Monday, May 27, 2013

Of Beards and Shining Mail: Painting Dwarves

It's been a while since I've posted - close-out of the semester and family vacation didn't bode well for hobbying. But here we are, reviewing some work I did painting my Dwarves and trying to get them to a place where I like them. Though my best army (the most fun, potentially the most devastating, and the one that uses more obscure rules than any other army I've built) is my Wood Elves, I've got a very soft spot for my Dwarves. They are arguably the most resilient army in the game and if you don't mind being slow and not having spears (absent the new models for the Army of Thror), they have very few weaknesses.

Here's a quick look at the complete Dwarf list, to be followed by an in-depth review of each unit type and what it provides to the army. At the end will be a few sample lists and the steps ahead for the bearded fellows.

The Host of Erebor: 765 points


Gimli, Son of Gloin - 90 points
Balin, Son of Fundin with Durin's Axe - 85 points
2 Dwarf Shield-bearers - 120 points
8 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 72 points
10 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 90 points
1 Dwarf Warrior with banner - 33 points
6 Khazad Guards - 66 points
6 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes - 60 points
3 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes and two-handed weapons - 33 points
7 Dwarf Rangers with two-handed weapons - 56 points
6 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf longbows - 60 points

In-Depth Look: Heroes

There are currently four heroes in my Dwarf collection and I often play with the warband rules and take three in any given game. The two names characters are the melee powerhouses and the other two are decent attackers but provide more tactical benefits for your army. I've discussed how to use Gimli in a previous post during Fellowship month, so I'm not going to go into more detail now. Note two things about that post: first, Gimli shares the post with three other heroes, and second, though Legolas is a good companion hero for Gimli, so is Balin, who we will view now.
(Closest close-up on Balin heretofore!) Balin is, for cost, the best killer of units available for the Dwarves. Without Durin's axe, Balin is equipped with hand axes, a two-handed axe, and throwing axes - perfect for dealing damage of various kinds. With Durin's axe, you get the to-wound bonus of a two-handed weapon without the to-win penalty and you get a personal banner rule (rerolling one of your dice to win the fight). This makes a 2 Attack Balin roll 3 dice to win the fight and wound any units below Defense 7 on 4s at least with 2 dice. Though daunting to face in combat, beware - with 2 Wounds and 1 Fate point, it only takes one bad round and your killing machine could be crippled or killed. It's a toss-up for me as to whether Gimli or Balin is the better hero, as Gimli can stay alive longer and Balin can wound more easily. I need to do a post in the future that walks through the Dwarf heroes I have/want to show their relative worth.
Shield-bearers are great, cheap heroes who provide not only combat prowess, but also grant tactical bonuses to your units. With free heroic combats when within 3" of the hero they protect (I assign any that I have to Gimli and flank him if I have more than one), you can kill an extra unit each round and not have to spend your Might points with Gimli on Heroic combats (so you can save them for Heroic moves or promoting dice). Want to charge a terrifying creature with a Dwarf Warrior or Ranger? If you're within 12" of the Shield-bearer, you get to reroll your dice if you fail. Pretty good, huh?
Shield-bearers come at a price, though: no Will and no Fate. With Defense 8, they're still difficult to kill, but there's no forgiveness if they take wounds and there's no ability to resist spell-casters. Though most of the armies here at TMAT don't field mages of any kind, all of my armies have a dedicated spell-caster and some armies (like my Wood Elves and Uruk-Hai) use these heroes for their synergy - so it makes a difference to me.

In-Depth Look: Dwarf Warriors (with shields, Dwarf bows, or banner)

