Sunday 16 February 2014

Warhammer Dwarfs: 8th Edition Review

I've never bothered to really review an army book before, but I thought I might do so here, since I've already been asked a few things about it.

I think it’s fair to say that this book has been eagerly anticipated by most players. Dwarf players are sick of using the same book since the end of 6th edition, and many of them (and their opponents) are well and truly tired of the lack of variety in the list and the extremely static play style that it basically demanded. However, I was worried whether they would be able to tread the fine line of maintaining the fundamental character of the race, and adding some more playability to the list. Did they manage it?

Overall changes
Dwarfs as a whole have retained their Relentless special rule, allowing them to ignore attempted march-blocking. However, they have gained a number of new rules.

Resolute basically means that Dwarfs are all +1 Strength on the charge. This is obviously significant, and means bog-standard Dwarfs with hand weapons are considerably more dangerous if they can somehow get the jump on their longer-legged enemies.

Shieldwall is the flip-side of Resolute, and means that Dwarfs with shields who are being charged get +1 to their Parry saves. Again, this is good news for your regular Dwarf Warrior, but between this and Resolute, players might actually consider giving their Longbeards shields instead of just piling on the great weapons.

Dwarf-Crafted basically means that missile troops in the army don’t suffer a penalty to hit when performing a Stand and Shoot charge reaction.

Finally there is Ancestral Grudge - a slightly silly rule that continues GW's recent insistence upon adding randomness to the game. It’s a D3 roll at the start of the game, with results that can have your general hating the enemy general, or all your characters hating all of theirs, or even your entire army hating their entire army. So no biggy, right? Hardly any potential impact there… Oh, and Dwarfs all now hate Skaven as well as Orcs and Goblins by default. Their grumpiness is ever-growing.

Tweaks galore
There are army-wide special rules that impact just about everything, but nearly every unit has been tweaked in some way or another. Here is a brief run-down.

Lords are much the same, although Shieldbearers (somewhat ridiculously) grant an additional 2 Wounds as well as the save bonus. Thanes are now Leadership 10, so make viable generals if all you’re looking for is the leadership bubble.

Runesmiths now channel like wizards, although the Anvil of Doom grants an automatic dice in both players’ turns. Runesmiths and Runelords give the unit they are in the Armour Piercing special rule, which is quite handy. The Anvil itself now casts innate bound spells, with the ability to 1) make all friendly units within 24” Immune to Psychology for a full turn, 2) grant a single target anywhere on the field +1 armour save for a turn, or 3) hit an enemy unit within 24” for 2D6 Strength 4 hits. This is all cute, but nowhere near as potent as it used to be.

Core troops didn’t change all that much. The missile troops come with heavy armour, so if you buy them shields they could take some serious effort to shift in combat. Longbeards are now just a regular choice, rather than requiring you to field Warriors to offset them.

The elite units have been slightly better differentiated, with Ironbreakers being Ld 10 and always Parrying on a 5+. Hammerers now have 2 Attacks, and every model in the unit can accept challenges when the general is in the unit.

Slayers no longer actually increase their Strength against tough opponents, although they will always wound on at least a 4+ (their armour penetration just never changes). They have gained the Deathblow rule, allowing dying Slayers to take a single swing at something in contact (which could see them attack twice in a turn). This (combined with the potential lack of punch against armour) should ensure the Slayer Axes are used as great weapons on a regular basis. After all, charging Slayers using great weapons will be Strength 6, regardless of whether they’re dying before they get to attack. Dragon Slayers do D3 wounds against Monsters, and Daemon Slayers also force enemies to reroll ward saves. They certainly have a lot more in their kit than they did in the previous book.

Gyrocopters are now a Special choice, and you can field up to 6 of them in a normal-sized army. Given they now cost 80 points (instead of 140), this is a whole lot more feasible than it might have been before. They haven’t changed a whole lot, although they can now do bombing runs for an artillery dice number of Strength 3 hits in turns when they march (and thus cannot charge). Up to half of them can pay to get Vanguard, but this is adding cost to a potential throw-away unit, and would only be worth it if you want to use the steam gun in the first turn. At the price they are, the Gyrocopters are basically just a tougher, more versatile version of the High Elf Great Eagle - destined to be thrown in to divert charges and generally cause mischief in order to give the rest of the army an edge the following turn.

Most war machines are not drastically changed, although Flame Cannons can now add up to 12” to their range, making them far more useful. Organ Guns fire shots equal to 2 artillery dice, but must now roll to hit. This will come as a relief to many, but of course it can make use of a Master Engineer’s services, and all war machines can now use Artillery Runes (one of which adds +1 to hit)...

Rangers have fallen all the way from Core to Rare choice, and there is now no such thing as a Longbeard Ranger. You can get 2 units of them, but they will be fighting for Rare points with a couple of new arrivals.

New additions

So we were all expecting to see Steam Golems, Bear Cavalry and over-sized Deathrollers arriving to give the Dwarfs their share in the monstrous glory that has been 8th edition new units. Instead, we find 2 new units in the army, neither of which are dramatic departures from existing unit types.
Irondrakes! They look a little static here, I must say...
First we have Irondrakes, who are the alternative build for the Ironbreaker plastic kit. They’re basically Ironbreakers without shields, and with nasty “Drakegun” weapons instead. They’re 18” range, Flaming, Strength 5 weapons with Armour Piercing, Quick to Fire and Dwarf-Crafted. This is on a model with elite stats, 4+ armour, a 6+ ward save and a 2+ ward against Flaming Attacks. So their weakness is… ummm… fighting things that are far more than 18” away, I guess. Bit of an all-round choice.
This is a Gyrobomber. Not to everyone's taste, apparently.

