The 5th part of the review covers the special choices. This section, in any edition, inevitably covers the choices that you really want to take, the ‘fun’ stuff. And for dwarves, it is no different.
In 8th ed. you could take 50% of your army from this section.
The previous parts of the review can be found here:
Part 1 – Why Play them, Special Rules & Dwarf armoury
Part 2 – Runic Items and Ancestral Heirlooms
Hammerers are the elite of the dwarves with WS5 and S4 as base but with two attacks. This puts them on par with a Chaos Warrior, though I would argue they are possibly better. A bold claim I hear you say. They come as standard with a GW which is no drawback as they have the garbage standard dwarf initiative and just helps them munch through armour, especially if they charge (as they get the normal +1S) and if they have a Runesmith for AP (that combo could give them a -5 modifier to armour saves!).
They come with stubborn as standard and LD9 so are likely to fight to the last dwarf, especially given how easy it is to make that LD10 with a thane/lord.
They aren’t bad on defence either with T4, heavy armour and the ability to give them a shield to help against shooting (though let’s be honest you never will).
They also have a fluffy ability (in a similar way to Grail knights), where any Hammerer can accept a challenge if the general is in the unit. This is a cool ability in theory but hammerers can look after themselves. Unless you are taking a Runesmith as your general, you are probably better off placing your thane/lord into a unit that can benefit from their higher strength and defence.
On top of that, the unit can take a runic standard up to 75pts. This is huge and allows you to take one of the master runes on the unit (normally be Groth or Valaya) and this can be the starting block for several army builds.
You could take a horde of 40+ of these, combined with your general/support in a deathstar but you probably shouldn’t, as any opponent who knows anything about dwarves, will not want to come within a mile of them and will avoid them like the plague and with a movement of 3, you won’t be catching anything quickly (though it could act as a large points denial). You are better off taking a unit of 30 or so, ranked 6 wide and 5 deep. This won’t look as intimidating and if it anchors your lines, an opponent will likely have to come within range of it, allowing you to at least get it in combat.
An alternative way i’ve seen them taken, is in a minimum unit of 10-14, with a BSB and they are there to just give buffs to nearby units with the unit and BSB both taking magic standards. It’s risky but if you build your list correctly could pay dividends.
Ironbreakers are often mooted as the best anvil in the game. They share the normal elite dwarf stats of WS5 and S4 and a decent 3+ save. Where they go a step further is in getting the Shieldwall of Gromril rule. Most dwarves get an additional +1 to a parry save on the turn they are charged but this rule means that they always get the 5++ parry save. This is a fantastic rule as a 1/3rd chance to always make saves in combat can really make a difference.
On top of that they have a boosted LD of 10 and can take 50pts of runes on a standard, so can easily get stubborn and these combined, really will turn the unit into a tarpit but a tarpit with bite. With S4, the unit will be able to dish out damage too.
I very much consider a Runesmith compulsory with this unit in order to give AP. It gives better synergy with this unit than with Hammerers, who already have a good armour modifier.
This is also the ideal unit to put in the tried and tested Thane on an Oathstone, with GW and Armour of Gromril, as this will ensure the unit gains the parry if also charged in the flank or rear and immunity to disruption. This is great for guarding a flank.
It is worth considering putting duel drake pistols on the champion for the additional attack and to remove regen from opponents.
If we are judging units purely on fluff, these guys are hands down my favourite dwarf unit but they are also pretty effective too as I’ve found out when using them. So what do they bring to the table?
They are unbreakable, so are immune to psychology and basically never have to take a leadership test and so will never run away. Even in an army with an average leadership as high as dwarves and with many units having access to stubborn, this is huge. It means you have a block of dwarves that will have to be completely wiped out and can effectively tarpit anything and operate completely outside of the bsb/generals bubble (it is also one reason you find excommunicated beardless dwarves using small darts of them, the shame!).
