This guide was written for Warhammer Fantasy Battles 7th edition, which was available from about October 2006 thru to July 2010 (when it was superseded by 8th edition). While it still had some relevance in 8th edition, the release of Age of Sigmar (which replaced Warhammer) in 2015 has completing changed everything.
The original guide was aimed at new players. A lot of the new player specific information has been removed as this guide is only left for historical interest.
The best way to get started with Dwarfs was the 7th edition Battle for Skull Pass (BfSP) box set. This sold for AUD$85 when it was launched back in 2006, but as of Jan 2010 the RRP was AUD$115. In this box set you get the following:
If you were to buy the Dwarf models separately they would cost AUD$140 - AUD$150 (2006 prices), so the BfSP was good value. Not only are you getting the Dwarf models at a discount, you've got the rule book and a whole set of Goblin models as well.
When playing Warhammer games, each player can pick units up to a predefined point limit. A typical point limit for new players to aim for is 1000 points. The games can be played fairly quickly, taking less than one and a half hours once you know the rules.
The Dwarf models from the BfSP are enough for an army of between 627 points and 728 points (if using magic upgrades).
Sample 627 point army
There are many ways that you can upgrade your initial army to 1000 points. Two of the many options are described below.
Option 1: A second set of BfSP models
Given that the BfSP is such good value, one way of expanding your army is to get a second set of BfSP models. If you don't want the Goblins from your first BfSP box set you may be able to trade them with a Goblin player who has a spare set of Dwarfs. If you do want the Goblins from your first BfSP box set, you might as well buy a second BfSP box set and expand both your armies at once.
A Dwarf army of less than 2000 points is restricted to a maximum of 3 heroes and 3 special units. The Thane and Dragon Slayer are both heroes, and the Miners and Cannon are both special units. As such you won't be able to use all your units at once. A sample army list of 996 points is given below
You would put both Thanes in your Warrior unit. In close combat, the two Thanes are there to rack up kills while the main purpose of the Warrior unit is to provide combat bonuses from ranks, outnumber and a standard. Many opponents won't want to take on this unit, so the second Thane has the Master Rune of Challenge which forces one unit to charge the bearer or flee.
Option 2: Longbeards and Organ Gun
You can make Longbeards from the Dwarf Warriors box set (which contains 16 models) and the Organ Gun from the Dwarf Cannon box set. The total cost of these two box sets is about AUD$85.
A sample army list for 995 points would be
Dwarfs can be played in a number of ways. A common way to play Dwarfs is to aim to beat the opponent in hand to hand combat, but to have enough shooting that you are forcing the opponent to get into combat with you rather than just standing off or running away.
For armies of less than 2000 points, the rules require that you have a general and at least two core units. You can have a maximum of 3 heroes, 3 special units and 1 rare unit.
A typical Dwarf list for under 2000 points that was aiming to defeat the enemy in hand to hand combat might contain the following units
Runesmith as the General
Thane as the BSB
20 - 25 Warriors with shields, full command
20 Longbeards with shields, full command
8 - 10 Miners
15 - 20 Hammerers with shields, full command
Cannon or 2 Bolt Throwers
The above list will come to between 1450 and 1700 points depending on what size units you have, what upgrades you use and what runic (ie magic) items you might use. It gives you 3 strong combat units, a couple of shooting units, 2 or 3 war machines, and the Miners can either be used to attack from behind enemy lines or to bolster the combat units.
The above list is only an example of the elements that many Dwarf players use. Some players will use smaller Warrior and/or Longbeard units, or might use more Warrior units. Others might prefer Slayers or Iron Breakers to Miners or Hammerers. Other players will try to maximise the number of thunders and quarrellers to create a Shooting Army of Death (S.A.D.), although these armies tend to be less fun to play (you tend to always win against some types of armies and always lose against other types of armies).
Work out what you think interests you and then ask for feedback from either the other players in your group or on one of the online forums such as WargamerAU or Bugman's Brewery. Having a plan on what you want to use in your army will help you get there sooner and minimise wasted models.
