Cold War Gone Hot: Getting Started with Soviets

привіт, Comrade, and congratulations on your promotion! The Cold War’s just warming up and there’s plenty for everyone! It’s time to gather up your hard-earned influence and fashion a nice little fighting force for the road trip to Berlin.

The Soviets represent the largest and most common Warsaw Pact faction in the World War III: Team Yankee game system, being both the narrative’s main antagonist and also the superpower core of the Pact. They’re a great starter faction for new players, and have a lot to offer to creative minds and tactical thinkers. And Daveydweeb, he got a lot out of them too.

In this Getting Started series, we’ll be exploring the best starting points for a new army in each of the factions in Team Yankee. What do we think makes a good starting point? We’ll be applying the “two or fewer boxes to go” standard, which Daveydweeb just made up. If you can walk out of a store with just one or two boxes of miniatures and build a competent, fun army out of them – then that’s a good starting point. The further away a box strays from that standard, the lower its value as a starter. We’ll be taking a look at each of your options to start a Soviet war machine, and pointing you in the right direction for that key second box.

We’re also specifically looking for starting points that minimise waste, and maximise fun. Maybe two boxes play well together, but if the pair of them includes a unit combination that can’t play together (for instance, both Su-17/22 Fitters and Su-25 Frogfoot aircraft), then you’ll be leaving models on the shelf when you play. Variety is the spice of life, but we’re trying to find nice, affordable pathways into Team Yankee.

What we’re not going to be doing is focusing on tournament play in this article. Stay tuned for separate Start Competing content in the future!

But Yuri, why hide behind building when Mother Russia provides so many burning friends to use for cover instead?

Why play Soviets?

Play with the whole collection. Absolutely nothing else in Team Yankee has quite the same versatility as the Soviet range of models. This is a faction that can play with pretty much any miniature in the Warsaw Pact range. With some notable exceptions (try to ignore the Oil Wars factions, those kids are weird), if you have a Warsaw Pact miniature on your shelf then the Soviets can probably add it to a force. If you want to be comfortable knowing that whatever you buy next will be useful, then these are your guys.

Spicy, spicy spam. The Soviets can bring huge bricks of very cheap tanks, although to be fair there are extreme examples in other factions too (see: Sockbert’s bucket o’ Humvees, woollen sock o’ M113s, and small ceramic cereal bowl o’ LAV-25s). You want a brick of ten T-55AMs? That’ll be sixteen points, comrade, exact change only – no refunds for breakdowns or spontaneous explosions. Many of these options present a major threat despite their bargain price tags – their guns might be old, but they’re still guns. The major challenge with having such incredibly cheap vehicles is that you risk turning every battlefield into a carpark. Or a scrapyard.

Soviet Team Yankee Davey
Legend has it that even thinking about the carbon footprint represented by Soviet armies is enough to cause climate change.

A truly horrifying amount of air power. You’d think it’d be the Americans who dominate the skies in World War III, but the options available to the Soviets are really brutal. It’s trivial to build a VDV list that packs twelve Mi-24 Hinds and six Su-17/22 Fitters into a list for just 53 points (including mandatory infantry), providing more air power than any ordinary list could hope to handle and the best-worst thing about this is that the dollar cost of entry is actually still pretty reasonable. I’m hard pressed to think of a way to bring such insanity to a NATO list, but be warned, this kind of jank probably demands that you bring snacks to share with your opponent while you turn their army to paste.

Surprisingly cheerful conscripts. I’m not sure if it’s the vodka, or just that the inside of a burning tank is warmer than the outside, but these Soviets have really good Morale and Remount values. Watching team after team get back into their vehicles after eating a volley of artillery fire is satisfying, to put it mildly. The French hate this one simple trick.

Why not play Soviets?

They say that quantity has a quality of its own, but when it comes to the Soviets there are still some areas where even that kind of quality is lacking. If you’re going to play Soviets, then it’s worth knowing about some of the ways they can let you down.

