Sunday, January 27, 2019

ValleyCon 2019 Review

ValleyCon this weekend was another excellent event, and a huge thanks goes to McBeth for organising it. I won three games and lost two, placing fourth overall. I won't go through a blow-by-blow account of the weekend, and I don't have any photos to share from it, but will just pick out a few key thoughts.

The weekend has established my faith in Mid War V4 as a good system. Up until now, MW has seemed incredibly bland, a way of biding time until the interesting lists come out with LW, but it surprised me how enjoyable it was. 85pts on a 6x4 was a bit denser than we’ve usually played, but it worked well. There was a wide range of armies represented, with the top three placings going to Armoured Rifles, Grants, and Honeys.

Using the Battle Plans mission selector was good. It added another layer of thinking about your opponent and what posture they would likely take, and what type of mission you wanted to face them in. It did limit the variety of missions played: I had two Bridgeheads, two No Retreats, and a Dust Up. One tweak might be having the TO specify which line to use. It should work well in a five-round tournament if you played lines 2-6 in a random order. 

The Rifle Company is a solid list. The fact that I won a few games, quite possibly my first FOW wins in over a year, speaks to how robust and forgiving it is.

The cards I took worked out well. Artillery Expert and Diversionary Tactics are gold. Bagpiper, Sticky Bombs, and transports for the 6pdrs all helped at different times.

As expected my Reserves decisions were challenging. In each game that I needed to, I put two Rifle Platoons in Reserve, leaving another 8pts to find. In the first couple of games that was the 6pdrs, relying on their transports to get them where they needed to be. In the second, I switched that to being the mortars and the carriers, as I really needed to have all of my guns on the table. My Ambush platoon was always the Bofors, which gave me flexibility for dealing with armoured cars.

I had one bad loss that should have been avoidable. Ending up attacking in Bridgehead, I remember thinking "I should Night Attack in this", but then immediately forgot to. I also forgot that I had two batteries with smoke, which would have also made life a whole lot easier.

It was disappointing that I didn't end up running into either Honeys or M14/41s, as that would have been an interesting test of the list.

One thing that would be interesting to see would be how to get Churchills into 85pts. At 33pts for three, it's a tough ask as it would require running a much smaller core formation. No one brought heavy tanks of any kind, and apart from the three players with M10s and Marders, no one was really geared up to deal with them.

I left my painting really late, with a couple of really late nights leading up to the event, but was pretty happy with how they turned out in the end. They are painted in the colours of 78th Division in the Italian campaign.
Next time: I have received a copy of Impetus 2nd Edition, so I'll have a look at the changes, and update any progress on painting my light cavalry. Since it took me a whole evening to paint my first horse, I'm not that optimistic...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

ValleyCon 2019 Preview

ValleyCon this year is a much smaller affair than usual, being club-focused and limited in numbers and scope, so that people who would travel to play are more likely to attend Natcon in Kapiti at Easter instead. The FOW event is 85 points Mid War, restricted to Mediterranean theatre lists. 

One of my issues with mid war has been that very few of the lists are actually of any interest to me. Part of this I think is fatigue, I’ve been playing MW Flames since 2001, and it’s a very vanilla period without the variety that the other periods offer. There were only two lists that I felt I’d want to run this year: the “Death or Glory” Valentine/Crusader combination, or a stock British Rifle Company. Since I’ve had all the infantry figures  sitting in a container for ages, I felt it was time to get them painted rather than buying a bunch of new tanks.

