Combined Arms is here, and that means it’s time to take a look at how we can go about organising our collections – or starting new ones – to get the most out of them in this new campaign system! This time, we’ll be going over Bolt Action, so stay tuned for upcoming articles on the Blood Red Skies and Victory at Sea games!

Our lovely HQ Store chaps are about to kick off a massive Combined Arms campaign wherein all matches played instore by staff and customers alike will contribute to the wider strategic picture which will play out on the store’s snazzy new whiteboard! As a primarily German player, I’ve decided to switch it up a little bit and bring the hammer of the proletariat down on the tabletop with a new Soviet force. This collection will have to wear a few different hats, as it’ll have my new tournament army (more on that later) as the core, with enough extra units to make it a truly flexible force for the variety of different-sized battles I’ll be fighting in Combined Arms.

I always find it’s best to start with working out a theme for your force to inform what models you pick up. I’ve always had a thing for the very late war, so I’ve gone with a ‘Storming the Reichstag’ feel for the collection – plenty of urban fighting specialists without too much heavy armour or artillery (as the River Spree took some time to bridge for the heavier Russian elements). It’s also a nice change from my usual forces, which tend to be small, elite armies centred around a single heavy tank!

For the core of my force, I know I’m going to need a lot of infantry. As Berlin can get a little chilly in April (so I’m told by my German friends!), I’d like some, but not all, of my troopers in greatcoats – as a result, I’ve gone for a box of Winter Soviet Infantry as well as a box of Siberian Veterans. These give me 80 bodies right off the bat, which means I’ll have an enormous amount of flexibility in how I organise them. With the fluctuating army strengths found in Combined Arms, I’ll be able to produce all manner of squads with differing sizes and loadouts. The Siberian Veterans boxed set also gives me some awesome metal heads as well as a fantastic Commissar with a megaphone – perfect for exhorting my troops to victory!

With so many plastic infantry, I’ll build things like my anti-tank teams and spotters using those sprues. The Support Group is definitely on my must-have list, however, as I love the officer model, and the Medium Mortar is absolutely mandatory in pretty much every force; plus it nets me an MMG team and more support models at a fair discount against purchasing the components separately. As I’ll be fielding multiple platoons at times, I’m also picking up a Heavy Mortar as well as a pair of ZiS-3 divisional guns. This should give me more than enough fire support for even the largest games and ensure that I won’t be outgunned – as is only right for a Soviet army!

For a little extra nastiness, a couple of flamethrower-toting Assault Engineer squads give me a bit of up-close firepower and toughness as a ‘hard core’ for my force. While their high points cost will likely limit their usage to the larger games, they can be worth their weight in gold when you really need an enemy squad or vehicle destroyed.

For the armoured units, there really is no substitute for the T-34/85 and KV-series. Both plastic boxed sets also include extra sprues of infantry for making tank riders, but I’ll be using them to make even more infantry squads! With their armour and firepower, they’re a good match for anything I might run into on the battlefield, outside of some of the really big German cats. For those, I’ll be bringing an IS-2 or two to really put the fear into Axis tankers. For transports, a couple of Komsomolets armoured tractors and GAZ AA trucks will give me a nice motor pool if I need to get around the table quickly.

While this may seem like a truly daunting number of models, I’m planning to make heavy use of the new Army Painter Speedpaints in order to get through them nice and quickly – expect an article on them in the future! While this is a brand-new collection, the principle applies to expanding existing ones as well – remember, you can never have too many infantrymen. From a hobby perspective, I’ll be working on my infantry first, just to get the bulk of the time-consuming assembly out of the way, and batch-painting them in fives. This will give me plenty of historically appropriate colour variation in my uniform and stop me from going completely mad (are we sure it isn’t a little too late for this? -ed.) while I get them ready. If I feel myself starting to crack, I’ll switch things up and do a vehicle or a weapons team for a bit of variety – this method has worked well for me in the past! For basing, I’m going to try something a bit different. While I’ve waxed lyrical about mud in the past, I’ll be going for cobbled streets and rubble. For my cobbles, I’ve found some excellent textured plasticard from a model railway shop that I’ll cut and sand to fit my bases. Coupled with some red cork chips for broken bricks and various bits of barbed wire and sandbags, I should be able to get a really nice ‘ruined city’ effect for not too much effort – perfect for a project of this size!              

While the sheer scope of this project precludes it from being a regular article series, expect to see some ‘focus’ pieces in the future looking at various aspects of the force and the hobby surrounding it. If you fancy playing against it, why not pop into our HQ store and see if you can catch me for a game (which will of course contribute to their ongoing Combined Arms campaign!). Just give me a little bit of time to get the first few units finished, or it might be a touch one-sided!

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