Out with the Old and in with the New ( Not Really)
Change is good! even the most hidebound, stubborn and short sighted of the Dwarfs know, deep down, that Tradition is good but innovation is better. Thus it is with the latest changes to the Free Dwarf Army List, Free dwarfs have been around now for four years since the release of the Uncharted Empires book in November of 2019. After the Free Dwarfs had been out for a Year and I could draw on Tournament experience with the Army I wrote a series of Blogposts on the subject of the troop types available to the Free Dwarfs and their utility within the Free Dwarf Army itself. These were written to try and convince people that Free Dwarfs were a viable army and to give an overview of the troops abilities and weaknesses based on my own experiences, they also gave me an opportunity to poke fun at the hidebound proponents of Gollochs Dark Empire.
Since the Fall of the Halpi Mountains and the publication of a couple of Clash of Kings updates the differences between the Free Dwarfs and their Parent list have become more marked which has resulted in a furthering of the Gulf between play styles and an increase in the arrogance of Imperial Dwarf players ( only joking , some of them are almost personable really) The Free Dwarfs have been further removed from their Imperial Oppressors with the release of the latest set of Clash of Kings Updates for the 2024 Season. With this in mind I have decided to revisit the series of Articles and update them in line with the new updates. If you are new to Free Dwarfs I will hopefully provide enough information to allow you to choose a Free Dwarf army that can suit your play style or your romantic view of how you want your Free Dwarfs to look and behave on the battlefield. This round of Bloggery has the added advantage of an extra two Years of Free Dwarf generalship on my behalf and, if you have read my Blog you will know that I have played multiple styles of Free Dwarf Armies over the Years and not just the Classic “Brock Spam” that used to be the Free Dwarf Trope used by a lot of Kings of War Gamers.
In this First article I will look briefly at the different types of build of Free Dwarf Armies you can choose, but do remember this is from my experience and you may find combo’s or uses that work better for you, if you do then please feel free to share them in the Comments or post them on the Free Dwarfs of Bowland Facebook page for all to see.
The First type of Army is the Classic Dwarf Gunline army, this is not really something that the Free Dwarfs can do with any effect. They lack the Steel Behemoths , Organ Guns , Steel Juggernauts , Flame Belchers and Sharpshooters that Gollochs Lackeys can employ en masse and the Iron Watch Rifles, Ironbelcher Cannons and Jarrun bombards the Free Folk can muster do not have the same effect. Lacking the same amount of Def 5/6 long range firepower the “Gunline” build can fall rather short (pun intended) if attempted by the Free Dwarfs. The change in the Cover rules to the new Concealed and Obscured rules make the use of Cannons less effective as the majority of Cover on the Kings of War Battlefield tends to be Obscured rather than Concealed so Cannons are generally hitting on 6’s for most of their shots. Cannons used to be good at sniping large characters and such but now the change to Ignore Concealed means that tempting targets can be hidden behind other units to reduce the cannons effectiveness. The Jarrun Bombards lobber attack hits concealed on 5’s but is just less effective than the cannon, Dwarf warmachines are also quite expensive and getting the unlocks mean that the amount of Characters will be limited. Also Free Dwarfs have no access to Warsmiths to help boost their warmachines either. All Told Gunlines remain an Imperial Dwarf thing.
Another Classic Form of Dwarf army from earlier editions of Kings of War is the Brocks’N’Rocks combination, a blend of Defence 6 Large infantry and Crazy Badger riding Berserkers. This Army type is almost what the Free Dwarfs were created to be ! The changes to the Stonepriests in the new Clash of Kings updates ( which will be dealt with in depth in a later part of this Blog) has made them even more suited to being tailored to fulfil roles within the Rocks part of the Army. Basically you take several hordes of Earth Elementals backed up by Regiments or Troops of Brock Riders, all supported by Greater Earth Elementals and Stonepriests with perhaps a Berserker Brock Hero or two and maybe , if the points stretch that far, Sveri Egilax himself. The Earth Elementals form the main battle line which sets up to receive the charges of the enemy and hopefully survive to allow the Brock Riders and Greater Earth Elementals to Countercharge , boosted by Surge, Bane Chant and healing from the Stonepriests and Berserker Lords to run interference on the enemies flyers and hammer units. The Brocks’N’Rocks Army build if very much a Counterpunch army, it does require a deal of skill and nerve to use correctly and I found that even when it worked as advertised it was very difficult to win Scenarios with a lot of points tied up in slow moving Def 6 Infantry Hordes, even with Fast moving Brock Riders included , what generally tended to happen was the Brocks would kill loads then die themselves leaving the Earth Elementals to slowly move around trying to pick up loot, capture objectives or board areas and they fall short in the majority of games. Although I have not tried this classic build much with the new updates , perhaps the changes to Stonepriests and Brock Riders will be enough to swing balance back.
