This article discusses the three artillery themed operation cards (Heavy mortar, Katyusha and Nebelwerfer support) currently included in the game as well as the strategy decks artillery I and II.

Underpowered? Yes and No

An often heard complaint, or at least observation about the representation of artillery in TOI, is that it is too weak. Well, actually I’d say that’s both true and false. Yes, if compared with the awesome firepower of a double mortar squad, then many of the artillery cards do seem a bit weak often “only” allowing you to roll three to five dice (although it might be equally argued that perhaps double mortars are too strong (-;.). However, what would happen to the game if each and every artillery card would allow you to roll up to ten or even fifteen dice? That would probably mean that each artillery attack (especially those with Wide Blast Radius) would become so devastating that one or two successful ones would decide the outcome of the game. Hardly what I would want from a tactical war game...By the way, there have been some rumours going round that considerably more potent artillery decks are in the making, although not to the extent that they would become overly dominant...

Artillery operation cards

OK, but until then, how are the existing artillery cards best used? Well, to start with the op cards; what really makes them shine is that you get to use them BEFORE the start of an action phase. Therefore they can be really effective in frustrating your opponent’s plans especially when they have the initiative. For example, if you fear your opponent may be getting ready to assault your position, he has the initiative and you have no or few opportunities to stop them with units in op fire, a suppressive barrage from a Katyusha or Heavy Mortar may stop him dead in his tracks. Alternatively, you can use the op cards to bombard an enemy position before they have the chance to potentially split up and severely reduce the effectiveness of a “regular” Area Attack. Especially the Nebelwerfer support card is very powerful (Area Attack 5 and WBR 5). So to conclude, the massive advantage of the above op cards is the time at which you get to use them; i.e. before the action phase actually starts!

Defender or attacker

As for the decks, one important distinction to make is probably which role you play in the scenario; defender or attacker. Most scenarios have a clear attacking and a clear defending side.
If you’re the defender, the attacker will be moving towards you. More often than not, at one time or another, he will, in all likelihood, have to traverse open ground, i.e. clear terrain. That’s when you should try and pound him with artillery! As pointed out above, it can be argued that the currently existing decks are relatively weak, so grant your opponent as few cover dice as possible. Against a normal Area Attack mostly there will be no cover at all –or at most “1” if there’s a medic in the hex. Against a suppressive Area Attack at least a squad containing an officer and/or elites will not get any additional cover from terrain. All this may sound like a no brainer, but on many occasions have I seen a player use an artillery strike when the opponent was located in e.g. building terrain whereas on the next round he might well have been in the open. Patience and again timing are crucial if you want to get the most out of your artillery decks!

If you’re on the attacking side, however, and have artillery at your disposal, chances are your opponent will almost always be located in cover. This makes artillery a lot less powerful as pointed out above and therefore very plainly it may often be a better idea to spend your hard-earned command points on something else (initiative, cards from other decks). So yes, sometimes the most effective way to use your artillery decks is not to use them!

Strength in numbers

Whether you’re on the attacking or defending side, artillery cards are at their most powerful when you can use several in succession and/or combined with other (area) attacks. Just pinning an enemy squad or two (suppressive attack) or eliminating one or two figures (normal attack), admittedly depending on timing, will often only have a relatively minor and short-term effect. However, should you be able to hit such a squad two or three times in a row, chances increase significantly of doing more substantial damage. You may even manage to rout the enemy squad or wipe it out altogether using normal fire. So remaining patient until you’ve accumulated a number of attack cards is often a better idea than playing such a card on the very first action turn after drawing it.

Establishing contact and rolling for drift

What can be quite annoying about artillery cards is that you may see your most carefully planned strikes go sour because you either fail to establish contact or drift occurs. Thus it’s important to maximize the chances of being successful. This means as far as establishing contact is concerned, that it may often pay off to wait [also see above] till you’ve drawn the “Increased priority” card; this increases your die roll when establishing contact by one and also reduces the cost of subsequently bought [attack] cards from the artillery deck. Note that if you fail to establish contact, your card is not discarded; you may try to establish contact again on the next round. I always place an op fire activation token on it to remind me I don’t have to pay for the card again.

