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My friend plays Empire and never comes to play without 1-2 great cannons.
Last time he was one shotting my RBT's.. does the RBT get destroyed on a 2+ roll immediately? or does the cannon hit get randomized between the machine and the crew?
Also, what's the best way to reach and disable them quickly? if I bring a greateagle he again 1-shoots the eagle down as quickly as it sets up in a charging position.
I was thinking of Ellyrian Reavers.. what do you guys think of them for this role?
To answer both your questions,
If the cannon hits and wounds (T7 vs S*) the bolt thrower then it does D3 or D6 wounds ( I think that a great cannon is D6) so it may not destroy the bolt thrower, it isn't like hitting a chariot with Strength 7, you don't automatically destroy it.
I believe the cannon doesn't randomise, ie if the line of fire passes over a crew member and the machine then both are hit. This may be a mistake but I know that you are able to snipe characters with Great cannons, by making the ball bounce over that point in the unit. I figure that shooting warmachines would be similiar.
In terms of hunting down cannons I almost always play with a pair of eagles or 1 eagle + Reavers. Reavers could definitely take on a cannon by themselves (which is why they should always have spears) but don't go too close because grapeshot will be trouble. The other option is to gang up with 2 eagles, a unit of shadow warriors would cut through in short order as well (but grape shot could be a problem when you get close.
If you were desperate then you could use a single rank of infantry, with an eagle behind then the turn before you charge move the eagle into a position where it can charge the same turn, he either grapeshots the infantry or cannonballs the eagle.
To be completely honest unless you frequently use dragons (or chariots) then a cannon isn't really too big a deal. Our cavalry is normally unranked as our are hard hitting swordmasters. Our ranked blocks are normally PG with a ward save, spearmen or Whitelions can be protected using shield of saphery if necessary.
Good luck either way
T2 Dragon Prince Charge usually does it for me.
I have to say that from an Empire purpose, a great cannon is now what I would bring vs the HE's. Maybe if you are playing in tourney/take on all comer type army list you would see them but I can't imagine most Empire players would bring one knowing they are playing HE's.
I would take one if I knew the HE used Dragons, in which case I would need two of them to make sure I got off at least a good shot at them.
Shadow Warriors usually do the job as said, you can usually keep your distance and take them from behind.
But HE's generally have few ranks so cannons are going to be less effective anyhow.
Actually, hits are randomized between the gun and the crew as normal. So on a 5/6 he's going to splatter a crewman. Great Cannons do D6 wounds, so he might kill it, but it's not like a chariot where he does it instantly.
My best way to knock down cannons has always been magic (Empire can't keep up), my own RBTs (use the Spread and hope to hit crew), or my usual fallback- which is my cavalry army.
Commandment of Brass will ruin it for a turn and Rain Lord can ruin it all game.
The only problem I see with lore of metal is you have to be within 24 inches for the spells it has to neutralize the warmachines.....that is usually right in the good part of an empire gunline armies range as well. Maybe if you put the mage with lore of metal in a regiment of archers (lets say 10), you get the unit protection and can even double up if your archers are able to pick off the crew of the warmachines as well.
Having great eagles works too though.
I tried Teclis with lore of metal last time, I put him in a bunker of 9 shadow warriors inside woods and another mage with them carrying Sacred Essence, it worked great.
Even with him firing at the unit with a volleygun with a master engineer, average 18 shots, needing 7's to hit. that's 1.5 hits.
or worse with BS3 handgunners or crossbowmen, he needs 8's to hit, so 30 of them would get 1.66 hits.
so enough shadowwarriors fodder buys the mages enough time to dismantle anything close or otherwise.
Spirit of the Forge helped turn his steamtank and knights into molten jelly, so that worked nicely too.