Changing focus – the Red Army goes on the offensive

“to the vehicles, we are going mobile”  

Noah Vosen, The Bourne Ultimatum.

It may seem strange to start an article on the impact of Red Banner on Soviet mid war players with a quote from a movie but when I read through the book for the first time this was what popped in to my mind.

Red Banner, rather than being simply about new equipment and formations, is all about the Red Army changing the way it operates. From desperately trying to stop the German advance however it can, it’s time to change track.

The general strategy may still be simple, find the weak spot in the German line, smash through and, once the gap is open, ruthlessly exploit it. Rinse and repeat all the way back to the borders of mother Russia, not forgetting at all times to make sure you are well supported by the red god of war. Nothing kills a panzer quite like a 152 mm high explosive shell.

Who says Soviet artillery can’t range in!

The formations in Red Banner give the mid war soviet player the ability to wage a truly dynamic and mobile battle reflecting the Soviet High Command setting the Red Army on to an offensive footing. No longer is the aim to simply contain the German advance now the Red Army has organised its forces for offensive operations.

Playing with a Soviet army is no longer about just simple tactics and massive blobs of troops; you have the tools to lay out a much more subtle battle plan with which to defeat the foe.  Whilst the Germans forces may boast superior technology and higher quality engineering, they lack in quantity and, in a game where both players start with an equally pointed force, the quality of quantity can be decisive.

So, lets look a little more at how, using three lists from Red Banner, you can reflect this change in posture within the Red Army in your gaming.

Scout them out – Reconnaissance Company

This formation choice is all about staying mobile, probing for a weakness to capture your objectives. This formation isn’t going to stand up and trade blows with a Panzer Company but it can exploit the space on the table created by these higher cost German forces. In gaming terms this is the ideal formation to maximise the manoeuvre battle plan, where the scenarios can leave unguarded objectives and you can exploit your speed of movement. With little in the way of long range anti-tank assets you need to be looking to maximise the use of the spearhead and scout rules to put the enemy objectives under pressure and to protect your forces.

I’ll start with taking all three Armoured Reconnaissance Platoons along with my HQ.
One note on Armoured Reconnaissance Platoons, these troops come with a number of vehicle options either American lend lease M3 Scout Cars equipped with powerful 0.50 cal, captured Sd Kfz 251’s with MG’s or British lend lease Universal carriers through the Red Banner command cards.
All have their plus points; the M3 is the best armed, the Sd Kfz 251 is faster and better armoured and you can have up to six Universal carriers with MG’s and/or Boyz ant-tank rifle.

Personally I’ll go with a mix, captured 251’s as they are quicker than the M3 for my initial assault platoon, platoon 2 gets M3’s to add some harder hitting covering fire and my third platoon gets five universal carriers with mix of weapons so I can deal with enemy armoured cars also it provides the option to spread my infantry across more vehicles placing them at less risk and to cover a larger area of the table if necessary.

Interestingly the formation allows me to include a unit of armoured cars or light tanks as part of the formation increasing my platoon count and opening up the option of adding a second unit of BA-10 armoured cars from Force support. The light tanks I’ll add as a black box support choice and take the BA-10 platoon.  I also have access to some Zis-3 anti-tank guns to set up in ambush if the opportunity presents and to defend my mortar platoon,  I will take all six mortars for the repeat to hit rolls, this will compensate for the Green skill of my troops.

So I now have seven platoon strong formation and I have only spent 50 points so far.

Now for some support. To keep with my themed force I am going to add some mobile artillery and “light” tanks to complete my Force. I will dedicate half my remaining points to my mobile artillery with both a platoon of three SU-76 Light SP artillery and their heavier brethren, three SU-122 medium SP artillery, bringing me to 84 points. Towed guns are cheaper but don’t fit in with my theme and I’m not trying to build a tournament list here just one that will provide me with a fun force to play with and against.

This leaves just enough points to add in a platoon of Valentine (Late) Tanks and up gun two of them with a 6pdr gun for a bit more punch. I chose Valentines as they give me the a few tanks armed with something that can really threaten a Panzer III and IV and, on a lucky day, can down a big cat.

I now have a force organised to meet the first requirement of high command; seek out the enemy, gauge their strength and prepare the route for the heavy tank formations.

  • Reconnaissance Company HQ with M3 scout transport
  • Reconnaissance Platoon (6x PPSH teams) with M3 transports
  • Reconnaissance Platoon (6x PPSH teams) with Sd Kfz 251 transports
    Reconnaissance Platoon (6x PPSH teams) upgraded with 5 universal carrier transports (command card) with 2 boys anti-tanks rifles
  • 82 mm Reconnaissance Mortar Platoon (6 teams)
  • 76 mm Anti-tank Company (4 teams)
  • BA-10 Armoured Car Company
  • SU-76 Light SP Artillery (3 tanks)
  • SU-122 Medium SP Artillery (3 tanks)
  • Valentine (late) Tanks Company (5 tanks) with 2 upgraded with 6 pdr

Break their line – Guards Heavy Tank Regiment

This formation is about breaking through the enemy defences, the tactics of the day were necessarily simple; once the reconnaissance company had identified a weak point and axis of attack, simply pile the biggest, fastest or best armoured tanks you had at it. To reflect this in the game you need to be picking an Attack battle plan to maximise the chances of getting your forces all into play quickly and over whelming the enemy positions before they can reinforce their defences.

