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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Struck by Red Thunder?

It has been a while since I wrote an article about anything other than the Team Yankee Tournament at Historicon.  With that behind me, I wanted to review the new book for Team Yankee called “Red Thunder”. What a great title, especially since thunder has no color, it’s a sonic event, but anyway I was very impressed by the book and I feel you will feel the same. With the initial release of the game, we were given rudimentary forces based in part by the book the game is based on. Many tank-grogs argued about using the T-72, which was not really the top of the line Soviet tank in 1985, however it was used in the book so we got stuck with it. However Red Thunder corrects this mistake and gives some love to those of us who like to push the red horde.
I plan to talk about the new toys first.

Tanks for the Memories
The biggest addition to the game is the new T-64, which is more than just an improved version of the T-72. While it mounts the same gun, the T-64 has better armor, moves faster, and has the ability to shoot the Songster missile from its main gun while on the move.  With a front of 17 and side of 9, the T-64 now has the protection that is closer to what your NATO opponents have had for a while now.  The Songster missile has an AT21 and a range of range 48”; which gives the T-64 a mighty punch.  The range of the missile also gives the T-64 the ability to fire against the longer range guns of NATO tanks before they get into gun range. This also comes without the +1 for distance and another +1 for the target’s armor save.  The speed of the tank is also 14”, which makes it 4” faster than the T-72, so you now enjoy some of the mobility the NATO tanks have had so far.

With this good news we have some bad news as well.  The cost of the T-64, with the ability to fire the missile comes out to be around 5 points per tank, and the HQ tank is 7 points with the missile upgrade. I do not see any reason not to take the missile upgrade, if you want to skip it then you should stick with the T-72. Right now my probable force list consists of 15 T-64 tanks, with 7 in each company and 1 as the formation HQ, so it’s good I picked up 3 boxes of these guys. The other item in the bad column is the 3+ cross rating which seems like a bigger deal each time I play.

Need a Ride?  Call BTR-60
We first saw a BTR-60 formation in Volks Armee and now we have them in both a Soviet list and more importantly on the shelves of your LGS. The BTR-60 is a really cheap means to move your infantry around the table.  It is much cheaper than the either of the BMPs, however it has almost no armor and only sports a 14.5mm HMG. Much like the BMP, you will need a lot of these guys in your collection to field a full battalion, at least 22 of them, so as transports they are not much better than the BMP.

Need Insurance against A-10’s?  Call Gecko
As someone who had to study the Soviet IADS (integrated air defense system) I can tell you they are the masters of DCA (defensive counter air). They use a layered approach that uses mobile assets that can throw up a barrage of missiles to shoot down any interloper. So far we have had the Gopher and the Gaskin in previous releases, however now we have the Gecko which is a game changer.  With a range of 72”, 3 shots, and a FP of 3+, these SAM shooters really will make life tough for enemy air. You will pay for this long range and high kill capability, the Gecko costs 4 points for a platoon of two vehicles. I think they are worth it, just park them on your side of the table in a safe spot and that is it. 
Stormy Weather
As we saw with the Spandrel in Volks Armee, the Warsaw Pact did have some mobile missile shooting tank killers in their inventory. The Storm boasts an AT23 missile that has a 56” reach.  With a RoF of 1, and not being able to shoot on the move it is up to you if you want to add this weapon to your force. I will talk more about this later.

The artillery wattles along
The last new-new item in Red Thunder is the Acacia SPG.  This long range 152mm gun bombards with AT 4 and 2+ fire power and can be equipped with Krasnopol projectiles.  While it’s cool to have a missile firing SPG, these rounds are not close to being as deadly as the US Copperhead and has an AT 4 and a FP of 1+, so it’s just a FP point better than firing a bombardment.
The other things the Soviet player gets are the 3 vehicles in the BRDM series, the Spandrel, Gaskin, and recce version.  I have had these in my DDR force list and it’s nice to finally have them available for my Russian horde.

The lists of Red Thunder
Besides the new toys the lists are just a re-hash of what we have seen before, however you have more options now. You can substitute the Gaskin for the Gopher and the BRDM for the recce BMPs which gives you cheaper options (and less capability). The Gecko and Acacia are available in division support to all lists in the book.  A new T-72 list is also included, however this does not replace your older Team Yankee list, and it just gives you the ability to use the new toys that have been produced.  The Afghansty is also in the book so no need for the PDF anymore.
The first time you leaf through RT you may think there is not a lot here for $20.  Perhaps you are right, however welcome to the modern standardized armies of the Cold War.  They all used combined arms tactics and each unit pretty much looked alike in composition. Much like the previous Soviet lists (and the UK), each formation requires you to take two of the same type of platoon unlike the US and West German forces. 
What RT does give you is a new top line tank that could change the way you play Soviets.  I really feel a tank like the T-64 was much needed for Soviet players who were never comfortable in running a horde. The new tank is much like a deadlier version of the Chieftain that closes the gap between the WP and NATO forces, so it’s a must buy for your collection.

