On discussion forums and sites dealing with Dust: Warfare there seems to be a bit of a shortage of players claiming the Sino-Soviet Union as their main force. There is some reasoning behind that — lack of a Core Set featuring the SSU and lack of Heroes being two of the most-cited reasons that I have seen — but let’s take an overview of what the SSU brings to the table.
When talking about a faction in Dust: Warfare, comparisons to the other two forces are inevitably made. This is right and proper, especially seeing as D:W is a pretty balanced game at its core, and it’s always nice to comparison shop.
The SSU, as of this writing, has Tesla technology. Currently only featured on one unit — the overpriced Karl Marx — Tesla took a big hit in the transition from Tactics to Warfare. In Tactics, the Marx has a range of 6 squares, affects every square in between the tank and its target and re-rolls hits like Lasers. This is on top of being a Spray weapon and ignoring cover. In Warfare, range is 30″ and if you do a Sustained Attack, you can target another enemy unit up to 6″ away from your primary. You don’t get re-rolls if you do this. Also a Spray. As more Tesla weapons get added this may become more useful — but as it is, spending 101 points for the Marx is really not a good idea.
On the other sides of the board, Axis Lasers are pretty potent, re-rolling all hits to do additive damage. Combined with Overcharge and Hi-Vis, Lasers can ruin your day in a hurry. Allied Phaser weapons ignore armor — so that heavy walker of yours is a sitting duck for any Phaser weaponry on the table. Cover can still be used, so there’s that.
Verdict on Special Weapons? SSU isn’t going to come out on top against Laser or Phaser technology anytime soon.
I’m not going to go into a unit-by-unit comparison, as that’s beyond the scope of what I’m trying to do today. In general, a wide-sweeping statement can be made — Axis strengths are the Apes and Zombies as well as hard-hitting ranged Soldier 3 squads like the Heavy Laser Grenadieres; Allied forces bring Jump units and have Rocket Fists that hit on blanks; and the SSU has no Soldier 3s, but makes up for it with the use of Commissars to combine like squads into blobs of 11-12 models. (Winter Child is also the only S4 in the game, but he’s a gimmick choice)
Out of the three, I prefer the SSU’s mechanic to the Allied or Axis one. SSU infantry is extremely specialized as well — The Red Thunder Antitank squad isn’t going to do well against infantry for the most part and conversely the Ohotniki is not the squad you want going up against enemy armor. But when you maneuver your opponent into making the moves you want him to, the specialization pays off.
All in all, this is the core of the army — if you like the Elite and Schwer platoon setups for Allies and Axis, with available S3 units, the SSU has nothing for you. Personally, I like seeing a few more models on the table and am going to give the edge to the SSU here.
The SSU is behind on Walker technology. There are no light walkers in the SSU — at all — so when you build a list you’re paying about double what the Axis and Allied players pay for a given light walker role (Wildfire, 20AP. Heinrich 20AP. Nastasia 40AP). Also, SSU range is horrible. Walker ranges (with the exception of the KV-3 series) is C, 6-8″, 16″ or Artillery. That’s pretty much it. The KV-3 series (Matrioshka and Babushka) that were released with Hades are excellent heavy walkers, though — and at 65 and 50AP not priced horribly in comparison to their lighter cousins.
The SSU has helicopters and tanks as well as walkers. The first faction in the air, Helicopters are kind of lackluster, with 16″ range on every weapon on every variant — excepting bombs, which have their own ruleset. The aforementioned Heinrich and Wildfire can and do keep Helicopters from becoming a major threat. And as the ‘copters are A2 at high altitude and V2 at low altitude, it’s not hard to pop them out of the sky.
I love the SSU’s tanks, however. The Beria and the Mao are solid choices — with the Mao quite possibly being the best bang-for-your-buck unit in the game! — and the Lenin artillery platform being super powerful. The Marx is about 15-20 points too much for what it does with the Tesla main gun, but in a friendly game it can cause some havoc against infantry. Don’t expect the Marx to go toe-to-toe with the cheaper Punisher/Fireball or Konigsluther/Sturmkonig variants, because it will lose badly.
Overall, for the aesthetics of design and because the faction’s engineers actually know how to craft an effective walker, I’d have to tip my hat in favor of the Axis for vehicles. Allied next and then the SSU — although this category is very close! The Matrioshka, Babushka and the Mao tank are extremely powerful units.
The SSU doesn’t have many compared to the Axis and Allies, but what we do have in heroics are pretty good. Nikolai sitting in one of the KV-3 variants, or a Mao or a Beria can be devastating to your opponent. Red Yana gives what amounts to Sustained on a Move/Shoot action to the unit she’s with, Koshka comes with her own specialized walker. Yakov seems tailor-made to be attached to a close-combat squad with his Acid Thrower and extended cover rules, and Winter Child is the only S4 infantry in the game.
The only issue is, that’s pretty much it. While one-on-one, I’d put the SSU heroes up against their counterparts in grey and green, there’s not enough choices — and choices are what makes tabletop wargaming fun and diverse.
Some have argued the point that Commissars count on the Hero tally. I disagree, as the weaponry is basic, they are one-wound models, the joining of squads can be as big of a disadvantage against some lists as it is an advantage against others (before you argue this point, flamethrowers are kind of ubiquitous in the game, and tossing 11-12 dice against one squad is hurtful). They are good units, they give the SSU their defining tactic and I like the fact that instead of S3 we have large S2 units — but they are not heroes and should not be counted as such.
With the addition of the Red Guard Platoon in Hades, the SSU have the added indignity of having the only Platoon a hero cannot command.
So Heroes, I’ll tentatively give this one to the Axis and Allies — they have the variety to match up with the SSU and have change left over.
The SSU brings differences to the tabletop that go beyond numbers. Completely different playstyle than the other two. I (obviously) prefer this style, but I can see where the siren call of Schwer and Elite platoons can influence new players. The lack of a Core box is probably the biggest factor, I would say — splitting a Core or Revised Core box is how a lot of people at the local shop got started on their armies, and I hope that when the next faction is released the SSU get a bit of love in that regard.
The SSU army is mostly a complete force; the hero count and the horrible Tesla unit thus far are negatives, but there are other ways to build up your force instead of taking them. The strength of the basic infantry for the SSU is above the other two factions, I think, to counteract the lack of S3. And we’ve got tanks. Feel free to come to our forums and talk about it!