Since the decision to paint yet another Free Dwarf Army in the style of “Northern Free Dwarfs” (due to the fact that the original Dwarfs were painted to be Clansman regiments in the new Northern Alliance Army I planned for the 2024 season) I have made several Bloggeries in regards of the justification of painting and building the new army, I have also tried to explain my reasoning behind the choices I made in the army. Now that I am three tournaments in, with a total of eleven games I am posting a quick update on how I have found the army so far and discuss any changes I am thinking of making to the army in the coming weeks.
The first event the army attended was the Kings of Liverpool Tournament, the third tournament run at the Just Play games shop in Liverpool, a nice little venue with enough tables for a 20 person event. The tournament was run at 2300 points with three games in One Day, the scenarios were Push, Control and Dominate and the results for the Day were a loss, a win and a draw.
The second event attended was a Two day event at Element Games in Stockport, the points were 2300 with five Games, the scenarios were Hold the Line, Dominate, Loot, Push and Control and the results for the weekend were Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss.
The Third event was the TT Tournament Three: Its beginning to look a lot like Zombies and was a one day event at the Outpost in Sheffield, it was run at 2000 points and three Games, the Scenarios being Salt the Earth, Dominate and Stockpile and the results were Win, Loss, Loss (can we see the pattern emerging here?)
So how did it go? Overall the army performed well, the Ironclads and the Mastiffs forming the bulk of the army did their job of providing a big chunk of nerve to chew through quite admirably, while their capacity to deal damage varied wildly. During some games the Throwing Mastiffs killed virtually everything they targeted while in others they failed to even do a small amount of chip damage but in every game they were given a lot of respect by their opponents which allowed them to exert a level of control on the battlefield. With the support of the Army Standard bearer with his Lute of Insatiable Darkness to provide a source of Banechant the Ironclad Regiments and Hordes made a sturdy battleline and with their new ability of Ordered March they were surprisingly good at grabbing territory on the battlefield. The Horde took advantage of the Rally on the Standard Bearer to hang around for a long time, Def 5 and 22/24 Nerve is quite impressive and even the regiments at Def 5 and 15/17 took a bit to shift, especially with the support of the Mastiff Regiments to help them pick their fights and with the Army Standard Bearers new Very Inspiring he was able to provide support to a larger number of units, thus allowing the other Hero’s to go off and do what Hero’s do! The Core of 4 Mastiff Regiments and a Horde and two regiments of Ironclads, all equipped with Throwing Mastiffs, was unaltered in the 2300 and 2000 point lists, as you can see below it was the supporting troops that altered to take into account the change in points between the Tournaments. This also gave me an opportunity to begin to see what would work best within the army while maintain the core of units I had already painted for the force.
However the damage output of the Army as a whole was abysmal, it might have been better if I had even average dice rolls but low rolls coupled with 4+ to hit on the majority of my units resulted in an inability to kill things quickly. Most games devolved into my Dwarfs holding on until I could flank enemy units and then failing to do enough damage. Even with two sources of Banechant the low amount of hits sealed the doom of the Dwarfs. The mitigation of poor dice rolls is something that I will have to look into in the future so I can make the army more competitive even with my appalling luck. Or my Dice may choose 2024 to balance out all the appalling luck from previous years and I will smash face for a season! Wyrd bid ful araed! It may also be down to the fact that the Army isn’t fully painted and is awaiting its full complement of Banners and Ravens to be added to the bases , along with some extra runestones and the plethora of tiny pieces that make up the scenery of their new Northern Hold, whether this boosts their fighting ability to a more acceptable level remains to be seen as they raise their “LandWaster” Raven Banners and prepare to glut the Ravens with a feast of corpses (who’s corpses is debatable, Ravens are happy to eat friend or foe lol )
The Brock Rider regiment with either Brew of Sharpness or Blessing of the Gods were able to dish out a good deal of damage, especially with the Banechant support but reducing to one Regiment resulted in too little Killing ability and they generally got targeted early by my opponents and required some judicious screening by the troops, although it was nice to have them as a hitty option they generally ended up becoming the focus of my opponents efforts for shooting and magic, which, while enabling the rest of the army to advance up, left the surviving units with a lack of killing power as a regiment of Ironclads just doesn’t have the same damage output unless banechanted and their lack of Pathfinder (in a list that relies heavily on organic terrain mitigation) is a big handicap when it comes to them joining the fight. Running a Single Regiment in the smaller point games means you spend a lot of time trying to optimise their positioning in order to stop them from being killed by shooting while trying to maximise their striking power ( hills are really useful for that but it means they end up spending a turn in full view of everybody)The fact that they have organic Pathfinder for free now was a small bonus, I may continue to run them in a regiment and try to utilise cover as this worked well in a couple of games when they burst through woods or difficult ground with no penalty and this made them a bit better at projecting a threat. One of my other options is to exchange the regiment for two troops for flexibility and perhaps give on the Skirmishers Boots to provide a bit of flexibility on the flanks, this is a combo that has served me well in the past and can force an enemy General to rethink plans when the flanks of his battle line are suddenly exposed to a rabid band of Badger riding Dwarfs. As a Troop they would be good at shielding the vulnerable Infantry units and with nerve -/15 they can survive a couple of rounds of shooting or force an enemy to commit more shooting to them than they would normally need to remove chaff units. So future test lists will include two troops of Brock Riders methinks and spend the extra points on the boosting of the combat capabilities of the Infantry units by some means.
