The 11 Best Bolt Action Tanks
"If the tanks succeed, then victory follows."
--Heinz Guderian, German WWII General and Tank Commander
Whether you play the standard Bolt Action wargame or Bolt Action's Tank War, odds are good that you've got tanks in your army. They're not only some of the best looking models on the table, but they can be absolutely terrifying and intimidating to your opponent. A good tank, well used, can wreak absolute havoc on the enemy.
The tanks that you can put in your Bolt Action army can either be used as the tip of the spear or as infantry support. The tanks that we've selected as the top eleven best Bolt Action tanks are the ones that we found to pack the most punch, to survive the biggest pounding, and to make it to the end of the game alive.
Admittedly, some of these tanks are on the pricey side if you're playing a 1000 point game, so your mileage may vary. Sometimes what you want is a light fast tank to support advancing infantry, not a long-range heavy hitter. Not all tank strategies are the same.
(Also, some of these are not tanks, but tank destroyers. But if they're powerful enough to do serious damage to the enemy and tough enough to take almost any hit, we're calling them a tank.)
Our11 best WWII Bolt Action tanks are:
The KV-1, one of the main battle tanks of the Soviet army in the first half of World War Two, was known primarily for one thing: it's impenetrable armor. In one memorable engagement in the Battle of Raseniniai (during Operation Barbarossa), a KV-1 found itself behind enemy lines stuck on a road and was engaged by not one but four 50mm anti-tank guns. The KV-1 was struck over and over, but the crew calmly took out each of the four targets. A German 88 tried to take a shot, but it, too, was destroyed.
During the night, Germans tried to destroy it with satchel charges and it withstood those as well. It wasn't until the next day when the KV-1 was engaged by several German tanks and another 88, that German infantry could get close enough to the vehicle to throw grenades in and kill the crew. It may be myth, but it's said the Germans buried the men with full military honors.
In Bolt Action, the KV-1 is known for its extremely tough armor (it has a Damage Value of 10+, and Armor All Around, so there is no benefit to shooting it in the side or rear).
The KV-1 is one tough tank, and it's the only Soviet tank to make our Best Bolt Action Tanks list.
The German Panther, which was used by the Germans in the second half of World War Two, was considered a medium tank, but it could lay down some serious firepower--and take a beating while doing it.
Built at much the same time as the Tiger I, the Panther was a cheaper alternative, as well as being lighter and faster, and the Germans made approximately 6000 of them.
The armor was particularly good in the front, even better than the Tiger I, with 80mm of armor at a 55 degree angle. The sides, on the other hand, were much more vulnerable, which meant that this medium tank had to maneuver better than The Tiger I to keep its face toward the enemy.
It's gun was a 7.5cm KwK 42, making it the most powerful tank gun of World War Two, with excellent armor penetration and a high muzzle velocity. This muzzle velocity meant that its smaller rounds (compared to the Tiger I's 8.8cm gun) had a flat trajectory and would hit the enemy better than the slower, arcing rounds.
In Bolt Action, the Panther has a Damage Value of 9+, except in the front where it's a 10+, and it has a super-heavy anti-tank gun. It also gets the benefit of the Tiger Fear rule.
The British Comet didn't come into service in World War Two until December of 1944, so it had the advantage from technological advancements in tank design (but few saw battle, and only a little over a thousand were manufactured.) But the tank was so successful a design that the British used it until 1958, and some were in service in other countries as late as the 1980s.
Developed based on the earlier Cromwell, the Comet had a 17pdr High Velocity gun (3 inch, 76.2mm). The low profile of the tank and the stiff armor (especially in the front) meant that the Comet would very often be missed and, if it was hit, the armor in the front deflected most shots.
The Comet helped cross the Rhine, but few saw combat--only 24 were destroyed in the war.
In the game, the Comet has a super-heavy anti-tank gun, with a 9+ Damage Value, and a 10+ Damage Value in the front.
Technically a tank destroyer, not a tank, this vehicle is still tougher and stronger than almost anything it comes up against. The name means "hunting panther" and it carried an 8.8cm Pak 43, the same gun as the Tiger II, but it was hull mounted, not on a turret.
The armor was strong: 50mm-60mm on the sides and 80mm on the front. It was heavy, but it was known for being extremely reliable with very few mechanical problems. The Jagdpanther was first used on the Eastern Front, a little bit in Normandy, and then often in the Battle of the Bulge.
Still, only 415 ever entered service.
In Bolt Action, the Jagdpanther has a super-heavy anti tank gun, and a damage value of 10+. It also has the Tiger Fear rule. But it lacks a turret, which makes it more in need of skilled maneuvering.
#7. Tiger I
The Tiger I was a ferocious tank that is noteworthy for being one of the best tanks in the early war, being fielded as early as 1942 in Africa and the Soviet Union. It was the first German tank to carry the 8.8cm KwK 36 gun.
Even so, it was an expensive tank, and despite its early introduction into the war and its clear value on the battlefield, only 1,300 were ever produced. It was called "overengineered" and had certain quality maintenance, but it was a reliable vehicle.
It was especially known for its intimidating armor: 100cm in the front and on the turret, and 60-80mm on the sides. It was also angled between 30-45 degrees making it more defensive.
