During the Thanksgiving weekend I assembled a pair of the new plastic M18 Hellcat kits produced by Italeri for Warlord Games. I had already completed and reviewed a pair of the fantastic resin Trenchworx Hellcat kits, and I wanted to write up a comparison of the plastic versus the resin kits for anyone deciding on an M18 to get for their own US force in Bolt Action, as well as just reviewing the Warlord kit in general.
There are of course the standard pros and cons for the materials used in the different kits. The Trenchworx resin and metal kits are sturdy, solid chunks of resin with a bit of weight to them and some great detail. I have absolutely no fear of pieces of the resin kit breaking off during gaming (except perhaps the pintle HMG). The plastic kits, on the other hand, have several thin pieces that could potentially snap, including a radio antenna, their own HMGs, and some of the plastic rails in various places on the turret. Of course, the classic pro list for a plastic kit includes customization (in this case, different barrel, mantlet, and equipment options on the vehicle) and finer detail in some areas (the interior of the Warlord Hellcat turret is far more detailed than the Trenchworx kit).
As for directly reviewing the Warlord plastic M18 kit, I found it to be a good design. The package itself came with some great little additions by Warlord and Italeri, including a (limited but useful) painting guide at the end of the instruction pamphlet that included paint schemes and decal recommendations based on vehicles used Italy and at the Battle of the Bulge. The box also came with a unit card for the M18 Hellcat in Bolt Action, listing the point costs, upgrade options, and stats on the weaponry and armor of the vehicle, along with a short write-up on its history. There were no updates to the rules for the vehicle, but it was a nice addition to have and could be useful in games where the player wants a quick reference.
The sprues were well laid out and easy to find the parts that were needed at any given time. The tracks were a bit finicky to get flush, which is sadly not that uncommon on plastic kits where you have four or more pieces of track to connect. On one of the Hellcats they ended up fitting perfectly, on the other there is a very slight gap above the front roadwheel between it and the track.
The rest of the hull was easy enough to put together, it has some detail on the interior under the turret ring, as unlike the resin Hellcats the bottom of the turret is open on these kits, allowing you to see down into the hull itself. It won’t be all that visible, but if the light is on it you’d be able to see down inside so it’s something to add some paint to. The hatches and additional equipment such as running lights and tow hooks all went on fine and provide extra detail. The turret itself was quite nice to put together. It has a detailed interior with some stowage spots and seating for crew. The standard rails along the top of the turret, and a ball joint for the HMG mount allowing you to angle and position the .50 cal however you wish. You also get some choices for the gun and mantlet. They had the early-production variation with the straight barrel and no muzzle brake, and then the June of 1944-onwards barrel with the muzzle brake added. You also have the option of having the standard mantlet (similar to what came on the resin Hellcats) or a covered mantlet (as pictured on my plastics. As I already had two of the standard mantlet setup from the resin Hellcats I decided to use the covered variant on both of the plastic kits).
Overall the plastic kits were quite nice to work with. No real gaps in the models (other than the minor track issue, but to be honest that may have been user error as the other kit fit perfectly flush), for once Italeri didn’t have any typos in their instruction pamphlet, and the decal sheet is excellent. They provided an M18-specific style of decal sheet rather than the standard US Army vehicle sheet that came with all prior Warlord US tanks.
As for whether I would recommend the resin or the plastic kits, it’s a tough call that of course comes down to personal preference. I think I lean towards the plastics simply due to the ease of customization, plus it includes crew for the vehicle, which was the one big downside to the Trenchworx kits.
For those who are looking to pick up a one (or a few) of these speedy American tank destroyers, Trenchworx has their Hellcat available for $36. Warlord just posted their individual Hellcats for sale at $32, and also have the Anti-Tank Section web bundle (two Hellcats and an attached scout car) and the Hellcat Platoon (three Hellcats) at $80 each ($27 per vehicle). Personally I almost always order through NWS-Online, where they currently have individual Hellcats listed at $19.99 for the Warlord plastic kit, as well as having the Anti-Tank Section for $64.99 and the Hellcat Platoon for $47.99. Some of these are holiday sale prices and will change slightly, but NWS tends to have pretty low prices on product with good service.
I haven’t set up any winter forces for BA yet, and that’s where I think I’m going to go with the Hellcats. I currently plan on painting/basing my US Airborne around a winter Battle of the Bulge theme, and then doing the same for the Hellcat platoon and attached scout car. Pictures will get posted when I start to make some progress on that.