In the 4th article we will be looking at the core options available to the dwarves. In most editions of the game you have to take either a certain number of units from core or a percentage of your army (or sometimes both). In 8th edition it was just 25% of your army. This could be in one unit or multiple units. Generally it appeared that a lot of competition games were run at 2400pts as then your core would be 600pts on the nose (it probably made it easier for checking submitted lists). However our club tended to run games at a points level of 2500pts, so a number of examples in the below and the preceding Special and Rare sections were done with that limit in mind.
The original article just looked at the various options available but since then I’ve also put together a separate article looking at the core melee options and which statistically is the best. As it is still a work in progress, I’ve added the first two of the posts: One comparing the core melee options against each other (further posts compared the melee core vs other armies) and the second comparing dwarf core melee vs their evil brethren.
As a dwarf, you are blessed with possibly the best core choices of any army book (no don’t argue, it’s a fact). There are no bad choices just some that are arguably better than others.
In fairness, there are only two different stat lines for troops in this section.
- The dwarf warrior with:
- Move – 3,
- Weapon Skill 4,
- Ballistic skill 3,
- Str 3,
- Toughness 4,
- wounds 1
- initiative 2
- attacks 1
- leadership 9
- The Longbeards, with most of the stats the same as above with just the following differences:
- Weapon skill 5
- Str 4
The only difference is the armaments that each if the above can take.
Your basic dwarf clansmen has above average stats with WS4, T4 and LD9 as the standout attributes. They also come with heavy armour (5+ save). They come in two varieties, Shields or Great Weapons (edit technically 3 as you don’t have to upgrade them but who wouldn’t?).
The former can be combined with the armour to give a solid tarpit with a 4+ save 6++ parry and T4. A reasonable block of 25 of these with full command comes in at just over 250pts so they are cheap to boot (a single dwarf is 9pts), especially in an elite army that will sometimes struggle for more bodies. 3 blocks of these would give you 75 bodies and fill your core allowance.
There is one major downside to them however and that is their base strength of 3. Yes they can get +1S on the charge but apart from that, they have no way to buff it. If you want a tarpit unit, there are far better choices for dwarves in the form of Longbeards or Ironbreakers, as both if these come with base S4. For this reason alone, I would advocate never taking a basic dwarf with a shield and instead take the other option available:
Great weapons are great for your basic dwarf. With their already low initiative of 2, they will normally be always striking last (ASL) anyway so ASL conferred by the weapon isn’t a big drawback and the +2S is a massive benefit that, for me, takes away the only negative your warrior has (the S3). A block of 30 with full command comes in at 330pts (a GW dwarf is 10pts on the nose), so again it is reasonably cheap and a great way of boosting your numbers. Many threads will often promote Longbeards or other core options but GW warriors are, per model, 4pts cheaper than anything else in this section, so I will normally take GW dwarves over GW longbeards every time.
Why did you give a different example of 30 GW warriors and not 25, as per the shield warrior example? I’m glad you asked. With dwarves (of all melee unit varieties), I’ve found it a rule of thumb that if they are armoured with shields, you should always take a minimum unit size of 25 whereas if they are armed with GWs, always take a minimum of 30. These sizes are the minimum required to ensure they have enough bodies to help maintain combat effectiveness. The extra pip of armour with the shields makes a big difference. Now as it goes, personally, I’ll normally take 30 shield dwarves and closer to 40 with GW’s but it depends on your foes, meta and army tactics.
Although warriors are excellent for their points cost, there is another major thing that makes them less appealing than their counter parts in other armies, their movement of 3. Yes you can march without testing (or boost movement via runic standards) but your march move is still barely more than other armies standard movement! For this reason alone, it makes arming your warriors with a ranged option a favourable choice and is one of the reasons dwarves lend themselves towards a gunline. Quarrellers (and Thunderers) are what you get if you give a warrior a ranged option. Their stats are identical except you pay 4 points more for each of the ranged weapons. This greater versatility is why you will more often see Quarrellers or Thunderers taken over warriors.
