A New Hope , Part 1
I’m a Free Dwarf player and proud, my regular Reader will know this. The very name of the Blog shouts my allegiance to the Clans. Since the time they were announced I have had Free Dwarfs and before that there was the Dwarf Brock Army that just waited to be Free! Over the past few Years I have dabbled with other Armies but I always return to my beloved Free Dwarfs although it is a bit of a love hate relationship I must admit, but the unique flavour of the Free Dwarfs and their complete lack of anything overpowered keeps me coming back for more. I have had mixed success with the Hairy Boi’s during our Kings of War Journey, with the vast majority of my army being 4+ Melee and Def 4 and hardly any Crushing Strength the army relies to a great extent on being lucky and to be honest luck is not something I have a great deal of.
Just lately there have been several developments in Kings of War that have caused there to be a slight shift in both my army choice paradigm and my reasons for sticking to Free Dwarfs. The move away from allies in the Tournament scene, seemingly driven by a minority of anally retentive fun sponges, and the release of some really cool models by Mantic games has caused me to re-evaluate what I am going to do with the Free Dwarfs for the coming season. As I write this Blog the release of the 2024 Clash of Kings updates is around about a Month off. Already we have had updates for the Nightstalkers, Twilight Kin and Northern Alliance on the Mantic Companion and it was the additions to the last of these, the Northern Alliance, that really caught my interest.
My Partner has owned a vast amount of Northern Alliance models for a couple of years now and I have a couple of models myself so the idea of putting together an army was as easy as looking in the boxes to see what was available , but whilst browsing through the Army list on the Mantic Compendium I came across the altered profile for the Northern Alliance Dwarf Clansmen, hmmmm same price as Free Dwarf Ironclads, same stats as Free Dwarf Ironclads but with the ability to drop a point of Def and gaining a point of Crushing Strength for free. They have Wild Charge(1) and Fury ! but they have recently gained something called “Ordered March” this new rule allows the unit to make a single pivot up to 90 degrees at any point when moving at the Double so basically this means that Dwarf Clansmen can move 8” and pivot up to 90 degrees , this is a definite improvement and made me think about all the spare Dwarf Warrior sprues I have lying around from my various Free Dwarf projects. These could be pressed into service for my new Northern Alliance army! How fitting that the first units for my newest project should be the same as my previous project. This also led to the idea that I could re-vamp my Free Dwarfs to match the basing on the Northern Alliance models to enable the new units to be used in both armies, but I am getting ahead of myself there. There is also the new Frostclaw riders – Dwarfs riding giant Ravens – which have initially been released for the Northern Alliance but Mantic have also stated that they will be coming for the Free Dwarfs in the future. So having these guys matching my Brock Riders etc will allow me to have more multipurpose units. I also have an idea to make the Northern Alliance more sort of a Northern Free Dwarf army that has joined forces with the Northern Alliance and are making a sort of hybrid force that utilised Dwarf models in as many places as I could. I already have an vision of a mixed Hearthguard unit selected from the best warriors in all the races of the Alliance, hopefully that unit will turn out as cool as I hope.
As there has been a few changes for the Northern Alliance I decided that, apart from the Dwarf Clansmen and Raven Riders that I was enthusiastically planning, I needed to plan the Army for its effectiveness on the field of battle rather than just picking the models I thought were cool and leaving out stuff that I thought would be boring to paint (this is my usual way of army selection) This means that the Army will have to be built up in blocks as I tend to slot models I don’t like painting into gaps between the Hero Projects of an Army. This way I get to balance out the Mundane with the awesome, also it means that the boring troops get to benefit from improved painting as I try to maintain the standard as opposed to allowing the level of painting to tail off as I lose interest in repetitive boring Models.
So, I needed to decide what play style I wanted for the Army? Currently the Free Dwarfs are very much an Alpha strike style of Army with their Brock heavy makeup and I wanted more of an All Arms approach to the Northern Alliance (and by default the new Free Dwarf army linked to them) so that gave me several options to consider.
Did I want to go with a lot of Frostfangs and snow Trolls backed up by Infantry or did I want to go Ice Elemental Heavy and include plenty of surge and heal. I decided to weigh up the pros and cons of each unit and have some practise games before I decide what will be in the final draft of the Army.
Then I have the issue that I have termed “The pufferfish problem” UK Tournaments tend to fluctuate quite a lot on points values with each TO seeming to have their own views on why their favourite points value is the best for Tournaments and some even just picking random numbers out of the air for each tournament they run. The result is that any new army needs to function at a range of Points values and each list be worked out and tested. This always results in extra floating units that can be used at larger points values or smaller versions of units to be used at lower points values.
With the large amount of Northern Alliance units available I had to plan carefully what I wanted to see in my initial painting plan, so I decided to do some research into the different unit types.
