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Hammer and Sickle Design Notes

Hammer and Sickle Hammer and Sickle Design Notes:

Soviets

Hammer and Sickle follows Stalin’s Onslaught and focuses on the Soviet units carrying out the second phase of Operation Bagration, the exploitation of the Shock Armies’ breakthrough of the German defences.

These highly mobile corps launched through gaps created in the Germans lines and immediately rushed deep into German held territory heading directly for Minsk and its lines of supply.

Highlighting the northern and southern spearheads (the Hammer and Sickle) and their associated corps brings some interesting tank and equipment options.

What Soviet forces are inside?

Hammer and Sickle concentrates on the mobile exploitation forces of the Mechanised and Tank Corps that raced through the front line and smashed into the hastily assembled German blocking forces holding key objectives in the rear areas.

Motostrelkovy Batalon
The motorised rifleman of the Soviet Mechanised and Tank corps were re-equipped with submachine-guns before Operation Bagration, making them Riflemen in name only. The submachine-guns give them devastating short-range firepower, making them ideal for operating in close co-ordination with tanks. They have plenty of support from tanks, either from their own tank battalion in the Mechanised Brigades or from the tank brigades. Depending which corps they are from they can be supported by T-34/85 obr 1943, T-34/76 obr 1942 or lend-lease Shermans and Valentines.

Hammer and Sickle
They also have an array of Weapons and Support Platoons that supply anything from tanks and armoured cars to artillery, infantry and mortars. This is a force that can be tailored for just about any situation.
Razvedki Platoon Rota Razvedki
Some of you may have noticed that the new Fortress Europe doesn’t contain the Rota Razvedki of the old Festung Europa. This is because we wanted to include it in Hammer and Sickle. This has also allowed us the opportunity to make a few changes. One change was to remove Hen & Chicks from the Razvedki Platoons to reflect these experienced and specialist troops ability to operate more independently. They also have access to the full selection of weapons and support platoons from their exploitation corps.

The Razvedki Platoons provide a number of interesting combinations. Some units received lend-lease British Universal Carriers, some captured German half-tracks, while the bulk travelled in lend-lease US M3A1 armoured transporters. You can field them as Rifle/MG or SMG teams and even swap some teams for Flame-throwers at the start of a game.

Razvedki Platoon with tank support
Tank Units

There are three Tankovy Batalons to choose from with each reflecting a different combination of equipment and battalion sizes that appeared in the four different corps covered in Hammer and Sickle.
T-35/85 tanks Gvardeyskiy Tankovy Batalon
This force represents the 3rd Guards Tank Corps and 29th Tank Corps who had their tank battalions completely fitted with T-34/85 obr 1943 tanks. This makes for a hard-hitting tank force, though because they are guards, not a cheap force. However, it is hard to resist fielding the full 21 T-34/85 tanks! They also have a good selection of weapons and support choices including additional armour, guns and infantry. They are guards so are Fearless Trained.

Tankovy Batalon
This force is based on the tank forces of the 1st Mechanised Corps who had Tank battalions with three, rather than two, medium tank companies. They still had 76mm gunned T-34 obr 1942, though some T-34/85 tanks were issued as replacements. As a regular Red Army force they are rated Confident Trained, which allows them to field up to 31 tanks in a 1500-point force! Their weapons and support are similar to those of the other Tankovy Batalon forces.

T-34 obr 1943
"Emcha" lend-lease Sherman tanks

Inomarochnikiy Tankovy Batalon
Our last Tankovy forces in Hammer in Sickle represents the lean-lease tanks of the 3rd Guards Mechanised Corps. This corps was equipped with US M4A2 Sherman and British Valentine VIII tanks. This battalion can also field three combat companies, two with Emcha Shermans and one with Valentines.

Red Army or Guard
Some Soviet platoons in Hammer and Sickle have two options, Red Army or Guards.

We have rated the 3rd Guards Tank Corps, 29th Tank Corps and 3rd Guards Mechanised Corps Guards and therefore Fearless Trained, and the 1st Mechanised Corps regular Red Army and therefore Confident Trained. So where you have a choice of rating, you must select the rating that matches your Battalion HQ.

One exception to this is the Rota Razvedki of the 1st Mechanised Corps, who are rated Fearless Trained, can take Red Army support platoons.

Of course some support are Guards, such as the heavy tanks and assault guns, and they can be taken to support a Red Army 1st Mechanised Corps force.

Why have we rated the 29th Tank Corps guards you ask? We decided as the corps has the Order of the Red Banner and were half of the 5th Guards Tank Army they were worthy of such an honour. 

Corps Support

Corps Support offers additional platoons and companies to back up the forces above. Some of these will be familiar to those of you with Stalin’s Onslaught like Aircraft, Guards Heavy Tank Company, Guards Heavy Assault Gun Company, Guards Rocket Mortar Battalion and Anti-aircraft Company.