The pride of any Dwarf general is supporting Defense 8 heroes with Defense 7 shock-troops. We'll talk about Khazad Guards a little later, but Dwarf Warriors with shields are one of the handful of warriors in Middle-Earth that can reach Defense 7. These remarkable warriors team a hearty Fight 4 with the shielding rule to create an iron wall to protect your heroes while they wreck carnage against their foes. With Courage 4, they're not likely to flee from danger or fail to tag a monster or terror-causing spell-caster for a turn. That said, don't take risks with them - move quickly and use cover as much as you can.
I created a volley team for my Dwarves for two reasons: first, it's annoying when your foe can take pot-shots at you and you have no way of firing back. Second, the Dwarf Warrior volley team is the only team that wounds other volley teams on 5s and is wounded in return on 6s. Strength 3 bows in the hands of the only Defense 6 non-crossbow armed archers in the game makes them invaluable assets. For 9 points each, they're a real bargain. Their 4+ shoot value is average and made all the better from the increased strength value.
Banners are expensive but very useful - especially for an army that doesn't have (or at least, doesn't use) spears. Rerolling a dice in combat is not only useful when you want to win fights, but is best employed to ensure that heroes have a chance at not spending a Might point to get a higher roll. Every time I field my banner, I make sure he's backing up (read, in base contact with) Gimli, so that he can roll 3-4 dice to win each fight and have that much more of an advantage against whatever the enemy throws at him. Helping both him and a shield-bearer (or two!) is even more useful, making the three heroes romp quickly through the enemy lines and take away the advantage of spears. Always keep him in base contact with a Dwarf archer though, so that if the banner-bearer is killed, the Dwarf with bow can drop his weapon and raise the banner high (saving you kill points and keeping the melee benefits).
In-Depth Look: Khazad Guards

Khazad Guards are the elite bodyguards of the Dwarf lords and showcase impressive stats: Defense 7 and Strength 4 make them capable attackers and reliable defenders. The option of using a two-handed weapon makes them particularly dangerous against archers and Cave Trolls, who can be felled quite handily if someone (say, a hero or a Dwarf Warrior when fighting archers) can win the fight for you. This killing power also augments the heroes that they help, allowing them to deal powerful blows that should reduce the Might points they need to spend. I try not to have any hero without a Khazad Guard in base contact with him - and all are assigned to Gimli or whoever the most resilient hero is - so that they can pass Courage tests all day and lock down dangerous targets.
In-Depth Look: Dwarf Rangers (with throwing axes or Dwarf longbows)

Before the release of spearmen in the newest Dwarf list in the Hobbit model line, Dwarves had two options for spear-support: buy a Vault Warden team or rely on other means to equalize the battles. Using a banner can give you (basically) a second dice, but there's another method that works slightly more effectively (or so I've found), and relies on the following principle:
A dead spearman can't support anyone.
Dwarf Rangers are gifted with the choice of either throwing axes or Dwarf longbows - both of which unfortunately are 3 point upgrades. These ranged weapons, when you position your Dwarves to look between your units in the front lines, allow you to target the spearmen who provide an advantage against your front ranks. If you can kill them (legitimate targets for a force of Good for the win), the fight has become a one-on-one fight, which makes life so much better for you. Add a banner to this mix, and you suddenly have the advantage! Be aware, though, that statistically speaking, six Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes will hit four times and kill one average spearman (maybe two on some rounds), so you won't be freeing up many of your units each round. This, however, is where softening up the enemy ranks a turn before the great charge will be very useful - and where Dwarf longbows (24" at Strength 2) gain an advantage over throwing weapons.
In-Depth Look: Dwarf Rangers (with two-handed axes)

These Dwarf Rangers do not serve as surrogate spearmen. Their role is three-fold and entirely different: first, they provide much-needed killing power for the Strength 3 only fights that you have (anyone who is not a Khazad Guard or a hero) with their two-handed weapons. The second benefit - and most practical - is that for 8 points a model, you have a reasonably cheap unit with average or above-average stats. The final benefit (one that is only employed in certain scenarios) is that you have a unit that is so basic, you can claim objectives and feel pretty good about leaving him there with nothing to do. You may find that leaving a bowman behind might be more useful, but I've often found that a bowman stationed between the enemy and an objective instead of on the objective itself is far, FAR more useful. The only thing you lose by placing one of these "basic" Rangers on an objective is that you are short one body - that's not much.
Sample Army List: The Host of Erebor - 600 points (Warbands)

Gimli, Son of Gloin - 90 points
1 Dwarf Warrior with banner - 33 points
4 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 36 points
2 Khazad Guards - 22 points
4 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes - 40 points
1 Dwarf Ranger with two-handed axe - 8 points

Balin, Son of Funding with Durin's Axe - 85 points
4 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 36 points
4 Khazad Guards - 44 points
2 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf longbows - 20 points
2 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes - 20 points

Dwarf Shield-Bearer - 60 points
2 Dwarf Rangers with two-handed axes - 16 points
10 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 90 points

39 units, 10 Dwarf bows + 2 Dwarf longbows + 8 throwing axes, 7 Might points

This is my go-to list for the Dwarves - over half the army has ranged weapons, there's plenty of Defense 7+ units, there are options for throwing axes, Dwarf longbows, and a banner, allowing everything written above to play. What more could you ask for? You can also distribute your high-defense units out more to break up the volley team and ensure that you have a nearly-even number of ranged units and melee units in each group. Also remember to have the Shield-bearer race off to wherever Gimli is aid him when the battle rages!

