What if you could turn back the clock, back to the past and before the woes of the present? Back to a different time, a different balance, a different era? In Wargame: Red Dragon, almost all fights happen with the 1990 and after meta - but the option exists for fights between Category C decks, and what a world of fun it is! 1980, Category C decks in Wargame make for a game which is both similar and yet hugely different, with a vastly different meta, strategy, and playstyle, one which takes away the small number of extremely expensive key units which can dominate games - high powered helicopters, super heavy tanks, advanced artillery. Instead, the world of 1980 is that of the massed armies of the height of the Cold War, reliant upon mass, shock, and speed. It is a fascinating thing to compare the post-1990 nations and their early counterparts, because their strengths and playstyle can very so much between eras.
Czechoslovakia in 1980 might miss out on some of the high tech unicorns which define its later era army - but it has even more marked strengths and advantages, which continue to make it one of the few national decks, particularly on Redfor, which is capable of producing a reasonably well-rounded and balanced force. What is interesting is that it loses some of its strengths of 1990 - but by the same token, many of its weaknesses become less prevalent, and the different structure of a 1980s match produces a drastically different meta which raises the value of units. The low armor piercing capacity of most Czechoslovak infantry units suddenly becomes far less of a problem in an era where armor as a whole is much less thick, and its own ubiquitous ATGMs, most often surpassed in armor penetrating values by 1990, are far more useful. Czechoslovakia has most of the capabilities that it would come to enjoy in 1990, unlike other factions whose military suffer crucial capability gaps in Category C decks. For all of these reasons, it is an illustrative beginning into a guide to a 1980 Category C deck in Wargame: Red Dragon, one which is surprisingly self-sufficient and viable on its own in a 1980s era match.
My main deck for Czechoslovakia. The main thing I might suggest being optional is whether one takes the Mi-4, which is a surplus unit that I had the points to fit in, and perhaps instead taking more logistics units. Logistics is one place where other than the absence of the T-72 command tank, Czechoslovakia has essentially exactly the same as its 1990s line up.
Infantry and Transports
If there is one area where Czechoslovak forces are massively better than their later, 1990 equivalents, it is infantry and their transports. Not because they are better - but because they are almost exactly the same, which means that their capabilities are hugely better in 1980. Their only real loss is the Mi-17 helicopter, while the Vydskari' 90 and the later versions of the BMP - labeled the BVP in Czech service - are very optional and largely unnecessary in a 1980 game. The big disadvantage of Czechoslovak infantry by 1990 is that their AT options are increasingly mediocre against enemy tanks, with only the Vydskari 90' offering 24 AP - but with very low 525 meter range, while the rest of the infantry is limited to 14 or 15 AP. This is less problematic in 1980, both against enemy tanks, and enemy transports, where armor values tend to be much more often simply 1 armor, much more capable of being 1-shot by this value of AP weaponry.
Czechoslovakia's infantry options are a competent bunch. The Vydskari in their base version are statistically identical to the much-praised East German Mot-Shutzen - with their drawback that makes these otherwise excellent 15-point shock infantry into worse versions of their East German counterparts being their mediocre transport options, relying upon either purely helicopter transports or the OT-64s. These OT-64s are overvalued and under-armored for 15 points, paying an exorbitant penalty for their 14.5mm machine gun, whose terrible accuracy negates its theoretically better armor penetration in almost all circumstances, but are the only real option available for a motorized opener. There are no tracked transports, which removes the great advantage of German Mot-Schutzen - their cheap cost and advantages in grinding operations. In 1980, Vydskari's OT-64C is somewhat better, since the Malyutka anti-tank missile is marginally more useful, but not that much. Still, they make decent enough shock infantry.
Other options however, are far better. Almost all other Czechoslovak infantry gets access to the excellent OT-62 Vydra II IFV, packing a great 30mm autocannon which can destroy light vehicles, infantry, and even helicopters, with 2 armor on the front and sides, which is even more resilient in 1980 than it is in 1990. Its availability penalty, somewhat unfortunate in an Eastern Block setting, is helped by the additional availability bonuses to Czechoslovakia. Czecholovak Motostrelci line infantry benefit tremendously from this. Motostrelci have a unique 20 rounds per minute, 15 AP, RPG-75, which is quite decent at close range AT capability. For forest fighting, grinding, and general infantry operations, the two make a good pair.
The Granatomet is one of the best fire support options for anti-infantry purposes, with an automatic grenade launcher, with decent 1,250 meter range, excellent suppression, and rather stealthy to fire. Shooting from a forest's edge or from a town, it is difficult to spot and can shred infantry. Paired to the Vydra II, and one doesn't have any need to worry about enemy infantry other than in a deep town fight!
