With Chris Allen
The WWIII: Soviet book is bringing all sorts of new toys and ways to play a Soviet force to the table. The most dramatic change and divergent force is without a doubt the T-80 Shock Tank Company. Formed from the 26th Guards Training Tank Division utilizing the most advanced equipment with the T-80U, BMP-3 and Tunguska, along with the most experienced officers and top second year conscripts the Shock Battalion is a whole different situation for NATO forces.
The Company is largely organized the way any Soviet Battalion would be, holding a support company of infantry, and platoon artillery, anti-air and reconnaissance support
Organization – tank platoons in a coy. But where you would normally have 2-3 companies of tanks, here you find 2-3 platoons of tanks.
So the core of the formation is the T-80 tank. This newly introduced monster is a beast. Sporting front armour of 20 the T-80 can take a beating. M1 Abrams or M60 Pattons an issue? Not any more. Milans a problem? Not really for the T-80, as at best you’re bailed on a 1. The Side armour of 10 keeps autocannons at bay and with ERA you count as side armour 16 against HEAT weapons so if Carl Gustavs are a problem for you, they also can only bail if you roll a 1. The tank isn’t invincible as AT-23 has become a lot more prevalent but it’s a pretty tough nut to crack for most weapons.
Besides being the most armoured, the T-80 is also the fastest Soviet tank with a tactical move of 14” like the T-64 due to advanced stabilizers but sports a 2+ cross check making it ridiculously maneuverable on the battlefield. The same exceptional 125mm 2A46 gun with a AT of 22 is present but where the change sits is it can also take the AT-11 Sniper missile which unlike its predecessors has an AT of 22 and can fire on the move out to 48”, giving it a threat range of 62 inches before blitzing. Again, it’s a beast.
But where the shock T-80 becomes truly scary isn’t it’s armour or the gun, not even it’s mobility. The difference is the crew. Not being hit is the best armour, and this tank is harder to hit. At 4+ to hit the Shock tank platoon is a real tough nut to crack, fighting at range and against defensive fire. Add in cover and suddenly you’re sporting a near uncrackable tank that’s hit on 5’s while moving rapidly across the field. But there’s more, the crew also have 3+ skill and 4+ assault, meaning blitzes and other movement orders become likely rather than the exception and assaults get results. The T-80 is the Marshal Lynch (American football reference) of the Soviet Force, it’s beast mode.
Some people say with great power comes great responsibility, but I often find the more relevant consideration is cost. The Shock T-80 is 9 points a piece, for either the HQ or the platoons which consist of 2 or 3 tanks making platoons between 18 and 27 points a piece before you add on options like missiles or mine clearing ploughs.
With an HQ tank and two platoons you use up a minimum of 45 points in a force which comprises only 5 tanks. More likely you’ll want at least one platoon with 3 tanks so your base force will commonly comprise around 50-60 points of T-80s.
The big question I find people have difficulty with is answering the question “what are my T-80s here to do?” In fairness this question is often hard for many Soviet players to answer with their tanks. But if you’re spending half or more of your points on a handful of tanks you should probably have an answer for this question. With this list I feel like the answer is much clearer than with others, it’s there to bully people. The T-80U as described is a beast, but with only ROF 1 and AT 22 it isn’t going to gun down your opponents army, and in a gunfight at range with the more modern tanks you can expect a bun fight to ensue. So if not gunning down other big tanks what makes you want to take the Shock T-80U?
The T-80U is amazing at getting stuck in and staying there. The sumo wrestler of WWIII it can push people around and off of objectives while absorbing fire like almost no other tank can, and all for a very reasonable price. -see earlier “the T-80U is a beast”.
The Shock T-80U can get you through minefields, either by just driving clear through them with their skill of 3+ or by removing them with mine ploughs, reliably entering them the previous turn. Arguably there usually isn’t much in the army coming through after the T-80Us in a Shock Company so commonly you can save the points on ploughs and only take them if you’re going to guide through the Shock Infantry company. This alleviates one of the key problems Soviet forces have, being cut off in the offense. This opens up literal avenues that were formerly closed or at best uncomfortable.