The list I have settled on is this:
Rifle Company - Armoured Fist
Rifle Company HQ, 2pts
Rifle Platoon - Full Strength plus the 'Sticky Bombs' card, 13pts
Rifle Platoon - Full Strength plus the 'Sticky Bombs' card, 13pts
Rifle Platoon - Full Strength plus the 'Sticky Bombs' card, 13pts
3-inch Mortar Platoon, 6pts
   4 x 3-inch Mortar
6pdr Anti-tank Platoon, 13pts
   4 x 6pdr Anti-tank Gun plus the 'Softskin Transport' card
Universal Carrier Patrol, 3pts
   3 x Universal Carriers with Boys AT Rifles
25pdr Field Troop, 14pts
   4 x 25pdr Gun
Bofors Light AA Troop, 4pts
   3 x Bofors 40mm AA Gun
'Bagpiper' card
'Diversionary Tactics' card
'Artillery Expert' card
Total Cost: 85 pts
It's a big list, partly because there are no tanks to soak up the points, but also because 85pts is larger than we would usually play here. Under V3 it would have come out in the mid-1400pt range. Some of the thinking that has gone into creating it is:
  • I have gone tank-less due to the prevalence of Marders. They're popular due to being underpriced; with no high armour targets they become expensive machine-gun carriers.
  • Another popular type of list is the light armour horde, and it's one that I probably have the most concern about. Nearly everything I'm taking has some ability to kill tanks. The Bofors, for example, are there solely for their ROF3 AT7, not because I have much to fear from air attack.
  • The 'Softskin Transport' command card on the 6pdrs. I dithered a bit over this one. Would the points be better spent going towards another Carrier Patrol? Transport is highly vulnerable on a 6x4, but the penalty for having no tanks is that I have no mobile AT, so this at least gives me an option for repositioning them, or bringing them forward in support of an attack.
  • 'Bagpiper' command card. My infantry are going to have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to taking objectives, so this card that provides a 3+ Rally within 6" of the Formation Commander is to try and keep them moving in the event that I have to attack.
Apart from a chronic lack of mobility, a major issue I will face will be reserves: there is no natural choice for the 34 points I'll have to leave off in some games, and difficult decisions will need to be made.

I’ve left the painting my army far too late this year. Usually I’ve been proactive and have finished by the end of the previous year, but now with less than two weeks to go I still have some major gaps: a whole platoon of infantry, additional teams for the other two platoons, the actual guns for the AA platoon, and the artillery battery.
Next up: I'll post photos once all of the painting is completed, and review how it all went once the tournament is over.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Retrospective

I entered 2018 with five main goals, and this is my review of how I went.

My first goal was to finish my FOW army for ValleyCon 18. This was a mid war competition, coming after the release of the first four North African theatre books. I ran a Panzer III company from 21st Panzer Division themed on the Gazala Line battles of May/June 1942, placing a glorious last without a single win. I didn't write a post about how it went, so the details are a bit hazy, but there were a few lessons. I had made some deliberately sub-optimal list choices for the sake of theme, one being the use of 88s instead of Marders. I also should have taken a platoon of armoured cars for 2pts rather than the Forward Scouts card on the Panzer IIs. I still think Panzers should be effective if you take the time to develop experience with them, but the list is so small that the margin for error is tiny.
The second goal was to buy some Italian light cavalry and a Landsknecht square for Impetus. I'm happy to say that I now have the cavalry, although they have yet to see any paint. The Landsknechts will roll over once again.

The big effort for the year was Team Yankee. My actual goal for the year was a NATO list to play in both 30pt (noting that since then we have established 45pts as a local standard) and 100pt games. Instead of going down that path, my Warsaw Pact collection grew significantly, adding more Hinds, the various BRDM-based support weapons, and my first T-64s, plus a bit of terrain. It was a good year for TY in the club, with many more people starting armies and playing at Remember December, and 2019 promises to be even better as those armies expand, with people looking at playing TY at the Nationals at Easter, and Panzerschreck in July.
My next objective for the year was to look into Fate of a Nation. I purchased a copy when it was released, and like the look of it, but haven't played a game yet. I'm still keen to have a few games with proxies in before committing to purchase anything for it.