Sample Army List: The Guardians of Ered Luin - 600 points (LOME)

Gimli, Son of Gloin - 90 points
4 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 36 points
2 Khazad Guards - 22 points
6 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes - 60 points

Balin, Son of Funding with Durin's Axe - 85 points
4 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 36 points
4 Khazad Guards - 44 points
2 Dwarf Rangers with Dwarf longbows - 20 points
3 Dwarf Rangers with throwing axes and two-handed axes - 33 points

Dwarf Shield-Bearer - 60 points
3 Dwarf Rangers with two-handed axes - 24 points
10 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 90 points

41 units, 10 Dwarf bows + 2 Dwarf longbows + 8 throwing axes, 7 Might points

This army is nearly the same list, except instead of using a banner, you have three Rangers with both throwing weapons and two-handed weapons. The banner is useful for meeting the hero-to-warrior requirements of the warband rules, but under the revised LOME army-building rules used here at TMAT (where at least 33% of your army must be heroes), this army can have as many warriors as it wants. You could actually get another Ranger out the purchase of the banner if you passed on the throwing weapons and only went with two-handed weapons, but who wants that when you can have 9 throwing weapons that hit on 3s and often wound on 5s, right?

Sample Army List: The Explorers of Esgorath - 603 points (LOME)

Balin, Son of Fundin - 75 points [188]

2 Khazad Guards - 22 points
3 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 27 points
4 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 36 points
1 Dwarf Ranger - 7 points

Dwarf Shield-Bearer - 60 points [136]

2 Khazad Guards - 22 points
3 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 27 points
3 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 27 points
1 Dwarf Ranger - 7 points

Dwarf Shield-Bearer - 60 points [136]
2 Khazad Guards - 22 points
3 Dwarf Warriors with shields - 27 points
3 Dwarf Warriors with Dwarf bows - 27 points
1 Dwarf Ranger - 7 points

Radagast the Brown - 150 points

32 units, 10 Dwarf bows + 1 throwing axe, 8 Might points

I bought a Radagast model not only because I love his spell selection, but because he can really help Dwarf players in a game. I've gone through the uses of Radagast in a past post, but here's a few highlights. Your Shield-bearer actually took a wound from an enemy volley team? Heal him on a 3+ with a free Will point on your next turn. Your army is about to be charged by a massive enemy line? Have your whole army (if around Radagast) cause terror. Want to target anyone with your volley fire (if you form a  volley team)? Use Radagast's Master of Birds rule. Fight cavalry? Panic Steed baby. Big ugly Troll? Immobilize (combined with the Master of Birds rule is sick). This list is smaller and not as powerful as the two lists above, but Radagast can neutralize enemy heroes easily and empower the heroes you have. Balin with two shield-bearers surrounding him can carve a hole pretty quickly though your enemy's ranks (though he left Durin's Axe at home) and when protected by Aura of Dismay, can be kept from having too many enemy stack on him and his squad-mates.

Looking Ahead: Dwarf Kings

With all this talk of Dwarves, there's very little I'm looking to add to my collection. I'd like to get a set of Dwarf Kings, which not only provides me with heroes who have Fight 6, Defense 8, and 2 Will points over a normal captain's stats, but also allows me to take beefier heroes than Shield-bearers in normal games - great when facing a spell-caster army. I'm also looking into a conversion of one of the Kings into Durin III, who not only brings a war horn into battle (increasing the courage of your troops), but also sports Durin's Axe with 3 Attacks instead of Balin's normal 2 attacks. With 9 Defense and 3 Wounds, he's hard to break without a lot of spells and many warriors (which hopefully his terror rule will stop). For his cost being only slightly higher than Radagast's, the third army list can be duplicated with one less hero and 5-6 more units, perfect for having a force that can deal with any enemy threat!

