IS-2 – The Beast from the East

Every sequel needs to be bigger and better.

Jason Statham

Battlefront started a new, exciting customer engagement program this week with live twitch Q&As, this time featuring Peter and Chris.  While there was a wealth of cool information for both FOW and Team Yankee, for me the biggest treat was the revealing of the soviet IS-2 for the new Late War Bagration book due out this summer.

For those who don’t know the IS-2 or Joseph Stalin 2 is the Soviet heavy tank featuring a 122mm gun with a 100mm of front armour.  Its quite a beast and designed to act as a breakthrough tank, with the ability to withstand German 88s whilst threatening German heavy armour at the same time, though let down by having too much gun in too small a turret, driving the rate of fire down.  Here is how this is has been translated into FOW v4.

At present this puts the IS-2 as the tank with the second thickest armour in game (just behind the Ferdinand – [Not actually a tank! – Lee]), and it has many advantages beyond it, which I will come to.  FA10 is a really interesting area at the moment in the game.  Being pretty much immune to AT12 at long range and confident enough not to be overly fussed at close range unless its being massed. This puts PAk40s, 3 inch Tank Destroyers and towed guns and 76mm Shermans in a difficult spot, especially when PAk40s and 76mm Shermans are a common sight in a majority of armies. 
With no AT13 guns currently, lets jump to AT14 where the world of 88mm guns opens up with Tigers, Panthers, Heavy German AA and, in blue on blue (1946!) games, the 17pdr in its various guises.  Tough teams that can blow apart pretty much everything… up until now.  At long range you are now only killing with roughly 1 in 9 shots (2/3 hit x 1/3 penetrate x 2/3 pass FP).  Sure you can get bails, but the point is these are hard beasts to really bring down.  Even at close ranges, you still statistically need four shots to get enough hits, penetrations and passed fire power tests for a kill.  That’s a minimum of two Tigers/Panthers or two unpinned 88s in perfect conditions!

“Do not get involved in a fight with a “Stalin” without overwhelming numerical superiority in the field. I believe that for every “Stalin” we must account for an entire platoon of Tigers.” General Guderian

Of course, side armour as always is the way to mitigate this, though it ‘only’ drops to 8, so the same as a Tiger.  Yes the IS-2 are vulnerable, but where as a Tiger force may be running seven hulls we will probably see a meta of around ten hulls for IS-2 formations.  What eight does do is provide some really good assault odds against Shreks and Bazookas but some shakier ones vs panzerfausts.  It seems a nice balance between being a beast and an auto roll over everything point and click unit.

Lets look a bit more at panzerfausts (as the biggest threat, they accounted for 67 IS-2 kills in the final battle for Berlin).  Assuming the infantry are unpinned, you need three shots to achieve two kills or bails and, at the moment, you only get one panzerfaust team. Even with two panzerhreks added in, you can’t do it statistically.  Pin them and the IS-2 players are definitely onto a winner with four shots needed.  As for bazookas and PIATs, you need seven shots, so going into a US Armoured Rifle Platoon with five should (how many times have we said that) be okay, pin them and again the IS-2’s are likely to be having a good day.  Once you get there you have a 3+ assault, 3+ counter, and TA2.  Supported with a CIC reroll they will be pretty brutal.

Select an objective drive forward, kill, benefit, repeat.

Its assaults where I see these shine and, while experiences may vary, I find its assaults that tend to ultimately win games.  Sure they can blow stuff up but that isn’t what I see as their main purpose. I’ve seen a lot of people online getting bogged down already into discussions about tank on tank action. There are better tools for that already and I am sure there will be more to come in the new book.

With the info we know we can, in friendly games and with opponent permission, immediately take these as formation support in any Fortress Europe list.  If you have a defensive army, looking for great single reserve roll to bring on a counter attack, and in ‘all on games’ as a major offensive element five IS-2s is the thing for you.  37pts is a big reserve roll and probably worthy of the lucky card to improve the odds of them arriving. Unless you are bringing them on directly opposite PAk43s then its likely going to upset your opponents plans; five FA10 tanks do that!  In this way they make a great reserve for a defensive hero strelk army.  Three of them at 22pts is a bargain to add to your T-34 Hero list bringing some AT14 (albeit RoF 1, slow firing) and a reliable assault element to the table.