SU-85 tank killers support a Motostrelkovy Company
M10 Tank Killer However there are a few additions and different options as well. We have split the Assault Gun companies into two categories, the original Assault Gun Company and the Tank Killer Company. This is to differentiate between the SU-76 assault guns with the Volley Fire special rule and those more specialised for anti-tank work like the SU-85 and M10.

The M10 is a new addition to soviet forces. This American tank destroyer was shipped to the soviets and issued to 29th Tank Corps where it’s 3” gun proved very effective. 

It can be found in the Tank Killer Company.

The Tank Destruction Company supports the Soviet mobile forces, and is often used as the rear guard. Substantial numbers of 85mm obr 1939 anti-aircraft guns were also still in use with these units, giving these units a ground mounted gun with some real anti-tank punch.

Every corps had its own battalion of Sappers as well as various other small units at brigade level. These troops are ideal for clearing mines and other obstacles and can be used to assault fortified positions.

76.2mm ZIS-3 guns
Decoy Tank Company Decoy Troops

Our final two new Corp Support units are the Spetsnaz Platoon and the Decoy Tank Company. Both of these new units take advantage of two new special rules.

The Spetsnaz Platoon is essentially a motorised Scout Platoon, but they have a couple of other tricks up their sleeves. They would often use captured German transport and dress in German uniforms and this is covered by the Decoy special rule. 
The Decoy special rule forces the enemy to identify the Spetsnaz as hostile before they can shoot at or assault them. Of course this only lasts as long as the Spetsnaz maintain fire discipline, if you shoot at the enemy you’ll soon give the game away.
Spetsnatz Platoon
They can also take advantage of the Forward Detachment special rules where they can drag a single unit from their battalion forward up to 16”/40cm like the Infiltration special rule. The main difference being in the types of units that can be infiltrated.
The Decoy Tank Company is armed with captured German tanks. These were used to lead the advancing forces, often fooling German pickets into thinking they were withdrawing German tanks. They also use the Decoy special rule.

Following behind them would often be normal Soviet tank units, so they can also use the Forward Detachment special rule to infiltrate and additional unit towards the enemy lines at the start of a game.

Decoy Tank Company leading a Gvardeyskiy Tankovy Company
Other Special Rules

First seen in Stalin’s Onslaught, Volley Fire returns giving re-rolls to SU76M, ISU122, 76mm ZIS-3, 57mm ZIS-2 and 45mm obr 1942 guns that didn’t move during Movement step on failed to hit rolls at team up to 16”/40cm away.

The Heavy Breakthrough Gun rule also returns and applies to the IS-2 and ISU-122. Infantry, Gun tams and Unarmoured vehicles are vulnerable to these massive rounds and automatically fail their save if hit by one.

The Exploitation Forces special rule is new to Hammer and Sickle. The Soviet forces in Hammer and Sickle are always advancing and are always the Attacker in missions using the Defensive Battle special rule.

Brigada Komissar M A Dedov The Warriors

Kapitan VI Nevsky
Kapitan Nevsky, like his famous medieval namesake, is charismatic and skilled leader. He leads an Inomarochnikiy Tankovy Battalion. His special skills allow him redeploy one unit after deployment, he passes Motivation tests on a 2+, and Nevsky and his tank are unaffected by the Hen and Chicks special rule.

Brigada Komissar M A Dedov
Komissar Dedov is an experience political officer from Tank Brigade headquarters, but often heads to the front to lend a hand. To this end he will commandeer a tank from the battalion he is with. He often takes on the role of second in command of a Tankovy battalion and acts as such of the battalion he is attached to. He is also an expert motivator, often getting the tank crews and support ground troops to fight on when on another day they would turn and flee. He can join any Gvardeyskiy Tankovy Company or Tankovy Company taking over a tank from a combat company.

Germans

To counter what seems to be an almost unstoppable Soviet Juggernaut are the improvised defensive forces of the Germans that opposed the onslaught of the Hammer and Sickle.

Ken has really captured the flavour of these units scraped together by General der Panzertruppen Dietrich von Saucken. Von Saucken of the 4. Armee organised blocking forces (Sperrverbanden) from available troops and what few reserves were on hand to delay the advancing Soviets until more German reserves could be brought to area.

Hammer and Sickle
Blocking Force Tactics page

Various Kampfgruppen (battle groups) and Sperrverbanden (blocking forces) were organised in response to the Soviet breakthrough. Essentially, out of desperation, the Germans sent anything (Sicherungs, Ersatz Engineers, Walküre) and everyone (HQ, Schools, replacements) to the front in hopes of holding back the Red tide.

The best results were achieved by intermixing the best available and experience personnel into Sperrverband. These were then tied to arriving armoured formations (5. Panzer and 12. Panzer divisions and the 505. Schwere Panzerabteilung formed into Kampfgruppen). This combination of defensive infantry and counterattacking panzers began to slow the Soviet offensive.

The German companies in Hammer and Sickle are designed around these concepts. They give you the flavour and feel of the blocking forces. You can build a defence and counterattack force against Soviet armour and mechanised formations that will force the Soviets to redirect their attack.

