Tanks at the Door (Part 2)

with Phil Yates

Picking a Force
My basic force will be a 100-point Mixed Tank Battalion:
KV-1 Tank Company – 5x KV-1 tanks (40 points)
T-34 (early) Tank Company – 10x T-34 (early) tanks (52 points)
T-60 Tank Company – 9x T-60 tanks (8 points)
With fifteen 76mm guns, and twenty-four tanks in total, this force has a lot of firepower, as well as a lot of armour. It’s more suited to attacking than defending, appealing to my more aggressive side.

If I have to keep some reserves, they will be the KV-1s. That puts two big units on table at the start of the game, and hopefully, the KVs will arrive where and when they are needed (although historically, their slow speed and tendency to break bridges with their immense bulk made that a dubious proposition!).

This force doesn’t have any HQ, but I’m not too fussed about that. My tanks all have a reasonable Remount rating and a good Last Stand rating, so even if the enemy does smash through my thick armour, my tanks will fight to the end anyway. If I need to launch an assault to clear infantry off an objective, the big KVs are both motivated and equipped (with their turret-rear MGs) for the job.

Going a Bit Lighter
If I feel like something a bit speedier (well not that much speedier, the Valentine’s still pretty slow!), I can also field a T-34 Tank Battalion:
T-34 (early) Tank Battalion HQ – 1x T-34 (early) tank (5 points)
T-34 (early) Tank Company – 10x T-34 (early) tanks (52 points)
Valentine Tank Company – 10x Valentine II tanks (24 points)
T-60 Tank Company – 10x T-60 tanks (9 points)

That’s only 90 points, so there’s room for a bit extra. Some of the things that appeal are:

  • An SMG company – get rid of one T-34 and I get 16 teams of close-combat infantry.
  • A 76mm anti-tank company – four 76mm guns for fire support fit perfectly.
  • A Katyusha rocket battery – the new model is awesome, and a bit of artillery would be good, especially with a Salvo template.
  • A Shturmovik assault company – armoured aircraft dropping anti-tank bomblets, what’s not to like.

I’ll work out which of these (or perhaps go for all of them!) once I’ve finished the tanks.

What I like about this force is that it has a whole 31 tanks, most of them heavily armoured, to simply roll over the enemy. Having faced it in playtesting, it’s a scary lot of tanks to see coming at you. What I need to watch out for though, is a disciplined opponent who avoids letting me pick on part of their force, and focuses their fire on knocking out one of my units with focused fire before moving on to the next. Once I lose the T-34s, things get a lot more tricky as they have all of my big guns.

Preparing For Battle
My progress from concept to the battlefield is still progressing as I write this, but here’s a quick photo survey of my progress so far.

Stay tuned for a complete army photos on the Flames Of War website (once everything is done).

~Phil

Human Waves to Storm Groups. What to Buy

with Chris Townley

Enemy at the Gates has a wide variety of platoons for a Soviet player to field. Nowhere is this more evident than the range of infantry options you can pick from. To make it easier for new players looking to build their armies I thought it might be a good idea to write a short run down of each of the platoons, and how to build them.

Rifle Company
These companies are the backbone of the Soviet army. Each company can have up to 28 DP MG and M1891 teams, along with a Komissar. You can also add in a variety of support weapons including Maksim HMG, PTRD AT rifle, 50mm mortar and Flame-thrower teams.

The Rifle Company Box (SBX50) comes with enough DP MG and M1891 teams for a minimum strength company (that’s still 18 teams), along with all the Command and Komissar teams you need. It also has Maksim HMG (x5), PTRD AT rifle (x2), 50mm mortar (x2) and Flame-thrower (x2) teams. With this box you have enough teams to build an entire Rifle Company, or multiple Hero Rifle Companies (more on this later).

Penal Company
Filled with ‘soldiers who have been guilty of a breach of discipline due to cowardice or bewilderment’, the Penal Company is always in the thick of the action. Like the Rifle Company these large units are filled with M1891 rifle teams and a single Komissar. To build this you are going to use the same box (SBX50) as the Rifle Company.

SMG Company
Armed with PPSH-41 submachine-gun these teams can lay down a tremendous amount of firepower. A company can have up to 22 of these teams, along with a Komissar and a pair of optional Flame-thrower teams.

