This article will cover three units that don’t have much in common in Dust Battlefield. However, the Chinese Volunteers (aka Tiger Claws) and Infantry Transport Helicopter (Assaulter) come in the same box (which is a bit of a shame considering how Horde-ish the Chinese Volunteers can be). I also throw in the Air Ambulance as the troop transport chopper is fairly easy to modify into it.
In this article I will review the stats of these three units, some tactical ideas that they can be for, and give my opinions of how they stack up compared to the rest of the units in Dust Battlefield.
Chinese Volunteers (Tiger Claws)
Until Operation Babylon came out they were the cheapest 5 man squad armed with a ranged weapon. In fact, much of their design makes them feel like a Soldier 1 (S1) squad despite being a Soldier 2 (S2) one. They have a slightly faster March Move and very low point cost. I compare them to the Axis Zombies since they are so cheap on points at only a single point more than mindless undead. The entire squad has no special skills and are only armed with the standard SSU sub-machine gun that gives them great damage at short range.
Role and Tactics for the Chinese Volunteers
I use these squads as my front line attack force a.k.a. cannon fodder. They work well, like the Axis Zombies, to force an opponent to deal with them or risk them getting too close and causing havoc. While they seem to be a purely anti-infantry squad given their smgs can only attack other soldiers, their fast March Move and low point cost make them a fairly effective anti-armor squad in Close Combat.
Consider this: the Chinese Volunteers March Move nearly twice as fast as Axis Zombies and provided you can keep them in cover are just as tough. They can easily wipe out any enemy infantry that gets within their smgs range, and a full strength squad can reliably place 2-3 damage on any vehicle if they can get into Close Combat.
Infantry Transport Helicopter (Assaulter)
The is the SSU’s troop carrier unit. It is arguably the best troop transport since it can cover more than double the distance of the transports found in the other blocs. It is half the speed of the Allied or Axis aircraft but just as fast or faster as anything on the ground. As an Aircraft 1 (A1) with quite a bit of Damage Capacity, it is actually harder to destroy than the Allies and Axis aircraft by most weapons. It also is cheaper than most other transports save the half tracks which there aren’t actual Dust models, just 1:48 ones which can be hard to come by, somewhat of a challenge to build, and not nearly as durable as most wargaming models.
It is armed with a quad machine gun which has very short range but decent firepower. I wouldn’t count on it even crippling an enemy squad but an attack is an attack. Plus, as a helicopter, the Assaulter can Sustain Attack. Perhaps better than the quad machine guns is the fact as a transport half the models in a squad it is carrying can make an Attack (not Sustained) out the sides.
Role and Tactics
Obviously the role of this unit is to move soldiers around the table. As I said, it does a better job of that any other transport in Dust Battlefield. However, just like any other transport (or aircraft for that matter) it is fairly fragile and is likely to be shot down.
One tactic to consider is zipping your chopper across the table as with a March Move it can be placed anywhere you want if deployed off a long table edge. Once in position (and assuming it is shot down) you can use the troops inside (like the Red thunder or Steel Tornado) to rain attacks down on the rear line of your opponent’s forces. This biggest issue with this tactic is the point loss to get this rear area attack usually isn’t worth it since you are often times spending more than 20 points for what amounts to half a squad making an attack.
This unit has no weapons and is otherwise a regular A1 SSU helicopter. It is the cheapest of the Soviet helicopters having a point cost in the single digits. What this unit provides is the best medical care avaible in Dust Battlefield. The Medevac skill allows this unit to attempt to bring back every missing model from a unit.
Role and Tactics
Once again this is a straight forward unit used to bring of the number of models in a under strength Soldier unit. The challenge with this unit is trying to move it where it can do the most good, but at the same time try not to telegraph where you plan to rally your troops. The second part isn’t usually such a problem since you want to activate it toward the end of the round allowing you to determine which infantry unit can best make use of it.
Another issue with this unit is the fragility of aircraft in Dust Battlefield. The Air Ambulance has two thing going for it. It isn’t going to be shooting the enemy or capturing objectives and it is fairly inexpensive in points terms. Plus, you can always try to make your opponent feel bad for violating the Geneva Convention when they decide to target it.
The Chinese Volunteers are a very good unit bordering on too good at least up until Operation Babylon came out. I think the only reason why most players don’t get to concerned about them is the fact that they come with the transport helicopter keeping their numbers in games fairly low. Plus, they aren’t crazy good and don’t benefit from any platoons. Just the same, I think they are underrated on how effective they are.
The Assaulter is not particularly good. Like other aircraft and transports it is a little expensive for as easy as it is to destroy which leave the infantry inside Suppressed. While it ca get your troops across the table faster than any other transports, that doesn’t mean much if the chopper can be destroyed and the unit pinned down and cut off. I am sure there are effective ways to use this unit, but they seem too risky to me.
The Air Ambulance is good unit in my opinion. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind paying a couple extra points to have the ability to add one to my Allied or Axis army lists every now again, and I don’t much care for the captured vehicles thing. Its effectiveness is largely based on the number of infantry units you use as the more squads you have the more likely one of them is going to be crippled after an attack but not wiped completely out.