Soviet Shuffle – Red Banner Cards

Today Lee takes a look at the Red Banner Command Cards and the opportunities they present with new formations, characters and even a T-34 variant up for grabs.

Introduction

“Hey Lee, didn’t you dislike the idea of command cards?  Why are you suddenly reviewing them?”

It’s fair to say that, having become somewhat burned out on X-Wing trying to keep up with ever new cards, I was a bit wary of the move to bring a similar mechanic to Flames.  But, having now got a few games of v4 under my belt, plus a tournie, plus being caught by the onslaught of sickeningly infectious optimism that my co-hosts Duncan and Fez shower me with on a daily basis, I’ve somewhat warmed to them.

I’m going to split this review into:

  • cards that bring new formations or units
  • cards that upgrade units or formations
  • character cards
  • miscellaneous cards

New Formations and Units

The Red Banner Command Cards bring seven new formations to the Soviet arsenal, mostly taking formation or force support elements and making them a formation in their own right.  All seven cards are “Soviet, Build, Formation, Limited” so there will only be one in a force but they bring some useful options:

Mixed Tank Battalion (Late)

There were a lot of questions about how the T-70 would be integrated into the Mixed Tank Battalion and here’s the answer.  The Heavy option remains unchanged; the Medium option becomes a choice of T-34(early) and T-34, with the Valentine dropped; and the Light option is solely the T-70; all back up by the same infantry and mortar options.  Fans of the mixed formation will no doubt enjoy seeing this.

T-70 and Valentine Reconnaissance Company

A company, not a battalion!  Drawing upon the tanks that accompany the Rota Razvedki, this card is available in T-70 and Valentine flavours and takes an HQ tank (the Valentine can only be a 2pdr, understandably) and 2-3 “company” of Hero tanks.  I’d probably favour the Valentine versions at the better armour lends itself to the smaller platoons and I can see this being a good formation to partner up with the Rota.

SU-XXX Medium SP Regiment

Two cards, one SU-122 and one SU-85 version.  Both are led by a 1943 version T-34, both have 2-4 formations of their respective SU.  The SU-85 is probably too expensive to really be viable in most games so is best left as a support platoon.  The SU-122 version is a bit more interesting, especially if you expect to be facing a German grenadier force with gun support, although its drop in ROF to a solitary shot may mean the SU-122 is not quite the darling it once was.   
As an aside, the HQ T-34 is cheaper in the SU-85 card than the SU-122 card.  I presume it’s because it’s less useful in that formation.

SU-152 Medium SP Regiment

Slightly different to the other two, it has a KV-1s tank for its HQ and has 2-6 units, presumably due to the two-gun platoons.

BA-10 Armoured Car Company

HQ car and 2-3 Armoured Car platoons, simple enough.  I had expected this to be in the last pack and I think here it struggles to stand out.  But the armoured car formation seems popular in other armies so it may prove a useful way of “delivering” the big guns like the SU-152 or SU-85.

T-34/57

I guess more of a unit upgrade than a new-unit as such, but hey.  Sneaked in as a command card, this allows one T-34 company (as its limited) to have up to three T-34 upgraded to the T-34/57.  , packs a heavier anti-tank punch than the 76mm at the cost of a lack of anti-infantry punch.  It’s certainly a useful upgrade if you don’t have the  57mm anti-guns elsewhere.

Universal Carriers

An additional transport option for the Rota, replacing the M3 Scout car.  The card lists stats to replace the British crew stats from the MB113 unit card and allows an additional carrier to be added per M3 Scout it replaces at an additional cost, and to arm the carriers with Boys AT Rifles, again at additional cost.   Having only one infantry stand per transport to increase survivability is no bad thing.  Personally, I like the M3 Scout too much but those less emotionally attached to their transports may consider this the superior option.

All in all, its an interesting set of new options.  I think the Valentine Recce Company, the SU-122 company and the T-34/57 unit are the stands out here.

Formation and Unit upgrades

Tankodesantniki

Much like it’s Enemy at the Gates version, it allows a SMG company or a Hero SMG company to shoot whilst tank riding and to dismount on the counter-charge.  You have to balance taking fire whilst on the back but its a useful option, especially with most tank units bringing a SMG company in the formation.  I have a bunch of tank rider models so its an option I may well visit!

Guards! Guards! Guards!

A whole variety of Guards Cards here, generally they boost the Motivation, Last Stand and Rally such as Guards Motor Rifle (making it useful for normal motor rifle and fantastic for normally reluctant Hero Motor Rifles).

Tanks also get a similar card for the T-34, similarly bolstering Motivation, last stand and rally.

Guards Airborne goes further and makes the unit Fearless but can only be applied to a Rifle or Hero Rifle battalion (not Motor, I guess understandably).

Anti-Tank Fire points and Tank-Killer Fire points

Allows the respective gun teams to become “nests”, increasing survivability on the defence.  The card can be discarded to allow the gun to revert to type for the rest of the game.   This makes it somewhat useful as it can give an edge on defensive games without forcing you to always defend.

