Soviet Tankovy Batalon Tactics

T-34/85 obr 1944 Soviet Tankovy Batalon Tactics
By Mike Allen

For the Soviets nothing says late war like the tank. During the latter part of 1943 and particularly in 1944/45 the enduring image of the Soviet army were the masses of T-34/85s rumbling across eastern Europe, with the support of the monsters of armoured warfare: the JS-2 and ISU122/152. With armoured vehicle production topping 1000 units a month, Soviet tank forces were a steel juggernaut crushing all before it.
So does that mean we’ve finally found the killer army for Flames Of War? Maybe, but maybe not.

Though the Soviet production of tanks was nothing short of amazing, German engineers were producing powerful tanks and anti-tank weapons of their own. This is also the era of the Panzerfaust and Panzerschreck and the reckless Tankovy commander who charges carelessly into the enemies ranks is likely to find plenty of opposition. In addition, with the exception of the IS-2, old foes like the PaK40, FlaK36 and new ones like the PaK43 can penetrate Soviet front armour with ease. Even the IS-2 can be knocked out with a lucky shot. The good news is that Soviet medium tanks now pack a bigger punch with the 85mm tank gun, have more effective support choices than Mid War and the tanks themselves are much more affordable as well. Another major change is the Tankovy are now Confident Trained, making them harder to hit. Also being Trained the skill tests have a 50% better chance to succeed (4+ not 5+). Combined with the Wide Tracks (on a roll of 4+, a vehicle that has failing a bogging test immediately frees itself.) of the T-34/76 can make much more use of terrain to outflank and attack its enemy.

In this article we’ll create some lists and discuss using them in the scenarios of Hold the Line (page 204 of the main rulebook) and Free for All (page 202 of the main rulebook).

Deciding On The Type of Force

With Tankovy there are two main types of force (no, not winning or losing!). One force is for the Tank Lover (we’ll call it Tankovya) and is comprised almost totally of armour and other mechanised support. The second is the Balanced force that has a core of armour, but a variety of support options. Either force can be used in a tournament game or for a general game with a friend.

In addition we’ll consider making the force really cool and bring in those units that may not be tactically flexible, but clearly have a certain wow factor: the ISU-152 comes to mind!


With both lists the idea is to use the core troops all the time and swap out the weapons and support choices from time to time for variety.

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M4A2 Sherman
1500 Point Tankovy: The Core

It’s no surprise that the core of Tankovy is tanks! See, I told you it was no surprise. The big question is: which tanks?

With Strelkovy the core is, well, Strelkovy! You can add some bits and pieces but when you get down to it you are going to be fielding 1-3 companies of Rifle/MG infantry. Not so with Tankovy. In this list you get to choose from no fewer than 9 tank types in various combinations.
These include the T-34 obr 1942; T-34/85 obr 1943; Matilda II; M3 Lee; M4 Sherman; T-70 obr 1943; Valentine II; Valentine VIII; M3A1 Stuart.

It is doubtful any other nation has that much choice in its core tank units. The downside is how on earth do you choose what to use?

Matilda II
The first decision is pure armour or balanced armour. In a pure armour force you’ll be trying to take as many mechanised units as possible, in a balanced list you’ll use armour as the main combat unit but support it with other types of troops including infantry. The second choice is Soviet built or Lend Lease tanks. In practice, a Tankovy Batalon would have either locally built tanks or lend/lease tanks and usually of one type of medium tank. You can of course choose to mix them if you wish.

Read more about Sherman tanks in Soviet service here...
Read more about the history of the T-34 in World War Two here...
T-34/75 obr 1942 Tankovya: The Tank Lover’s List

The first unit is the HQ, which can have an anti-aircraft platoon added to it. On most tables, tanks tend to end up much closer together than their maximum permitted command distances. This makes them particularly vulnerable to air attacks, so AA defence is important. The AA can also help with infantry but remember both AA options have the Awkward Layout (page 80 of the main rulebook) rule, so if they move they can’t shoot.
Using them to support assaults will present a challenge as they’ll need to move up in one move, survive shooting and then fire at the enemy: possible, but it will need careful timing!

