Second Steps, How to Grow Your Starter Sets – Enemy at the Gates: Hero Rifle Battalion

Let’s do the time warp again! Welcome back to Seconds Steps where I show you how to take army deal boxes to tournaments without breaking the bank. We continue to jump eras by heading to Midwar to celebrate the Eastern Front compilation. As before we are avoiding the two player starter boxes and trying to use as many of the included models as possible.

So this box gives us infantry and lots of it, 30 stands! This gives us a great starting point for a hard to break formation. So let’s take a look at what comes in the box.

Enemy at the Gates Hero Rifle Battalion (SUAB14)

  • Hero Rifle Battalion HQ
  • Two Hero Rifle Companies (including four Maksim HMG teams)
  • Two Sniper teams
  • Four 45mm Anti-tank Guns
  • Four 122mm Howitzers
  • Two Katyusha Rocket Launchers

I’m actually pretty impressed with this box, normally with these sets the main formation is fairly fragile but this time we have two max sized infantry formations and two support elements in formation.  So why is this stuff good? So Soviet infantry hits hard, “For the Motherland” makes them better in assault and the Kommisar helps keep the morale strong. Battlefront includes four Maksim heavy machine guns to include in the companies providing 6 shots when standing still. The 45mm AT guns are a pretty fast in formation Anti-tank gun at either AT 7 or 8 depending on which barrel we use. These things have a tactical of 6 inches now that’s not much compared to the infantry but most AT guns have a tactical of 2 or 4 inches so these things can surprise opponents and the gun shields give them bulletproof cover from the front. The 122mm howitzers give us a good firepower 3+ artillery template to dig out infantry and while they have no tactical move they still have AT 9 in direct fire so they can hold a home objective against most armor you’re going to run into in mid war. The Katysuhas provide a big salvo template to pin down infantry but the 5+ firepower can leave you dissatisfied.

So no real discussion on what formation to run we really only have two options here: Hero Rifle Battalion or Rifle Battalion. The standard Rifle Battalion has a worse infantry save at 4+ instead of the standard 3+, they can assault 6 inches instead of 4, and they have SIGNIFICANTLY larger company sizes maxing out at 35 stand compared to the max of 17 with the Hero Rifles. This box can barely make a single black box selection for a standard rifle and is nowhere near enough for a legal formation.  For new players the sheer amount of stands can be overwhelming and the inferior infantry save means they will die in droves. So we’re going to stick with the Hero Rifle Battalion, let’s see how the list looks out of the box.

So the box comes in at 41 points, with Battlefront making 95 points the mid war tournament level in the USA we have a lot of room for new toys. Now some eagle eyed readers might have noticed I made a couple of changes from how Battlefront suggests to build this. First I spun three of the four Maksim HMGs into their own company. While Maksim’s have 6 shots firing when stationary they only get 2 on the move to putting them in our Hero Rifle Companies who want to be constantly moving up the board to ideally assault enemies on their objectives, is honestly wasting 4 shots. Also spinning them off makes the overall formation stronger forcing our opponents to have to break more units to kill our formation. I did choose to leave the last one off the table because when I came to the end of the list I needed to trim one point. Secondly this box is marketed as Enemy at the Gates but I made this force in Red Banner. Now the formations are exactly the same but this changes a few support options and what command cards we can use, and I have a command card from Red Banner I think is going to be amazing for this force.

Let’s start by beefing up this formation. What Battlefront gives us is pretty strong but this is a Soviet army, the amount of mass we can have in our formation is… massive… Ok yes that was bad. MOVING ON! We’re going to move our second black box Hero Rifle Company to our third slot and instead we are going to add a Storm Group. This is our big punch, these boys are Fearless, Trained, and in a rarity for mid war Soviets, Cautious, making them hit on 4+. Not to mention they assault on 2+ making them a massive threat to anything they get into contact with, there’s also the added bonus of a Maksim HMG, a PTRD anti-tank rifle stand, and a 60mm mortar so they can tackle a wider variety of enemies. It’s also going to cost us 19 points and $35, taking us up to 61 points. 