Collecting more than 2000 points
In Australia at least, the most common points limit for tournaments is 2250 points. Once you start playing games at 2000 points or more you get access to Lord level characters as well as the option of taking up to 4 characters, 4 special units and 2 rare units.
With options like the Runelord and the Anvil of Doom, Dwarf armies of 2000 points or more can play very differently than armies at under 2000 points. In particular, the Anvil of Doom can be used to increase the movement of your units or to hinder the movement of your opponents units.
Alternatively the Dwarf Lord lets you have a unit of Longbeards without requiring a unit of Warriors. You can thus build an army concentrating on elite close combat units.
You can have up to three heroes.
The models: There are a lot of options. The Battle for Skull Pass includes a plastic Thane. You could convert or paint nearly any other Dwarf model to be an Thane. There are a number of metal Dwarf Lord models and also a Dwarf Champion model that you could use as a Thane. There is also a boxed set with a Dwarf Lord and Dwarf BSB.
Because a model comes with The Battle for Skull Pass most new Dwarf players will use a Thane as their general. This is a good choice for games of up to 1000 points. As Dwarfs already have a leadership of 9, your Thane will probably be used for helping take out enemy units rather than being used for a leadership boost. There are a lot of different ways that you can equip your Thanes, but a few are so popular that they have their own names amongst Dwarf players.
Thane of Thrift: Great Weapon, Shield, Rune of Stone. You can either use the hand weapon and shield for 3 x S4 attacks with a 1+ save or use the great weapon for 3 x S6 attacks and a 3+ save. Probably the most cost effective general you can have in games of 1000 points or less.
Thane of Pain: Shield, Rune of Stone, and a magic weapon with Master Rune of Swiftness, Rune of Cleaving and Rune of Fury. He strikes first with 4 x S5 attacks and has a 2+ save. Perhaps the favourite configuration for a Thane.
In games of 1000 points or more you will probably want to use a Thane as a BSB, to allow re-rolls of break tests. How you equip your BSB will depend on whether you want to use a runic banner or if you prefer to give him runic armour and a runic weapon.
The models: There are two different metal Runelord models that you could use. You could also convert or paint another Dwarf model to be a Runesmith.
A Runesmith will help protect you in the magic phase. Dwarfs are naturally resistant to magic, so you already start with 4 dispel dice. For games less than 1000 points you are unlikely to be facing opponents with more than 4 power dice and you should be well placed to deal with enemy magic. For games of 1000 points or more you should consider adding a Runesmith to your army. This gives you the a total of 5 dispel dice and the option of taking the Rune of Spellbreaking (which is effectively a dispel scroll).
If you are using a Runesmith in a game of less than 2000 points, consider making him the army general. Remember that if your army general dies that your opponent gets an extra 100 victory points. You probably are going to put your Thanes in harms way as their role will be to cause maximum damage to the enemy, where you are more likely to have your Runesmith in relative safety.
You can equip your Runesmith with a Great Weapon, Shield and Rune of Stone and he will still be cheap but should be capable of holding his own should he end up in combat.
The models: There are four different metal Master Engineer models, or you could convert a plastic warrior or thunderer to be your engineer.
If you have a Master Engineer you are probably going to put him with a war machine to make it more effective. Putting him with a Cannon makes it cause D6 wounds rather than D3 wounds, meaning that you will be able to destroy most enemy war machines with a single hit rather than taking two hits. Alternatively put him with a Bolt Thrower to increase its chance of hitting.
The models: A plastic Slayer comes in the Battle for Skull Pass. There is also a metal Slayer Lord model.
If you are using a unit of Slayers, then you may want to add a Dragon Slayer to the unit. Having a Dragon Slayer by himself (ie not attached to a unit) leaves him vulnerable to enemy shooting attacks so you would have to be careful to keep him out of line of sight of the enemy shooting units.
