Pole Position – a review of the “Polish People’s Army” lists

Today Lee looks at the new “Polish People’s Army” lists to bolster Team Yankee Warsaw Pact lists

The Book

The Polish People’s Army comes in the form of an Afghansty and PanzerTruppen “booklet” list, albeit running to more pages; the “booklet” actually packs quite a lot into its 28 pages, with background, four formations, painting guides and a catalogue. 

The booklet gives a brief history of the Polish army from the end of WWII to the mid eighties and notes the anti-communist sentiment in the country and the role in the army in often suppressing the various protests that arose.
It then goes on to cover the planned role for the Polish forces in supporting the Northern thrust, including isolating and eventually capturing Jutland and then the rest of Denmark.  Of special note is the mention of the 6th Pomorska Air Assault Division and 7th Naval Assault Division. Both forces, really more brigades than divisions, and their mission to capture the island Funen and isolate Copenhagen from Jutland, sound interesting and so its somewhat of a disappointment to see no further mention of them after this!

The booklet dispenses with the day to day “war diary” of the full book and instead dives straight into the lists, all of which are accompanied by the usual vignette model shots (used throughout this article) and fluff text.  Once they are out of the way we go into basing instructions for the infantry and colours for the Polish Mil-24 Hind and T-72M.  There are no colours offered for the infantry which is bugging me as it looks like the infantry are painted slightly darker, slightly greener than Soviet infantry and I want to to know if that is the case!

The catalogue section rounds out the booklet, showing the new resin vehicles and the existing Warsaw kits.  It mentions Czech decals but not Polish ones but it also shows the Czech RM-70 rocket launcher which isn’t in the lists so I think the catalogue section is probably common to both booklets.

All said, the booklet format doesn’t skimp on presentation and does a fairly effective job in covering the material presented.

The Force

The forces is presented as the “20 Dywizja Pancerna” or 20th Warsaw Armoured Division.  This division consisted of three tank regiments and a mechanised infantry regiment and was located on the western border in high readiness, ensuring that it was as well equipped as a Polish unit could be.  This translates into a force organisation of:

  • Up to three tank battalions of either T-72M or T-55AM2 (not three of each)
  • Up the three BMP battalions (well, BWP in the local spelling!)
  • Up to three wheeled motor battalions form the 4th Mechanised Infantry Division

The force also has slots for artillery (one slot each for Dana 152mm SP artillery, BM-21 SP rocket artillery and OP), scouts (a choice between BWP-1 or BRDM), Spandrels, Gecko SA-8 SAM and air support in the form of Polish Hinds or Soviet SU-25.  There’s also the obligatory allied Warsaw Pact formation slot.

The Polish forces in general follow the East German model being skill 4+ rather than the 5+ of their Soviet overlord.  Unlike the East Germans, the Poles have a lower morale (4+ rather than 3+) but a higher (3+ not 4+) Rally, Courage and Counter-Attack.  This makes them a much more aggressive force, able to rely on passing Courage checks, whilst still having the skill to pull off Blitz and Shoot and Skill checks.

T-72M Battalion

The T-72M battalion follows the standard Warsaw Pact layout we have seen in the other two books by having a combined arms formation.  Once we get past the mandatory HQ and two T-72M company, we have the option for either another T-72M company or a T-55 one, a scout platoon (BRDM or BWP-1), a mechanized company (BWP-1 or BWP-2), Anti-aircraft capability in the form of a Shilka platoon and a choice of SA-9 or SA-13 SAM platoons, and finally the ever-present 2S1 Carnation SP artillery.

That gives us a lot of the tools we need to win the average game without needing to touch the force support.  The stand out is the presence of the BWP-2 as an option for formation support.  The East German equivalent can only field the BMP-2 as part of a mechanised battalion formation.

The T-72M itself is mechanically much like its East German equivalent being less armoured and less hard hitting than a Soviet T-72A and exchanging the BDD armour for side skirts.  The crew mark the biggest difference between the two Warsaw Pact members; as noted the Poles exchange morale for better courage and counter-attack values.  This does make the company marginally more expensive and the lower morale probably makes a larger company more attractive than going for mix-maxed formations.

T-55AM2 Battalion

The T-55 battalion is organised much like its T-72M equivalent.  The only real difference is that the infantry option becomes a choice between the BWP-1 or a wheeled motorised company; the BMP-2 gets reserved for the T-72 battalion!

Once again, the T-55 is marginally more expensive than its East German equivalent but another change is in the minimum size of the company; five tanks not three tanks.  The Czechs do a similar thing so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a more widespread move to dissuade T-55 spam.  I’d probably argue that the lower morale (4+) of the Poles did a good enough job to dissuade taking a three-strong platoon anyway!

BMP Motor Rifle Battalion

Rather than separate BMP-1 and 2 formations, the BMP battalion mixes the two types with one mandatory BMP-1 company and HQ then the second mandatory company being a choice of BMP-1 or -2, presumably reflecting the rarity of the newer type in mid-eighties Poland as the Soviets rush them from the production lines.  In reality, the Poles did not operate the BMP-2 until 1989.

The companies themselves are similar in layout to the Warsaw Pact BMP company.  Notable changes are the lack of an automatic grenade launcher option and the fact that the AKM team, whilst packing 40mm underslung grenade launchers for FP5+, lacks a disposable anti-tank launcher so have little defence versus tanks once the RPG7 teams are gone.  Whilst the heavier NATO MBT were immune to the RPG18 anyway, the AT14 was very useful to dissuade packs of roaming NATO medium tanks, such as the Leopard 1, from risking an assault.  Clearly the RPG7 teams will need to be looked after! 

