Today I will take a look at one of this year's big releases from the Plastic Soldier Company, the heavy IS-2. (IS of course standing for Josef Stalin). As you probably noticed I currently work on a bunch of additional tanks for a client's Flames of War force. Amongst them some of these tanks and I thought I would share my thoughts on this interesting little plastic kit.
The IS series of tanks was designed as heavy battle tanks to supplement the T-34 medium tank. In 1943 the more expensive and complicated KV series of heavy tanks were outperformed by the medium T-34 so the whole concept of a mass-produced series of heavy tanks was almost given up on. Until the Germans fielded substantial numbers of Tigers and Panthers. At this point the new requirement for heavy battle tanks became clear do the IS series was devised. They started showing up in later World War 2, first as the IS-85, an interim solution based on a redesigned hull and turret carrying a new 85mm cannon. After less than 200 vehicles produced an upgunned IS-122 with a 122mm cannon (with a snazzy muzzly brake) and a more practical hull was introduced. The hulls and turrets in production for the IS-85 were also outfitted with the 122mm cannon. From March 1944 on the series models IS-85 and IS-122 were renamed IS-1 and IS-2 respectively.
The IS-2's powerful had a few downsides too due to severely larger calibre. It was outperformed by most other heavy tank cannons in terms of armour penetration and accuracy. On top of that the two-part ammunition the cannon used was more complicated to handle (resulting in a lower rate of fire) and only less than 30 rounds were carried in the tank. However, the sheer impact of the HE rounds were deemed to make up for these shortcomings and between 3,400 and 3,900 IS-2 tanks were produced between 1943 and 1945.
Now on to the model kit.
The front of the box shows proper artwork of two IS-2 tanks probably in the battle of Berlin or shortly before that. This is a matter of personal taste but I do prefer artwork on boxes over photos of the miniatures (be they "enhanced" with photoshop effects or not). It also sports a "finest quality assured" seal which looks a little odd but maybe there is some sort of very, very special quality control in place with PSC? We also are informed about the scale and number of vehicles in the box. PSC colour-code the scale of the model kits, green being 15mm, red being 1/72th scale or 20mm. Not sure about what they do for 28mm but I am not sure whether they will ever really break into that market anyway.
The back of the box shows a little picture of a surprisingly grey IS-2 tank, a suggestion for what colours to use as well as a whole lot of advertisement for PSC's line of spray paints and of course informs us about the fact that these models are suited for playing the Battlegroup set of rules.
There are no decals included in the set, which always irks me a little. I used PSC's decals before (and you will see some of them in a bit) and while I appreciate that they have a rather comprehensive line of WW2 Soviet tank decals the way they are divided into three seperate packs can be a little surprising. There is one pack with slogans, one pack with numbers letters and one pack with red stars, markings and such. Those packs are not cheap. Granted, you get four small decal sheets in each of them but having to buy all three packs will set you back GBP 18.00 plus shipping. This will get you more decals than you will probably ever need for 15mm armies, even if you are going tank-heavy. A 'mixed bag' of soviet decals would be nice.
Sorry for my waterslide ramblings, back to the topic of this review. So there are no decals included. Now for things which are included in the set.
We get five sprues, from each one you can build one full tank.
Other than the earlier T-34 kit the tracks are already cast onto the tracks with this one, otherwise the setup is very similar. A two-part hull (with two optional tops), two-part turret with seperate hatches, fuel containers, a stowage box, seperate MG (for the rear of the turret), a two-part gun mount and the barrel of the gun itself (one 85mm and one 122m version). There is also a HUGE DShK that goes on top of the turret on the IS-2 version. There are also two crew figures on each sprue, one looking through binoculars, one leaning on the hatch.
Then there is a two-side instruction leaflet:
The instructions not only show us how to build the model but also clearly inform (by way of colour coding) about which parts are being used for which version of the tank. I found it interesting that the IS-85 and the IS-1 are listed as different versions of the vehicle whereas according to my findings the IS-1 was just the renamed IS-85. The definition of PSC seems to be that the IS-1 is the rather rare reequipped version of the IS-85 with the 122mm gun.
You can barely do anything wrong. Assembly is very quick and simple. For ease of painting I would leave the lower part of the hull along with the wheels and tracks as a seperate part from the top of the hull and the turret.
Attaching the turret is not easy because the hole in the hull seems to be a tiny bit too small. Be careful not to snap off the handles around the turret when trying to force it onto the hull. I used a hobby knife to scrape along the hole a little to widen it. The turret will still sit in place tightly. If you plan to attach the heavy DShK MG on the turret paint it seperately from the rest of the model and glue it in place after everything is done. The connector between the MG and the turret mout is kind of delicate and it will easily bend or snap. Or of course pin it right away for additional sturdiness. A 0.75mm drill or something along those lines will do. 1mm probably is too big.
For the slogans I used decals from the slogans set PSC sell. As you can see, all the models are built as the IS-2 variant.
The size of the models is spot on with the dimensions of the real thing I found online.
With this article I am in the favourable position of having one of Battlefront's IS-2 models in hands as well so I can do a direct comparison of the two.
This is the Battlefront IS-2, a resin and metal model from Battlefront's Soviet Heavy Assault Gun Company box (SBX12):
The overall dimensions are about the same. It is a wee bit taller, mostly due to the thicker tracks. The crewman is less delicate than his plastic counter-part from PSC. The BF models features the earlier "stepped" hull variant (which you can also find in the PSC box for the IS-85/IS-1 tanks) and wheels. The turret is a tiny bit longer than on the PSC model but the gun is slightly shorter, keeping the proper overall dimensions. The nice things the BF model features is bent mud guards, especially in the front and some stowage. However, the casting is not quite as crisp as on the PSC model. In terms of price PSC of course win out, at GBP20.00 for five or GBP 5.50 for a single tank. The Battlefront tanks which are available as single models seem to be very basic, sadly featuring no stowage or damaged mudguards and costing about GBP 9.00 each. BF's Soviet IS-2 Guards Heavy Tank Company (SBX08) feature five vehicles with some stowage, tank commanders and a decals sheet for twice the price of the PSC models.It's a bit of a shame that BF's nicest IS-2 is hidden away in the Heavy Assault Gun Company.
If you play large battles with multiple platoons of tanks per side PSC surely is the wiser choice in this case.
If you are playing 15mm platoon level games and only need one or two IS-2 (and who ever needs even that many for that kind of game?) and have a local retailer who will sell you the IS-2 blister from Battlefront - this is the one situation in which this blister might be the better choice, if shipping of a single sprue from PSC offsets the higher price of Battlefront's model. Overall though, PSC wins this one. If you only need one or two you can add stowage by hand any time.
I am very pleased with PSC's offering on this kit. Sure, it's a little sterile (as plastic kits always are) and bare-bones but perfectly servicable and looking at the main competitor, they don't offer much better, certainly not in terms of price. The lack of decals is a shame but the two tank crew figures are a nice touch. Absolutely worth a look if you want to collect a 15mm Soviet army.
I hope that you enjoyed this review, found it interesting, entertaining and so on. If you have any questions, comments or indeed commission enquiries, feel free to let me know via the comments section, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail.