When we first started working on the original Fate Of A Nation booklet I spent a lot of time reading about Israeli actions in the Golan Heights during the 1967 and 1973 wars. Before then I knew very little about the Syrian side of these wars and I found it particularly eye opening. When we published the hardback version of Fate Of A Nation we needed a Syrian Army painted for all of the photos – I of course jumped at the opportunity because the fixed deadline meant I would get a lot of models painted in a relatively short period of time (I love a hard deadline when it comes to hobby projects).
The release of Oil War has meant that this project gets a second life for a relatively small amount of extra painting. Now I am sure you are thinking “Syrians in Oil War? I thought it was just Israelis, Iranians, and Iraqis?” Well that was the plan originally, however when Wayne was working on the book, he found that the Syrian forces in the mid-80s were sufficiently similar to the Iraqi forces that with a few rules you could fit the Syrian forces too, giving the Israelis a traditional foe to go head to head with.
Reviewing what models I already had finished I don’t have enough for a whole army (yet) but by expanding what I have already and adding in some new units I’ve come up with a fun list.
I started out with a T-62 Battalion with a total of 11 tanks. To give it some extra sticking power I added a Mech Company mounted in BMP 1s along with an attached SA-7 AA missile team. The AT-3 Saggers on the APCs significantly add to my Formations firepower. To round out the Formation I added a pair of ZSU-23-4 AA tanks. With this Formation coming in at a total of 24 points I then turned to…
A T-55 Battalion. This Formation has a total of 16 tanks (3 platoons of 5 and an HQ tank). Like the T-62 Battalion I added platoon of infantry in BMP 1 APCs and a pair of older ZSU-57-2 AA tanks. This Formation comes in at 23 points and if I had more painting time, I would be tempted to duplicate it and add the same again to my army.
Rounding out the Force is a Scout Platoon of 4 BRDM-2s – this is primarily (okay, solely) because I want a unit to help me Spearhead across the table. Next up is a platoon of SA-8 Geckos. These are some of the coolest (or perhaps oddest) models we have ever made and I have been looking for an opportunity add these to an army but never found the right option. This seemed like a good chance! Completing the army is 8 Gazelle HOT helicopters – I chose these for a few reasons, one, HOT missiles are the business when it comes to cracking open enemy tanks thanks to their AT 23 missiles, secondly, I already have some Hinds in progress for my Czechs and wanted to build and paint something different, and thirdly, Syrian Gazelle helicopters proved to be a thorn in the side of the Israeli forces in ’82, making them flavourful choice.
Now as it stands my army comes in 80 points (you can see why I mentioned the idea of duplicating the T-55 Battalion to bring me up to 100 points) but I think this is a nice starting point to aim for. Right now, I have just under half of the army painted (32/73 teams) by taking my existing troops from Fate Of A Nation and rather than creating a project that is bigger than Ben-Hur I think keeping it sensible and aiming for a finished 80 points is better than a “never completed” 100 points!
With the release of Oil War we at Battlefront are taking a trip back to the desert. In this book we seek to examine the first days of a major conflict between the two superpowers of the Cold War era spreading out to encompass Western Asia. As part of this enlarging of the conflict as we have envisioned it, we examine four armies, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The book sets down some organisational structures and basic philosophies of use that each of these armies employed based on their long or on-going experiences of fighting in this inhospitable environment. They determine everything from what equipment and tactics they use, to how they paint their military equipment. Twentieth century warfare is dominated by ranged combat, as such, the problem has three prongs. Spotting a target, identifying the target, and ensuring the target is within range of the weapon system/s at your disposal. The battlefield of the 1980s is an interesting cross-section of emerging technologies that seek to make the three tasks above more simple, and older ideas and technologies that are more tried and tested.
Items like Thermal Imagers and Laser Rangefinders do indeed make the problems of spotting, identifying, and ranging potentially more simple, however at the time these pieces of technology were bulky, expensive, and difficult to maintain.
