Its been a long while since we had a new WWIII: Team Yankee book to review. WWIII:West Germans hit back in Spring 2021 and then the second and third waves of Covid pretty much ensured that WWIII:Warsaw Pact had to wait till now to arrive.
Up to now, non-USSR Warsaw Pact players had to content themselves them with either Volksarmee, suffering from being the first “red” book and thus not having all the cool toys that appeared later, or the Czechslovakia or Polish booklets. WWIII: Warsaw Pact takes all three books/booklets, puts them under one cover, adds some v4 niceties like formation support and, more importantly, adds some new toys!
So, for those who slept through geopolitics of the 1980’s in favour of “hairmetal bands of the 1980s”, lets have a quick recap.
The Warsaw Pact formed in May 1955 in response to the re-arming of West Germany and built on earlier tri-party pact between the USSR, Poland and East Germany. The new pact added Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania to the already mentioned three and ostensibly sought to provide mutual military assurance versus NATO but mostly served to consolidate the USSR control over the other territories.
The Warsaw Pact saw a great deal of standardisation amongst the armed forces of its members including equipment and doctrine, all mostly following the Soviet model and using Soviet designs. However there was still some variation and, in Czechslovakia in particular, manufacture of local designs that saw some adoption outside of the country of origin. Some nations also deviated from the Soviet model by having a larger percentage of career soldiers alongside the almost universal use of conscript forces. Both of these features manifest in the three countries present in this book; Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Poland.
All three play similarly to the Soviet Union, relying on quantity over quality, but have a few particular features to make them stand out. All have skill 4+ rather than 5+, reflecting a more established NCO corps to assist officers and allow some tactical initiative rather than just always opting for “Follow me”, plus some improved artillery co-operation.
East Germans act as the median force, trading this higher skill off with a slightly lower counter-attack for infantry and remount for tanks (4+ in place of 3+) but generally have the same point as Soviets. Poles have a much higher Courage, rally/remount and Counter-Attack but also pay a premium and lack the plentiful infantry AT of the other two forces. Czechoslovakia goes the other way with a 5+ Courage, rally and remount, but correspondingly cheaper points. They do however benefit from Czechoslovakia’s well established arms industry with the RM-70 armoured rocket launcher and Dana 152mm auto-loading artillery piece.
Standardisation of Equipment
The Czech and Polish booklets appeared after the first Soviet Union book so benefited from the inclusion of the SA-8 Gecko for long range anti-air coverage. They also introduced the RM-70 rocket launcher with the Czechoslovakian booklet; a more mobile and armoured version of the Hail launcher.
Both pieces of kit were used by the East Germans in the 1980s and now appear on the force diagram, increasing the options available. The East Germans did not use the Dana but did use the Acadia 152mm self-propelled howitzer (though not its guided rounds) and this also appears as a force support option.
Standardisation does cut both ways; the Germans no longer have access to units of three or four T-55AM2. They now have a minimum company size of five tanks as was introduced with the Czechoslovakians and Poles.
That’s enough looking at what has come from existing books; what’s new?
A new ERA – T-72B
First up, we get a new tank! Or at least a variant of one. The T-72B makes its debut. This variant of the Soviet workhorse adds two significant capabilities; barrel launched guided missiles and Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA). The Soviet Union had offered the Warsaw Pact a detuned T-72B, the T-72S featuring less blocks, in the mid 80s to no-takers. In the Team Yankee universe the imminent war has seen a more generous Soviet Union offer of the “good stuff” and a more eager Warsaw Pact to adopt it.
The ERA manifests in two ways; a passive increase of the front and side armour to a respectable 18 and 9 respectively, making it better armoured than a baseline M1, plus boosting the side armour to 16 when hit by HEAT weapons. All of a sudden Carl Gustav got a lot less scary.
The optional barrel launched AT-8 Songster allows Warsaw Pact forces to outrange their NATO counterparts with a healthy 48″ range and an AT21 punch. It does have a minimum range of 16″ but that’s okay because the Soviets have given the Pact the gift of Depleted Uranium fin rounds so the main gun boasts AT22. The T-72B appear to be hoarding the rounds though as the T-72M is still AT21.
