This article started as a post over at the Dust-War forums but it kept growing and growing until I thought "hell, this deserves its own blog entry!". It had gone from a simple "what's your opinion on the different helicopters?" to a fairly extensive tactics article. Actually I think this is the first time I've written something on the blog mainly concerning tactics and strategy. Sorry for all you non-Dust Warfare players reading. I'll be back to regular scheduling soon enough. :)
While the Mil-Mi45 Transport helicopter has been available for SSU players since early summer it's not until now that we can get our hands on the Mil-Mi46 Walker Transport and Mil-Mi47 Attack Helicopter! Being an industrious SSU commander myself I've been thinking about how to best utilise these new tools in my forces. Let's have a look at the attack helicopter(s) first.
The Mil-Mi47 Attack Helicopter
This is not the most flattering picture of the Mi47. But I couldn't find many better ones. :(
This comes in four versions: Striker with autocannons for 55pts, Burner with Napalm bombs and rocket pods for 50pts, Airblaster with 250kg bombs and rocket pods for 50pts and Death Rain with Napalm and 250kg bombs for 45pts. They all come with quad machineguns in a pintel mount as well.
Looking at this lineup I'm a little bit puzzled about the Striker being the most expensive variant. Sure it tears through infantry and can at least damage light and medium walkers but.... it feels like anti-personel firepower is the least of an SSU force's worries. For five points less you get rocket pods and bombs, both of whom are a lot more effective against armour! Yes, the bombs are one use weapons and the rocked pods have the Reloat trait, but when you rarely face more than two walkers at once anyway this isn't such a big drawback. And I think the compulsory movement can be used to get around the Reload issue if you plan your moves ahead of time.
So to me Burner or Airblaster seems like better options. So, which bombs should you go for - Napalm or 250kg? They actually seem fairly equal to my eyes. The Napalm might be a better a medium infantry killer and it's also better against heavy+ walkers (although only rolling two dice against them makes the bombs unreliable). The 250kg bomb seems to work well against light and medium walkers at least and they are decent against infantry (although that seems like a waste) but against heavy+ walkers Napalm is probably a better choice.
So while the Striker is no doubt the most spectacular looking, striking even, I don't see many reasons to get it instead of Burner or Airblaster in SSU's current state (things might change when the Matrioshka and Lavrentiy Beria hit the street!). Death Rain might very well be a valid budget option for when you just need to take out on or two walkers. And I think Napalm is probably the safer option against an unknown opponent.
The Mil-Mi46 and Aero-walkers
That's the Nina with the RPG-47s.
As for the walker transport... as awesome as the concept is, and as cool looking as it is the walker can actually hang under it (going to magnetize the feet of my Aero-walkers and their base) I have a hard time seeing myself investing in the whole set. The helicopter itself has the quad machineguns, which are good for anti-personel use, but is otherwise unremarkable. Of course, this is more about the aero-walkers than the transport, so here's the lineup: Nastasia with double quad machineguns for 40pts, Nina with two RPG-47 rocket launchers for 40pts and Nikita with 120mm mortars for 45pts.
Vladimin Lenin artillery tank will be) artillery can be a very handy tool. However it being an Aero-walker doesn't make any sense at all and since you will likely never use those abilities the Nikita might in effect be overcosted.
So, one walker that I would only ever field as an aircraft detterent and not as an offensive drop-walker, one that I'd never use as an offensive drop-walker and one that's kind of a gamble and eat up a lot of points... doesn't really make a good case for transportable walkers at all. Which is a shame since it's such a cool idea! I really hope we get to see some more Aero-walker options in the future to make the whole affair worth the investment.
I'm excited to get some new toys to play with and I think there's great potential in the attack helicopters at least. Although I think you need at least two choppers in your army for them to really shine; one is simply too easy to focus fire on and bring down. Two or even three will most likely play mayhem with your opponents cerfully laid plans, and as he is focusing on getting your air assets under control those Fakyeli squads are creeping ever closer!
I hope you enjoyed my little helicopter tactica and I'd be more than happy to hear thoughts and ideas from my dear readers. Especially if you have practical experience of playing with these units. This is all pure conjecture from my part. :)
Until next time...