Some players like to use a Dragon Slayer as a cheap rear guard. Keep him out of line of sight by placing him behind your own units or war machines and use him to attack any units that flank your army or breaks through your lines.
Its probably not worth equipping your rear guard with a runic weapon. If you do, you are giving up your Slayer Axes capability, which allows you to choose between two hand weapons (+1 Attack) or a great weapon (+2 Strength). Normally the extra attack is the better choice against T5 or T6 creatures because you still wound on a 4+ with the two hand weapons. The great weapon would be better against things like knights where you need to reduce their armour save.
For each Dragon Slayer in your army, you can have an additional unit of Slayers in your army (normally you can only have a single unit of Slayers).
A single lord level character is allowed in armies of 2000 points or larger.
The models: There are a number of metal Dwarf Lord models and also a Dwarf Champion model. There is also a boxed set with a Dwarf Lord and Dwarf BSB. If you are using Shieldbearers you will probably want the Dwarf King Alrik Ranulfson box set.
In games of 2000 points or more you can have a Dwarf Lord. The Dwarf Lord has several advantages over the Thane. The most obvious one is that he is a better fighter, with a higher weapon skill and initiative and more wounds, and can spend more points on runic weapons and armour. However, his advantages as a general are probably more important. He increases the leadership of the units around him. He lets you take one more unit of Longbeards than you could otherwise take. Put him in a unit of Hammerers and they become immune to fear and terror.
If you are going to use a Dwarf Lord you should equip him with Shieldbearers.
The models: There are two different metal Runelord models. If you are using the Anvil of Doom you will probably want the "Thorek Ironbrow & the Anvil of Doom" box set.
The main reason to use a Runelord is to get access to the Anvil of Doom. A Runelord with an Anvil of Doom brings an extra 3 dispel dice to your army, giving you a total of 7 dispel dice. More importantly the Anvil of Doom can be used to perform one of the following functions during the shooting phase:
In the first few turns of the game you will probably use the Anvil of Doom to attack enemy units. Units targeted will take D6 magical hits. More importantly, they will also have their movement halved. This will slow your opponents advance towards you and allow your war machines and missile troops more time to shoot at his units. Once the enemy closes you will probably want to use the Anvil of Doom to move a unit in the shooting phase. This means that in one turn you can march 6" in the movement phase and then charge 6" in the shooting phase, so effectively a 12" charge range. Its quite a novelty for a Dwarf unit to get to charge.
Miners also become much more useful if you are using an Anvil of Doom. The Miners can't charge in the movement phase of the turn they come on the board. However, with an Anvil of Doom they can charge in the shooting phase. If you are using an Anvil of Doom its worth considering two units of Miners.
The Daemon Slayer is a one man killing machine, albeit without any armour. Both the Dwarf Lord and the Runelord bring advantages to the army in addition to their fighting prowess and are thus better choices.
For each Daemon Slayer in your army, you can have an additional unit of Slayers in your army (normally you can only have a single unit of Slayers). However, you get the same benefit from a Dragon Slayer for less points and without using up the Lord slot.
You need at least two core units. You need at least three core units for armies of 2000 points.
The models: You get 12 plastic Warriors in the Battle for Skull Pass box set. The Warriors box sold separately contains 16 plastic models that can be built as Warriors or Longbeards. Metal Longbeards models with great weapons can also be purchased in boxes of 5.
Dwarf Warriors are tough. You should always equip them with a shield to make them even tougher. Warrior units can be used for one of two purposes - combat units or support units.
If planning to use the Warriors as a combat unit you should realise that Dwarf Warriors don't deal out a lot of damage against most foes, and rely on outlasting their opponents and winning by static combat resolution (ie ranks, outnumber and banner). To do this you are going to want at least 20 models in your unit (for the maximum rank bonus of +3) and have the full command team of veteran, standard bearer and musician.