So which ranged weapon is better? Old school vs new-fangled? Both are move or fire (boooo) and strength 4 (yeaaaah). The difference is the crossbow has a range of 30” and the Handgun loses 6” in range but gains armour piercing (an additional -1 to enemy armour), to make up for this.
I’ve found that generally, the greater range normally outshines the greater armour piercing, as it means you can both hit targets sooner and you have a greater chance at shooting at short range for longer (which improves your chance to hit).
The other thing that makes the quarrellers more attractive, is the options available to the units. Thunderers can only take shields, whereas Quarrellers have the choice of both GW’s and/or shields, meaning that they are not as limited in their application and so are hands down the most versatile choice in core. I almost always take GW’s on them to overcome the inherent S3 weakness (but not always) but rarely take shields as well as GW’s, as you can’t use them those in combat with the GW’s and taking both boosts their cost to 15pts a model.
Unit size will very much depend on what you want from them. Units of 10 are great for chaff removal duty and if you take two units of them, you have great flexibility with the ability to shoot different units or you can always combine the fire if needed. 10 is the most common size you will see and you will never regret taking them.
As an alternative, a horde of 40 with GW’s is also a solid choice, coming in at just under 600 points (or you can also give them shields to fill a 625 core selection). I’ve had this unit decimate equivalent points units on several occasions (the favourite of which was taking out a large unit of scouting Maneaters).
I covered most of the abilities of the Thunderers in the previous post. Suffice to say, the main drawback with them is the lack of versatility. That said, they can work very well, armed with shields, in a Groth list as the immovable object (though Quarrellers could also fill this role). You could then have a small unit of GW quarrellers/dwarves etc. next to them to counter charge.
The -2 to armour when shooting (Str 4 with AP) is nothing to sniff at though. A lot of infantry will find themselves with no save and even Chaos Warriors and heavy cavalry are looking far more vulnerable.
It is always worth considering taking the brace of pistols on a champion. You will lose a longer range shot but you will have a much greater chance of getting in the final stand and shoot reaction due to their shorter range.
Overall I’d say they are the weakest of our core options but that still doesn’t make them a bad choice to take, especially when combined with Grimm Burlocksson (to boost their range).
Having an elite unit in core (in a similar way to Chaos Warriors) is just great. They have the same stats as a normal dwarf but an improved WS of 5 and Strength of 4.
Many players love having the option of Longbeards in core and will always take them but for me they fall into an odd hole. If you give them great weapons (Greatbeards), they are better than warriors on the offence but they should be at 4pts more per model, but the issue with this weapon selection is they aren’t that much better than GW warriors (and you can get more warriors for the same price). They also cost the same as GW quarrellers (who are far more versatile) and crucially, cost the same as Hammerers, who are better in every way with their two attacks and innate Stubborn.
So what about taking a shield (which gives them the name Shieldbeards)? Again they come in a 4pts more than an equivalently armed warrior but as previously discussed I don’t like this option for warriors. The improved strength of the Shieldbeard is the key stat for me here. It means that as well as having the 4+ save and 6++ parry, they have a good chance of dishing out some damage back, especially if paired with a Runesmith to get AP. It could still be argued that this isn’t the best choice though. Both Quarrellers and Thunderers can be given shields for the same cost per model to get the same saves but with a ranged option (making them again more versatile). The trade-off is they lose combat effectiveness vs the Shieldbeards. You must also factor in Ironbreakers (and perhaps Irondrakes). Both of these have the same elite stats, and although the breakers cost an additional point, they gain a pip of armour, making them a better anvil. Drakes cost 2 more points but have the same armour as Shieldbeards but get an unconditional 6++ ward and an 18” ranged attack, so they are better in every way. The obvious difference is neither of these other units are in core.
So if they are outclassed as both a hammer and anvil, what else do they bring to the table?
Immune to Psychology. This is a situational rule with their high leadership but knowing you will never panic or flee to fear/terror is never a bad thing. They are also unable to deliberately flee as a charge reaction. It is unlikely ypu would want to but it does remove some tactical flexibility.
