Since the early days of the war, the Soviets have been known for their outstanding tank designs. Following the same linage of the T-34 and more directly IS-2, the IS-48 is a monument to Soviet utilitarian engineering and design. These tanks are still a match against the more advanced super heavy walkers of the Allies and Axis.
In this article I will review the stats and skills, roles and tactics, the platoon, and my thoughts and opinions on the Lavrentiy Beria as well as the Karl Marx.
Common Stats of Both the Lavrentiy Beria and the Karl Marx.
Both tanks are the heaviest of armor in Dust Battlefield at Vehicle 7 (V7). While they don’t feature nearly as much Damage Capacity as their Allied and Axis counterparts, these tanks more than make up for it with the Damage Resilience special ability. Other special abilities these vehicles share are Tank Riders and Tracked. I have found neither to be a utilized in most games that I have played/seen. Tank Riders is Largely considered too risky and Tracked is too easily avoided on most tables. Personally, I would like to setup tables for it come up more often, but unless I am playing the SSU, I feel like I’m trying to unfairly gain an advantage. Both tanks have typical Move and March Move values. They only share 2 of the 4 weapons that are on them. Each tank has at least 2 DSHk 12.7mm Machine Guns. One is pintle-mounted on top of the turret and provides 360 degree fairly average range and damage. The other is located on the rear of the turret and is only for point (Close Combat) defense.
Lavrentiy Beria Weapons
The conventional weapon option of the IS-48 tank. It is outfitted with a single 152mm ML-20T Gun on the turret. Which is a slightly improved version of what is found of the Matrioshka Walker in a pair. The main gun provides the standard anti-infantry blast template attack that one would expect. It quite effective against all classes of armor when it hits. Actually hitting is the weapon’s biggest problem since it rolls but a single die. For the most part the main guns on the Matrioshka are a better anti-armor option save against V7 where the Lavrentiy Beria is more effective.
Mounted in the hull is a ATO-45 flamethrower. It has the Flame special ability like all flamethrowers. It is only a small Flame template which might be surprising given that it is mounted on such a big vehicle. Additionally, I find the inclusion of a flamethrower as odd design choice for the Beria as opposed to the Karl Marx which I think could make better use of it since the Marx’s main gun has a much shorter range.
Karl Marx Weapons
The main gun in the Karl Marx is a Heavy Tesla Gun. For much of Dust’s existence, the SSU have had very few units with their super weapon. The Karl Marx, the Red Lightning, and the Bunker weapons were it until the new units in Operation: Babylon added several more. Marx’s Tesla Weapon is one the better ones as it provides good firepower with the mobility to keep its range from being an issue. The Heavy Tesla Gun causes a consistent good amount of damage from Soldier 1 (S1) to V7. It is unlikely to destroy any unit in a single attack (more likely with a Sustained Attack) but nearly guaranteed to cause at least a little damage and, of course, take an action away with Stun.
Within the hull of the Karl Marx is another DSHk 12.7mm Machine Gun. Like all hull weapon, it has a limited arc of fire, front, but doubles the amount of machine gun fire the unit can spit out. This makes the unit good for thinning out advancing enemy infantry.
SSU Heavy Breakthrough Platoon
This platoon is one of the more point intense to create. It requires 2 tanks of the Ioseph Stalin, Karl Marx, or Lavrentiy Beria types. This means at least 44 points are tied up to get it. The Platoon Advantage is that all IS-5 and IS-48 tanks (even the Mao Zedong) can March Move and attempt to get a free Attack action 1/3 of the time.
I like this platoon and have used it a couple times. In addition to the required armor to form the platoon, I also add a Mao Zedong because the unit is great and also getting this Platoon Advantage, why not. I find that I like to gamble a little more when making use of this platoon because if I need to Move anyways and a March Move gives me even better positioning (which it often does) might as well try for that 3rd action. I also like that this Platoon Advantage fits very well for what already suspected the role of these tanks to be.
