With Joe Saunders
When building army lists in Flames Of War we are often faced with tough decisions, do you pick offensive troops or defensive troops, heavy armour or light armour? As is only proper, there is rarely a military unit available that is appropriate for all missions. With the release of Bagration: Soviets though, there is an answer to this age-old gaming conundrum; The Engineer-Sapper Company!
The Engineer-Sapper troops of the Red Army arose from the need to have specialists in constructing fortifications and other engineering tasks such as laying bridges on the battlefield. Over time these specialized troops became distinguished not only for their construction abilities but also for the knowledge of how to destroy the enemy’s defenses. The result was a well trained and equipped unit of specialists that could both defend and attack. Now that we are revisiting the Eastern Front in Late-War Flames Of War, these specialized troops are available as a fantastic new option. Let’s take a closer look!
The Engineer Sapper Company is well appointed with a very solid stat line. Like virtually all Soviet infantry they are Aggressive, being hit on a 3+ with a Skill of 4+. However, they have boosts in their Assault rating to 3+ and Tactics of 3+. This makes them very adaptable with good chances of passing any special movement orders and provides an assault ability that matches most elite troops. Most importantly though they have a motivation of Fearless 3+, which makes them a real contender in close combat. We all know that it is the counterattack roll that really makes or breaks the assault phase and a 3+ is about as good as you can get to ensure that your units are going to keep on slugging.
Another thing that should not be overlooked in the stats is the Pioneers rule.
Minefields, when placed well, can be a real pain for attacking armies in scenarios such as Bridgehead…but with the Pioneers rule, they will be much less of a threat to Engineer-Sappers, allowing them to preserve the momentum of the attack!
Sapper Body Armour
This special rule requires its own section because it is so unique. In Flames Of War the Assault step is always the most decisive, because there are no saving throws against your opponent’s skill-based attacks! Until now.
Another first for the rules…the Engineer-Sappers are infantry that can launch a smoke barrage but still move and assault. It counts as a 2-gun barrage so this means that each company of Engineer -Sappers can lay down an 8-inch smoke screen once per game. Because of this, if you need cover for an assault you are good, or if you want to mask your movement through open spaces now you have an option.
Though the large number of special rules makes the Engineer-Sappers impressive, we have not even got to the weapon options yet. Options that take up no less than 2 full unit cards! The base weapons include the smoke pots, PPSh submachine guns and for units of 15 or more stands, a DP MG team. This provides plenty of firepower to start with. You can add to this panzerfausts (that they have captured) with the Limited 2 rule, which means they can have 2 panzerfaust shots when shooting or in assault! From here you can continue to customize your unit by replacing up to 6 teams with 2 of all of the traditional Soviet upgrade weapons such as the PTRD, flame throwers, mortars and heavy machineguns. This lets you mix and match to prepare your company for any battlefield role. Best of all, with the exception of the panzerfaust upgrade, the additional weapon options do not cost more points!
The Engineer-Sappers have their own force organisation chart and formation so they won’t have to be relegated to just support if you don’t want. With the Engineer-Sapper Battalion formation you can make these tough flexible warriors the star of your army list. Let’s face it, with the huge number of options on top of their solid stats, this makes Engineer-Sappers a very fun, if somewhat elite force, that EVERYONE will want to put on the table. Let’s take a look at a 100-point example army list that can showcase the Engineer-Sappers and which will work flexibly for most scenarios.
Engineer-Sapper Battalion Army List
Using the List
This list is designed to capitalize on the various abilities of the Engineer-Sappers. On the attack the large squad with IS-2 Support can attack directly and possibly get a boost from the BA-64’s Spearhead. Using the Cover of Smoke command card will make this more secure and you can cover your flanks from pesky supporting fire with smoke pots. If the opponent has deployed mines to limit your progress, you can rely on the Pioneers rule and go straight through them! The smaller units of Engineer-Sappers and the SU-76s can hang back and defend objectives. Don’t be afraid to go after assaults with the big company, as with 22 stands, 2 flame throwers, Assault and Motivation 3+, the Body Armour rule and 4 antitank attacks each turn, nothing should be able to contend with these troops when the fighting get in close!
If you need to defend with this list, the infantry units, once dug in, will be hard to move off of objectives. Using smoke pots and the Cover of Smoke command card will force your opponent to close for assaults (where you are likely better) or seriously limit their lines of site forcing them to maneuver where you can counter attack with the IS-2s.
Time to Fight!
As we have just discussed, the Engineer-Sappers come pretty close to having it all in Flames Of War. In fact, they are pretty unique in having almost no specific weaknesses, being customizable for any mission and they have plenty of special rules to function in both defence and attack. The main limiting factor that you will have as a Soviet player (besides points limits) is going to be your imagination (and remembering all of the cool special rules)! So, get your Engineer-Sappers ready for your next game and see just how flexible and fun to play they can be. Onward to victory for the Motherland!