Ahhh Heavy Tanks. These large lumbering beasts are kings of the battlefield. That is if you ever are lucky enough to see one out on the table. Competitively, Heavy Tanks are rarely seen, as they generally take up over a third of your allotted points. But, if you take a Heavy, they can truly rule the battlefield. But be warned, chances are they won’t live up to the hype or make their points back.
Note: For the purpose of simplicity, all Tanks will be reviewed as Regular and fielded in a 1,000pt. Generic Reinforced Platoon. This selection will only cover domestically built Medium Tanks for the USSR. Lend Lease vehicles will have their own section. Light Tanks from Theater and Campaign books are also included.
Heavy and Super Heavy Tanks
Armored vehicles with Armor 10 and 11
KV-1 – 350 points, turret-mounted Medium AT Gun with coax MMG, turret-mounted rear MMG, hull mount MMG covering forward arc, Armor 10. The OG Soviet Heavy Tank. This monster served with distinction all throughout the war. Thus, in Bolt Action, if you want to be cheeky, you can take this tank in an Early-War game and watch your opponent struggle to deal with it. That being said, wow is this expensive. Part of the reason it’s so expensive is it has Armored All Around. This Tank treats any hits taken as hitting the Front Armor. This comes at a cost, it’s also Slow. So, it has an Advance rate cut to 6” and Run down to 12”. To me, at 350 points it’s just too expensive for what it brings to the table. You can effectively have the same firepower minus the turret rear MMG for 155 points less in a T-34. You can take a Heavy Howitzer with a Spotter, a T-34 and a Regular AT Rifle Team for the same points as a KV-1, and have the exact same anti-tank firepower. If you want to take a KV-1 you should, but take the KV-1S.
KV-1S – 280 points, turret-mounted Medium AT Gun with coax MMG, turret-mounted rear MMG, hull mount MMG covering forward arc, Armor 10. This tank loses Armored All Around and Slow. As it’s 70 points cheaper than the KV-1, it gains mobility and is well worth the lack of Armor 10 all around. This is still expensive at 85 points more than a T-34, but with Armor 10, you can take a bigger punch, plus this tank looks so cool; and Rule of Cool rules the day.
KV-8 – 375 points, turret-mounted Light AT Gun with coax Flamethrower, turret-mounted rear MMG, forward facing hull mounted MMG, Armor 10. This tank is a mess. You lose AT firepower, but gain anti-infantry firepower. But you’re Slow and Armored All Around, so you’re great at brawling it out with other tanks armor wise, but can’t get close to infantry due to the slow speed. Not only that, you gain Internal, Volatile Fuel Tanks, this rule adds +1 to your damage roll on the chart, giving you a ⅔ chance you will explode. At 375 points, it’s too much, and with all the negative modifiers it won’t help win you games.
KV-8S – 305 points, turret-mounted Light AT gun with coax Flamethrower, turret mounted rear MMG, forward facing hull mount MMG, Armor 10. This tank, much like its non-flamethrower cousin, loses Slow and Armored All Around, and is 70 points cheaper. Now during normal engagement ranges the shorter range of the Light AT Gun will only give you +3 Pen (down from +4 Pen outside of 24″), so you will be hard pressed to damage Armor 8 vehicles and can only deal superficial damage to Armor 9 vehicles. The Flamethrower with even shorter range, means a competent opponent will avoid you and render 30% of your list ineffectual. If you haven’t noticed by now I’m not a fan of Flamethrower tanks.
IS-1/KV-85 – 320 points, turret-mounted Heavy AT Gun with coax MMG, rear turret-mounted MMG, forward-facing hull mount MMG, Armor 10. This is a decent tank, but it doesn’t do anything special over a T-34/85 other than Armor 10 compared to 9. It does have the rear turret-mounted MMG, but that comes up so rarely in games, that it’s essentially a non factor and a tax on the tank. This is the most forgettable Soviet Heavy, and I don’t see a reason to take this over the IS-2.
IS-2 – 320 points, turret-mounted Heavy AT Gun with coax MMG, rear turret-mounted MMG, Armor 10, option to add a pintle HMG for 25 points. Upon first glance, it’s identical to an IS-1, but there are two key differences. The first difference is that this tank has Slow Load, so this tank cannot be the first Order Dice activated each Turn. The second difference is this tank has Big HE, which is a 3” HE template and 2d6 vs buildings. Essentially you trade a much better HE shell for less initiative. But, if you’re really worried about not going first, you can Snap To with your officer to allow this monster to shoot first. 320 points for one Order Die is expensive, and in a normal 1,000 point game it is generally viewed as not worth taking. This tank can excel at 1,250 or higher point games. I actually love this tank and have run it at tournaments before and have done well with it.
IS-3 – 600 points, turret-mounted Heavy AT gun with coax MMG, pintle HMG, Armor 11, Armor 12 on the front. To be blunt, this tank is not worth it, even at 1,250. It’s just way too expensive. Compared to an IS-2, you gain 2 Armor on the front and 1 on the sides, but lose the coax and gain a pintle HMG. Sure you’re more survivable but is that worth the extra 280 points? I don’t think so. That being said, if you plop this down on a table for a casual game or tournament game, you win by virtue of the Rule of Cool. But that might be all you’re going to be winning with this beast.
To me the clear winner here is the IS-2, followed by the KV-1s, then IS-1/KV-85. But as I said before, in a 1,000 point game, these will almost never make their points back up, and sometimes not even get a kill (dice can be like that). The Heavy/Super Heavy Tank selection for the Soviets is definitely lacking some variety, but overall you get a good amount of options to choose from, and almost all of them are decent choices.