Role and Tactics
I often find myself at odds when fielding the Lavrentiy Beria. I like to use the tank as a defensive objective guard unit making use of its long range, single die shooting main gun attempting to Sustain Attack when I can. I often have Nikolia piloting using his Take Aim skill to greatly increase the chance of hitting. The problem with this setup is that I think the Lavrentiy Beria is intended more of a line breaker unit.
Perhaps a more effective method to fielding the Lavrentiy Beria is to Move (or March Move when in the Platoon) and provide rolling cover to infantry while attempting to make use of all of its weapons. The main gun being a happy surprise more than something to count on dealing with enemy armor. Or even just using it to take out infantry. The role would explain the flamethrower. If used this way, I would consider keeping a Mechanic nearby as the tank is most certainly going to become a bullet magnet.
To some extent, I think the Karl Marx is also intended to be used as a line breaker. The Heavy Tesla weapon just enough range to target the enemy directly across the table (assuming long table edge deployment) but not enough to deny large portions of the table compared to other heavy and super heavy vehicles. Even the Heavy Tesla Gun doesn’t quite cause enough damage to one shot destroy past Vehicle 5 with typical dice rolls. The problem with the Marx is it is more expensive than the Lavrentiy Beria in points. Making it far more expensive than I want to risk charging across the table. Because in Dust Battlefield even the heaviest of armor isn’t invincible.
For either the Lavrentiy Beria or the Karl Marx, Koshka can serve as an effective pilot with her Ace Pilot skill. This third action can be pretty fluid giving the tank a Sustained Attack after a much needed re-position. Or an Officer action after a Sustained Attack if no movement was needed. I personally don’t like her piloting tanks as I see her as KV-47 expert or as very least a SSU walker ace and not a tank ace. After all, in Dust Warfare she could only pilot Grand’Ma. Additionally, she feels a little expensive in points since both of her Expert skills won’t be used.
Another tactic that works well for either tank is setting them up with a unit that has the Mechanic skill. It can be a Command Squad or a Repair KV-47 (I personally like the Melor) to keep fixing up the tank round after round. This makes these tanks incredibly frustrating to your opponent who may have to place shot after shot into these super heavy tanks just to take them out. Or they might just be able to snipe the Mechanic.
I like the model and the idea of the Lavrentiy Beria far more than the effectiveness of that unit. It is my favorite SSU vehicle, and as such, I field it far more often that what I think is sound. The sad part is I think that the unit is game mechanics-wise well construction. The Lavrentiy Beria’s biggest weakness is its inability to hit. However, a single barrel main gun should only roll a single die to hit. The weapon damage seems appropriate too. I have know players to argue that SSU tanks have far less Damage Capacity than the Allies and Axis heavy and super heavy walkers. I am not sure how powerful they realize Damage Resilience is sometimes. Especially when combined with a Mechanic. Even the points seem pretty good, although; it is possible the Lavrentiy Beria are a bit too expensive for what you ultimately get. In any event, it won’t stop me from fielding it good or bad.
I am not as much of a fan of the Karl Marx as I am the Lavrentiy Beria even though I think it is a better unit overall. I am not the biggest fan of the SSU’s super weapon and its Stun effect. Don’t get me wrong, Tesla is a good super weapon that I think more players will appreciate as the Soviets get more units armed with it. It just isn’t for me. The damage output of the Karl Marx is also quite good. It is rare in the SSU for a unit to have a high to hit/low damage weapon for armor which the Marx excels at. As I stated in the Roles and Tactics section, I think the Karl Marx is a little too expensive for me to field as a line breaker. In fact, I find the Karl Marx a little too expensive for me in general. I am not saying it is too expensive. I don’t necessarily think it is. However, when I play the SSU, I sort of want a horde army list and the Marx makes that difficult. Plus, if I want a really expensive unit I will often go for Winter Child and figure out something else for anti-armor, but that’s just me. The SSU are a little on the weak side when it comes to dealing with heavy armor and the Karl Marx is one of those units that can combat them. What I am saying is that the Karl Marx is a fine unit, but the kind of player I am doesn’t like to use it all that often.