Apart from the Infantry and Brock Riders there were some New Kids on the Block for the Free Dwarfs, the first outing of the new Free Dwarf Stoneclaws, flying Large Cavalry for Dwarfs!
As I have only painted up one Regiment and a Champion so far so this is all I have used. As a long time Free Dwarf Player I believe I struggled to find the best role for these new troops in the army synergy. With Height 4 they can lurk behind the Brock Rider Troops for cover but with Def 4+ and only nerve 11/13 for both the Regiment and the Character they can be wavered or shot off the table with only a minimal amount of shooting which makes them very much in need of a delivery system, but what do they do ? They have shooting at Ra 4+, but its only a 12” range and they have no steady aim so they usually need to put themselves into harms way to do any effective shooting (although with blast D3 and piercing 1 with Shattering their shooting can be quite effective against enemy chaff if it can be targeted safely) but they have only 4 shots for the regiment and 3 for the hero so the damage output can be extremely variable.
Combatwise the Stoneclaws have 9 attacks in the regiment, they do hit on 3+ and have Thunderous Charge 2 which, coupled with their organic Pathfinder, can make them very useful for attacking flanks of units in cover and with their Fly and Nimble at move 10” they can get into interesting positions, but only on a battlefield with a lot of cover or against an opponent with little or no shooting, The Champion has 5 attacks and can be a useful piece to take flanks or he can join in a double charge to help a non-pathfinder unit to attack without penalty and as an added bonus he adds Inspiring to the mix as well. This is a Unit that has a good potential but needs to be practised with until I can get the most out of them, I also need to paint up a second Regiment in order to use a Horde on the tabletop in order to gauge their effectiveness and maybe to start including them in the Free Dwarf lists for 2024, they are the Raven Clan of Free Dwarfs after all!
I have also used the Greater Earth Elemental with the Craggoth upgrade in all my Free Dwarf lists since the Northern Free Dwarf Re-Boot occurred, his ability to Scout and the self-inspiring and Fireball(10) are more than worth the extra 25 points you pay to upgrade him. I found him to be a mega useful piece. I could use him to scout up to a terrain piece near to the middle of the table and then to shoot fireballs at chaff units , if the enemy then decided to take him on they usually exposed the flanks of whatever attacked him to my cunningly deployed Brock Riders or Lords on Large Beast and, generally, he survived the first round of combat with his Def 6 and Nerve of -/19 with Self inspiring to help. He has 12 attacks on 4+ with Crushing Strength 3 and Brutal so he is capable of wounding stuff that Free Dwarfs normally struggle with but his 4+ to hit makes him unpredictable (in one of my games he flanked a unit of Immortal Guard and caused ……. 1 wound) but that is also partially down to my poor luck with Dice lol (Note to self – Find out where Tom Robinson buys his dice from) He will be included in my future lists for testing as I try and find an optimal synergy for the Free Dwarfs in their new Home.
The Hero’s I used in playtesting, aside from the Army Standard Bearer I have already discussed, included Sveri Egilax, Banick Kholearm and a Stoneclaw Champion as well as Two Lords on Large Beasts and Wingy Kingy.
Sveri was present in the Larger points games because, weighing in at 210 points, he is a tad pricey, but he does earn his points as he allows the Berserker Keyword to have an extra 1 on their Wild Charge(or grants wild charge 1 if they don’t have it) so Brock Riders have a 17” charge range and Wingy King (and Sveri Himself) get an extra +1 to their reach. Sveri’s Height 4, Nimble and 10 attacks, combined with that 17” charge means if he gets an unhindered charge into a flank or rear of most regiments or large infantry Hordes he will take them off. He is useful for Inspiring Brock Riders and with his height he can hang back and lend support by joining countercharges or double charges against stubborn opponents, but he does need thoughtful placing in order to prevent him from being Hindered as he, rather oddly for an iconic Free Dwarf Hero, has no Pathfinder or Strider and he is only Crushing Strength 1 and Thunderous Charge 1! But over the Years I have come to appreciate just how lucky the Free Dwarfs are that Sveri Egilax is their Leader.
