World War III: Soviet, System Shock – T-80 Shock Company

“Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary – The American Navy. For forty years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game and played it well. But today the game is different. We have the advantage.”

Captain Marko Ramius (Hunt for the Red October)

We previously looked at the T-80U as part of the starter set but, with the new book in our electronic hands, we can consider the tank in its proper context, with all the toys well and truly out the toy box.  TOS-1, Tunguska and a shiney new Shock Battalion formation to play with.

The Shock Company premise is that its something of an experiment, combining second year Conscripts (the Soviet Union used a two year conscript system) with combat veteran officers, freshly returned from Afghanistan, plus the latest and greatest in Soviet hardware. The end result is, as its “company”, rather than “battalion” identifier suggests, something that not only approaches a NATO formation in its ability, but supersedes it in some cases. 

Of course, this is not without its cost.

Shock Formation

The formation resembles its non-shock variant in having three T-80 boxes, an infantry box, recce box, SAM box, AAA box and Carnations.  It does differ by trimming the options available to the infantry and recce box to the BMP3 variety.  The contents of the T-80, infantry and recce boxes are all unique to the formation, with a shock pre-fix.

The “shock” pre-fix grants these units better skill (3+), Assault (4+) and “hit on” (4+), producing units that can reliably blitz, assault and, even better, not get shot!  The units do however end up smaller. The T-80 platoon can only field two to three tanks, the recce platoon tops out at three BMP3, not four, and the infantry company (which remains a company, not a platoon like the armour) can only field one or two platoons in its strength.  There is also a premium to pay for this and its not a cheap one.  The question is, is it worth it?

The jump from 3+ to 4+ to hit is a big one.  The T-80 doesn’t have to care about being hit by much (HOT, Maverick, non-HEAT flank shots), but having at least a 50:50 chance of being missed by the stuff it does, is a big boon, rather than boom. 

The leap in assault rating helps the T-80, a tank that otherwise can brave most defensive fire but then largely fail to do much when it gets there.  But the big winner is the accompanying infantry.  Like the Afghansty they can afford to wade in rather than sit back and let the UGL do the digging and, unlike the Afghansty, they have a decent chance of not getting pinned trying to do that!       

The boost in skill is somewhat situational. Niether the BMP3 or T-80 needs to sit still and the latter’s advanced stabilisers give it plenty of mobility such that the blitzing isn’t a huge plus point.  The infantry can make use of it to dig-in and secure the ground they take, which is useful.

So, is it worth it? Let’s look at an example force

Running the numbers

T-80 Shock Company HQ with one T-80 – 10pts
T-80 Shock Platoon with three T-80 -29pts
T-80 Shock Platoon with three T-80 -29pts
BMP Shock Motor Rifle Company (6 AK stands, 5 RPG7VR, PKM and 6 BMP3) – 24pts
2S6 Tunguska AA Platoon with two Tunguska – 4pts
SA-9 Gaskin SAM platoon with four Gaskin – 2pts

Force Support
BMP-1 Recon Platoon with two BMP-1 – 2pts

Total 100pts

The Tunguska are somewhat frivolous compared to four Shilka, but win the rule of cool.  The BMP-1 recce have to be force support as only the BMP-3 is available in formation and I don’t have enough points for BMP-3 recce.

Contrast this with a non-shock variant:

T-80 Battalion HQ with one T-80 – 8pts
T-80 Company with three T-80 – 22pts
T-80 Company with three T-80 – 22pts
BMP3 Motor Rifle Company (7 AK stands, 6 RPG7VR, 2 PKM, 9 BMP3) – 24pts
2S6 Tunguska AA Platoon with four Tunguska – 8pts
SA-9 Gaskin SAM platoon with four Gaskin – 2pts
BMP-1 Recce Platoon with four BMP-1 – 4pts

Force Support
TOS-1 Rocket Launcher Battery with three TOS-1 – 10pts

Total 100pts

The force follows the same beats but the points saved on the non-Shock T-80 buy us the TOS-1, and extra two BMP in the recce platoon and an extra two Tunguska in the AA platoon.  This makes the elements that were hit on 3+ already somewhat sturdier and bolsters the formation.  Additionally, although it’s the same ints the non-shock infantry have an extra three BMP-3 plus extra PKM, AK and RPG teams.  They go back to hitting on 5s in assault but they can also use the extra firepower to better digout the enemy in a short range firefight (especially with the 2+ firepower on the RPG), if the TOS-1 leaves anything to dig out.

Conclusion – Was the Soviet experiment worth it?

Honestly, I think I need to try this out in a few games [looks at Brighton’s R value.  Sighs] but I’m leaning to the shock battalion possibly losing out to its non-shock version.  Ultimately, I don’t think the T-80 needs to be “hit on 4s” to survive [tries not to think about Eddie’s ADATS], gains little from the skill boost and can use the points better in support assets. 

Of course, people have been asking for better Soviets since day one, so certainly some in the community will welcome this formation and it certainly does have its good points.  Having once charged Duncan’s Dutch with my T-80, then found I couldn’t do much after braving the Cark Gustav fire, the extra assault is welcome!

Much like Hero vs non-Hero Soviets in Flames of War, this is going to come down to play style and personal preference and more options is no bad thing.  Whilst I’m all for hero T-34, I think I like my T-80 to save the shocks for the enemy!

Having narrowed down my choice.  I need to think about list composition and that will be the subject of the next article! 

Until then, Dasvidaniya!