Today Ben brings us an overview of the latest Soviet book for Mid War, Red Banner
The second half of the Eastern Front series is here and we are moving onto Kursk, one of the largest tank battles in history! The Soviets have learnt and upgraded their kit since the fighting of 1942 and so we have a load of new lists and support options for you lovely Soviet players to get your hands on.
Red Banner brings us the following new tank formations:
- T-34 Tank Battalion
- Hero T-34 Tank Battalion
- KV-1 Guard Battalion
- Churchill Guard Battalion
Of course, whilst the focus is on the armour, the infantry don’t get left out! We also have the following infantry formations:
- Motor Rifle Battalion
- Hero Motor Rifle Battalion
- Reconnaissance Company
What is interesting is that the Force Diagram also extends to add in the “Enemy At The Gates” formations in. So you can field an M3 Lee battalion with a Recce Company and SU-85 support. You do need the unit cards or “Enemy At The Gates” book for the respective formations but its great that it links the two books together.
Lets take a look at the new formations
T-34 Tank Battalion
“Another T-34 Battalion? But if you can use Enemy at the Gate formations why bother repeating it?” Well, this formation is based on the 1943 model of the 76mm armed T-34, sporting a new turret that improved visibility, especially when a cupola was fitted. The upshot of that is a big improvement in mobility as the commander can better guide the driver.
In game terms that translates to three things:
- Faster Dash
- Better Cross
- Higher unit cost
For a tank that already feels a little over-costed, the latter point may be a sticking point for some. But the T-34 is a tank that really needs to get into the knife fight stage of the tank dual quickly so, arguably, the extra speed and better terrain clearance are the way to go if you are going to field the T-34.
Sadly the turret did not free up the commander from also being the gunner so we still have to live with “Overworked”.
The formation also sees some changes. It loses its integral 76mm Anti-Tank platoon, and can’t take a Hero SMG company as an alternative to the less heroic one, but it does gain some more options in its second compulsory and optional tank boxes.
The T-70 is a step up from the earlier T-60. Its still cheap (just not as cheap), but doubles the armour, moves quicker, crosses better and packs a slower firing but harder hitting gun, with HE to boot.
It’s not a bad light tank, especially in quantity. I suspect it will find its fans but most will go for the next option…
The Valentine late 2pdr, as BF call it, was an evolution of the earlier Valentine II that adopted a larger turret to squeeze a loader in, freeing the commander up to, well, command.
The game impact of that is that the Valentine loses “overworked” but also a pip of side armour, dropping to a still respectable 5.
Additionally, half the Valentine can be replaced with the 6pdr armed variant (I suspect the diesel powered Valentine VIII). That deletes the co-axial MG and Loader so goes back to being Overworked but gains an AT10 punch. That will even penetrate a Tiger on the flank! Should you somehow flank something with a Valentine…
Given the cost of the T-34, and the quality leap in the light tanks, I suspect a T-34 formation to be formed of a mid strength T-34 company, plus one or two large light tank formations to provide the numbers.
Hero T-34 Tank Battalion
The normal T-34 battalion reflects a newly raised battalion, rushing head long towards the enemy with the barest amount of training required to effectively operate their mechanical charges. Casualties are horrendous but, over time, the survivors learn how to stay as such! We already saw “hero” Infantry in Enemy At The Gates, but here we get our first “hero” tanks!
The formation follows the pattern of the normal variety excepting that all tanks have to be “heroes” and the SMG Company is also a “hero” unit.
A hero tank company is really a platoon, being limited to just three tanks. These three tanks gain better skill (“trained”) and hit value (“Aggresive”), increasing their survivability.
The increase in points isn’t huge, all three tank types work out about the cost of four normal tanks for three Hero ones.
KV-1s Guard Tank Battalion
The KV-1 moves away from being part of a mixed battalion to its own dedicated battalion!
The formation has four slots:
- A mandatory KV-1s HQ and KV-1s Company
- A second mandatory choice that can be either KV-1s or the slower but heavily armoured KV-1e
- An optional KV-1s company
- An optional choice between the two KV-1 models, plus the Churchill tank (more on that later)
Much like the “hero” formations, the switch to “Guards” status means the heavy tanks have a better skill (“Trained”) and hit value (“Aggressive”) which is no bad thing as the Germans gain more high powered anti-tank power to kill KV at range, This does come at a cost and this can partly be offset by taking the company in two-tank units.
Churchill Guard Tank Battalion
Another lend lease tank option, and another Britisjh Infantry Tank, the Churchill follows much the same model as the KV-1s battalion. The Battalion can have two to four companies of Churchills, with one compulsory and one optional choice allowing the option of the KV-1s to be taken instead of the Churchill.
The Churchill itself acts as a halfway house between the KV-1e and the KV-1s, being less armoured than the former and more than the latter, and (marginally, cross country) faster than the former and slower than the latter. What it does benefit more from is having a better anti-tank gun than either thanks to the presence of the 6pdr, though this does suffer versus non-tank due to its lower firepower and “No-HE” rule.
I think a composite battalion of one Churchill company and one KV-1s company may be something worth exploring; the mobility of the latter complimenting the armour and anti-tank ability of the former. Plus its another excuse to take a beak from Soviet Green!
Hero and Motor Rifle Battalion
Then we have the Motor infantry, which is fairly similar to the standard infantry list bar a few core support formations (like T-34’s being part of the formation!) they also have a better skill rating and so hit on 3+ in assault. But they do have fewer options like no flame throwers or 50mm mortars.
The Hero version is pretty much what you’d expect if you have seen the Hero Rifle list compared to the standard rifle list form Enemy at the Gates, expect these bad boys hit on a 2+ in assaults!?!
[I suspect this has been transposed with the Hero SMG, which according to their entry, hit *worse* that the Hero rifleman in assaults – Lee]
The final formation in the book is the Reconnaissance Company, this is infantry mounted on either M3 Scout transports or German Halftracks. The units are small with only 6 bases per unit or the smaller 5 man Reconnaissance platoon that has 4 MG teams and a flame-thrower base. But they do hit hard in assaults and have the benefit of machine gun armed transports.
For the support almost all the support options from the old book are back (such as the flame thrower tanks and towed guns), but with some new additions as the Sovier War Machine trundles on.
The SU-76 gives you a very cheap AT/artillery unit with five self-propelled guns, but also has the bonus of now being able to bombard (long requested by Soviet players) and is skill 4+ to boot!
Also in a similar role we see the return of the SU-122 which is now ROF 1 but has brutal. The heavy SU-152 with it’s thick armour (front armour 7) and it’s massive AT 13, auto FP and brutal gun will make any soviet player happy, even if it’s quite pricey. Like the SU-76, both these self propelled assault guns can bombard and do so at skill 4+!
Also quite pricey but seems quite good is the SU-85 with it’s AT 12. Its tank-stalking nature also sees it get the only “careful” rating in the book, as well as a Veteran skill of 3+!
And there you go, the Soviets now have almost all the lists they could want with more to come in the add on cards which we’ll look at in the next couple of weeks.