In the Soviet Union it takes more courage to retreat than attack.Josepth Stalin
Welcome to another look at Soviet forces in MW. Today I’m going to be taking a look at building a smaller, more elite, Soviet army, trying to break away from the mass Soviet horde that has become so common in popular history.
Enemy at the Gates
I would wager that a lot of people have seen the film ‘Enemy at the Gates’ and enjoyed and perhaps gasped at the futility of the attack in the Square at the start of the film. For many this is the vision that sticks with us of the Soviet attack style. Masses of bodies, few weapons and shot for retreat. Well in parts this is correct, one certainly can’t argue that the Soviets were a blunt instrument with strict Operational doctrine. The mantra of ‘Quantity has a Quality all its own’ was certainly applied and the horrific losses sustained by the Soviets illustrates the sheer brutality of combat on the Eastern Front.
While, of course, casualties and losses were horrific, it’s also equally true that at times the Soviets used carefully planned tactics and elite units to breakthrough strong points and hold vital areas. Also, as illustrated by the ‘hero’ rule, survival in the crucible of battle provides a rather exponential experience curve. However refined combat training is, it can’t replicate the reality, fear and chaos of real war.
On the table
A lot of Soviet armies I have seen over many years of FOW have been based on the premise of mass. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; on the most part especially, at this period of the war this is absolutely historical. What I have decided to do is look at a list which represents the Soviets forming their survivors together for a elite breakthrough force, via the use of the the higher trained troops in the book, rather than taking what would be viewed as optimally pointed ‘auto take’ units from the book. In order to do this I am using a Hero Rifle Battalion, using Red Banner support, as it provides more options and the cards to represent this style of force.
The force is made up of a solid core of infantry. I wanted the force to be about the infantry and not a side line to the support. Its these three units that are going to be doing the heavy lifting.
The Storm Group has, of course, been maxed out to 14 teams. What a unit it is; integrated AT, double flame throwers, a mortar to dig out enemy HMGs, as well as HMGs to pin and bounce assaults. These forces are the tip of the Soviet Spear, given the best equipment and relying on hard won experience on the battle field to see them through. Combat has made them cautious (granting the best rating in the game and a 4+ to hit), and, while trained, they are demons in assault with a 2+ to hit. With a fearless rating they will keep moving and reliably counter attack.
At this point I should point out that fearless, plus the CinC for a re-roll, makes them hugely reliable, only failing 1/9 rolls to unpin or counter attack. However, remember that the CinC is only aggressive, so is hit on a 3+ and, if targeted, excess hits have to spread to a adjacent infantry uni, thus negating the Storm company’s 4+ to hit. Therefore your CinC is perhaps best left to support your hero platoons.
The Hero units themselves each have a separate role. While both have integrated AT, one is designed to attack dug in infantry and guns with its flame thrower, while the other has two HMGs to face off the infantry threat. While not cautious like their Storm group counter parts they are world apart from the mass infantry of the regular Strelkovy. For me I consider them like a US Armoured Rifle Platoon, an answer for most things, and play them as such.
The four 57mm guns has been added as a solid AT asset and fit the elite bill with their cautious rating and fearless veteran stats. These are perhaps the best stats of any gun unit in the game. Oddly I’ve always looked at these and gone ‘wow those are expensive’. Perhaps this because I’ve been comparing them to 6pdrs or trained, aggressive, 76mm guns. However at 4.5pts each I have massively reconsidered them. Okay, they are not the magical AT12 (only 11). However, they have amazing stats, a good range, are surprising mobility for guns, and give your Soviets something above AT9 (and there isn’t much else available).
Now I was going to add some ZIS-3 76mm artillery, this force will need a second template (along with the core mortars). However, they are rated green and I don’t think it matches what I am trying to achieve. Instead I have gone for SU-76s. These Self Propelled Guns would be supporting the infantry, helping this smaller elite force storm through the enemy strong points. It is also trained rather than green, so a cut above the normal troops.
The list is rounded out with some recce who would help deliver these forces to the optimal position to launch the assault and protect their flanks from probing attacks and enemy armoured cars.
Cards can be a great way to theme your force and I have opted for two in order to represent the these seasoned fighters.
The first is the humble Molotov Cocktail; perfect in built up areas and for burning out even the toughest tank. I want the infantry to be the focus of the list and therefore be able to counter most threats and the bane of all Soviet forces (as in real life) is the heavy tank. Now, in game, these are really the Tiger and now very popular Ferdinand. The latter is of little threat to my infantry force (watch the German smile fade when your opponent realises it doesn’t even have a MG). However, the former can push you off objectives and ultimately that decides games. With little AT available to kill a Tiger, forces had to adapt and the Molotov proved very useful against armoured forces in close combat. Combined with a 2+ to hit in assault, this will be my Tiger counter.
Finally we have a character card ‘Leonid Mochenkov’. He led a company through enemy lines to attack a strong point from the rear. Perfect for what I am trying to recreate with this force and shows the Soviet Army could do more than deliberate up the middle frontal attacks. The interesting things is that you can use this with the Storm Group or Hero Rifle Company depending on what you are facing. If the enemy has a strong artillery back line this can cause chaos and blunt the enemies own attack (ie stopping templates of death and smoke). It also makes your opponent react and deploy differently. He/she has to be ready to defend their whole deployment zone and be ready to react to the ambush (they get one turn before they get assaulted). That changes your whole strategy and when people have to change their plans and move out of their comfort zone, that’s when they make mistakes, which you comrade can exploit for the victory of the Motherland.
While I’ve focused on attacking so far, the force can hold its own in defensive situations. The 57mm guns are a horrible threat to medium tanks, which can confidently deal with FA6-7. You have loads of stands which will take a long time to whittle down, combined with a swiss army knife of abilities in each unit. This will buy time for reserves to arrive relieving the pressure on the front line. In missions without reserves such as fair fight, Leonid’s ability to place a unit in ambush and pop up almost anywhere will allow this platoon to bypass the enemy HMGs getting stuck into the soft underbelly of their back line. While they cant hold an objective all you need to so is drive an armoured car or SU-76 up to claim it.
Above all else remember even when defending you don’t have to sit an wait in your fox hole. Don’t let the enemy get off the perfect assault by pinning and smoking you. If you see the opportunity get up and move forward, get that assault in first, stop their artillery being able to range in, dictate the pace of the game.
Until next time
I have two weeks left in a far away dusty land, so the time is drawing near to put some of my recent lists to the test and get some cool battle reports up. Frankly I cant wait, all this painting and list pondering is about to pay off.