A relative newcomer to the ranks of the Free Dwarfs is Banick Kholearm , a sort of Ranger, Flamepriest and ex-Battledriller Dude that is a lovely little Hero to include in a Free Dwarf Army. He is Inspiring and has Scout and Pathfinder (as a Free Dwarf Should) he has Fireball(10) and his special Forgeblessed rule means it always hits on a 4+ regardless of modifiers. With his 6 attacks on 4+ with Crushing Strength 2 and Brutal he is surprisingly handy in Melee too and he has Banechant 2 to allow him to support a Combat he can’t reach and all this for 135 points! he has become a stalwart of my Army lists and the bane of my opponents for some time now(also he is “technically” on the Battlefield twice as the Craggoth & Kholearm upgrade on the Greater Earth Elemental is supposed to include him and I , indeed, modelled him on Cragggoths base before making a nearly identical model to depict him individually. I may do the same for the new army, we shall see)
The Stoneclaw Champion is a useful flying piece that was originally allied into the army as a Northern Alliance Frostclaw Champion, with his 18” shooting and the Frozen rule he was an annoying addition to the forces. But as a Free Dwarf Stoneclaw Champion with 12” shooting he is better off using his height 4, Fly and Nimble to hunt for flanks or to go Warmachine hunting. He is also a scoring unit and so he can fly into unoccupied zones or grab unattended Objectives at the end of a game, but his low Def of 4 and his Nerve of 11/13 means you have to avoid being shot or attacked by all but the lowliest of foes. I think I need more practise before I can decide on the utility of this Unit.
The Lord on Large Beast recently became, apparently, a must take model in the Free Dwarfs but I never really got to grips with them until now. With Three Models already painted I was in a position to use them from the moment they got buffed, but at speed 7 and with no Pathfinder they were of little use in an all Brock Rider Army and so had little use in the Free Dwarfs of Bowland. Now that the Brock Rider contingent has been reduced and there is a lot more infantry their speed 7 is less of a handicap and their Def 6 and inspiring is more useful, with Crushing Strength(1) and Thunderous Charge(2) they are one of the few things that can reliably damage high Def targets in the Free Dwarfs but their lack of Terrain mitigation is a major speedbump for them and their biggest drawback is the fact they are 15/18 nerve, it’s a good nerve for a Large Cavalry Hero, but they are waiverable which means that your enemy WILL waiver them 8 out of 10 times and , although they are Headstrong( a one in three chance to fail which I fail 90% of the time) they always seem to spend at least 2 or 3 turns sitting in one place, backing up or simply spinning on the spot due to being waivered. If they had Pathfinder but were more expensive I would start to use them more. I used Two in the 2000 point list because the list had been pulled directly off the KoWmasters site and I wanted to try a list that someone has had success with. I did change it a bit to try out new units but the Large Beasts performed as expected , effectively becoming static Inspiring pieces until they were ganged up on and steamrollered.
Wingy Kingy was used at lower points as a replacement for the Stoneclaw Champion and did his usual job of annoying the heck out of my opponents before dying in a spectacular fashion in every game, although he did have an impressive kill tally in two of the games. One day he will get his own article , tracing his History and achievements. But coupled with Sveri it is amazing how that 20”+D3”+1”(21”-24”) Charge range can catch people out !
So what are the Plans for the future? Due to the way I have modelled my Units (including Double Handed Weapons on around half the models) I can use the Units as Northern Alliance Clansmen with or without the FrostHammers option, as Ironclad or as Shieldbreakers. This means I can chop and change the infantry component of the Raven Clan. The next plan is to Keep the Horde of Ironclads but to change the Regiments to ShieldBreakers, by dropping the Regiment of Brock Riders and Sveri the formation, Eyrics Mallets, can be taken which will make most of the Infantry Melee 3+ and Crushing Strength(2), with the Army Standard bearer in support boosting their Nerve this may be better at increasing the damage output of the army whilst mitigating my appalling luck with dice(buying new dice might also help, I must remember to find out where Chris Lynch buys his Dice)
I may also boost the Stoneclaws to a Horde to see if they are more effective as a combat unit at that size and I shall persevere with the Lords on Large Beasts. I am approaching my Christmas Break here in the UK and so I have time set aside for practise Games and with a couple of Masters Level players now at the Club I hope to be able to improve my gaming and fine tune my list for a better season next year to improve on the success of my 2022 season! Keep an eye out for mor progress updates on both the painting and playing of the Raven Clan of the Northern Free Dwarfs!