Hellcats are a simple airborne deployment troop available on Nomads, Corregidor and StarCo. They generally have as much AVA as you desire and one of the widest ranges of profiles on an AD troop. Basically equipment strapped to jetpacks, their role is largely dependent on the profile you pick and what you want to do with them, conforming to your needs. Learn the advantages to AD well and you can find Hellcats an invaluable tool that keeps the battlefield under your control.
Hellcats are primarily offensive units. The weapon choice should be considered based on what you want the Hellcat to do in relation to using it with Airborne Deployment.
While 12 BS is acceptable, without any other skills to help the face to face you want to avoiding fighting on even ground. Cover to cover fighting is dangerous and a Hellcat has a higher failure rate than other options if you do not use AD to provide an advantage.
There are 8 profile choices but there are essentially 5: combi, assault hacker, boarding shotgun, spitfire, and HMG.
The combi provides a flexible offensive option with decent burst and access to suppressive fire for a low cost. The Hellcat is often moving past total cover to get targets out of cover, so a positive modifier at close range is especially useful. Less commonly used on a faction that also has Tomcats unless AD5 (as opposed to AD2: Airborne Infiltration) is desired.
- The combi profile has a few options that each give a different tactical choice, the two offensive options are the adhesive launcher and deployable repeater.
- The adhesive launcher can one hit disable powerful enemies, and AD can provide the means to avoid a face to face by deploying behind the target.
- The deployable repeater can set up a hacking field directly and unexpectedly on a target.
While the assault hacker has a combi it can be classified differently because of how significant the assault hacking device is. Assault hacking devices often suffer from acting more as a deterrent because enemies do not wander in to it. However with AD you can take your opponent by surprise and make direct use of it. As a bonus it makes the Hellcat a specialist as well. An especially useful profile in combination with other units that can fire a more powerful weapon after immobilization, although isolation and even possession are available as well. Be aware that this makes it hackable, possible preventing the Hellcat from maneuvering or dropping in certain areas.
The boarding shotgun is a tool with a few niche uses. The first niche being the template allowing you to hit multiple targets. A good way to break a link, especially an aggressive one. AD allows the Hellcat to choose to approach from the correct direction to hit multiple targets. The second is the AP mode, able to hit heavy targets for a good chance at wounding. There is some added difficulty to this weapon because direct template weapons and shotguns can put the Hellcat at risk, however it is often the exact tool you need.
The spitfire is primarily just an upgrade over a combi. This weapon is the most flexible Hellcat. With close enough range to flank targets around total cover and get under enemy HMG and sniper ranges, but long enough range to get over rifle range. Enhanced burst, damage, and ability to put enemies in negative rangebands make the spitfire the best cover to cover weapon. It is also especially good at countering forces with massive advances, such a mobile link teams or impetuous swarms, because it can quickly target one after the other without moving very far.
The HMG is another niche weapon. The longer range band over the spitfire allows it to deploy and effectively target enemies that were meant to be safe. A HMG on a target out of cover is one of the most lethal possible weapons. Additionally the long range usually means you won't have to walk far to find a target unless you need to fall back. This adds up to being able to deal with some difficult targets in a very order efficient way. The HMG is also good for countering massive advances much like the Spitfire, probably better.
Hellcats do have an unintuitive defense. AD is their sword and shield, providing the only true invulnerability in the game until you choose to deploy them. This is deceptively powerful and allows Hellcats to bring you back from having your other offensive troops killed early.
2 ARM and 3 BTS give it a decent chance at not being stopped by a stray bullet or flashpulse, but in ARO this usually only results in requiring another order to kill. Hellcats prefer not to have bullets shot back at them at all using AD to flank the enemy.
12 PH not only increases their drop chance but gives them a better chance at dodging should they need to.
Most Hellcats, the combi, spitfire and HMG, have access to suppressive fire, drastically increasing their survivability. This is often a good idea when Hellcats are deep in enemy territory to at least increase the investment required to remove the Hellcat.
The assault hacking device has an additional layer of defense against certain units. While some enemies have equipment designed to kill hackers, few of them would have had trouble killing a Combi Hellcat anyways, so the hacking device doesn't add a serious vulnerability. It can make positioning difficult for hackable enemies.
