With Joe Saunders
I grew up in the 80s. When we played outside we were always pretending to be the Canadian military battling the hordes of Soviet Russia invading from the north. This meant that nameless and faceless Soviet Infantry were always the enemy. Then I was introduced to the movie Red Dawn (I choose to ignore the remake). In this Patrick Swayze movie I got a better look at the infantry of the Soviets (or what they were thought to be like). Now in my mid 40s I find myself reminiscing on that movie and wishing I could take control of those forces. I would like to try my hand against the superior military skills of Charlie Sheen’s ragtag assortment of high school students and the armies of the corrupt American capitalists…. Now, thanks to the new WWIII: Team Yankee book World War III: Soviet I can stop reminiscing, the time has finally come to dive in and take command of the legions of the red banner.
In this article I will take you on a guided tour of the infantry of the Soviet Union (in distinctly game terms) so we can investigate the nuances and capabilities of these cold war bad guys in WWIII: Team Yankee.
The Soviet doctrine for fighting World War III always relied on the idea that numbers would be on their side. The Warsaw Pact was mostly composed of conscript soldiers, equipped with simple yet effective equipment that could operate in rugged conditions. although their strategy also called for aggression. Fast moving penetration into the heart of NATO forces was perceived as the best option to take on the less numerous but better trained foes. This required a large amount of mobility and the Soviets were the first to take the concept of the infantry transport and blur it with armed vehicles to provide them with integrated heavy weapons support. On the ground this took the form of the various BMP Infantry Fighting vehicles (IFVs) and in the air the Hind Gunship (which if you grew up in the 80s… and excuse the Dirty Dancing/Red Dawn comment, will know definitely put Baby in a corner). Because of this, looking at the Soviet infantry of the era will also require a close look at their transportation.
BMP Motor Rifle Battalion
This is the basic building block of the Soviet Infantry. If your army is composed of tank formations you will usually find that a company of BMP Infantry can be added on as part of the formation. This is handy as infantry is a good option for guarding objectives or fighting where terrain is dense.
The choices for the BMP Company come in 3 varieties, varying by the type of BMP taken. Otherwise the infantry themselves have the same stats and weapon options. Here we see the effect of the conscript army approach to warfare. Courage is 4+ (with 3+ Morale and Rally) and Skill is 5+ (Counterattack 3+) and their Hit On value is 3+. These stats are decidedly lack lustre. They could be worse, but definitely are not top tier. But this brings us to points cost…They are cheap and come in large numbers. 5 stands of troops in 3 Bradley IFVs cost American players 10 points, but 7 Stands of Soviets and 4 BMP- 2s cost the Soviets 8 points. With these troops you can keep numbers on your side.
Weapon options are very flexible with the ability to arm grenade launchers, AA missiles and improved RPGs for unit level upgrades. This allow you to tweak your squads for their purpose in your force. If you want to sit back and guard objectives take a Gremlin AA missile to ward off airstrikes. If you are attacking then go with an AGS-17 grenade launcher, or mix both for flexibility. This brings us to the BMPs themselves. Here you can also choose the vehicle for the task. If you want to keep the cost down, but still have some decent weapon options, the BMP-1 is a good choice. The BMP-2 splits the difference and gives you pretty good options for taking on NATO MBTs, while the BMP-3 gives you weapons that rival some Tanks (thanks to the Sniper missile). Which you choose will depend on the roles you want your infantry to fill, with the BMP-2 probably being the choice of a player looking for a general composition.
BTR-60 Motor Rifle Company
If being economical with your points is your objective, the BTR-60 Motor Rifle Company is for you! Let’s face it, sometimes you want to go with the big guns and max your army composition out with tanks (especially the awesome T-80). However, infantry is almost always a necessity for guarding objectives or going where armour can’t. The BTR-60 Motor Rifle Company will not break the bank for points while still fitting the bill.