So while parts of an army might have access to some or all, the vast majority of troops still only have the Mk.1 eyeball, and this is where camouflage comes in. So what is the basic purpose of camouflage? Some of you already know, but some will not. The answer is that camouflage, especially with regards to large pieces of equipment (for instance a Main Battle Tank), is used to fool the human brain into thinking that the object being viewed is not there, something else or at a different distance than it is. Some environments make this task more simple as the terrain comprises of a large number of obstacles that can be used to obscure the target in part, or in total. These types of terrain features are not nearly as prevalent in a desert. The terrain in desert environments is often marked by flat open areas providing little in the way of natural cover and concealment. Therefore the paint job on your Tank is fairly unlikely to fool anyone into thinking that it is a small hill or clump of trees as it might in Europe.
The only way that this is going to work in an arid desert environment is to bury the item in the sand, while this is a workable option for static defences it is not an ideal situation if mobile warfare is the name of the game. The armies examined in Oil War approach the problem from two directions. Israel and Iran choose to paint their ground based military equipment in a drab light green grey colour. The reason is that these armies are expecting to fight in varied terrain, from the desolate Negev desert to the more temperate Golan Heights and Southern Lebanon in the case of the IDF. Therefore they have decided to go with a neutral colour that will not stick out in either type of environment when clean, and with local dust will do a good job of blending in, thus rendering the vehicle more difficult to detect.
This approach does a good job of concealing, therefore making the task of locating the target more of a challenge, however it does not address the problems of target identification and ranging to the same degree.
Iraq and Syria approach the issue by employing camouflage patterns. These are more terrain specific and more time consuming to apply, but do break up the shape of the piece of equipment more effectively, therefore making accurate target identification and ranging more difficult, at the expense of being able to be used in multiple environments without being changed.
Other armies briefly mentioned in the book generally approach the problem in much the same way.
So for instance, the US forces for the most part were deploying for Exercise BRIGHTSTAR in Egypt, therefore would for the most part be using the Grey Desert version of MERDC, which consists of a sand coloured base, overpainted with field drab, earth yellow and black.
Whereas the Soviet forces are depicted as using their ubiquitous drab green. However, this does not Have to be the case. Team Yankee takes place in an alternate reality, so you could paint your Soviet models in the green and beige camouflage pattern used by them during their military involvement in Afghanistan during the 1980s, equally US forces could be using the all over light sand colour as seen during the 1991 Gulf War, as could your Iraqi forces.
If you do choose to paint your forces in camouflage, it is a good idea to see if an existing template exists. If so, use that if historical accuracy is your jam.
This also generally means that the hard work of figuring out colour placement and shape, in order to best break up the shape of the piece of equipment, has already been done.
However, in the case of camouflage schemes that have been applied without a template (for instance Iraq or Syria), a good way to approach the situation, is to either find historical photographs to help give you a general look and feel, applying basic camouflage principles (for instance ensuring that no surface is entirely one colour) or a combination of both. In this way you will be able to ensure a more lifelike appearance to your miniatures.
Chieftains and T-62s and T-55 with Scorpions and M109 artillery? In a legal force?
And that was the thought process when I looked through Oil War: World War III in the Middle East. Freddie called Israelis and Gareth wanted to build an Iraqi army. That left me with the choice of Syrians, Iranians, or a Soviet T-62M force in conjunction with Red Banner. After reading through the background for the Iranians, specifically that they were sponsored by NATO prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and then had access to Soviet armour and weapons thereafter, the thought process for a combined arms list that had a bit of everything that Team Yankee offers, took shape.
As I preach to anyone who will listen, success is down to Proper Preparation. Although not grammatically correct, the point is still valid. I sat down and thrashed out a list that had a bit of everything. This original list took me to over 200 points. Probably a few too many to build in a week and then paint in a month…
So I trimmed the core formations and reduced the support choices and managed to drop the list to 109 points.
The list below is probably my final choices… though as ever our first few test games with our forces normally tell us what does and doesn’t work.
You may have seen some of my articles on the last live launch about how I chose my army for Enemy at the Gates and some of my ‘rationale’ behind why I took what I took.
For those who didn’t it went like this: I wanted a tank army, but realised that Stalingrad wasn’t the place to deploy hordes of T-34’s. So after painting 100pts of T-34, KV-1 and Valentines, I switched and painted up 100pts of pure infantry (ok with a little support from Valentines and 76mm guns)
For Red Banner, I clearly didn’t learn from my mistakes, and like a kid in a sweet shop, took all over the best looking units and then thought about how well they would work.