Soviet Artillery will troll you. Look, the guns are good. The actual stat lines on the artillery vehicles are mostly fine. Ask Sockbert’s entrenched artillery about the TOS-1 – oh sorry, you can’t, they all got bonked. It’s just… that damn Skill 5+, which they share with their dedicated observers. It’s not possible to use the rare Skill 2+ Soviet units as effective spotters because they’re non-dedicated OP units and so you’d rely on the artillery’s Skill rating. So what we have here is decent, fairly-priced artillery that will rarely hit anything that doesn’t cooperatively sit still on a comically large bullseye. This is fine if your opponent is Field Marshal Haig, but under normal conditions it’s a real problem.

Sadly, pictured here are Daveydweeb’s coolest – and most ineffective – vehicles.

The Infantry have noodle arms. It’s true. Soviet Infantry generally have poor Skill and Assault ratings, and are only average on the Counterattack. There are exceptions – like the Afgantsy – but they’re not the rule, and you’re going to need to invest in some more niche vehicles to bring them. As a rule, Soviet infantry are fine at range and will stand up to artillery fire like anyone else, but they’ll fold like paper in close combat.

Your tanks don’t have an S-tier. If you want tanks with excellent mobility, firepower and armour then this is the wrong faction for you. Soviets have access to decent armoured vehicles at reasonable prices, but there’s nothing here that’s going to fire a tank cannon twice, or bounce shells reliably from other superheavies, or gain additional bonuses for hull-down positions. Top-tier tanks are not our strength.

Great Starter Boxes

World War III: The Complete Starter Set

If we’re going to start anywhere, it may as well be at the beginning. The Starter Set is Certified Good Stuff™, and if you’re interested in playing both sides of the Iron Curtain or playing with a friend then it’s a great buy. So what does it offer the Soviets?

  • A brick of four T-80s, the highest-tier tank available. T-80s can either be played as the ‘quite good’ vanilla variant, or the more expensive Shock variant which comes in a maximum of three per platoon. If you can consistently protect their flanks, these guys will be a reliable firebase for the whole game.
  • Three T-64s, one of the cheapest ways to field the excellent 125mm 2A46 cannon with its AT22 shells (the T-72 is a point cheaper, but has an inferior stabiliser). These will only set you back 13 points, and are spammable in units of up to ten.
  • A Recon Platoon of two BMP-3s. They have excellent ATGMs that can be fired on the move, and they are a genuine threat to light vehicles, tanks, and helicopters if needed.

Here’s one I prepared earlier.

The Complete Starter Set actually includes a bespoke formation that allows you to legally bring these models together in a normal game, although you might have to explain that slowly and carefully to an opponent who has long since forgotten their first taste of Team Yankee. Davey and Sockbert played our first few games with exactly this formation, and had a great time – just try to have realistic expectations about what it will do against an army that contains literally anything else.

Where to go from here: The world’s your borscht with this box – all three of these unit types are large enough to field in a normal force, and they dish out an excellent amount of firepower for their cost. Given this box is ‘taster set’ and contains only a single unit of each type, rather than listing the many directions you can go from this point we’ll instead work backwards. For each other box, we’ll suggest a way you can add value with the contents of this box.

T-72 Tank Battalion

Daveydweeb rates this as one of the best starter boxes in the game. This particular box gives you a healthy number of options with nearly every vehicle type, and is useful for non-Soviet Warsaw Pact as well. Mostly, we just love the tanks. Tanks! Tanks, tanks, tanks. Hell yeah.

Focusing on the Soviets, it gets you:

  • A full battalion of T-72s, T-72Ms or T-72Bs, the latter of which gives you +2 Front Armour, explosive reactive armour, and a token buff to side armour. As Soviets, you should generally take the T-72B variant – the other two variants are really only useful for other Warsaw Pact factions. For only two points more than three T-64s, the T-72B is much better protected at the cost of slightly worse performance when moving at full tactical speed. They’re a solid tank.
  • Five T-55AMs, the minimum required for a unit. These are a cheap source of entry-level anti-tank cannons, and can also be played without modification as T-55AM2s if you’re later playing as other Warsaw Pact nations – at the cost of being Slow Firing. These guys pose a dilemma for many opponents, who just don’t want to waste the shots required to kill them.
  • A pair of BRDMs, which are generally most useful when built as the excellent Spandrel anti-tank unit, or the much weaker SA-9 Gaskin. The best thing about these guys is that they can be modified easily to be any variant without magnetising them – just swap the turret.
  • 2 Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. You won’t get a lot done with just two, but larger units of these are an existential threat to almost anything in the game. Also, and this is important, the Hind is the sexiest helicopter in the game and I will die on this hill.