The last item on my list was to try a couple of other WW2 rulesets. We had a couple of playtest games of a ruleset written by a member of the club, which was fun and got me painting some 28mm FJ, but I haven't yet had either Chain of Command or Battlegroup on the table.
In other events during the year, I ran the club's V3 Impetus competition in August. That was a good day, and I'm looking forward to seeing the 2nd Edition of Impetus when it's released next year.
Triple T vs McZermof
McBeth vs Reg
Scott's Elephant
Having had a think about goals for 2019, I have the following list:
  1. As always, the first priority is preparation for FOW at Valleycon. I have some mid war British infantry, gun crews, and carriers still to paint up for that. 
  2. D-Day 75. 6 June marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and it seems like a multiplayer game of FOW would be in order. There's a bit of planning, painting, and terrain building required for that. It will become a focal point for the first few months of the year, and will clear out a fair amount of my unpainted FOW stash. The event will also serve as a last hurrah for the old Overlord/Atlantik Wall V3 books before late war lists start being rereleased under the V4 format.
  3. Extend the 28mm FJ, and use them in a few games. Ideally I'd get to the point of being able to having enough in case 1000pts is required for Bolt Action, but the primary interest would be in seeing how Chain of Command goes. Putting together some 28mm terrain wouldn't go amiss, either.
  4. Cruel Seas. I'm quite excited by this, as it is something completely different to my other games. I plan to build a Royal Navy fleet for it.
  5. Warmachine. After a couple of years away from this, I've decided that I will try and play a few games of it next year. I have a couple of models still to paint up, and might even buy a new warjack or two.
  6. Yes, the Landsknecht Square. This first appeared on my To Do list in 2015, and I'm still no closer to completing it. It's part of a larger project to repaint and rebase my existing Impetus army, and 2nd Edition should provide the required nudge.
Looking back through the list, Team Yankee is notable by its absence. There are a couple of units that I would add, particularly DANA and BM-21s (to make the most of the new artillery rules that will be coming with 2nd Edition), Geckos (because they're ridiculous), and another infantry company (because the BF plastics are great, and so I can run a larger Afgantsy battalion), but those are all relatively minor things. I have toyed around with the idea of doing West German Leopard 1s, or the French to see if they're really as bad as they look on paper, but at the moment I'm thinking it would be better to spend my TY time getting more experience with the Soviets, to try and be more competitive with them.

Who knows what else will take my fancy during the year. Will I jump into FOAN? Will I do some Soviets for FOW? How about an Ancients army? Will I finally succumb to the allure of GW products? One thing's for sure, I've enjoyed getting back into blogging over the last few months, and and will endeavour to continue doing it regularly.

So, happy new year, thanks for reading my blog, and I wish you well for the year ahead.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

FOW Road Map, and Summer Plans

This week saw Battlefront release a bunch of information about their future plans, including a roadmap for Late War FOW. The contents of this will have been analysed on a bunch of other sites so I won't go through it in detail, but just wanted to pull together a few thoughts.
  • It is good having an idea of what books are going to be coming out and when, and to have an early view at what lists are going to be in the D-Day books. 
  • I understand the reasoning for it, but it's a little disappointing that, after the drawn-out release of Late War under V2/V3 (the release of individual battle-themed books, their rerelease as theatre compendiums, then again as updated compendiums), we now need to go through the whole thing again over the next four years. And more specifically that my Comet Squadron won't be playable again until 2021.
  • I like the way that the lists in the D-Day books are split out into D-1, D-Day, and Breakout Formations.
  • The following text appears in the Q&A:
    I have interpreted this as meaning that, unlike what the previously indication at the Battlefront UK Open Day earlier this year, EW is now planned to get the "full treatment", akin to what we have seen with Mid War, rather than a FOAN-style release. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it is a good thing as we will see product in shops. FOAN is a good book, but unless you're buying one of the four starter sets, it looks like you have to purchase anything else through the BF webstore. On the other, the Q&A also includes this:
    While it relates specifically to the LW releases, the same thinking will carry over to EW. It points to a limited range of nations, and within those nations, a more restricted product line.
  • The video included renders of the new FJ and US Para plastics, and they look amazing.
Changing topic, now that I'm on leave for a couple of weeks, there are a couple of projects I'll be working on.

28mm Italian Wars

This is something that I've been thinking about for 2-3 years now. In 2016 I purchased a second hand 28mm Florentine army for Impetus, with the plan to repaint it, rebase it, and add a few additional units, but I have been procrastinating because it is way outside my comfort zone. Prompted by the announcement of Impetus 2, I've purchased some mounted crossbow and will be drawing heavily on the work of Jonathan Freitag at http://palousewargamingjournal.blogspot.com for painting inspiration.

28mm Fallschirmjäger

I have also picked up a mortar team and HMG team for my 28mm FJ, the aim being to get to play some CoC next year, and to have 500pts on hand in case any need for Bolt Action arises.

