In part 3 of “fun with friends”, Lee looks at levelling the combined might of the Warsaw Pact
(Fluff)ing the pillows
The unification and re-arming of West Germany, culminating with its admission into NATO in 1954, spurred a response from an eastern block keen not to see a new German threat arise. In May 1955, Albania, Bulgaria, the Czechoslovak Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romanian People’s Republic and the USSR signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, normally known as the Warsaw Pact. Nominally a pact on mutual protection, it allowed the USSR to dominate the military structure of the member states. One of the most identifiable outcomes of this was standardisation on ammo and equipment of Soviet origin although the more industrialised members, such as the Czechoslovak Republic, still managed some non-standard variants and upgrades.
Sorry about that whole invading your country thing. We cool?
Much like NATO, the countries that made up the Warsaw Pact would have been nominally separate, acting under Soviet command to common objectives. Combined country task forces at a regimental level were unlikely. However, the Soviet methodology of “reinforcing success” would have seen the lead divisions driving forwards until utterly spent, whereupon the next division would pick up their baton and continue on. Attrition on the lead divisions is huge but the Soviet theory was that in the long run it was less man-power sapping than circulating forces out of the line.
At this point I’m not sure any of my games are leading to much reinforcement…
In this case, an East German battalion, acting as the lead element for its own division, may being following on the spent carcass of a Soviet division and its own T-64 regiment, now worn down to little more than a battalion with the remaining supporting assets. This would be recreated by a T-64 Battalion acting as the base with an East German Tank or Infantry Battalion acting as a allied formation; or the battle worn T-64 formation acting as an ally to a fresh faced East German force.
Another scenario is the use of Soviet airborne forces to secure river crossings ahead of the advancing land forces. In this scenario, the helicopter-borne VDV are holding the Bridgehead whilst an East German force, having broken through NATO lines, races to the rescue. We reflect that with a VDV core force supported by an East German allied formation.
FM-XXX “Warsaw Pact” forces
So far in Team Yankee, we have a fairly narrow slice of the Warsaw Pact with only the East Germans appearing alongside the Soviets. The Soviets themselves are mostly focused on the “Group of Soviet Forces in Germany” and “Central Group of Forces”. This limits the scope of allies for the Warsaw Pact compared to NATO but it still gives us some things to play with.
We basically have two options:
Soviets – Good, but pricey, kit (relative to the NVA). Low skill, high motivation troops.
East Germans – Low end but cheap kit. Higher skill base for troops but slightly lower motivation.
So both nations have two tanks options and two mech infantry options. The Soviets also have an air landing force in the Afghansty. Lets look at each in turn, considering its potential as either the main element or the allied element of the force.
Soviet T-64 Company
By far the most lethal tank in the Warsaw Pact arsenal. It has good (by Pact standards) armour, a great main gun that is hindered only by being RoF1 (somewhat unfairly given the ‘following fire’ functionality of the hydraulic loader) and excellent mobility thanks to advanced stabilisers. It can even shoot missiles if upgraded. These capabilities do run the costs up but a minimum sized Company (its technically a battalion but, I prefer to field the formations more like NATO ones, i.e. as a company) of a HQ and three, three tank, platoon runs us to 44pts, a little over half of a 85pt force. That still provides plenty of scope for using this as an ally for a cheaper main force.
Soviet T-72 Company
The T-72 has suffered a little from the introduction of the Milan into NATO inventory and the T-64 into Soviet lines. Its not cheap enough to really pull off bulk and not good enough to really pull off premium, leaving it in an unhappy middle ground. This is a a bit of a shame as ultimately the T-72 was the real long term winner of the three late Cold war Soviet tanks (the excellent T-90 really being a re branded T-72)! A “company” of HQ + 3 Platoons of 3 only comes in at 41pts, just 3 pts cheaper than the T-64 equivalent so its hard to find a scenario that lends itself to the T-72.
East German T-72M Company
So, T-72 with less armour (and not even space age composite stuff) and less bang. Move on, right?
If the home model struggles to find a place as its points, the bargain basement T-72M works quite nicely. AT21 is still good enough against most NATO tanks, and you still have mobility and stabilisers to get around the side of the ones that don’t. FA15 still has a marginal chance of stopping a 105mm round or Milan and Bazooka skirts will generally protect you from M72 fire (Charlie G… not so much). Best of all a “Company” of one HQ and three, three tank, platoons comes in at just 24pts! That’s a little over half the cost of the T-72A “company” and just two points more than the cost of a five tank company of T-72A. That gives a force some bargain basement “brutal” firepower – just try and avoid the Milan fire!
East German T-55AM2 Company
An oldie but a goodie, the T-55, upgraded with modern widgets and applique armour, is still a threat to modern tanks, if used (very) well. Its primary draw is its price, 7pts get a “company” of ten tanks, making it the ultimate plug-in ally. Even a full battalion of 31 tanks will only set you back just shy of 50pts.
However, its worth remembering that the T-55AM2 is something of a pig. Its relatively slow, bogs at the sight of a tree-stump and has armour that provides no real protection versus an M68/L7 let alone anything heavier. Plus it only have Bazooka skirts so even the humble M72 LAW will make it have a sweaty brow in an assault. A platoon of three Leopard 2 could easily deal with a “Company” just by having each tank kill two T-55 in each platoon and watch the third one dump smoke and reverse off the table. Allies may not count for morale but they do cost you VP.
So, its not the automatic ‘no-brainer’ choice people fear it to be. But it can be a useful distraction to ensure that a more valuable formation (BMP-2 or T-64) has some of the heat drawn off it as the enemy “honour the threat” working its way up a flank. Ultimately a 4-3 win is still a win!
