With Bagration:Soviets now with us, I have been putting some thought to updating the Soviet list I was running, very occasionally, using Fortress Europe. I had been running the Hero T-34 battalion but I was finding that the composite “companies”, with two T-34/76 and two T-34/85, just wasn’t really cutting it. The 76mm needed to use their speed to put shots in the flank and the 85s needed to sit still to maximise rate of fire with the 85mm. There was also a lack of high-end anti-tank firepower.
Happily, the new book gives me all the tools to address those perceived shortcomings!
The Hero T-34 battalion now comes in two flavours, a pure T-34/85 battalion or a mixed T-34 battalion. Both have the same optional “in-formation” support assets; a ZSU M17 AA platoons, a Hero SMG company, a Hero 82mm Mortar Company and an Anti-Tank slot with 45mm, 57mm and 76mm options. Where they differ is in the HQ and Core platoons. The mixed T-34 Battalion has a HQ, which can be either flavour of T-34; a mandatory T-34 company, which looks very much like the mixed bag unit of Fortress Europe that combines the 76 and 85 in various combinations; a mandatory slot which can be filled with another mixed T-34 “company”, a Hero T-70 company or a Hero Valentine company; then a final optional mixed T-34 company.
The 85mm company is just that, T-34/85 in all the slots with no option for 76mm ones, or light tanks! This one certainly fills my needs of maximising the number of 85mm putting rounds down range.
Just as I was putting some thoughts to paper on that formation, the command card PDF arrived and threw a curveball; the Forward Detachment.
On a first glance, this card has a few downsides; one less tank slot and no anti-tank slot, but I’d argue it has two considerable upsides:
- Versatility – you can mix pure T-34/85 units with 76mm units, or even T-70 and valentines. You also gain the option of the larger Hero Rifle company over just the SMG company.
- Firepower – losing the AT guns is, in my mind, made up for by gaining an in-formation SU-76 platoon to provide mobile artillery.
I decided to use this card as the basis for my force. Honestly, the only immediate benefit was the SU-76 being in-formation, but seeming as the loss of a tank slot didn’t bother me, I could live with that!
Another important take-away from the cards was the RPG-6 card. I had been using the Molotov cocktail card (and even used it… once) but this new card seems even more impressive. Sure, only two teams get to use it, rather than the whole platoon (but how often do you get more than a couple teams in?), but you don’t discard it and it gives a bigger punch AT10 vs the side rather than AT3 vs the top. No more fishing for 1 or 2s vs Medium tanks or a bail vs heavies!
When it came to list creation I decided to have a first stab based entirely on what I had already painted.
I opted for the following in-formation:
- HQ Hero T-34/85
- One unit of four Hero T-34/85
- One Hero SMG Company with flamethrower, plus RPG-6 and tank rider cards.
- One unit of four Hero T-34/85
- One unit of ZSU M17
- One unit of four SU-76
This came to 65pts, 5pts over the ideal target of having a 60pt “on-table” formation, but the CO can always ride to the rescue…
At this point I had some decisions to make on the force support. I really needed some high end anti-tank. The SU-85 had been disappointing in the games I had used it, lacking the range and AT to deal with heavy tanks effectively, though it had killed a few of Fez’s Tigers in our games. I had built the cat-killers with swappable upper hulls and guns but upgrading to the Su-85M didn’t really address any of those issues and the SU-100 still lacked the range to really be a truly scary big-cat killer, especially given its armour had dropped to 7. Bouncing an 88 was no longer an option!
Similarly, the IL-2 have been a disappointment, though its probably because it was always proxied by Thunderbolts! Combined with our recent large game where the RAF turned up one in an eight-turn game and the IL-2 will sit on the painting table for a bit longer.
With five painted already, I turned to a four-strong company of IS-2 to give a combination of anti-tank punch and assault capability. As near-Fearless Veteran tanks with top armour 2 and side armour 8, I can reliably count on them to wade into the hornets’ nest and punch a hole through the enemy line, more so if I mount the SMG company on the back! That leaves me five points which I round out with a Hero Valentine company as they are painted and fill the hole nicely. That leaves us with a force looking like this:
So, that’s my force as it stands now. Where do I take this going forward? I have a box of resin/metal ISU assault guns so I think I may paint them up to replace the IS-2 and give me something more focused on long range support as I feel the IS-2 may get distracted from tank killing by wading into what ever poor infantry platoon is sitting on the objective. The ISU-122, by comparison, have no such illusions of grandeur and can sit bit as medium range, plinking tanks or suppressing infantry with a bombardment. They are also marginally cheaper than the IS-2 which, should allow me to squeeze in some 82mm mortars, providing more templates and also strengthening the main formation.
As always, it’s a case of finding room on the painting to do list!