Hope you enjoyed this post on the Dwarves - not only a painting update, but a tactica update. If you are a fellow Dwarf player, I'd love to hear in comments your thoughts on improving these tactics or combos you've used. I'm always looking around for blogs where other Dwarf players talk about what they do to mitigate weaknesses and capitalize on strengths. Happy hobbying!

8 comments:

  1. Very interesting write-up on the dwarves - at some point I'd like to get a fight in against them (perhaps using your Goblin force to test out your new board and terrain pieces?). One thing I'd mention regarding a weakness for the dwarves is 1) very few Will points on the whole (I believe only 1-2 heroes have 3 Will), and there it lacks any form of caster (I wouldn't count Floi as a caster), meaning that the slow-moving army could be torn up by magic well before you reach your opponent. An Angmar v. Erebor match would be an interesting one to test this theory... :)

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    1. Thanks Glenstorm - a couple things based on your thoughts:

      1) Like most armies, there are a few heroes with 3 Will points - Balin, Dain, and Durin (if you don't count Floi). This makes them vulnerable to casters, but these heroes can usually hold out for 2 turns (sometimes but rarely 3 turns). With the exception of Gimli and the generic Dwarf Kings, every other hero has 0-1 Will points, making them exceptionally vulnerable to magic. This is not uncommon for most armies though, so not a weakness that is absent from other forces (but still one of the many reasons I love casters so much).

      2) The Dwarves do lack casters and can/have been torn up by Sorcerous Blasts and Command/Compel spells (to say nothing of your routine Immobilize/Transfix/Paralyze attack). Their slow movement is more of an issue here, as you stay within range much longer and your opponent (if he's able to continue moving) can always get away from you. This is where you need to rely on S3 bows to help shield you from your enemies.

      3) Angmar (as much as I hate facing them) would probably be better, as my Goblins aren't well equipped to topple this Dwarf list until they get some Wild Warg Chieftains or Cave Trolls to thicken their ranks. Once time is my own again in a few weeks, we should totally set something up. :)

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    2. Good points - I suppose I'm more used to Grey Company (almost everyone has 2-3 Will), so the Will store seemed a bit low for the list. As an orc/Uruk-Hai commander, though, it does seem reasonable, though.

      Angmar/MM is fine - some ancient enmity there as well, :) Unless of course you'd like to have me use a few of my Fantasy Minotaurs as stand-in Cave Trolls, in which case I'd definitely be open to taking your greenskins out for a spin, :)

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  2. Sorcerous blast will do almost nothing to dwarves, other than slow them down more. You need a five to wound the target, and sixes for anyone else. (Unless they're rangers)

    Also, take two shieldbearers and have them protect each other. If you can have them close but not in the same fight for 2-3 rounds they will tear through troops like nothing else. (Especially for a measly 120 points).

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    1. First off, welcome to TMAT!

      It's true, SB doesn't harm Dwarves very much, but the danger to Dwarves isn't in the S5/S3 hit that they take - it's being put on the ground where they can be mauled by Uruk-Hai (if Saruman cast SB) or getting to move 2.5" the following turn if they're trying to catch Elves with the Grey Pilgrim in their midst.

      Finally, I've never tried 2 Shield-bearers guarding each other - sounds like it would work quite nicely. I did play a game (not recorded, unfortunately) against one of our local players where I had 2 shield-bearers flanking Gimli (with 1 Khazad Guard in between) and between the five of those units, they destroyed the center line of a Goblin army and broke them a few turns later. When not faced with spell-casters, Shield-bearers are beastly for their cost.

      Also, do I sense another Dwarf player? :)

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    2. Indeed, the knockdown is the most dangerous part for dwarves, though with defence seven and fight four warriors on the ground shielding should survive quite well.

      Yes, I do love my dwarves. I also really enjoy playing wood elves, as well as goblins, uruk-hai and a haradrim/eastern alliance.

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    3. Well, in case you haven't perused this site much, you're going to love it at TMAT - I collect Dwarves, Wood Elves, Goblins, and Uruks, and my fellow admin Zorro uses Haradhrim and Easterlings. Lots of hobby tips and stuff too on these armies (and many others)!

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    4. Ha ha, that's perfect! I haven't browsed around too much, but I definitely will in the future!

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