Engineer-Sapper Battalion: Army Selection & Tactics

Engineer-Sapper Battalion: Army Selection & Tactics

Sapper company

When building your Engineer-Sapper Battalion you obviously should start out with the army box set (SBX13) This gives you a Battalion HQ consisting of a Commander, Second in Command (2iC), and Battalion Commissar. You also get two companies that are two platoons strong plus the company commander. That means each company has fifteen bases of SMG teams. You can trade out your SMG teams for faustnika teams*, HMG teams, Anti-tank Rifle teams, or mortar teams. You can have up to four of each kind. Best of all you don’t decide what you are taking until deployment, giving you unmatched flexibility in support weapons from game to game, even in tournaments. All teams are Sappers so they are AT 4 in Assault. The faustnika teams are AT 6 in Assault! Plus, when you add your flamethrowers (see next paragraph), that makes 17 models in your company. That means you can lose a couple of bases before you lose your Quality of Quantity advantage (requiring your opponent to hit you 10 times to pin you).


Next I add in a couple sections of flamethrowers. This gives me four flamethrower teams that must be attached to my Sapper Companies. The neat thing is, when you attach them they count for you in determining the number of models in the unit for figuring when to take moral checks and for determining the number of hits required to pin you in regards to the Quality of Quantity Soviet special rule. Flame throwers are great because they are rate of fire 4, require a skill check to hit (4+ for Sappers). That’s a lot better than needing 6s to hit some dug in/gone to ground Veterans who then most likely make their 3+ save. There are no saves for infantry hit by a flamethrower. They are automatically removed from battle. Plus, any platoon that takes a hit from a flamethrower is automatically pinned. Flamethrowers can kill a tank/armored vehicle on a firepower roll of 6+, and if they don’t kill the tank, will automatically bail it out. That means no defensive fire and no fighting back in assault. Just don’t fail you’re your Motivation test to assault the tanks (You’re Fearless! It’s a 3+! What could go wrong?) All in all, flamethrowers are perfect for minimizing defensive fire during assaults or killing dug in/gone to ground infantry.


I have a five-team Spetsnaz platoon that fits in nicely with this army. They are Fearless Veterans, Recon troops, and can infiltrate. What this means is that in games where the opponent has prepared positions and the Sappers get the first turn, not only can the Spetsnaz make a 16 inch move up but they can take one of the Sapper companies with them, provided they were deployed within command distance. They are also ideal for getting out ahead of your attack and using “eyes and ears” to take away the Gone to Ground of enemy troops for your artillery to better attack them. Finally, if you leave them off as reserves, they are great to have come on your side of the table and dig in on the objective. Even though there are only 5 bases, good luck dislodging dug in, gone to ground Fearless Vets who are also Pioneers (AT 4 in Assault).


I usually don’t subscribe to the doctrine that says I need artillery. However, a nice four-gun battery of 122mm Howitzers fits nicely into this army. Like the Spetsnaz, they are a nice unit to bring on in reserve to take position on the objective. They are effective enough in direct fire to withstand attacks by tanks or infantry. And they are AT 4 in bombardment so they are very effective against enemy armor unless they happen to be Tigers with a top armor of 2. Add in the staff team and you can zero in on an enemy objective and pound them without having to reacquire each turn.


Finally, I thought this army needed some mobile firepower so bring on a company of five T-34/85s. They are well armored (7, 8 over 16”), have a great gun (32” range, AT 12) and are one of the few Late War Soviet tanks with a Rate of Fire 2. They do suffer from Hen & Chicks but that isn’t a problem if you hold them back to support your infantry. And that AT 12 can take on just about anything. You even have a decent chance against Tigers at close range.

This is my core army. I also have blisters of HMGs and PTRD Anti-tank rifles on the painting table to add diversity to my company’s make up.

Since the Flamethrowers are attached to combat companies this army has a total of five maneuver elements, meaning you can only deploy two in missions with reserves. This may initially seem daunting until you realize that your sixth company, the flamethrowers, starts on the table with the Sapper companies. So really you are starting with 3 companies on the table. Or, I could drop the Pioneer Supply Trucks and add two Zis-2 guns for a total of 6 deployable platoons which would be great for missions with reserves.

Always Attacking
The Engineering Assault means that the Engineer Sapper Battalion is always the attacker in missions that have prepared positions or if the opposing force contains fortifications. This gives you the advantage of knowing what you will be doing in missions and being able to plan ahead.

Viable Against All Armies
Usually an army is more equipped to fight certain armies that others. For example, a Strelkovy army will usually take it to another infantry army pretty good but may have a tough time against an armored force. Not so for the Engineer-Sapper Battalion. With company sized maneuver elements consisting of 15+ models, they are big enough to avoid easy pinning and can easily hold their own against enemy infantry. Even if they are pinned by fire or artillery, they are Fearless and can have the Battalion Commander and Commissar with them so chances are they will easily unpin. I mean, no one fails a 3+ roll 3 times in a row!

Each sapper is armed with an SMG (RoF 3 even when moving) so even without support from the attached flamethrowers, they can pin the enemy and assault in. Making it even harder to hit them in defensive fire is the Smoke Assault special rule, which allows some teams to hang back and fire smoke to conceal the assaulting teams. This is huge because this is the only way Soviets can ever use smoke to get concealment in an assault.

Against armored armies they are even more effective. Every base in the army has AT 4 in assault except for the faustnika teams (AT 6) and the PTRD teams (AT 3 in Tank Assault). Add in the AT 4 of the artillery and the armor and punch of the T-34/85s, and you have a force in which every unit can bust up the enemy’s tanks.

Long story short, I believe that the Engineer-Sapper Battalion is one of, if not THE most effective, versatile, and hard to beat forces in the Flames of War game. More importantly, they have access to some cool guns and vehicles and the Sapper models themselves look great.


To further make this army unique, I put together some special Lenin Tokens that I use when playing with them. These are fun. Just print them out on a sheet of photo paper, stick them onto an 8.5 x 11 sheet of felt and cut them out.


I’d love to read your opinions on this force. Go to the Flames of War Message Board or the Miniatures Page World War Two Land Discussion Board.