Note from Reksio: since this blog serves the purpose of exchanging OPINIONS about FoW gaming aspect (and at some point in the future also other geeky stuff), I encourage you to send in yours - I will make sure that understandable articles are published no matter if I agree with the opinions delivered inside or not.
Reksio`s recent article made me think about the use of big guns in current meta infantry lists. He stated that the artillery goals can be achieved with mortars and nebelwerfers for a much lower point cost.
I will not be questioning their usefulness as I love both mortars and Nbws but not to a degree to state that big guns are obsolete these days. What is more I will try to point why I think they are a good choice.
To start with let`s take on the obvious example of US artillery. They have one of the most powerful FoW rule (Time on Target) and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it. A platoon of 4 veteran 105mm guns costs a bargain 185 points. With mortars you get the reroll of the first range in (that is their advantage).
What is better with the guns? You get TOT, direct fire ROF1 AT9 FP2+ breakthrough gun (no recce jeep save here!) and direct smoke. More, you have a staff team - so no more annoying rolling to range in on a "6" against those pesky GtG veterans. With these means you have the power to dig out enemy infantry in missions where your infantry has to attack other infantry. Because of TOT your opponent will position his tanks very carefully, if there are more than 2 under the template than you will probably see some smoking wrecks. Direct firing with AT 9 FP2+ breakthrough gun can protect your position from small flanking vehicles (Pumas, 8 rads, Daimler I, 0.5cal jeeps) to which both Nebelwerfers and Mortars are very vulnerable. Gun shields give you that needed extra protection. Some US lists (US paratroopers, armored rifle) have access to cheap 155mm guns without the need to buy 105mm first. At 210 points you get 4 C/T guns with 5/2+ template and direct AT10 FP1+ they are even more devastating but are easier to hit and pin down. The veteran version costs 275 pts, probably worth it. AOPs enhance your US artillery to fire even better - your enemy`s tanks are not safe even behind that big forest, ruined house or hill.
British Artillery with the Mike Target rule is almost as good as its US counterpart. They get to reroll the first range in attempt just like mortars, they get TOT when they fire "all guns repeat". What makes them different from the US is that they have ROF2 AT9 FP3+ and a turntable (360* field of direct fire). Because they have low FP in bombardment (5+) many players use them as AT guns guarding the objective from pesky recce plus as a bonus: smoke template or pin before crucial assault. At 240 pts for 8 C/T guns or 105pts for 2 C/V guns it would be a waste not to take them.
The guns which would seem worst in current meta are the soviet ones. In most soviet infantry lists you have to buy ZiS-3 76mm guns (3/6) to be able to get sensible (4/3+) 122mm guns. This takes precious points for buying other goodies (tanks?) you might want to include in your list. What hurts most is they are only trained (before Berlin there used to be no veteran artillery for USSR) and with no special rules like Mike Target or TOT it gets difficult to successfully range in, hit and destroy your enemies. But many soviet infantry lists just need that big guns to deliver an extra punch because they lack other means (they don`t have TDs, naval gunfire support, super heavy tanks, etc.). Some new lists have access to hero artillery - they are trained but pass skill test as if they were veterans. I used to play them in Motostrelkovy with a good effect. A platoon of 4 ZiS-3 (3/6 ROF2 AT9 FP3+) for 140pts and 4 152mm howitzers for 215pts give you two options of play. You either shoot with them as two separate artillery templates or as one platoon of AT9 ROF2 AT guns and a 5/2+ veteran bombardment. The same will be true with Red God of War (12 C/T guns for 250pts? Yes plaese!). In many soviet lists heavy arty is the only real possibility to destroy those pesky King and Jagdtigers (Shturmovik is the second). The new Berlin infantry lists allow you to field a single 203mm howitzer in an assault platoon that you can direct fire to destroy buildings or shoot with 5/1+ arty. I am looking forward to using that beast. I forgot to mention that soviet guns move faster thanks to "Guns to the front" rule, sometimes it can save your hide.
The only army in which using big guns would really be questionable are the Germans. Unfortunately the German guns are overpriced. With no special artillery rules a platoon of 4 veteran 10.5cm guns with 4/4+ bombardment and 1/10/2+ direct smoke comes for a steep 210 pts. They can still hold their own against recce but are more expensive than their better US or UK counterparts making the German players usually take those mortars or 15cm Nbws. However it is worth noting that Nbws don't have a gun shield and leave smoke markers after firing which can be easily targeted for an effective counterbattery fire by experienced enemies.
Big guns have their obvious drawbacks. They are more expensive than mortars, they are large targets, they don`t enjoy concealment for digging in and are slow to move (often even immobile). But the glorified mortars of Nbws can`t defend themselves from tanks and light vehicles - traits which lost a game to many players. And please don`t tell me about good flank protection when you are defending in missions with reserves against spearheading, always attack companies.
I hope this article helps you see my point of view on the big guns and why I think ther are worth their points in many infantry lists.