Probably the most awaited release since Version 4 Flames of War was released has been the Soviets, well the wait is nearly over. Enemy at the Gates is one of two new Eastern Front books along with Iron Cross, the book on the German forces. These books focus on the battles of 1942, mainly the Soviet offensive around Kharkov and Fall Blau (Case Blue), the German offensive into towards the River Volga and the oil fields of the Caucasus, most famously ending in the Battle of Stalingrad. Then finally it climaxes with Operations Mars and Uranus, the Soviet counter-attack that led to the destruction of Paulus’ 6th army and the German satellites armies of Italy, Hungary and Romania.
The book has five different formations, three Tank, Mixed Tank Battalion, T-34 (Early) Tank Battalion and M3 Lee Tank Battalions and two Infantry, Rifle Battalion and Hero Rifle Battalion. There are a lot of support options, as you would expect, and the option to take compulsory units from other formations out of Enemy at the Gates and Red Banner, we can assume that’s the name of the Kursk book.
The first thing veteran FOW players will notice is Hen and Chicks is gone, well sort of. A number of tanks have the Overworked special rule which means they move and shot with an addition +1 to hit. While this is very similar to the old Hen and Chicks rule there are some differences. Firstly it’s on a tank by tank basis, unlike the old rule that was an “if one moves they all count as moving”; also not all Soviet tanks get the rule, as you will see. A new rule for the Tank Formations is Not One Step Back, which means they have better Last Stand ratings. Also, all Soviet tanks are Reckless, so hit on a 2+.
The first list is the Mixed Tank Battalin; this formation is a little odd as it doesn’t have an HQ platoon, just two compulsory and one option platoon. The first slot is either KV-1 or KV-1s, the main difference between the two is the KV-1 has better armour but is slower but both have the same gun. The other difference is the KV-1s doesn’t have Overworked, while it’s heavier brother does. I like this as it gives them two much-defined roles. The KV-1s is a very mobile tank able to play a game of manoeuvre, while the KV-1 is better at being a heavy pillbox that can counter-attackinfantry off an objective. Both tanks have rear MG’s which boast their assault rating, making them a solid 4+ in assaults. While at first, I was worried about the loss of the old Rear MG rule (forcing your opponent to re-roll hits in an assault against them). As Mark pointed out to me, there is very little that is good enough in an assault to worry a KV these days, so the change is probably a bonus.
The next option is between T-34 (Early) Tank Company and a Valentine Tank Company. The T-34 is a lot faster and has a better gun (the Valentine has No HE like it does in the British lists) but the Valentine is a lot cheaper, a full company of 10 is a bit less than 5 T-34s. Both have the Overworked special rule. Finally, we have the 3rd option of Valentines, M3 Stuarts or T-60s. The T-60 has the Little Tank rule which affects any mission with Deep Reserves. The T-60 isn’t much more than an armoured car, but it’s cheap, less than a point a tank cheap, making it a great assault and mobile MG unit. The M3 Stuart is the same as it’s British and US counterpart, but has the Overworked rule, again they are really cheap.
Next up is the T-34 Formation; you only have to have one T-34 company in the formation, the other options being Valentines or T-60s. The T-34 isn’t cheap; you can’t quite get a full Battalion of 21 for 100 points. But with FA 6, AT 9 and good speed, slightly less might not be an issue. There is no 57mm option for the T-34, which I guess is part of what the early part will mean once we have the Kursk book and the option for later formations.
The last Tank Formation; the M3 Lees, seems like a strong option for me. Lees are cheaper than the T-34 but have similar stats (only being slightly slower and slightly worse armour), but the Lee doesn’t have Overwork, meaning it’s a better mobile gun platform and has the second gun for even more firepower. There is also the option to up gun the Lee to a long 75mm giving it AT 10. The other options for the Lee formation are M3 Stuarts, these add the needed cheaper support and I think might be the best tank Formation in the book. It’s at least something I’m going to try. Also, I love captured and lend-lease equipment just looks fun to me.
The infantry has three main rules that for me make them better at being aggressive. Firstly For The Motherland which gives them an improved assault rating. Next up is Urrah which means the non-hero companies have a 6 inch/15cm charging into contact. Another big change is the Kommissars which now improve Motivation of the units, a bit like the Italian Elite rule, and is no longer a re-roll that removes a team.