ValleyCon 2019

The next ValleyCon is going to be a much smaller club-based event, with the club's major support for the year going towards assisting with Natcon at Easter, and Charicon, a charity fundraising event in late February. I'll be playing Flames of War, which is an 85 point midwar tournament. I'll be running British Rifles, but only have enough infantry at the moment for two Motor Platoons. I need to extend those to three full Rifle Platoons, and add mortars and 25pdrs. I'll discuss the list in more detail early next year.

Next Time: I will take a look back at 2018, and outline my plans for 2019.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Remember December

On Saturday we had the club's annual Remember December event. This year it was Team Yankee, based on a 45pt Firestorm Red Thunder campaign. I ran Afgantsy, which was a change of plan from my original East German intentions.
Air Assault Battalion - Red Thunder
Battalion HQ - 1 x AK-74 team
Air Assault Company - Minimum size plus AGS-17 and AT-4 Spigot
Air Assault Company - Minimum size plus SA-14 Gremlin and AT-4 Spigot
Hind Assault Helicopter Company - 2 x Hind
Hind Assault Helicopter Company - 2 x Hind
T-64 Tank Platoon - 3 x T-64
Shilka Platoon - 2 x Shilka
BMP-1 Recon Platoon - 3 x BMP-1 Scout
The thinking here was that the infantry is really good, with Spigots and plenty of RPGs for dealing with light armour spam, T-64s are really good, the Shilkas are needed to protect the T-64s, and the Hinds are a potential game-winner. On the whole, I thought it was a pretty decent list.
The List
I won't subject you to a blow-by-blow account of the day, but it didn't go well for me. I was run over by LAVs in a Free For All in game one, had to attack Dutch YPRs and Leo 2s in a failed Counterattack in game two, and was unable to hold off a very well-executed attack by West German Marders and Leo 2s in a No Retreat for game three.
The Afgantsy come under fire from a Spectre
I still think the list was good. In the first game I struggled with rallying the infantry (on 2s and 3s), which crippled my AT-4s, and the rest of my infantry had too short a range to avoid being shot to pieces by the LAVs. 

In the second game I failed to concentrate my attack on one objective. The Dutch didn’t have huge numbers on the board, and their reserves were coming on from miles away, so I should have been able to use my infantry to overrun the objective while my armour watched their back. 

The third game was the one my list was designed to play, but my opponent exploited a flaw in my deployment and slipped a platoon each of Leopards and Panzergrenadiers down the flank and onto the back objective. I was annoyed at my stupidity, as this was absolutely a game that I should have won, but on reflection it showed exactly what is so good about 45pts on a 6x4: you simply couldn't pull that kind of attack off against the density of units that you get at 100pts.

The top Warsaw Pact list was ten T-64s, which I did not expect. The first few times I played TY, helicopters dominated tanks because we didn't have any air defence units. Here, it was a brilliant play to the meta: 45pt red-vs-blue games, and NATO helicopters are expensive. And it paid off, with only one NATO list having a pair of Cobras.

In terms of list breakdown, we had a really good variety:
  • 1 x Afgantsy battalion
  • 2 x T-64 battalions
  • 1 x BMP-2 battalion
  • 1 x Soviet T-72 battalion
  • 1 x Polish T-72M battalion
  • 1 x West German Leopard 2 company
  • 1 x West German Marder company
  • 1 x Dutch YPR company
  • 1 x Marine M60 company
  • 1 x Marine LAV company
  • 1 x British Mech company (the competition winner)
No M1s or Leopard 1s. No French, Canadians, Australians, East Germans, or Czechs. No strike aircraft.

The Firestorm format worked really well, and it's something that I hope we will use again for both TY and FOW. A huge thanks to Pelarel from The Regiment for pulling it together. A possible refinement might be giving the sides a choice about what posture each of their lists should take, rather than attack/defence being decided by random draw. The aim would be to get a bit more teamwork going into building lists, planning the strategic element, and picking matchups.

Next week: I look ahead to summer painting plans. I have some reflection I need to do about where to next with TY, but that will be a post for later in the summer.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Soviet Anti-Aircraft Options

I was in the middle of assembling a platoon of Gaskins, feeling disappointed that I only had 16 wheels to clean up, and started wondering about the relative effectiveness of the different anti-aircraft options available to the Soviets in Team Yankee. In the past I've typically run two Shilkas and two Gophers. Is this the best way to spend four points, or is there another combination that would be more effective? To answer this, I did what any normal person would do and built a spreadsheet.