The most popular unit sizes for combat blocks of Warriors are 20, 24 and 25. For close combat effectiveness, 20 models is the minimum size to get the full rank bonus. Many players will use a unit of 25 to have an extra rank of models. This enables you to lose some models to enemy shooting before you get into hand to hand and still be fully effective in close combat. Some players will use a unit size of 24 because they plan to add a hero to the unit. This saves a few points but when you place the warrior unit during the deployment phase your opponent will see the gap and guess that you are going to put a hero in that unit.
Most players feel that providing great weapons is too expensive an upgrade to provide to a unit of 20 or more models. Some players have suggested that a small unit of 10 models with great weapons can be effective. This unit would hang back from the front line, with the intention of being used to charge into the flank of an enemy unit once it has got into hand to hand with one of the Dwarf units. If you build your models with great weapons you also have the option of paying the extra points and using them as Rangers.
When used as a flanking unit as described above, the Dwarf Warriors would benefit from shields, musician and veteran but wouldn't need a standard bearer (only 1 standard bearer per combat gives a bonus, regardless of the amount of units in the combat). Having shields provides some extra protection against shooting, and in close combat gives you the choice of either using the hand weapon and shield (S3 attack with 3+ save) or the great weapon (S5 attack with 5+ save).
The other use for Dwarf Warriors is as a support unit that is used for march blocking, charge redirection, guarding war machines, or claiming table quarters. For these roles a unit of 10 Dwarfs with shields and a musician probably offers the best value for points. At 95 points the unit is cheap enough to march across the board into harms way with the intention of disrupting the opponents movement.
Dwarf Longbeards are stronger and better fighters than normal Dwarf Warriors. They are immune to panic also have the Old Grumblers rule, which means they provide assistance for other units taking panic tests. For this reason you may want to use Longbeards as the centre of your army where they can provide the maximum benefit. You can normally field one unit of Longbeards for every unit of Warriors.
For maximum close combat effectiveness you will probably want to use a Longbeards unit of 20 models. Because they cost more points than normal Warriors, you will probably not want to make the unit any larger than 20 models. You should give the models shields and provide the unit the full command team of veteran, musician and standard bearer. It is probably not cost effective to upgrade the Longbeards to have great weapons because then they would become more expensive than Hammerers.
Give the unit a magic standard to increase their effectiveness.
The models: You get 10 Thunderers in the Battle for Skull Pass box set. In the Thunderers box set there are 16 models that you can make as either Thunderers or Quarrellers.
Thunderers has the +1 to hit for the Dwarven Handguns. When comparing to Quarrellers, this means that they will normally hit 50% more of the time at long range (15" - 24") and 33% more of the time at short range (0" - 12"). Thunderers and Quarrellers have the same chance of hitting targets in the 12" - 15" range band. For any range at up to 24" against targets with a 5+ or better armour save, Thunderers are more likely to get through the armour than the Quarrellers are.
Quarrellers are less points than Thunderers, but for shooting at targets less than 24" away Thunderers are still the better unit even taking into account the difference in the points cost. However, Quarrellers can do some things that Thunderers can't, like shoot at targets more than 24" away and they also have the option of great weapons.
The 30" range of Quarrellers means that they should have targets in range from the first turn. The 30" range can also be very useful for tasks like taking out the crew of war machines, or when facing enemy units with longbows that can keep out of 24" range and still shoot at you.
If you decide to give the Quarrellers great weapons, they become a multi-role unit. You could position them a few inches back from the front line. While the enemy advances, shoot them with the crossbows. When the enemy gets close, reform the unit into a ranked unit (ie 5 models wide). Once the enemy is engaged with a Dwarf combat unit, charge into the enemies flank. The Quarrellers are WS4, which is better than many dedicated combat troops, and with S5 great weapons would be dealing out some serious damage. If you build your models with great weapons you also have the option of paying the extra points and using them as Rangers.
If you want one shooting unit, go for Thunderers. If taking a second shooting unit, consider Quarrellers.
