Head to Head: Jagdtiger vs ISU-152

The Big Guns go hunting

The Second World War saw a constant evolution in armoured vehicles, with some real monstrously large machines prowling the battlefields by late 1944.

P1170414

The biggest of these were the assault guns of the Russians and German forces, with the most monstrous of all being the German Jagdtiger, still the heaviest armoured vehicle to go into production and see combat, and weighing a massive 70+ tons. Not quite as huge, though still a beast of a vehicle was the ISU-152, weighing in at a mere 41 tons or so. Andy Singleton of VolleyFire Painting delves into more background as he compares the two vehicles:

Andy: Today I’ll be looking at both of these beasts, and talking about how you can incorporate them into your games of Bolt Action.

Jagdtiger

P1170399

The Jagdtiger was designed to make the King Tiger into a more potent tank killer(!) and counter the ever growing presence of Soviet heavy tanks. It saw the removal of the King Tiger’s turret, and this was replaced by a casemated super structure featuring a 128mm gun, though some versions did mount the same 88mm weapon as seen on the King Tiger due to shortages of the larger gun.

Whilst on paper a phenomenal fighting machine, the Jagdtiger arrived too late in the war, and in too few numbers to make any difference to the German war effort, with somewhere between 70 and 90 being built between late 1944 and May 1945.

The few Jagdtigers that did reach combat gave a lacklustre performance as well. Otto Carius, famed German tank commander was posted to command a company of these vehicles in 1945, and found that the gun very easily lost calibration due to its weight throwing off the alignment as the vehicle moved, thus requiring it to be locked down constantly, except for when in combat. Carius also found that the levels of crew training were simply insufficient to utilise the vehicle correctly, with crews failing to engage enemies for fear of attracting allied air power.

P1170428

Carius also comments on the main gun, noting that the smoke cloud generated was so great it made acquiring further targets difficult. However he also records a shot passing straight through a building and into an American tank!

Ultimately though it was mechanical failure that caused the most problems for the Jagdtiger – its enormous amounts of armour and fire power were married up to an already overloaded drive train, resulting in a huge percentage of these enormous machines being lost to mechanical failure rather than combat loses. Today, only 3 Jagdtigers survive at museums in Bovington, Kubinka, and I think the last one is in storage in America after the big tank museum there closed. Might be in Georgia (if you know, let us know over on the forum)?

P1170423

WGB-WM-218 Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer

The Jagdtiger in Bolt Action

In Bolt Action the Jagdtiger is without a doubt the premier tank killer in the game. With an 84 inch range, that never suffers the penetration modifier for firing at long range if it hits a vehicle, that vehicle is most likely dead, even a super heavy. In terms of protection the Jagdtiger has armour 11+ making it an extraordinarily tough nut to crack and with a hull mounted MMG it can also assist in suppressing enemy infantry. All this comes at a cost of course. Firstly, the Jagdtiger is not available as a veteran vehicle, though this isn’t necessarily a huge issue when even at regular the machine is 560 points!

P1170432

This points cost is a drawback in smaller games, because you’ll have a pretty small force with all your eggs in one Jagdtiger-shaped basket. To really excel, the Jagdtiger needs some tasty targets to obliterate. No surprise then that in games of Tank Wars, especially if you are playing larger point games, it really comes into its own, as it can pop enemy armour at ranges where they can’t even place pins on the Jagdtiger!

If Tank Wars isn’t your thing, then fitting one into a force surrounded by Volksturmm, Volksgrenadiers and Hitler Youth can make an extremely thematic and entertaining force to play with. The battle will be hard, but a lot of fun!P1170395

ISU-152

P1170408

The ISU-152 was a development of the highly successful SU-152 vehicle, which featured a huge 152mm Howitzer in a well armoured casemated superstructure. Manufactured between 1943 and 1947, over 3500 ISU-152’s were produced, and saw service into the 1970s with the Soviet military. Widely exported, the ISU-152 saw considerable post war service, with some remaining in reserve until the 1990s, and the last operational usage of the ISU-152 was with the Iraqi military during the first Gulf war. Repeatedly modernised and upgraded the ISU-152 was a capable and highly effective assault gun.

In combat, the ISU-152’s large gun was designed initially to combat bunkers and hardened defensive points, by firing directly at them and blasting them to pieces, a task it proved eminently capable of.

P1160732

As the war dragged on the ISU-152’s capability as a tank destroyer also came to shine, with its large, heavy shell capable of simply hammering them into submission, and earning it the nickname ‘Zveroboy’ or ‘Beast Killer’. Operationally, the ISU was used in units of 1-2 vehicles, supported by an infantry battle group equipped with sub machine gun teams, flame throwers and snipers. (Pretty much a Bolt Action army using the Fall of Berlin theatre selector!)

P1160730

These units proved to be extremely effective at leading the way through the fortified towns between the Russian motherland and Berlin, and cracked the way into the German capital.

Today, many ISU-152s survive, either in museums, military storage facilities, or as memorials to the battles they fought in, a fitting testament to this fearsome machine.

P1160727

ISU-152 Self Propelled Gun

The ISU-152 in Bolt Action

In Bolt Action the ISU-152 is very well represented on the table top. For 290 points at Veteran you get an armour 10, heavy howitzer that has a +5 bonus to the pen value of its heavy howitzer! For an additional +25 points you can equip it with an HMG (you could use a spare .50 from an American vehicle kit).

All of this is looking golden so far, however there is a minor downside to this magnificent machine. Due to the slow loading times of the main gun, you can’t give it your first order dice. You have to activate something else first. This isn’t too much of an issue, but it can leave you vulnerable when fighting enemy armour or anti-tank guns, and you have to mitigate this as best you can by ensuring you leave your assault gun in a relatively safe position at the end of a turn.

P1160734

The power of the 152mm gun though cannot be overstated though. With +5 pen, you can destroy anything, and an HE rating of 3D6 means you can be fairly confident of collapsing buildings or eradicating a whole squad, even of veterans. Any survivors receive a huge D6 pins too, so even tanks can be shut down in one hit.

Worth remembering is that as a howitzer, you can fire the ISU-152 indirectly, and this can be extremely handy for firing at entrenched enemies who may be difficult to hit otherwise, though there is a minimum range of 24”.

Keeping to a relatively historical organisation of one of these backed up by some assault engineers with flame throwers and SMGs can give you a very potent strike force, although be wary of enemy airstrikes and artillery strikes. If those aren’t present however, you have a good shot at delivering a double hammer blow to your opponent!

P1170413

Conclusion

Both of the above vehicles are superb at removing your opponent’s models from the table, they have their foibles but are the best at their specific tasks in the game. I find the key to using them is to think how much of the opposing force will they be able to neutralise, so that I can use the rest of my force to take objectives under the protective fire of the assault guns.

Conversely, fighting against these leviathans, if you can bypass or destroy one of these things, you will have put a very large dent in the enemies’ plans. Having a low rate of fire means that even a few pins will render it much less effective, even when the vehicle does pass its order check…

 

WGB-WM-218-Jagdtiger-b

View in Store

 

WGB-RI-134-ISU152-b

View in Store