2 Oct 2014

Dwarfs - Unit Overview - Rare

Hello there everyone, my name is Learn2Eel and welcome to my newest set of Unit Overview articles focused on the "stunties" - the mighty Dwarfs from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. While much of the background Games Workshop employs is heavily inspired by sources such as Tolkien, their own version of Dwarfs has proven most successful by carving out their own identity and distinct traits. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran when it comes to all things small and bearded, I hope you find this a useful series and hope you enjoy it!


Organ Gun - While countless warriors have fallen beneath the destructive fusillade of a Helblaster Volley Gun, Empire players can only look on in envy at the Dwarf Organ Gun. The crew are more durable than your average human war machine crew with Toughness 4, while they are also unlikely to flee their station due to Leadership 9 with Stubborn - all standard traits of a Dwarf war machine. Of course, Ballistic Skill 3 isn't that great for a unit that actually needs to roll to hit unlike most other war machines in the army barring Bolt Throwers, so what exactly does an Organ Gun bring to the table to justify eating up those valuable Rare points? First of all, it has an impressive 30" range which gives it a 15" short range - staying out of the average charge range of the majority of Movement 6 and lower units while not suffering that annoying -1 penalty to hit at long range. Secondly, the gun itself fires two artillery dice' worth of Strength 5 Armour Piercing shots, mowing down everything from heavy cavalry to monsters with medium survivability - Toughness 5 with 4+ armour saves, or Toughness 6 with 5+ saves and so on. Unlike a Helblaster Volley Gun, rolling a misfire on one of the dice doesn't halve the other (one for the Organ Gun or two in the Helblaster's case) artillery dice result for determining the total number of shots, but merely imposes a -1 to hit penalty on all further shots made by the Organ Gun. Rolling two misfires on both artillery dice will lead to rolling on the Black Power misfire chart, but the odds of this occurring are unlikely - especially if you attach a Master Engineer. The Organ Gun is surprisingly accurate given its rate of fire and mediocre Ballistic Skill seeing as it never suffers a to hit penalty for firing more than one shot as it does not use the multiple shots special rule.

By itself, an Organ Gun is a fairly decent but not highly impressive addition to a Dwarf army list, but once you add in the various Engineering Runes and an attached Master Engineer it quickly becomes an all-star even in an army featuring powerful Dwarf Cannons. While any number of the runes could be useful in a particular army list, generally the best ones tend to be the Rune of Accuracy and the Rune of Penetrating in my experience - the former for the greatly increased chances to hit it offers, and the latter for forcing even 1+ armoured foes to use a greatly reduced 5+ armour save instead. While the full build will be expensive, adding a Master Engineer to an Organ Gun with both of those runes will turn it into a literal hail-storm of shrapnel and death. If you are strapped for points or just want to fit some amazing Irondrakes or Rangers in, I recommend keeping only the Rune of Accuracy and probably the Master Engineer. The Organ Gun already hits hard enough to make 2+ armoured cavalry (the most common) save on a 5+ and usually wound on a 2+ or 3+, so making sure it actually hits is your best bet. Re-rolling one artillery dice with the Master Engineer ensures the Organ Gun won't misfire and is far less likely to suffer a -1 to hit penalty, while Ballistic Skill 4 with a +1 to hit bonus makes for an effective Ballistic Skill 5 war machine firing anywhere from a handful to a dozen Strength 5 Armour Piercing shots. Hitting on 3s at long range before any other applicable modifiers like cover are accounted for is amazing and ensures you can bring the pain to even the most heavily armoured foes from turn one onwards. While kitting out an Organ Gun is expensive, it is also arguably the most powerful overall war machine if you invest decently into it because it can mow down almost anything short of high Toughness monsters - just be sure to give it a Rune of Accuracy at the very least!
Competitive? Yes.

Flame Cannon - While one could argue the preferred targets of a Flame Cannon differ to those of an Organ Gun, that the pair are priced identically and share both the same unit type and slot ensures they will always be in direct competition against one another. If you compare the two thus, the Flame Cannon generally ends up being the less desirable choice because Dwarfs should rely on their war machines to deal with both heavily armoured units and monsters. Your basic infantry with great weapons can deal with both medium and light infantry in close combat, while Grudge Throwers smash tightly packed formations to pieces at long ranges. The Flame Cannon has a vastly inferior range to both a Grudge Thrower and an Organ Gun because it uses the rules for a fire thrower, while it lacks the Armour Piercing or raw number of potential hits an Organ Gun can dish out. However, let us look at the advantages a Flame Cannon has, and also keep in mind that it shares the Toughness 4 crew that are Leadership 9 and Stubborn. The main draw of the Flame Cannon is that it is both flaming - obviously - and has the Multiple Wounds (D3) special rule, while the way regiments rank up in Warhammer Fantasy means it can get a colossal number of hits against five wide and five or more deep infantry formations. If you want to strip Regeneration from a unit such as Crypt Horrors without wasting a cannonball on them, a Flame Cannon is a great choice so that your other ranged attacks can put them down with greater ease.