Shields are a useful option for both unit types because it will add less than 10% to the cost but will normally reduce your damage by 17%. A standard bearer is not recommended, but a musician can help you rally if you fail a panic test and also can help in close combat. Although a shooting unit, Thunderers and Quarrellers with shields are nearly as effective in close combat as Warriors are and will often hold their own against your opponent's light fast units.
The minimum unit size is 10 models. If you go for units that are much larger, then there can be problems making sure that all the models have range and line of sight to their targets.
If you buy the box set of 16 models I would recommend only assembling 10 or 12 at first. Ten or 12 models is a good size for a unit of Quarrellers or Thunderers. The other models can be used for making engineers for your war machines, replacing the standard bearer in the 10 Thunderers that came in the BfSP box set, or for use in conversions.
The models: Warriors or Quarrellers equipped with great weapons can be used as Rangers. Both the Warrior box set and the Thunderer/Quarreller box set contain great weapons.
Rangers are essentially either Warriors or Quarrellers with great weapons and the Scout special rule. You can take advantage of their Scout ability in two ways.
The safest way is to deploy them in your deployment zone after both armies have deployed their units. This may be to guard a hole in your lines that your opponent looks like they intend to attack, or if you have crossbows it may be that there is a juicy target you want to shoot at.
A bit riskier is to deploy them out of your deployment zone but hidden from the enemy units by terrain. This has the advantage that you may be able to use the unit for march blocking, that is stopping the enemy from making march moves because your unit is within 8". This could slow down your opponents units and force him to either attack with only part of his army or delay his whole attack and allow you more time to shoot him. The downside to this tactic is that the Ranger unit is probably alone and unsupported and may be easy pickings if your opponent sends several units after them. Because of the risk of the unit being killed, giving them a standard is not a good idea.
In either case, because you deploy the unit after normal deployment you have effectively reduced your number of deployments and are more likely to finish deploying first and getting the +1 on the roll off for the choice of whether to go first.
There is limitation of three special units, or four special units in armies of 2000 points or more. The special infantry choices described here will be competing with war machines for one of these three or four slots. Its worth remembering that Longbeards are an elite warrior unit but only take up a core slot.
The models: You get 8 plastic miners in the Battle for Skull Pass box set. You can also get box sets of 10 or 20 plastic miners.
Miners are an interesting unit. For only 1 point more than Warriors with great weapons and no shields, you get the same stat line but have the Underground Advance special rule. This means that you can either deploy your miners normally or have them come on from reserve from any board edge. As such they are often used to attack enemy war machines or to disrupt enemy attacks moving up the flanks by either attacking the units or my march blocking. They could also be used to claim or contest table quarters later in the game.
You can also try and use Miners for march blocking. Recall that units can only march if there are no enemy models within 8" of them at the start of their move. However, Dwarfs have the Relentless rule, and so your miners can march even if there are enemy within 8". If you can get in behind or on the flank of one or more enemy units then you should be able to keep up with them and slow their movement for several turns, or they will have to waste two or three turns dealing with your unit.
You should remember that in the movement phase that you come on to the board that you can only move 3", and you cannot charge. With a 5+ save, miners are quite vulnerable to shooting. Thus they are more useful in threatening a unit that cannot shoot you (eg stone thrower or a unit facing the wrong way with hand guns or crossbows) when you first move on rather than something that can shoot you (repeater/reaper bolt thrower, cannon or organ gun) or shoot after moving (bows and repeater crossbows).
The situation changes in games of 2000 points or more if you have the Anvil of Doom. With the Anvil of Doom the miners can move on 3" in their movement phase and then charge 6" in the shooting phase.
If you don't have an Anvil of Doom, use small, cheap units of 5 - 8 Miners. This means that the miner unit is worth less than the war machine it is sent to attack or the table quarter it is sent to claim, so you stand to gain more points than you are putting at risk. With such a small unit you might want a musician to help with rally tests, though if you fail a panic test only 3" from the board edge the chances are that you will have run off the board. A standard bearer is not a good idea.