As with black Orcs, they can also choose each round* to use either additional hand weapons (AHW) or great weapons (GW). With ‘only’ basic dwarf stats (with the S3 being the important one) I would personally only use the AHW’s if they manage to charge (as with all dwarves they get +1 to Str when they charge and this would take them to Str 4) and then, only against T3 opponents. Against everyone else I’d use the GW to get a Str 5 attack.
*As the EEFL resident rules lawyer pointed out, you cannot charge and pick AHW and then the next round of combat choose to pick GW’s. Whatever you choose, you use until that particular combat is complete. As such, it is almost never worth taking AHW as the extra strength will trump the extra attack.
Always wounding on a 4+ is not a bad rule and helps against high toughness foes but it doesn’t help vs armour so I’ve consider this more of a situational fluffy rule.
When a model dies in combat, it gets to make a final attack back. Contrary to what I’ve seen written in some places, it is a single attack, no matter your base attacks and using AHW’s doesn’t boost the number, though you do get the Str bonus for a GW (or runic item effects). This rule helps to overcome the glaring lack of armour and with the step up rule can mean that you are potentially outputting far more attacks than the number normally available from your ranks.
They are also able to take a 50pt standard. This is more in line with Elite Dwarf units than those with a standard dwarf warrior stat line (such as slayers have). You will never have cause to take stolicism (stubborn) on it so stollazs is definitely something to consider. A unit of 20 with this banner will vanguard 12″ and thus become a threat straight away and is cheap enough to not be too much of a loss as a throw away unit but threatening enough that the opponent will have to deal with it.
So if this unit is pretty damn good, why is it not seen more? Well firstly, it is highly susceptible to poison and missile fire. There isn’t much you can do about the former but for the latter, it is why I consider the Grungni banner with the 5++ ward vs missiles, an almost mandatory selection when taking a large unit. You won’t be able to put it in the unit as only a BSB can take it so you will need to place it within 6” of them. They also have the same limited movement as all dwarf units so it is hard to get favourable matchups. The final reason is probably down to choices. They come out of the same section as Cannons, Grudge Throwers, Gyrocoptors, Hammerers, Ironbreakers etc. That is a lot of quality competition vying for slots and is probably the main reason for their exclusion.
So slayers are pretty good by themselves but if you are taking Ungrim as your general and a slayer centric army, then they get even better. This is for one reason and that is because he allows one unit to take a 100pt banner. This is the largest banner allowance outside of the BSB and means you can place one of the Master Runes on the standard (I tend to use Valaya on the unit as I like using Groth on the Hammerers).
As a final note, some unscrupulous players take units of 5 or so slayers and deploy them in darts, 1 wide and 5 deep and then use them as a tarpit to hold up enemy units, utilising their unbreakable rule (there is a bit more to this tactic but I won’t soil this post with the rest). DON’T BE THAT GUY. Seriously, just don’t. It is WAAC tactics and no one likes playing that guy. I only mention this here so you can be aware that it is a thing and so if you see them deployed like that, just shoot the shit out of them.
Miners cost the exact same points as GW dwarves, which is not unsurprising as the stats are exactly the same. Where they differ is they drop the shieldwall rule (which is pointless for them anyway) and gain underground advance. This rule gives them the ambush ability, which is a great way of getting your dwarves into charge range quickly.
It is worth noting that their rules mean that in the turn they enter the table, any shooting against them gets a -1 to hit (as the miners peer out of the hole they used to reach that part of the battlefield).
They do have two upgrades, both covered in part 1 of the review. The first is the steamdrill. This allows you to re-roll the dice to see if you enter the table on that turn. I strongly recommend this as a must take if using a large unit as you don’t want that many points off the table. The second is blasting charges. Chucking some dynamite is fun and fluffy but not worth the points to upgrade.
Taking one or two units of 10 miners can really give an opponent pause, especially if they have a number of warmachines, as they have to factor in these units appearing in their back field. At just 100pts for 10 it is well worth considering taking a single unit to open up options.
Taking a horde of them works well in the ambush/vanguard list as having that sort of threat appear just cannot be ignored. It becomes truly frightening when paired with a similar size number of Rangers.
