With the new “World War III, The Complete Starter Set” out now (check out Ben’s unboxing article here) and the T-80U and BMP3 finally in our grubby mitts, I thought it worthwhile to take a look at building these excellent armoured fighting vehicles into an existing Soviet force or using it as the start of a new force entirely.
Let’s take a look at the two new units to understand what our building blocks are:
T-80U Battalion HQ and Company
The T-80U is the premium Soviet tank of the (somewhat fluid) WWIII:Team Yankee period. It packs the same 125mm main gun as its T-72A and T-64A/B stable mates, but pairs it up with a more mobile, gas-turbine powered, chassis that can rival the M1 for speed over all terrains; protection to rival the latest NATO 3rd generation tanks; and the AT-11 Sniper missile to hit out at range and defeat Explosive Reactive Armour.
All this performance comes at a price, approximately 2pts more per tank than the older T-64A. The missile upgrade is also most costly, being paid per tank rather than once for the whole company. Still, even with missile upgrade, the T-80 is still as cheap as an IPM1 and is able to kill that tank at range whilst being invulnerable to return fire in the front arc. No point being RoF2 when you can’t scratch the paint!
Its worth noting that we know there is a variant formation for the T-80U, the T-80 Shock Battalion. The card for that is not included, so we have no view on what changes, and the impact on crew stats and points is not considered above.
BMP3 Recon Platoon
The BMP3 is as much a quantum leap over the BMP2 as the T-80U is over the T-64. Anything the BMP-2 can do, the BMP-3 can do better, certainly as a light recon tank.
The BMP3 has no less than *three* gun systems in its turret. The main armament is a stabilised 100mm low velocity gun with a laser rangefinder that pulls two jobs; lobbing a “brutal” Firepower 2 High Explosive (HE) shell 24” away or firing the AT-10 Stabber (aka 9M117 Bastion) missile down range. The AT-10 is much like the BMP-2 Spandrel with one difference, it can be fired on the move (albeit with the “stabiliser” tactical move benefit). This makes it much easier to exploit that Anti-tank 21 missile to its full benefit. You do have to be wary of its 16”minimum range.
The next weapon system is the co-axial 30mm 2A42 autocannon. This is much like the BMP-2’s (anti-helicopter, stabilised), but also benefits from the laser rangefinder rule, even if it is only for 4”! With a high rate of fire and good AT, this will be the go to weapon for dealing with light AFV and soft skins, as well as close-range flank shots on all but the heaviest MBT.
Finally, the BMP3 sports a co-axial 7.52 MG, as well, in a slightly archaic move, a pair of 7.62mm bow guns! Given the RoF is no different to the BMP-2’s co-axial, I’m guessing BF have modelled how “useful” a bow MG really is! As its RoF on the move, the MG is mainly there for suppressing infantry whilst the BMP closes up as generally the Autocannon is the better option.
Combined with all that firepower, the BMP3 is marginally faster than the BMP2 in some situations and packs a higher armour level with a .50 cal proof Front Armour of 5 and Side Armour of 3. The Front armour is good enough to bounce a 30mm Rarden or 35mm Oerlikon at range and 25mm Bushmaster at any range.
As with the T-80U, the BMP3 comes at a cost, slightly less than 1pt a hull over the BMP2, based on the recon platoon cost. That actually seems like quite a bargain given the jump in mobility, armour and raw firepower! It will likely make the infantry company quite pricey, though we don’t yet have that card to know how much!