If you have an Anvil of Doom, then you have a good chance of being able to charge any enemy unit within 9" of a board edge. It may be worth having larger miner units, or even having two units of miners. If you use two miner units, provide one with a prospector with a steam drill. When rolling for your reserves, you probably only want one miner unit to come on per turn (as the Anvil of Doom can only reliably allow one unit to move during the shooting phase) so roll for the unit with the steam drill last.
The models: Box sets of 5 metal models are available. Depending on your modelling skills you could convert plastic warriors or miners into Hammerers. Check out the Bugman's Brewery topic on making hammerers from plastic models.
Hammerers are elite fighters (with the same stat line as Longbeards) armed with great weapons. The most important thing about them is that they are Stubborn. If they lose a battle you will only need to roll 9 or less to pass the break test, regardless of how much they lost by. Even if they are charged in the flank or rear, they should still hold their ground. As such they make a good unit for guarding your flanks of your army.
A unit of at least 10 Hammerers should be able to survive a charge from most single enemy units. Always give the Hammerers shields so you have the extra protection against shooting and the option of either being S4 with a 3+ save or S6 with a 5+ save in close combat. In most cases you will end up choosing to use the hand weapon and shield option in close combat rather than the great weapon.
A unit of 15 to 20 Hammerers with full command (gatekeeper, musician and standard bearer) and a runic standard would be the preferred unit size in games of 2000+ points.
If the unit loses a combat against a fear causing enemy that outnumbers them, then Stubborn doesn't help them and they will need to roll Insane Courage (double one) to stay in the fight. When a Dwarf Lord is in the unit they then become immune to fear and terror, and so keep the benefit of their Stubborn rule. If you are not using a Dwarf Lord, then consider giving the unit a runic standard with the Rune of Courage to make them immune to fear and terror
You can also give the Hammerers the Rune of Determination and they can take a single break test (ie roll 9 or less) on D6 rather than 2D6 so that they're effectively unbreakable for one break test.
The models: Box sets of 5 metal models are available. Depending on your modelling skills you could convert plastic warriors into Iron Breakers.
Iron Breakers are elite fighters with the best armour save of any infantry unit in the game, with a 2+ save in close combat against attacks from the front and a 3+ save against flank/rear attacks and shooting.
Iron Breakers are the same points as Hammerers with shields. Many players will choose between a unit of Iron Breakers or a unit of Hammerers for their army. Iron Breakers are probably better against opponents that are mainly infantry armies with S3 or S4 weapons. Against opponents with large numbers of elite knights with S5 or S6 attacks on the charge their armour save becomes 4+ or 5+ and the stubborn rule of the Hammerers would probably be more useful.
Iron Breakers will normally win combats more by static combat resolution rather than kills. As such you would want a unit of twenty models with full command. Because they will lose their rank bonus if charged in the flank or rear, and their armour save is "only" 3+ against flank or rear attacks, you will normally use Iron Breakers as the armoured spearhead of your battle lines. In this role their flanks should be protected by your other units and you are forcing the enemy to deal with your most heavily armoured unit.
Alternatively, consider adding a Thane or Lord with an Oath Stone. When the unit is charged the character can plant the Oath Stone and the unit then effectively has no flanks or rear. In this configuration the unit could even be used to anchor a flank. However, after the Oath Stone has been used the unit cannot move again for the rest of the game.
The models: Box sets of 5 metal models are available. There is also a single plastic slayer model in the Battle for Skull Pass.
Slayers are unbreakable and are often referred to as tar pits. The "tar pit" expression refers to the fact that any enemy unit that attacks them will not be able to break the unit, and will be bogged down for several turns while they try and kill the Slayers. Because of this, Slayers are often used to guard the flanks of your army.
Being unbreakable, Slayers are also Immune to Psychology. They thus don't have to worry about taking Panic, Fear or Terror tests. This makes them great when facing opponents such as Vampire Counts.
Unlike your other special units, such as Miners or Hammerers, an army may only normally include a single unit of Slayers (refer sidebar on p56 of Dwarf army book). If you want more than one unit of Slayers, you must add a Daemon Slayer or Dragon Slayer hero for each additional Slayer unit you want to add.
