoleons would create a Standard Fire Value of 500 (250 x 2). The Low End Combat Result would be 2.5 (= 5 x 500 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 12.5 (= 25 x 500 / 1000). With no modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 2 and 13 as a final combat result (because the computer rounds decimals up or down randomly).


Artillery units use all of the same hexside and terrain modifiers as the infantry and cavalry in battle. Any limbered unit, if fired upon by Artillery of Infantry, suffers a -40% modifier in fire combat.


Q: Is it better to fire all your Artillery units in a stack together or separately?


A: There is a short answer and a long explanation. The answer is that it is better to fire a stack of Artillery together rather than separately. The explanation of why requires much more space. 


If the only purpose of offensive fire was to cause casualties than it would not matter if you fired separately or together. It is all Math. The game really doesn’t care what you do to create mathematical equations for it – it just wants numbers. Whether you fire a Battery singularly or with other guns it does not matter in the end because the Standard Fire Value would still equal the same. As an example let us use the above scenario with the Napoleons again. Your two-gun section firing at a range of 4 is reinforced by the rest of your battery up to a strength of six guns. If you were to fire all three sections together your Standard Fire Value would be 1500 and the expected enemy casualties between 7.5 and 37.5. If you fired them separately all the math would still come out the same.


So why is it better to fire in a stack than separately? You have to remember, as covered in the manual LDR 301: Disruption, Routing, and Rallying: Command and Leadership, that causing a Morale Check and Routing opponents is another factor in Fire Combat. If you combine your fire you cause more casualties in a single Combat and, subsequently, increase your odds of causing a Morale Check. The Morale Check formula is: loss / (loss + 25). In our example above let us say we fired the whole stack of guns together and the loss for the infantry unit was 24 men. Your Morale Check calculation would be 24 / (24+25) = 49%. If we fired the three two-gun sections separately (let us assume all results were the same) we would have ended up with this calculation three times: 8 / (8+25) = 24%. This is obviously a much lower probability than when we fired all the guns together.


Here is the big question that nobody knows the answer to – does the game combine all the losses against a unit during a turn to determine Morale Check or does it take the highest single percentage of Fire Combat results and use it? We don’t know. It is simply not in the game’s documentation anywhere. So, it is better to err on the side of caution and fire as a stack in order to achieve the highest possible probability of a Morale Check.


The other big advantage with firing units together is that you minimize the chances for defensive Opportunity Fire in Turn mode.


Crew Kill


One of the most annoying results to happen against your Artillery (and one of the most enjoyable when it happens to an opponent) is when a Crew Kill happens. This occurs during Fire Combat against infantry and results in the Battery becoming Uncrewed due to casualties. The Battery will become, obviously, stationary and unable to fire while uncrewed. You will not gain any victory points if you kill an enemy crew – but at least you will not have those Artillery pieces firing at you for the foreseeable future! In order to gain points from a Crew Kill you need to capture the hex with the unmanned guns still in it. By doing this you will gain the points associated with an Artillery kill in your scenario. An Uncrewed battery may be recrewed by an infantry unit (Horse Artillery may only be recrewed by a cavalry unit) and regain their mobility. That artillery unit will become a Low-Quality unit and will mirror the fatigue level of the unit that recrewed them.


Q: How is a Crew Kill determined?


A: Here’s how it works – whenever you fire at an Artillery unit with your infantry the game does the math as a regular infantry vs. infantry combat equation. It does this to establish a Combat Result to use in the Crew Kill equation. The game’s manual states:


When an artillery unit is fired upon by small arms fire, there is a probability that the artillery unit will become Uncrewed. This probability is determined by the Crew Kill Parameter Data Value. For a given Crew Kill value of C and a nominal strength loss of L from small arms fire, then:


Probability of crew killed = L / C


Here is an example. If we take 500 average quality men with Rifles (effectiveness 4 at a range 1) and fire against an unlimbered battery in an adjacent hex it would create a Standard Fire Value of 2000 (500 x 4). The Low End Combat Result would be 10 (= 5 x 2000 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 50 (= 25 x 2000 / 1000). With no combat modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 10 and 50 as a final combat result. If we assume the median of 30 for this example, then we would get the following math:


30 / 120 [Gettysburg's Parameter Data for Crew Kill] = 25% chance of Crew Kill


The higher the Fire Value and Combat Result against a Battery the better chance you have of getting a Crew Kill.