As for reducing the chances of your strike drifting, obvious as this may seem, always make sure a friendly officer has LOS to the target hex. In this case your attack will be on target if you roll a “3” or higher. Note that this also means that, should drift occur anyway, the attack can never drift more than two hexes. Normally a “4” or higher is required, when rolling for drift. If there’s no LOS, unless you’re completely desperate, don’t even try! The attack will only be accurate if you roll a “6”, so if you got this far, chances are very big that you won’t hit anything, or even worse, hit your own troops. Now, most people of course know that it’s best to have an officer that has LOS to the target, but not seldom does it also still occur to me that I find out that I still have an artillery card that I’d like to play, only to find out that all my squads containing an officer have already been fatigued...So again, timing and patience are crucial in getting the most out of your artillery cards.

Another observation I’d like to make regarding establishing contact, is that, if you’re unlucky, you may find yourself rolling for many consecutive rounds before being successful. Therefore it may often be a wise decision to start rolling as early as possible. This somewhat contradicts the point I made earlier regarding saving them up, but if you fail to establish contact, at least the cost will have been paid and you get to accumulate more cards and the attacks, when they do come, will be more potent. Of course it also makes the chances bigger that you WILL at least get to use them. If you wait for the last round, there’s usually a 50% chance you won’t establish contact and you will have basically wasted the command points paid. Albeit in a slightly different sense; it’s again all about timing...


Sometimes the mere threat of having many artillery cards at hand could make your opponent anxious of bunching up too many units. This may make it easier to deal with these units in “regular” attacks or will prevent him from gathering too much strength in certain vital places on the board. Don’t underestimate the power of Wide Blast Radius; remember you get to roll for each hex adjacent to the target hex separately. Including the target hex that’s as many as six hexes. Chances of having at least one fabulous roll in those six attempts (let’s say 3 or more hits) are anything but far-fetched. Also, if you should roll one hit against all of these hexes on average, that’s a total of six figures eliminated (assuming a normal Area Attack with no vehicles in the targeted hexes) or a lot of pinned enemy squads meaning they are effectively all but useless for the remainder of the round (see my article on suppressive vs normal fire).

Other observations

  • Note that, unlike mortars and regular attacks, artillery cards always state what kind of attack is to be made: normal or suppressive. Note that the word “normal” isn’t explicitly stated. It just reads “Area Attack” then. Some scenario special rules may override this.
  • Artillery can destroy razor wire, so don’t forget to roll for hexes containing only razor wire when making a WBR attack. Three hits are required to achieve this.
  • Many people say, if you have both air support and artillery decks at your disposal, always go for the air support one. The reasoning behind this is that air strikes, perhaps oddly enough, do not drift. This is correct, but it should be kept in mind that the air support cards are often also somewhat more expensive. Getting to buy a “bombing run” card may cost you the next round’s initiative, while a cheaper artillery card might have allowed you to spend more on initiative.

In sum, to use artillery cards to most effect it's all about timing and patience. The artillery operation cards have the great advantage of being useable prior to the start of the action phase. This enables you to deal a crushing blow before your opponent can do anything about it, especially when they have the initiative. Furthermore, if at all possible, try to hit your opponent with artillery strikes when he's out in the open; this will usually be most likely to happen if your opponent is the "attacker". Sometimes, however, the most effective use of the artillery strategy decks may be not to use them; there may be better options to spend your command points on. Artillery cards are best used in numbers, but don't wait till the last round or two to start trying to use them either; establishing contact can be more difficult than you'd like. Finally, though most of the time rolls which will wipe out entire squads are rare, little by little you will get there if you just persevere. Don't underestimate the power of wide blast radius!

Happy gaming!
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