Adding at least one Giant Slayer to the unit means that you should normally get at least a few attacks back even if your opponent kills an entire rank of models each turn. Also the Giant Slayer can issue a challenge and so save the rest of the unit against a characters attacks.
The weakness of Slayers is that they have no armour, so they are vulnerable to shooting. Also as they are Immune to Psychology they cannot choose to flee as a charge reaction. But hey, they wanted a glorious death in battle, right?
Bringing death to your enemies from a distance
The models: The Battle for Skull Pass box set contains a cannon and crew. You can also buy the plastic kit that can be made either into a cannon or an organ gun.
Cannons give you long range fire power that allow you to reach out and damage the enemy from the first turn. Cannons ignore armour saves, are S10 and do D3 wounds. They can also be used to snipe at enemy characters (who will still get a "Look out Sir" if in a unit of 5 or more models) or war machines. The only problem with cannons is your ability to guess ranges and the random factor of the artillery dice.
Many players will use the Rune of Forging on their cannons. This means if a misfire is rolled on the artillery dice, you get to re-roll the artillery dice. It also means that the cannon now counts as a magical weapon and so can harm creatures that can't be hurt by normal weapons.
The models: A metal kit is available for the bolt thrower.
For those of us who can't guess ranges, a Bolt Thrower is a good alternative to a cannon. They also have the advantage that two bolt throwers only take up a single special slot. They use the crews ballistic skill (BS) to hit rather than relying on the player guessing the range or suffering the randomness of the artillery dice. The disadvantage of a bolt thrower is that when fired through the ranks of an enemy unit the first time it fails to wound it has no further effect. Also if firing at an enemy war machine, the hit will be randomised between the war machine (your desired target) and the crew.
Bolt throwers start off cheap in terms of their points cost but can be optioned up to become quite expensive. An engineer is a great upgrade because it increases the BS of the crew and so makes the bolt thrower 33% (at short range) to 50% (at long range) more likely to hit. The engineer can be armed with a brace of pistols or a handgun, so you can use a Thunderer model to represent the engineer. Normally your engineer will be used to aim the bolt thrower rather than fire his personal weaponry (he can do one or the other but not both), but a brace of pistols can be useful for defence if your opponent charges the bolt thrower.
You can upgrade bolt throwers by equipping them with magic runes. These improve the performance of the war machines, and also makes their shots count as magical attacks. This means that you can effect ethereal creatures, and also that you will bypass the ward save of Wood Elves units with the Forest Spirit rule, or Chaos models with the daemonic ward saves.
A Rune of Penetrating is a popular upgrade because it makes the bolt thrower S7, which means that it will kill a chariot with a single hit and also that it is 50% more likely to wound most war machines (which are T7). A bolt thrower with an engineer and a Rune of Penetrating is almost the same points cost as a cannon without any upgrades.
The Rune of Burning is a worthwhile upgrade on a war machine with no other magic runes. The upgrade is only 5 points but it makes the war machine count as a magical attack. The fact that the attacks are flaming is just an added bonus, preventing regeneration saves on Trolls and causing double wounds against flammable creatures.
Remember that you can't use the same combination of runes on any two different models. Thus if you want the Rune of Penetrating on both bolt throwers you can also add the Rune of Burning to one of them to make the upgrades distinct on each war machine.
The models: A metal kit is available for the Grudge Thrower.
The Grudge Thrower is a stone thrower. It is best used against units of ranked up heavily armoured troops. You guess a range of between 12" and 60", and then roll the scatter dice and artillery dice to see how far the shot scatters, and then place the 3" template.
As the scatter dice will give you a direct hit on average 2 times out 6, the Grudge Thrower is potentially more accurate than the cannon which always add a random amount to the distance you guessed. However, with the cannon if you guess incorrectly the bounce may cause it to hit the target anyway, where if you guess incorrectly with the Grudge Thrower you may miss completely.
