Sunday, 13 March 2016

KoW Game 14 - Dwarfs - 2016/03/12


It has been much longer since the last battle report than I expected so let me start with sincere apologies for a delay in updating this blog. I hope this post is going to be the first of a regular updates, also at much higher frequency. 

My regular sparring partner, Eastern Barbarian, has acquired recently a very nice collection of some old school, metal Dwarf miniatures and added a few more recent designs to make it complete for his brand new 2000 Dwarf army for Kings of War. Having many different forces to choose from he wanted to give the new one a try. It was also due to the fact that he enrolled for a local tournament and needed some play testing before deciding which army to take in the end. 

It was an excellent choice from my own point of view simply because I haven't had a chance to play against Dwarfs yet and it looked like a classic match too. This is the army I faced:

Dwarfs - Army List

40 Ironclad, Horde, Orcsbain's Amulet of Thorns - 215
- 5 Berserker Brock Riders, Troops - 135
- 5 Sharpshooters, Troops - 100
- Flame Belcher, War Engine - 85
- Greater Earth Elemental, Monster - 160
- King on Large Beast, Hero - 170

10 Berserker Brock Riders, Regiment, Maccwar's Caterpillar - 230
- Flame Belcher, War Engine - 85
- Berserker Lord, Hero, Mounted - 150

10 Berserker Brock Riders, Regiment, Blade of Slashing - 215

20 Rangers, Regiment - 180
- Ranger Captain, Hero - 90

20 Rangers, Regiment - 180

You can read about the evolution of this army list on Mantic forum where EB posted some of his thoughts and there is quite interesting discussion in favor of certain choices by his fellow  Dwarf players:

Here is my own point of view on his units:

40 Ironclad - The anvil of the army, a very characterful unit for Dwarfs for sure. They have high armor, very good nerve and with the addition of the artifact that grants them Phalanx, Ironclad are indeed hard to shift. Perfect for controlling the middle of the battle field and be an axis for any attacks of more more mobile and harder hitting units in the army.

The disadvantage comes from the typical problem of Dwarf warriors - they are slow. I intended to use that to my benefit.

Berserker Brock Riders - The hammer of the army. There are three units of these and each serves a slightly different purpose. Regiments are of course main hard hitters but one of them comes with Pathfinder ability so it is more flexible in the way it can be used. Troop choice is still dangerous but I expected it to be used as a vanguard for the regiments. 

Brock Riders are not as heavily armored but they make up for it with insanely high nerve values for this size of the units. They are very reliable because they cannot be wavered. Even army wide rule of Headstrong is not as good because you may not roll 4+ and you are still disordered. 

They look different than other heavy cavalry because they hit on average 4+ but balance it out with lots of attacks. They have TC(1) only but make up for it with Vicious. I would treat them thus as typical heavy horse and try to limit their options for charging my own units.  

Sharpshooters - Long range support that is dangerous due to 36" range and Piercing (2). Even heavy cavalry has to be careful not to be targeted by Sharpshooters. Fortunately, they also have Reload! rule so there can be blind spots to exploit. It is one of the priorities for me to destroy them early. Such units always can interfere with the movement phase by forcing nerve tests and possibly wavering my units. 

Flame Belchers - A different kind of shooting support. Breath weapons are very good additions to any army and I found out that Dwarf armies are fond of these. I faced them when playing against Abyssal Dwarfs and here Flame Belchers seem to fulfill similar duty. Prevent fliers or fast troops from moving behind the Anvil and assist the battle line in the frontal assault. 

I expect them to stay close to Ironclad but probably moving just behind the horde to benefit from cover and not be exposed so that some fast individuals could charge them. 

If presented with opportunity I would try to destroy them early in the game but if not I was also prepared to avoid them so that they have fewer opportunities to shoot at my units.

Greater Earth Elemental - quite fitting addition to any Dwarf army. While slow it is perfect to assist Ironclad. First, due to its smaller footprint it is easier for it to add its attacks, either from the front or, if possible, from the flank. Very tough and impossible to waver it is yet another reliable element of the army. 

It will be a very tough nut to crack so I hope CS, TC and Bane Chant present in the army will prove useful in breaking the elemental to pieces. But it would also require a dedicated attack to be mounted against it.