Artillery Duel


When engaged with an opponent you are often faced with the choice of concentrating your Artillery fire on enemy infantry or enemy Artillery. The game calculates Fire Combat results for Artillery vs. Artillery in a different way than with infantry.


First, directly from the User’s Manual:

Artillery losses resulting from enemy artillery and infantry fire is calculated on the basis of 1 gun = 25 men. Combat losses less than 25 men result in a probability of a 1 gun loss proportional to the value. Thus a combat loss of 5 men applied to an artillery unit would result in a probability of 5/25 = 20% that a one-gun loss would occur.


As usual… confusing. For each Fire Combat by Artillery, against Artillery, there is a Fire Combat Result generated the same as between infantry. To use the same example as earlier in the lesson let us say a two-gun section of Napoleons is firing at a range of 4 against an enemy artillery unit with no other variables in play. The two Napoleons would create a Standard Fire Value of 500 (250 x 2). The Low End Combat Result would be 2.5 (= 5 x 500 / 1000) and the High End Combat Result would be 12.5 (= 25 x 500 / 1000). With no modifiers in place the computer would choose a value between 2 and 13 as a final combat result (because the computer rounds decimals up or down randomly). Let us assume it came out in the middle at 7. The probability for a gun loss would be 7/25 = 28%.


It seems easy, right? Except the results never match that. I have play-tested this a half-dozen different ways and the results don't equal what the math tells us. Either the math equation they gave us is wrong or they updated the formula in some way and did not tell us.


Regardless, the original question of whether or not to shoot at artillery or infantry is a classic dilemma for every commander. I suppose it depends on the situation but, generally, I fire at infantry unless the artillery unit I am firing at is either limbered, dominated by my guns from high ground, or presenting their flank or rear to my gunners. As a Confederate player you cannot afford prolonged artillery duels with the Yankees unless you are knocking out their guns on a regular basis and making them pay. Union ammunition advantages are usually large enough that they can fire away all day at your guns and men and not worry about exhausting their stores. Confederates, on the other hand, are often forced to choose more carefully.


Artillery Fatigue


Artillery, just like any other branch, can become fatigued during battle. When this occurs they begin to lose their effectiveness and should be rested. A unit with Medium Fatigue (300 – 599) has a -20% modifier and a High Fatigue unit (600+) has a -40% modifier.


Artillery Retire By Prolonge


Under the “Artillery Retire By Prolonge” Optional Rule, it is possible to move unlimbered artillery one hex to the rear. The artillery unit must not be Disrupted, however it automatically becomes Disrupted as a result of the movement. The hex being moved from and the hex being moved into must both be Clear and the hex being moved into must not be a higher elevation than the hex being moved from. After movement by Prolonge, it is possible for the artillery unit to fire in the same turn.


High Quality Artillery?


The quality modifier that makes Southern boys 10% better in battle does not translate to the Artillery branch. There are no modifiers for High or Low Quality units in the artillery. The quality rating is merely for Disruption and Routing purposes. Unlimbered Artillery is not subject to Routing unless at a Fatigue Level of Maximum (900).


Artillery Tips

The effectual placement of your Artillery can really change the course of a battle. Placing your Artillery where it can be the most advantageous will offer you good fields of fire and save you from having to move them when the time comes for action. It is always best to place your long-range artillery behind your lines on elevated positions where they can support surrounding units. Those cannon with a lesser range should be placed closer to, or in, the front lines as they will be unable to do much good 5 hexes behind your lines if their effective range is only 9 or 11. Check the Parameter Date for the effectiveness of your various gun types to maximize their capabilities.


