Soviet Steel – The IS-3

I’ll be blunt.    This is probably my favourite Russian tank.     It’s a tank that I couldn’t believe was designed during WW2 and actually was involved in the victory celebrations in 1945,  this is no paper panzer.

The IS3 entered service in May 1945, with the war in Europe already over.     Whilst all the sources I could find online were confident that the tank did see action against the Japanese forces in the far east shortly before Japan surrendered, there are very few details.

Echoes of the IS-3 can be seen throughout the cold war in the 50’s and right up to modern times, with Russian tanks having a very low profile with a round upturned bowl style turret.   The design did have some issues, predominantly around gun depression (due to the low headroom in the turret) and headroom for the guns loader.     Although there was more room in the turret for the crew, there was less headroom due to the reduced height.

The allies first saw this tank during the victory parade in Berlin 1945 where it caused quite a stir.   It was the most modern design of tank available at that time and influenced the British army to adapt it’s own plans for a new heavy tank in response.   The IS-3 is quite distinctive and the pointed nose saw the tank given the nickname “Shchuka” (Pike).

The IS-3 Kit by Warlord games is marvellous.    You may have already seen it if you’ve read my first steps with resin vehicles article, as I used my IS-3 as the basis for that article.


The kit consists of the standard Warlord pieces for a resin tank kit.    There’s the hull, turret and tracks in resin, followed by a crew member, fuel tanks, gun barrels and details in metal.


The kit required a little clean up, but no more than I would normally expect.   My only slight gripe would be regarding the amount of flash on the metal fuel tanks (these are missing from the metal components picture as they’d snuck in with the IS-2 parts).

I was also a little disgruntled that I got no decals!   Luckily I’ve bought some of the excellent additional decal sheets that Warlord produce so this wasn’t too big a deal.

What’s the IS-3 like in game?

The IS-3 is a super heavy tank (11+) that costs 480pts for inexperienced, 600 pts for regular and 720 points for Veteran.   It has a turret mounted heavy anti-tank gun and a coaxial mmg.   The tank also has a Pintle mounted HMG.    The tank has two special rules, the first relates to HE damage from the tank’s HE shell – it does 2D6 HE hits instead of D3.    The second rule refers to the frontal armour of the tank.   Armour on the front arc counts as being one point higher (12+).

The Good

  1. The armour, oh my the armour.   All but the heaviest of anti tank guns are going to struggle to score a reliable penetrating hit on this tank, especially from the front.
  2. If you’re playing K47, or a late war aficionado it’s the perfect tank for those ‘what-if’ scenarios.
  3. It’s pretty (rule of cool applies)

The Bad

  • This design lacks machine guns which makes the tank less of a mobile fire base than other tanks available to the Soviets
  • Is +1 armour on the sides and +2 on the front 280 points better than an IS-2, or 300 points better than an ISU-122?

The Ugly

  • The Cost, my word the Cost.   At 600 points you are sacrificing so much to take this tank.    That 12+ armour does make it nigh-on impossible for anything other than a Tesla/Super Heavy anti tank gun to damage the tank, but there are other ways of dealing with super heavy tanks (pins) and it’s unlikely that this will make those 600 points back during a game.    This would make it an inefficient choice from a pure gaming point of view.
  • The Gun.   That versatile gun is excellent for providing multiple threats but if you’re buying this tank because you will be facing big cats, any of the later war tanks armed with a super heavy anti tank gun may not be as versatile as this tank, but they are more likely to take it out in a 1vs1 situation.


I probably will never field this outside of special scenarios and big games.    Having said that, it’s a beautiful kit and I bought this because I wanted to build it and paint it.    It’s very rare for me to buy a kit just to paint.    I’ve heard tell of people who buy miniatures just to paint them, but I don’t know any and that’s not me!  Everything I buy will be bought to give me a tactical option for the game that I’m playing.     If I wont use it, I don’t buy it.   Until..  well until this beautiful expensive beastie was released.    It may never get picked in a list but it’s certainly going to be sat looking pretty on my miniatures shelf!

If you are tempted to add an IS3 to your soviets, go see our friend The Boss and he’ll sort you out!


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