Additionally, Flame Cannons are rather brutal against Ogres and the aforementioned Crypt Horrors with that Multiple Wounds (D3) special rule, wounding them on 3s, ignoring all of their saves and inflicting scores of unsaved wounds. A Flame Cannon can also fire a super-charged shot where the initial placement of the shot does not come from the weapon's barrel but instead from a point the Flame Cannon has line of sight to and that is also within 12". This does help to solve the range issue mostly when you consider that a flame template is 8" long, but it does come with some inherent risk - not only are regular misfires still possible for a Flame Cannon, but one that does so when firing a super-charged shot suffers an additional -1 penalty to the roll on the misfire chart. Still, I feel that the Flame Cannon just doesn't quite bring the general usefulness of an Organ Gun nor deal with the targets Dwarf war machines are typically taken for nearly as well as some of the other choices on offer. It is definitely a good unit in its own right and only really needs a Rune of Forging to re-roll misfires and operate at full functionality, but I still worry that its uses against cavalry-heavy army lists will be limited, while infantry will take a good long while to get within its effective range. Still, one cannot deny the terror caused by a Strength 5 flaming template that will absolutely annihilate lightly armoured monstrous units and medium infantry alike. The main issue I have is that the Dwarf Rare slots are pretty well contested with the ever useful Organ Guns, Rangers and Irondrakes in particular that there will likely be little space available for a Flame Cannon.
Competitive? Yes.

Rangers - If you have ever wanted a "jack-of-all-trades" Dwarf unit that is also ridiculously points-efficient compared to other infantry regiments in the book, Rangers are the perfect fit for you. For starters, Rangers are priced identically to Quarrelers - the crossbow-bearing Core choice - armed with great weapons and, amusingly, are also equipped with both crossbows and great weapons. They share the same basic profile with the pitiful Movement 3 and Initiative 2, average Weapon Skill 4 and Ballistic Skill 3, the army-wide Toughness 4 and Leadership 9, all in addition to the limiting Strength 3 with 1 Attack per model. They share the Ancestral Grudge, Relentless and Resolute special rules as you would expect, but the similarities end there and thus everything else about Rangers can be considered an "extra" over the already fairly priced Quarrelers. First up, Rangers have the Scouts special rule which means that they are one of the few Dwarf infantry units that can safely guarantee it will reach close combat on the grounds that low army-wide Movement are the reasons such units don't make it into a melee in the first place. While their basic 5+ armour save and Toughness 4 are decent in terms of survivability - especially for a unit of Scouts - Rangers can also purchase shields for a pittance, giving them a total 4+ armour save against shooting attacks.

This is a unit that deploys almost anywhere it wants to provided they are 12" away from enemy units, and are placed after all other units are deployed. Not only does this mean you can place them wherever you feel they are most likely to survive or do the most damage, but you can also ensure that both their crossbows and great weapons will each get adequate usage. Shooting or charging opposing war machines and chaff units is not out of the question even with that super low Movement 3 because you can set up essentially wherever you want to, while a large enough regiment of Rangers can hold its own against Core infantry units and even lighter cavalry from other armies due to dishing out Strength 5 Always Strikes Last attacks. Firing in short range with their Strength 4 Armour Piercing crossbows on top of their powerful melee attacks makes for a unit that can do a lot of damage in a pinch, while getting them out of the way is far more difficult than most other units of their type - Rangers are not a simple nuisance to be flicked away in anger. Even if an opponent denies your crossbows firing in a stand and shoot reaction, Rangers come prepared with throwing axes for super close ranged shooting and defensive ranged attacks. Their good stats in both defence and melee make them a bit of a rock in close combat unless you send a proper combat unit against them, while they can shoot you to death and get behind your lines with ease. Rangers are a great unit overall that compares fantastically well to other infantry in the Dwarf army book, using both versatility and that super valuable Scout deployment to fulfill almost any desire you could possibly have.
Competitive? Yes.

Irondrakes - As one of only two entirely new units added to the Dwarf army book and a competitor with the infamous Organ Gun and Rangers alike, it would be understandable for Irondrakes to be having a rather tough birthing process. Amazingly, however, this couldn't be further from the truth as this elite infantry unit is one of the deadliest ranged regiments in the game for its cost. At first glance, the basic profile is both impressive and identical to the similarly styled Ironbreakers who Irondrakes share a plastic dual-kit with. The unit is decent in close combat unlike most ranged squads with Weapon Skill 5 and a single Strength 4 attack per model, though of course they still have that predictably terrible Initiative 2. They are also impressively survivable with Toughness 4 and a 4+ armour save, while their unique forge-proven gromril armour provides them with a 6+ ward save that increases to a 2+ ward save against flaming attacks - the K'daii have nothing on Irondrakes! While Movement 3 means you can't really use them as a front-line combat unit, the fact that they are an above average melee unit compared to similar regiments in other army books gives them a lot of staying power, especially as they are Leadership 10.

