The Clans Gather Part the First
The Coming Storm Part 1 – the Free Dwarfs in 2024. The current building of a combined Free Dwarf and Northern Alliance Army at TrollManor has generated a fair bit of interest amongst some of the smaller Trollls there. With this in mind I have taken claw to keyboard in an effort to explain the reasoning behind the new Northern Free Dwarf army and the units it will contain.
My Reader will know that when the Free Dwarfs were first created at the dawn of Third edition I embarked on a series of Articles in which I extolled the Virtues of the Free Dwarf Army over and above the run of the Mill Imperial Dwarf armies that were being fielded ( See “A Kick in the Gollochs””Never mind the Gollochs” and “Stop Talking Gollochs” in this Blog from around the beginning of 2021) over the course of those Blogposts I explored the various troop types available to a Free Dwarf Army and their various merits. Over the next couple of Blogposts in this series I will revisit these opinions and discuss how they may have changed over the intervening Months of Tournament and Club play. I have played around 75 Tournament games and probably as many Club games with the Free Dwarfs since those Blogs were written and I am confident that my opinion is founded in experience. I am also writing this article in the knowledge that the new Clash of Kings Updates for the 2024 season are lurking just around the corner and some of these may affect the Free Dwarfs (hopefully for the better or if not, then at least no change is good)
Bearing this in mind I have embarked upon a period of playtesting for the Free Dwarfs that will involve a radical departure from the normal forces I field based on both my experiences and the Tournament experiences of others in the UK KoW scene although we are few and far between.
The results of this initial research and contemplation are the list you see below – please bear in mind that it is a preliminary list for testing the viability of my own convictions with regards to the value of the troop types in the Free Dwarf list, also Dear Reader, the external effect of the UK tournament Meta will have an effect on these choices that may not be evident in the Tournament or club scene local to yourself. Please also make allowances for the fact that this army is being built in a way alien to me , for the first time my Free Dwarf choices are being dictated by what will work best at Tournaments and not what do I really feel like painting, which is one reason I am using the Free Dwarf troop type which is the least Free Dwarf and the most Gollochish – Ironclads , which are basically ported across from the imperial Army list unchanged – see the sacrifices I am making in the interests of Ranking scores ! Of Course my romantic nature may prevail and I will be sticking a unit or two into the army simply because I want to paint them up – we shall see how good my resolve is.
The first and foremost thing my Reader will spot from the Army list is that it contains minimal amounts of Brock Riders, this is mainly due to my resolve being worn down over the course of two years by the stubbornness of Free Dwarf Brock Riders. They can be an amazing unit but currently they appear to vacillate between mediocre and dire. Pumping out minimal and frankly insulting amounts of damage no matter what incentives they are offered and so they are now scheduled to be downgraded from main battleline unit to a support function, either one regiment or two troops will be fielded depending on the result of play testing. They will be used to threaten the flanks of advances or to dissuade enemies from moving into range of a devastating counterpunch (which may, in fact, not materialize – but my opponent can’t guarantee their failure) But they will not be the main event of the New Free Dwarf Army for the coming season.
The current Free Dwarf thinking seems to revolve around infantry, over the years I have used Free Dwarf infantry in many forms, Spear Levy, Rangers, Ironwatch and Shieldbreakers ( the Formation looks good on paper but Shieldbreakers are Meh! ) and most of them have not impressed me much. However, I am up for giving anything a try and so I have started testing Ironclad Infantry Regiments in my Army, these little fellas are Def 5, Me 4+ Ne14/16 and are bog average. However, they are very cheap, can be equipped with throwing mastiffs and they are moderately hard to kill so a few units of these will be the main bulk of the New Free Dwarf battle line. I have always used Mastiff hunting packs with throwing mastiffs and their relatively high nerve, good movement and ranged attack are all useful, I intend to keep running them and will increase the number of units in the Army by two or three more. Although, again, the results from 4+ hitting with the mastiffs is very swingy but I have managed to kill a Horde of Drakons with 16 mastiff shots and four lots of throwing Mastiffs have seen off a giant lurking in a wood before now, having 64 possible shots from the Free Dwarfs front line can put a crimp on the style of most armies. If the Packmaster is taken with Mastiff Munchberries he adds an extra 6 shots and gives all within 6” range Vicious as well which helps to boost up that damage potential a wee bit and he inspires as an added bonus, all this for just 100 points. Plus, while your opponent is chewing through all that nerve the rest of the Free Dwarf army can do some shenanigans towards winning the game for their side.
The downside to using these troop types is that, again, the bulk of my army will be relying on 4+’s to hit in combat, but hopefully I can tailor the rest of the army to properly support these units which will consist of the bulk of the army.
