Original article by @Tav
We’ve all seen it: a well-aimed shot at an E-100 hits and does all of 200 damage. “Why?” You ask the RNG. “Why would you ruin such a perfect shot?” It turns out the mechanisms governing low damage rolls are actually fairly easily understood and can be manipulated to the artillery driver’s benefit. The basics of aiming have been covered, and now it’s time to refine that skill.
When playing any kind of front line tank it is expected that a good player will understand the armor profiles of what he is engaging. Without that understanding, a tanker will not be able to do consistent damage and will, instead, be used as target practice. Those armor profiles are not important only to heavies and mediums, however; they are also of extreme importance to artillery players. The reason for this lies in the mechanics of high explosive ammunition.
When a high explosive (HE) round impacts on a target, several calculations take place. First, does the round penetrate? If it does, count yourself lucky as you have likely scored a kill shot. If it does not, however (which is more often than not the case), the damage from your shot has already been reduced by 50%. In the case of the Object 261, that means the highest possible damage roll has been reduced from 2125 to 1063. Suddenly that non-fatal blow to the weakened T-62a makes a lot more sense. That’s not the end of it, however – there is further reduction to account for. The armor of the target you are hitting reduces the damage dealt much further and makes that Maus in the open field a far less tempting target. For more specifics on high explosive shell mechanics, the World of Tanks wiki sums things up very nicely here: http://wiki.worldoftanks.com/Battle_Mechanics#HE_Shells
“So that’s it, just don’t shoot at tanks with heavy armor and hope you pen the weak ones? That’s not very helpful at all!” Luckily, the purpose of artillery is actually not primarily to score kills or put out massive amounts of damage. The amount of damage a high explosive shell puts out and the radius at which it deals that damage means that quite a few tank modules will potentially be damaged when your shell hits its mark. It’s no coincidence that the majority of artillery shells destroy tracks, or set tanks on fire, or damage turret traverse, or damage a gun, or optics, etc...
As you can see in the above screenshot, I hit an IS-7 twice and knocked out a total of five modules. Even after one shot I can guarantee you that IS-7 was hurting. At most he would have been useless with that much module damage. At the very least he would have burned his repair and first aid kits. Even against a relatively heavily armored target (my rounds impacted the IS-7s turret most of the time), my Object. 261 was able to do extremely well.