After breaching, the T-80s are amazing at assaulting people off of objectives (not necessarily killing people but removing them from objectives). It’s not their 4+ assault that makes them great, but rather their durability. With 4+ to hit and ERA they are immune to most infantry AT assets and with a 3+ morale and 2+ cross, you’re racing killing off your opponent vs them breaking away. Because of this, the T-80U platoon with an HQ tank is a game winning group of tanks on the table and their ability for speed and violence cannot be overlooked. For these reasons, missions with early win conditions and defenders having reserves, or even deep reserves are this list’s wheelhouse.
So with roughly half of a 100 point list invested in a few tanks to start the game, this doesn’t leave a lot of points for support, or more important the only thing that properly takes and holds ground, Infantry. But this list does have a really cool option for them.
The Shock Tank Company comes with some very special support for your T-80s, highly trained infantry with the same skill and assault capability, the BMP Shock Motor Rifle Company. Possibly the most interesting inclusion in WWII: Soviets is the Shock Battalion infantry coy, if only because they can only be taken in a Shock T-80 company. They are not a black box choice but are a formation option for the T-80 Shock company and so bring you not only staying power but the ability to take and hold ground, in this regard, I’d say heavy on the former, less so on the later.
The T-80 Coy is not a subtle build, it’s not here to sit and wait, it’s purpose is to break lines, to push deep and turn the enemy, to make them run, and then run them down. Purpose built to support this is their infantry. While not as numerous as a standard infantry company you get in a word, ‘enough’. With an option for either a platoon sized element or company minus group, the shock infantry brings a ton of flexibility to the force.
The unit is equipped with the BMP-3s as the Shock Infantry’s transports, and these are a threat from the get go. While they can be downgraded to BMP-2s the BMP-3 gives them the mobility, firepower and survivability the unit needs. They can be placed aggressively in most missions and flaunt their ability to other players. In games where you may have the meeting engagement rules the BMP-3 can still move and fire its missile, making it the perfect piece to standoff against other missile systems, either you go first and fire first or they go first and don’t fire at all. With the 3+ skill they can also reliably use movement orders like blitz and shoot and scoot letting them be a constant thorn in the side of opponents. Simply put, these transports let you dictate the tempo and the opening of an engagement even more so than the T-80s do alone. Holding a flank or simply threatening tanks side armour from across the table these vehicles give your T-80s freedom of movement and force players to hold back.
The infantry are what you’d expect, hard chargers. 4+ to hit infantry with 3+ skill, 4+ assault and AK-74s, they’ll start and finish the party in the trench lines. They are also armed with the new RPG-7VR, with AT 19 and FP 2+, this makes them a threat to any tank on the field of battle, being able to penetrate even the side armour of Chobham vehicles. Even the mighty M1A1 HCs and Challenger tanks have to respect this unit.
Against a pinned unit they can reliably get into assaults (smoke definitely helps) and once in they are hard to dislodge. What the Shock infantry can’t do is hold ground for long. Yes they are harder to hit, but they are much less numerous and can’t sit and take a beating for very long. They are meant to take an objective and win, or to assist the tanks in doing so, taking infantry out of buildings or covering their flanks as you advance.
With the tanks and the infantry sorted you have the usual suspects for formation support, artillery, reconnaissance and air defence assets but with two notable changes. First off the 2S6 Tunguska air defence system that provides you with a swiss army knife of support. The Tunguska has both missiles and 30mm cannons making it highly effective at providing anti-air support and as a counter to light armoured vehicles with it’s ROF 7 cannons. Players will have to think about the cost though as for the same price of 4 Tunguska you can take 8 Shilkas to provide more pockets of air defence on the table to your expensive tanks. Secondly the only reconnaissance option in the formation is the BMP-3 Shock Recon platoon. At 3 points a piece the recce cars are expensive, they bring a lot with all the same skill and to hit benefits as the rest of the Shock Battalion, but to save points taking divisional support options can get you BMP Recon Platoons of any variety.