Someone likes painting lots of tanks and infantry!
In a brief respite from the madness, some clarity resumed and I decided to use some of my Enemy at the Gates minis that were already painted. At least this meant my painting queue was considerably shorter!
Thankfully with the amount of models I already had completed, for me my list did include things I was really excited about.
I had to take my main formation as T-34’s. I had fallen in love with these plucky little medium tanks – and what better way to honour this love than by upgrading them to Hero status?
Better skill rating (+4 instead of +5) and also a better hit on rating (+3 instead of +2) meant a much hardier and survivable unit.
So I took a T-34 Hero Tank Battalion consisting of:
8pts T-34 Hero Tank Battalion HQ, 1x T-34 24pts T-34 Hero Tank Company, 3x T-34 10pts Valentine Hero Tank Company, x2 Valentine 2pdr & x1 Valentine 6pdr 10pts Valentine Hero Tank Company, x2 Valentine 2pdr & x1 Valentine 6pdr
This was a great start to the army. Me being me, despite my clarity of the previous day, took the plunge and decided to paint up my new tanks individually, as befits their Hero status. Each T-34 and Valentine would receive distinct details, damage and even specific decals.
I had to take a Storm Group. These were invaluable in my games amongst the ruins of Stalingrad. Their 4+ hit on score meant that they were a lot more survivable than your average Soviet soldier. Combined with the ability to add flamethrowers and PTRD AT rifle teams for a moderate score meant they became an all round unit, that could assault (Fearless 3+) and hold objectives.
Plus, with them being a compulsory (black box formation) from Enemy at the Gates meant I could take them with my Red Banner force as a support formation. Urrah!
Support: 19pts Storm Group, x7 PPSh teams, x2 Maksim HMG, x1 PTRD AT rifle & x1 50mm mortar 6pts x1 PTRD AT rifle 2pts & x2 Flamethrower (optional).
At this point I have two solid choices that can, crucially, support each other (and one of them is even fully painted…)
Now to flesh out the remaining 17pts…
After looking through the Red Banner book the old me popped up and wouldn’t relent until I took another support – this time artillery. SU-76 at just 10pts for x3 meant I was able to add some direct fire (AT9) and some artillery template that is survivable.
My remaining 7pts were spent on: IL-2 Shturmovik Company x2 for 7pts
That’s a 100pts dead on.
Now to paint them up and play a game, work out my weaknesses and re-evaluate my choices!
A few years ago I painted up a T-34 Battalion for Late War, putting myself under a bit of pressure to knock out the 21 models over 28 day. You can find out more about the army here…
As a deadline painter, having a definite finish date helped me to focus and actually get the job done on time.
Five years later with the release of Red Banner I thought it might be fun to dust off the army and challenge Casey (my office nemesis) to a big game where I got to put the entire battalion, plus a few Mid War models borrowed from the work collection, on the table for a big tank smash.
Since we wanted to keep it “all about the tanks” I chose not to add any infantry or “pad out” the Force with any Formation Support options. I did however have a look through the Command Cards and found a few fun ones to add in.
Guards Tank Battalion (1 point) – this increases my chances of remounting to a 3+. Seemed like a great way to spend a point, especially since I need all the vehicles moving or firing.
Desperate Heroism (1 point) – I really don’t have a plan for this. I figured it was 1 point and it might be situationally useful to be able to guarantee that I passed a Follow Me Movement Order.
Ram Attack (2 points) – Once again, I don’t have a plan in mind here as the chances of pulling off a successful ram attack vs a Tiger is pretty darn low
T-34 Passing a Skill Test
Tiger Failing to Avoid
Chance of Winning the Dice Off*
Kill Chance (failure means a Bail Out)
*to win the Dice off I need to roll a 5 or 6 and the Tiger needs to roll a 1 (or a 2, if I roll a 6)
However, an almost 1% chance of killing or bailing a Tiger in the front is significantly more likely than the 0% chance of killing (or bailing) it through the front with the T-34’s 76mm gun. Seemed like an implausible but amusing way to spend 2 points.