Populating the Rest of the army is a matter of trial and error. With the absence of allies in most tournaments and the lack of the transfer of the Free Dwarf Ravens from their Northern Alliance service, the Free Dwarfs are lacking an effective counter to the Multi flyer Meta developing in the UK KoW tournament scene. With fairly weak long-range shooting the Free Dwarfs usually end up relying on a “Meat Missile” in the form of a Berserker lord on Brock with the Blade of the Beast Slayer or a Lord or Berserker Lord with Wings of Honeymaze to either tie up Flyers on their side of the table or to patrol the back area in order to cut down on landing zones for the winged beasties. The Wingy Kingy is also useful for taking out war engines and generally making a nuisance of himself, I rarely deploy without him, also he looks so amazing it is hard to leave him in the box!
Rangers are one possible choice and I have experimented with combinations of Regiments and Troops of Rangers along with Ranger Characters. The Rangers have the advantage of being able to shoot at 4+ at the halt (why Rangers don’t have steady aim is a mystery almost as mysterious as to why the KoW Rules Council choose to remain Mysterious after the last big “resignation”) and you can also give them Mastiffs for that short range kick, Pathfinder and Scout allow for some land grabs after deployment and you can upgrade one unit to Stealthy and Elite(ranged) with their crossbows (not their mastiffs) but all this comes with a hefty Points cost and they are still Me 4+ with CS(1) so suffer the Free Dwarf Curse of the 4+, In all honesty for 200 Points that the rangers cost in a mastiff equipped Regiment, a Regiment of shield breakers with Scout and Mastiffs costs 155 Points and hits on 3+ with Wild Charge(1) , is shooting and an extra inch of movement really worth 45 points a Regiment ?
What about Free Dwarf Berserkers? they got a boost in the last round of updates by gaining Slayer(D6) and they have the option of Pathfinder, they have a bucketload of attacks but still hit on a 4+ and a move of 5” with Wild Charge (1), Thunderous Charge (1) and the Vengeance rule which means, if they survive, they get CS(1) on the Countercharge. In playtesting the Free Dwarf Berserkers only rarely got to charge, when they did, they struggled to take out all but the lightest of opposition and generally died to the counterpunch thus negating their vengeance rule. Fearless 17 is good but Def 4 usually sees them being gunned down as a matter of course while they move slowly across the battlefield – better to pay extra points and get Brock Riders in my opinion. Perhaps a troop of so of berserkers in larger points games but they always need protecting from shooting and supporting in the attack, even more than normal and they cost 180 points for a regiment with Pathfinder and they do need Pathfinder hitting on 5+ with no TC is a waste of everybody’s time. Perhaps with a bit of work and some good will from the KoW Illuminati, sorry Rules Council, there will be a place for Free Dwarf Berserkers in a future iteration of the Free Dwarfs of Bowland or their Currently Northwards Migrating cousins, the Clan of the Raven, I certainly hope so as I have 4 boxes of the lovely Avatars of War Multipart plastic Seekers that are just itching to get some KoW action on the table, in fact I may just paint up some Raven Clan Berserkers just because I can and in anticipation of my gripes bearing fruit !
I have already fielded Shieldbreakers, both as a Horde and as individual regiments, both as part of the Formation and not. They are speed 4 with Wild Charge (1) and have the option of Scout and Pathfinder. What makes them seemingly useful is the 3+ Melee and CS (1) they have but they are still Def 4 and nerve 14/16 for a Regiment, with the inclusion of the Formation they gain both Nimble and Brutal and the Lord gives out an Aura of Iron resolve for Dwarfs only. I know that my Friend Nacho has used this formation to good effect in Spanish Tournaments but their Meta appears to be less shooting based and I found that the Def 4 speed 4 Shieldbreakers get shot up and either killed or wavered, scouting them up doesn’t help too much when the Chaff can’t keep up and they end up plinking off their mastiffs and dying to a puff of wind. I’m not bitter, Honest.
What I will need to do is to find a combination of supports that work with the initial framework of Ironclads and Mastiff Hunting Regiments as they have a combined total of 920 Points so this will be almost Half of my army in a 2000-point game, 2000 or 1995 being what the Tournament scene seems to be moving towards again (this may be the subject of another post in the not too distant future)
I have spouted my opinion of some of the units available to the Free Dwarfs in this Blog – in subsequent Blogs I will post the results of my Journey towards getting the Army Tournament ready and the choices I have made, I will post actual after action reports and analysis of how the various manifestations of the new Raven Clan Army perform and why I am making the changes I make, if any. Always bear in mind that any changes I make will have to be reflected in the actual production of these units once I have decided they will be effective on the tabletop.
Until the next installment Adieu !