Which Soviet AA option is the most effective?
The spreadsheet looks at ROF, To Hit, Save, and Firepower ratings, and allows a comparison between  the chance different weapons have of shooting down aircraft. It does not factor in range at this stage. The results are presented as the probability of shooting down 0, 1, or 2 of the attacking aircraft.

The first thing I looked at was the effectiveness of full-sized platoons of four flavours of anti-aircraft vehicles in Red Thunder: 2pts of Gaskins, 4pts of Gophers, 8pts of Geckos, and 4pts Shilkas. The target in all cases was a typical NATO jet flight of two aircraft with a To Hit of 4+ and a 5+ save.


For the SAMs, it comes as no real surprise that the effectiveness is strongly related to price: Geckos are better than Gophers, which are better than Gaskins. The standout is the Shilka, which is as effective as a Gecko at half the price, albeit with a much shorter range. The key lesson here is that there is no point trying to bomb a target that is protected by four Shilkas, as you only have a 6% chance of getting through unscathed, and a 75% chance of losing both aircraft.

The next thing to consider is cost-effectiveness. Two points can get you two Gremlins, four Gaskins, two Gophers, (hypothetically) one Gecko, or two Shilkas.


Once again, the stand-out performer is the Shilka, being far and away the most effective weapon for the points. Those Tornados will only get past two Shilkas unscathed 25% of the time. Do you feel lucky?

It surprised me that the Gaskin is the next best option. All of the SAMs have a similar chance of bringing down one of the attacking aircraft, but the Gaskin has a higher chance of killing two, with the eight shots you get from the platoon making up for its lower firepower. The other three weapons all have equivalent cost-effectiveness.

SA-9 Gaskin: Punching above its weight
A four point platoon gives similar results, with the Gecko and Gopher being equally cost-effective, but both are left in the weeds by the performance of the Shilka. What is interesting here is that for four points my initial combination of Shilkas and Gophers is not that much worse than straight Shilkas, but replacing the Gophers with Gaskins would give it a slight bump in effectiveness, at the cost of kicking myself every time I roll a 4 for Firepower.


Given other factors not included here such as range and the advantage of having two AA platoons instead of one, I would argue that if you only have four points to spend on air defence, the best option is the Shilka/Gaskin combination.

Having settled which weapons are the most effective, I decided to answer another question that I've had: is it best to shoot at Hunter Killer helicopters in their turn or your turn? In their turn, they are Concealed and Gone to Ground, but you have a chance to kill them before they smoke a couple of your tanks. In your turn, the damage is done, but they only count as being Concealed. I have looked at a pair of Cobras being shot at by four Shilkas.


With the most effective air defence unit the Soviets can field, if you try and shoot at the Cobras while they are still Gone to Ground, you have a 60% chance of bagging at least one. Those odds jump dramatically to 84% if you are prepared to wait until after they have fired. When shooting at them with four Gaskins you have a 25% chance of killing at least one while they're Gone to Ground, vs a 50/50 chance if they're only Concealed.


In future I will try to be patient and let the Cobras shoot first. It's far better to lose two tanks and then take them down in your turn, than to shoot in the enemy turn and probably still lose two tanks.

How will this affect my future list builds? For a given number of points to be spent on air defence, I would look at the following:
  • 1pt: Go back and try to find another point from somewhere
  • 2pts: Two Shilkas, the bare minimum
  • 4pts: Two Shilkas and four Gaskins to give a mix of power and table coverage
  • 6pts: Four Shilkas and four Gaskins
  • 8pts: Four Shilkas and four Gophers, although I'm not sure what size game would justify spending this many points
I would probably only use Geckos in large multi-formation games on a table larger than 8x6, where their range can come into play, in addition to each formation having its own anti-aircraft units. I will have to rething this for the Czechoslovaks as they did not have Shilkas, instead using the M53/59, an armoured six-wheeled vehicle with twin 30mm cannon.