No need to worry about cross checks!

There are two list options to really meet this requirement in Red Banner. I have gone with the Churchill Guards Heavy Tank Regiment and for modelling variety I will be mixing lend lease Churchill tanks with soviet  KV-1s tanks. Not too historically accurate but as losses were replaced in the lend lease formations it was often with soviet tanks rather than lend lease ones, more commonly the units were just amalgamated. Plus it means I get to paint in more colours and make a variety of the excellent new Battlefront plastic kits as well. So, what’s not to like about this option.

I want as many formation platoons as possible but with the points constrains this means there won’t be much else after my HQ and two compulsory platoons so I’ll go with a platoon of four Churchill tanks for a bit more durability and a platoon of three KV-1s which eats up a massive 75 points. This gives me five mighty Churchill’s to launch the assault and three faster KV-1s tanks to exploit the breach. I would have liked 3 platoons but this wasn’t very practical in list building terms, so I will need to be careful with my HQ platoon tanks. On the plus side I will only need 1 box of Churchill tanks to add to my KV-1’s from the starter set – which is another important consideration when starting out with a new force.

To help these out I will add a unit of BA-10 armoured cars to get them as close as possible to the enemy at the start of the game. This force is all about hitting the enemy before they can get their reserves in to play after all.

As this is a pre planned operation my supporting artillery will be formed by a mix of heavy towed guns and Katyusha Rocket launchers, at 16 points for a full platoon of each, these are good value and will keep fritz head down whilst my armour closes. With only seven points left I can just afford to include the IL-2 Shturmovik Assault company who often heralded the impending arrival of the Guards Heavy Tank forces. Not the most balanced force but it should get the job done.

  • Churchill Guards Heavy Tank HQ
  • Churchill Guards Heavy Tank Platoon (4 tanks)
  • KV-1s Guards Heavy Tanks Platoon (3 tanks)
  • 122mm  Artillery Company (4 guns)
  • Katyusha Guard Rocket Battery (4 katyusha)
  • IL-2 Shturmovik Assault Company

Exploit the space – Hero Motor Rifle Company

The last part of the new offensive strategy is to exploit the gaps created by the Guard Heavy Tanks Regiments and this is where the Motor Rifle Battalion comes in to play; built around a solid core of battle hardened riflemen, with a wide mix of integral supporting troops, this formation really has everything you need to quickly expand a bridgehead and hold the ground against the inevitable German counter attack.  The infantry formations get a few less options in Red Banner than in Enemy at the Gates but still have all the tools to hold open the bridgehead created by the shock troops.

Again I would probably opt for the Attack battle plan but these guys can also hold their own with Manoeuvre or Defend if it presents a better opportunity for a more favourable scenario vs your opponents force. To keep the painting levels manageable I will take the hero formation.

Along with my HQ I will take two full strength platoons to start with and add a third platoon with a couple of Maxim HMG teams to keep any German infantry counter assault at bay. For variety I will make these a Guards Division, not cheap but makes them much harder to shift despite the smaller numbers and reflects them being rewarded for their previous efforts in defence of the motherland. 
Next up I’ll take the a mortar platoon and some anti-tank guns, which ones is probably more a matter of how you want to support the force overall. I’m going to go with six heavy mortars for the FP 3+ and four 45mm anti-tank guns with the long barrel option, I see these these as a defensive option and AT8+ will deal with marauding Panzer III and IV’s plus their 6″ Tactical move means they can be very quickly pushed forward when needed.

For support I am going to go with a T-34 tank company and some SU-76 light SP artillery  I’ve ignored the integrated tank platoon as I want a bigger platoon than it offers. These units will also form my reserves or flanking forces when needed. This comes to 99 points just enough to add in the Tenacity Command Card further adding to the feel of this being a battle hardened force.

  • Hero Motor Rifle Battallion HQ 2pts
  • Guard Hero Motor Rifle Company (10x DP MG teams, 1x Kommisar)
  • Guard Hero Motor Rifle Company  (10x DP MG teams, 1x Kommisar)
  • Guard Hero Motor Rifle Company (7x DP MG teams, 1x Kommisar) 
    with 2x Maxim HMG
  • 120mm Mortar Company (6x teams)
  • 45mm (long) Anti-tank Company (4x guns)
  • T-34 Tank Company (5x T-34)
  • SU-76 Light SP Artillery (4x SU-76)
  • Command Card Tenacity

Journeys end

I hope this has given you some ideas about what you can do with the new lists in Red Banner and what sort of things you might want to consider when bringing them to the table top. So, as we reach the metaphorical parking lot what next?

Over the next few months as more models are released I am going to be building up my collection of units to enable me to field all three of the forces as I’ve described them. Finally I will put them through their paces and bring you some AAR’s on how well they work or not on the table top in some themed games.