All this goodness does come at a cost, even without AT-8 missiles, four T-72B cost as much as six T-72M. Even the East needs to pay for quality over quantity!
The T-72B comes in its own formation for each nation that mirrors the options of their respective T-72M one. The big change is that the third armour box loses its option for T-55AM but it can be T-72M, helping offset the cost of the two mandatory T-72B companies. The T-72M formation can also take a T-72B company as one of its options for its third box, bolstering the good tanks with great ones.
Old Dog New Tricks
Talking of T-55AM2, the old man of the Soviet cold war tank world gets a new capability first seen in WWIII Soviet; it can fire missiles.
Missiles cost money so the Czechoslovakian and East German T-55AM2 formations now receive a new company option in its T-55 formation, a “missile tank company”. This features 5-7 T-55AM2 with the missiles present, bolstering the firepower of the formation. Interestingly the Poles don’t receive the option for missile firing obsolete tanks.
All three nations also still had large stocks of non-upgraded T-55 and all three armour boxes can be taken as these low-grade models, should you want to throw off the crutch of Bazooka skirts and laser range-finders to squeeze an extra hull in.
Czech(slovakia) Yourself before you wreck yourself
It wouldn’t be a Warsaw Pact book without the Czechoslovakians bringing something new and unique. Though I am stretching the definition of “new”.
The M53/59 Praga packs a pair of 30mm autocannon and not much else, certainly no modern gadgets like radar! What you get is a cheap, no thrills, anti-aircraft option which better reflects what the Czechs actually had as opposed to the Shilkas that were shoe-horned in the booklets to save making a new unit. Shilkas are still available should you prefer function over form.
Fitter, Happier, More Productive
After a long wait, Red Air finally gets an additional option!
The SU-22 Fitter-H was one of a number of close-support aircraft used by the Warsaw Pact. Effectively a swing wing version of the SU-7 Fitter-A, the SU-22 features many of the same weapons as the SU-25 but lacks the armour and dual engine of the Frogfoot. It does benefit from better skilled pilots, making using the devastating 240mm rockets somewhat more reliable. Anti-tank 7 and firepower 2+ will destroy even M1A1’s, so long as you hit. You can choose to swap the 240mm rockets for Kh-25 Karen missiles, if you don’t fancy your chances on ranging in. This does have a cost to it but a fully upgraded flight is still cheaper than the equivalent number of Frogfoots.
Also of note is that the Czechs get their own Frogfoot aircraft. There is a small, but largely irrelevant, drop in morale but they get skill 4+ for no change in cost compared to the Red Army ones. Fitters are also still an option.
And don’t forget who is charge…
Of course, what is good for the goose is good for the gander and we can’t forget the red elephant in the room. The T-72B provided the Soviet Union with a tank that was as good as the T-80 or T-64 but a good deal cheaper to build and operate, becoming the most numerically important of the three after the Team Yankee time frame. The T-72B is mostly similar to the Warsaw Pact variants but Soviet generosity can only go so far and they saved the best missiles, the AT-11, for their own supply. Whilst a costly upgrade (a cost per tank rather than for the unit) it does grant the T-72B a 48” anti-tank 22 punch.
The T-72B can be found in its formation and has instructions on how to integrate the formation into the force list, as well as the company into the T-72A formation. It offers the USSR a mid-way point between the T-80 and T-64 in both costs and capabilities. It’s probably also a further death knell for the T-72A in soviet use.
The SU-17 Fitter also makes an appearance for the Soviet forces. This is the aircraft the downgraded SU-22 was derived from and, in real-life, features a more powerful engine and various improved sensors. In game terms this counts for little and the aircraft has all the same capabilities and options as the Fitter-H used by the Warsaw Pact forces. With a skill of 5+, the Kerry upgrade likely makes more sense (or at least is not the trap that skill 4+ presents to thinking the demolition rockets may actually work for Warsaw Pact ones) and provides a lower cost alternative to the SU-25 which Afghansty players may well embrace.
So, there you have an initial overview of the WWIII: Warsaw Pact book. We’ll be taking a look at adapting out existing forces to the new book and its toys and hopefully get our hands on some T-72B so we can do some battle reports too.