Friday, April 10, 2015

Finding a Home - Searching for the Right List to Use for the Slovak Rapid Brigade

I've been grappling with my Slovak Rapid Brigade models for a few months now, painting tanks, artillery, infantry, and even a biplane. It has been an awesome time doing all the research, reading all the history of the Slovaks in Russia and at home, and looking at all the uniforms and tank camouflage.

The only real struggle I've had with this army has been finding a list to fit them. Originally, Warlord had said that Slovaks would be a list in the Italy and the Axis but they didn't make it in with Italy, Finland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. I can definitely understand leaving Slovakia out, as even though they were a puppet state of Germany, and technically their first ally, they fielded very few troops during the war and mostly in the first two years.

I have played Panzergrenadiers and Fallschirmjager quite a bit already, so I am very familiar with the German rules. I could play my Slovaks as Germans very easily and it would represent the forces pretty well - but I want to try something different. The minor powers I would consider are the following:

Hungary: it would actually be weird to use these rules because the Slovaks and Hungarians had such a rivalry - probably because Hungary tried to invade and take Slovak land at the start of the war. Their special rule is that their officer squad are fanatics. That's not bad, but is kinda underwhelming. They can use one tank from the German or Italian list as basically a 'lend lease' from Germany. This is important because the 38T is not in their normal list.

Romania: they used heavy artillery tactics like the French did from WW1. Their special rule is that they get a free artillery piece, which is pretty nice. I have thought about choosing a medium anti-tank gun because the Slovaks received many Pak38s from Germany. They also fielded many artillery pieces so I could choose a medium artillery howitzer and upgrade with a spotter, I believe, according to the FAQ. They can use one tank from the German or Italian list as basically a 'lend lease' from Germany, but I would likely just use a 38T which is in their list - or possibly a MarderIII or IIIN.

Bulgaria: Bulgaria has a really sweet special rule (in my opinion) that would definitely reflect the Slovak's main role on the East Front - security. They were mostly involved in mopping up partisans and removing them behind German lines. The Bulgarians have a rule that doesn't let forward observers, snipers, etc. setup before the game starts. Pretty cool. They can use one tank from the German or Italian list as basically a 'lend lease' from Germany, which is important, because they do not have the 38T, IIIN, or MarderIII.

The Problem

So what's the problem? I want to use some units that are not in these lists, and I don't want to use abusive stuff that doesn't reflect the actual history of the brigade. Each list has a little bit different set of units but they are mostly similar. The things that I'd like to use:

Cavalry: the Slovaks used some cavalry on the East Front mostly to do anti-partisan activities. Germans include cavalry, but they're SS cav. They're veterans and they can assault like normal cavalry - they get three attacks in close combat. This is fine but I've found it to be way too powerful and the Slovaks never actually did any cavalry charges as far as I can find. I'd also prefer to use non-German rules to just try something different. I'd rather they be regulars as that more accurately reflects the force.

Romanians, Hungarians, and Bulgarians can all field cavalry as well in different amounts of guys, from 8 to 12. This is fine, except that they cost the same amount as SS cavalry without having carbines and they can't do cavalry charges (due to mostly being security forces). No carbines means they can't shoot while mounted. They can field regular cavalry, which is much more accurate.

Bicyclists: many of the infantry, especially in the early war, were given bicycles to attempt to keep up with the mobilized forces. I can't imagine riding into battle on a bicycle or even ditching it and then advancing, but they did it, and the Slovaks had a ton of them. 

Germans can give infantry bicycles for one point, so I can have regulars on a bike. This works perfectly. The minor powers cannot field any bicycles.

Artillery: the Slovaks used many medium and heavy howitzers, mortars, and light and medium AT guns, all of which can be used for the most part. Bulgaria does not have access to a medium AT gun. Germany has all the pieces that Slovakia does.

Motorcyclists: the early war included tons of units not only mounted on bicycles, but mounted on motorcycles as well. In the German army they're called Kradschutzen. Some had sidecars, many did not. The German list allows you to build squads on Kradschuten, but the minor powers do not. 

Air Force Observer: the Slovak Air Force was pretty weak overall but was present even during the Slovak National Uprising, where a Slovak pilot scored the last official kill with a biplane. Germans can field an air observer but the minor powers cannot.

