Saturday, 17 November 2012

Dust Warfare: Helicopter and Drop-Walker Tactics

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Share it Please

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.

Speaking of bombs, what about Death Rain? I actually think it could be a pretty good, slightly cheaper, antitank option. Dropping one of each bomb on a medium-ish walker should be enough to kill it outright (if you drop them in its rear arc of course) and there are rarely more than two medium+ walkers on the board in our games. It should have a decent chance to knock out a superheavy walker as well if you drop all four bombs on it at once. In fact, it might even be a better option in smaller games with fewer targets. The rocket pods aren't that great against infantry anyway so they could end up being dead weight if there's no time to reload them.

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.

For the same points as a Nastasia I can get a regular Natasha walker and get comparable, or even better anti-personel ability. Sure, the Nastasia might roll a couple more dice but I'd say the cover negating ability of the Howitzers is much more valuable most of the time (infantry out of cover is quite rare). Not to mention an automatic suppression token, 8" longer range and wider fields of fire. Assault is a nice ability to have, for sure, but with the longer range of Natasha it's not really needed and the all in one can really help in a sticky situation! Nastasia has one potential saving grace: anti-air artillery. Still... with a range of measly 16" it will only be good for passive protection against enemy aircraft rather than actually hunting them down. Probably my least favourite SSU walker, from a rules perspective (the model is awesome!).

The Nina brings some pretty fearsome antitank abilities with its two RPG-47s! This should be enough to get the attention of any SSU commander considering how rare this is in the current army list. It is very fickle however as you only actually roll two dice - meaning there's a good chance you won't hit at all; if you do however, there will be glorious destruction! Of the three Aero-walkers this is the one that I think actually has some air-drop potential. I would also consider putting Red Yana behind the levers as her Fighting Spirit ability could make sure that you really hit that one critical target! 80 points (or 102 with Yana!) for a 4 hit point medium walker hanging under a fairly fragile chopper might be hard to stomach though. Unfortunately the Air Lift ability doesn't provide protection from transport destruction (like Air Cav does) so if your enemy manages to nail that chopper the walker is gone as well. I contacted FFG regarding this to see if this was a rules oversight and Zach got back to me promptly. The Air Lift rule should read: A Vehicle suffers no damage if its transport is destroyed. Place the Vehicle on the battlefield in the location previously occupied by the destroyed transport. The Vehicle gains one Reaction marker. Also, being able to disembark from high altitude is amazing! In the end this is a combo I could imagine using, although it would be a bit of a gamble. Two attack helicopters could probably do the job better. Not as fun though!

Finally the Nikita brings some artillery to the SSU forces. First off, both the Air Lift and Assault abilities feel completely wasted on this model. The only reason I can imagine why it's an Aero-walker in the first place was for production reasons and how the parts are laid out on the sprue. In fact, game/fluff wise it would have made much more sense to have the artillery walker as a regular KV-47 and then have the chainsaw wielding Natalya being the air droppable one! Oh well... one can dream. Anyway, the mortar is a little bit less powerful than the Lothar's, but then again it's a Grenade weapon meaning it cancels cover. So in the end I'd say they are about even. However unlike its Axis and Allied counterparts the the 120mm mortar doesn't have the Reload trait, meaning it could potentially fire indirectly every turn. This could be pretty huge, depending how you construct your army. Then again the mortar iself might not be powerful enough to base a strategy around. This is probably the Aero walker that would see the most frequent use in my armies. While not a game-changer on its own (like I imagine the upcoming 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...

9 kommentarer :

  1. I can't see any choppers flying on the Dust battlefields when the flakwagons of the future carry quad 122mm cannons! All you gotta do is get close and them whirly birds start falling outta the sky!

    Although I don't play Dust I do field WWII era choppers in my wargaming and if I don't smoke the hell outta the table with an arty strike, those helos usually just end up making flaming scenery on the table and losing your crack FJ commandos in their Dragon is a horrible sight to see.

    Good luck and great stuff,

  2. Hehe! Well... Dust Warfare is fairly abstract in many ways to create a certain kind of game (fast, action packed and fairly CQB centred) so helicopters are probably more survivable than the "should" be.

    Then again, the times I've fielded one it's been a smoking wreck by the second turn (at the latest!). I think two or three is the order of the day if you want to keep any of them alive. By destroying your opponents AA assets of course. :)

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. This is an excellent post as I was just thinking of starting a SSU army. Although I'm not sure the choppers are such a great idea any longer.

  4. Well, I think they are pretty great, you just need to know their pros and cons. Now, the walker transport helicopter would not be my first choice if I want to create a truly effective army, but the attack helicopter I think can kick some serious butt!

    I'd be more than happy to take them off your hands though... ;)

  5. Hi there
    Nice blog you have, i really like it. So much, that I just awarded you the Liebster Blog Award. Se my blog for the rules and such
    Hope you don't mind. Cheers!

  6. As a frequent SSU player, I can vouch for the Nina Aero-Walker. The Assault ability allows you to rush up into range when going first, with impunity to Suppression you effectively deny areas to enemy walkers for fear of that 12 point damage potential. What I find better for a pilot is Nikolai. You can use his Take Aim ability more than once, and after the Nina is in place you rarely have to move with the 16" range.

    Personally I find the use of the transport Helo entirely optional, and get better results out of the 40 points by taking another walker, either Natasha or Nikita. As an added bonus if the walker Nikolai is in gets pasted, you can always just hop in another if you keep them near each other.

  7. @The Miniatures Man - Why thank you kindly, sir! I've been lucky to have already been awarded a Liebster by Frontline Gamer, but the more the merrier and it allowed me to discover your blog which I'm glad for! I'll post my awards a bit later. Thanks again! :)

    @Richard B - Excellent information! Yes, with Assault I guess just rushing it forward is a valid tactic. A bit worried about survivability, but locking down an opponents mech is always hilarious!

    When I get my hands on on some of my own I'll try out the different variants and see which parts of this article hold up and which are pure bollocks! :)

  8. Interesting thoughts for sure- but I do think you should turn your theory into practice before you make any definite claims and luckily my sturm-lasers are always powered up and ready for just those battles.

    Attack helicopters feels scary, better invest in some AA sooner rather than later.I can really see how the transport doesn't feel too appealing. So far the games I've played have been close and fast anyway and an extra walker just adds more punch. Perhaps if you deliberately push for an "unprepared assault" and use your transport in order to get your support units in line with your andvancing infantry units? This would put a lot of pressure on your opponent. That whole thesis relies on the opponent to put points on deployment as well so it's a bit far fetched I guess but in that deployment the oppositions AA support will enter from their side at the same time, so possibly out of reach.

  9. @Viktor - Yes, practice makes perfect. This is just me theorizing, but regarding the drop walkers I really don't think they are worth the investment of getting a transport for them as well. Very cool! But probably not economical. Will try it out at some point or another though. :)

    Today I did get to try out the attack helicopters though! I brought one Burner, one Death Rain and one regular transport filled with Fakyelie+Yakov. The Death Rain unfortunately didn't get to drop any of its bombs before it was shot down, but a bombing run by the burner followed up by the Fakyeli completely destroyed a Sturmkönig. The choppers went on to destroy two infantry squads and a light walker (perhaps more, can't remember), so overall a successfull test! Hehe!


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