The Artillery Class

Welcome, young warlords. I am a centurion of the II Adiutrix, the toughest legion of the empire, and the resident doctor of artillery. I know my stuff, and am here to teach you the basics of this powerful branch of your military.

From the looks of you, most of you are young noblemen risen to command by virtue of your noble births. That makes you infantrymen or cavalrymen, depending on your faction. You Germans and Britons can leave right now- you need not know about artillery since you don't use any. The rest of you- pay attention! Your armies use these magnificent weapons, which means you need to know how they work to make the most of them and possibly even win a battle with them.

We shall start with the most common ones.


The first piece we will discuss if the Onager, which means 'wild ass' in my native tongue. We call it that because the thing kicks like a mule when it is triggered. It is basically a wooden frame to which we attach sinew ropes. In between the ropes we stuck an arm of wood, with a cup on the end. This we crank back and hook into the frame. Then you put the stone or firepot into the cup and knock the block from the crank, which releases the sinew pressure, which in turn springs the arm up to its original upright position. At this moment the arm stops- it slams into the padding of the frame, causing the kick- but the projectile continues on its way.

This thing can throw a heavy rock about three hundred feet, or a firepot the same distance, if you so desire, which can really give someone a bad day. Very few men have survived having a thirty-pound ball of stone hit them in the head. Thus onagers aimed at generals and such- if they hit- can decapitate the enemy army quickly and give you the edge. They can also be aimed at other artillery to disable their equipment and prevent them from killing you.

You do not have to judge the distance yourself. Your centurions will do that for you. Simply select the onager, and put your cursor on the target. Your centurion will paint the cursor green if the target is in range, otherwise it will be red. Simple, eh?

After selecting the onager, or other artillery piece, you can press the F key to order your centurion to use firepots. These are amphora of flaming pitch and oil, which burst in a colorful display when they impact. Very handy for roasting enemies who are stupid enough to pack themselves close together when in range.

Be advised, though, when selecting ammunition. Here is the impact zone of the stone balls:

Stone balls are heavy, but nice and round. They fly pretty straight and true for the most part. This does not mean that you can pinpoint an enemy phalanx that is engaged with your legionaries- your artillery boys will try, but cannot guarantee that the ball will hit only the enemy! You will risk hitting your own boys. They also have a minimum range- so if the enemy gets too close, your onagers will become useless. Stone ammunition has one other property of which you should be made aware- stone bounce. They hit the ground, bounce once, then disintegrate. This is nice to know when shooting them at some blokes that have your own men behind them.

Now, while stone balls fly pretty true most of the time, amphorae do not. They are not round- they taper to a point. They don't fit well in the cup, either. All of this adds up to when you launch a firepot, you really do not know where it will hit. It can hit anywhere within this impact zone:

In other words, the firepots are rascally sumbitches who go where they want, when they want- including upon your own boys who are a few paces in front of the onagers. On the other hand, they incinerate what they hit. I have personally witnessed the destruction of a phalanx hit by three pots. We had a good day, the phalangites less so. Not a man of them survived the bombardment. On another day, our first firepot flew sideways and crisped our own general. Go figure. The best tip an artillery centurion can give you is this- aim for the unit in the center of mass of the opposing army, and make sure if you have any men before the artillery, they are right up against it.

Onagers are handy to have in an army. I don't say this because I work in a crew. I say it because it is true. Onagers can hammer through stone walls and open gaps that allow your troops to pour inside any city they assault without having to wait for siege equipment to be built. And against settlements with wooden walls? Ho ho, we can knock a hole in a wall, then use the rest of our ammo to fry or squash the buggers rushing to defend the breach. You do not have to have the onagers in your army- the bastards are heavy and slow- but it is a good idea to have some moving directly for your target with a small guard while your main army sweeps the opposition from the immediate environs, the join up with the onagers before the walls.

These things are also great during defences of bridges and the like. But beware using them in your stone-walled cities. Onager stones not making it over the walls will damage your own walls, and improper use can open a breach for the enemy to use.

One thing you Greek strategoi ought to really love is that the Onager is a solid object. As such, it can take damage, but so what? It is solid! That means if you put one of these babies up against the flank of your phalanx, it prevents an attack upon that flank of your phalanx. A pity for the onager boys, but good for your phalanx.


This is a ballista. Personally, being an onager officer, I cannot stand the bloody things nor see any use for them. The onager can do anything the ballista can and do it better, but sometimes you noblemen only have access to ballistae while your genii and fabricii work on getting you the better onager.

Like the onager, the ballista is powered by sinew ropes. It kicks, too, but a little one more suited to its tiny frame. It will batter a hole in a wooden wall if you give it enough time. It is better against gates, though- I will give it that. But it cannot flatten a tower the way an onager can, either.

It also shoots in a flatter trajectory, which means it cannot be used inside a city to shoot at targets outside. And don't put one of these behind your lines and expect the centurion commanding it to fire over your boys- it can't, and will end up skewering your own lads.

There is a repeating ballistae, wonderful for putting out lots of firepower- but the thing is less accurate than the normal one. It does have a high rate of fire- useful when facing packed-together enemies. It has the twice the amount of ammunition, but costs more. Basically, it has the same abilities and range as the normal ballista- about one hundred eighty feet.

Some guys in the days of the Barbarian Invasions even mount the things on buggies and move them about the battlefield- a nice idea, why walk when you can ride, eh? But for me, that seems handy but not really exciting. They just do not have the hearty thump of a weighty onager arm hurling death from above.

To sum up, these things are useful if you cannot produce onagers.


Like the ballista, this thing shoots in a flat trajectory and is not suitable for putting behind a wall of men. It can, however, shoot bolts (little spears) which will pass through one armored man to kill the one behind him as well, and the man behind him as well. Put two of these at the head of a bridge and they will have a field day! Until the crew gets killed or the machines get put out of action, of course.

I personally watched a crew of scorpions lay out a cohort of praetorians in a few minutes. All the armor in the world does not stop these darts, nor is your skill of any use either. The little spears these things launch will go through whoever is before them- often several somebodies as stated earlier. Those scorpions earned my respect that day, but a single well-placed onager firepot would have a good effect, too- especially if they were in a testudo formation at the time.

These things are also quite accurate, and have a longer range than the stone-throwing ballistae. They are not quite my onagers, but these are definitely on my short list of things nice to have about.