The Russians are very interesting as a faction. They almost have at least one of everything; heavy medium and light tanks, artillery, cavalry, an assortment of infantry, and two commanders with great command abilities. About the only noticeable units they don’t have are AA and Machine-Gun teams. Most of the Russian tanks are generically good; decent AT, AI, and all around defence. A few have transport, and about most of them have superior armour or hulking mass, making them quite sturdy vehicles. One of the greatest thrills of playing the Russians is sending your hordes of infantry and armour slamming into the opponent.
For basic infantry the Russian General is given a few options, from the close combat styles of the PPSh-41 SMG and Soviet Grenadiers, to the harassment of the Communist Partisans, and down to the more standardized Mosin-Nagant 1891/30s. While certain players may swear by a unit, each one has it’s use. Both the PPSh and Grenadiers make for good tank riders because of their limited range; the Grenadiers can charge up with the tanks, hop off, and start harrassing the enemy. The PPSh in the same situations may be useless against tanks, but can be better for protecting your vehicles from enemy infantry such as Panzerfausts. Either unit is good for holding the objective or other strategic locations where you opponent must move into their range. While the Mosin-Nagant is often overlooks because of his Command Dependant drawback,there are often times where the extra range comes in quite useful. Also in situations where you’re already in position the lack of movement doesn’t matter quite as much. Finally there are the Partisans, whose primary purpose should be to tie up and delay the enemy. All he has to do is keep a more expensive unit busy for a few turns and he’s likely paid for himself already. If he can actually kill something then that’s great, but I wouldn’t expect much.
The Cossack Cavalrymen, while worse than the Polish Cavalrymen, still has his uses in a Russian Army. His speed and mobility through the various terrain types make him idea for getting behind your enemy and taking out supporting units like commanders. These units fill in for the light AFVs Russia is sorely lacking in.
Only good in certain situations, the PTRD-41 Antitank Rifle shouldn’t be in a competitve army. At best it’s a supporting piece in a 1941 ‘Invasion of Russia’ type scenario.
As an AT gun the ZIS-2 57mm Model 1943 provides you with some extra firepower, but at the cost of mobility and survivability. However, if you can get it into position with a Commissar in range it can be a dangerous obstacle to your opponent. Just don’t be surprised when he drives around it.
Set II’s answer to the uber SS-Panzergrenadiers, the Fanatical Sniper is one of Russia’s best long-range AI soldiers, and when used with Bravery Enforcement hits on a 2+. Great against Aircraft and most infantry, and can even harm SS tanks from the rear.
For 12 points the BM-13 Katyusha Rocket Launcher packs quite a punch. If placed and used effectively it may be able to destroy more than it’s points worth with it’s single rocket salvo. Hope that it does, since it’s unlikely to live long after that. Enemy aircraft will be all over this unit. As bad as it may all sound, the potential damage this unit can inflict may make it still worth taking.
One of only two Allied aircraft, the IL-10 Sturmovik has decent AT and AI capability. Superior Armour 2 makes it a little tougher to take out as well. In larger games these units are worth taking 2-3 of for the instant fire support they can provide. In 100 point games they can be costly but potentially useful.
The first indirect unit, the 82mm PM-37 Mortar combines with the Red Army Forward Observer for range 16 indirect fire. Though 8 dice with shrapnel is nice, the team is expensive and somewhat fragile. Again these are more suitable to larger games where you can afford more Mortars (for the typical massed Russian artillery strike), Spotters (so that if one dies, the mortars don’t suddenly have to hobble up to the front line), and perhaps even some Sturmoviks to make use of the Spotter against high defence units like the King Tiger/Tiger/Pershing, etc.
Russia’s two commanders, the Cossack Captain and the Commissar are both great when used correctly. The Cossack on a KV-1 is a powerful combo, making it difficult if not impossible for infantry to close assault the vehicle; if you manage to destroy the enemy’s long ranged anti-armour first it could give you the game. With the Commissar it’s sometimes important to remember that just because you can use Bravery Enforcement doesn’t always mean you should. You only have a set amount of units to sacrifice so make sure each use is worth it.
The T-70 Model 1942 is a great light tank, useful for swarming enemy armour’s flanks while your bigger tanks move in for the kill. If hit they have the speed to escape and shake the disruption off. In larger games the T-70s really shine, as most of the time your opponent won’t bother with them while bigger threats are coming at them.
In standard games the IS-2 Model 1944 is often better than the Pershing. The Pershing’s extended range 12 rarely comes into play, while the better firepower and lack of a weak rear defence on the IS-2 are good features. If necessary the IS-2 even has decent AI dice, and with 7 defence/SA2 it will be hard for non-specialized infantry to crack one open.
Finally there are Russia’s medium tanks, the Su-85, T-34/76, KV-1, and Guards T-34/85. The Su-85 is the cheapest of the four, but it lacks transport and the AI values of the other tanks, making it useful only primarily in scenarios where you won’t be facing many infantry. Both the T-34/76 and Su-85 are good because of their high speed, and defence 5/5 combined with Superior Armour 2. For only 2 points more than the Su-85, the T-34/76 allows you to bring an infantry along, with only a slight reduction in AT dice. However, the 13/11/10 attack is often just not enough against heavy enemy tanks. The KV-1 is similar to the T-34/76, gaining +1/+1 defence and switching Superior Armour 2 for Hulking Mass. While it lacks the slightly better firepower of the Su-/T-35(85), its high defence, ignoring the first damage, and good AI dice make it a great general purpose tank. Last but not least, the T-34/85 may lack transport, but combines the better features of the other tanks – firepower, speed, defence, superior armour – and allows you a reroll. For only 1 more point than the KV-1 the T-34/85 is a bit more specialized but a very good tank as well.
Because of the sheer number of units available, Russian Armies will vary greatly. A KV-1 with Cossack Captain can be supported by either 2-3x T-70s, a T-34/75 & T-70, or a T-34/86, all with some infantry, which should include at least a Partisan and/or Cavalry. PPShs are almost decent interim AA units, until Russia gets an actual AA piece.
An example Russian Army:
- 1x Guards T-34/85
- 1x KV-1
- 1x T-70
- 1x Cossack Captain
- 2x Soviet Grenadiers
- 2x Communist Partisans