To build this company you are going to want to look at the Soviet SMG Company (SBX51). This box contains enough models for a full-strength company along with the optional teams.

Hero Rifle Company
The Hero Companies in Flames Of War have benefitted from their previous combat experience with the survivors learning some cruel lessons. Each company is much smaller than their non-Hero version with only ten DP MG and M1891 rifle teams and a single Komissar. Like their larger brethren though they can be supported by Maksim HMG, PTRD AT rifle, 50mm mortar and Flame-thrower teams.

Looking back at the Rifle Company Box (SBX50) that we talked about above, you can make two full strength Hero Rifle Companies, each with ten DP MG and M1891 rifle teams and Komissar. You also have enough support weapons in the box to almost max out your options.

Storm Group
The Storm Group is an SMG Company but with a lot more punch! To make it easier to build these specialist platoons there is a single box (SBX52) that has all the options you need inside.

Hero SMG Company
Just like the non-Hero version the place to go to build your company is the SMG Company (SBX51). This has enough teams in it to build your Hero SMG Company and still have teams left over for a Scout Platoon.

Hopefully this short article helps you to work out what you need to build your army.

~Chris

Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down On Friday

It is Friday morning here in NZ and as usual there are a few odd jobs that need to be taken care of before we get fully in to the swing of the launch. The guys have been busy though…

  • Mike continues to live the StuG life, making good progress. He may have been heard mentioning that assembly lining 10 of them was taking a toll on his sanity,
  • Phil is chipping away at his T-34 turrets,
  • Andrew has gotten distracted by something shiny,
  • Chris has started his pin washing (in between trying to cough up a lung),
  • Victor is experimenting some some seriously high contrast highlighting, and
  • Evan quickly spray can painted some buildings for our Sniper game.

Almost time for lunch…

~Chris

Tanks at the Door (Part 1)

with Phil Yates

(or, Phil talks about his On Again, Off Again Relationship with the Red Army’s Tanks)

One of the great things about Enemy of the Gates is that it’s finally given me the impetus to finish a tank force for the Red Army!

Long Long Ago…
My first Soviet tanks were five Valentines – the original sculpt from very long ago. I don’t recall the reason for painting them (it might have been a game against Pete using Battlefront’s infantry to bulk out the force), but for a long time they remained my only Soviet tanks, in fact my only Soviet forces at all.

Then, about five years ago, I built a bunch of the brand new plastic T-34 tanks in a big rush for a Kursk campaign at CanCon – during which I seem to recall I lost an entire tank brigade’s worth of tanks!

This was never really a complete force, as I borrowed bits and pieces to make up the numbers whenever I used them.

A New Beginning
With the arrival of Enemy at the Gates, it was time to finally commit to the Red Army and the liberation of the Motherland from the hated Fascists! I’ve always had a fascination with the odd mixed tank brigades that formed the Soviet Union’s tank forces in the darkest days of 1942. Each battalion combined KV heavy tanks with T-34 medium tanks and T-60 or Valentine light tanks in an attempt to simplify the assignment of tanks as the Red Army relearned how to conduct sophisticated operations after the disasters that had destroyed the pre-war army in 1941. With every battalion essentially the same, there was no need to decide what type of tank should go where!

KV-1
The new KV-1 kit made that part of the force and easy decision – this just so big and ugly, I had to have as many as possible! While personally, I have a preference for the later, sleeker, and faster KV-1s, I decided to make mine the earlier KV-1 themed for the fighting around Rzhev. 

The KV-1 has plenty of armour and a deadly 76mm gun, so it’s a bit of a beast. My only concern is that they are so slow that they need to keep rolling forward as fast as possible if they are going to get anywhere, and even then, they will be out-paced by my light and medium tanks, making coordination tricky.

When Red Banner (the Kursk-era Soviet book) comes out, I think I’ll make some KV-1s as an alternative choice to my KV-1s for a later version of the force (I don’t need many, and they are an easy kit to put together and paint, so it won’t be any drama). The KV-1s is much faster (it’s speedier than the German Panzer III or the American Sherman!), but still has thick armour and the same 76mm gun, with improved layout giving it a better Cross rating and more accurate shooting on the move.

T-34
Since the early T-34 differs from the later ones I already have, I just painted the turrets of the new ones to go with my existing hulls to get my force into action quickly. Once everything else is done, I’ll paint up the hulls as well to double the size of the T-34 force!

