Head to Head: Jagdpanzer 38t Hetzer Vs M18 Hellcat!

Andy Singleton from VollyFire Painting explores two of his favourite tank hunters, perhaps the most able pieces of equipment you may want to include in your Bolt Action armies!

Andy: This week I’m taking a look at two favourites of the tank destroyer world, the Hetzer and the M18 Hellcat. At first glance these are both relatively similar, being lightly armoured tank destroyers with a low profile and a big gun, but there is far more to them than that…

Jagdpanzer 38t Hetzer

AndyS Hetzer1

The Hetzer was conceived as a way to utilise the reliable but small Panzer 38t chassis as the basis for the evolution of the Marder tank destroyer into a fully enclosed self-propelled anti-tank gun. First issued in July 1943 the Hetzer proved mechanically reliable, and although it had an awkward layout it was easy to produce and was well liked by its crews.

Hetzers served on both the Eastern and Western front in fairly large numbers (by late war German standards), where its diminutive size made it extremely effective in ambush. Despite having thin side armour and limited traverse on the main gun, the Hetzer still performed well, even against the large Russian vehicles such as the JSII and ISU series.

Hetzer Prague 45

Production mostly took place within Czechoslovakia, with production continuing post war, with many of these vehicles eventually being used by Switzerland, the last variants being retired in 1973! Many vehicles have survived, and today the Hetzer is the most commonly seen German armoured vehicle from the Second World War, with examples being held in private hands and on display at museums across the world.

Bolt Action

Hetzer 44-1

In Bolt Action the Hetzer is available as either a regular or inexperienced vehicle, and costs 210 points at Regular. For that you get an Armour 9+ tank destroyer with a heavy anti-tank gun and an MMG with a 360 degree field of fire.

All great so far! You may have noticed that the Hetzer is considerably cheaper than the StuG, and the reason for this is the Hetzer’s weak side armour, being a mere 7+. This means even an HMG can damage you…

To get the most from the Hetzer, position it so that you can exploit the small size of the vehicle – it is very easy to position in cover, and if you’re lucky (and can have a good line of sight) you will be able to harass enemy vehicles from long range, whilst they in turn will struggle to hit you. Don’t discount the MMG either, a 360-degree arc means that the gun can be used to help support your infantry as they advance, by suppressing enemy forces (keep adding pins where you can!), and also to keep anti-tank infantry and soft-skinned transports at bay.

Given how expensive German armour normally is, the Hetzer is a fine addition to a late war force, especially when paired up with some Volksgrenadiers

AndyS Hetzer Battlefield.1

M18 Hellcat

AndyS M18 Hellcat.1

The Hellcat was designed as a fast and light tank destroyer, which still managed to retain the punch of a 76mm gun. Developed in secret, production of the M18 ran between 1943 and 1944, with around 2500 being built. Hellcat’s were lightly armoured and open topped, however the 76mm gun was still a very effective weapon, and with a speed of 55mph the M18 was an extremely flexible war machine.

The M18 entered combat in the summer of 1944, and predominately served in the European theatre, though it also fought in the Far East with both the Chinese and US militaries. The Hellcat even fought in the Battle of Okinawa and the Phillipine campaigns. The end of WW2 did not see the end of the Hellcat’s career however, and it went on to fight in Korea with the US army, and then on into many other conflicts throughout the world. It still survives as a part of several nations’ arsenals to the present day.

M18 in action Ardennes Dec.1944

Despite appearing late in WW2, the Hellcat was quick to make a mark, notably serving during the Battle of the Bulge and launching spoiling attacks against the 2nd Panzer Division during the battle of Bastogne, utilizing their manoeuvrability to avoid return fire and confuse the German forces, and ultimately buy time for the defence of this critical town.

Bolt Action

M18 in actionJan45

Within Bolt Action the M18 Hellcat is an incredible machine, being capable of recce and packing a good punch.

For 155 points at regular you get an armour 7+, open topped heavy anti-tank gun. For an extra 25 points you can add an HMG, and for a mere 10 points further you can add recce too! 190 points for a speedy, HMG packing anti-tank beast? Bargain!

Being armour 7+ and open topped makes the Hellcat extremely vulnerable, even small arms fire can pin you, mortars can ruin your day, and anyone with an oversize machine gun can potentially destroy you. This is where the Hellcat’s speed comes into play. By utilising the recce move (though only once per turn), you can reverse away from attacks, potentially moving out of cover to fire, then using recce to get back out of line of sight when being shot at. That armour 7+ is suddenly not such an issue now…(check out Andy’s previous article on Recce Tactics in Bolt Action).

Being armed with a heavy Anti-Tank gun allows the Hellcat to kill any armour without too much difficulty, except for super heavies. Keeping the M18 in reserve also allows you to get flank and rear shots, further increasing the effectiveness of that +6 pen. Don’t forget the HMG has +1 pen too, good for wrecking soft skins and anything else you want to unleash it upon.

The changes to vehicle pinning introduced in the Tank Wars supplement, and repeated in the FAQ document mean that the HMG is not quite as efficient at pinning vehicles compared to infantry, though it can still give you a nice edge…

US forces in Bolt Action are amongst the most mobile in the game, and the Hellcat perfectly complements this. Just don’t use it in a head to head fight with nowhere for it to run too!

AndyS M18 Battlefield.1

Both these fantastic resin tanks are included in the Wheels of steel, don’t miss out on the extra discount only available until the end of February 2016!

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Do you have an article within you? Are you itching to show your collection to the world of Bolt Action? Then drop us a line with a couple of pictures to info@warlordgames.com or share with all over at the Warlord Forum.