Unit Card:


Set - Rarity - Number

Base Set - Rare - 4/48
39-45 - Rare - 20/60

Historical Background:

The KV-1 was designed as a breakthrough tank. It came from the same design philosophy as the French and British infantry tanks and thus had the heavy armor and low speed of those vehicles. However the Soviets had the benefit of learning the deficiencies of their tanks in the Spanish Civil War, in which some 280 T-26's were used in the infantry support role. Some improvements were made over the early deficiencies of the T-35, but most of the lessons of the war went unheeded, and Soviet cooperation between infantry and infantry tanks lagged far behind that of Germany.


One interesting change between the T-28 , T-35 and the KV-1 is that in the earlier two tanks, the radio operator also had to reload the main gun. In the KV-1, the radio operator only had to operate the radio and use one of the hull mounted machine guns. This made coordinating with local infantry much easier for the KV-1: the biggest failure in the Spanish Civil War is that the T-26 did not carry a radio and tanks and infantry failed to adequately support each other. However radio technology in the Red Army was inferior that of Germany and the west, and the significant improvements made in the KV-1 amounted to little when Germany invaded.

Even by 1938 the military still retained some counter-productive inclinations. While designers wanted a simpler single turret design, the military wanted another multi-turreted monstrosity like the T-35. (Probably because turrets in that era were hand powered and slow moving. Multiple turrets did make some sense for slow interwar tanks designed to break through infantry.) In 1938 a development project produced two dual turret designs and a single turret design called the KV-1. Stalin chose the KV-1, most likely because of the KV-1's superior mobility over the other two tanks.

The Soviets differed from the British and French in using a dual purpose gun instead of an anti-tank gun as the main armament on their tanks. This goes back to the T-26 Series 1933, which was armed with a dual purpose 45mm field gun. I have no idea why the Soviets chose a dual purpose gun while the western powers did not, and I'd be grateful if someone else could explain it to me. Whatever the reason behind the Soviet decision, it was the correct one. The 76.2mm gun on the KV-1 was well suited for destroying improvised and lightly prepared fortifications and was a more effective antitank weapon than the 37mm and 40mm peashooters on British and French infantry tanks.

The KV-1 was revealed to have some transmission and other teething problems early on in field testing. Designers wanted to halt production and fix these issues. But Stalin would have none of it. These problems contributed to the abandonment of the KV series midway through the war and the eventual development of the IS heavy tank models.

Combat History
The prototype KV-1 was first used in Finland during the Winter War on a field testing basis. The armor proved resilient, but the aforementioned problems surfaced. The transmission and handling problems would later bedevil the tank when the Germans invaded.

The KV-1's reputation of invulnerability to the German AFV's encountered during Operation Barbarossa is not undeserved, but it doesn't paint the full picture of the KV-1's combat service either.

While a column of German light tanks unaware of the KV-1 were easy pickings for the heavy tank, a competent German commander would always have some recon units ahead to warn him of the presence of the enemy. He could then easily avoid the slower KV-1 unless it held a key bridge. In the meantime an 88mm gun would be used to take it out. Virtually all cases in which a KV-1 took out a bunch of German tanks involved a German commander who blundered into an ambush without performing adequate reconnaissance.

Of course the KV-1 was still a monster tank even if its 30+ kill performances were due more to German mistakes than Soviet successes.

It's worth noting that the one case in which the Soviets managed to slow down the German assault even a little in the early days of the invasion involved a ton of KV-1's. Army Group South was met by a force of 2,500 tanks (including a large number of KV-1's) at the town of Brody, and the Soviet tankers managed to badly bloody the Germans. However the Germans gained air superiority and destroyed the Soviets' supply lines, at which point most of the tanks were abandoned.


Most combat losses for the KV-1 were due to German artillery. But even more KV-1's were lost due to mechanical failure outside of combat. How much of this was due to the innate failings of the design and how much was due to the chaotic environment of the fall of '41 is uncertain. It's worth noting that German vehicles suffered much higher failure rates later in the war when their industrial sector was collapsing than they did earlier in the war. If the Soviets were making an orderly assault rather than a disorganized retreat the KV-1 might have a much better operational history.


For a heavy tank with no drawback, an incredible ability and a very useful one and relatively good speed (the same as German medium tanks) the KV-1 comes in at a very low cost of only 32 points. It's well worth the price.

Transport is useful for carrying infantry to the objective. The non-revised version was also very useful for carrying a Cossack Captain around. This simultaneously impairs the enemy's ability to Close Assault your KV-1 (a difficult task even without the commander) and also provides your vulnerable commander with a 6/6 iron shield with Hulking Mass. It really was a little too good, though, and the revision is for the best.

Hulking Mass is the real reason to play the KV-1. Even with the Tiger 1's better attack die, the ability to disregard the first Damaged counter will often allow your 32 point KV-1 to trade damage on an equal basis with a 55 point Tiger until your other 23 points either wins the objective for you or finishes off the Tiger.

The fact that the KV-1 has no drawback, excellent survivability, a decent attack against tanks and a good one against infantry makes it an excellent all purpose addition to a Soviet army.

Against infantry the KV-1 performs well against 4/4 infantry but struggles against 5/5 defense soldiers. This is especially true when facing the dratted SS-Haupsturmfuhrer . Don't get caught in the trap of attacking a SS-Panzergrenadier with a KV-1: bring other units for that job.

Although its attack die vs vehicles is a little light for its cost, it is still adequate for the role of taking out Tigers and Panthers. Panthers are much less fun to face than Tigers, though, especially in the hands of a player used to their strengths and weaknesses.

Plastic Figure Notes:

Rescaled KV-1 from the 1939-1945 set (top, bottom)
compared to the original from the Base set.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License