Czech-ing out the Czechs

Today, Duncan looks the next new hotness coming out of Eastern Europe and dives into the new Czech book for Team Yankee    – The Czechoslovak People’s Army – prepare for a bombardment of “Czech” puns.

Background

From 1955 the Czechoslovak People’s Army had a decent reputation amongst the Warsaw Pact forces and was one of the few nations not to have, or be deemed as requiring, Soviet forces to be stationed on its soil. In 1968 that perception shifted as the political landscape of Czechoslovakia shifted and culminated on the 20th August with Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian and Polish forces invasion. The occupiers installed a traditional, hard-line communist regime and a permanent Soviet presence in the country as part of the Soviet Central Forces.

Fast forwarding to the 1985 Team Yankee timeline and the Czechoslovakian People’s Army comprised around 147,000 troops with around 100,000 being part of the 24-month conscription process for all males 18-27. It was able to call upon around 700 of the modern and capable T-72M, the export model of the Soviet T-72A built locally, nearly 2,000 obsolescent T-55s, the majority of these held in Reserve Status, as well as Soviet export models of the BMP-1 and BMP-2 as well as indigenous APCs like the OT-64.

These substantial forces were organised into 5 Tank Divisions (1st, 4th, 9th, 11th & 14th) and 4 Motor Rifle Divisions (2nd, 3rd, 19th & 20th) and these, in turn, were grouped into two Czech Armies (1st & 4th) and supplemented by the Soviet 8th Guards Tank Army. The Czechs also provided most of the Front Troops for the Warpac Central Front (including an Airborne Regiment (BG CWCZ-06) and an Artillery Division of 152mm howitzers and a battalion of self-propelled 240mm mortars).

The Soviets provided one or two Motor Rifle Divisions for each of the two Czech Armies, as well as a Heavy Artillery Brigade and an Attack Helicopter Regiment for Central Front; all in all a beefy deployment of troops opposing the NATO forces in southeastern Germany.

A First Look

It is almost impossible to look at the Czech book in isolation so please forgive me referring and comparing to the other Warsaw Pact forces but I feel not too do so is a disservice to the Czechs.

At first glance the Czechoslovakian People’s Army (CPA) looks very similar to a Soviet or an East German force – the main core formations available are:

  • T-72M Battalion
  • T-55AM2 Battalion
  • BMP Motor Rifle Battalion 
  • Wheeled Motor Rifle Battalion 

So I planned to use the troops I’d started to put together for my Soviet forces and deploy them as hardy Czechs… Nice.

T-72M Battalion 

The force is presented as-the “1 Tankowa’ Divize” or 1st Division.
Superficially, or so I am reliably informed, the Soviet T-72A and the Czech T-72 are comparable on a 15mm table- top so you can easily interchange one for the other.
The T-72M Battalion organisation gives you a wealth of options in formation.  Access in formation to everything you could really want is a major boon for formation survivability.

Lee has already been through the Polish T-72M offering and I think that the Czechs stack up very nicely in comparison to both the Poles and the Soviets. They are a significant discount on the marginally better armoured Soviet T-72A and are cheaper than the Polish T-72M – why?

Well because they are nowhere near as reliable.

Courage and Remount are problematic at 5+ but, to be frank, that only matters if you aren’t already exploding into thousands of pieces which is my experience of the T-72A. In that regard the points break gives you a tonne (well, at least 120t) more hulls on the table and the export 125mm gun is still a beast.  More tanks means more chances to get those shots off.
The other minor drawbacks over the Soviet T-72A is you sacrifice a point of Front Armour and a point of AT over the A model. Overall its a very tidy little package.

T-55AM2 Battalion

The other armoured formation you can access is the T-55AM2 Battalion and is organised similar to the T-72M Battalion. Again, like the Poles, the infantry option becomes a choice between the BWP-1 or a wheeled motorised company with the BMP-2 as a T-72M asset.

The T-55AM2s are super cheap and range in size from a minimum of 5 hulls (presumably to limit MSU) to a maximum of 10. With the same Morale and Remount values as their T-72M brethren don’t expect great things out of them as they are brittle in every conceivable sense but remain a cheap option for a 2nd formation.

BMP Motor Rifle Battalion

Again, like the Poles, the mainstay of the BMPs you have access to are BMP-1 with the ability to exchange a BMP-1 Company for a BMP-2 Company to give you a nice mixed formation and reflect their status as a more second line unit than the Soviet Shock forces in Germany.

The infantry are a similar motivation to their tanker compatriots but interestingly one better Skill than their Soviet equivalents. The Vz.58 assault rifle team has a Firepower of 6 compared to the AK-74 Firepower of 5+; presumably as the result of a lack of an underslung grenade launcher.

Again the Czechs are markedly cheaper than the Polish or Soviet forces – a reoccurring theme that I will unashamedly keep mentioning – around a 25% discount on the full size BMP-2 Company is well worth a mention!

Having pointed out their cost effectiveness I’m not sure I see the Czech BMP roaming the battlefield with anywhere near the disregard that the Soviet and Polish versions will because of that 5+ Morale and 5+ Remount. They are far more brittle that their more Communist friends and they will get bogged down – keeping them moving and operational is going to be a Formation Commanders full time occupation.

