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Monday, January 16, 2017

The Tanks of Volks-Armee

The new Volks-Armee book from Battlefront features one of the most iconic tanks of the Cold War era, the T-55. The T-55AM2 featured in VA has been vastly upgraded since the original model rolled off the assembly line in 1958, and features many upgrades that enhanced the protection and fire power of this mass produced tank.  In VA, players are given the option to field a ton of T-55AM2 tanks, which would be fun to play and is historically accurate. The other MBT featured in VA is the T-72M, which was the export only version of the T-72 and did not have all of the same features of the T-72 used by the Soviets during the 1980’s. Used separately or in tandem, these two tanks used in mass can give your opponent more targets than they can handle on a single turn and if played right can lead to certain victory.

The T-55 was born out of the T-54 program and is one of the most mass produced tanks in the post WWII period. Like many Soviet designs, the T-54/55 program did not feature a tank build from the ground up, instead it took many design features of tanks used during WWII. Thought its service life the T-55 featured the D-10T 100 mm rifled gun which when it first came out was a feared weapon, however as other MBTs were produced with better protection (and better guns) the effectiveness of the D-10T fell behind any enemy tank the T-55 would have to face.

While the gun remained the same, the tank received numerous upgrades in other areas. By the mid 1980’s the T-AM version was the standard MBT of most of the Warsaw Pact nations and featured the Volna fire control system, stabilizers, laser range finders, a more powerful engine, and smoke dischargers. Perhaps the biggest upgrades went into protection, with BDD armor applied to the tanks turret, as well as many other features that would protect the tank and its crew. The actual version used in VA is the AM2, which was produced under license in Czechoslovakia and sold all over the world. In fact the T-55 has seen combat in the Middle East and Africa, and even today is used by many nations. The tank was simple to operate and maintain and had a low profile so a nervous crew could hide better if the situation called for it.

Looking at the stat lines for the T-55AM2 in VA, we are given a tank with a less than ideal main gun and that would have a hard time stopping hits from the more modern MBTs found in the game. It biggest drawback is the D-10T gun, with an AT 17, and rated as slow firing so if you move you have to add +1 to hit your target. The T-55AM2 can Tactical Move up to 12”, however it then has to add an additional +1 to hit, so while advancing you may find it tough to hit you enemy. The AT 17 gives you little chance to kill any MBT from the front unless you opponent parks Leopard 1 (or other T-55AM2) tanks in front of you.

The only chance you have is a side shot, so right away you have to play these guys differently. You can either use a horde of these guys to bum rush your enemy, hoping to turn a flank, or you can use a smaller platoon to work their way around the enemy and hot them from the side. Good luck on either of these choices because skill will only get you so far.

The other MBT featured in Volks-Armee is the T-72M tank, which is almost identical to the T-72 we saw in the initial release with the biggest stat line change is an FA of 15 (vice 16) and higher remount value (4+ vice 3+), not to mention they are somewhat cheaper.  The T-72M also picks up the Bazooka Skirts special rule, which gives it a SA of 10 vs HEAT weapons.

The T-72M gets us into the long awaited discussion about Soviet tank nomenclature and what was known to the West during the Cold War. While the book Team Yankee uses the T-72 as the MBT used by the Soviets, we now know that in reality we would be facing the T-64, with the T-72 regiments being held back in the USSR. The T-80 was also being fielded in the mid 1980’s, yet NATO did not classify them as a new tank, but referred to them as the T-72B. The confusion is due to Soviet secrecy, and the fact stated above that few tanks were built from the ground up, so their similar appearance caused NATO to misidentify new tanks as newer models of an existing tank. I am sure I am getting some of the details wrong here, which really illustrates my point on how confusing it was.

 T-72 from the initial release
T-72M from Volks-Armee
So when the T-72M came out, many experts thought it was a modernized version of the T-72; it was actually a step down from the current T-72 and it was developed as an export model. The model used by the East Germans were built in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Poland and was identical to the T-72. So why does the T-72M have a lower front armor stat line? I am guessing here but I think the T-72’s used in the game are based upon the T-72A, which did have better front protection that the previous model. One item to note on these NVA tanks is that they do have a higher skill rating (4 vice 5) than their Soviet counterparts which may come in handy. I feel the lower FA and higher Remount value is balanced by the increased Skill, HEAT protection and cost of the T-72M.
Soviet players who want support to go along with their hordes now have a formation that suits them. Like most Soviet players I have 21 T-72 models in my collection, and now I am more likely to use that force.

Here is a list I want to try:

DDR T-72M formation
1 x HQ (3 Pits)
1st Battalion 10x T-72M (35 Points)
2nd Battalion 10x T-72M (35 Points)
DDR Mot-Schutzen Company (BMP-1) (19 Points)
With AGS-17 (1 Point)
BMP-1 Scouts 2 x BMP-1 (2 Points)
Shilka X2 (2 points)
Gopher x2 (2 Points)
Spandrel x2 (1 Point)
Total 100 Points

Since I plan to use the models I have, I only need to pick up the Mot-Schutzen Company box, the Mot-Schutzen Weapons Platoon blister, and the Spandrel BRDM-2 box to field this force. Throw in the DDR tokens and I am looking at $113 USD to field an East German force, not bad. So now I have a force to leave behind on an objective or in my rear area while my tanks move forward to attack.
Volks-Armee can give those of us who are collecting Soviet forces a way to flood the table with all of the toys we have.
@MitchWWPD on Twitter

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