Editor’s note: Daveydweeb’s heresy against the Cobra has been noted and corrective action will be taken.

  • 2 Su-17/22 Fitters, one of the cheapest strike jets available. This is your best option for blanketing an Artillery template-sized area in rockets that will reliably kill any tank in the game (AT7 and FP2+!). Fast jets are a bit niche in this game, but these ones are cheap as chips and using them to kill a single tank can pay for their cost many times over.

By itself, this box gets you to a minimum of 51 points before upgrades – which is definitely enough for a fun game, and most of the way to a league-sized army. If you choose to add in the contents of the Complete Starter Set, you’ve got yourself exactly 100 points of Soviet war machine. That’s absolutely enough to take to a game and have a great time. As a benefit, that 100 point list is also somewhat competitive and builds heavily around a core of competent vehicles.

This box also has excellent compatibility with the Warsaw Pact nations – especially Poland and East Germany, which can include anything from the box without modification. That’s a nice benefit from a starter box, allowing you to make a start with army construction without setting your faction in stone. We still think the Soviets are the easy-mode Red option for new players, but hey man, follow your dreams.

Where to go from here: If you want a well-rounded army, the key weaknesses here – as with all of the starter boxes – are, in decreasing order of importance: the lack of infantry, anti-air, and artillery. We recommend that, whether you start with just this box or the Complete Starter Set as well, your next purchase should probably be an inexpensive box of infantry, and a dedicated anti-air option like the excellent Shilka – but not the Tunguska, that thing shoots for the sun and only manages to trip over its shoelaces with a comedic splat.

T-72 Battalion and the Complete Starter Set

T-72B Tank Battalion42 points

  • 1x T-72B HQ 
  • 3x T-72B
  • 3x T-72.
  • 2x BMP-3
  • 2x SA-9 Gaskin

Support –  58 points

  • 2x Mi-24 Hind (AT-6 Spiral)
  • 2x Su-17/22 Fitter
  • 4x T-80
  • 3x T-64
  • 5x T-55AM

Total: 100 Points

Sneaky East Germans. Credit: Team Yankee NSW
T-72Bs are available to several Warsaw Pact countries (here, East Germans), making them a versatile core vehicle for the Soviets. Image Credit: Team Yankee NSW

Good Starter Boxes

BMP Motor Rifle Battalion

The BMP starter set eschews heavily-armoured tanks in favour of a light, fast mechanised infantry force design. This box offers a great deal to players who want to design a dangerous, highly-mobile army but it also has several distinct disadvantages that will sneak up on you like the fall of the Berlin Wa… err, nothing, Yuri, never mind. But first, what’s in the box?

  • A full battalion of BMP infantry fighting vehicles, which can only be built as either BMP-1s or BMP-2s due to the different hull design on the BMP-3. The BMP-1 is a cheap transport with a weak weapon, which serves a dual purpose as a ‘BMP-1 OP’ artillery spotter. The BMP-2 adds an autocannon and the AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank guided missile, which is moderately deadly when fired from a standstill. Sadly, this box lacks the delicious spice of the BMP-3, which can fire an otherwise identical ATGM on the move and is considerably better protected. 
  • A battalion of infantry. This box includes enough lil dudes for one HQ stand, and two minimum-sized Soviet infantry squads (each of which requires four rifle stands and three RPG stands). You can’t take any of the available upgrades using this box except the RPG-7VR, which trades a shorter range for a much, much better warhead. These upgraded bonksticks are mandatory if you want to charge a tank and win.
  • Five T-55AMs or T-55AM2s, just like the T-72B Battalion box. These tanks are obsolete, cheap as hell, and will still kill an 18-point Le Clerc tank with a shot to the rear. They’re barely worth shooting at, until they remove a fifth of your enemy’s army because they hadn’t taken them seriously.
  • Two BRDMs, which can be taken as Spandrel ATGM-carriers or Gaskin anti-air platforms. Cheap, competent, and probably mandatory in most beginner lists purely because of their incredibly low cost to access anti-air coverage.
  • Two Su-25 Frogfoot close air support aircraft. We have complicated feelings about these guys. Their main draw is the Kh-25 missile, an absolute unit of an anti-tank missile that will nuke any vehicle in the game. The problem is that, despite filling the same battlefield role as the Harrier, it doesn’t have the Jump Jet rule and so will only show up to fight about half the time. Its other weapons are pretty poor, and you can access the Kh-25 much more cheaply with the Su-17/22.