In comparison to the other non-Soviet Warsaw Pact forces, the Poles have the best courage and rally values so can be trusted to unpin and close with the enemy, but are still blighted by the near universal 5+ assault value that Warsaw Pact infantry are saddled with.  Clearly the game plan needs to be to close up and dig the enemy out with AKM and grenade launcher fire.  It should be noted that the Poles do pay a premium for combining moderate skill with high courage/rally, with a big points difference compared to East German and Soviet BMP companies.

The BMP formation again shares a lot in common with the T-72 formation in terms of content, swapping the supporting infantry for a supporting tank company that can either be T-72M or T-55AM2.  It also gains a Spandrel Anti-Tank Platoon should you need some extra long-range AT punch.

Wheeled Motor Rifle Battalion

The Wheeled Motor Rifle Battalion is actually drawn from another division, 4th Mechanised Infantry Division, and clearly these guys are getting the hand me downs as the formation lacks any support from BMP (other than in the recce platoon) or T-72M.  Other than that it follows the same combined arms model.

The Wheeled company themselves can be fielded as BTR-60 or the indigenous SKOT-2A (OT-64 in Czech deisgantion) wheeled APC.  This is slightly faster than a BTR-60, with a worse cross rating (5+) but otherwise similar.
Much like the BMP infantry, the AKM teams lack RPG18 and the company lacks access to an automatic grenade launcher but it can take up to two AT-4 Spigot teams to provide ranged anti-tank punch.
Interestingly, this appears to be the only Polish formation that doesn’t pay a premium for the better courage and rally which may make it attractive as a secondary formation.

The BTR-60 wasn’t operated, as a general APC at least, by the Polish Army but is explained away as the Soviets providing trucked units with surplus kit ahead of the war.  What it does do is give a cheaper way of fielding the infantry via plastic BTR kit rather than a Resin SKOT-2A  kit!

Support

The Polish force support operations follow the East German model but there are done interesting twists.

Its so awesome I had to extend the screenshot to fit it in!

Firstly, the Poles have access to the excellent Dana 152mm SP artillery.  This was a Czech design that combined a large wheeled chassis with a turret mounted, autoloaded 152mm gun. In game turns this gives us a long ranged, hard hitting artillery piece that also has the boon of adding +1 to its roll to hit troops under the template.  Given most NATO forces will now be hit on 3’s before any penalties,  this is a big help to deal with Milan and similar teams.  Skill 4+ also means the Poles are not as wedded to pre-ranged markers as Soviet players are.

Another interesting inclusion is the SA-8 Gecko.  This first appeared in Red Thunder and gave Soviet players a hard hitting, long ranged, but expensive SAM.  Whilst it may struggle to find a place amongst the other anti-air options, it is good to see it included.

I will round out this section with a gripe.  Given the proliferation of basically similar NATO fighter-bombers with each book, it would have been nice to see the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact forces get access to a non-SU-25 air option.  The SU-17/22 was used by the three included in TY so far (CzechsSlovakia , East Germany, Poland) and had a similar weapon fit.  But it only a single engine and less A-10 inspired armour so maybe only a 5+ save?  This would have given a low cost CAS option much as the AV-8 gives the US players.

Swing wings make everything cooler…

On the Cards

The book will also come with all the cards a player needs, with multiples of the main troop choices for each formation and also the new units such as the Dana and OT-64.  Here’s the full list:

Summary

The Polish lists we have are definitely good.  They give Warsaw Pact players a more aggressive, though pricier, version of the East German lists and have a few novel twists in the form of local kit like the Dana and OT-64. 
Its a shame that they are limited to repeats of existing formations but we can only hold out hope that BF bring us the more elite Warsaw Pact formations, such as the polish Naval Infantry, in the future.

Overall, there is scope here for both new Warsaw Pact players looking for something other than Soviets and existing players looking for an interesting but useful supporting formation.  Its certainly worth the relatively low outlay, especially as all the cards you could need are included

Nect, Duncan looks at Czech formations whilst I will be looking at how both the Czech and Poles can be integrated as allies into existing Soviet forces.

Category: PolishRed ThunderReviewsSovietsTeam Yankee

6 comments

  1. There was so much potential to make a great book that includes an army that differs from the other WP armies.
    But there are no “elite” forces that hit better in CC, no cheap CAS with cluster bombs, no polish helos. It is yet another WP army with slightly different morale/courage/remount. Nothing new here.
    It looks like the trainee created the poles in a days work 🙁

  2. The infantry is best painted in grey-green. Starting out with German fieldgrau and going up to a grey green might be a good idea.
    But what’s really disappointing is that the Poles NEVER FIELDED ANY SEPARATE MG-TEAMS. It wasn’t part of the doctrine at all, and the pkm was a squad support weapon. This booklet seems to be a slap in the face for anyone remotely interested in fielding somewhat historical forces. I’ll bet the T55AM2 (“Merida” in Poland) has optional missiles to…which it never had. But that can at least be explained away with the same lame excuse as for fielding the btr-60. Or even fielding the bwp-2 in 1985, since the were bought in 1989… Ah well…an no marines…that’s a Shane too. Thanks for almost nothing, BF! Except for the SKOT. And thanks to you, for your article.

  3. Wait, so let me get this straight…

    Loads of unit’s are missing. We don’t get a Warsaw Pact starter set like Free Nations did. We don’t get dice or tokens either like all of the other Free Nations forces did. Most of the lists are just rehashed with no unquie formations. Oh, and for some reason we don’t get the ‘Pact forces book we get two pamphlets.

    That’s incredibly disappointing.

    1. We have a local guy who wanted to play Poles and Czechs so he tweaked the stats for existing units and ran the same type of formations as what also already existed. Turns out that’s all BF essentially did with this new release, except that our local guy did it a year or more ago.

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.