Operation Bagration: Soviet Forces in 1944 is a major release from Battlefront for the Late war phase of Flames of war, and boy what a release this is! If you weren't tempted to start a Soviet force due to gripes about how boring their Fortress Europe depiction was, you're in for a treat with this book, overflowing with choices for players old and new.
Operation Bagration was the Soviet military's crowning achievement, an operation of deception and scale that singlehandedly crippled the German army on the Eastern Front and irreversibly changed the course of the war.
Learning from the failures of Operation Mars, Bagration was a 3-phase assault aimed at liberating the Belorussian SSR capital, Minsk, from the German occupation. German high command (OKW) and Hitler were aware of the Russian assault, but could not pinpoint where it would come from due to insufficient intelligence. Ordering a complete fortification of all towns and crossroads, Hitler's Feste Platze (fortified towns) adopted a static stance across nearly the entirety of the Eastern front, leading to concerns from OKW that this reversal of stance would spell doom if the Soviet forces were to break through the thinly held frontlines.
In a brilliant display of false-flag moves, The Soviets double bluffed the Germans that the attack was going to come through Western Ukraine, a strategic location recognised by both Stavka and OKW. However, the real attack was to be through the Belorussian front, which was thought to be a feint.
Striking hard on 23 June, 1944, after a series of probing attacks, the Soviets caught the Germans off guard and achieved multiple tactical breakthroughs, sending the Germans into disarray. By the end of the first phase of operations, the shock of the assault left over 70,000 German dead or captured and the Heer pulling back as the victorious Soviets prepared to push into Minsk.
Tanks, Tanks everywhere
Seriously this book looks like World of Tanks decided to sponsor Battlefront on every Russian tank fielded in the war. About the only things missing from this book are the lend-lease tanks and churchills, but Russian players already have Fortress Europe to address that. The force diagram alone spoils players for choices when it comes to list building.
IS-2 / IS-85
An absolute unit of a tank, sporting FA10 and a hulking cannon, the IS-2 is the premier assault tank, meant to bullrush hardpoints head-on and obliterate defenders cowering in their trenches. Relatively expensive for a Soviet tank, the IS-2 is nevertheless available in numbers large enough to raise eyebrows.
Curiously, the IS-85, an interim version of the IS-2 before the 122mm D25 was adopted, is actually more expensive than the IS-2. However, what it trades in raw firepower it makes up for in ROF with a solid gun and armor, making it an excellent standoff tank which excels in attrition battles at mid-range.
On of the biggest anticipated changes is the ability for Russian players to field full T-34-85 tank companies instead of the old mixed companies found in Fortress Europe. Now unburdened from the 76mm tax (as some players call it), T-34-85 companies will be very mobile and abundant tanks capable of taking on all but the heaviest armored challenger. As always, Quantity is a quality of it's own and a T-34's greatest asset will always be the hordes of comrades-in-arms by his side. Alternatively daring players may call upon the hero company and make risky, if game-winning blitzes with skilled tankers!
The much maligned ISU-152 and ISU-122 are now available in larger platoons of 4 or even 5 vehicles, meaning direct template fire is a very welcome addition to the Soviet sledgehammer. For a small points hike, the ISU 152 offers world-ending firepower in either the form of an artillery template or bunker busting direct fire. German strongpoints will find it hard to hold out against such raw brutality.
On the tank hunting side of things, the SU-85 has been upgunned into the SU-100 and the SU85M (an interim upgrade of the SU-85 for a miniscule points cost). Sporting the same hard-to-hit profile as it's fortress Europe predecessor, players will be spoilt for choice on tank hunting options. The SU-100 offers range and a very nasty cannon (the same one found on the T54/55 years later) at a premium, while the SU-85m sports the same hull as the SU-100 with the same 85mm gun of it's cousin.
There's virtually no reason to continue using the stock SU-85 when you have the SU-85M!
Now available in plastic, the SU-76 offers affordable direct fire and support capability from a modest armored platform. A suitable budget option for most soviet commanders, expect to see at least a platoon of these in any tank force.
That was a lot to unpack, and believe me, we havent even scratched the surface of the new Soviet book yet!
In our next article, we take a look at the men who fought against the German invaders and discuss sappers, storm groups, and much more!
About the Writer:
Eddie is an avid painter who also enjoys anime, studying military history and hopes that Girls Und Panzer will come true one day so that everyone can resolve their differences with tank Airsoft.