Historically, the HQ tank was the usually the same as the rest of the Batalon but that is up to you. Remember there is no Komissar tank (unfortunately!), so the HQ tank needs to be close to your tank companies to help with motivation checks and therefore needs to be able to survive being shot at and not stand out from the crowd. For example, attaching your T-34/85 HQ to a company of T-70s may allow it to be picked out under the Gun Tank rule.

Batalon HQ: T-34/85 obr 1943 & cupola with AA Platoon of 3 ZSU M17 MGMC = 150 points.

Next choices are the tank companies and as this is a tank lover’s list we’ll take 3 companies made up of 2 medium and 1 light. To field the T-34 without the upgrades doesn’t make a lot of sense and big units tend to struggle to spread out and find cover. However, if you do go above 5 tanks the additional tanks will be T-34/76s.

T-34/85 obr 1943
T-34/57 So the core companies will be made up as follows:

Core Combat Companies: 2 companies of 5 T-34/85 with cupolas and 2 T-34 obr 1942 with cupolas for 415 points; and a company of 8 T-70s 175 points equals a total of 980 points including the Batalon HQ.

This leaves 520 points for weapons and support companies.
As this force is dedicated to mobility the obvious choice is the Armoured Transporter Platoon, rated Fearless Trained and armed with Rifle/MG. This is an expensive (for Soviets) choice in this force, but offering significant flexibility and firepower with a free option to convert all Rifle/MG to SMG and/or add a flamethrower team at no extra cost. (For 5 points you can also upgrade the AA MG to .50 cal AA MG on the M3A1 Armoured Transporters).
In the spirit of mobility and reflecting the need for this force to move decisively against the enemy the second support choice is a platoon of BA 64 armoured cars. Though lightly armed and armoured these vehicles can help detect ambushes and provide a threat to unguarded objectives. Their reconnaissance status means they have a chance to escape danger with minimal damage. Basically they are generally annoying to your opponent and tend to draw more attention than they should, helping your main units to attack under less pressure.  
BA-64
In addition two of the vehicles can be armed for free with PTRD-41 Anti-tank rifles (ROF 2; Anti-tank 5; Firepower 5+) giving a bit more punch against protected targets.

Support: Armoured Transporter Platoon with 4 squads for 230 points; Armoured Car Platoon with 4 vehicles (2 with Anti-tank Rifles) for 110 points.
The Complete Tankovya Army List

Batalon HQ
 
T-34/85 obr 1943
70 points
with Cupola 5 points
with 3 ZSU M17 MGMC
75 points
Combat Companies
 
1st Combat Company
 
7 x T-34 330 points
with Cupolas
10 points
with 5 upgraded to T-34/85 obr 1943 75 points
2nd Combat Company
 
7 x T-34 330 points
with Cupolas 10 points
with 5 upgraded to T-34/85 obr 1943 75 points
3rd Combat Company
 
8 x T-70 obr 1943
175 points
Corps Support
 
1st Corps Support
 
Armoured Transporter Platoon
 
with 4 squads
230 points
2nd Corps Support
 
Armoured Car Platoon
 
with 4 BA-64
110 points
with 2 upgraded with PTRD-41
 
Total:
1495 points
A Lend/Lease Version Of The Tankovya List

Batalon HQ
 
M4 (M4A2 Sherman)
55 points
with .50cal AA MG
5 points
with 3 x ZSU M17 MGMC
75 points
Combat Companies  
1st Combat Company  
8 x M4 (M4A2 Sherman)
370 points
with .50cal AA MG
40 points
2nd Combat Company  
8 x M4 (M4A2 Sherman) 370 points
with .50cal AA MG 40 points
3rd Combat Company
 
6 x M31 (M3A1 Stuarts) 170 points
with AA MG
30 points
Corps Support
 
1st Corp Support
 
Armoured Transporter Platoon  
with 4 squads 230 points
2nd Corp Support
 
Armoured Car Platoon  
with 4 BA-64 110 points
with 2 upgraded with PTRD-41  
Total: 1495 points
T-34/85 obr 1943 The Balanced Force

The idea of a balanced list is to gain more tactical flexibility at the cost of maximum mobility. Why would you bother? Sometimes the Tankovy will need to defend and having infantry is important in this role. Another reason is that it takes 5 hits to pin with direct shooting versus one hit with artillery.
Pinning is critical if tanks are going to assault infantry and it is amazing how many dice you have to roll sometimes to get sixes against Veteran Infantry/Small guns concealed and gone to ground.