King on Large Beast - since other characters provide Inspire only to their chosen types of units, King is the army general that is expected to lead the majority of the units. As tough as Greater Elemental, he is also capable of adding some significantly strong attacks and as such he and Elemental prove to be a perfect addition for Ironclad + Flame Belchers team. 

Berserker Lord - His role is to assist Brock Riders. While they have a very high nerve during the course of battle accumulated damage may rout even Berserkers so with him nearby the chances for the Riders to keep fighting are significantly increased. His own attacks can also be very handy but I also expect him to play a role of a disruptor, either against shooters or enemy heavy cavalry. He can charge on his own through narrow gaps and strip enemies from their advantages. Either by preventing them from shooting or taking away Thunderous Charge. 

20 Rangers - two regiments of very flexible troops are great for this army. When I read what they can do I immediately felt jealous :) Slightly less armor than regular Dwarf warriors they are still well protected. Range 4+ means they can still hit reliably at a distance and Melee 4+ with CS(1) makes them good hand to hand combat units too. On top of that they have Pathfinder ability and with Vanguard move they can be easily put in defensive terrain to start harassing the enemy turn 1. 

They can also connect slower Anvil with faster Hammer and fit in the gaps in the battle line whenever needed.

Ranger Captain - Looks like a must for 2 regiments of Rangers than can be a bit exposed or close to the enemy. Even with some good protection from the terrain they might get damaged so a source of inspire to prevent unlucky nerve rolls is always needed. At the same time they can operate as a vanguard for the rest of the army with much more flexibility too. 

I really like this army and EB already explained he envisioned it working in 4 major groups. Anvil, with Ironclad, Flame Belchers, Greater Elemental and the King would probably occupy the center no matter what scenario is. Brock Riders with their Lord as a Hammer. Rangers with the Captain as shooting support and flexible troops being able to provide assistance either in melee or at range, depending on the circumstances. And two small troops of Sharpshooters and Riders as further support.

As always I wanted to play to my strengths and one of these is speed. The trick was to be able to charge enemies with more than one unit because Dwarf units would probably not go down to a single charge. 

I also think I had an advantage in ranged attacks due to either loner range (Bolt Throwers) or more maneuverable shooters (Silver Breeze). 

Without a scenario to adapt to I would say I can play patient game, using ranged attacks to soften or even kill some enemy units, keep safe distance and do not rush into combat. Simply because some of the Dwarf units are very slow and I didn't expect EB to willingly break his battle line.

With a few more units at my disposal I also felt I could go for a few exchanges if that allowed me to position better. However, we rolled Loot for the scenario and I had to make a few changes to the plan :)

As usual, my own army for reference:

Outcasts - Army List

10 Stormwind, Regiment, Potion of the Caterpillar (Pathfinder) - 235
- 5 Silverbreeze, Troop - 145
- 5 Silverbreeze, Troop - 145
- Drakon Rider Lord, Hero, Large Cavalry - 160

3 Drakon Riders, Regiment, Dwarven Ale (Headstrong) - 185
- 5 Stormwind, Troops - 140
- Bolt Thrower, War Machine - 90

20 Palace Guard, Regiment - 150
- 10 Archers, Troop - 115

- 10 Palace Guard, Troop - 105
- Bolt Thrower, War Machine - 90

20 Spearelves, Regiment - 140
- Elven Mage, Hero, Inspiring Talisman, Bane Chant - 110

20 Spearelves, Regiment - 140
- Battle Standard Bearer, Hero - 50 


Terrain details
The assessment of the terrain and its possible impact of the game is obviously very important. The way I try to look at the table is to divide it into three natural areas, 2 deployment zones and middle ground.

The reason is that by looking at deployment zones I can try to predict where and how my enemy will start the battle, how I want to form my own army and if there are any preferences in choosing the sides if I won the roll off to do so. At the same time middle ground is very important for the rest of the game because it affects the way the armies are going to move.

I came to the conclusion that the deployment zones didn't provide and significant difference between each other so I was happy with any side I would get. As it happened I won the roll off and took South.

Now I had to focus on how to use the setting to my advantage. Middle ground was opened through the very center. Whatever forces wanted to go through would benefit from protected flanks on the West due to the Lake and on the East due to the Hill and the Forest. However, that protection was not total. The lake would block the advance of the enemy but did nothing to prevent shooting. The hill and the forest provided nice defense from shooting but enemy units would advance through it and take an advantage from a well defended position too.