One significant other improvement in the Czechoslovak arsenal is that there are no longer enemy anti-aircraft helicopters present in nearly as large of numbers. NATO loses all of its anti-aircraft helicopters, which makes a helicopter drop of infantry much less feasible - and makes Redfor helicopters more survivable in the opening. Czechoslovakia, which lacked an anti-aircraft helicopter when on its own, continues to have the tank-like MI-24 Hind, capable of carrying either Vydskari, Lenka Pechota, or a variety of other infantry. Lenka Pechota are a particularly good option, since their long-range makes them capable of being landed in forward buildings and providing a long deterrence range around them, while the Hinds provide gunfire support against enemy ground units or can beat up enemy helicopters with a fair degree of success.
The final pillar of Czechoslovak infantry is the Konkurs ATGM team. Their 2,650 meter range, 20 AP missiles are brilliant at wiping out enemy tanks, in a period where their most heavily armored opponents are the units such as the base Abrams, Leopard 2, or base versions of T-80s or Challengers. Unlike the Konkurs-M, which in 1990 at best mostly barely exceeds the armor value of enemy super-heavies, Konkurs substantially overmatch them.
Czechoslovak MANPAD options are just as bad as later on, without even their usage in getting cheap Mi-17s on the battlefield, and pioneer flamer units tend to be too niche to be much use.
In general, a Czechoslovak infantry force might thus be structured around Lehkna Pechota in Hinds to seize forward towns at the beginning of the game, Vysadkari to provide fast motorized units to back them up or for an initial motorized strike component against targets unsuitable for air drops, Konkurs to provide static AT power to these positions, and then Motostrelci and Granatomat in their Vydra Iis to enable grinding and heavy firepower options.
Tanks are one of the areas where it can be debated. Czechoslovakia is better than some other factions, such as Blue Dragons, Red Dragons, Scandinavia (arguable at least: the Strv 103A lacks too much in AP to make a competitive tank in my opinion), but is further behind Eurocorps, the United States, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Soviet Union, than it is in a post 1990s game.
- Czechoslovakia loses access to its specialty ATGM-firing tanks, such as the Dyna or the various upgraded versions of the T-72. On the other hand this is generally not that important of a capability, as ATGMs tend to be inaccurate, easily countered by smoke, and come in small numbers. On infantry or stealthy reconnaissance vehicles, they are good - on tanks, they tend to be costly for little gain.
- There is no superheavy anymore, without the Moderna. Czech tanks peak at the 55 point T-72M, which simply cannot stand up in an open field engagement to the American M1 Abrams (even with the latter's rather anemic gun), nor to French AMX-32s (whose armor at least can be penetrated, but which will shred T-72Ms with a much better armor piercing value), British Chieftains, and certainly not against German Leopard 2s. But in most cases the T-72M is not so badly outmatched as to be able to be ignored: in the 1980 context, it might be looked at as a workhorse tank, incapable of dealing with the more powerful super heavies of the period but more than sufficient to deal with lighter vehicles and to provide some armored presence.
- Czech availability bonuses and the availability of both T-72 and T-72M cards give the Czechs a very good number pool of tanks to draw from.
Overall, Czech tanks are probably slightly worse in their 1980 version than in 1990+. They are somewhat more handicapped against enemy tanks than they are later on, but not excessively so, while the lower AP values of 1980 make them more survivable as a rule, particularly in forest fighting.
Artillery and Air Defense
Artillery is one area where 1980s Czechoslovakia receives a major downgrade. Every nation in 1980 has dramatically worse artillery than it does a decade later - well, every nation which has good artillery at least, since there is such a world of difference between 1990 era artillery with modern fire control systems which aim in 10 seconds, and 1980 artillery which is immensely less accurate, and most importantly takes 30 seconds to aim - or 35 for 203mm guns. The only good old artillery are cheap, 7 HE firing artillery, very useful for saturating a large area such as a forest with large amounts of HE for minimal supply costs. Unfortunately, Czechoslovakia doesn't get this, only a 6 HE gun which is not as good.
- The loss of a modern 10 second aim time FCS is very unfortunate. While everyone else lost their 10 second aim time FCS as well, the Ondova was the backbone of Czechoslovak artillery.
- Czechoslovakia lacks a cheap artillery system for saturation fire, with only the expensive 90 point DANA and the 6HE Karafiat.
- Czechoslovakia loses its access to mortars, which while less important in a 1980 era without the primacy of superheavy tactics, are still tremendously useful.
- Tank armor tends to be around the same top value throughout the era on NATO, which at at least 2 and most often 3 means the cheap Czechoslovak 3 AP cluster MRLS continues to be equally ineffective and doesn't gain any real advantage from the previous era.