The real question is, how am I going to use the army to beat Casey? I know he is bringing Tigers and Panzer III escort tanks so that means I’ll have a couple of different types of targets to destroy. Luckily for me the disparity in their armour means whilst I am closing to flank (and kill) the Tigers, I can shoot up the Panzer III tanks.
I suspect the match up will come down to terrain as much as anything else because Casey will be using it to protect the flanks of his Tigers, whilst trying to stop me from advancing up behind it and avoiding his fire.
I’ve always wanted to paint up a German army for WWII but never really got around to it until Iron Cross hit my desk. I wanted something with a lot of units, not too many infantry, and the ability to kill off any Soviets that came my way. Going through both Iron Cross and Enemy at the Gates, I gambled that in most 75 to 100-point games I probably wouldn’t run into too many KV tanks (larger games would make me rethink this) and I banked on my opponents showing up with loads of T-34 and/or Valentines, or hordes of infantry. So I decided to build my army around the Panzer III.
Units My first unit consists of 1 up-armored company HQ (2 tanks) giving me the ability to at least penetrate both the Valentines and T-34s I was sure my opponents would field and even affect KV-1s tanks to a lesser degree. KV-1 tanks were still a concern though.
For units 2 and 3 I went with mixed platoons of 4 short and 1 long up-armored tanks. I figured I could use the Mistaken Target rule to keep my longs in the game as long as possible and my bulked up numbers (5 tanks in each platoon) ensures that I don’t go running off the board if a tank or three brew up.
My next unit is a sacrificial platoon of 4 Panzer II tanks. While all but useless as an offensive element unless my opponent brings Stuarts, I figured they’d be good at screening, sucking up damage for a turn or two but, most importantly, giving me a spearhead and allow deeper deployment of my other units.
My fifth unit is a small (2-vehicle) platoon of light AA. Honestly I don’t think that most opponents will take any aircraft in a 75 to 100-point game but one never knows. But, having the ability to throw 3-dice each against light armor and infantry made them a must for me to have.
The sixth and last unit in my army is my Artillery Battery and Panzer II OP (I had to do something with that last Panzer II). I chose the 10.5cm artillery for its range, firepower and ability to lay down a smoke screen. In my past battles I’ve used smoke to great effect in keeping the enemy from engaging and keeping my own force alive.
Painting was dead easy. After a black primer on everything, I did a quick (and thick) drybrush of Panzer grey over all of the vehicles. Normally I keep my treads separate from the hulls of my plastic tanks for ease of painting and this was no exception. A quick gunmetal drybrush did the trick and, after taking the masking tape off so I could glue the treads to the hulls, my Panzer III’s were ready for a light drybrush of dust to pick out the details even more. My 12 Panzer III’s it took me just 2 hours to completely paint. I spent another hour with the Panzer II’s and the AA with very pleasing results.
I’ve yet to start my artillery but I’ll give them a similar treatment while I’m on my 1-week holiday (between time with my son at the water park and visiting historical sites in Williamsburg). I should be fully up and running by launch day.
So now that I have fully completed painting my 100pt Mid-War Soviet force, I figured it was time to sit down and have a little look over what happened to me in my terrifying journey of hordes of infantry and tanks.
I say terrifying as I have never played Soviets before so had no idea what I was doing from the off. My thesis for building the army was ‘What looks cool? And how much cool can I take?’
Well a lot for my money it turns out…
I had to have T-34s as they epitomise Russian armies for me, especially in Mid-War. Before the big guns such as the KV1 really came into their own and the mobile assault guns became prevalent in the Late-War (Kursk) period, T-34s were the one trick Soviet battlegroups had up their sleeve. From the initial battles at the start of Operation Barbarossa when German commanders were shocked at the hitherto unseen T-34 and it’s revolutionary armour design, to the victory at Stalingrad the T-34 was there and fighting for the Motherland.
Initially I wanted as many as possible. LOTS and LOTS of tanks! Theoretically I could have taken 21 T-34s, although points wise this would have put me severely over the limit we were working toward. So regrettably, I had to reduce the amount, as also having just one formation with 2 platoons would have been fairly unworkable in a gaming sense. I still managed to fit 14 into my list however, split between the HQ and two companies, one of 6 tanks and one of 7 tanks.