The other new addition is the Gyrobomber. It’s a “heavy” Gyrocopter, although its profile is no different. Whilst the normal Gyrocopter has a token bombing run attack, the Gyrobomber packs a slightly more nasty bomb. It lands with a Strength 3, Armour Piercing large blast marker, and on a 4+ can then bounce and land again with a small blast marker. These shots can scatter, but a couple of hits on the right target could see some pretty serious devastation. The bomber is 45 more points than the normal Gyrocopter, so it will remain to be seen whether players feel it’s worth the extra investment.

The Dwarf characters didn't change all that much in the new book, but really it’s the runes that make them what they are anyway. The system for runes is not dramatically changed, however it has been revamped a little. Very few runes can simply be repeated 2 or 3 times for double or triple the normal effect. Nowadays they specify the effect for a single copy of the rune, then what additional effects you get for a second copy of the rune, and then again what will happen if you add a third copy. With the varying stacked effects, the costs of the second and third rune can shoot through the roof as well.

This might be a bit hard to understand from my description, so I’ll give you an example. The Rune of Fire can be stamped on a weapon for 10 points, and grants the wielder Flaming Attacks. Simple enough. If you stamp 2 Runes of Fire on the same weapon however, you need to pay 50 points. For that you get the Flaming Attacks, and you also get a Strength 4 breath weapon. If you’re feeling rich, you can shell out 125 points for 3 Runes of Fire. This gives you the Flaming Attacks and the breath weapon, and the breath weapon gets Multiple Wounds (D3).

There are many runes that have these varied stacked abilities, which should give Dwarf players a fair bit to play with when trying to plan out their characters. Obviously there are too many for me to go through here, however it’s worth noting that Strollaz’ Rune is now just a 35 point banner rune that gives the unit Vanguard. A bonus 12” advance is massive for units with a basic movement value of 3”, and it could well be the key for players looking to play aggressively, especially in conjunction with Rangers, Miners and Gyrocopters.

So what do I think of the new Dwarf book overall? I am fairly happy with it. I think they have done a surprisingly good job of maintaining the existing character of the army, whilst adding some variety and tools to trying some different approaches to making lists. Pretty much everything feels like it can justify its inclusion in a list, and I have not yet seen anything too glaring about unit prices, beyond what seems to be the excessive cheapness of Gyrocopters.

A lot of people love to hate Dwarfs, so I guess one of the question is: does this new book address the normal complaints about the army? Well one thing is for certain - Dwarf players will have far more trouble shutting down enemy magic phases than they did in the past. An army with an Anvil of Doom and a Master Rune of Balance could pretty much laugh off 80% of enemy magic phases. This is no longer the case, and Dwarf players will have to come to terms with the idea of people casting spells at them.

Your other normal complaint is the Dwarf gun line. There is no doubt that the Dwarfs can still do this, however the real question will be whether this will remain the dominant play style. There are tools there that encourage allow a more aggressive approach from the Dwarf player, when frankly there was not much on offer before. It was never realistic to expect the new book to make Dwarf gun lines impossible, so this new situation is probably about the best that could be hoped for.


  1. Nice review, sounds like dwarf players got the book they have been waiting for

    1. I thought the same. This army book sounds interresting and more powerful then the old codex. However it is not. The changes of the army special rules, weappon rules and the Avil of Doom are fatal. They made the whole dwarf army weak and unpowerful against every kind of opponent even against Skaven armies which were easily destroyed by any combination of dwarf armies.

  2. Apologies for the formatting. I wrote the thing in Google Docs, and it's now such a mess of HTML that I can't be bothered fixing it.

  3. Really this book is very balanced apart from 2 things
    1) The organ gun
    2) Have 6 Gyrocopters

    If they had put the organ gun as you roll 2 arty dice and pick the highest and then roll to hit & Kept the number of gyrocopters as 3 then it would balance this whole book out

    1. I agree on the Gyrocopters. Not so sure about the Organ Gun. People would not have paid the points for something that is only going to average maybe 3 hits a turn. It sounds scary when piled with runes and a Master Engineer, but then it will cost plenty. It's not that dissimilar to an Empire Volley Gun with its ability to add an Engineer. I have more of an issue with it having a 30" range. I think 24" was more palatable. 30" is a commanding field of fire.

    2. The double artillery dice for number of hits is balanced out by the need to roll to hit, the use of the standard mis-fire chart vs. the old dwarf specific one, and BS3. Basically without a Master Enginner your hitting on 5's at long-range and 4's at short-range plus any modifiers for cover.

      6 Gyrocopters sounds like fun but I can't imagine many competitive builds taking that many.

  4. Nice write up - I'm very happy with the new book. Yes some favourite runes have gone e.g. Ro resistance & brotherhood and the AoD is well rubbish but the overall balance is great. You have the ability to craft a combat focused army, a balanced one, or a very strong gun line but with this being less favourable to getting stuck straight in.

  5. i have to say just found your web page and love it at last some one who looks at the game with a balanced eye, keep it up i also like the wood elf review