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Monday, January 9, 2017

That's All Volks-Armee

Out of all the Team Yankee releases, the one that would give us the forces of East Germany was the one I was most curious about. I have some ties to the former DDR, when I was 4 my Grandfather - who lived in West Berlin, and worked in East Germany - took me across Checkpoint Charlie. The East German border guards were very nice to him, not only did they see him every day, but they all knew that their officers school was named after his Aunt. More recently this interest has been piqued by the Hulu series Deutschland ’83, which takes place during the height of the Cold War and it’s a series I recommend to everyone. So after a year since its initial release,Team Yankee has only one “Red” force, which are the Soviets from the first book. When I play the game I like Red vs Blue fights so we needed another force for some variety. I know from reading the posts on many forums that many players were eagerly awaiting this new release.

First of all the cover of Volks-Armee is one of the neatest in the series. It is true porn for those who love the T-55 and the HIND.

Inside the book, which is about 33 pages in length, we are introduced to the DDRs 9th Panzer Division. Like the other books in the series, a back story of that unit is given and their fight when the cold war went hot. I do not know how they plan to release this, since VA is a bit slimmer than other releases and has no scenarios, or at least the version provided for my review.

The book gives us 4 new formations; T-55AM2 and T-72M Panzer battalions, and motorized battalions mounted in either BMPs or BTR 60 APCs. This gives the Warsaw Pact player a lot of flavor to choose from when building a force. The 9th Panzer, like the other units in previous releases gives us some of the same support units that we saw in the initial release, however they add great toys such as the SA-9 Gaskin, BRDM-2, and the Spandrel Missile mod for the BRDM-2.

So what can have over 30 T-55AM2 tanks and takes forever to move?  The T-55 battalion. This formation gives you the option to take 3 companies totaling 31 of these tanks for a modest 49 points.

The T-55AM2 costs about .75 points each to take and you can swap one tank company out with the T-72M. Having done some research on the T-55 family before I was wondering where the AM2 model would fall as compared to the other tanks in the game. The tank did come out in the early 1960’s and was heavily modified over the years and had a 40 year life span if not longer. The T-55 was exported and many nations in the Warsaw Pact were allowed to build models of this MBT. The AM2 version was modernized in the late 1970’s and 1980’s was the front line tank for most of the WP units in Europe.

Look at the T-55AM2 stats above; it is better armored than the Leopard 1, yet does not pack the punch of that tank. So you are not killing another tank (other than the Leopard 1) with your main gun when shooting at its front. Shots on the side is your only option, so you may need 30 of them to bum rush your opponent and get some flank shots. What surprised me is that Battlefront did not give the tank the Bastion ATGM which was fired out of its main gun. That weapon would have given the T-55AM2 a better weapon against the other tanks in the game. I am sure some tank fan would know if the DDR used the Bastion missile, however my research indicates they did.

The T-55AM2 really needs some offensive help, its gun, aside from a low AT, also has a RoF of 1 and is slow firing, so if you move 12” at tactical speed you are now getting a +2 needed to hit, so almost every NATO tank will be a 6 to hit at close range and in the open. 

Unlike the previous releases, the T-55 only comes in resin much like all of the other vehicles (except the BTR-60) released for Volks-Armee. Based on the pictures in the book, the T-72M will not have its own model and we can use the plastic T-72 box, so let’s hope that Battlefront sells DDR decals in the future.

This list also gives you some great formation support options.  You can either the BMP-1 or BTR-60 motorized rifles, and all of the AAA available for the WP forces in the game.

The other tank option for you is the T-72M, which is the export version of the T-72, which costs just under 3 points per tank. In the T-72M Battalion you can get 29 of these guys for 100 points, however they do not have the front armor of the T-72, however they have a bit better rating on the sides. The T-72M does have a good gun, so this may be a good cheap option for folks who like how the Soviet T-72 company plays. For this formation you only can get the BMP-1 Infantry option, however all the other support options are similar to those found in the T-55AM2 battalion.

