Alright, several months ago I talked about the Dwarf army in eighth edition, and mentioned I'd like to go through the army and take a more in-depth look. Well, here's the start of my in-depth look. First of all, I want to point out that this is all based upon my opinion and my experience. In fact, I'd be grateful if other experienced Dwarf players would opine on this as well. To start, I thought I should cover the obligatory portion of the army -- Core choices.
One advantage/disadvantage Dwarfs have are their Core troops. All of our Core choices have high WS, T and Ld, with at least Light Armor to start. This makes them very solid, especially in a game where close combat can be decisive. However, this also makes them very expensive. Since you have to spend 25% of your points on Core anyhow (625 in a 2,500 point game), this is less of an issue in 8th edition than it was in 7th. Let's look at some of our choices. . .
Solid and as enduring as the mountains. Dwarf Warriors are a solid infantry unit. While they may not have the attacks and strength of Chaos Warriors, nor the numbers of Goblins, they are WS4, T4 and Ld9, with Heavy Armor (5+ save) for a base cost of eight points. This means they're hard to hit, hard to wound and have a good base save, plus they're likely to pass any Panic, Fear or Terror tests they'll be forced to take, and be hard to break from combat. For a point, you can give them a shield and drop their save to 4+, and they'll benefit from the 6+ Parry save in melee. Or for two points you can arm them with a Great Weapon, raising their Strength to 5. While this means they'll suffer from Always Strikes Last, they're already Initiative 2, meaning they're likely to strike last anyhow.
The only real weaknesses of Dwarf Warriors are their low Initiative and their single Attack. In previous editions, these would cripple blocks of warriors, as the enemy could easily take a few models out of the front row, and you would be left with only a few attacks back. But now, even if the front rank gets mauled, they still get to strike back with their decent Weapon Skill. Add in a second rank and some great weapons, and even a five-wide block can do some nice damage. My personal recommendation is to field warriors in larger blocks. Thirty or forty warriors with shields can bog down most units and cause a decent number of wounds against T3 or lightly-armored opponents, and about the same number of warriors with Great Weapons can carve through medium and even some heavy infantry. Just don't expect great weapon-equipped warriors to survive the battle at full strength.
The elite version of the Dwarf Warrior, these are the older, more experienced grumblers of any Dwarfen force. While more expensive than warriors, these guys are worth their weight in gold (or pewter). They have one higher Weapon Skill and Strength, matching most elite infantry. For a base cost of eleven points, they also come with a hand weapon and heavy armor. Another great advantage to Longbeards is their "Old Grumblers" rule. For starters, 'Beards are Immune to Panic. Better than that, any unit within 6" that fails a Panic test can re-roll it. While this may not be as impressive with the Battle Standard's "Hold Fast" rule, it can still be helpful in situations where the BSB has either been slain, or is simply at another part of the battle. They have the same options as Warriors (shield and/or great weapon), meaning they can fulfill the same tactical roles as Warriors, but do it better. In the bogging down role, their WS5 guarantees that all blocks of infantry (save for Sword Masters and Chosen) will hit you on 4's, and even some units (Skellies) will hit on 5's. This also means you'll hit most enemy units on 3's. With their S4, they'll wound more often, and, if given great weapons, will wound all infantry on 2's. With a -3 Armor Save modifier, most of those wounds will stick as well.
The drawback to Longbeards is their point cost. Fully kitted out with a shield and great weapon rings in at fourteen points. However, anyone who has played me has seen firsthand what a block of thirty WS5, S6 attacks can do.
The less-expensive of our two ranged options, Quarrelers are simply medium infantry that also happen to carry around missile weapons. In fact, the only difference between quarrelers and warriors are point cost and armor save values. Crossbows have a nice range of 30", putting them just shy of Longbows. Combined with their Strength of 4, and you have a very effective missile unit that can eat up light infantry, and have some hope of damaging heavy infantry, cavalry and smaller monsters. Quarrelers can also be equipped with great weapons and shields, so you could really have them pull double-duty as melee infantry (albeit with a slightly worse armor save). The only drawback of quarrelers is their BS3, which means only a third of your shots will hit at range. If this were a normal missile unit, such as Empire Crossbowmen, this could be a serious detriment. But since Quarrelers can (and do) hold their own in close combat, you don't have to stress earning their points back strictly at range.
Our other, more-expensive ranged option, Thunderers are heavy hitters. While their range of 24" means that they won't get shots off on the top of turn one, Thunderers bring the S4 of crossbows and add the Armor Piercing rule, making them even more effective against heavy infantry and heavy cavalry. In fact, handguns are one of the best weapons against Bretonnian Knights, as they get the extra modifier to armor saves without giving the Brets a better Ward Save. This alone wouldn't necessarily balance out their points cost over crossbows. But Dwarf Handguns aren't those clumsy tubes humans use. Thanks to their rifled barrels and refined powders, Dwarf Handguns gain a +1 To Hit modifier. This essentially raises the Thunderers' BS to 4, and is the major advantage they have over Quarrelers. They also have the advantage of serving as medium melee infantry. The only drawbacks of Thunderers over Quarrelers is that they cannot take Great Weapons and have a slightly shorter range.
While these aren't their own, separate choice, I thought it best to discuss them specifically. Rangers are an upgraded version of Warriors, Longbeards or Quarrelers. Basically, their statline stays exactly the same, but the unit gains Scout. Oh, and they must be equipped with Great Weapons (which is no big deal. . .as I equip my warriors/longbeards with Great Weapons anyway). The big thing here is that you can take a unit of Quarrelers (with their decent 30" range), force your opponent to deploy along one side of the board opposite you, and then find a nice hill or building to set the rangers up in and rain fire down on them. Your opponent will have to choose between ignoring them and suffering the harassment, or sending something away from your main force to deal with them (and light cavalry/infantry probably won't do it!). The other option is to take your solid melee infantry, give them Scout and then pay to give them Throwing Axes, put them way out on the flank (or occupying a building mid-field), and throw off your opponent's entire advance. Longbeard Rangers with throwing axes don't have a tremendous range (6" with a 3" move beforehand), but they now fire in two ranks and they chuck those axes at S5. So they can walk up, throw axes, and then stand-and-shoot when they get charged to throw more axes before they pull out great weapons and beat face.
In short, the Dwarf Core choices are all very solid. Which to take revolves entirely around what theme you would like your force to have. If you plan to spend lots of points on Ironbreakers and Hammerers to fulfill your melee portion, then I'd recommend focusing on Quarrelers and Thunderers to give them some support. If your plan is to load up on War Machines with your Special and Rare choices, then be sure to take plenty of Warriors and Longbeards. There's really no "wrong" way to go here. Dwarf Core units are expensive, but very much worth their points. One of the biggest advantages Dwarfs have over other armies is that their missile units are more effective in melee than most armies' melee units. A Thunderer can shoot holes in a unit of High Elf spearmen, and then go toe-to-toe with those that survive. And since you have to drop 25% of your points on Core anyhow, don't be afraid to take large blocks of expensive troops.
Personally, I field Warrior and Longbeard blocks in units of 30+ models. Quarrelers I still limit to around twenty, as larger than that and the unit will spread across much of my deployment zone. I tend toward a Longbeard and Quarreler build, but that is because I rely upon my Longbeards to be the serious melee beatstick, and I use Ironbreakers to bog down enemy troops (while cutting them apart). A unit of twenty or so quarrelers adds a nice ranged element that can protect my war machines from fast and light cavalry coming around the flanks, or help soften up a scarier unit or monster.
Next I'll take a look at Special choices.
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