At the start when we were building our lists, whilst looking at the support options and what was allowed as optional platoons in the T-34 list, I was planning on taking a full SMG company of 22 stands of infantry in true Soviet Horde fashion. Added to this was going to be x2 Flamethrower teams for maximum attack in assaults.
It was only after fixing together the first 9 stands that I realised the enormity of the task before me. I quite wisely chickened out and reduce my options to a Hero SMG platoon at 7 stands and a Kommissar stand. By using the command card to upgrade them to being a Soviet Naval Battalion, this gave them better stats as regards to motivation (with the Kommissar’s motivation secondary bonus not unlike the 6 million bayonets for Avanti forces).
By doing this, I managed to reduce my model count considerably which overall meant that I was able to speed up the painting process from a few months to a little under a week. Further, I now had 17 points to play with (after taking out the 4pts for the Naval Command Card) What perfect way to round out my list with more tanks? And rather than a third platoon of T-34s, I went for the ‘more bang for your buck’ Lend-Lease tanks in the form of a platoon of Valentines, 7 strong. Although slower than the T-34s after looking at the stats they can form a much better screen for my SMG troops who will be holding objectives and generally assaulting buildings and dug in infantry that the tanks haven’t managed to squash.
So although the list wasn’t quite as I earlier envisaged, I did manage to take a total of 21 tanks (yippee) as well as infantry, that although wont be game winning against certain other lists, is thematic and looks cool as they stream toward the enemy. AND with the Kursk books slated for release soon, all I have to do is add a few more cool tanks and a platoon or two and drop the valentines to have a (probably) game winning force in the future.
Plus for the first time in 2 years I have a fully painted army that I am proud of and is ready to take on the enemy in 100pt games (and could be reduced if needed for 80pt games if required).
The first book that I worked on when I first started working at Battlefront was Stalingrad. Consequently my first army was a Soviet infantry Battalion. 14 years, and a full infantry regiment later, we’re back where it all started.
Like a lot of people I already have a large Soviet force (I have painted a lot of Soviets in my time at Battlefront), so the release of Enemy at the Gates is an opportunity to dust off some old models, add some of the cool new plastic kits, and play some games.
Since most of my Mid-war Soviets are infantry I’ll have a look at those first. There are 2 options for Strelkovy, either the Rifle Battalion or the Hero Rifle Battalion.
The army I used to run was very Infantry heavy, here is the equivalent force out of Enemy at the Gates.
This is very similar to what I ran under previous versions, but I expect the army will act differently in V4. The infantry are harder to hit (3+ instead of 2+) but have a worse save (4+ instead of 3+) so I expect they will have a similar life expectancy as they used to.
The Scouts and BA-10s have spearhead, so the infantry will start closer to the enemy meaning there will take a turn or two less shooting. With that in mind I’ll have to play a few games to try it out. I may find that I don’t need the third infantry company any more, and that the force might be better served if those points were spent on some tanks to help shoot the infantry onto the objective (Valentines I’m looking at you).
The other Infantry force in the book is the Hero Rifle Company. These are smaller, better trained units. However these units are the remnants of larger companies that have seen a lot of action so have a lower Morale.
Any force I build using this list will be more of a combined arms force. The good thing about this force is that since the units are small, they are also cheap, so you can fit a lot of support in. The other benefit is that the combat platoons go back to having a 3+ save.
I think this force will give me a bit more tactical flexibility. I am not convinced othat I need all 5 KV’s (4 would probably be enough), or the scout platoon when the BA-10s already give me spearhead. Those points would probably be better spent on a platoon of Valentines or some sneaky 57mm guns to give the army some anti-tank better than 9.
I have never been a massive fan of Artillery under previous versions of Flames Of War, it didn’t suit my aggressive play style as it took too long to be effective; my infantry had already bade it to the front line before there were enough casualties from artillery to make artillery worth it. Now however, I’m trying to find ways to add even more artillery. The Katyusha has got an even bigger boost as its firepower has gone up from 5+ to 4+. With the pre-ranged in bombardment and the salvo template I’m tempted to find a way to add in another battery.