What German forces are inside?

Inside you will find Sperrverband (blocking force), Ersatz Pionierkompanie (reserve pioneer company) and Schwere Panzerkompanie (heavy tank company, plus a variety of support from Panzer and Luftwaffe forces.

Sperrverband
A Sperrverband is based around a group of Veteran pioneers and grenadiers who form a hard defensive core. They have a basic selection of weapons platoons, but what gives them their real punch is the supporting panzertruppen. These can be Panzer Platoons, Tank-hunter Platoons, Panzergrenadiers, Artillery and plenty of Luftwaffe anti-aircraft gun support.

The Sperr Pionier Platoon are expert tank killers and have the Panzerknacker Badge special rule giving them an Anti-tank of 5 in assaults.

Sperrverband defending
The Company HQ and all the Combat Platoons also know how to knock out tanks, but they must get close and personal. They count as Fearless (instead of their normal Reluctant) when assaulting Armoured Tank teams.
Pioneers Ersatz Pionierkompanie
The rear area pioneers were some of the first troops thrown into the path of the Soviet armoured forces. Normally these troops were found building bridges and setting up defences, but when needs must they do their duty. Knowing the Soviets have plenty of tanks the Ersatz Pionier Platoons have stocked up on anti-tank mines and use the Panzerknacker Badge special rule. They also have flame-throwers available.

The HQ has its own Pioneer Supply Maultiers allowing them to use both to create an Anti-tank Obstacle when deploying fortifications.

The Ersatz Pionierkompanie also have the support of various Panzer Kampfgruppen and Luftwaffe anti-aircraft troops.

Schwere Panzerkompanie
The 505. Schwere Panzerabteilung was attached to the 5. Panzerdivision when the Soviet offensive began and was rushed to the front to try and stem the tide.

This heavy tank force, supported by other panzertruppen, was one of the best formations the Germans had available to halt the Soviets. However, it is just a battalion and couldn’t be everywhere at once.

Tigers
Panthers

Panzerdivision Support

One of thing that makes the blocking force different from other infantry forces is the support they receive. The Panzer divisions rushed to the front were divided into kampfgruppen and used to reinforce, support and counterattack from positions setup by the blocking forces.

Panzer Platoons offer either Panzer IV H or Panther A tanks to add some armour and counter Soviet tanks.
Panzergrenadiers offer tough mobile infantry able to take on the Soviet infantry forces. Panzerpionier platoons add something a little extra with flame-throwers and anti-tank mines.
The Sperrverband's own divisional artillery was overrun during the opening phases of the Soviet offensive, so now they rely on the Motorised Artillery Battery, Armoured Artillery Battery or Self-propelled Infantry Gun Platoon of the supporting panzer divisions.

Tank-hunters are also available as independent and Panzerdivision panzerjäger join the defence.

RSO auf Pak40

Some Veteran Tank-hunter Platoons are armed with the 7.5cm PaK40 auf RSO, an improvised self-propelled gun mounting a good anti-tank gun on the reliable ROS tractor chassis.

Hetzers Later these same units were reequipped with the excellent Hetzer tank-hunter. This little vehicle based on the Panzer 38(t) is armed with a good gun and has plenty of armour.

The Veteran Tank-hunter Platoon uses the Manoeuvre and Fire special rule allowing it set-up firing positions in a single piece of terrain. They may fire with full ROF while moving inside the terrain and remain concealed.

Anti-aircraft is one thing the blocking forces are not short of! They can field the Armoured Anti-aircraft Gun Platoon with its armoured weapons, Luftwaffe 8.8cm Flak36 guns of the Heavy Anti-aircraft Gun Platoon, Light Anti-aircraft Gun Platoon or Flak Nests.

Flak Nests offer a quad 2cm gun setup in an improvised open top bunker, making them hard to move and deadly to ground and air targets.

FlaK Bunker
The Warriors

Feldwebel Ludwig Windgruber
The key to holding a Sperrverband together against the overwhelming power of a Soviet attack is good leadership. As the company 2iC Windgruber is an obvious leader of assaults. He hits on 2+ in assaults, as do any teams in the platoon he is leading. Also incredibly ferocious, able to assault 6”/15cm out pacing his platoon and getting amongst the enemy before they can catch up.

General der Panzertruppen Dietrich von Saucken General der Panzertruppen Dietrich von Saucken
As architect of the blocking force and leader of the larger kampfgruppe incorporating many of these forces von Saucken was often at the front checking on the situations. He can be on the spot to redirect reserves (re-roll one die for reserves). He is also inspirational in getting the men repositioned and can re-roll failed Stormtrooper Skill test within command distance. He is mounted in his own Sd Kfz 250 and is a Higher Command SMG team.

I hope you enjoy Hammer and Sickle as much as Ken and myself enjoyed creating it.

Wayne


Last Updated On Saturday, February 07, 2009 by Wayne at Battlefront