Today Martin takes a look at the all new Soviet Sapper-Engineer Battalion from Bagration Soviets and how it can be utilised in your games of FoW.
With the release of Bagration Soviets there comes a whole new type of infantry team, the Soviet Sapper-Engineer. These are the brightest, best equipped and best trained soldiers in the Red Army, being provided extra training and the latest equipment. Plus they are the first troops to be equipped with steel body armour probably since the first world war. This extra training and enhanced equipment makes for a very special type of soldier and this was recognised by the Stavka. Unlike the regular Rifle and Motor battalions these troops were kept for very specific operations before being withdrawn from the front to rest, train and replenish the ranks before the next operation rather than being relentlessly pushed forward.
Designed to crack the toughest defensive lines or provide the technical skills to bridge the wide rivers that needed to be crossed to enable the attack on the German Army Group Center, each Company of Engineer-Sappers was built as a self sustaining force equipped with its own artillery, antitank assets and heavy machine guns, given captured German equipment and directly supported by the heaviest soviet armour. They have the newly developed Smoke Pots to blind the enemy before an assault improving their chances of success and finally they have Body Armour giving them a unique 6+ save in close assault.
Having the For the Motherland and Crafty rules makes a big difference to you ability to get these guys where they are needed and to be decisive when thrown into combat. The Smoke Pots don’t benefit from these enhanced Taining ratings and are Limited 2 so you will only get 8″ of smoke bombardment, so you will still have to position them carefully particularly when assaulting MG armed opponents. A good tactic is to throw the smoke pots just beyond the front line, this not only makes you harder to hit but also reduces the effective defensive fire range to just 6″ and hopefully reducing the number of shooting teams.
The platoon comes in 8, 15 and 22 team sizes. Overall the 15 team unit looks to be the best all around option as a platoon choice. There are plenty of teams enabling you to take advantage of the ability to swap out some PPSh SMG teams for the supporting heavy weapons teams and still have enough teams for assaults but, importantly, they can still be manouvered in a compact fashion on the table top. My experience with Soviets to date tells me the 20 team plus units are hard to actually play with a lot of the time. The small 8 team will make for a useful alternative choice to SMG’s in the tank battalions where they can be taken as the integral infantry option espcially if equipped with RPG6 Anti-tank grenades.
Looking at the Formation
You can have up to three Sapper-Engineer platoons, plus an embedded tank platoon; with all the usual supporting weapons rolled into the Engineer-Sapper Companies its not a large formation at only five platoons. The Battalion has to have two black box units and I will be going with all three Engineer-Sapper Companies; two 15-team units both equipped with Panzerfausts (its rude not to have them) will form the core of my force, with some heavy weapons added and a third 8-team unit again with Panzerfausts will act as my combat reserve.
I like to divide my platoons into attack and defend roles, just in case of a bad scenario option, so I will give both large units flamethrower teams for the annoyance value. I will then add the 82mm mortar along with a pair of Maxim HMG teams to the defend platoon.
I don’t really rate the PTRD in late war and I already have a couple of faust armed teams to help out against armour or bunkers but some RPG6 Anti-tank Grenades will not go to waste.
Combined with the Panzerfausts, this gives my units four AT10+ anti-tank weapons in assault. This can deal with even a Tiger assault and will terrify medium tanks.
I will also add the tank platoon to my Formation in the shape of five ISU-122 tanks with 12.7mm AA MG’s. I like the ISU-122 over the IS-2 for the bombardment bonus it brings which, in a list where unusually for Soviets the points are a bit tight, is a help.
This leaves me enough points to add a supporting artillery battery. I then have enough points for a few more helpful command cards (and there are lots of them in this deck) or some scouts.
As I intend to be doing the attacking Under The Cover of Smoke is an obvious choice and influences my choice of artillery gun.
It allows me to get close, limiting the early damage to my expensive Sappers-Engineers, and freeing up my smoke pots for use later. The fact your smoke bombardment lasts two enemy turns is a major boon, especially considering most Soviet forces don’t have any smoke options at all and here I have up to four! With this being a two turn bombardment it reduces the need for a spearhead capability as well, so I will use the points for an extra command card.
I’d consider taking any of these – Masrikova to move an enemy ranged in marker; Make Your Own Luck giving a fixed 4+ result which could prove vital in unpinning or in ensuring a successful counter assault; Partisan Raid to delay the opponents reserves (really helpful if your opponent has their heavy tanks in reserve) and Partisan Guides to accelerate your reserves arrivals. The alternative option is to add an armoured car or reconnaissance unit for that spearhead capability.
100 point Sapper-Engineer Formation
So what I have gone with as my first build is this:
- Engineer-Sapper Company, 9x PPSh SMG teams, 1x DP MG team, Panzerfausts, 2x Flame Thrower teams, 2x Maxim HMG teams, 1x 82mm mortar team
- Engineer-Sapper Company, 12x PPSh SMG teams, 1x DP MG team, Panzerfausts, 2x Flamethrower teams
- Engineer-Sapper Company, 8 PPSh SMG teams, Panzerfausts
- ISU-122 Heavy SP Battery, 5x tanks
- 122mm Artillery Battery, 4x 122mm guns
- Under The Cover of Smoke Command Card
- Make Your Own Luck Command Card
- RPG6 Anti-tank Grenades Command Card
Overall, I have three infantry platoons, all with at least two unkillable antitank weapons, making them a serious issue for any armoured formation in assault. There’s also two effective artillery templates, plus the mortar with a one gun harassment bombardment, coupled with a two turn smoke bombardment in many scenarios. Finally, I have a, hard to hit, heavy tank killing unit. With a force like this, I should be able to execute a river crossing or crack any defensive line.
The Sapper Engineers will move up under cover of smoke and artillery bombardments ready to assault and, once I have engaged the front line, my ISU-122’s and howitzers will switch to dealing with any potential armoured counter attack. If I end up with reserves I have a couple of options of how to split my force, with either the two larger Sapper-Engineer units in reserve or the smaller unit plus the ISU-122’s.
Overall I’m really looking forward to playing some games with these I just need to get my hands on some of the new plastic Sapper-Engineer models and then its full speed onto a table top.