The two types of infantry Formations look very different, first up is the traditional Rifle infantry which gets the 6-inch charge but only gets a 4+ save. A full strength company is 29 bases and you can add in a host of upgrades, with 2 HMGs, 2 AT rifles, 50mm mortars and 2 flame-throwers. Maxed out they come in at 36 bases! One thing to note that is because the DP Machine-Guns low rate of fire the Infantry are only RoF 1.
The second compulsory platoon choose has the option of a Penal Company, these are worse equipment than the normal infantry company, but have a higher motivation rating (2+ with a Kommissar). They also have the Redemption special rule, which basically gives them the Spearhead rule but without extending your own deployment area, means they can’t be held in Reserve, can’t gain the benefits of Bulletproof cover and can’t stop enemy teams from taking objectives (but they can take objectives).
While there is a support option for SMG companies, there is not an option to include them as compulsory platoons. I would guess this will be for the next book. On the subject of support platoons, you have all the options you would image, massive HMG Company with up to 12 HMGs, AT rifle companies, 45mm, 57mm and 76mm AT guns, 82mm and 120mm mortars and more.
The last Formation is the Hero Rifle Company, these guys represent Battalions that have taken loses heavy loses but have learnt how to fight better as a result. This gives them their 3+ save back, but they are less motivated because of the losses they have taken. They are also smaller with a full company having 11 bases rising to 17 with all the additional options compared to 36 bases of the maxed out normal rifle company. This is a great addition to the book as it gives new players access to a list that doesn’t need 70 odd bases of infantry painted to play a game. They also are far less aggressive than their large cousins as they lose the 6-inch charge. They do still keep the For The Motherland +1 to hit in combat though.
Instead of Penal Companies, the Heroes get access to Strom Groups and boy these guys are hard as nails! Storm groups are made up of handed picked veterans, whose job is to clear out German-held buildings and they have the tools to do the job. Firstly they are careful giving Soviets an infantry unit that’s hit on a 4+, they are also fearless, but don’t have access to a kommisar, so no 2+ Moral. But the bit that makes then incredibly deadly is that on top of the For The Motherland bonus in assaults, they get an additional bonus for being SMG armed (it should be pointed out all SMG units get this bonus) so hit on a 2+ in assaults. The unit is a mix with SMG, HMG AT rifles and 50mm Mortars and will be a star unit in city fight missions (more on these in a later post). Other than a Hero SMG Company as a support option the rest of the support is from the normal Rifle list, guys HMG companies aren’t allowed to be heroes.
An interesting unit option I never thought I would see again in FOW is the snipers. The Soviets can have between 1 and 4 of them and their special rules are pretty thematic. They can always be held in an ambush in addition to any other units in the mission rules. They can even Ambush when they come from Reserves and on the turn they arrive and they can ambush in no man’s land! Opposing teams can’t use the mistaken target rule, units are auto pinned if hit once and with a 4+ firepower they are pretty good are digging out enemy teams. All in all a nice addition to the book and one of those cool themed units that also have interesting uses and they will be deadly in city fight missions.
The last two units to talk about are the Katyusha rocket batteries and the Shturmovik. Starting with the Katyusha we see the introduction of the Salvo Template, anyone who’s played Team Yankee will be familiar with this, at 10 inches around and being pretty cheap. Katyushas still seem the artillery of choice to me. Then we have the Shturmovik which has the flying tank rule, meaning it has a 2+ save! That’s right 2+!!! While the bombs and rockets combed for and AT 5 FP 4+ bombardment, the green skill rating means it’s less than reliable, but the AT 6 23mm guns might be a useful option against lightly armoured tanks.
I hope this has given you a good in-depth guide to the new Soviet book. For me, Mid War now feels complete as while the desert looks cool and has some great and important battles, really 1942/3 is about the struggle for the east, about two tyrants throwing men into massive battles of attrition and the turning points of Stalingrad and Kursk. We now have this option for the table top and that’s really exciting for me personally. Soviets have been a big part of my FOW hobby and I’m looking forward to new challenges with them. Be it tanks hordes with 30+ hulls on the board, the human wave tactics of the Rifle Company or small-scale Hero units fighting through the ruined city of Stalingrad, there is a lot to try out and play with.
Thanks for reading and until next time it has been emotional.