The good thing is that I can use my Shtraf Battalion to field most of this, however I’m still going to paint up some new KV-1 tanks and Katyushas (despite already having some) because the new models look so good. I guess now I’ll have to play some games to find out how it works.
The other formation that has captured my interest is the Mixed Tankovy Battalion, but more on that later.
Returning to the Eastern Front is a pretty exciting time for the team at Battlefront and in my case, it is a chance to revisit the book that made me fall in love with this theatre, Stalingrad.
Back in 2005 the Battlefront team produced Stalingrad and it was filled with fantastic miniatures and some amazing custom-built terrain. Up till this point I’d never really had much interest in the Eastern Front, having been more interested in Normandy to Berlin in the west, but this was the book that changed everything. This was the book that made the human wave of Soviet infantry look like fun…
Fast forward 13 years and we get to return to Stalingrad (and the rest of the Eastern Front) with Iron Cross and Enemy at the Gates. For me this means a chance to put a wall of humanity on the table and have them charge headlong into the guns of my opponent. Watching your troops get mercilessly gunned down might sound a little heart-breaking but the payback comes when your troops hit the thin red (or is that German Grey) line of enemies. Much like a tsunami there is no stopping the Soviet horde.
Needless to say, the army I’ll be dusting off starts with a Rifle Battalion HQ and two Companies of infantry. I’ve picked the ‘small’ 20 team versions to leave me some points to add a Penal Company of another 20 teams to the core of the army. These cowards will form the ‘forlorn hope’ of my army and take this opportunity to redeem themselves at the forefront of my army. My opponents can choose to gun them down knowing that they won’t pick up a Victory Point for doing so, or can ignore them at their peril.
With the wall of humanity taken care of it is time to add some support elements to my force. Since I don’t have any Flamethrower teams to pin down the enemy I’ve chosen to add two units of mortars and a unit of machine-guns. The reason for this is fairly simple, I feel like they are good bang for buck coming in at 11 points for the three units. I can also position one unit of each flank where they can dig in once they get to a good firing point as they will probably need to self-observe their fire.
I thought about adding some tanks to my force and whilst I am still tempted to add my trusty KV-1 tanks they are painted in a summer camo whilst my infantry have winter basing…
So putting this aside I decided to stick with some more gun teams, adding in a battery of 76mm guns for artillery and improvised anti-tank work, along with a Heavy Tank-killer Company of 57mm guns. The 57mm guns are seriously nasty, having a range of 28”, Rate of Fire 2, and Anti-tank 11. These will have no problems slicing through enemy Panzers. Best of all they are rated as Careful and are hit on a 4+, with a 3+ save. Assuming they are concealed and Gone to Ground this means they should survive the inevitable alpha strike as enemy Panzers make a rush at them.
With a whole 7 points left I’ve added a Scout Platoon. They are purely there for their Scout and Spearhead rules. If you have every tried to fit 40+ infantry teams and support weapons on one flank in a game you will know how important it is to try and expand your deployment options.
My plan is simple, attack, attack some more, then rally what is left and attack some more.
Welcome, Battlefront UK. Your mission should you choose to accept it (and you will – no choice) is to provide two complete armies for our upcoming appearance on Beasts Of War. These will showcase the core of the new Iron Cross and Enemy At The Gates books, and allow your agent to showcase the new Soviet and German armies, as well as the brand new Stalingrad Two-player starter set. You have one week from today to accomplish your mission. This message will sit in your inbox until you comply.
Okay; so maybe the order to assemble and paint two new armies didn’t come in as dramatic a fashion as described above, but it was certainly a task worthy of Ethan Hunt and the rest of the IMF team. We were already each building and painting new armies for the Eastern Front launch, and now we had to put those aside and crack on with these. Worse still, we were two men down: Matt and Tim were both off living the dream in Croatia at the ETC (check out this photo album for all the action).
Not one to balk at a challenge we divided everything between us with Gordon and Gareth concentrating on the infantry and Jonathan, Chris and Seb painting even more tanks. In just a few days we had two new armies completed. Here they are:
These are now over at the Beasts Of War studio where they will meet our roving reporter, Simon (aka ‘Freddy‘). He’ll be exploring the new books, new armies and new starter set Stalingrad on their website this weekend.