It's not the armies, it's the elements themselves. Maybe that's where we're getting our wires crossed. The issue, I think, is the simple conclusion that the 4+ shooting is so far and away better than any other shooting that it's the only sensible choice if you're trying to build a hard list. The reasons for this are many - it doesn't take shooting penalties against anything (including individuals). Even a few wounds on vulnerable targets like war engines and individuals can route them in a single turn fairly easily. It often has piercing, and often can move and fire in a large number of directions. All other shooting in the game is much more limited.
It's true that those are usually much more precise and they are supposed to be a counter to things like individuals and cover.
But in echange you usually get one or more of the following :
- expensive in points (lightning bolt usually come on wizards that aren't that cheap, goblin wizs being maybe slightly too cheap, but now capped to 3 per army)
- limited in range (breath attack and fireball get lots of dice, but only 12" range so can be targetted in theory by longer range shooting)
- limited in speed (war engines cannot move at the double)
- limited in scoring potential (with the new tournament tweaks, both individual and war engines are a handicap in most scenario, even more so if you replace the two kill! scenarios par the new Push! and Control! scenarios as suggerred)
Of course, what can be manageable by itself can become sronger with the appropriate support.
Against a player with a lots of breath attack but no long range shooting, like for exemple an abyssal player with several Efreets and a Chroneas, you can try to keep some distance while trying to snipe his efreet/chroneas, or you can regroup your units for a synchronised assault where you will accept intial losses but will only be in range of shooting for one turn before melee. What you must not do is throwing your units in small groups at a time, as this will let the shooting kill or cripple them without leaving enough strength left to do any decent damage.
More difficult can be facing someone who use both short range massed breath attacks with a decent number of longer range shooting, the usual exemple being the gobelin army with 3 tromblones and 3 wizs, plus maybe ratkin allies for one warlock and one weapon team, plus maybe some army standard with the boomstick.
However the error against such army is to think that you will always be in range of all his shooting. 20+ lightnint bolt are a terrible counter against individual or light support troop, but they are also only 24" range, and in total rather expensive for the number of attack.
In this situation, I would probably simply ide my vulnerable unit (individual heroes, light troops) so they are complety out of line of sight at the start, so that the lightning bolt are used against def5+ large units that will be able to soak this damage.
Not lying, you will get damaged, the point is accepting the losses, make sure that you don't let them focus on easy points or kill your melee glass canons before they reach melee.
Even if you lose half your army before contact, the remaining half might still be strong enough to win the game for you. An army like the one above will usually have cheap rabble infantry or similar, not something that dwarves warrriors should fear, and any exposed war engine or wiz that you charge will be easy point, and might transform into an additionnal charge with the overrun if your opponent is not prudent.
Usually this kind of game starts one sided in favor of the shooty army, but can often change brutally in the second half.
Defense 6 is really the only way to survive the counter shot from several casters and flame weapons
Ok this point is where I think you might be thinking in the wrong terms. Against an extreme shooting army, you don't play expeting to "survive", you know that you will take losses, the way to win is to accept that you will lose unit, but make sure that *you* and not your opponent chose which units it will be.
If you send one hero, as strong and tough as he is, against a whole army shooting by itself, you will lose, period.
If howewer the hero is coming with his whole army with him, there will be a limit on what he will be able to kill before your get in melee.
i would love to see my opponent use his shooting on a def6+ king, even if the king doesn't survive, I would rather see him dead that twice or thrice the damage if it had targetted lower defence units.
So, I suppose that's my question for you, since you seem to be playing devil's advocate. Why take any shooting that isn't of the 4+ variety when all other shooting is so limited by fragility, Reload, expense, and modifiers from cover? Sure, your cannon or Bombard might take a chunk out of something when it lands, but it's a 5+ in the best of circumstances and only threatens a very specific arc. Moving it just means you've wasted a turn, and if they're already outside your arc they will be forever outside it until they kill the machine. Given forests block line of sight and are H4, artillery shooting becomes even less useful. It only takes a single turn to get in range of artillery to charge it with a fast element, and then it's gone.
Forest block completly line of sight to units on the other side, true, and you know what ? This means that they will also protect you against lightning bolt for the very same reason. Spells might ignore modifiers, but they still need line of sight.
An unit inside a forest however will be in line of sight (but in cover), but as you remember, your bombard can ignore cover, so they are good to target an unit hiding in a forest.
Also, the bombard is the longest range artillery in the whole game, depending on the terrain, you migth put one in an angle and get a line of sight to most of the table, or near the middle and still have a arc of fire to at least healf the table. If you find yourself with an ennemy in the blind arc of your artillery so easily then you clearly did something really wrong during deployement.
You says that it's easy for your opponent to get in range of your artillery with a fast element to charge it ? Where does this fast element comes exactly ? If you are playing against an extreme gunline, there won't be many points used on thoses, and surely you should realise that it's not that hard to keep some unit in reserve to defend your war engine ?
You wonder what use there is for normal shooting units ? How about killing those fast light units ? Or unlocking slots for your own heroes/war engines/monsters ? Or how about having more nerve or defense that fragile wizards or war engines so you can win the attrition war ?
Or how about get medium and long range shooting for cheaper per shot that what lightning bolt cost so you can counter fire with better long range shooting and force him to comes to you ?
You think that you will have to fight something like a dragon with def6+ ? Not if you are playing against a gunline, and then the problem is completly different. If you play an abyssal player with short range breath attacks, then you will be glad to see an archfiend comes to you alone outside of the support of his army, let him eat your 100- points units, and keep some other units clse ready to charge him (remember that disordered fliers lose fly now, so you will be able to pin in and use the rest of your army to kill it before getting in range of his shooting if he expose himself like that)
You seems to be lost in a pure theory situation where you give your opponent the perfect situation where he is alwayws in range with line of sight while your own units have interrupted lines of sight, are easy to catch alone by fast units, and always have cover or other modifier. In reality a game does not plays like that, or at least not unless you let yourself completly be outdeployed and outmanoeuvred.
Of course, my own exemples of way to counter are also pure theory outside of a clear real exemple, and depending on the situation you might still lose, but that's the point of the game, outplaying your opponent so your plans works and his own fails, and in both case for the less cost possible for you and the more cost for him.
As I said, you should really try some real games using something like a flame canon yourself, if only to see by yourelf how it can be strong in the right situation, but also to see its limit and how it might need support.