Overall, Czechoslovak artillery takes a heavy hit, making it a mostly marginal presence on the battlefield afterward.
Thankfully, air defense is in a much better state. In 1980, missiles from helicopters peak at a maximum range of 2,625 meters, and there is no headache of providing for 2,800 meter range anti-helicopter defense.
- Without the need for fight out to 2,800 meters, the PRLK S-10M - the tracked Strela unit - is far more viable, providing a reasonably cheap, good range, stabilized, reasonably accurate, infrared anti-helicopter system. The PLRK S-1M2 is also very useful as a wheeled unit to cover motorized openings.
- The base Kub-M is a potent long-ranged anti-aircraft unit, which in combination with the infrared unit, and with its upvetting, is very effective against enemy aircraft. Furthermore, there are far fewer SEAD platforms, which makes them more survivable against many nations.
Overall, Czechoslovak air defense is if anything even better, with the missing OSA anti-aircraft weapons well compensated by the mixture of viable Strelas and Kubs. The disappointing artillery of 1980 evens this out to a moderate downgrade.
With a single exception, Czechoslovakia's reconnaissance assets are essentially untouched for the relative era.
- Specialni Jednotky are an excellent commando reconnaissance infantry option. In their 80s variant, they lack the 1990's version with its 20 AP, 20 round per minute launcher, as well as a carbine compared to assault rifle - which unfortunately makes them incapable of dispatching 2-armor enemy vehicles with one blow. Still, they are a very useful commando infantry option.
- The Pruzkumnci give good shock recon infantry, with a sniper rifle rather than a machine gun - which can provide surprisingly good anti-infantry firepower defensively, even if it lacks some of the offensive possibilities of a machine gun.
- If one wants exceptional optics, there is no longer a wheeled option, but at least there is the Svatava, which can be useful for the longer distance spotting range in forests.
- There still is a reconnaissance helicopter.
- The one missing unit is the lack of the Snezka, which provides an armed, surprisingly heavily armored, tracked, reconnaissance vehicle. While being tracked is unfortunate and it has some problems dealing with units such as the AMX-10RC, as well as having a low ammunition capacity, the Snezka is still an invaluable unit which can fire with reasonable stealth when in bushes, offers an excellent base defense option, and can wreak tremendous damage behind enemy lines. Replacing the Snezka is hard, with the T-54 recon tank being somewhat better 1980 but still mediocre, and the OT-64 Vydra suffering from appalling accuracy.
Overall, with the exception of the Snezka, reconnaissance otpions continue to be very good. Against most factions they are still perfectly fine - with the only exception being against Eurocorps and France, whose AMX-10 RCs are terribly troublesome to deal with without the Snezka.
Czechoslovakia's vehicle tab in a 1990 game has the surprisingly useful Pram-S, with a 2,450 meter range 5 HE gun, paired with a Konkurs 20 AP missile possessing 2,625 meters range - and all of this for just 35 points! Unfortunately absent in 1980, the vehicle tab does have some benefits.
- The BDRM-2 Konkurs offers an easy way to get cheap Konkurs onto the field fast, and in large numbers,. While still worse than the infantry-fired Konkurs due to the lack of stealth, at least in a 1980s environment its Konkurs missiles can actually be counted on to counter enemy vehicles frontally.
- It continues to have the To-55 vehicle, if one wants a napalm tank.
- The OT-810D gives a very cheap fire support vehicle if one wants it.
The main unfortunate lack is a good base defense-vehicle, a role fulfilled by the Snezka, or in East Germany or Poland in the 57mm ZSU-57-2, or by twin 14.5mm vehicles. One can however, leave infantry around for this purpose still.
Czechoslovakia is not spoiled for choice for helicopters ion 1990 like the United States or Soviet Union, but what it does have is the surprisingly good Mi-35 - giving a very good all-purpose helicopter with good survivability, speed, anti-tank, and anti-infantry armament - and the superb Mi-17, with its heavy 122mm rockets. It also has some miscellaneous helicopters, such as the Mi-8, equipped only with 57mm rockets (not even a heavy machine gun!), the Mi-25 with mediocre ATGMs but with 240mm rockets - if only 4 of them and somewhat inaccurate - the transport version of the Mi-25, equipped with 57mm rockets, and various Mi-4 fire support options.
All of these later helicopters continue to be available in Czechoslovakia's arsenal. This means that Czechoslovakia no longer has access to real anti-tank helicopters, with only mediocre, inaccurate, small-in-numbers, Fleyta anti-tank missiles on rather expensive helicopters for a purely anti-tank role. But while it doesn't have any real anti-tank helicopters, its transport Mi-25 options are quite good for seizing and controlling ground. Furthermore, the Czechoslovak Mi-25 S-24 is still available, and its long-ranged, if inaccurate missiles can give secure, safe, and devastating fire support before retreating to re-arm.