The key benefit to this starter box is easy access to competent infantry fighting vehicles and cheap infantry. An army built from this box will have a great deal of mobility options and can be surprisingly good at killing tanks, especially on the defense. This was Davey’s second starter box, and the one that has seen the table most.

But this box isn’t S-tier, sadly – as an entry point to the game, it’s not your cheapest (in terms of dollars) way to play. Since BMPs are so cheap during army creation, there are only 37 points of miniatures in this box even with the maximum available upgrades. You’ll need to buy at least one other box to play a tournament-sized game with these guys. If you want to get into Team Yankee as the Soviets on a budget, this box is better for expansion rather than your first step.

The units contained in the box also have some clear limitations. BMP-1s and BMP-2s are pretty good, but you’ll need to make another purchase to gain access to the nasty little gutter-fighter that is the BMP-3. They’re also really not designed to stand and fight, despite their ATGMs which can only fire from a halt – you get one really good shot, and then these things are probably going to be violently disassembled. Similarly, being a starter box, it contains enough infantry for a minimum-sized battalion but these can’t be combined to make a single medium-sized infantry unit since they lack the PKM team. Finally, the choice of aircraft with this box is a little unfortunate, as the Frogfoot is a little weak and overcosted.

By the way, here’s a li’l tip for free: if you don’t glue the top of the chassis to the hull, you swap the same model from BMP-1 to BMP-2 just by swapping the top half. See image.

The basic BMP can be built as both the BMP-1 and BMP-2 simply by swapping the top of the chassis and turret. They simply clip together.

Where to go from here: The BMP Motor Rifle Battalion is probably best as your second box, but if you do start with it, you’re going to love pairing it with a T-80 Shock Tank Company. These two synergise really well. They have perfect unit compatibility so you won’t have to leave any vehicles on the shelf at home, and a brick of five T-80s is a great complement to a swarm of IFVs. Built as a Shock Tank Company, you can easily bring exactly 100 points to the table even with most of the light vehicles taken as BMP-2s. Alternatively, you can include the T-80s as their standard variants within the BMP formation and spend the remaining eight points on some upgrades like RPG-7VRs. Even the Su-25s are better in this force design, giving you twice as many Kh-25 shots and considerably better survivability, and access to their Salvo template weapon without having to reroll your hits if you’re nasty like that. You’ll still have weak anti-air, but that’s a “next steps” problem – four Gaskins is about the best you’ll get from two boxes of anything.

A valid, but more expensive, alternative is to match the BMP Motor Rifle Battalion with a T-72 Battalion for a total of up to 90 points (depending on upgrades and aircraft), but be aware, you won’t be able to bring both the Su-25 and the Su-17/22s. For a tournament-sized list, you’ll also need to spend some more of your precious dollarydoos on filling out those remaining points. If you want artillery, your best bets are Carnations, Acacias, Hails or Hurricanes since you already own the BMP-1s required to spot for them. Alternatively, as with basically every box, dedicated anti-air will pay dividends.

