Picture the scene: it’s a dark and stormy night, and Lee is sat in his office on the top floor of Breakthrough Assault HQ. An unmarked envelope lands on his desk with a thud. He opens it to find a preview copy of the Bagration: Axis Allies book, and has a brief flick through. His eyes open wide at the vast assortment of tanks the book includes, and then with a sigh he puts the book down and heads to the roof.
Cut to the Breakthrough Assault HQ roof
The rain is lashing down, and lightning crackles in the sky overhead. Lee approaches a bulky, large shape on the roof, and with a loud clang throws a giant switch. The night sky is suddenly illuminated by a powerful search light beam, and projected onto the clouds is the tank rank signal.
So, I have answered Lee’s call, and now I’m sat here in my spandex with my pants on the outside (note for our American readers: when we say pants in England it means underwear,) ready to vent forth my opinionated ramblings about the various tanks in the Bagration Axis Allies book. As the book is split into three nations, this article will be split into three parts: Part 1, (that you’re reading now,) will cover Finland, with Romania and Hungary covered in parts 2 and 3. These articles will also mention the tanks the nations can take in their respective Mid War booklets as well, seeing as in a lot of cases it’s just a smaller selection of what’s in the Late War book.
I best get on with it then.
Being armour 1 all-round means the T-26 is only really bullet proof at long range. Once you get within 16 inches then you’ll be able to get bailed out by anyone with a rifle. It’s also really slow, with the same tactical and cross-country speeds as the infantry. The main cannon is only AT 7, and thus very weak by LW standards. It also has a short range of 20 inches, meaning you will have to move to get into range of the enemy, which then brings its Overworked rule into effect. Normally the saving grace for terrible tanks is that they can act as cheap and mobile machine guns, and whilst the T-26 is cheap, it only throws three machine gun dice and, when you take into account its paper-thin armour and slow speed, it just makes it a bad idea.
The rotten cherry on top of the rancid cake is the armoured reserve rule, meaning you can’t even get a sneaky tank army into play when playing with deep reserves.
In short, I’m not a fan.
The T-26 doesn’t fair much better in Mid War. Whilst the AT 7 of its main gun is slightly more useful, it’s not brilliant, and all the other bad points still stand. It’s still slow and can be bailed out by the humble rifle man. Its heyday really was in 1939.
The T-28 is another Early War tank the Finns are still using in 1944-1945, (needs must I suppose,) but this one is at least slightly better than the T-26, and might actually be quite useful in a very specific circumstance.
It’s just as slow as the T-26, and with the same rubbish main gun, but it does have some redeeming features.
Firstly, the armour is much better. Granted, any Late War anti-tank will still just punch straight through, but you are at least protected against small arms fire and the top armour of 2 is very important. But I’ll come to that in a moment. Secondly it gets FIVE machine gun dice, so can kick out plenty of dakka against infantry, and thirdly it has an Assault rating of 2+.
Add this all together, and you actually get a semi decent assault tank. You can trundle up to near where the enemy infantry are dug in, hose them down with your machine guns, (hopefully pinning them in the process,) and then assault them on a 2+. Now this will only work as long as your enemy infantry doesn’t have any inherent anti-tank like panzerfausts, as they can chew you up quite badly, although you can probably risk a couple of AT rifles. Then once you are into the assault, the top armour of 2 will protect you from any improvised AT.
With the lack of panzerfausts and most other infantry intrinsic AT weapons, the T-28 gets even better in Mid War. Your skill has decreased slightly, so you’re now assaulting on a 3+, but it should still do a great job.
Finally, a decent tank with thick armour and a decent gun, so this should be good right? Well, not quite. The gun is reasonable at AT 9, and the armour is thick, but the problem with the KV-1 is that you can only have a pair of them in a unit. You want to use them as an assault tank thanks to the Assault rating 2+ and the top armour of 2, but since you can only have two of them, you’re not going to be doing that much damage in an assault. Also, if you lose one, you’ll be making Last Stand saves for the other, and you can only pass that 3+ for so long. So, whilst it’s nice on paper, I think they will be of limited use.
Whilst the T-26 doesn’t really get much better in mid war, the KV-1 does. Since anything higher than AT 12 is rare or expensive, your front armour of 9 is that much more powerful. You can still only have two in a unit, but there is now a chance that those two will stick around longer. They are, however, now rather expensive.
Careful Fearless Veteran T-34/85s: now we are talking! This is a proper Late War tank; good speed, reasonable armour, and a powerful gun, they are not even too expensive for what you get. To be honest, I’m struggling to find any bad points. You could argue that the front armour isn’t great, but it’s comparable to the other tanks of its class like the Panzer IV and Sherman. Just watch out for those high-end AT guns and tank destroyers.
Basically, as above with just a slightly worse gun, it’s AT 9 and Overworked, so not bad but not great. To be honest, you’re probably best just paying the extra 6 points to have them as T-34/85, but if you really need those 6 points elsewhere, you might be able to make do with these.
I won’t beat about the bush, the T-34 is clearly the best tank the Finns have in mid war. It’s got a great gun and armour, (for Mid War,) and is quick. It is now quite pricey, but since you’re only allowed one unit it’s less of an issue.
Sturmi Assault Gun
The other contender for Finnish “best in show”, and the thickest armour that you can take in numbers. Three Sturmi are only a couple of points cheaper than three T-34/85, and they have longer range but less AT, thicker armour but less movement, and a worse cross rating. They also have a better remount but are worse in assaults, so it all comes down to if you want to be aggressive or defensive. If you want to sit back and defend, take the Sturmi. If you’re attacking take the T-34/85.
The Germans haven’t sent you any yet.
Yes, The ISU-152. You can only have one, and it’s a support choice. It’s got thick armour and the most powerful AT in the Finnish army list at AT 13, automatically passing its firepower rolls. However, you only get one shot, and its range is only 20 inches, so chances are it’s not going to be doing much for most of the game. It’s also hit on a 3+ as I assume the Finns aren’t as practiced at hiding something this big.
It’s probably not even rolled off the assembly line yet.
Panzer IV (Command Card)
Thanks to a command card, you can also get one unit of Panzer 4s if you want them, but the question is do you want them? Well, three of them is only 1 point cheaper than three Sturmi, or 3 points cheaper than three T-34/85, and it’s kind of the worst bits of both; the Sturmi gun and movement with the T-34/85 armour. The only upside is you could take them as a unit of four tanks.
Not an option
Both ends of this might be fairly obvious, with just the bit in the middle questionable, but here is my final ranking:
1st T34/85 – no surprises there, it wins out over the Sturmi by having a higher AT seeing as the Finns really struggle for high AT
2nd Sturmi – a good all rounder
3rd Panzer IV – like the above, just not as good
4th T-34 – it’s okay, but the above are just better in all respects
5th T-28 – useful in certain situations
6th KV-1 – a unit size of two is bad
7th T-26 – just plain bad
8th The ISU-152 – its range and RoF are just too low to do anything useful.
You get a lot fewer options in Mid War, so here is how I think things stand:
1st T-34 – clearly the best, but you’re only allowed one unit
2nd T-28 – the lack of infantry AT makes this a true assault tank
3rd KV-1 – a chunky beast that’s hard to kill, but only available in small numbers and quite expensive
4th T-26 – still a bit poo
That’s it for my Finland Tank Rank, but what do you think; does the T-26 have a secret strength I have missed? Let me know in the comments.
Now I’m off to microwave another lobster thermidor and pray that my Romanian Mid War preview copy arrives soon so I can put off the Hungarian Tank Rank a bit longer – they get so very many options.