I really like the T-34. It looks sleek and fast, and it is. It has the same 76mm gun as the KV-1, and almost as much armour as the KV-1s. This combination gives it plenty of options. Against light tanks (up to and including the short-barrelled Panzer III!), they can shrug off the enemy shooting while sitting in an advantageous position and blowing them away. Against heavier opposition, they can use their speed to overwhelm a part of the enemy force, flanking them if necessary to punch through their thinner side armour!

T-60
The final part of my force was planned to be the T-60 light tanks. These are an amazing piece of engineering. They are the size of a British Universal Carrier, and like them are powered by a truck engine (based on the famous Ford Model A!). Unlike the open-topped Universal Carrier, they are a proper tank with a turret mounting a 20mm gun and co-axial machine-gun, and for something so small, quite decent armour.

The role I have in mind for the T-60 is similar to how I use my Universal Carriers with my British. They’ll probe where the enemy is weak, either drawing enemy forces away from the main battle, or potentially taking an objective and winning the game!

Help! I Can’t Stop!
At this point, I should have moved on to painting my force, but the new Valentine models are so great that I just had to replace my old Valentines as well to give me more options.

The first tank I ever saw and climbed inside was a Valentine, and I’ve always had a soft spot for them. NZ had 255 Valentines, and used them to equip its Territorial armoured regiments until 1960, as well as using them in the Pacific during WWII, so there’s a connection there too.

With the Valentines, I can either replace any other the other types. While the idea of replacing the T-34s to create a mix of KV-1 heavy tanks and lots of light tanks is popular, it doesn’t appeal to me as I view the T-34 as the mainstay of my force. Replacing the T-60s with Valentines is a better idea, but the increased cost means that I have to reduce the number of heavy and medium tanks to do this. The trade off is good in some ways, as the Valentines can stand up to a lot more punishment (their armour is thicker than a T-34!), but it changes their role as they have to achieve more to justify their points.

My personal preference is to replace the KV-1s with the Valentines. This gives me more tanks and frees up some points for a bit of support.

Stay tuned for part two….

~Phil

From Ostfront With Love!

with Casey Davies

One of the lists that I loved from Ostfront (that was the old Eastern Front Compilation from V2 ~editor), but never got around to making, was the Mixed Tankovy Battalion. The main reason I never built the list was that I was always too busy painting infantry. Since I don’t need to paint any infantry for this release, this is definately an army that I’m going to collect and add to my painting queue.

This formation gives you a way of fielding a little bit of everything, which is how I like to field tank armies. It helps that all of the tanks in the army are tough as nails as well. Its an unusual formation, in that it doesn’t have a Battalion HQ, however what it does have are some of the toughest tanks in the game.

KV-1 Tank Company
5x KV-1 tanks 40 points
Running total 40 points
The KV-1 is one of the toughest heavy tanks in Mid-War. With front armour 9 it is almost immune to all but the heaviest dedicated anti-tank guns. This comes at the cost of some speed, as its also one of the slowest tanks as well.
The other option is the KV-1s, which gives up some armour to gain a bit more speed, making it a heavily armoured medium tank, rather than a heavy tank. It also has a better designed turret, meaning that it shoots better on the move than the KV-1.

Either way you go, the KV is an assault monster. With top armour 2, an assault buff (due to its turret rear machine gun), and a good morale rating, this tank is going to roll over any infantry it comes up against. I’ve chosen to go with the KV-1 as I prefer armour over speed.

T-34 (early) Tank Company
7x T-34 tanks 37 points
Running total 77 points
The T-34 is the workhorse of the Soviet army. They have good mobility, motivation, and armour. The only drawback is that it has a two man turret, so has the overworked special rule, making its shooting less effective on the move. The plan for these tanks is to move them into position and blaze away with them.

Valentine Tank Company
7x Valentine tanks 17 points
Running total 94 points
The third option box has Valentines, Stuarts, and T-60s. While the T-60s might be the most common option historically, I’ve gone with the Valentines. The main reason I have gone with the Valentine over the T-60s or the Stuarts is the armour. Those tanks are cheaper, however, the lighter armoured vehicles just become a soft target for the weapons systems that can’t hurt the KV or T-34 tanks. It also means that the lowest armour in my force is the 5 side armour of the T-34s. I’ll be using the Valentines as dedicated assault tanks rather than as gun tanks. I’d actually like to take more than 7 Valentines, however the points are adding up quickly.