Next we’re going to buy a SMG company for $50. We can use these SMG armed infantry to add two units to our Battalion, a scout section giving us a second cautious unit and more importantly a spearhead to help get our infantry further up the board during deployment. The second unit we’re going to add is a Hero SMG Company; these troops assault on a 3+ compared to the 4+ of the Hero Rifle Companies, and don’t forget the SMGs gives each stand 3 close range shots to soften up infantry before they assault. We pay 7 points for the scouts and 4 points for the smaller Hero SMG company to put us at 72 points.

We need more artillery so we’ll pick up a 120mm Mortar Company for $15 and 6 points. Like the 122mm Howitzers they give us a firepower 3+ artillery template. Soviets are not particularly good at ranging in so we need more attempts to get consistent barrages and pins. Speaking of templates and pins, I’m going to rip the bandage off here and let you know I’m taking the Katyushas out. We only have two so we would have to reroll our hits, you run into trouble with danger close because we want to move our infantry close, and that 5+ firepower always lets me down. So after adding the mortars and removing the Katyushas we’re at 74 points.

We’re still a bit lacking in the Anti-tank department so to free up our actual AT guns to deal with tougher armor let’s pick up a PTRD AT Rifle Company pack for $20, but instead of running them as a separate Company we’re going to take four of the six stands that come in the pack and add them to our two Hero Rifle Companies at 1 point each this gives us other bodies to shift the shots onto and we want those AT rifles up in the action to deal with light tanks and armored cars instead of hanging out in the back on their own. So that’s another 4 points making it 78 points.

Let’s bring some formation support with a Valentine (Late) Tank Company for $50. Valentines are incredibly strong in mid war with front armor of 6, side and rear of 5 while these are hit on 2+ we’ll count on armor to be our armor. The AT 7 gun is also good enough to deal light tanks, and armored cars, while making medium tanks weary of their flanks. We’ll make four of them as 2 pounders and the fifth as a 6 pounder to give us an AT 10 shot for tougher tanks all for 15 points to our formation putting us at 92 points.

The last thing we’re going to add to our Formation here is a Red Banner command card. The pack will cost us $10. Now this is the card I wanted to use Red Banner for: Guards Airborne Battalion. For 3 points we take every single unit in our Hero Rifle Battalion and make them Fearless. Just flat 3+ motivation making every counter attack, follow me, and rally go off on a 3+. This also makes the Kommisar stand less crippling to lose.  Do remember this does not affect our 122mm howitzers and Valentine tanks. Finally hitting our limit of 95 points.

The final monetary breakdown at Battlefront prices. Remember to check your friendly local game store for deals or if you’re in the UK Breakthrough Assaults lovely sponsor Battlefield Hobbies because Hammy… hold on Lee I don’t even know Hammy why am I doing this bit?.

  • Enemy at the Gates: Hero Rifle Battalion $110
  • Storm Group $35
  • SMG Company $50
  • 82mm and 120mm Mortar Company $15
  • PTRD AT Rifle Company $20
  • Valentine Tank Company $50
  • Red Banner Command Cards $10 

Grand Total of $290

I’m going to end the article a bit differently than in the past. Since I write these with newer players in mind, I’m going to give you the basic game plan for these lists going forward. 

You need to be aggressive with this list. The infantry needs to get out there and you want to assault objectives. Use the 120mm mortars and 122mm howitzers to pin enemies to decrease the amount of incoming fire. Soviets do not get smoke with their artillery like every other nation does. The Valentines do a great job of soaking up fire away from the infantry. The Hero Rifle Companies with their PTRD stands should be used to screen out light tanks and armored cars, while helping clear the way for the Storm Group, Hero SMG Company, and Scout Platoon to get close with their SMGs and get into assault, but don’t forget that the Hero Rifles Companies are still dangerous in assault themselves. The AT guns and machine guns should be used to protect home objectives.

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