The boarding shotgun has a hard enough time surviving actively, in ARO total cover and luck are their only defenses.
The HMG deserves special mention because it comes with e/maulers. While the e/maulers aren't often used offensively because you want to keep distance with a HMG it can help set up an effective defense in combination with suppressive fire. The e/mauler can also be deploying in ARO usually resulting in it near the opponent's deployment zone.
Hellcats have superior combat drop. This adds the potential to have a backup plan if the AD fails and the Hellcat deviates in to illegal terrain. This is especially useful with the HMG or Spitfire as you can almost always find another target instead.
Hellcats can work together. For example:
- A hacker Hellcat can immobilize a hackable troop in a link, then a boarding shotgun can hit multiple members of the link without risk.
- A hacker can IMM1 a TAG and allow an adhesive launcher as many shots as they need.
- A Combi/BSG Hellcat can get close and kill the long range member of a link so the HMG can target each one outside of their range.
AD can be used with at least 2 other troops to put a target in a situation where they cannot face all 3 targets at once, always allowing free shots.
- 2 Hellcats can make this even easier; the HMG is helpful here because it can form the third leg by entering on the far side of the board.
An EVO hacking device automatically gives +3 to the AD roll. If you have other uses such a buffing REM, TAGs or hackers this is a great deal.
- A Hellcat deployable repeater can make use of the enhanced AD roll, set up a repeater on a target, and the EVO can allow you to use a hacking coordinated order.
- Taking a Tomcat doctor when available allows you to recover unconscious Hellcats.
Like any AD watching the edges to prevent AD 2 from putting them in a good position is the first way to counter them. If they need to use AD 2 further away they can't deploy behind you they will come from a direction you were already prepared for. You want to force them to either not get full use out of AD or to risk a combat drop.
They can use AD 5 to drop anywhere they can fit the template, and that can be difficult to prepare for. But now they will have a chance to fail and drop in a position where you get a free aro(s) to kill them, negating the troop but unfortunately not wasting any further orders.
You want your deployment zone to be difficult to penetrate by using direct template weapons as a defense. Many factions can make an early penetration of their deployment zones without using a token state not worth the effort, and most Hellcat players should write off the concept of alpha striking your DZ once you get it down. Do be wary of them using a combat drop to start past your DZ guards. Try to have your cheap hidden guys watching their own backs, even one basic combi can stop a Hellcat if it drops in front of it. If there are only a few places the template for the drop could fit you can know where to watch. Don't make an opening so good that the risk is worth the reward.
Hellcats prefer to target troops that have advanced out of your deployment zone. Watching their backs in a few ways can make this much more difficult:
- Be aware of the facing of every troop during deployment, even the ones you don't expect to be in combat
- Warbands can often use their own orders to advance with your troops, making a close range assault more difficult.
- A longer ranged Hellcat could drop and target one at a time, at least giving you a free turn when the warband dies.
- Troops with longer ranged weapons can watch your back, forcing the Hellcat in to unfavorable cover-to-cover fighting before it can flank you
- If you can see too far past the troop you are trying to protect dedicated ARO clearers can get rid of your guard
- Even simple weapons such as a flashpulse or a combi can cover a troop pretty well.
- Fireteams, even duos, can use their other members to help watch their back
- Fireteams with access to SS2 will always get to respond, but forcing them to engage a troop with good mods such as a combi is better than allowing them to target your expensive HMG under ranged
- Be very wary of the BSG hitting multiple troops, the coherency range on a fireteam is the same as the length of the template
Hellcats are not very expensive. However the fact that they do not generate orders while hidden needs to be considered during list composition.
They are more supportive troops than troops that need supporting and can go with just about any force. If you figure out what each Hellcat profile does, then figure out what you need, you can pick which Hellcat(s) you need for the list. Until then just try things out.
Hellcats are an ideal troop for switching command group using command tokens. This allows their trait of not generating orders to not affect combat group one, then they can use the larger order pool once other offensive troops are lost.