Hero SMG Company
7x SMG teams 6 points
1x Komissar team
Total 100 points
I like to include infantry in every army for flexibility. In this army their main purpose is to dig in on an objective to free the tanks up for attacking.

Like all paper lists, it will be interesting to see how the theory plays out on the table. I’d like to add some artillery or anti-tank guns, that would mean dropping one of the KV-1 tanks. The other thing to concider is missions with reserves. The easiest thin to do in this situation would be to have the KV tanks in reserve, at which point it may be better to replace them with the KV-1s tanks that will get into action faster once they arrive on the table.

Food for thought.

~Casey

Painting the Black Death

with Ed Sales

Hello all, and welcome to this article on how to paint Soviet Naval Infantry, also known as The Black Death.

With the Eastern Front Books approaching, I was approached by Brian Sullivan to paint an army for him. He really liked how the Black Death fought in area surrounding the Black Sea, and wanted to field a Strelkovy Company painted up as Naval Infantry. Some plastic Strelkovy were added to beef up the Naval Infantry’s numbers.

The Naval Infantry have a fairly basic uniform. It’s black with a white brim on their sailor caps. I started off color priming with the black from the Quartermaster Paint Set.

For the face and hands I used the European skin from the new Quartermaster paint set.

Next, I painted the weapons. I used Battlefield Brown for the wooden stocks and Dark Gun Metal for the rest.

I used Boot Brown for the belts and rifle slings.

Next I painted the white brim around the cap.

In this photo, you can see 2 Naval Infantry, and 2 Strelkovy painted as Naval Infantry. Apparently the Naval Infantry had a variety of different colored helmets, with Black, Dark Green, and Olive Green being used.

For the basing, Brian wanted an autumn basing since the color makes it stand out. Gale Force 9 Marsh Blend and Autumn Flocking were mixed to a 50/50 ratio, and I based the stand with that mixture.

And here is the end result. It really stands out from the normal sea of Brown that Strelkovy are usually painted. It’s also a different take on Russian Infantry, and being able to field them with a Command Card, only adds to the excitement of seeing them in Enemy at the Gates.~Ed

Fighting For Mother Russia! The Debrief

with Chris Potter

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).

Za Stalina to Enemy at the Gates

with Wayne Turner

Enemy at the Gates has arrived and I thought I’d have a go at making a force from models I’ve already painted from my previous spin on the mid-war Eastern Front roundabout.

Over the years I’d built up a reasonable collection of Soviet models I’ve used in various forces for mid-war. So having a look through them I thought I’d make a Mixed Tank Battalion (see page 19 of Enemy at the Gates).

The Mixed Tank Battalion does not have a Formation Commander, so it’s straight on to selecting my Formation’s Units. This unusual formation consists of three tank companies, each of a different type of tank. The first compulsory option (black) contains either a KV-1 Tank Company or a KV-1S Tank Company. I’ve gone with the KV-1 Tank Company because I prefer the higher armour of the older KV-1 model and feel I don’t require the extra speed offered by the KV-1S tank. Another reason to take the KV-1 is that I have a box of about 10 of them painted (don’t ask me why, I don’t want to talk about it). I can take 3-5 KV-1 heavy tanks. I’ve gone with 5x KV-1 for 40 points.

The second compulsory (black) choice is either a T-34 (early) Tank Company or a Valentine Tank Company. I’m not a fan of lend-lease stuff, I feel if you are going to do a Soviet force, take Soviet equipment. I’ll be going with the T-34s. The option is for 3-10 T-34 (76mm) tanks. I’ll go with 6x T-34 (76mm) for 31 points.

