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.
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!