There is also the advantage of what is lacking on the enemy side by comparison. No longer is there the need to compete with enemy anti-aircraft helicopters with only the Albatros offering some anti-helicopter defense, while Western helicopters, other than the Franco-German HOT-armed ones, tend to have far inferior AT capabilities compared to 1990. Czechoslovak helicopters in 1980 offer units which are much more capable of overwhelming and offering brutal close ranged attacks than their 1990 versions, even if they lack the useful long ranged AT firepower or the devastating 122mm rockets of the Mi-17.
Czechoslovakia's air arm is, surprisingly, one of the strongest around in 1990s Wargame: Red Dragon, with only the absence of a fire and forget AT plane holding it back, as it otherwise possesses a decent 100 point fighter which makes a useful interceptor, an excellent Mig-29 thermobaric bomber, SEAD, a helicopter hunter aircraft, and the SU-25k attack plane. In 1980, the situation is more mixed.
- On the good side, Czechoslovak aircraft continue to be quite good against helicopters, as the Albatros is an excellent helicopter hunter. Its main air suprior fighter, the Mig-21bis, is also good against helicopters.
- Czechoslovakia continues to possess SEAD, even if the Su-7 is the "worst" (if very cheap and spammable) SEAD plane in the game.
- While none of its bombers are very powerful individually, it can spam the air with lots of Albatros aircraft, both in the unarmed ground attack aircraft and fighter-hunter plane (which also carries x2 500 kilogram bombs).
- It continues to have the Mig-23BN, a good anti-tank plane.
Unfortunately, the negatives exist too:
- There is no fighter with long-ranged anti-aircraft missiles, with the best fighting, the Mig-21bis, only carrying short-ranged air-to-air missiles. While most nations have inferior fighters in 1980, most nations still have at least some long-ranged air to air options, and Czechoslovakia being limited to the Mig-21bis means that it is much more reliant on ground-based air defense, using the Mig-21bis as a helicopter hunter, and guile and smart tactics to put its fighters into a position where they can get close enough to score a kill.
- While the Czechoslovak light bombers are decent, there is nothing like the MIg-29 for providing a fast, well-protected, unique napalm-explosion bomber.
Overall, the Czechoslovak air arm is still good, but it has to be more carefully used due to the lack of air-to-air options for dealing with enemy fighters.
Playing 1980s Czechoslovakia
Some of the key threats which Czechoslovakia can have trouble dealing with in 1980 are:
- AMX-10 RCs. In a regular 1990 game, these are difficult enough as a foe, but their combat capabilities are much closer to regular tanks in 1980. Since all Czechoslovak tanks in 1980 only have poor optics, they are exceptionally difficult to spot. Thus playing against Eurocorps or France means that any armored push must be accompanied by extensive reconnaissance assets to deal with AMX-10 RCs and prevent them from sniping tanks from the safety of forests and bushes where they will not be spotted.
- 2,250 meter range tanks. Since the longest ranged Czechoslovak tanks only have 2,100 meter range in 1980, this leaves them vulnerable to the French AMX 70, German Leopard 2s and Keilers, British Chieftain Mark 5, and various Soviet tanks. Responding to these vehicles requires a combination of tank destroyer support - more viable in 1980 than later on -, ATGM infantry, and anti-tank aircraft.
Generally, Czechoslovakia tends to struggle heavily against Eurocorps, which has excellent tanks, IFVs, motorized options, and is a very thorny problem for a Czechoslovak deck to deal with.
The best options for Czechoslovakia are -
- Airborne bite-and-hold tactics, using Hinds and Lehka Pechota. This can take a forward area, enable supporting ATGMs and tanks to come up, and enable the position to be held. While Czechoslovakia's air-to-air arsenal is mediocre, the planes it does have are surprisingly good against enemy helicopters.
- Mechanized operations, as Czechoslovakia has excellent IFVs and fire support options in 1980. A combination of IFVs and fire support infantry to wipe out enemy infantry, tanks which can deal with enemy vehicles at closer ranges, and plentiful quantities of infantry make for Czechoslovakia's bread and butter.
The terrain to avoid - at least against heavily equipped enemy factions like Eurocorps, the US, or the Commonwealth - are open areas, where Czechoslovakia's relatively poor tanks and long ranged fire options make it less capable of pitched battles here. Instead, reliance has to be placed on defensive operations, using Czechoslovakia's long ranged ATGMs and ATGM carriers, as well as occasional strikes by its ATGM planes.