Out of these two units I would be more inclined to play the T-55AM2 battalion, which would have a full T72M company to take on your opponent from the front while the two, 10-tank strong T-55AM2 units dash to get into a flanking position.  This formation is only 77 points, so you will have a lot of room for support units in your formation. A huge drawback for this or any T-55AM2 list will be the cost.  A box of 5 tanks will cost $72.50 USD, so fielding all 20 will come out to about $300 with tax and/or shipping added in, ouch. I think making this tank in resin was a bit of an error; while I know the focus is on plastic lines for Version 4, I think we could have done without the new plastic Tigers (5 for $45) since they are not seen that much on tables now and the current resin models are well done and easy to find. I think this will hurt the appeal of the tank lists in this release, and much like the Leo 1 lists in the Panzertruppen supplement, you will not see many folks building these lists because of price (and availability). I may one day use my Soviet painted T-72s as East Germans (despite the cool DDR camo) with the DDR motorized infantry.

Speaking of which, the new infantry options are very interesting in Volks-Armee. Aside from some minor tweaks in the formations, you can get infantry mounted in either BMP-2, BMP-1, or BTR-60 APCs.

The DDR infantry is much like the Soviet infantry from the initial release, however you have some good support extras you can take, to include the AGS-17 Grenade Launcher or the AT-4 Spigot ATGM for the BTR-60 mounted force. The models look cool and I always thought that helmet was funny looking so I must have it. For the BTR-60 force, you will need at 15 of these guys for a full company.  So a with 2 BTR-60 companies required for this force, you will need as many as 31 vehicles or as little as 9. Cost of the model will determine how popular this list becomes because it is so vehicle heavy. However the BTR-60 units only tank option is the T-55AM2, so tack on $144 just for your tanks. Despite this the BTR-60 is like the Fuchs, with a good 14.5mm MG on it, plus they are very cool looking and I would love to have some on my table.

The other new vehicles on this list consist of the BRDM-2, the Gaskin, and the Spandrel ATGM platoon.  What I find odd is that these are being released in 3 separate boxes despite they were all built on the same chassis.  I have gotten used to the plastic kits where they gave us the option to build the different versions off of the same sprue.  Perhaps this cannot be done in resin or they are reacting to my articles on how I make my models modular.

While these models look great, what are you getting? At most you are looking at saving a point on your lists with these new vehicles. The Recce BRDM-2 is a point less than the BMP-1 Recce vehicle and is not as fast, armed or armored than the BMP-1.  The Gaskin is only 1 point less than the Gopher and does not boast a missile near as good, and the BMP-2 already has the Spandrel missile, and most folks have lists where they have a ton of the BMP-2s. So without special rules to make these vehicles good, they just amount to cheaper options of lists with a lot of already cheap options.

So was I disappointed in Volks-Armee?  Besides the omission of the missile firing tanks (which may be because they didn’t use any) I do like the book. Out of all the lists released so far the Warsaw Pact has gotten very little love, and needed another force besides the initial release.  While the T-72 horde many of us have been playing has been fun, imagine taking a list of 62 T-55AM2 tanks to flood the table (yes that is possible at 100 points with 2 points left over) with. I can see many folks running a list like that, however the price will make these lists only viable in 6mm for those of us who do not have $650 (with support units and paint factored in) in cash laying around. However let’s be frank, even in plastic, costing $9 each, such a list would only save us about $100. That is the bad side of fielding these massive forces; the price and the time to paint them takes away from the releases excitement.

I know folks have asked about mixed national formations with the NATO forces; however letting a Soviet player to mix their force with East Germans, or even take an East German unit in divisional support would have given us more options and worth the investment. However this would not be 100% historically accurate and something that has not been mentioned in the Team Yankee FAQs.

So for the guys on the forums who have been holding off getting into the game until the DDR came out; I hope you also have been saving some money, because your lists are here and they look awesome. Now you can have a horde of tanks that will be almost impossible to lose with.

One thing has struck me as I looked at Volks-Armee is that the two latest lists I reviewed (VA and the Panzertruppen) are "have not" lists. They lack the sexy toys that are hard to kill and that can kill anything. However if taken in a 25 point game, they would be a blast. Even at 25 points you get a sizable force and playing it on a the same 6'x4' table may make some of the 6mm crowd to try the game in 15mm. If Battlefront plans to make other "have not" lists, I would push for folks to play it at a low points total, maybe even develop scenarios just for such a reason. I know this may sell less tanks, but does it?

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