To keep it simple we’ll drop the number of tanks in each company, drop the Armoured Car and Armoured Transporter platoons and downgraded the Anti-aircraft section in the Batalon HQ to DShK AA on Trucks.

First, we add the Tank-Rider Company (Weapons Company) to give a solid infantry base: 2 platoons with 2 HMG teams and Komissar for 275 points.

Next, to give the option of pinning the enemy we take the Motorised Mortar Company (Weapons Company) made up of one platoon and Observer Rifle team, as the aim is to pin the enemy rather than cause casualties for 75 points.

Soviet Mortar Team
Soviet Sapper Team To provide some additional anti-tank defence or assault troops the Sapper Company (Corps Support) is very cost effective with 2 platoons costing 175 points. An option would be to include the supply wagon at the cost of one of the HMG teams in the Tank-Rider Company.
The Balanced Force Army List

Batalon HQ  
T-34/85 obr 1943 70 points
with Cupolas
5 points
with 3 DShK AA on Trucks 55 points
Combat Companies  
1st Combat Company  
5 x T-34
265 points
with Cupolas 10 points
All upgraded to T-34/85 obr 1943
75 points
2nd Combat Company  
5 x T-34 265 points
with Cupolas 10 points
All upgraded to T-34/85 obr 1943 75 points
3rd Combat Company
 
6 x T-70 obr 1943
145 points
Weapons Companies
 
1st Weapons Company  
Tank-Rider Company  
with 2 Tank-Rider Platoons
210 points
with Komissar
15 points
with 2 HMG Team 50 points
2nd Weapons Company
 
Motorised Mortar Company
 
with 1 Mortar Platoon 60 points
with Observer Rifle Team
15 points
Corps Support
 
Sapper Company  
with 2 Sapper Platoons 175 points
Total: 1500 points
The Lend/Lease Version Balanced Force Army List

Batalon HQ  
M4 (M4A2 Sherman) 55 points
with .50cal AA MG
5 points
with 3 x ZSU M17 MGMC 75 points
Combat Companies
 
1st Combat Company  
8 x M4 (M4A2 Sherman) 370 points
with .50cal AA MG 40 points
2nd Combat Company
 
8 x M4 (M4A2 Sherman) 370 points
with .50cal AA MG 40 points
Weapons Companies  
1st Weapons Company
 
Tank-Rider Company  
with 2 Tank-Rider Platoons 210 points
with Komissar 15 points
with 2 HMG Team 50 points
2nd Weapons Company
 
Motorised Mortar Company  
with 1 Mortar Platoon 60 points
with Observer Rifle Team 15 points
Corps Support
 
Sapper Company  
with 2 Sapper Platoons 175 points
with Pioneer Supply Horse-Drawn Wagon
20 points
Total: 1500 points

How to make the List Cool

The forces are sensible, but maybe not cool enough for the dedicated tankie! So how do you bring some of the monsters and interesting troop types into this force?

The options are virtually endless to vary the core forces and over time you can add more and more flexibility to your core force by adding a platoon at a time.

Soviet Shturmovik
IS-2

Here are some ideas:

• Replace the Armoured Transporter Platoon with Limited Air Support.
• Replace the light tanks, Armoured Transporter Platoon and Armoured Cars with 3 IS-2.
• Replace the Motorised Mortars with a Guards Rocket Battery.
• Replace the Sappers with 3 SU-85s.

Using The Tankovy in Two Common Flames Of War Missions

First we will look at the Tankovya force and then consider how using a balanced force affects the tactics you need to use.