The other things I'd like to include are regular infantry squads with one LMG, (no SMG on NCO), sniper teams, mortar teams, MMG teams, etc. Germans and minor powers can do this. Only rated as regular.

This brings up a point that BAR talked about recently. In a purely competitive list, it almost always makes more sense to just use veterans. The point cost difference is negligible and the difference in a 5+ to wound instead of 4+ is so much better. They also activate easier and run away less.

I use veterans exclusively in my Fallschirmjager list. Every model except the tank is a veteran. I don't use regular or inexperienced weapons teams, even. My panzergrenadiers and USMC are mostly regular, though they could easily be veterans and probably do better in the game. USMC are nice at regular because with extra bodies they put out way more volume of fire.

This list will almost always be regular. Whether I'm representing the early action on the East Front, the Security division, or later on the Slovak National Uprising, they mostly just had regulars. The morale was never that great in the Slovak army so I just can't see them being veteran. I don't see veteran status necessarily as black and white in the game; it more accurately represents how well the troops fought as opposed to surviving a ton of battles. 

The Slovaks had light casualties most of the time (taking casualties mostly from strafing airplanes), so they'd have more guys surviving, but they were just never that good. Their leadership was poorer than many (from the accounts I've read) since the Czechoslovak pre-war army employed mostly Czech officers, not Slovak. 

So I'd rather use these guys as regulars 100% of the time. I want to use different options in my lists - I've used regular rifle squads, assault squads, flamethrowers, etc. I'd like to use the zany stuff like bicycles, cavalry, motorcycles, etc. 

I only see myself using a minor power list when I am not using bicycles, air observer, or motorcyclists. I could see myself doing that just to try out other armies' special rules, but I feel like I don't want to switch around rules just to do it - it might annoy my regular opponents or feel like I'm gaming the system.

I think in the end I'll probably just use the rules for Germany. I'm very familiar with them and they accurately represent almost everything - just coming short on the cavalry, who are overpowered and I'd rather not present that image with this force. I could still use cavalry, just limit myself to close combat with them only if I'm playing a very competitive opponent (they're using broken stuff too).

Here is my 800 point German list for an upcoming 800 pt tournament (newbies abound, so I don't want to bring a really abusive list):

German Reinforced Platoon

German Order Dice: 9

Second Lieutenant Regular 50
1 Second Lieutenant with Pistol

Heer Infantry squad Regular 95
1 NCO with Rifle 24"
1 Infantry with Light Machine gun
7 Infantry with Rifle

Heer Infantry squad Regular 95
1 NCO with Rifle 24"
1 Infantry with Light Machine gun
7 Infantry with Rifle

Heer Infantry squad Regular 95
1 NCO with Rifle 24"
1 Infantry with Light Machine gun
7 Infantry with Rifle

Waffen-SS Cavalry squad Veteran 155
1 NCO with Cavalry Carbine
8 Infantry with Cavalry Carbine
1 Infantry with Light Machine gun (requires
Entire squad mounted upon horses Cavalry

Medium Mortar team Regular 60
1 Medium Mortar team Team (3 men), Spotter

Anti-tank rifle team Regular 30
1 Anti-tank rifle team Team (2 men)

Medium Artillery (page: 34) Regular 85
1 Medium howitzer Team (4 men), Gun shield, Spotter

Tanks and SP Guns

Panzer 38(t) (page: 45) Regular 135
1 Panzer 38(t) Tracked - 8+
Turret-mounted light anti-tank gun 48" 1 +4 HE (D2)
Co-axial MMG 36" 4 n/a
Hull-mounted MMG 36" 4 n/a Front arc

Platoon Points: 800
The general idea is to move forward with infantry, putting out quite a few shots with the LMGs. Cavalry will outflank and try to take out threats, while the artillery and mortar will try to blow up as many infantry squads as they can. The ATR and 38T will do their best to occupy tanks until the game ends :P

Stay tuned - more Slovak Rapid Brigade on the way!


  1. ah love it. can i ask you what models are you using for SVK infantry?

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the comment! I'm using Emil's models from here:

      They're Czechoslovak infantry from the 30s but the uniforms were exactly the same as was the equipment. Thanks!