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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Barrage Weapons – The Vehicle-Wrecking Super-Snipers of 6th Edition

Barrage Weapons – The Vehicle-Wrecking Super-Snipers of 6th Edition

In a prelude to the Heavy Support part of my Imperial Guard review, I am going to have a look at the way the rules governing Ordnance Batteries, Barrage Weapons and Indirect fire have changed. There are a lot of subtle changes, but what they add up to is a range of tanks that have become the Vehicle-Wrecking Super-Snipers of 6th Edition.
The focus of this article is on the best of the Barrage weapons, so it is very Imperial Guard-orientated, but many of the rules also apply to Whirlwinds and simlilar units. Whether you use IG as your primary force,  are considering allying in some Ordnance Batteries or are just likely to face them, you need to know these rules.

New: Includes the IG 1.1 FAQ  changes

Indirect Fire

The new rules for barrage weapons combine a lot of the old advantages of direct and indirect fire when they give the user the option that “Barrage weapons can fire indirect” (page 34), but give most of the advantages of indirect fire to anything that is a Barrage weapon.
Disadvantages: The only penalty firing indirect is that unit does not get to reduce scatter by their Ballistic Skill.
Advantages: None. That’s right; the old advantages that firing indirect meant you ignored intervening cover, hit side armour and counted the blast as coming from the centre of the marker are now default to all Barrage weapons, whether firing indirect or not.

When to fire Indirect:
Because it means the unit does not reduce scatter by BS and now does not grant any advantages, there are only three times you will want to fire Indirect:
  • When you don’t have Line of Sight to the target
  • When the target is within minimum range
o   This is a HUGE improvement to some weapons, especially the Basilisk and Colossus that previously could not even fire on enemies within 36” and 24” respectively. Not being able to reduce the shot by BS is a tiny price to pay for this new utility.
  • When the firing unit has a rule that says it cannot fire directly
o   For example the Colossus, DeathStrike and Griffon (see update below)

FAQ Update

Update: A new FAQ was released by GW today:
"Page 53 – Ordnance Battery, Griffon Heavy Mortar.
Ignore the reference to direct fire."
The reference is "A Griffon heavy mortar cannot fire directly."
"Page 53 – Ordnance Battery, Colossus Siege Mortar.
Ignore the reference to direct fire."
The reference is "A colossus siege mortar cannot fire directly."

The effect of these changes is that both of these weapons are no longer required to fire indirect, and therefor can reduce scatter by their BS if they can see their target and it is not within minimum range. The effect is similar to an improvement from 0 to 3 Ballistic Skill, and makes both vehicles even more appealing.
(The Deathstrike will probably be updated in a future FAQ when GW remembers it exists.)


Previously vehicles could only fire indirect when they had remained stationary. This reduced the utility of indirect-only vehicles like the colossus, which would never be able to fire in turn 1 of Dawn of War.
This restriction is gone, meaning that all vehicles with barrage weapons can move, and because “vehicles are relentless and can fire ordnance weapons counting as stationary” (page 41) you can fire when coming on from reserve.

Tip: Keeping fragile gun tanks in reserve is now much more viable as there are no penalties for moving and they can fire indirect either way. Consider using reserves if both you and your opponent have a Manticore or equivalent.
Tip: Because there are no penalties for moving, you should nudge your barrage tanks every turn. There’s always the chance the 3+ to hit will help you against a surprise charge by an enemy unit. Even if they are miles away, get into a habit.

Barrages Weapons against troops

Barrage Weapons are better than ever against non-vehicle units. 

  1. Cover saves from barrage are from centre of blast marker – which in many cases means they will not get a cover save at all if not in area terrain. Even an Aegis defence line does no good if the blast marker ends on the same side of the cover as the enemy.
  2. Sniping – you are free to place your blast marker over any enemy model in the unit; there is no requirement to cover as many as possible. (Page 33). You then work out how many enemy models are under the marker, and roll that many wounds. You then roll the amount of wounds as if they came from the centre of the blast marker. 
    1. This means that if you place the marker on a particular model, for example a Commissar in a unit of guardsmen, and score a hit and 6 wounds against the unit, you roll all wounds against the Commissar until he is either dead or you run out of wounds. Characters can try to use Look Out Sir! Rolls to avoid taking them, but luck only lasts so long.

If it’s not yet clear, between this ability to allocate wounds to a target and the fact that cover is only taken from the centre of the blast, these big guns are some of the best weapons in the game for sniping targets and avoiding wound-allocation shenanigans.

As a bonus, all Barrage weapons cause a pinning test (page 34)– it is no longer at minus 1 to their leadership, but works whether you fire direct or indirect.

Barrage Weapons against Vehicles

Barrage Weapons are better than ever against vehicles.

  1. First is the big change; the vehicle is hit any time any part of a blast marker ends up over the vehicle or its base. Previously it was a full strength hit only if the centre was over the vehicle, otherwise a half strength hit  usually to low to do any damage. Imagining that all barrage weapons can scatter an extra 2.5 inches and are thus now BS5.5 is only half the picture – the other half is the new ability to wreck several targets at once.
  2. “Hits against vehicles are always resolved against side armour” 34
  3. “assume the shot is coming from the centre of the blast marker” makes them likely to avoid giving vehicles most cover saves
  4. Most barrage weapons are also ordnance, which as a rule that allows 2 dice and pick the highest (page 51) when rolling to penetrate vehicles.
The downside to all this is that the popular AP4 and AP3 barrage weapons are now less likely to get an ‘explodes’ result since they don’t have bonuses on the vehicle damage chart, but it’s a small price to pay for the amount of hull points they are going to strip.