In a side-by-side comparison (the Wa Pruef Report) it was estimated that the Tiger 1's gun could penetrate an M4 Sherman at 2100 meters (1.3 miles). On the other hand, the Sherman's 75mm gun couldn't penetrate the Tiger I frontally at any range, and needed to be within 100m to penetrate the side. In one engagement in April 1945, a Tiger I single-handedly destroyed three Shermans and an armored car during an advance.
Bolt Action's Tiger I has a super-heavy anti-tank gun and a Damage Value of 10+, as well as Tiger Fear.
#6. M26 Pershing
The only American tank to feature on our list, the M26 Pershing entered service late in the war as an improvement on the M4 Sherman that had been so widely used (and was, admittedly, a good multi-purpose medium tank). It saw combat in the Battle of Germany and stayed in service into the Korean War.
Armed with a 90mm gun to rival the Tiger I, the Pershing was known for its great penetrating power. In one famous tank duel in the Colonge, a Pershing faced off against a Panther, and, while moving, the Pershing fired three shots at the Panther, one of which penetrated the turret and two of which went clean through both sides.
With 4 inches of frontal armor, the Pershing was a monster on the battlefield.
In Bolt Action, the Pershing has a super-heavy anti-tank gun, and a Damage Value of 10+
With Britain's second tank on this list, if the Churchill was known for any one thing, it was that it was heavy. But with a design that made it able to climb steep slopes, the heaviness was a benefit to the crew, because the weight came, in large part, from armor.
The Churchill's design actually sprang from the idea that the battle in Europe would be similar to the crater-filled No Man's Land of WWI, and was primarily designed to cross treacherous ground while being shot at by anti-tank weapons.
The gun on the Churchill changed from time to time, with some in North Africa installing the 75mm guns from destroyed Shermans, and others using the 6 pdr. (One of the early designs had it with a 2 pdr, and a howitzer.)
On the Bolt Action tabletop, the Churchill is the first tank on our list to have a Damage Value of 11+, but it suffers from being slow. It also has a weaker medium anti-tank gun, but with high-explosive shells.
Yes, we know that this is a rarity--only 18 were ever produced, and obviously didn't see a lot of combat. But you can take the tank in Bolt Action, and it's a rather awesome piece of machinery, so we're including it here at number four.
The Sturmtiger was not so much a tank as it was a huge gun on a Tiger chassis. Rather than a cannon, it fired a 380mm rocket-propelled mortar. For some idea of the scale of this gun, it was adapted from a depth charge launcher. The shells weigh 40kg (88 lbs) and could fire 6,000 m (20,000 ft). Against concrete, they could penetrate 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
With extraordinary armor (150 mm in the front), this massive beast could only hold a capacity of 14 shells.
Odds are you won't have need for it in your game, but if you field a Sturmtiger in Bolt Action it comes with a rocket mortar (which has its own special rules), and a Damage Value of 11+, plus Tiger Fear.
Is it a surprise that all of the remaining vehicles on this list are going to be German, and some form of overengineered quirkiness?
The Elephant tank destroyer was originally seen in 1943, and is rather infamous even though less than a hundred were ever built. Eighty nine of those, however, were let loose in the Battle of Kursk. As a tank killer, it was a marvel, taking out T-34s at a range of 3 km.
It had an 88 mm Panzerjägerkanone 43/2 gun, and incredibly tough armor. Unfortunately, it had two big weaknesses made manifest in Kursk: the first was mines, which did the most damage to the Elefant, and the second was the lack of defensive weapons from infantry--the Russians learned they could swarm the Elefant with grenades or Molotov cocktails.
All of that said, if you keep you Elefant in a strategic spot on the table, it has a super-heavy anti-tank gun, Damage Value of 11+, and Tiger Fear. However, it is Slow and Unreliable.
#2. Tiger II
Speaking purely from a Bolt Action point of view, it's hard to beat the Elefant's super-heavy anti-tank gun and a Damage Value of 11+ with Tiger Fear, but the Tiger II manages to do it by losing the Slow and Unreliable penalties.
The Tiger II, or King Tiger, had armor that ranged from 100 mm to 185 mm, and was at a good slope to deflect the shots that tried to penetrate it. It was armed with the 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 anti-tank cannon.
Though used in both Normandy and the Eastern Front, the Tiger II showed its best side in Operation Panzerfaust, the taking of Hungary. During the battle, 121 Soviet tanks and 244 anti-tank guns were taken out compared to a loss of only 25 Tiger IIs. (The highest-scoring tank ace of all time, Kurt Knispel, who destroyed 162 confirmed armored fighting vehicles) was killed in his Tiger II.
So what could possibly surpass the Tiger II on our Best Bolt Action Tanks list?
It took the lead by a nose, and it really could have been a toss up between the Jagdtiger and the Tiger II. The reason that we ultimately gave the win to the Jagdtiger, however, was because of it's gun: the 128mm Pak 44 L/55.
In Bolt Action you can't get a better gun than a super-heavy anti-tank gun, but this powerful main gun on the Jagdtiger loses the penalty for firing at long range. It's built on the chassis of the Tiger II, so it has all of the Tiger IIs benefits (Damage Value 11+, Tiger Fear) but has that slight edge in firing at distance.
(It could be argued, however, that the Tiger II is superior because it has a turret and can fire in any direction. Like we said, the Jagdtiger only took the lead by a nose.)
So what do you think? Do you agree with our choices? Disagree?