Wheeled Motor Rifle Battalion

Hmm… the wheeled infantry option is an odd one to resolve mentally. Again, it is very cheap but I don’t think that fielding it as a formation is really viable. The BTR-60 or OT-64 doesn’t give you much in terms of support for you infantry and the infantry themselves, again follow the Soviet pattern, are a little smaller than the BMP mounted troops.

Whilst I’m not sold on the Formation I think that they are a handy, cheap and effective way of getting infantry into a list as Support. Whilst they do not pack the punch or the reputation of the BMPs they are noticeably cheaper and add in a couple of Spigots and maybe a Grail and you have a unit more than capable of defending an objective for you.

Other in Formation assets

Just a note to say that in the main formations you can access a number of units that will be familiar to Soviet and East German players like:

• ZSU-23/4 Shilka AA Platoon
• SA-13 Gopher AA Platoon
• SA-9 Gaskin AA Platoon
• BRDM-2 Scout Platoon
• BMP-1 & BMP-2 Scout Platoon

I won’t delve into these here as they are broadly the same as the Soviet and East Germans and Poles with the usual Czech 5+ Morale and Remount values.

Support Units

For me this is where the real variety, and some of the power, of the Czechs shines.

Dana SP 152mm Artillery Battery
With the expected changes to in the next edition of Team Yankee bringing the ruleset closer to Flames of War V4 I think artillery will become more of the weapon of choice vs. infantry and my goodness this is a weapon!

Autoloader is a major boost for the Dana and means that those pesky Milans should get a bit of a ganking once you’re dialled in as it give you an additional +1 to hit teams caught underneath your barrage. The slightly higher Skill rating of 4+ also means that you have a better chance of switching target should the need present itself, especially teamed up with an OP.

RM-70 Rocket Launcher Battery
Essentially an armoured BM-21 Hail but that undersells the RM-70 completely. The fact it is armoured is nice but that upgrade comes at a princely sum of a single point. One; this is because of the lower Morale and Remount that we have already gone over.

It also has a Skill rating of 4+ (lovely) and some sprinkles on the top, why it also has a 7.62mm AA machine gun so can (kind of) defend itself a little.
I think that I will be including a battery of the RM-70s with the Czechs as, almost, a default. The access to smoke, salvo template, armour, better Skill all makes them a handy little unit – probably as a short battery of three to compliment the Dana.

2S1 Carnation Artillery Battery
The Carnations are back and they are again priced to move. A full battery, again with the Skill 4+, is now at a cost where I am glad that I invested in six of the little devils. I think it’s a toss-up, for me, in terms of whether a full battery of 2S1 or a short battery of Dana is better so I thought it was worth calling out specifically.

There are again familiar faces in the:
• Spandrel Anti-Tank Platoon
• MI-24 Hind Squadron
• MI-24 Landing Company
• SA-8 Gecko
• SU-25 Frogfoot Aviation Company

None of this is really anything new to the experienced Soviet general and the points cost are fairly in line with what we have previously seen in Red Banner. There are a couple of notable points though:

• The MI-24 Hind Squadron has a maximum of four Hinds in the squadron rather than the potential 6 of the Soviets.

• The MI-24 Landing Company is a maximum of four Vz.58 teams, and four RPG-7 teams, whereas the Soviets can get to six AK-74 and six RPG-7 teams, but on the flip side the maximum sized Czech company is half the points cost.

Summary 

Overall the Czechs offer a real alternative play style to the Soviet and East Germans that the Warsaw Pact commander had previously had access to. The Morale/Remount vs. Skill equation gives you some interesting headaches as a Czech commander.

The ability to more reliably issue Movement Orders like Shoot & Scoot or Blitz while having to be cautious with the amount of return fire you are taking leads, in my opinion to a more conservative playstyle.

The point’s break that you receive for this compromise on Morale/Remount means that the inclusion of some Soviet list luxuries is less of a worry. I like that this brings in artillery, potentially in a big way, to help counter the infantry masses of the NATO forces while keeping the viability of having T-72s on the table top.

For me that is probably the single biggest boon – I could field 21 or more T-72s and actually have plenty of points to add in some other tools without making many concessions.

Thank you for Czech-ing out this Czech-board of a new list – hopefully you will be able to Czech-mate your opponent but still manage to Czech yourself, before you wreck yourself too. I’ll be Czech-ing in with my progress and will be able to Czech that box when I’ve got some tracks on the table top.*

*I did warn you about the Czech puns


Category: CzechRed ThunderReviewsSoviets

4 comments

  1. Well they will definitely be a defensive army. I imagine the infantry and artillery holding up the enemy until your hordes of tT-72 tanks come in to clean up.

  2. Great, I was hoping you’d do a Czechoslovak review after the Poles. I been looking forward to them since TY came out, didn’t even know they were this close! You should post a follow up after you’ve had a chance to play them.

    1. Hi Nigel, it’s not a mis-spelling, but rather it’s not been changed since the NVA book. The German spelling of Battalion is Bataillon, and so it seems Battlefront simply haven’t updated to the Czech word: Prapor.

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Article by: Duncan Gosling