Dwarf Clansmen were the first unit I contemplated, mostly because I have recently painted two regiments of them to be the initial units of my dual purpose Free Northern Dwarf Army. As noted above they are basically enhanced Ironclad. I also surmised that the Ordered March would be useful in scenarios such as Push or other Loot based scenarios as they wouldn’t lose the ability to pivot on the march like Nimble troops. I was able to test this theory at a Tournament I attended and. Using Northern Alliance Clansmen as Allies in a Free Dwarf Army I managed to test them out. Overall they were about the same as using Ironclad, I kept them inspired by using a Frostfang lord and their increased mobility made them a tad more useful than the Ironclad. Their Fury instead of headstrong is less useful against shooting and they do waver just as easily as Ironclad. 12 attacks on 4+ is a bit underwhelming and I gave them Frost Hammers to gain the CS(1) so they were Def 4. The ordered March was used in conjunction with the Nimble on the Frostfang Lord to help them keep threats to their front and did allow them to scoot about a fair bit (for Dwarfs anyway). They also have the new Tundra Fighter Rule, this means if they are in combat against a unit that is subject to the Frozen rule they gain the Vicious(melee) rule for themselves. I did enjoy using them and it made me think more about what to put with them in an Northern Alliance Army.
The Frostfang lord is an old favourite of mine as an allied model for the Free Dwarfs and one that probably needs no introduction to Kings of War Players but as I am unsure as to whether my Reader does actually play or not I will give him an intro – a 50mm square base and nimble with height 4 allows for shenanigans , move 7 with wild charge (1) allows those shenanigans to take place at a distance and melee 3+ with crush two and 7 (optional 8 for +10 points) attacks mean the shenanigans can be hurtful to enemy models, throw in Very Inspiring and Strider for 180/190 points and you have a miniature flightless Dragon that wanders about giving out the hurt. With the new Northern Alliance army I will have to include at least one of these happy chaps and I have already completed a lovely Dwarf conversion to be the one.
The new Frostclaw Champion also came out for a play. He is a rather striking model and I can’t wait to paint a horde of them. He has a handy movement of 10 and obviously flies, melee of 3+ and Thunderous Charge(2) with 5 attacks makes him quite handy in combat and, as I found in my test games, having him in the flank or rear can be very effective. Height 4 also enables shenanigans from this fellow too and I am coming to the conclusion that there will be a lot of opportunity for Shenanigans with this new Army. He also has Ice Runes – a new ability which means any unit that takes damage from him in Melee becomes subject to the Frozen rule, a lovely bit of synergy is having a unit with Tundra fighters in the front of a unit and a Frostclaw in the flank – roll the Frostclaw’s attacks first and with luck the Tundra Fighter rule will kick in after damage is caused. I did find that opponents generally did not get a chance to countercharge him due to him being the lesser of two evils so he kept his Thunderous Charge beyond the first round of combat allowing him to make a significant contribution to the combats. At 135 points and he has a 3 shot 18” Piercing(1) attack too makes this chap a nifty help and he will be earning a place in my initial Northern Alliance test army.
So far this is the extent of my actual playtesting and I am happy to say all the playtested Units are also painted(as you can probably tell from the pictures lol) but there is still 1745 points of an optimum Army ( more if I decide to drop any of the already painted stuff) to choose.
What should I choose next ? While I was a TO at the Clash of Kings Event in Nottingham – see my Blogpost on this very topic here https://www.bleufish.uk/post/the-main-event-clash-of-kings-2023 I played a game against a new Northern Alliance Army as part of my spare player duties and a couple of things stood out.
The new Tribesmen Hordes are Nasty ! backed up by a rallying source and perhaps a Bane chant caster they are a robust block of damage dealing Wild blokes. Speed 5 and Def 5 with melee 3+, 25 Attacks and Crushing Strength(1) with Wild Charge(1) thrown into the mix results in a large block of troops that can deal out a fair bit of damage and take a fair bit in return. ~They can be given the Tundra Fighter upgrade too. Support them with a Lute carrying Skald for 80 points and you have the potential of Crushing Strength(2) and they gain Ordered March withing 6” of the Skald, have a Thegn with Talannars banner in range and they are Nerve 22/24. Looking at the Army list, supporting them with either a Frostclaw Rider or a Cavern Dweller with its Chilling presence to activate their Tundra Fighter upgrade and I would bet a Bane Chanted Horde of tribesmen against most opponents and they can get all this through synergy, a magic artifact can also be added to increase their utility!
Regiments of Tribesmen can be upgraded to Heavy Infantry as Hearthguard to replace the old Huscarls and these guys get a Nerve boost and also gain 8 Attacks, Fury and an extra Crushing Strength as well but at 75 points extra I think there will be one or two of these units max, but the same synergies, barring the Ordered March aura- which is Infantry Only, work on these guys two and if you really want to put all your eggs in one basket, you can give the Hearthguard a magic artifact on top too.
For now I will be practising while I paint up the extra units and watching any online battle reports with interest so I can try and shake out an army list that will allow the Free Northern Dwarfs to reign triumphantly in the upcoming 2024 season.
As I do practise I will make observations and progress reports on the Blog so that my Reader can remain up to date with my progress and hopefully, if I ever discover his identity, he will be able to congratulate me on my winning Army Choices and epic victories.