Starting From Scratch
If you are looking at starting Soviets off the back of the starter then I’m going to suggest a one-two punch of following a single Starter Set with the upcoming army box deal. The new starter includes:
5 x T-80
2 x BMP-3
5 x BRDM/Gaskin SAM/Spandrel ATGW plastic kit
2 x Mil-24 Hinds
2 x SU-25 Frogfoot
That gives us nine T-80s and four BMP-3 to play with, so let’s look at:
Battalion HQ T-80 – 8pts
Company of 4 T-80 with mine clearing devices – 32pts
Company of 4 T-80 – 31pts
Recon Platoon of 3 BMP-3 – 7pts
SAM Platoon of 4 Gaskin – 2pt
Company of 3 T-64 with AT-8 – 15pts
Company of 2 Mil-24 Hinds – 5pts
That comes to 100pts. We can’t quite fit the two Frogfoots in with what’s left without dropping something that’s more useful. We also can’t squeeze in an infantry company either. I’d also like to buy a box of two Hinds and strengthen the Hinds up to four Helicopters bu,t again, our points run out. Helicopters have received a boost in the new edition by not suffering from morale and being sturdy against rifle calibre weapons. I’ve also found them tough to take down with MANPADS and most NATO forces rarely take anything larger missile wise, leaving just the 35/40mm autocannons to worry about, something the Hinds should be able to avoid till ground forces eliminate them. Whilst just two Hinds is a little sub-optimal, they force NATO to commit points to on-table anti-air, and even two potential AT 25 shots can be quite alarming to face with those expensive NATO super tanks!
Tactically, the force can use the BMP-3 and T-64 as a base of fire, firing missiles at long range, whilst the T-80 form “the horns of the buffalo” and envelop the enemy flanks, the three elements taking advantage of any exposed flanks that may appear as the enemy manoeuvres to contact. The T-80 can dig enemy in buildings out with Brutal fire (bringing the BMP3 up to support once clear), and assault forces out of buildings with relative impunity thanks to ERA and cross 2+, though Assault 5+ makes shooting the better option, generally.
If we need to commit forces to reserves then the HQ and larger T-80 company make a useful reserve element and still leave two blocks of tanks, ‘spearhead’ and ‘anti-helicopter’ capable light tanks, plus air and anti-air, on-table. The T-64 can hang back and engage at missile range whilst the T-80 takes the enemies attention, relying on its Kontakt-5 armour to keep it safe until the rest of the battalion arrives.
Going forward, the list would benefit from infantry to help hold ground or clear buildings. Once we have more information on the BMP3 infantry, we may want to use the four BMP3 in that role. But for now they give us a spearhead and more missiles to lob down range. We could also drop the T-64 and the AT-11 upgrade in favour of a medium strength BMP-2 company giving us thirteen infantry stands and nine, Spandrel firing, BMP-2.
There’s certainly plenty of scope for expanding the force!
So, let’s say you have a Soviet force already, centre around the armour or infantry already in Red Thunder (or the T-62M in Oil Wars). That gives you a pool of support assets as well as core formations which can benefit from the contents. Whilst we do not have an updated force diagram, it seems fair to allow the force recce box to field the BMP-3 and the T-80 can be introduced as black box formation support item per the main rulebook.
At its simplest, a single box will provide a three to four tank T-80 company that can provide some useful force support for an existing force as a manoeuvre element able to take punch whilst still being mobile, or to provide the fire base for other ground elements to advance under as it uses the AT-11 to snipe.
Similarly the BMP-3 provides a drop-in two-tank spearhead option. Whilst two-tank platoons are far from ideal in the rules, the BMP can afford to spearhead its forces into position, then either spend a couple turns sitting back at range, sniping with missiles and hoping the tanks are taking the fire, or using speed and cover to turn a flank.
At its most extreme, multiple boxes can wholesale replace the existing older models. Two boxes produces the following core formation:
Battalion HQ T-80 – 8pts
Company of 4 T-80 – 31pts
Company of 3 T-80 – 22pts
Recon Platoon of 4 BMP-3 – 9pts
Total – 70pts
You’ll note that this is very bare bones, with no optional missiles and anti-mine devices. It’s a blank slate that we can hang our existing support elements on. Personally I like:
Battalion HQ T-80 – 8pts
Company of 4 T-80 with mine plows – 32pts
Company of 3 T-80 with AT-11 – 23pts
Recon Platoon of 3 BMP-3 – 6pts
Shilka Platoon of 4 ZSU-23-4 – 4pts
BMP Motor Rifle Company with 10 BMP-2 and MANPAD – 20
Hind company of 4 Mil-24 – 10pts
Of course, with new kit like the Tunguska on the horizon, then there’s certainly scope for some further tweaking. No doubt we will revisit the list later in the year!