The Formation has three other unit boxes, all shaded grey as optional. One more tank option, an infantry option, and a mortar option. For the last tank option you can take either a Valentine Tank Company, a M3 Stuart Tank Company, or a T-60 Tank Company. I’m taking the T-60s because they are Soviet and I have all but one painted. I’ll take 7x T-60 for 6 points.
I will take one more formation unit. I’ve decided to go for the infantry option with a SMG Company. I’ll get the smaller option with 15x PPSh SMG Teams and 1x Komissar Team for 15 points. My last Unit will be from support. I’ll take a 122mm Artillery Battery with 4x 122mm howitzers for 8 points.My Expectations
With the only modelling require to field this force being to paint one T-60 to go with the six I already have I will get this on the table top quite quickly. I think the T-34s and KV-1s will prove pretty resilient against most forces. However, my key problem may be my lack of air defence and an observer. The Mixed Tank Battalion does not have a formation commander, so no one to spot for the artillery other than the artillery themselves. This is the reason I went with the 122mm howitzers rather than the Katyusha rocket launchers, as the howitzers are a bit less vulnerable to enemy direct fire. To observe their fire the howitzers will have to have direct line-of-sight to their targets, I just hope I can occupy the enemy enough with my infantry and tanks to allow the artillery to bombard uninterrupted. As for enemy aircraft, I’ll just have to hope they don’t turn up too often.

~Wayne

Back in the Saddle Again

with David Griffin

Anyone that has talked Flames of War with me for longer than 10 minutes has been regaled with various stories of horses thundering down on the enemy. Cossacks were my first army in 2004, and you never forget your first army. Cossack players are a small, fanatically loyal group to the army type. Anyone can play a tank, mechanized or straight-leg infantry army in any nation they choose. There’s only one Cossack Cavalry army.

So, when Enemy at the Gates arrived, I grabbed a copy of the book and cards and immediately went about re-creating my favorite army. The stat lines have changed a bit, but we’ll see how they play out when I get them on the field. Here’s how I went about it:

The Cossacks are basically mounted infantry, so start with either a standard or hero rifle formation, the you need to choose the proper card: either Cossack or Hero Cossack Regiment, which gives you the build information for your formation.

I chose the Hero Cossacks although I was truly tempted to be able to make a massed cavalry charge with 29 bases using the standard unit. I want to make an army that will be fun and unique to play and compete against.
Now down to nuts and bolts:

  • HQ: I Have chosen to let the HQ unit remain dismounted : so 1 point there.
  • First Company : 10 + 1 stands with the Cavalry upgrade makes for 9 points. First assault group.
  • Second Company : 10 + 1 stands plus a PTRD attachment, this will be my holding group. 8 points.
  • SMG Company : 7 + 1 Cavalry = 8 points. Second assault group.
  • MG Company : 9 MG’s for 6 points? A great unit to stack with the holding company. Perhaps if my player unit card comes out for Tachanka’s I can switch this over to a more mobile unit.
  • 45mm AT Company : Cheap, decent AT. 4 long guns at 8 points.

 

So 40 points for all my Formation units, time for the support!

  • Artillery #1: The venerable and versatile ZIS-3 gun for the win!  Let’s take four of them for 8 points.
  • Artillery #2: Repeat success! Especially handy if there’s a lot of tanks and armored cars running around.
  • Artillery #23: let’s add some real punch now, Katyusha’s for the pain! 4 for 8 points.
  • Anti-aircraft: How to protect all these from air attack, or just for additional infantry defense (also such an iconic soviet unit) DShK AA Trucks for 3 points.
  • Anti-tank: More guns! I need something to kill the heavies, 57’s are the key. A whopping 18 points for four, but look at the stat-lines both for the guns and the crew.
  • Scouts : Usually I have taken Cavalry scouts, but the BA-10’s just make more sense in this listLeft: Here you can see the Cavalry card, just add the two points to the Hero Rifle Company and the Hero SMG Company to turn them in to Cossacks and hit the 87 points the David mentions

Click on the image for a larger version…

OK, that’s the troops, rolling in at 87 points. A little of everything and a minimum of motor-ized/armored units as I have historically played a heavily horse-mounted army. Not only is it a change to most players forces, but it’s ecologically friendly as well.

Seriously though, I now have 13 points left over to play with, and these might explain why I chose this build. Time for the command cards.
Beginning of the game, time to throw off the opponent. Reposition one of their Ranged In markers with Maskirova, and one of mine with Recon by Combat. I plan on doing a lot of assaulting, both mounted and dismounted. This might come in handy. Yes, I’m hoping for a bailed Tiger within range (Captured Tank). Lastly, because I think it would be fun. The armor finally catches up to my glorious horses…maybe (Fresh From The Factory).

So that’s it, my first attempt at reviving my beloved horsemen in V4. I’m sure I will tweak this army as time goes on and games are played. In the meantime, I might not win but it will be a memorable fight.~David