I’ll combine both nations together. Both have an identical structure and points. The Soviets get to have as many BMP-2 as they want, FP5 for their AK-74 teams, and counter-attack and rally values of 3+. The East Germans can only have one company of BMP-2 mounted infantry (the rest need to be BMP-1 mounted), a skill of 4+ (Blitz is suddenly kinda viable!) but only have FP6 on their AK teams and 4+ for counter-attack and rally.
The BMP is by far one of the best IFV in the game, both variants can match most of the NATO APC and IFV for armour, outgun them and pack a missile system to boot. The BMP-2 is the clear winner with the Spandrel missile and a very effective 30mm auto-cannon but the BMP-1 can still be useful; its main gun has a decent FP of 3+ and the Sagger will hurt 2nd gen tanks like the M60 and Leopard 1, as well as helicopters. I even had one of my East German BMP-1 bag an IPM1 with a game-winning, long range, side shot! The East Germans can use Blitz and Shoot and Scoot with some reliability (with CO near by), maximising the threat of the their missiles.
The Infantry component has mass going for it. There’s no point assaulting with it; just sit back and hose away with AK and PKM fire. The Soviets work better for this with FP5+.
My inclination is to think that the BMP Infantry works better as a basis for the force rather than an ally, but you can create a relatively hard hitting allied formation out of two mid-strength company. Seeming as the Soviet gain little benefit from having East German infantry support we’ll assume that an East German force wants some Soviet support – trading skill for better infantry FP and morale. If you want to tap into the wonder that is “Spam-drel” then the BMP-2 variety comes in at 40pts, giving you 19 BMP-2 plus two decent blobs of infantry. If the Infantry is the focus then the same size company with BMP-1 weighs in at three quarters of the points.
I still struggle with finding a use for the BTR infantry. Its only about a 4pt saving over a BMP-1 company and that 4pts buys a big leap in fire-power and protection. If you feel that AT19 is no use to you, all you want is the infantry component, and you can find something to spend the points delta on, then maybe this is the best option. Too full size company weigh in at a little over 30pts which admittedly leaves a lot of boots on the ground.
Ah, Afghansty. How do you improve on Russian Infantry that can hit in assaults on a 4+?
You stick them in twelve of my favourite Cold War helicopters – the Mil-24 Hind.
My initial feeling was the Afghansty eat points up so quickly they work best as the main force and then a small tank force added to support.
But… having worked out the BMP and BTR Infantry ally formations come in at about 30pts I did some maths and worked out you can get a pretty decent Afghansty support formation for about that. 35 points gets you:
- Twe minimum strength Afghansty Rifle Company with grenade launchers that can “get to the chopper” and act as an objective scare force
- Two company of Hinds for a total of 8 helicopters.
I then figured that, if points allowed, you could probably squeeze in a third company of Hinds to make it a 46pt formation (leaving 39pts for the parent force – a lot of T-55!), rather than buying Hinds in the East German formation – they both have skill 4+ and the Afghansty ones only make the allied formation stronger whilst the East German ones are only support and count for nothing.
Suddenly a support battalion of Afghansty become appealing!
OPFOR – Potential Lists
So, we have identified the building blocks. What can we build?
Note, a lot of this is going to assume that your average opponent doesn’t feel like a walking product advert for Euromissile or Raytheon. If that’s the case, then you are ultimately going to have to either play the meta and go Spam-drel or accept that you need luck and your A-game!
The T-64 is as good as it gets for the Soviets in terms of MBT but its ROF1 means it still struggles to get the shots down. What we need to do is to get a bit more volume.
This list exchanges three T-64 and (drops my normal BMP-2 company to a BTR-60 company) for an East German T-72M Battalion with two “company” of three T-72 and a single company of five T-55, plus some BRDM for Spearhead. The T-64 (using its mobility advantage) and T-55 would act as flanking force whilst the T-72M keep the enemy focused to the front. This forces NATO armour to have to watch two or three directions, leaving someone to get a flank shot. Against infantry, its more Brutal HE rounds but the armour has to be careful about those ATGW…
Leaf Blower + HE
Afghansty brings you a bunch of helicopters and surprisingly hard hitting infantry but what it doesn’t bring you is much in the way of direct fire support. It’s all too easy for British Infantry to put out enough shots to stop an assault before it starts. What this does list is trade some infantry are the typical quartet of recce BMP-1 (standing in for BMD-1) for a “battalion” of T-55. In ideal world we’d actually go for a “battalion” of “brutal” T-72M but points are scarce so the T-55 will have to do. The T-55 will have to get under the Milan umbrella as quickly as possible but time this with with the infantry infantry so the Carl Gustav don’t eat them alive. The T-55 certainly put out more fire than BMD though!
And Finally – The Super Leaf Blower
This is likely one of those things that will work really well once in a while but otherwise will likely never live up to hype, primarily because it does little better versus the main nemesis of the leaf-blower; dug-in infantry.
This came about on the facebook group after Battlefront announced the new ally force diagrams. In a Soviet list you cant’ take Afghansty *and* divisional support helicopters. But, there is nothing to stop an East German army having its company of helicopters and SU-25, then taking an Afghansty allied formation with its 12 helicopters for a total of 16 Hinds!
The problem is that the list gets very brittle, very quickly. The “home” formation is only made up of two platoons of three T-55 whilst the allied Afghansty need minimum infantry. Playing at 100pts helps improve matters but only slightly. It lacks air defence and any high firepower support to dig out infantry. 57mm rockets won’t cut it!
Still, it would be worth it for the look on your opponents face when you start unpacking the army bag and lay out 22 flight stands…