Of course, the real value of Irondrakes comes from their exclusive and titular Drakeguns, each lobbing a Strength 5 Armour Piercing shell that has the flaming attacks, dwarf-crafted and quick-to-fire special rules. For the sake of simplicity, this means that they will wound most enemies on a 3+ or 2+, impose a -3 penalty to armour saves, ignore Regeneration saves (but provide 2+ ward saves to High Elven Dragon Princes), do not suffer the -1 to hit penalty for stand and shoot charge reactions, and do not suffer the -1 to hit modifier for moving and firing their ranged weapons. Basically, they are a moving wall of flaming death that can mow down all but the most heavily armoured or high Toughness foes, with their 18" range being mediocre but emphasizing their good combat and defensive stats. They can also be used to stand and shoot at any range due to the quick-to-fire special rule, and they have an effective range of 21" when factoring in the units' Movement 3 and the 18" range of the Drakeguns. There is just one unfortunate downside to Irondrakes, and that is that not only will they often be firing at long range, but they do so at a mediocre Ballistic Skill 3. Even when firing at short range with no other negative modifiers, Irondrakes aren't terribly accurate and will struggle to do significant damage in the space of the two or possibly three rounds of shooting they get against advancing enemy regiments. This means they aren't really suited to gunning down large blocks of infantry but are instead perfect for dealing with smaller units such as most chaff, monsters, monstrous units that aren't run in hordes, cavalry - barring Dragon Princes - and so on.

With accuracy and range being their only real issues, Grim Burlokkson makes a perfect addition to Irondrakes by providing them with re-rolls to hit on a 2+ if you should so desire while doubly providing the named Master Engineer with the perfect bodyguard. The unit is absolutely devastating at range and can hold its own against all but the most damaging of enemies in a melee, while its points cost per model is as aggressively low as you would expect of a Dwarf infantry choice. That they fulfill a similar role to an Organ Gun but are far less susceptible to the threat of close combat gives the two units their own little niches to fill, even if their preferred targets are mostly similar. Of course, you could always take a pair of Organ Guns buffed with Engineering Runes and a large formation of Irondrakes joined by Grimm for some of the nastiest shooting around! Irondrakes also have access to the usual three command options, with the musician and standard bearer being the most valuable typically - the former for swift reforms and drawn melees, and the latter for its uses in Blood and Glory scenarios as well as the runic upgrades they can provide for the unit.

On that note, perhaps the most common and devilish runic standard to combine with Irondrakes is a pair of Runes of Slowness, hugely increasing the likelihood that charging opponents will fail to actually make contact with the Irondrakes. Did I forget to mention that Irondrakes have quick-to-fire weapons that are also dwarf-crafted and thus will always be hitting on a 4+ against chargers regardless of their proximity to the unit? Take twenty Irondrakes in a ten-wide, two-deep formation and laugh at your opponent as they fail charge after charge and have to endure what amounts to two shooting phases per game turn from Strength 5 Armour Piercing guns. An alternative route to take (or you could always add it to the above build) would be to include a champion and give him or her either a brace of drakefire pistols or the aptly named trollhammer torpedo. While I tend not to use the former because the extra shot and attack don't really compensate for the reduced range, accuracy and high cost. The latter, on the other hand, is something to seriously consider if you face monstrous unit types of any kind on a regular basis, or are just afraid of monsters in general; a 24" gun that is Strength 8 with the Multiple Wounds (D3) special rule on a Ballistic Skill 4 champion model will quickly blast apart all but the toughest of monsters in the space of a few shooting phases. Unfortunately, the trollhammer torpedo is very expensive and that it is slow-to-fire means you cannot use it for stand and shoot charge reactions, though obviously the increased range and almost mandatory Runes of Slowness on the standard bearer should compensate for this. Really though, whether you take a few smaller units or invest heavily into one larger regiment, Irondrakes are just a fantastic unit that combines all the elements a great all-rounder for a Dwarf army requires; survivability, close combat prowess and strong ranged attacks. Though they are a Rare choice, that they are priced identically to Ironbreakers makes them one of the most points-efficient infantry units in the game.
Competitive? Yes.