The Grudge Thrower probably has the highest damage output potential of the 3
special choice war machines for the Dwarfs. It has a tendency to be an all or
nothing machine, either missing completely, or destroying large numbers of
enemy, whereas the Bolt Thrower and Cannon tend to rely more on sustained damage
over a number of turns (chariots excepted).
Its most obvious use is against mass infantry, where its template and scatter allow it to be most reliable. However with D6 wounds and no armour save, it can also be an excellent source of damage against multi-wound models or war machines provided range guessing is accurate.
The first choice for upgrading the Grudge Thrower is the Rune of Accuracy, which allows a reroll of the scatter dice, increasing accuracy. With a Rune of Accuracy, the chance of a direct hit on an accurate guess increases from 33% without the Rune to approximately 50%. A Rune of Penetrating is also excellent, as it increases the Grudge Throwers base strength to 5 for models under the template, or strength 10 for models under the centre hole of the template.
(Grudge Thrower comments from chunky04 on WargamerAU)
You can have a single rare choice in armies under 2000 points, or two rare choices for larger armies.
The model: The Dwarf Cannon plastic kit contains the parts to make either an Organ Gun or a Cannon.
The Organ Gun is probably the easiest of the war machines to use and in many cases is one of the most effective. Its range is only 24", but causes a number of hits equal to what you roll on the artillery dice. That means that it is going to average 5 hits every time it fires. If you don't roll a misfire when rolling for the number of hits, you can re-roll the artillery dice but I'd only recommend doing this if you roll a 2 the first time.
This war machine is capable of dealing with anything from skirmishers to knights, and mine has often finished off large monsters like Giants or Greater Daemons that have been wounded by my Bolt Throwers.
The Organ Gun is my first choice when it comes to selecting my rare units.
The model: There is a metal gyrocopter kit. The rotors have a tendency to break, so it is worthwhile pinning them. Drill a small hole in the rotor and the central hub and use a small segment of a paperclip as a reinforcing pin to connect them. Transporting this model can be a pain, so I used rare earth magnets in the hub of the rotor and the top of the rotor shaft so I can remove the rotor between games.
The Gyrocopter gives the Dwarf army something it doesn't normally have, speed. It can be used for attacking enemy war machine crews or enemy wizards. It can be used for march blocking enemy units. It is also ideal for pursuing fleeing enemy units.
Its also worth stating the the Gyrocopter is fun. A typical Dwarf tactic is to sit back and pound your opponent with your artillery and shooting to weaken his attack while waiting for his charge. A Gyrocopter gives you something to do during the movement phase.
As a march blocker the Gyrocopter can move over the opponents units, and position itself on their flank or behind them. Its probably more important to land it in a place to limit your opponent's ability to shoot at you in the following turn than it is to get a good shot with your steam gun. When I've been too aggressive with how I used it, I've had it shot down by all sorts of unlikely things like goblins with throwing axes or units with bows.
I will often use a refused flank deployment (ie most my army on only one half of the board) with the Gyrocopter out on the refused flank by itself. By march blocking the opponents units on the refused flank I've been able to slow down his units to the extent that they can't reach my main lines in a six turn game. At its most successful, I've been able to effectively neutralise units this way that in total were worth up to 3 times the cost of the Gyrocopter.
Note that a gyrocopter that chooses to flee as its charge reaction and then rallies at the start of its next turn, may reform facing any direction and is free to move in the movement phase, but may not shoot or charge. As such its the closest thing Dwarfs have to fast cavalry.
The model: There is a metal flame cannon kit.
The Flame Cannon is probably most effective against targets at a range between 6" and 26". You guess a range of up to 12", add the artillery dice and then place the flame template (which is approximately 8"). Given that the artillery dice will add on average 6" if it doesn't cause a misfire, on average you can expect to be able to hit units as close as 6" to 14" and as far away as 18" to 26".
If the target takes any damage, they will need to take a panic test.
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