You could in theory test out running a Battalion of IS-2s now, although we don’t know what other core troops are available, but in a friendly setting you could try it out.  For me 1+3+3+3  at 73pts seems optimal with seven on table and 9 pts of other stuff (I’d recommend “Spearhead” recce and SMG infantry).  That still leaves another 18pts in reserve on top of 3 IS-2s meaning you can easily run, 10 IS-2s and have loads of other options.  Of course, the most you can run is 13 and then with a few points for recce and lucky.   For me a Katyusha and 76mm arty is an interesting choice.  Pak43 and 88s will still be an issue due to their low cost and, with a pie plate template courtesy of the Katy’s, you can deny ambushes and keep them off objectives with acreful positioning of pre-placed ranged in markers.  Then you can lift that template as your IS-2s assault and keep the 76mm raining down to the rear of the assault to keep things pinned, making use of the smaller danger close.

Luckily,  I recently painted up 10 new ones, so for me, something like this seems worth a look (caveat, if I can take core mortars when the formation diagram is released I will drop the 76mm to save points).

HQ 1 x IS-2
3 x IS-2
3 x IS-2
3 x IS-2
Hero SMG pltn
4 x Katyusha Rocket Launcher
4 x 76mm Artillery
3 x BA10s

All in all it makes me very excited for Bagration, I think the Soviets are due a lot of love and with my beloved IS-2s now a seriously viable unit again everything else is just gravy!  All we need now are some games!

7 thoughts on “IS-2 – The Beast from the East

  1. I think that the most important change is them getting a 3+ blitz to mitigate their ROF 1 guns. Its enough for me to think seriously about adding them to my LW Soviets. Not something I would have considered doing previously as they never seemed to perform for my friends when they played them.

  2. Good article Mark,

    These Bad boys will at least give the Soviets some new tools in the toolbox. Seeing the 122mm gun in action will be fun. Front armour 10 will be nice, allmost as good as the Churchill VII. I cant wait to see what else is in the book.

  3. Great article – covers many of the reasons I’m excited to add these to my new Soviet force once Bagration book is out. I also like your discussion of using templates to support assault with these beasts – very smart!

    One thing though – these aren’t the second most heavily armored behind Ferdinand. New Churchills can be 11/8/2, right? And if we are looking at FA only, the Brummbar has had 10 since Ghost Panzers.

    Regardless, they are beasts – TA2 is really underrated (and undercosted) IMO – being totally immune to normal infantry and unkillable by anything short of AT4 artillery (which is super rare outside of aircraft) is awesome. Combined with FA10 you can completely or almost so disregard 50-70 percent of a typical list with these tanks!

    Imagine running something like a Panzer IV or Stug Company against 10 of these – they’ll focus fire your two Tigers, then table the rest. You get 3 IS-2s for same price as 4 Panzer IVs – amazing value!

    Americans in a tough spot, too, though I think a list with 5 non-Vet 76mms and Desert Vet M10s is still a threat – that’s just a lot of mobile AT12 that outranges the IS-2 by 8 inches for 40 points total. Add a couple platoons of non-Vet 75s to run to flanks, or P-47 for rockets…I dunno, maybe. IS-2 only Remounts on 4+, so getting a lot of bails isn’t a terrible strategy – forcing them to sit still or leave failed Remounts out of command is decent, due to short 28 inch gun range.

    IS-2 also strong vs Churchills. 6 points vs 7, but you can pen them and they can’t really hurt you. If they try to flank, you are faster and have better tactics rating for Blitz/Shoot n Scoot. Churchills in a much better place “in context” though because Brits have access to so much cheap, Cautious, highly mobile AT14 (Achilles) that also significantly outranges the IS-2.

    Like you say, killing IS-2s at LR with AT14 really comes down to throwing a lot of dice. As I see it, nothing right now is better positioned to do that than the Achilles.

  4. As a v2 and v3 veteran Soviet player, they were hot garbage. Not even remotely worth the price tag. And the hero versions were even less useful. The only good thing about them before was that they were Guards, and had a 3+ motivation, but now motivation is all split up and their base is a 4+. Bleh…

    v4 hasn’t interested me much, but IMHO I would still leave these things shelved. I don’t build lists just to face specific national, so fielding them as an exploit specifically against Brit or US with lower AT at the moment is a colossal dick move to me. Ultimately they couldn’t hit the broadside of a Ferdinand if they flanked it before, and looks like they still likely won’t. And that doesn’t even mention how Brutal is a downgrade.

    My verdict: Trash bin ‘em. Hopefully the playability of ISUs will improve, or at least carry over.

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