Steel Rain: The D19b As Artillery

“…In the midst of our joking came a bloodcurdling screech. Twenty meters behind us, white cloud mixed with clods of dirt flew high among the branches. Blasts began rolling through the forest. With troubled eyes we stared at each other, bodies huddled against the ground in a depressing feeling of complete powerlessness. Shot followed shot. Stifling gases floated in the undergrowth, smoke shrouded the hilltops, trees and branches tumbled to the ground, and the screams of incoming rounds were deafening. We jumped up and ran blindly, chased by flashes and concussion from tree to tree, looking for cover and circling huge trunks like hunted game…”
– Ernst Jünger, “In Stahlgewittern”, Battle of Les Eparges, 1915


For the purposes of this discussion, we will employ the following parallels for the purpose of finding valid theory through analogy: Starbases are fortifications; planets are defensible positions; fleets are armies; cloaking ships are scouts; minefields are air superiority; Glory devices are artillery.

Remember: Since the development of radar, artillery fire, like tracers, points both ways.

The Basics

As warships they’re all strictly fourth-class, lacking any torpedo tubes at all — but then, weaponry is not the primary role of the Glory Device. They are unmatched cloaker-detectors, revealing even Advanced and the Loki-proof vessels as they detonate using their TRG function. As a result, the mere fact of their existence often prevents any enemy cloakers from even bothering to scout the Fascist and his allies; they are an exceedingly valuable deterrent, even when unused.

And then there’s their other purpose: the POP function, whereby they become guided missiles capable of inflicting a full minehit worth of damage on an enemy vessel that’s located where they go off. This can come in handy when intercepting an incoming task force; five or six minehits worth of damage can cut even a Gorbie down to size.

Theory and Practice

If we presume Glory Devices to be equivalent in some respects to guided missiles, it follows logically that they could be employed in the same way a rolling artillery barrage might: Each connected planet in a cluster or constellation would be subject to one or two hits on the same turn. Doing so would negate every Loki, Firecloud, or light cloaker in an entire zone of operations, completely eliminating an enemy’s racial advantage in an area for a limited time. (That it would also damage or destroy other warships is a bonus.)

Such a move would be expensive; each vessel costs a ship slot, and to rebuild them en masse demands a large expenditure in Priority Build Points. In short, this would not be the sort of action one would undertake lightly — or frequently, for that matter.

Offensively, it would only ever work in a situation where you have gained minefield superiority over your opponent, or at least parity. If your Glory Devices hit mines enroute, they could stop dead in space — and thus miss their targets. However, given sufficient sweeping and/or countermining, it should be practicable in most situations to ensure the target worlds remain free of enemy mines at the appropriate moment. An alternate deployment method would involve towing them to the edge of the Warp Well, within which they could remain for a short while before use.

Defensively, the Warp Well can also be a way to deploy these vessels such that they could remain available for cluster bombardment even after a successful invasion by an adversary with minefield advantage. They can remain in the Well for some time, sweeping mines each turn while ignored — or, if they opt to engage, sapping power from the enemy’s assaults. (One can readily see the parallel in this instance between air superiority over a battlefield and minefield dominance.)

One can imagine in Campaign Melee or Unlimited Ship settings a situation where multiple D7bs or D19cs with cheap engines might be stacked up in Warp Wells throughout vulnerable space as a deterrent against invasion — equivalent in a sense to pre-sighting artillery.

One parallel counter to the static use of Glory Devices as a cloaking detector alone is that clusters are vulnerable to blanket barrages of light cloakers. Imagine a Bird sending a dozen Swifts in, one to a planet, and having them move cloaked to detonate Poppers all on the same turn — thereby eliminating the majority of the Fascist’s anti-cloaker defense while, incidentally, damaging every other vessel in the area. Further waves of cloakers would secure planetary orbit in favor of the aggressor. Yes, there would be a high price tag in ship slots and PBP, but again, this would not be a tactic employed at whim, but instead at a moment of vulnerability when the effect of destabilizing the enemy would be of greater value than the cost.

In short: Artillery points both ways.

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