Barrage Weapons against Flyers

Do not work. They can’t snapfire, and cannot fire at Flyers. Never mind, you can’t have everything.

Barrage Weapons against Ruins

Barrage weapons always hit the highest level that is under the hole in the centre of the marker (page 100). Note that this is a rule for all barrages all the time, and is not just when firing them indirect, so it is possible for the enemies of the Imperium to cower deep in their lairs and caves and stay safe. Send in the flamers, boys.

Multiple barrages

In 6th Edition, if a unit fires more than 1 shot, place the marker and roll for scatter. Subsequent shots only need to roll the scatter dice, which shows the direction the next template should be placed in. If a hit is rolled place the blast marker touching any part of any marker that has already been placed (note it does not necessarily have to be placed touching the original marker and does not have to be centred on a model, so you can often get more hits on other units).
“Then allocate wounds caused to model closest to the centre of the appropriate blast marker” – which gives you another chance to snipe models out of a unit.

Tip: This is important if you are using multiple barrage weapons at tournaments. Scatter dice are funny things, and it is really hard to ever get two people to agree on the exact angle. If you think it’s bad with 1 scatter roll, try doing three, when your opponent really really doesn’t want you to be able to vapourise their favourite model they were up until 3am painting before the tournament.

Rolling near the target is great advice but only takes you so far, so what I have done is “invented” a little tripod; by lucky coincidence the Large Blast is the same size as a CD, so if you take the clear transparent top from a spindle of blank CD/DVDs and cut it so that it has 3 legs, you can use this to place the original blast marker and then move it. This gets you maximum fair amount of casualties without demolishing your Sports Score - and scored me a 'Hobby' point as a bonus.

Multiple Barrages and FAQ 1.1a

GW released a new FAQ on the same day this article was published, and it included the following:

  • Q: In a multiple barrage, do you determine all of the hits and all of the Wounds separately for each blast, or do you resolve all of blasts in one go? (p34)
  • A: Work out the total number of models hit by each template, then proceed to allocate Wounds and remove casualties as normal for the models hit by each seperate template.
When firing a multiple barrage, you do not work out the hits and wounds for each template one at a time; if you did them seperately for each blast then the first blast would hit an intact squad, the second would hit a squad depleted by casualties from the first and the third would hit an even smaller squad, etc, which would be incorrect.

This FAQ does not change how the wounds are allocated, so they are still from the centre of the blast and in the case of a multiple barrage you will need to note which models were closest to the centre of each blast.

All wounds and casualties are then allocated and removed in one go, starting with the models closest to the first blast that hit, then moving on to the models closest to the centre of any subsequent ones.

Secondary Weapons

In another change, “Vehicles can move and fire ordnance, but if firing ordnance can only make snap shots with other weapons. “ This means that a vehicle can now fire it’s massive gun and still take pot shots with a heavy bolter or similar weapon. Firing 3 shots at BS1 will get you a free hit every 2 turns you wouldn’t have had before.

Tip: Don’t do it. Resist temptation to roll 3 extra dice and instead take a Heavy Flamer on at least one barrage tank (generally the one nearest the board edge vs outflankers or nearest the enemy otherwise). The Heavy Flamer is so much better than a BS1 HB, even if you only use it once per game. The heavy flamer is a great way to make opponents a lot more nervous about outflanking, because although Vehicles can't fire on overwatch, the outflankers can't charge on arrival so you may have time to invite them to a barbeque.
In my opinion, Manticores in particular should always take the Heavy Flamer, because they generally run out of ammo on turn 4 and now can move an impressive 18” on turn 5 to get into heavy flamer territory for the end game.

The One Gun Syndrome

The IG Barrage Tanks did not literally suffer from the one-gun syndrome, where tanks lost their weapon and became useless, but even with multiple weapons they certainly suffered a massive loss in use because it was always the best gun taken. The change to weapon destroyed results being randomised is a big plus for all gun tanks, especially these.


Open Topped

Four of the six IG Barrage tanks are open topped. Now that there is no roll on the chart for glances, the disadvantages this causes are smaller. Unless the hit is a penetration, open topped is now irrelevant.
Tip: This one is simple; don’t spend 15 points on Enclosed Crew Compartments to fix a problem the rules have already improved.

Ordnance Barrages and Night Fight

Ordnance barrage weapons can fire at a target that it cannot see, in the case of the IG Deathstrike up to a maximum of 960 inches (24 metres) away. 

It might be a surprise to find that under current rules none of these weapons can fire at a target more than 36" away in the dark. However, since the Night Fight rules do not include an exception for weapons that don't need to see the target be aware you need to illuminate the enemy with searchlights if you want to fire barrages, even if your firing model can't see the target either way, and that any non-illuminated targets within 36" will get the usual Stealth/Shrouded bonuses even if you are firing at them indirectly. 

It's a small price to pay for the benefits of these weapons, and maybe the fact it forces players to take a more combined-arms approach using support vehicles as well as artillery will make the game more  theatrical, dramatic, spectacular, and help ensure your army machetes its own gripping path through the dark jungle of 40K legends.  
(I promised not to use 'cinematic' in this article)

In conclusion

Ordnance Batteries are better than ever against vehicles, better than ever against models outside Vehicles, are more versatile, able to move and shoot better, less likely to have their key weapon destroyed and cannot be stopped from firing by glancing hits.
They suffer the same vulnerability to Hull Point degradation as any other vehicle, but with the advantage of being deployed much further away from the danger zone and by the time they are worn down should have done the damage for which they were purchased.

They are effectively more accurate against vehicles, able to hit several targets with full strength at a time, and have the tremendous unique ability to snipe enemy models simply by nuking the entire site from orbit.

It's the only way to be sure.

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