Hammers of the Proletariat
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
The term “Iron Curtain” had been
used by others, but became widely known once
Winston Churchill used it in a March, 1946,
speech in Fulton, Missouri. A “Cold
War” between the Soviet Union and the
Western democracies had been brewing since
the end of World War II, but Churchill’s
public attack brought it into the open.
How likely was open, “hot” war
between the United States and the Soviet Union?
While domestic politics drove both sides to
overstate the threat at times, at other points
there’s little doubt a Third World War
could easily have broken out. Casualties would
have dwarfed anything in human experience.
Both sides armed themselves for it, both trained
and planned for it. And built a bewildering
array of weapons to fight it.
And now we’re giving you those weapons. John Stafford has created a fine addition to the Panzer Grenadier lineup with Iron Curtain: Hammer & Sickle. It has 77 die-cut
20 brand-new scenarios and a complete campaign game. The fear is over, and turning
it into fun is a fine way to bury it.
The Soviet Armory
Hammer & Sickle’s scenarios draw
heavily on Road to Berlin for the Soviet
order of battle. The
module has 56 new Soviet Guards pieces and
21 for the Soviet Army (formerly known as the Red Army of Workers and Peasants).
There’s only one new type of personnel unit in the module,
the Soviet Guards “AK” infantry.
These are troops armed with the Kalashnikov
AK-47 assault rifle, a weapon decades ahead
of its time when it was adopted in 1947. It
took quite a while for it to become the Red
Army’s standard weapon, and into the
mid-1950’s the overwhelming majority
of Soviet troops still carried the Moisin-Nagant
bolt action rifle or the much-less-capable
SKS assault rifle.
We’ve always veered away from rifle-counting
in Panzer Grenadier, as in all our
games. Firepower represents more than just
the number of bullets a unit can pump out;
not least, it also represents the willingness
to fire these weapons and the ability to hit
something with them.
The Germans introduced their own assault rifle
in late 1944, and we only upped their firepower
slightly (though a German GREN unit of 1944
represents fewer men than an INF of 1941).
The AK-47 represented such a leap in capability
that the doubling of Guard infantry firepower
seemed warranted. These are the most potent
infantry units presented in Panzer Grenadier.
There’s only one new medium tank,
but there are a lot of them. The T-44 was
a re-design of the T-34/85, which had been
intended as a stopgap vehicle matching the
turret of the KV-85 and the chassis of the
T-34/76. It was an enormously successful stopgap,
with over 22,000 produced, but Soviet designers
knew they could do much better.
The T-44 began to roll off the lines in Kharkhiv
in August, 1944. It had a lower profile than
the T-34/85 with a re-designed turret and
thicker armor protection. A new engine restored
the tank’s speed, and it was mounted
in “transverse” fashion (side-to-side)
to allow the turret to rest at the tank’s
center rather than forward positioning in
Just under 1,000 T-44’s were made,
but none saw action in the Great Patriotic
War. Unlike other Soviet tanks, a number of
them appear to have been fitted with German-style
“skirts” to deflect anti-tank
rockets. We included a large number of these
tanks in Iron Curtain (12 each for the Guards
and Soviet Army), positing
that the American challenge would have brought
out the Soviet Union’s best.
We know what Panzer Grenadier players
have wanted since the beginning: big tanks
with big guns. The Soviet Josef Stalin (JS)
series is the epitome of heavy metal. We provide
two flavors, the JS3 and JS4.
The preceding JS2 heavy tank appeared in Road
to Berlin, but the JS3 represented a leap
forward in capability. With the “frying
pan” turret and “pike’s
nose” glacis (front) plate, the JS3
became the model for post-war Soviet tank
design. Yet despite its thick armor, Soviet
designers thought they could do better, and
the JS4 featured even heavier protection at
the cost of some performance.
Soviet sources are in agreement that the JS3
saw no combat against the Germans in the great
Patriotic War, and the one regiment sent to
Manchuria is highly unlikely to have fired
any shots in anger during the brief offensive
against the Japanese in August, 1945. The
JS4 saw no action, and would be withdrawn
from service much earlier than contemporary
vehicles, due to transmission problems likely
brought on by the increased weight of the
tank’s extra armor.
In Hammer & Sickle we didn’t skimp
on these tanks, either: The Guards have 10
JS3 and eight JS4 pieces, while the Soviet Army
adds nine more JS3 pieces.
The Soviet Union fielded assault guns based on most of its
tank chassis, and the T-44 was no exception.
We included a pair of Su-101 tank destroyers
in the mix, an experimental vehicle based
on a highly modified T-44 chassis (borrowing
many parts from the T-34/85 assembly line
The Su-101 was inspired by the German “Ferdinand”
tank destroyer, and carried a 100mm gun in
a lightly armored compartment on the rear
of the vehicle. Unlike Ferdinand, or the Soviet
designers of the Su-100, the Uralmash team
that built this prototype remembered to include
machine guns for defense against infantry. Hammer & Sickle has two of them, and they
are very effective units.
here to order Hammer & Sickle now!
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.