Captured T-34s or The Call of the Beutepanzer

Captured T-34s or the Call of the Beutepanzer
by Steven MacLauchlan

I wish I could explain the call of the Beutepanzer.  For some reason, I just love captured tanks!  With the perfect storm of our new plastic T-34 kit, Desperate Measures offering a Beutepanzer platoon as a combat choice for a Panzer Kampfgruppe, and me finally taking the plunge into the world of airbrushing, I couldn’t resist the temptation!  Rather than retread old ground and talk about how best to model captured T-34s, I thought I’d talk about how to get the most out of your Beautiful Beutepanzers.

German Beutepanzer Markings
Casey’s excellent painting article
List of modifcations made to Beutepanzers
Our brand new Plastic T-34 spotlight

I’m going to focus on three major Beutepanzer options in this article (though there are a few other really fun ones!).  First, I’ll take a look at the lone Beutepanzer available to some German Grenadier lists in mid and late war.  Next, I will focus on the SS Beutepanzer platoons in Eastern Front (representing SS Das Reich).  Finally, I’ll bring it home and have a think about the Beutepanzers as they are offered up in Desperate Measures.

T-34s featured in this article are my first attempt at airbrushing 3-tone camo!

Looted Panzer
In Eastern Front and Grey Wolf, German Grenadiers have the option for fielding a lone looted panzer.  There are several options available to choose from, and though I am going to talk about the T-34 options, I would like to quickly point out my two favorite options are the KV-1e (in mid war) and the T-70 (in late war).

In Eastern Front, the captured T-34 weighs in at 100 points, while in Grey Wolf it clocks in at a mere 55 points.  In both cases, the tank is Confident Trained, and gains Unreliable.  On its own, the T-34 isn’t much to get excited about- after all a lone trained tank is hardly enough to strike fear into your opponent! Clever use of the tank, however, can really stymie your opponent’s plans.

When defending, the looted T-34 is an obvious choice to place in reserve.  It’s a low point value (allowing for larger units to be placed on the table in its place), is highly mobile (so it can get back in the fight!), and by the time your opponent is committed to the fight on your front line, his units should be wearing thin- the perfect time for this lone wolf to strike!

In fact, that’s my go to preference with the looted T-34: treat it like a lone wolf.  And like a wolf, you nip at the sick and the weak in your opponent’s herd.  Avoid the enemy units with teeth and focus on soft bits like mortars, HMGs, transports, AA vehicles, infantry and gun units that are at or below half strength. 
The looted panzer also works in a security role.  Place the T-34 such that it can avoid being shot at by your opponent’s anti-tank weaponry, but will be pulled into any assaults.  AT 9 firing on side armor is good, but forcing a tank terror check in addition to 4 MG dice is even better!  With wide tracks, there’s no reason your beutepanzer can’t follow your infantry into all but the roughest of ground.

In Grey Wolf you have the option of taking an 85 instead of the standard 76mm T-34.  I only ever do this if I have the points left over- AT 12 is nice to have in a pinch, but by and large this tank is not what you rely on for killing armor.

SS T-34s
In Eastern Front, SS Mittlere Panzerkompanies have the option of taking T-34 obr 1942s.  You can either take a full company of T-34s (with an explicit requirement that if your HQ is comprised of T-34s, you must have 2 platoons entirely equipped with T-34s) or take them as one of your combat platoons.  

Clocking in at 150 points each makes the T-34 a very expensive proposition, even for Mid War (though they ARE Fearless Veteran).  Let’s compare it to its closest German counterpart: The Panzer III N (Which clocks in at 130 with schürtzen).

Compared to the III N the T-34 has an almost identical armament, except that the T-34’s gun gains an additional 8” of range.  Armour wise, the T-34 has the same front armor, and better side armour.  From a mobility standpoint, the T-34 has Wide Tracks and Fast Tank.  The III N has Protected Ammo, while the T-34 is Unreliable and has Limited Vision.  So to summarize, for +20 points, and the penalty of Unreliable and Limited Vision, in addition to losing Protected Ammo and Schürtzen, the T-34 hardly seems like a good buy compared to the panzer III N.  Indeed, I think this is the poorest choice for fielding T-34s, although I do think they can still have a home in an SS list, particularly a Panzergrenadier company, or paired up with sniper tanks like Panzer IV F2s.

To really push home the two advantages that the T-34 has over the Panzer III N, the role they fill needs to be fairly specific.  In my opinion, that role is: sneaky hunter.  With Wide Tracks, the T-34 can reliably stick to the trees to sneak its way into the most opportune position where it can snipe enemy guns, or hose infantry down with machine-gun fire.  It doesn’t assault as well as a German tank with Schurtzen when facing integrated anti-tank, but can really shine if the enemy is in difficult terrain and lacks much integrated AT.
Beutepanzers in Desperate Measures
The Confident Veteran Panzerkampfgruppe in Desperate Measures has the ability to take one Beutepanzer platoon with between 2 and 5 T-34s.  One of those can be upgraded to a T-34/85 for 30 points. Though retaining Unreliable like their previous counterparts, these T-34s no longer have Limited Vision.  Costing a mere 75 points apiece, these tanks represent the most inexpensive panzer available to the Confident Veteran Panzer Kampfgruppe, and the only one that can take 5 vehicles.  

Comparing them to the next most inexpensive option (the Hetzer) clearly defines a role for the T-34s that isn’t all that dissimilar to the Looted Panzers mentioned earlier.  The Hetzer has: slightly better front armor, worse side armor, better AT, worse mobility.  The T-34 has better mobility, an extra MG, and better side armor.  AT 9 vs 11 is a massive difference in late war, essentially relegating the T-34 to a light tank role.  It’s in this role that they excel.

As light tanks, especially paired with heavy hitters like the Panzer IV/70 or Panther in combat platoons, the T-34s can excel.  Let them act as a maneuver element pressing objectives and knocking out targets of opportunity.  They should be cautious- their gun and light armor make them easy targets for your opponents.  Resist the urge to engage other medium tanks unless absolutely necessary or you’re pairing them up with other AT assets.  

In short, the captured T-34s make for some interesting options available to the Germans throughout the war.  My main reason for taking them is, of course, the fun modeling opportunities!  But thankfully, they can be put to great use on the tabletop so they aren’t just shelf warmers.

~ Steven.