Upgrading the T-34 Battalion

Martin takes a look at how Fortress Europe allows the re-equipping his T-34 Battalion from the Hero force that ended 1943 (Red Banner) into the late war period equipping and preparing them for Operation Bagration (scheduled for release next year).

Geting ready for parade!

In my previous articles (Evolution of a Tank Brigade and The Final Evolution) I have talked about the T-34 Battalion and how my playing force evolved through the mid war period with the initial Enemy at The Gates release covering 1942/3 and then how this list altered as time moved on to Red Banner covering most of 1943. Now with the release of Fortress Europe the T-34 Battalion has evolved again.

The Soviet Union, after the tactical victories of 1943, has had time to catch up with the Nazi war machine. The workers of Mother Russia have produced more and better equipment, new regiments have been raised, and old ones re-equipped, at least in part with the latest Soviet tanks, as well as updated versions of Lend Lease vehicles. Battlefield tactics have been honed in the cauldrons of fire and flame and a new breed of soviet warrior has emerged; no longer are the Rifle Battalions reliant on the urging of the NKVD who have been returned to a more security focussed rather than a purely military role.

First up, what’s changed as we move in to Late War?  Well, there is much for the Soviet player to get to grips with but not too much in terms of new equipment; that will come later.  However, there is one major equipment upgrade; the arrival of a new T-34/85 turret. Following on from the abandoned T-43 program, the Soviets decided to mount the highly effective D-5T 85mm gun on the T-34 tank chassis.  With AT 12, FP3+ and an extra 4″ of range but, most importantly in game terms, no “overworked”. Finally the Soviets have a tank equipped with a weapon that can engage the Panzer brigades from ranges only dreamed of in the mid war period.

These are early production model tanks and you can’t equip entire battalions with them yet. They retain the armour and mobility ratings from the Red Banner period T-34/76; indeed the T-34/85 has front armour 6 in the post war ‘Nam and Fate of a Nation books so it may well be set at 6 from now on. As noted, the main change is that with the new gun came a much bigger turret with room for an extra crewman so they lose the overworked rule making them a far superior tank for mobility warfare.

For the newly raised units, the Soviets battle experience has led to improved training… well, some training, and these have moved to be Aggressive hit on a 3+ rather than 2+ and Stalin’s “Not one Step Back” order has inspired the entire Red Army and improves the units last stand rating in the newly raised formations, whilst in the Hero units they have an improved Skill and an extra bonus to their Tactics rating thanks to the  new “Crafty” rule.

In all, there are three significant differences to Mid War. Not only do I have access to the T-34/85, but my Hero platoons are now stronger with four tanks rather than the three of the mid war period.  Admittedly they can’t all be 85’s, but this is a major improvement in on table ability compared to the mid war platoons which were frequently criticized because of their fragility with only three tanks (even if it is a fair reflection of the historical situation). The third is that, with the points revisions for late war, all of my platoons can be equipped with T-34’s and in my regular Red Army list I have the option to take two full sized 10-tank platoons each equipped with five T-34/85 tanks.

Models wise these are a quick build to update as I already had all the turrets from the mid war sprues so a quick bit of winter painting and I was ready to go with my re-equipped Battalions.

My T-34 commander with the latest model T-34/85 obr 1944

So, what does this mean for my list building?  Keping with my previous builds and maximizing my numbers of core platoons, I ended up with the two list below to see me into late war, both of  which reasonably represent a Soviet equipped tank force of the later part of 1943 and early 1944.

T-34 Battalion

  • HQ with T-34/85
  • T-34  Battalion with 4 x T-34/76 and 4x T-34/85
  • T-34  Battalion with 4 x T-34/76 and 4x T-34/85
  • T-70 Battalion (5 tanks)
  • SMG Battalion (15 teams with Komissar plus 2 flame thrower teams)
  • BA-10 Platoon
  • SU-76 Light SP Battery 
My original T-34 Battalion from Red Banner

The differences to my older list are that I have SIX extra T-34 tanks and the nine rather obsolete T-60’s have been replaced by five T-70’s, plus my artillery are now mobile and better trained and thus more likely to range in. Most importantly I now have nine AT 12 guns compared to a maximum of only AT 9 in mid war half of which aren’t overworked so can fire effectively on the move making me a real threat even to the best German tanks. Finally my SMG platoon has been further strengthend by the addition of 2 flamethrower teams.

My late war force using Fortres Europe

Models wise, as I already had all of the T-34 hulls painted, I only had to paint up the T-34/85 turrets and do a pair of extra T-70’s to add to my three from from my Mid War Hero list. So, not only was this a fairly rapid build it didn’t cost anything either as I had all the models/parts left over from my original mid war purchasing!

Hero T-34 Battalion

  • Hero T-34/85 HQ
  • T-34  Battalion with 2 x T-34/76 and 2x T-34/85
  • T-34  Battalion with 2 x T-34/76 and 2x T-34/85
  • T-34 Battalion  with 2 x T-34/76 and 2x T-34/85 
    Hero SMG Battalion with Flamer (7 teams with Komissar)
  • Hero Motor Rifle HQ
  • Hero Motor Rifle Battalion (10 teams with Komissar) with Maxim HMG
  • Hero Motor Rifle Battalion (7 teams with Komissar) with Maxim HMG
  • 120mm Mortar Company (6 teams)
  • 76mm Artillery Company (4 teams)

The differences are I again have six extra T-34 tanks than before and I now have seven AT 12 tanks enabling me to swap out the anti-tank company for an extra multi role artillery unit in the Motor Rifle Comapny, plus I have three extra teams in one Rifle Battalion making them more potent than in the my previous list. Altogether I had to add three infantry teams above the models/parts I had done for the non hero list

Conclusion

As you can see both of the Fortress Europe lists are more potent than their predecessor Mid War lists but the amount of time needed to get them table top ready was very little; this project was completed in under a week spending just 5 hours most of which was waiting for paint/glue to dry. If you have gone down a lend lease route to build your Tank Battalions, the story is very similar again, simply up gunning half the Valentines to 6 pdr version. The only redundant models in the entire soviet range moving in to late war is the T-60 and these were an obsolete vehicle before the end of 1942 anyway.

Overall the transition to late war for the soviet tanker is very quick and provides you with more tools to cope the Germans and whoever else happens to appear on the far side of the table top. The Soviet tanks really are a potent force on the table top in late war.

Category: Flames of War

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Article by: martin turner