Gyrobomber - Seeing as the Gyrobomber shares the exact same profile as the Gyrocopter, I'll cut to the chase here; this is a unique unit that is quite tough with three Toughness 5 wounds and a 4+ armour save, can hold its own decently in close combat with two Weapon Skill 4 attacks at Strength 4 and Initiative 2, while it will rarely flee unlike other chaff units with a high Leadership 9. As the second of two new units added to the Dwarf army book, the Gyrobomber competes with its kit sibling the Gyrocopter for your attention and affections though I feel that it doesn't really come out on top here. Like the Gyrocopter, it is a useful chaff unit in its own right with good Leadership and both the Fly and Relentless special rules, making it incredibly mobile while never having to worry about "march-blocking" due to close proximity with enemy units. Like the Gyrocopter, the Gyrobomber has two ranged attacks though unlike its kit-sibling the Gyrobomber can actually use both weapons more than once rather than having a one-use-only restriction applied to its bombs. The main draw here is most definitely the bombing run, dropping what amounts to Armour Piercing Stone Thrower shots that have a chance of spawning further hits on other nearby models. This is a large blast template that is Strength 3 normally but Strength 6 under the hole, with the Multiple Wounds (D3) special rule applied to the central target, making it a miniature stone thrower that can defend itself in combat but doesn't hit nearly as hard against Monsters. Provided that it doesn't already miss horribly on the initial shot, you can roll a further D6 - on the roll of a 4+, an additional small blast template is placed and scattered randomly within D6" of the initial large blast template.

This can be decent for trying to single out lone characters, but its inaccuracy and ability to spawn a subsequent albeit smaller blast makes this similar in vein to the light infantry meat-grinder that is a Gyrocopter's steam gun. That you can perform a bombing run over any unit the Gyrobomber flies over - remember, it can march up to 20", can freely pivot or reform as it moves and has the Relentless special rule so that it may always march - as long as the enemy unit is unengaged and the Gyrobomber itself is neither fleeing nor declaring a charge means you can do this almost freely. Provided the Gyrobomber doesn't march, it can also use its clattergun in the ensuing shooting phase, firing four Strength 4 Armour Piercing shots with the quick-to-fire special rule. This is inaccurate and pales in comparison to the Gyrocopter's brimstone gun is outweighed by the fact that it is more of an added extra alongside the bombing run that is understandably the Gyrobombers' main attraction. So how does the unit actually perform on the table-top, and is it worth the extra points and change to the ever restrictive Rare slot over a Gyrocopter? The answer to each of these questions is a "no", though I don't state either with confidence.

The Gyrobomber is certainly a nasty tool against clustered light infantry and perhaps more so than a Gyrocopter, but the fact that it actually needs to roll to hit or scatter - and both of these are hugely inaccurate, mind - make it a far less reliable shooter. The fact that its bombing run can cause a misfire that has a very good chance of actively hurting the Gyrobomber itself further increases the risks and unreliable nature of the unit as opposed to the Gyrocopter, especially as two of the results could potentially destroy a Gyrobomber even if it began the shooting phase at full wounds. That it is a Rare choice in a slot that contains Irondrakes, Organ Guns and Rangers is more of a kick in the teeth than anything else, especially as the cheaper and more efficient Gyrocopters populate the far less restricted Special slot. While the Gyrobomber is decent for its points and I would call it a competitive choice if only because it can cause a lot of havoc while keeping out of harm's way by marching and dropping bombs, it just doesn't compare at all well to the other Rare slots for what you really need those points to be used for - monster and cavalry slaying - while the Gyrocopter is just a better unit overall. While it is decent in its own right, it is just far too unreliable and doesn't at all stand out next to the far superior options in the same slot and admittedly from the same model kit.
Competitive? No.

Most of the choices in this slot are great, with the Organ Gun, Irondrakes and Rangers in particular being some of the most useful Rare choices you could want from any army book. Unfortunately, Flame Cannons are decent but not as mandatory, while Gyrobombers are nowhere near as useful or reliable as Gyrocopters.

Thank you all for reading this article! The Dwarf army-book does tend to suffer somewhat from poor internal balance with some options being clearly superior to their competitors in the same slots, but generally the book is well written with lots of cool rules and options to make up for the Dwarfs lack of hitting power in a melee and terrible movement speed. I hope you found this article useful to your efforts as a young beardling or as a veteran of the World's Edge Mountains and all the horrors they have spat forth over the millennia, and I wish you all to have a lovely day! Thanks again! Eel out.

This is the conclusion of my Dwarfs Unit Overview series. I hope you enjoyed it and I am eager to hear your feedback on it! I personally am a bit disappointed with my output over the past few months but ultimately it is difficult for me to improve unless another opinion(s) points out the flaws, so please leave all the critiques you can - I really appreciate it! Thank you!


  1. I've really enjoyed this series, and have gone back to read all your other WHFB because of it! Thanks! What army book do you think you will do next?

    1. Hey mate, I'm leaning towards doing Lizardmen next but I might possibly do Daemons of Chaos instead. You should know within a week :)

  2. Sounds good - I look forward to either or both!

    Although I'd also love a Chaos Dwarfs guide in the same vein!