I consider a cannon an almost mandatory choice in every dwarf list. In eighth they are just too useful to not take one in order to threaten monsters and monstrous units. Dwarf cannons become better than every other one in the game, as you can give them a rune to allow the artillery dice to be re-rolled and another one to cancel out regen (about the only defence against a S10 shot). The latter does run the risk of allowing a 5pt dragonbane gem giving that Daemon Prince a 2++ ward vs your shot but that is why you either take another cannon or a Grudge Thrower!
Seriously if you are taking a competitive dwarf list without a cannon and you aren’t running a strollaz/ambusher list, you need to rethink your list. It’s clichéd but true never-the-less.
If for some reason you decided you weren’t taking a cannon (maybe you don’t hold truck with those upstart inventions), then you should consider taking a Grudge Thrower instead (or even one of each). If you take the GT, then you should take a Ro Penetrating as the additional +1S makes a massive difference as not only does it increase the blast area to S4 but it also makes the centre hole hit at S10, to put it on a par with a cannon. If you then give it the Ro Accuracy (which again you should), in order to allow re-rolls the scatter dice, then it becomes the same cost as as the Cannon with Ro Forging. It is also worth giving it the Ro Forging to reroll those pesky misfires, though this is the rune i’d drop if I was short of points.
The GT is great for culling large amounts of rank and file troops, especially if they are T3 but the runes also make it good for monster hunting (if not as good as the aforementioned cannons). It is the more versatile of the two which is why some players prefer to take them.
If taking warmachines, it is worth considering the Rule of Two (a new rule I’ve just made up and in no way connected to the Runic Rule of Three). Many armies have the ability to field their own artillery and both your and their primary mission (even above taking out that Dragon) will normally be counter battery fire. If you fail to get the first turn, then there is a strong chance your warmachine may not get to fire at all. By taking a combination of two of a Cannon/Grudge Thrower, you stand a much greater chance of being able to destroy their warmachine. To a lesser extent, you should also consider this when taking the following: Organ Gun/Flame Cannon, Gyrocoptor/Bomber but due to the range, the Cannon/GT combo is far more important.
I’ll say right now that I think the bolt thrower is the weakest, non-character choice in the army book. It is comparable to other races bolt throwers but can take a huge 100pts of runes. This means that you can really tailor it, giving boosted str, +1 to hit flyers or flaming attacks (to name a few). However there are two main drawbacks:
Rolling to hit. The dwarf crew only have a BS3. This only gives you a 4+ chance of hitting at short range. Over that and it drops to a 5+. This is just too unreliable. Sure you could spam a few of them or add runes or a master engineer to help out but then this feeds into the second drawback:
Cost. A basic bolt thrower is 55pts (before adding runes). This is 20pts more than an OnG equivalent. Yes your crew is tougher and gains stubborn but those attributes aren’t why you take a warmachine. You take it for the warmachines abilities. To get the most of it you either want to add an engineer to give improved BS or add runes but then the cost starts to spiral and you would be better off taking a cannon as that is stronger and doesn’t need to roll to hit. You could therefore take 2 basic BT’s but again they are not too far off the cost of a naked cannon and I would recommend taking that every time, even over 2 similar costed BT’s.
And now we come to the money shot. The dwarf Gyrocoptor is arguably the best ‘warmachine’ in the book. If I said earlier that I consider a cannon almost mandatory, then I will say that you categorically NEED to take at least one Gyrocoptor in EVERY dwarf list. They are that good. In fact, if you aren’t taking two (remember the Rule of Two mentioned earlier), you will likely regret it.
Why are they so good? Well first of all they bring something that the rest of your list sadly lacks, speed. In an army that can barely make it past a waddle, having a unit that flies at M10 (or a 20” march, remembering that no test is required due to relentless) is just so crucial. If that was all it bought to the table I’d probably say it was a must take. As it is, they happily bring much more than that.