In addition we were going to play Loot scenario meaning one counter would be placed in the center and the other two could be placed either on one flank or be positioned more or less symmetrical.

Based on that I decided to form a center with infantry, position majority of the shooters on the left flank and hard hitters on the right. If EB mirrored my deployment then I wanted to use units superiority to win melees against his assault specialists while keep shooting from the opposite flank. If he positioned his cavalry facing my shooters, then I wanted to inflict as much damage as possible before he gets them and roll the opposite flank with my own fast and hard hitting elements.


Deployment order

Deployment Order:

1. Archers - Rangers (R1)
2. Bolt Thrower (BT1) - Rangers (R2)
3. Bolt Thrower (BT2) - Captain
4. Spears (S1) - Sharpshooters
5. Palace Guard (PG1) - Brock Riders (BR3)
6. Silver Breeze (SB1) - Flame Belcher (FB1)
7. Army Standard - Ironclad
8. Silver Breeze (SB2) - Flame Belcher (FB2)
9. Spears (S2) - Greater Earth Elemental
10. Palace Guard (PG2) - King 
11. Mage - Brock Riders (BR1)
12. Storm Wind (SW2) - Berserker Lord
13. Storm Wind (SW1) - Brock Riders (BR2) 
14. Drakon Lord + Drakon Riders

EB's army has 13 elements so it is hard to out deploy him. However, I expected Ironlcad group to occupy the center. In the end EB decided to position his heavy cavalry on extreme flank, benefiting from the cover of the forest and the hill. He also positioned his Rangers to take advantage of the defended position in the middle ground of the battle field. 

I didn't expect small unit of Riders on the opposite flank but as I had my fast cavalry there I was happy to shoot at the approaching enemy. If successful I would then grab the Loot on that side and use the ranged support to combat units in the middle of the battle field.

The challenge for me was to position my cavalry and fliers so that they could engage and defeat their counterparts without being harassed too long by Rangers. The center would need to hold for some time in order to receive support from either flank. I expected some bloody exchanges as I could not afford to wait too long before committing to the melee. If EB got hold of the Loot in the middle and on the right flank then it would have been difficult to take it back.

Final deployment
Dwarfs - Turn 1

Dwarfs advance steadily
Dwarfs advanced steadily, keeping tight formation. Ironclad led the way for the center group of the army, Rangers jumped into the forest and started harassing Elven heavy cavalry, while Brock Riders moved forward but stayed a bit further not to get into range of faster enemy units.

On the opposite flank Sharpshooters begun shooting duel with Elven war machines while small unit of Brock Riders advanced toward enemy light cavalry. However, they hesitated and didn't move full speed, was that a mistake?

Outcasts - Turn 1

Elves advance too
 Elves mirrored the behavior of their enemy and advanced their battle line too. They stayed out of range of the Flame Belchers, however, as there was no need to get to close yet and risk heavy damage. Storm Wind troops got healed and the right flank kept some pressure on the enemy by getting into charge range but staying out of potential attack distance of the Dwarven units.

On the opposite flank Elven war machines returned the favor to Sharpshooters and inflicted similar amount of damage. Fast cavalry was far more successful and Brock Riders realized their hesitation might have been a grievous mistake.  

Dwarfs - Turn 2

Dwarfs slowed down
Dwarfs didn't want to be hasty and didn't rush towards Elven lines. They too maintained the distance that looked safe. It's like in a duel of the two swordsmen where the one who committed first might be the one to lose the fight.

Sharpshooters aimed at the Bolt Thrower but this time they missed. And lone unit of Brock Riders sped towards the Elven fast cavalry and hoped to wither down another incoming volley of arrows. 

Outcasts - Turn 2

Elven attacks on both flanks.
Elves decided to attack first. On the Western flank the shooters manged to rout both the Riders and the Sharpshooters. It was great success that would allow Silver Breeze to secure the Loot on that flank and start harassing Dwarven center.

Heavy cavalry on the Eastern flank hit hard. Both Stormwind units charged against single Brock Riders unit and even such stubborn warriors as Dwarven Berserkers could not withstand the attack. Drakon Lord distracted nearby rangers so that they would not be able to flank charge Elven cavalry in return.