Hold the Line

Being an armoured force you will nearly always be the attacker, so everything will be on the table. Your opponent will have half his force off the table but he is most likely to have dug in around the objectives. His likely reserves will be his mobile forces such as tanks.
Map Key
Hold The Line Deployment
To succeed you must decide which objective to attack and concentrate on it without being distracted. One unit needs to be sent to threaten the second objective so the units defending it cannot relocate to defend your attack. In general, the more moves go by the easier it will be for the defender to drive you off as reserves arrive. With the Tankovya list you have to attack quickly and decisively to keep your opponent off balance. The assault on the objective needs to be undertaken by at least two units. Tankovy is not for the faint hearted! The plan is to seize the objective early and pick off the reserves as they arrive.
Hold The Line - Turn One
Company One supported by the HQ moves forward using the terrain supported by the Armoured Transporter Company and Armoured Cars. Company Two and the T-70s move forward to threaten the second objective but positioned to assist the main attack group. Company Two takes up a firing position using the hill as cover and making the most of its 32”/80cm range of the 85mm gun, T-70s move into a covered position in support. In the second turn, the Armoured Cars move through the town to the forest to reduce the ambush risk (see Reconnaissance Avoids Ambushes rule on page 197 of the main rulebook), the armoured transporters dismount their infantry and move into the cover of the town and forest. Company Two starts firing to disrupt the enemy. By turn three it is likely that enemy reserves are arriving so it’s time to act during turns three and four. Company One with the dismounted infantry and their vehicles and the Armoured Cars will move forward together, attempting to pin the defenders around the objective and then launch an assault. Company Two advances to prevent any forces moving to threaten the assault and target arriving reserves. The T-70s move up the flank to harass the second group of defenders and arriving reserves. It is likely that you will take severe casualties in this attack, the armoured cars and light tanks are particularly vulnerable but it is important that you defeat the forces on the table early so you can pick off the reserves as they arrive.
Hold The Line - Turn Two
With a balanced force both medium tank companies will attack the objective supported by the sappers. The mortars will concentrate on pinning the defenders on the target objective and swing to harassing the reserves once the assault goes ahead. The tank rider company advances centrally to cover the 2nd group of defenders and close enough to launch a second assault if necessary. The difference with this force is the need to advance more slowly, but the advantage is two units of infantry to hold the objective once it is taken.
Hold The Line - Turn Three
Free for All

Free for all creates a challenge for the Tankovya force as it has limited infantry to dig in around the objectives, so once again it needs to maximise its mobility and concentrate its attack. Most players tend to spread out their forces to cover the objectives, which are often far apart. The Tankovy commander should use this to his advantage.

Free-For-All - Deployment
The force is deployed in a way appears to be spread evenly but favouring one flank The armoured transporter platoon is dismounted and will try to dig in near the objective. Once the time is right to attack Company One, Batalon HQ, Armoured Cars and T-70s will move to outflank the objective. Company Two moves to provide fire support to the advance, harass defenders trying to redeploy and cover the second objective. Once this attack starts it needs to be quick and decisive to prevent the enemy redeploying. Once taken the enemy will have fire from front and flank and should find it difficult to retake the objective. Should the enemy rush forces to retake the objective there may be an opportunity to mount up the armoured transport platoon to seize the second objective or execute a pincer movement with Company Two.
Free-For-All - Turn One
With the Balanced version of the list the Sappers make a good anchor unit on the flank, the mortars can set up behind the second objective to pin the enemy while the HQ, Company One and the Tank-Riders move to assault the enemy. With a unit covering each objective Company Two can be more aggressive and move up into the cover of the buildings to provide support.
Free-For-All - Turn Two
Summary

There are many options that can be tried with Tankovy Batalons. In particular the Balanced force’s true core are the tanks and the tank-riders. This leaves remainder of your points for weapons and support troops. The options in the example force could be replaced easily with other troops and should be seen as an example only. It should be adjusted to suit your style of play. If you find your force has too many troops on foot you’d be better playing Strelkovy and adding tanks to back them up.
 
Overall a Tankovy force will favour the bold and aggressive player who is prepared to charge forward through a hail of fire to vigorously assault the enemy!

Forward comrade; let us crush the fascist vipers beneath our tracks!

~ Mike.