If you compare it against a similar sized chaff unit, the Great Eagle, for 30pts more, you get the same 3 wounds but with a toughness of 5 and a 4+ save on top, which makes it far more survivable. In combat, you still have 2 attacks but at 1 less WS and a significantly lower Initiative (and no stomp) but to be honest you don’t really want your Gyro in combat (unless it is against warmachines). What you do get to make up for the lack of combat prowess, are some other abilities, which far out strip the eagle.
Vanguard – Half the Gyro’s (rounding up) in the army, may be given vanguard for 20pts per model. This is a really handy rule, especially if they are in a strollaz list. It isn’t something I’ve utilised as much as I probably should, as I always struggle to find the points.
Bombs – Once per game, if you move over an enemy unit/model (and this includes when marching), the Gyrocoptor can drop its bombs. You roll an artillery dice and that is the number of S3 AP hits caused (misfires cause 1 auto wound on the Gyro with no saves). This is never going to be devastating (unless the targeted unit is on the small side, such as other chaff units) but instead think of it as an added bonus. It’s particularly useful when you have vanguarded, as you can’t charge in the first turn. This means you can really cover some distance, getting into the opponents backfield, whilst causing some damage on the way!
Steam vs brimstone guns – The Gyro comes as standard with the Steam Gun. It uses the flame template and causes automatic S3 AP hits for everything under it. This is a total unit killer and is one of the main reasons you will take the Gyro. When combined with the speed and manoeuvrability of the model it can decimate units. It’s worth noting that if you get to a stage where the template no longer covers the maximum models in a unit (say if the unit has dropped to a low number of models), then move on to a different unit and rinse and repeat. The template is at its most effective when covers a large number of models (20mm T3 infantry *cough elves* are best).
The Brimstone gun is a free upgrade that gives the Gyro: D3, S5, Flaming, AP, Quick to fire, dwarf crafted shots with an 18” range. This sounds promising at first but with a BS3, the unit will always hit at best on a 5+ due to the multiple shot modifier. On top of that, if you are over 9” away, you also get the long range modifier, so will only hit on a 6+. If you want S5 AP shots that badly, take an Organ gun (or stack up on Irondrakes). I cannot think of any situation where this upgrade is preferable to the standard Steamgun (except if there were some form of comp restrictions in play limiting it – which I have come across – and you still wanting to take the Gyro).
Restrictions – You can take double the number of Gyro’s in a 3k list that you are normally allowed for Special units (so 6 rather than the 3). It isn’t something I’ve often seen but does allow some different builds.
Gyrocoptors fall into a kind of middle ground of roles. They can be used as chaff, blocking units, attacking warmachines etc. but that isn’t really what you want to use them for. I’ve found they work better as a harassment unit. I tend to move them up aggressively and then march them over the top of a unit, dropping their bombs on the way, to get into the back field. They then will sit behind your selected enemy unit, using its steam gun repeatedly to whittle down their numbers and making them take leadership tests to march at every turn. (My favourite memory of this use was a single Gyro taking out 400pts of Chaos warriors in just 3 turns, neutering the unit for the entire game).
As for the cost, you get all this for a meagre 80pts (or 100pts with Vanguard). I would say this unit is probably under-costed but then a unit of 5 DE Dark Riders with shields and Repeater x-bows comes in around the same value and they are some of the best chaff in the game.
8 thoughts on “Dwarf Army Book Review – Part 5 – Special Choices”
All very nice! 🙂 My favourites are the Ironbreakers, although a grudge thrower sounds a worthy addition to any army, fantasy or otherwise!
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Just finished a gyrocopter; very useful to have little tutorial pop up.
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Hope it’s useful 👍
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I’m impressed by that large unit of Hammerers!
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In fairness it’s a bit of a mix of hammerers and Longbeards and some of the hammerer heads are on Longbeards and visa versa. I just wanted a bit of variety and can use them as either now. I’ll also never use them in a unit of that size unless playing some horrifically large game
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Brilliant- love the miners.
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Thanks Pete. Even being older plastics they are one of my favourite kits
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