The stats and weapon options for this unit are the same for BMP mounted troops, but the BTR-60 is armed only with machineguns and very light armour which brings the expense down. Because of this, you can get 7 stands of infantry and 4 BTR-60s for only 5 points. Though the BTR-60 is not likely to go toe to toe with anything other than opposing Infantry, it is a good way to leave room for other unit choices.
Rather than use the value of the BTR-60 Company to slide a few infantry stands into our army, you could go in the other direction and maximize your infantry. 23 points gets you a maxed-out squad complete with all of the heavy weapon options. That’s 25 stands and 16 BTRs per unit! Go ahead and use the BTR-60 Motor Rifle formation and fill up the infantry slots! You can have 76 infantry stands and 49 transport vehicles for 70 points! This would certainly be interesting to play and you would definitely outnumber your opponent, though you may not have enough paint….
These veterans of the war in Afghanistan have statistics that reflect their hard-earned experience. Though they have the same weapon options and unit sizes as the other Soviet units, they have a Courage of 3+ and a Skill of 4+. Though these stats are not outstanding, they are an improvement over the regular Soviet infantry stats and are still quite reasonable in terms of points. 7 stands will run 4 points. The main difference however is the Afgantsy don’t have transports as a basic option. Instead they are transported by Hind MI-24 Helicopters that are also a black box choice in the formation.
Obviously having helicopter gunships as their transport gives the Afgantsy Air Assault Company a massive boost in firepower. Spiral missiles provide AT ratings of up to 24, and they also bring Gatling guns and a one-shot salvo template weapon to the fight too! This makes this unit about a flexible as you can get for fighting all types of opponents.
In terms of tactics the Afgantsy Air Assault Company adds extreme maneuverability to the Soviet player’s list of options. Because the Hinds can both transport troops and provide devastating firepower, they can deliver the Afganstsy infantry to almost any point on the battlefield (game table) then either fly off on other missions, or stay near their infantry and defend them from armour and other serious threats.
BMP Shock Recon Platoon
The final infantry option in WWIII: Soviet is a bit different from the others. Where all of the other Infantry options can come with a full formation dedicated to them, the BMP Shock Recon Platoon does not. Instead this unit is a single choice in the T-80 BMP Shock Tank Company, which is the pinnacle of elite troops in the book. For this reason, this platoon has great stats, with a Skill of 3+ and a Hit on number of 4+. As far as Soviet Infantry goes, these guys are the best quality and also very expensive. The same 7 stands and 4 IFVS you would pay 8 points for in regular BMP units costs a lot more. You pay a whopping 15 points with the BMP Shock Recon Platoon!
In terms of firepower the BMP Shock Rifle Platoon is the same as the regular BMP motor rifle troops. This still means they have a ton of options for weapons, suitable for many different battlefield roles. On top of this they can have the BMP-3 or BMP-2s for transport and fire support. This unit can have a lot of firepower in a small package, that fights more like a NATO infantry squad!
In terms of tactics the BMP Shock Platoon is pretty limited because it is not a black box choice, so it will only ever be deployed in support of the Shock Tank Company’s equally elite tanks. This means their role will likely be guarding objectives or attacking in dense or urban terrain. In distinctly real-world terms, the high points cost allows for a low model count. Since the rest of the T-80 Shock Rifle Company is similar, with very expensive elite tank units (in the black box choices) this formation and its accompanying infantry is a good option for new players who have not painted a lot of models or who don’t want to break the bank on model kits.
The Soviets are Coming!
As we have seen the Soviet infantry options in World War III Team Yankee are fairly varied yet highly adaptable with upgrades and transport options to strike hard and tackle different missions. We have also explored the interesting way in which the lower quality, yet more numerous unit sizes embody the unique aspect of how the Soviets planned to fight should the Cold War escalate to World War III. With this new-found knowledge now is the time to gather your forces under the red banner and conquer the corrupt capitalists. Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and those pesky high school students won’t stand a chance against the might of Soviets this time!