Thursday, September 5, 2013

Russian Around


Herr von Lemmingsdorf had to cancel on our Wednesday game, and I ended up going to bed at 9am.  This whole "working for money" thing apparently has its downside ;)  In consequence, I have no game report this week, and barring a WiP on some Soviets, nothing much to show for painting either (I'm trying to do the second 500 point of BA as a batch, so progress has been made, but there's nothing shiny for show and tell).

All, however, is not lost!  I finally broke down the other day and ordered a copy of the BA Soviet book (along with a pre-order of the new Harry Dresden paperback, very shiny indeed), and lo and behold, it was waiting for me Tuesday night when I got home from work.

Ivan, killing stuff.

It's an Osprey book, so production quality is fairly high, similar to one of their Men at Arms series, for example.  Colour glossy, heavy paper stock.  Soft cover, but the binding is holding up so far.  Illustrations are a combination of figures (some quite well done) and Osprey illustrations.  The latter make for a reasonable survey of the basic components of a soviet army; most types of infantry are represented at least once, providing a kind of built-in painting guide for newer players.

The book gives a basic history of the Soviet Union's involvement in the period leading up to, and including, the war, with a particular focus on the military from the revolution / civil war onwards.  It's basically enough to allow someone unfamiliar with the period to interpret the "theater selector" lists later in the book.  It also includes an expanded list of Soviet units and options, and then a series of sub-lists for period / theatre-specific play.

Soviet theatre.  Sadly, not the kind under discussion.

In terms of options, the book is reasonably thorough.  For comparison, I was a recurring, if casual, Soviet player in FoW for several years, and am familiar with the various lists Battlefront produced over the period up to the release of Red Bear.  Most of those options are available in this book, and I was pleased by the range of choice presented for the early period; there's more than enough in here to do the Winter War, Barbarossa, and even some of the Far East actions that preceded the full Soviet-German conflict.  Back of Beyond aficionados take note.

One disappointment, for me anyway, was the relative restriction on mounted forces.  I have a tonne of Battlefront cossacks I'd originally planned to use for FoW, and I'd hoped to use them in BA.  They way the infantry choices are structured, however, "cavalry" consists of a specific infantry unit choice, which can be made mounted for a points upgrade.  By definition, all cavalry is Regular (no newbies, no vets), and only that entry has the mounted option.  So, for example, I can't have mounted mortar or PTRD units, despite the fact that these formed integrated components in cossack regiments for the Soviets.  No mounted command, for that matter, or scouts either.  No mounted veterans are available.  There's also no option for horsed transport (gun limbers, etc.) despite the fact that they were common on the Eastern Front.

The horses were later renamed "Lunch" and "Dinner".

This isn't the end of the world.  I can certainly sub in other, "foot" units as dismounted cossacks, and keep my mounted choices as a mobile reserve.  I can also run limbers but have them "count as" jeeps or trucks, but given how comprehensive selection is in some respects, and how much I was looking forward to the book, it was something of a let-down.

On the plus side, they include the option to take a Tachanka, which in game terms is a mobile MMG with atypical vulnerability (special rule:  "Just a cart").  In modelling terms, it's awesomesauce, though it fills the tank slot in list selection (it's classified as mobile artillery).  S'okay, though, gives me an excuse to paint up some ZIS-3s, which are super-handy in game, and were common front-line pieces for cossacks.

I don't know who made this, but the world needs their awesome.

There's a good range of theatre selectors, from Barbarossa to Berlin.  While they can certainly be used in conjunction with the German book to set up period scenario games, I think their real utility is for those relatively new to WWII history and gaming; they give a Soviet player a sense of how the available materiel evolved over time, and some of the main "events" that defined the progression of the war.  The scale of BA means you aren't going to play Kursk, but you can get a sense of how a bit of the battle unfolded on the table.

If you are a die-hard, scenario-game experienced, WWII history buff, there's not a lot here that's going to be new for you.  It is, however, a well-made book, that gives a fairly comprehensive treatment at what was, frankly, the core of the second world war.  The scope of the Eastern front dwarfs the rest of the war, and given the ground they have to cover, I think that Warlord have done a good job.  There's a definite expansion of what's available to Soviet players from the main book, and a reasonable overview of the history from the Soviet perspective.  It's a good deal, and if you're playing Soviets, or against them, I'd say it's worth picking up.



  1. Very nice post and pictures...the second one makes me want to engage me!

  2. The Soviet book is the meanest of the lot IMO...lots of nasty stuff in there. Don't worry about the calvary issue, there is a Winter War book on the table for next year, I suspect you will see stuff like that there.

  3. Good write-up, Marcus.

    I started reading about the East Front when I was 14 and never stopped. I'm not gaming WW II currently but between BA and CoC, it's only a matter of time till one or both pull me in. Your posts may make it sooner rather than later!

  4. Wow - that image of the machine gun wagon is cool. I can see how a Russian army could have a lot of exotic stuff. In fact, I recall playing an army with dogs - didn't like the history of it, but it was unique in the game. Warm Regards, Dean

  5. Excellent review, thanks for sharing.