Brock Spam, perhaps the most maligned of the Free Dwarf Builds that came out. Despite its name it is almost impossible to create an effective army consisting entirely of Brock Troops, Regiments and Characters. The army has to include some other units in order to carry loot tokens and act as cheaper chaff, a function usually filled by Mastiff Hunting pack regiments. The newest updates to the Berserker Brock Riders have made this army type slightly more attractive as the addition of Pathfinder for Free to the Brock units means you can squeeze slightly more into your points and still have the Regiments carrying Magic Artifacts to improve their effectiveness on the table. Sveri’s wild charge aura and maybe a Stonepriest with Martyrs prayer and banechant might be helpful additions. Mounting a couple of Berserker Lords on Badgers and having one with Wings of Honeymaze can also be a great boost to the army but the number of unlock slots is going to be limited unless you have a lot of Regiments of Brocks to hand.
The Sneaky Scouty Build, this is a very “Elf light” build that makes use of the Rangers and the Shieldbreaker formation, plus a nice upgrade to the Greater Earth Elemental and Herneas the Hunter and Banick Kholearm backed up by Mastiff hunting packs and a couple of troops of Brock Riders. This army is surprising good at board control and has a bit of everything to give your opponent pause for thought but it does suffer from the perennial Free Dwarf problem of being only Def 4 and majority Melee 4+ although with a bit of look and good use of terrain this build can hold its own in the right scenario, I do like this build for club games but it isn’t as competitive enough for tournament games although I did once get lucky and tabled the UK’s then Number One ranked player with a variation of this build. What makes the Free Dwarf Ranger Army unable to compete with other shooty armies is the lack of Steady Aim for the Rangers, Elite Missile Troops that can’t move and fire without penalty? Very thematically poor in my humble opinion.
The Brocks’N’Glocks build is a Hybrid combo of the Gunline and Brock Spam army , it was one of the earliest Kings of War Dwarf Army I trialled , I had seen the army in use by a Spanish player, Mario Murillo, at the 2018 Clash of Kings , I remember watching him playing with the army at the Tournament ( my Ogres used to get beaten very quickly lol ) and I realised that I had all the models for his army list sitting at home unpainted. The army consisted of 4 Regiments of Brock Riders, a Horde of Iron watch, 2 Regiments of Mastiffs, Sveri Egilax , two Beserker lords ( one with wings of Honeymaze and one with Brock mount) 3 organ guns and a horde of Ogre Shooters. Mario’s Army went on to Win the Clash of Kings and I went on to build the Army for myself. Years later I played Mario in Spain with my Free Dwarf evolution of his army against his Imperial Dwarf evolution of the same Army and managed to hold him to a Draw (See the Madrid Clash 2022 Blogpost for more detail) This Army worked well under 2nd Edition, but the subsequent changes to Brock riders Nerve , Shooting Artifacts and Ogre Aliies made it impossible to continue to use to good effect (almost as if it was altered to prevent any more Spanish Clash wins HaHa)
The Free Dwarf MSU build, this first appeared during lockdown when the medium of Universal Battles allowed the trial of Armies at tournaments without the need to buy paint and base models. Having a multitude of small units, troops of Dwarf infantry and Mastiff Hunting pack regiments all armed with throwing Mastiffs and backed up by hard hitting units of either Brock Riders or Earth Elementals with a Packmaster to provide Vicious to the Throwing mastiffs and inspiring to the units themselves was found to cause an obscene amount of damage to the opponent but generally tended to lack staying power once the counter punch had been delivered. This list type has evolved into the current List I am trialling with a combination of Mastiff Hunting pack regiments and Dwarf Infantry units equipped with Throwing Mastiffs as the core of the Army, backed by Brock Riders, Stoneclaw Riders and a Scouting Greater Earth Elemental with a couple of Characters and Sveri Egilax himself as the punch power of the Army.
This list will be in use very shortly and my next article may be a Tournament Report of its progress.