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KV - The Soviet Steel Colosus in Flames of War

Hello, today I would like to share with you some thoughts on what I have been playing around with a lot recently - the KV tank in Flames of War. As the preparations for the ETC/GT continue, I have been thinking a lot about what type of list should I bring to these tournaments and was also painting a lot of models. Since one of my current hypes are Soviets (right after Romanians of course!), naturally the KV was quite often one of the subjects of these preparatory activities :)

While fiddling with the tanks I thought it would be nice to see what is their impact on the game throughout the 3 periods. I did some analysis and here are the results:

Early War

As far as I know, the only types available to the Soviet player are the variations of the KV-1 itself and the KV-2. In this period, this tank is like a mobile fortress - with frontal armour of 8 or 9 and side armour of 7 or 8, it is impervious to most shooting. The only guns I can think of that can penetrate the tank from any distance are the German 88s or heavy howitzers like the Czech Skoda 150mm. In Early War, the KV goes wherever it wants and kills whatever it wants dead....slowly :)

There are some downsides to this choice in an Early War Soviet list though: cost, skill rating and the Hen & Chicks rule. Effectively, your tank might be invincible, but it will be unable to cause any real damage to the enemy because your cost to effective firepower ratio (including the H&C) is so poor. Also, despite its turret-rear machine gun mount, this steel monster is still vulnerable to some infantry assaults (e.g. pioneers, panzerknackers, some anti-tank rifles) so you have to be careful who do you pick your fight with.

A separate story is the KV-2, which is one of the most useless point sinks I have ever seen in this game. With a huge 152mm howitzer mounted in an armoured turret, this tank has seemingly amazing
 hitting power. It will never use it though :) The RoF of this weapon is only 1, which means that in a regular game, it will only shoot several times tops. Apart from this, there is the Bunker Buster rule coupled with Hen & Chicks, which effectively prohibit it from shooting other tanks. Overall, I think there is no tactics that can mitigate these issues. It will simply not pump enough accurate shooting to have any real effect on the battlefield. Still, It will almost never die, if that makes you happy :)

Mid War

This is the Golden Age of the KV. Don't get me wrong - it is not nearly as invincible as it is in Early War but the impact to cost ratio is significantly higher in my opinion. This is mostly reflected in the popularity of the Soviet Mixed Tankovy Batalon for which the main source of strength is the Heavy Tankovy company that can comprise of up to 7 KV-1e/s tanks for a fairly decent point cost.

In Mid War however, hard counters to the might of the KV start to emerge. For starters, you have the Pak40 guns, that can be really dangerous at short distance (especially considering the basic score needed to hit the conscript Soviets is 2+). Also, Germans have access to heavy tank destroyers like the Ferdinand or the Hornisse and medium tanks like the Panther. All of these can get rid of the KV horde in a blink of an eye making the Mixed Tankovy vulnerable to unfavourable pairings. With a correct pairing however, the heavy tanks will roll forward and trash everything in their path until the enemy cries for mercy :)

Another fact worth mentioning is the appearance of the KV 85 in this period. For a really hefty price of over 600 pts you can get a mere 3 of these tanks. Why are they so expensive then? Well, for starters, they are still a KV! Their front armor is still 9 and although their side armor is reduced to 7, their gun gets a great upgrade to what is effectively a copy of the Pak40 (AT 12, rof 2, fp 3+). What is more, the 85s are rated as Guards, meaning their skill is trained and they are no longer limited by the Hen & Chicks rule. Compared to the conscript tanks, I think their role changes from anti-infantry to anti-tank heavily - you just do not get enough of them to survive at a close range and with better training and no H&C sniping becomes a valid tactic.

Oh, I forgot to mention the KV-2! It is still crap :)

Late War

Now, this is where it gets interesting. The main list where you can use the KVs in Late War is the Gvardeyskiy Tyazhelyy Tankovy. Normally, you would think: well, up until Late War there are so many counters to these tanks that they are no longer a valid choice. But hang on... When talking about them in isolation, this might be at least partly true. But when you consider the full picture of the list, then it might turn out that prospects for this list are not so bad as they seem. First of all, you will no longer be able to field the KV-2.... NOOOOOOOO. Your choice is limited to the KV 1e, KV 1s or KV 85. An additional model is also introduced, in the form of the KV 8s flametank (which is a very good tank in the end!). Since this is a Guards list, the core companies are not subject to H&C any more and are rated fearless/trained - not so bad. Another good news is that the tanks are fairly cheap: 3 KV 85s are about 330 points, whereas KV 1 of any type are around 250.

Adding 2 and 2 together we come up with a combination of tanks that can fight infantry (KV 1s, KV 8s) and medium tanks alike (KV 85s). Downside is that you cannot take both types in one company. Still, you can pick and choose whatever suits you best. But what about heavy armor - how do you deal with this? Well, in this case, the list itself offers some options and, in my opinion, the best one you can get are artillery batteries. The really good thing about Gvardeyskiy Tyazhelyy Tankovy is that you can field two confident/trained batteries of Soviet guns: 122mms (AT4/fp 3+) and 152mm (AT5/fp 2+). They will help you to take out the tanks that you do not want to duel with. You just need to make sure that they are well hidden, only sticking out their observer (coming at 15 pts per battery :( ) so that they cannot be sniped.

Overall, whoever trumpets the death of the KV in late war is plain wrong. You can still build a strong Late War list based on this tank.

Ok, so this is it from my side - do you have any experiences running KV lists?


  1. The real problem with the kv2 is that you can only take one if you take a second kv 1. Hen and chocks mean you can't even leave one behind while the other moves up! The real effectiveness of the bunker buster is that the enemy will not want to put his troops into any buildings, meaning moving them makes them vulnerable in ew to machine guns and light artillery. It's really only useful as a support option, rather than a real breakthrough force, but two of them costs you a full third of your entire force! I've really only seen kvs as support options because there are so many good options for soviet tank lists, especially by late War, that kvs are never really the most effective option. In mid war they seem too fragile/expensive (mostly because in my experience mid war is about 50% panthers, 20% tigers) and by late War even the allied armour chews through them without any problem. Early war is actually where they shine, but every time I've played against them I scoff at their mere 2 shots a turn, and their totally ineffective assaults. I once captured a kv1 with an artillery commander, armed a sword no less, and in the next game with a single rifle team. Useless.

    1. It is true that Mid War is somewhat similar to Late War with all the panthers roaming around. In a non-etc situation, KVs have a hard time getting any decent positions nt tournaments. In any case, I did some tests today so will share the results some time soon.