In the meantime, Elven infantry in the center stepped back. This maneuver allowed them to avoid being shot at by Dwarven war engines and created a dilemma for the Dwarven King. To press forward in the middle of the battle field but risk being outflanked by Drakon Riders or to shift to the Eastern flank but leave Elven infantry unchecked. 

Dwarfs - Turn 3

Dwarfs counter attack

With one flank gone Dwarfs were determined to put up a proper fight in the center and on the other side of the battle field and secure the Loot located there. Ironclad moved forward to claim the middle piece and were followed by the rest of their task force.

Both units of Rangers maintained their defensive position but while one shot at Elven Spears the other engaged Drakon Lord and with the help of their Captain, they managed to waver Elven hero!

Brock Riders also looked for a chance to avenge their companions. More mobile Berserker Lord could not have been blocked and he attacked Stormwind regiment all by himself. The unit of his fellow warriors didn't do that well though and instead of utterly destroying troops of already damaged Elven cavalry they merely wavered them! (Edit: While I usually "blame" the dice as a last reason for lack of success, if at all, this time EB rolled way below the average.)  

Outcasts - Turn 3

Elves shift their main attack direction to the center.

Elves decided to press forward despite the resistance from Dwarven army. This time, however, the main axis of attack was going through the middle of the battle field. One regiment of Spears attacked Greater Earth Elemental to keep it occupied and three other infantry units attacked together against Ironclad. With the support of Elven Mage and his powerful Bane Chant, Elves inflicted a significant damage upon Dwarven Anvil. Ironclad held but it was clear that if Elves could mount a similar attack again then Dwarven warriors would be in trouble.

Fast units on the East had to adapt to changing situation. Instead of attacking second Brock Riders as it was initially planned, Drakon Riders spotted an opening and attacked one of the Rangers unit from the flank. The attack was swift and powerful and even stubborn Dwarves could not hold against it.

However, in doing so, Drakon Riders blocked their own cavalry from counter charging Berserker Lord.   

Dwarfs - Turn 4

Dwarfs don't give up!
Dwarfs, according to their nature, refused to give up. Flame Belcher shook off wavering effect of enemy fire and while still disordered, moved to a new position. Greater Earth Elemental unleashed its wrath at Elven Spears and that regiment barely held. Ironclad directed their attacks against second regiment of Spears but they didn't rout either. Finally, second Flame Belcher fired at Palace Guard and despite much lower damage than expected it still wavered enemy troop.

Brock Riders and their Lord kept attacking Elven heavy cavalry and this time Stormwind troops were finally routed. 

Outcasts - Turn 4

Elven units start winning the war of attrition.

Elven infantry was determined to keep their positions and to push forward despite taking damage in the process. Despite one unit of Palace Guard not being able to attack, the combined effort of two Elven regiments was enough to rout mighty Ironclad. Elves were breaking through the center but now they had to face the counter attack of Flame Belchers. Or maybe not?

Elven shooters aided their combat units and managed to waver one of the Dwarven war engines again. At the same time heavy cavalry and Drakons kept Brock Riders busy in order to prevent them from either catching the Loot or aiding the units in the middle  of their formation.

But in doing so Elven knights exposed their rear to the enemy lurking in the forest. Perhaps it was Elven arrogance that told the Knights they can still defeat Dwarven Berserker Lord or maybe it was a huge miscalculation by Drakon Lord who could have done some rear guard action.

In any case Elven Stormwind cavalry was now in a very dangerous situation. 

Dwarfs - Turn 5

The bitter end of Elven knights

Elven Knights paid the ultimate price for their arrogance and were routed by Rangers and Berserker Lord. Nearby Brock Riders didn't hit particularly hard due to being disordered by the previous attack of Elven Drakons but still managed to waver their enemies. It looked like the tide is turning on that flank.

With Ironclad gone the King and the Elemental teamed up against wounded Spears but somehow they miraculously held their ground just a little bit longer. Flame belchers still could not use their full power and yet again the effects of shooting were far below expectations. 

Outcasts - Turn 5

Elves still bite!

Despite some heavy losses Elves still had enough resources to fight back. The shooters finally got rid of one of the Flame Belchers, while the second one was destroyed by Spears.

