I 16 Ishak

Unit Card:


Set - Number

Angels 20 - 17/31


The Polikarpov I-16 was revolutionary when it was first introduced in 1935, but largely outclassed on all fronts when WWII began. The Chinese had them in abundance, thanks to gifts from the Soviet Union, and the Soviets had more of them than any of their other fighters when Germany attacked them. Most of these planes received derogatory nicknames, such as Abu, “horsefly,” or Ishak, “little donkey.” Among the innovations introduced with the I-16 in 1935 were retractable landing gear and a fully enclosed cockpit. The plane was also optimized for speed with its short stubby fuselage. The design had many problems; the machine guns had a tendency to jam, the cockpit offered poor visibility and had a tendency to cloud up with engine oil. The plane was also extremely difficult to fly.

The I-16 first met combat in the Spanish Civil War where they performed admirably at the time against all contemporary planes. Indeed, they were not outclassed by an opposing fighter until the introduction of the Bf109. In the Far East, the Japanese Zero proved more than a match for the I-16. By the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the plane was so badly outclassed that Soviet pilots sometimes resorted to sacrificing their lives by ramming the opposing German aircraft.


The Soviet Ishak comes with an Average pilot. It has no high speed rating, and only a basic speed of 2-3. At least the decision is always made for you every turn as to whether you will choose High Speed or not. This speed range makes it difficult for the Ishak to gain position against faster planes, and you are almost forced to leave them vulnerable and/or use them as bait. The attack dice are a relatively pathetic 4-3-2. You basically need to be at range-1 at a good angle, so don’t expect to hit anything frequently. The defensive line is 3-5-2. At least the three armor prevents it from suffering the same problem as the Japanese Zero, where a single lucky 6 cripples a 2 armor plane. The three armor makes it playable at its point cost. The Ishak has respectable 4s in turn and roll, with a 3 in climb. The Ishak receives two nice abilities. Fast Roll gives it a bonus to Break checks, while Swarm Tactics provides a bonus die so long as you have another Ishak nearby. This enables you to bring several Ishak to a contest and generally use them to cover each other, thus mirroring the defensive circle that the Ishaks had to employ in order to compete with the superior German fighters. It is inexpensive, which makes it easy to use one as a point-filler in just about any Flight build.

Flight Builds and Tactics: The Ishak is a nice cheap addition to the Soviet Forces. Since Swarm Tactics only appears on the Ishak, if you want to activate it, you need several Ishak in your flight. At 100 points, a Guards Yak-1 and 3 Ishak fit conveniently together. The three Ishak ensure that the initiative bonus from the Guards Yak-1’s flight leader remains in effective for several turn, while the extra planes help ensure that Russia can repeatedly move several planes after the opponent has moved their last plane. Although the attack dice won’t be high, they’ll need some luck on their gunnery and good positioning with their Guards’ Yak. Three Ishak can be used to cover each other and at least take shots on enemy planes that attempt to attack the first Ishak moved each turn. In general, I would avoid playing games with points at too high of a level. If you must play the Soviet Union at 150 or 200 points, you are better switching into multiples of the more expensive Guards-Yak-1, and Tomahawk, while if you are stuck with just a few points left over in your build, the Yak-1 Rookie may be a better fit. Too many planes on the map just gets unwieldy fast.

Plastic Figure Notes:

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