The Anti-Tank Fire-Point card can be applied to 45mm or 76mm anti-tank company in the formations, or a light tank-killer company (the 45mm option in force support).  The Tank-Killer Fire-Point is double the cost but can be applied to the 57mm/76mm force support option.  Neither card is limited so can be bought for each tank unit.  It’s a useful option if you are going to defend and may be paired with…

Dug in T-34 Company

Need some bunkers?  Then dig in a bunch of tanks.  It allows the tanks to be concealed, and to only worry about turret facing.  But, unlike the AT gun fire-points, the card can’t be discarded to restore mobility.  You also can’t ambush with 16″ of an enemy team.

If you are going to defend then like Fire-Points, it may be useful but how often does anyone defend?  The fact it can’t be undone makes it less versatile than Fire-Points.  Useful for costing out a historical scenario at least.

Motosikilisty

This appeared in Enemy at the Gates, being applied to a Scout Company to give it a mobility boost at the cost of survivability, but being able to discard the card to restore its infantry status.  Here the card works the same but is applied to the un-armoured Reconnaissance Platoon.  This could be useful for getting the MG armed teams in position to put fire down to support their armoured, SMG armed brethren.

Plus motorcycles are always cool.

Stalker

Reflecting that, until the SU-85 appeared, the assault guns had to act as tank hunters, this card boosts the stats of an SU-122 or SU-152 unit.  Motivation and skill leap to 3+ and “is hit on” becomes “careful 4+”, all much like the SU-85 that comes later.  It does burn points though!
It’s a limited card so you are only going to get one such unit but it could be a handy way of giving one if the new medium SP gun formations a harder hitting (and better hiding) unit.

Characters

We have three new characters:

Viktor Maksimovich Golubev 

A Soviet Rudel!  Upgrade an IL-2 company to be skilled.  This lets them make the most of those bombs and rockets but it more than doubles the unit cost!  

Viktor Stepanovich Parshin

A T-34 (hero or normal) tank leader with a death wish; if he moves at dash speeds then in the next enemy shooting step he can swap hits from friendly tanks onto himself, retaining the hits already on him and can do so multiple times.  This can be useful if that Marder platoon scores a whole bunch of hits on your T-34.  Sure, you will lose one tank, but that’s better than a whole bunch of them!

Leonid Ivanovich Mochenkov

This is an interesting one.  Apply it to a Motor Rifle Battalion (Hero or otherwise) and the HQ and one infantry unit are held off-table.  They then appear, when you roll a 5+, in no man’s land or the enemy’s deployment zone.  You can’t move (but count as moving) or assault on arrival but having an enemy unit in your rear areas could be concerning for future turns!  Somewhat making this less terrifying is they can only contest an objective, not secure it.

Its not a cheap card, and there is a big risk of the unit not turning up as, unlike reserves, your dice pool doesn’t grow each turn.  Still, it could really throw an enemy off his stride.

Miscellaneous Cards

A lot of these are repeats of those from Enemy at the Gates but there are some new ones.  I’m only going to pick out a few notable ones

Volley Fire

Much like Enemy at the Gates, but applies to SU-76 or, more expensively, to the SU-122/-85/-152.

Kill One More

Having a turn where none of your tanks got back in but you have a side on shot!  This card may come to the rescue!

Ram Attack

Sometimes things get desperate.  You are out of things to shoot that Tiger so it all comes down to ramming speed!

Its a bit of a fool’s gambit unless applied to something you could probably kill with your gun anyway.  But it did happen in real life, more so in the early war period when things were *really* desperate, so its nice to see included.

Summary

There’s a lot to like in the formations and unit upgrades the cards present.  Understanding that the books focus on the mainstream options and the cards deal with the more interesting but also more niche and challenging options, I can certainly appreciate the options they provide.

That said, there are a few things I was surprised to see absent; Mariya Oktyabrskaya as a previous MW soviet hero and turret-less BA-10 as a Rota transport option all seemed easy enough to add to complete old collections.

Still, focus on what we have, not what we don’t, and its a good set of command cards to flesh out the 1943 force.

Category: Flames of WarList DiscussionMid WarReviewsSovietsV4

4 comments

  1. Ram attack. Sigh. I understand where this comes from, but no, there was no tank on tank ramming in Kursk, despite the many, many stubborn myths.
    Battlefront usually does a great job of representing history and facts in FoW, but this feels like a step too far.

    On the other hand, Kill one more IS based on facts, as Soviet crew during Kursk would often bail from a burning tank, retreat, but find an operational tank on the way (with either the original crew dead or fleeing) and get in again.

    1. Hi, Cossacks were in the Enemy at the Gates pack.

      There is an Airborne card in the Red Banner pack. It just makes the rifle or Hero rifle unit “fearless”.

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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.