The other must is the Gecko.  For its range, RoF and fire power its work the 4 points for the 2 launchers. As for the Storm and the Acacia, it’s really up to your tastes.  I have a Carnation battery that has never seen the table and the Acacia would just be another platoon I will never use.  As for the Storm, I will certainly pick up a box of them, however I don’t know how much I will use them.  The fact that you cannot fire missiles as you move makes them a very defensive weapon (as they were intended), and as a Soviet player you need to be aggressive and attack when possible.
Missiles is also why the BMP is such a good weapon to have, since carrying your infantry in them could lead to bad things, I like the fact that BMPs can cover your infantry as they advance with this missiles and guns.  This makes the BTR-60 a choice if you want to max out on your tank force. The BTR infantry force does allow you to take up to two Spigot missile teams (2 pts per team) from the weapons platoon pack which should be seen as a benefit in taking the BTR-60 list.
So what will my force look like?  It will be based on the T-64 battalion and may look like this at 100 points;
T-64 HQ: 6 Points
1st Platoon: 7 tanks w/missiles 39 points
2nd Platoon: 7 tanks w/missiles 39 points
BMP-2 Platoon: 7 AK, 6 RPG, 2 PKM, 9 BMP-2, 18 points
Gecko SAM Platoon 2 vehicles, 4 points
BRDM Recce: 4 Vehicles, 2 points
AAA Platoon: 2 Shilka, 2 points
I have not really played my Soviets since Volks Armee came out, however the 100 point list I played back then looked like this;
T-72 Tank Battalion HQ:, 5 points
T-72 Tank Company: 7x T-72, 32 pts - 1x Fit t-72 with Mine Clearing Devices: 1 pt
T-72 Tank Company: 7x T-72, 32 pts
BMP-2 Motor Rifle Company: 10 AK, 9 RPG, 2 PKM, 12 BMP-2, 24 pts
BMP-1 Recon Platoon: 2x BMP-1, 2 pts
AAA Platoon: 2 Shilka, 2 points
SAM Platoon: 2x SA-13 Gopher, 2 points
So at the cost of 5 infantry teams and 3 BMP-2’s I get a much better tank, improved SAM AA, with the same amount of platoons. I think it’s a no-brainier for any serious Soviet player, you will get much more from your tank force with the T-64.  I have also been thinking of moving the infantry to BTR-60’s just to take one more thank in each platoon, however you lose the excellent BMP and I would have to hope they sell the T-64 sprues individually in the future.

List construction for table destruction
The USSR was one of my first lists in Team Yankee.  I have added DDR, FRG, and the UK to my collection. I like how these lists all play differently and I do wonder what this new Soviet force will play like because it may be more of a finesse list, much like the NATO forces. I think the “Love” recently given to the Soviets will make them more of a viable option going forward. I will have to get these guys on a table and fill you in on how they did.
The Models
Building 21 T-72s sucked!  I hated putting on the light on the cannon, smoke dischargers and the two piece drums on the rear of the tank. I guess the fact that the folks at Battlefront also had to build a ton of these guys led to changes with the T-64. The model is much simpler to build and comes in green, not the usual grey, however I would recommend paining it.  The plastic BRDM is also easy to build and much like the BMPs from the initial release, you will need a bunch of these models for a full up motor rifle unit. The Gecko is also simple to build and like the other two models it just looks nice.

Fulda: The Test of Battle
Recently we held the North American Nationals for Team Yankee at Historicon and the Soviet forces did not fare as well as I hoped. The top Soviet player came in 12th and before you think the game is weighted for the NATO player I will tell you that the 4th and 5th place players ran East Germans. Yes 7 out of the top 20 were West Germans (they took 2nd and 3rd place too), however FRG forces represented 36% of the field, so while the Leopard II is a beast, and it can be beaten.
One thing I did notice is how a good air defense mitigates air, so many dead Hind helicopters littered a lot of the tables.  So while Afghansty is cool, it will face a ton of shots and may be tough to win with. I do not run air, its expensive and as I stated above, way to brittle to be competitive. Maybe if they nerf or limit the tons of Gepards FRG players take air may be a viable choice in the future.

Twitter: @MitchWWPD

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