Old Grumblers: Acting as an additional BSB for units that are panicking within 6” is a great fluffy rule, with those units rallying under the disapproving looks of the elder dwarves. However, I have never in all my games, actually had an opportunity to use this rule. Apart from the fact that it is rare that my units flee, if they do, the chance of them being within 6” of the longbeards is slim to none. 6” is just not enough of a distance to make it effective.
So why would you take longbeards? Well, there are two key considerations that must be factored in.
The first is they have access to a 50pt runic standard (the only core option that does). This means they can be tailored to fit a certain role. They can get Vanguard to push them into the faces or an opponent early on or Stubborn so they become practically unbreakable. Both of these help give them something that other core units cannot do (unless a BSB joins them).
The second is they do come out of the core ‘tax’. The other elite options are only accessible via the special or rare sections. This means you can take an entirely elite stat army and it generally gives you more options than previous books allowed, which is never a bad thing.
In all, they are a good unit. You won’t regret taking them and they offer up the greatest of things in an army: choice.
In terms of builds, it very much depends on your army tactics. I still hold to the 25/30 minimum model count for Shield/GW armaments respectively. It’s worth noting that a horde of 40 GW longbeards with full command and a strollaz’s runic standard (for Vanguard), comes in at 625pts exactly, so is perfect for a Strollaz’s/ambush list (as well as being a frightening prospect to face).
Statistical comparison of dwarf core units
I thought i’d shamelessly steal NIGHTBRINGER’s excellent idea but apply it to the better dwarf race (rather than the filthy goat fiddling darker variety) and look at comparing the dwarf core units.
The main reason i’ve done this, is because i’ve always gone back and forth over which is the better option to take, Longbeards or warriors. Specifically, GW warriors vs longbeards (or either shield or GW varieties) but i’ve done the stats for all options (matched against each other), just to cover them.
In each instance i’ve started with a unit of 30 warriors (with whatever loadout) and then matched the same number of points for the longbeards.
I’ve also added an additional column to give an idea of how many turns it would take to kill the other unit (I appreciate it doesn’t take into account combat res/breaking etc but they’re dwarves, they will all be stubborn anyway )
Note: For the purposes of this post, i’ve ignored the quarrellers and thunders as they are the same as standard dwarf warriors but with ranged weapons.
As expected in a straight fight between non upgraded or just shield armoured warriors/beards, the longbeards win hands down, even taking into account the warriors greater numbers.
Things get more interesting when you look at GW warriors vs Shieldbeards. Although shieldbeards cause more wounds on average, the greater number of warriors turn this into a fairly even fight with the warriors just pipping the shield beards.
Again, with both units armed with GW’s, the larger number of warriors make this a fairly even matchup, though this is very much dependent on the warriors charging, as the +1 Str makes a huge difference to them (allowing them to wound the Greatbeards on a 2+). The longbeards damage, doesn’t change whether they charge of not, so overall they come out of this matchup as the better option.
Dwarf core vs Chaos Dwarf core
We all know that dwarves are far superior to their fallen brethren but the question has always been how much so? It feels only right that this is the first question answered.
For this comparison, I’ve looked at our 3 best melee options (GW Warriors, Shieldbeards and Greatbeards) and matched then against the Infernal guard (with their 3 weapon options – Shield/Fireglaive and GW).
With the fireglaive armed guard, I added in a couple of lines to show the difference a short/long ranged stand and shoot reaction might have (answer – not much).
Great Weapon Warriors
As you can see, the warriors come out on top in every scenario, including if the fireglaives managed to stand and shoot. The +1 Str from charging does help but even if they are charged, they almost always come out on top (the great weapon vs great weapon ends up the same).
This matchup is more even. Vs the shield guard, both units would grind each other to dust no matter who charged. Vs the fireglaives and shieldbeards would win hands down, though the GW guard would likewise come out on top.
There aren’t any close match ups here. The greatbeards win in every scenario. Their greater WS and base strength 6, help crush the dark dwarf armour.