The primary reason to keep a Hellcat in combat group 1 is to prevent the need of a command token. Secondarily it is to ensure the Hellcat can be used immediately even if none of your troops died to clear room in the command group. Hellcats taken to counter something specific usually want to be in CG1 to prevent a situation where you need to bring the counter out but cannot switch combat group at the time. A Hellcat such as the Spitfire that is intended to be a simple follow-up attacker also wants to be in CG1. A very successful attack can leave an unconscious offensive troop and no other causalities, preventing the Hellcat from swapping command group.
However most Hellcats don't want to deploy until later in the game when the board is easier to traverse. If you bring a Hellcat to make use of the flexibility of AD you can get away with switching command groups later in the game to replenish your forces. This is done with the assumption that you do not need access to the Hellcat while other troops are alive to do their job.
The Hellcat HMG and boarding shotgun can often accomplish their singular tasks without a large order pool, allowing you to break links or remove obstacles to help out your primary combat group without draining the same order pool.
If you simply want a Hellcat to use AD5 to risk dropping on an objective you can do so in CG2 since you will only need enough orders to take the objective.
Taking multiple Hellcats (or other AD) still follows the same rules. Sometimes you would rather have both in CG1. You probably don't want more than one in CG2 unless you are sure you don't want the command tokens for anything else. In the case of 3 Hellcats (or other AD) you usually want two in CG1 as well.
You probably never want to deploy Hellcats without using AD2 or 5. Which level of AD and where to deploy is entirely determined on the weapon and situation the board is in.
There is always a preference to use AD2 because there is no roll to fail on. However sometimes AD5 is required either to avoid a difficult situation or to take advantage of a big reward.
You always want to deploy so that at least your first target is out of cover and preferably facing away. This is the main advantage of AD. Don't get excited and deploy early when other troops that aren't safely off the table could do the job instead.
In the event that you never wanted to deploy the Hellcat in a game make sure to deploy them before the game ends or it counts as a casualty. This is still better than dropping it for no reason and spending orders to do a worse job than a different troops.
Active Turn Role
Generally there are two major roles for a Hellcat, although how they act in that role depends on their profile. The most significant traits are all related to AD (in no order): that the Hellcat is safe until deployment; that the Hellcat can start in a flanking position; that the Hellcat can delay their deployment location decision. This even gives them an advantage over TO hidden deployment in that they can't be accidentally covered by something like a mine, simply deploying in a different location.
Hellcats can be deployed to counter your opponent's decisions and positioning. Being able to choose deployment after you have more information, such as where your opponent decided to attack from, after mines have been cleared, or after their hidden deployment troops have been discovered, prevents the Hellcat from being pinned down or at least protecting by simply not deploying if it is too dangerous. You can even deploy them in your own deployment zone if your opponent is unexpectedly aggressive.
Airborne deployment makes the Hellcat start advanced up the board, but unlike infiltration they are kept safe until activation. This makes them useful for follow up attacks because they can't be cleared out early by your opponent. Other troops designed to penetrate tough defenses can act on the first turn when Hellcats can have difficulty finding a way through. After the first turns their defenses are usually weakened, and your opponent has sent their own troops outside of their DZ, making it easier for the Hellcat to find an opening.
So Hellcats are usually acting in a protective 'counter' role or offensive 'momentum keeping' role. Depending on the Hellcat's profile the delayed decision trait of AD allows you to choose which they do as the situation presents itself.
In both situations, taking a Hellcat essentially gives you another troop you deploy after your opponent even when you take initiative. For example having a Hellcat Spitfire and a Bandit in reserved deployment gives you two turns of attacks that cannot be countered during your opponent's deployment.
Hellcats are not troops meant for ARO. While the situation comes up that they are the best option their loadouts do not benefit them. However courage allows them to keep suppressive fire without making a guts roll.
The assault hacking device or deployable repeater can be set up on hackable targets to help pin them down.
The adhesive launcher creates a powerful ARO when it hits, but without any skills to help the face to face you usually prefer suppressive fire. When it happens it is great but you shouldn't try to set it up.
The HMG does have e/maulers that can be set up in ARO. This can tie the enemy up, although you still usually prefer suppressive fire if possible.