Next Time: Hopefully one more practice game before Remember December, and a few more units being painted.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Thoughts on the Warsaw Pact lists for Team Yankee

Now that the new Czech and Polish lists have been published for Team Yankee, I thought I would take a look through the four Warsaw Pact nationalities that are now available. On the surface they are all very similar, but there are some differences that will affect the way they play on the table.
Infantry

The easiest comparison between the lists is on a BMP1 company, being an option in all four . All four nations have the same unit structure and a To Hit stat of 3+. All have a different combination of skill/motivation stats, and there are a couple of minor weapons stat differences as well.

Warsaw Pact Infantry Unit Stats

Soviet East German Czechoslovak Polish
Courage 4+ 4+ 5+ 3+
Morale 3+ 3+ 4+ 4+
Rally 3+ 4+ 5+ 3+
Skill 5+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Assault 5+ 5+ 5+ 5+
Counterattack 3+ 4+ 5+ 3+
Weapons Difference FP5+ AK-74 teams - - FP 5+ AKM teams,
No RPG-18s or AGS-17
Mid Size Price 14pts 14pts 10pts 16pts

To summarise what this means on the table, we have:
  • Soviets: hard to break, rally easily, good at clearing out entrenched infantry due to their ROF3 FP5+ AK teams and good counterattack rating, but poor at skill-based orders.
  • East Germans: hard to break, but otherwise average.
  • Czechs: poor in assaults, don't rally well, but are significantly cheaper.
  • Poles: Aggressive due to passing Follow Me orders on a 3+ and having FP 5+. Hard to keep pinned, reasonable in assaults, but expensive and lacking the AT14 RPGs and AGS-17 grenade launchers of the other nations.
In all cases, you need numbers due to the poor To Hit and Assault ratings. A minimum sized company only gives you four teams with Assault 5, and the rest either Assault 6 or Heavy Weapons teams. Full size companies seem quite unwieldy, particularly as they result in units of  12 BMPs running around, so the mid-size two platoon option seems optimal.

Looking at the transport for the infantry companies, the Soviets are the only nation that can take a battalion of BMP2. The others get the option of a company of BMP2s as part of a BMP1 battalion. The Soviets also have the most flexibility for transporting the infantry supporting their tank battalions.

Warsaw Pact Tank Battalion Infantry Support

Soviet East German Czechoslovak Polish
T-64 Any - - -
T-72/T-72M Any BMP1 BMP1/BMP2 BMP1/BMP2
T-55 - BTR BTR/OT-64 BTR/OT-64
T-62M Any - - -

My favourite infantry option is still the Afgantsy, with Assault 4+ and a consistent 3+ across all motivation stats. If running a BMP company, the choice between nations will be influenced by game size: I would only run Czechs in larger games where I can make the most of their lower price, while probably favouring the Soviets in smaller games due to their Firepower and motivation.

Still the best Warsaw Pact infantry, limited only by Formation size
Tanks
A major difference between the Soviet and other lists is the tank technology. The Soviets have the better equipment, while the others have the lower-quality T-72M and T-55AM2. This has changed slightly with the release of T-62M cards, giving the Soviets a cheaper option (six for the price of four T-72, or seven for the price of four T-64). It's an interesting call: a few extra dice that are almost as effective as those of the more expensive tanks, but vulnerable to AT19. I'm not yet sure what my opinion on it is.

Warsaw Pact Tank Stats
T-64 T-72 T-72M T-55 T-62M
Front 17 16 15 14 14
Side 9 8 8 9 9
Top 2 2 2 2 2
AT 22 22 21 17 21
Tactical 14" 10" 10" 10" 10"
Terrain Dash 16" 16" 16" 14" 14"
Crosscountry Dash 24" 24" 24" 20" 20"
Cross 3+ 3+ 3+ 4+ 4+
HEAT Protection BDD Armour BDD Armour Bazooka Skirts Bazooka Skirts Bazooka Skirts
Point of Difference Advanced Stabiliser, Brutal Brutal Brutal Slow Firing No Stabiliser
Optional Extra AT-8 Songster - - - AT-10 Stabber

The T-64 is much more effective while only being slightly more expensive than the T-72, so would be my preference for Soviet lists. I haven't used them, but on paper I don't rate the T-55. Sure you can get huge numbers, but unless your fighting Leopard 1s or AMX-30s, they need to get into the flanks to do any damage, and Slow Firing really hampers them there. My pick of the bunch is probably the Volksarmee T-72M for the overall package of armour, gun, price, and motivation stats.
A good all-round performer, at three for 7pts, then 4pts each.
Support

The Soviets have the most complete range of support, with the Storm, Acacia, and BMP2 scouts, plus the option of having tank and infantry companies as support units. The East Germans are hardest done by, not having the Gecko or Acacia due to the order of product releases, despite having used both.

