Original article by @Tav
Artillery is one of the most controversial aspects of World of Tanks. In one camp you have those that believe it is a detriment to play and that the strategic overview camera (what you see when you press shift instead of sniper view) is completely unrealistic. In the other camp you have those that staunchly defend artillery and insult those that complain about it. Whichever camp you call home, or even if you’re wandering between camps, it is important to understand that artillery is here to stay. As a result, it is just as important for the new or even established artillery player to understand how to take advantage of what he has! At the same time, understanding how artillery works at a high level allows you to nullify its advantage on the battlefield, so perhaps this will be beneficial for both sides of the argument.
Artillery, or Self-Propelled Guns (SPGs) as they are commonly referred to, operates differently from your typical tank; it fires up and allows gravity to bring its shell down onto the target instead of relying on penetrating the front or side through sheer velocity and mass. As a result, artillery shells tend to be fairly inaccurate and will overshoot or undershoot your target more often than not. This is why the majority of artillery pieces use high explosive shells instead of armor piercing or anti-tank rounds. The advantage of firing up rather than straight forward is, of course, the shell trajectory. Standard tanks rely on line of sight to hit their targets; artillery hits targets that no other tank can.
When an artillery shell is fired, it travels high into the air en route to its target where, if everything rolls your way, the shell hits the top of the enemy tank. Tank roofs are generally very weak and vulnerable to any shell that might be angled in such a way to successfully penetrate their top armor. Even though artillery shells tend to be of the high explosive variety, the penetration of these rounds is usually sufficient to penetrate fragile tank roofs given the right conditions. Of course, this does not always happen due to a variety of factors, but those are best addressed later.
So artillery can indirectly fire on targets that no other tank can hit, and it deals its damage by hitting the roof of a tank. That means all you have to do is find a tank and click on it, right? Unfortunately it is not that easy. At the lower levels of artillery play that is pretty much all you need to do, and you can even get by in the higher levels like that, though you won’t be very good. The first skill that must be mastered to play artillery well is aiming. It sounds simple and in practice it is, but it is unintuitive. With standard tanks all you have to do is point your reticle at a tank and click. Generally your shell will go where your center dot is, you will penetrate if you aimed at the proper spot, and all will be well.
In artillery you have your standard reticle and, in addition, a line. That line is the most important part of the strategic view and using it properly it one part of what separates mediocre artillery players from good or even great ones. That green line pointing at your enemy across the map is the exact trajectory your shell is going to take when fired (plus or minus a few degrees of inaccuracy). If you have the center of your reticle on a tank, but the line terminates before it, you are going to splash the target – your shell will land near it and your damage will be significantly reduced if not eliminated completely. However, if you aim so that the line is on the target instead, a shot fired on target will directly hit where you want it to. All that stands between you and your enemy then is armor! The most ideal situation would be aiming so that your line is hitting a tank, but the center of your reticle is also on the tank. In this situation you are most likely to hit the tank and your chances of penetrating the roof armor are higher due to the improved angle.
Artillery operates by using your teammates’ information to your advantage, and then bailing them out by hitting targets that they cannot. In artillery you are capable of firing at weak points inaccessible to direct fire and can deal heavy damage as a result. Once you master the little details of how to properly aim with artillery as opposed to aiming with a tank, you will be well on your way to mastering artillery play. In future articles in this series I will address positioning, repositioning, target acquisition, arc differences between artillery pieces, and more, so keep watching this space!