Brave Rangers faced similar end as the cavalry they have just routed when combined charge of Palace Guard from the front and Drakon Lord from the rear gave them no chance to hold at all.

Finally, Palace Guard engaged Dwarven King, taking advantage of his exposed flank but it was not enough to rout him just yet. 

Dwarfs - Turn 6

Dwarfs fight desperately to take control over the Loot

The King and the Elemental finally get rid of the Elven Spears and direct their attention to Palace Guard holding one of the loots. Brock Riders destroy Drakons that held them back. But Elves still have enough units to throw them in front of Berserkers to stop them from joining the fight.

Berserker Lord and Ranger Captain fight together to rout troop of Palace Guard  but it seems Elven Spears would be first to grab the third and last piece of loot anyway.  

Outcasts - Turn 6

Elves in possession of all the treasure!

Elven shooters all aimed at Greater Earth Elemental but it was extremely hard  to do any damage to it. Place Guard fought against the King but they also had problems in finding any cracks in his armor.

Spears got healed by the Mage a little and run towards the last piece of treasure while Drakon Lord sacrificed himself to block Brock Riders a little bit longer. 

Dwarfs - Turn 7

Last chance for Dwarfs to reclaim the treasure

Dwarfs didn't have a chance to win that battle anymore but they still could turn it into unresolved one. First, the King and the Elemental had to rout Palace Guard and reclaim the treasure carried by them. Then Berserker Lord and Ranger Captain had to rout Spears so that this piece of loot would be lost to both forces.

Unfortunately, both Elven units held and even the success of Brock Riders who killed Elven Drakon Lord was not enough to change the result of this battle.   

Outcasts - Turn 7

Last word belonged to Elves

With the loot secured it was now simply a matter of parting shots. Dwarven King was a target for Elven arrows but he managed to survive the barrage. Greater Elemental was also seriously wounded by Palace Guard (aided by the mage) and only inspiring presence of the King prevented it from collapsing.

With that final act, the survivors disengaged and Elves left the battle field victorious.  

Final positions of the surviving units.


Turn by turn summary animation.

After-battle thoughts

First of all I would like to thank Eastern Barbarian for a great game (as usual!). I really admire his ability to play with such a variety of armies. I am sure in the longer term it will benefit him as a player as it will allow him to understand his enemies much better.
I really like his army too and I want to highlight that despite the fact I collected all the loot the result could have been different. Sometimes it is easy to look at the final score and think the game was one sided. I definitely didn't have such experience this time.
I believe I mentioned it a few times but I found that my opponents often approach my army a little bit too shy. It was the case here as well, where EB lost two units of Brock Riders because one of them didn't move fast enough towards the fast cavalry and was shot to pieces and the other one was exposed to a combined charge of heavy cavalry.
But I didn't use the initial advantage on the East well and I am happy I still managed to delay the Dwarven units over there for long enough. I think it was a good decision to charge with Drakon Riders against Rangers. This situation showed it is very difficult to avoid fliers sometimes and while EB is much more careful now he still needs to double and triple check the angles.
I do think, however, I could still attack his Berserker Lord by pivoting my heavy cavalry. At a time we spent a little checking if Drakon Riders can fit so that when it looked as if Stormwind is blocked we didn't check the pivot option. 
But the biggest mistake was to expose the rear of Stormwind cavalry and arrogantly assume they can rout Berserker Lord without the bonus from Thunderous Charge. I should have kept my Drakon Lord there as a rear guard and keep second unit of Rangers from attacking my heavy cavalry from the most undesirable direction. 
I mentioned the abysmal rolls by EB before and this game they actually changed things too. Flame Belchers under performed for sure. Brock Riders didn't do far better at least twice. I really hope such situations are not going to occur again because I don't want to win because my opponent had bad luck with dice! :)
It is hard to avoid enemy shooters so EB did well hiding his war engines but I wonder if it was not a good idea to shift hig King to the left so that even fast cavalry could not obtain a clear line of sight to his war engines. 
I am sure there is plenty more to learn from this game for both of us so I am really looking forward to comments and feedback.
I hope you enjoyed the report, especially after long break.
Thanks for reading!  


  1. Great report. Glad you're back! Wargames blog browsing has just got a bit better again.

    1. Thanks Jonah! Sorry for the break that took longer than expected. I will do my best to play regularly so that the blog is updated more often.