The support unit most obviously missing is the towed mortar battery of eight 120mm tubes that each Motor Rifle Battalion included. For some inexplicable reason Team Yankee occurs in a universe where mortars do not exist unless they're bolted to an M113. This lack of cheap and historically plentiful indirect fire support is a fundamental flaw in the lists.

Looking at the artillery options that they do have, all of the lists have access to a regimental battery of 2S1 Carnations, plus support from a battery of heavy artillery (except the poor East Germans), and a battery of rocket launchers.

Warsaw Pact Artillery Stats
2S1 Carnation 2S3 Acacia DANA BM-21 Hail RM-70
Front 2 2 1 - 1
Side 1 1 1 - 1
Top 1 1 1 - 0
Artillery AT 4 4 4 3 3
Artillery FP 3+ 2+ 2+ 4+ 4+
Direct Range 24" 16" 24" - -
Direct AT 21 14 14 - -
Direct FP 2+ 1+ 1+ - -
Point of Difference No AA MG Optional
Krasnopol
Autoloader Salvo template,
No AA MG
Salvo template

In the small 45pt games we are playing a the moment, I wouldn't take any of these. Dual-purpose everything is absolutely the name of the game there, and artillery is too specialized and sinks too many points to be viable. Far better to take an extra tank or two. I've tried a trio of Carnations in a small game before, but I lost them to infantry due to their lack of a self-defence MG. At 80pts I would look to take a full battery of six of something. Infantry hasn't been a huge part of the local meta so far, but it will come, and at that point I'll need to consider whether a second battery can be justified.

The most intriguing artillery option is the DANA. The Autoloader rule gives them a -1 to hit, which, combined with Skill 4, FP2+, and a further -1 for being in a unit of six, makes them a great antidote to Milan spam: veterans are being hit on 2s, at best 3s if they are gone to ground. The DANA's performance will be even better, edging ahead of the French AuF1 and British eight-gun M109 batteries, with the expected changes for next year's 2nd Edition. Rocket batteries will also become better, and it will be an interesting decision between a 10" template with FP4+, or a 6" template with FP 2+. Compared to how ineffective I see it as being now, artillery will become a thing to fear and will jump up the list of priority targets to be second only to air defence assets.
Arguably the best artillery in the game
For anti-aircraft, the Gecko is potent at ROF 3 and FP 3+, but with the advent of the French 'Gun Slinger' Gazelle they're terribly vulnerable, and the points are probably better spent on twice the number of Gophers.
Gun Slinger: Shoots before AA.
All of the other support options are pretty similar: Hinds, Frogfeet, Spandrels, and BMP1 or BRDM scouts, with the same variations in skill and motivation as discussed earlier. It would have been nice for the other nations to have the option of MiG23s or SU22s rather than being limited to Soviet SU-25s, but that's really just cosmetic. The only really differences would be worse save and a slightly less effective cannon, for a small points break.

Summary

I couldn't quite understand why the internet seemed so keen on more Warsaw Pact lists, given how similar the equipment was going to be. But now that the books are out, I appreciate the new models that have come with them, and the way that we have been given variety in the unit stats to create a number of distinct choices:
  • Do I want the better tech options? Then I have to go with the Soviets.
  • Do I want to build a list around the most effective (and best looking) artillery piece? It's a choice between the Czechs and Poles.
  • Do I want to pay a premium for an aggressive list? Then it's the Poles.
  • Do I want numbers, on the understanding that they won't hang around once they start to take damage? That would be the Czechs.
  • Or if I am happy with middle of the road stats and prices, at the cost of a reduced variety of units to choose from, then it's East Germans.
I can seriously see myself playing lists from all of these nations from time to time. I definitely plan to get a couple of boxes of DANAs in the near future, but don't think I'll go down the path of T-55s, T-62s, or BTRs. A little way further over the horizon is 2nd Edition, which is likely to move the timeline along and open up an even wider range of options than we currently have, and I am looking forward to that.