BMP Motor Rifle Battalion + T-80 Shock Tank Company

BMP Motor Rifle Battalion – 24 Points

  • 1x BMP-2 HQ
  • 4x BMP-2 with infantry (upgrade RPG-7 to RPG-7VR)
  • 4x BMP-2 with infantry (upgrade RPG-7 to RPG-7VR)
  • 3x Spandrel anti-tank vehicles

T-80 Shock Tank Company – 50 points

  • 1x T-80 Shock Tank HQ
  • 2x T-80 Shock Tank
  • 2x T-80 Shock Tank
  • 4x Gaskin anti-air vehicles

Support – 26 points

  • 2x Mi-24 Hind
  • 4x Su-25 Frogfoot
  • 5x T-55AM

Total: 100 Points

T-80 Shock Tank Company

We called it the natural pairing to the BMP Battalion, but how does the T-80 Shock Tank Company stand on its own? It’s actually pretty reasonable, offering units with individually high quality and a decent value proposition for new players. It contains:

  • Five T-80 main battle tanks, which can be either Shock or normal T-80s. The only difference is the quality of the crew, with generally better characteristics across the board (and your best access to reliable Skill tests). This is a minimum-sized Shock T-80 Company, which can be fine if they stick together to allow the Formation HQ to reroll failed Morale and Remount tests. You won’t be able to field them as a T-80 Battalion without two more tanks, but there are other ways to use them as the non-Shock variant – such as attaching them to a BMP Motor Rifle Battalion.
  • Two BMP-3s, spicy little IFVs with excellent anti-tank missiles that can be fired on the move. In a Shock T-80 Company, they can also be taken as Shock Recon BMP-3s, with essentially the same characteristic improvements for the crew as those carried by the T-80s. The vehicles themselves are the same.
  • Three Spandrels, a dirt-cheap BRDM variant which fires the same ATGM as the BMP-2.
  • Two Gaskin anti-air vehicles.
  • Two Mi-24 Hinds, a versatile troop transport with hilarious ATGMs and which can be seriously dangerous when spammed.
  • Two Su-25 Frogfoot jets.

In terms of dollar value to enter the game, this is pretty reasonable – you’re fielding at least 68 points from a single box, so any other single box should get you all the way to a 100 point army. If you bought only this box, you’d have a reasonably respectable force at its points level which only really lacks some infantry and counter-infantry options. Although the T-80 is the best the Soviet armour park has to offer, it sadly has no option to fire its cannon twice like some NATO superheavies – still, it’s a good core option for many army designs. And, as with the BMP Motor Rifle Battalion box, the Su-25 is still a little overpriced for the actual value it brings to the table.

But the major benefit to the T-80 box? Front Armour 20 on these guys is so damn frustrating to punch through. Forget the hammer and sickle, these things are the whole damn anvil.

Where to go from here: Given how many points in this box, you can more or less pick anything you want and make a competent army out of it. This box, plus the Soviet half of the Complete Starter Set gives you a non-Shock T-80 Battalion worth at least 107 points, which can be brought down to exactly 100 points by simply leaving the Frogfoot jets behind – and the result is a genuinely scary heavy tank list. You can also bump that up to the 125 point mark very easily by fielding exclusively Shock T-80s. Finally, you could also round this box out with the BMP Motor Rifle Battalion box, which we described in that box’s section above.

T-80 Shock Tank Company + Complete Starter Set

T-80 Shock Tank Company88 points

  • 1x T-80 Shock Tank HQ
  • 3x T-80 Shock Tank
  • 3x T-80 Shock Tank
  • 2x T-80 Shock Tank
  • 2x Gaskin anti-air vehicles

Support – 37 points

  • BMP-3 Recon Platoon: 4x BMP-3
  • 3x Spandrel anti-tank vehicle
  • 2x Mi-24 Hind (upgrade AT-6 Spiral to AT-9 Spiral 2)
  • 2x Su-25 Frogfoot
  • 3x T-64

Note: If you want to get this down to 100 points, make the following changes:

  • The T-80 Shock Tank Company becomes a regular T-80 Tank Company, with two units of four T-80s, saving you 17 points.
  • Leave the Su-25 Frogfoot aircraft at home, saving another 7 points.
  • Downgrade the Mi-24 Hinds to use the AT-6 Spiral missile, which is still very effective, saving 1 more point for a total of 25 points deducted.

Soviet light vehicles can be deadly, but you’ll usually need something a little more survivable. Or, like, a lot more Destroyed markers.