There are a lot of options for support and T-80 Shock Battalion has far too few points to spend on all of them! Out of them all the one thing I always look for to support my T-80s is smoke. With so few tanks (albeit awesome tanks) I look to minimize my opponents ability to affect them. Smoke is huge, it’ll cover your breaching minefields, taking objectives or just cover a flank as you engage targets. Taking artillery has the added benefit of being exceptional against infantry in buildings, something that this list struggles with due to having so little infantry.
After smoke, I find that some air is always a big help. Hinds are an amazing option to bring a large number of shots for a very reasonable price. With their high AT and ability to relocate anywhere on the table they are a near perfect counter to enemy armour or a first choice to arrive from reserve. Lastly if you haven’t taken the Shock Motor Rifle Company, you may want to take a support company of infantry. This gives you a dramatic amount of options but as they are support they don’t help your formation stay on the table. A full company of Afghantsy are an excellent stand in, or you could swap in a mid size BMP-3 company for nearly the same points as the Shock company, trading skill for firepower and numbers. However you do it, you want to take at least a little infantry.
One last consideration should be tanks. But I already took the best tanks the Soviet army can provide, why do I need more tanks? Shots and distractions. It’s easy for someone to focus on your T-80s but something like a company of 10 T-55AM2s can distract an opponent from your T-80s and provide you with a lot more shots to help you disrupt your opponent while your T-80s do their work. Are they necessary? Nope. But more tanks are often fun tanks.
The Shock Battalion is a force that wants to attack, it was conceived, designed and built to attack. With that said, it can’t win a war of attrition, there just isn’t enough there to last. This list is about winning fast and going home. Let it do what it was made to do. Players using the more missions packages should really consider carefully any time they look at options other than Attack. The main reason for this is reserves, the Shock battalion hates reserves. With an elite Soviet force you have very little comparatively on the table and a huge number of points invested in ROF 1 tanks and any reduction in that makes victory that much more difficult. The Attack vs Defend missions are the perfect situation for this list, normally granting the attacker a solid position to press against a smaller footprint of enemy on the table. Speed and violence is what this list uses to win, setting that up in the pre game fight is key.
Remember you have a heavily armoured, hard to hit tank, that can bypass mines regularly. It’s pretty much the road map of how to win with these.
The T-80Us of the Shock company make for an amazingly different but fun force on the table but they can also be added to other forces as a support choice. In all honesty, this is how I like using the T-80U shock platoon, as support. This makes a box of T-80s or the two player starter ideal for any Soviet player, even one not thinking of fielding a T-80 force. What the Shock T-80 platoon brings to play for normal Soviet lists that nothing else does is reliable breaching. Often Soviet players can be derailed by minefields in missions, being fairly unreliable to remove them, tanks and infantry commonly are shot up or die in the minefields. With the speed of the T-80U they can get to the minefields ahead of the assault force, with 3+ skill T-80s can reliably enter minefields without taking damage. they can use their FA 20 to withstand the fire thrown at them and remove the minefields opening the gap assumed closed by most NATO players.
The Shock T-80U platoon with missiles also pairs amazingly well with a platoon of Hinds to make a perfect reserve force. Why the missiles? They extend your range so coming in from reserve you’re pretty much guaranteed to be in range and a threat from the get go. By keeping these in reserve you have the time and space to hunt down high AT threats and air defence assets making the arrival of your reserve that much more successful.
As a Soviet player, let’s face the fact that we are all about to buy T-80s if we haven’t already.
It looks cool, it’s a beast on the table and it scares NATO players. With that out of the way, realize that WWIII:Soviets is bringing us a bunch of great ways to play these beasts. The Shock T-80U as either a formation or as support choice is a blast to play and is going to bring a whole new threat to a battlefield near you. The Shock Tank Platoon is the All Blacks of Soviet tanks, a huge machine specializing in pushing people around. In a game about objectives, It’s an offensive powerhouse and winning machine.