At the start of a scenario look at your available artillery ammunition. In some scenarios you are given enough ammunition to last all day even when firing as fast as you can. In others you have to use it more sparingly. Plan accordingly and remember – you can’t take it with you, so fire them if you got them.


On the battlefield each Cannon is the equivalent of 50 men. Thus, if you have 8 Cannon in a hex it will equal 400 men. You can then place 600 infantrymen in that hex with the Artillery. Remember a hex can only hold up to 1,000 men. You should always check the Parameter Data at the start of a battle to be sure of the strength of each artillery piece as some scenarios count them as more or less than 50 men. Other scenarios have hex limits of fewer than 1,000 men so you must account for this also. But the “norm” is fifty men per gun and 1,000 per hex. Most scenarios also limit a hex’s Artillery capacity to a total of 16 guns.


Special Note: The above example of 600 infantrymen in a hex with 8 Cannons reaching the hex limit for total men is misleading. While the counter may say 1,000 men in the hex – if a Melee is launched against the hex they would register just 664 men. Each artillery piece can field just 8 men in the event of a Melee. If the infantry unit stacked with the guns were smaller, say 200 men, then the guns would be much more vulnerable to capture should the infantrymen be pushed back in a Melee. Keep this in mind whenever using artillery in the front lines.




1) Clear fields of fire! Using the Visible Hexes toggle on the top toolbar can help you determine which hexes your artillery can spot and fire on. The ideal placement of artillery is normally immediately behind the line of battle on higher ground with the best line of sight for the area that you wish to control with your fire. Being behind the line protects the artillery from melee and infantry fire. When there is no high ground with a clear field of fire to take advantage of then you must place the battery in the front line. When doing so, always have infantry/cavalry units in the hex with it for protection from melee.

2) Never leave a battery alone in the front line! Biggest mistake I see people make.

3) You can concentrate many Cannon in a single hex (usually up to 16). This should only be done if you’re positive there are no enemy units within range. A single small enemy detachment may be able to capture all the concentrated guns. Artillery defends at roughly one-third their strength during melee making them almost always an easy capture.

4) If being used on a front line then placing 4 – 8 cannons in a hex with 400+ Infantrymen can make it a formidable challenge for an enemy to assault.

5) There are few things worse than having 4 batteries placed on a hill but unable to fire at the enemy due to their range being too short or their facing the wrong direction. Be sure you have the right guns at the right places before the enemy attacks.

6) Dominate roads with your guns when you can. No enemy enjoys seeing his men cut up as they march in column along a road. This will usually cause them to attack rashly to silence your guns or detour around the road.

7) Forest hexes on the edge of a field offer great protection for your guns during Fire Combat. But their placement here is, arguably, the most dangerous place for them to be. If your infantry support is routed away or if the line is outflanked your guns will almost certainly be captured as a result. Artillery simply takes too long to escape, if they can even attempt it, through a patch of Forest. A single hex of forest, with clear fields to the rear, is perfect as it offers cover while firing and a clear path rearward if needed.

8) Check your artillery ammo supply before you begin your first turn and every turn thereafter so that you have a good estimate as to whether or not your supply of ammo will last until the end of the battle. If low, you need to take measures to conserve ammo. If using Automated Defensive Fire, you may have to limber artillery so that it won’t fire during the defensive fire phase (or use the Adjust Auto Defensive Fire dialog under the A/I toolbar menu). You may need to place your line of battle behind a ridge so that the only units that are within your firing range are units that need to be fired upon and the proximity of the fire will cause the greatest number of casualties. You may have to leave your artillery in the rear until the critical point of the battle occurs, at which time you bring them forward to lend their support. Be creative with conserving artillery ammunition if it seems you will run out before the end of the battle.

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