Narrative Starter Boxes

Potecknov’s Bears

The Soviet range also includes two miniature boxes for the narrative crowd, starting with the Bears – a grouping of T-72s and Hinds under the command of the fictional Afghanistan veteran Lt Colonel Yuri Potecknov. In the box, you’ll find:

  • Five T-72s, which unlike those in the T-72 Battalion box, do not include the upgrade sprue to convert them to T-72Bs. You could arguably field them as the export T-72M, though, in a Warsaw Pact list.
  • Two Mi-24 Hinds, identical to those found in other boxes.

As a starter box with a “two boxes to go” goal, this ain’t the way to go for the Soviets. The basic T-72 sits in the uncomfortable gutter between the best and worse of the vehicle park without really offering much value from the compromise. Its armour is poor enough that it can actually be destroyed by tanks that cost less than half as much like the T-55AM (whereas the T-72B is invulnerable to those from the front), and it lacks ERA to protect it from entry-level ATGMs and RPGs. The T-72 is honestly not a great pick for the Soviets, and a firm avoid unless you’re branching out into the wider Warsaw Pact.

The Hind, though – that thing is still great. This just isn’t the best box to use to buy it if you’re aiming to get into the game with the minimum number of purchases.

Yuri’s Wolves

Narratively, the Wolves are a ‘forward detachment’ under Major Yuri Volkov with a backstory provided by the Team Yankee: Soviet book, this small unit is build around good tanks with a light escort. It contains:

  • Five T-64 tanks, sadly without an upgrade sprue to allow them to play as T-64BVs.
  • Two BMP-1s or BMP-2s.

We have to compare this box to the T-64 Tank Company, which includes the same number of tanks but instead of BMPs it includes the necessary parts to build your vehicles at T-64BVs. Compared to the standard version, the T-64BV has better front and side armour and gains ERA, making it much more durable for the cost of about one point per vehicle. Arguably, the upgraded variant is one of the best-value vehicles in the Soviet range, depending on what kind of army you’re building. This box is great value for money based purely on the discounted BMPs, but if you really want those T-64BVs then you should probably just buy the T-64 Tank Company.

In terms of the ‘second box’ to pair with this – the world’s your oyster. T-64s are great little tanks and the BMPs can be used as a recon platoon, they can join a larger motor rifle platoon, or one can even be an artillery spotter. You’ll easily be able to use this box in basically any list.

Yard Sale Must-Buy Boxes

A lot of Team Yankee production runs have been limited in time or volume, and are either out of print or simply hard to find today. This has affected many other factions, but there’s one box in particular that we want to point out for the Soviets. This box is awesome, and if we have to feel the pain of never being able to hold one in our dirty paws, then we’re taking you down with us. Let’s talk about the dearly departed…

BMD Air Assault Battalion

This spicy little battalion box was released with 2022’s Red Dawn, as a starter box for the Soviet airborne forces – the VDV. Focusing on light, air-mobile units, it is chiefly composed of all the stuff that is traditionally under-represented in other boxes. Sadly, it’s out of print, but we’ll mention it here because it’s a clear must-buy if you can find it.

The box contains two small bricks of infantry (sadly without heavy weapons) and their transports, the light but surprisingly well-armed BMD-1 or BMD-2. The three included T-64BVs are arguably the best value for money tank in the Soviet arsenal, and we’ve already made it clear that the Hind is both a great helicopter and synergises well with other starter boxes. If you ever do manage to find one of these boxes, the heavy infantry focus would work really well with the T-80 Shock Tank Company or T-72 Tank Battalion, mitigating the weaknesses of those boxes quite nicely.

Anyway, fair warning: if these get another print run and you beat Davey to a box… [clenches fist]

Editor’s note: Don’t worry about Davey, he once hurt his shoulder by picking up a Large Coke.

Wrapping Up

The Soviets probably have the best range of starter boxes in the game, with three (formerly four) good options that all have at least some synergy with another box. If you’re planning to start a Soviet force, these are a great place to start.

Coming up, we’ll be fleshing out the Soviet armies and getting into the detail of their units and formations. Stay tuned for more on the mighty Soviet war machine!


Questions, comments, suggestions? or leave a comment belo