Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wood Elf Army Tactica: Fighting Dwarfs - Part 1

Warhammer Fantasy Army Analysis: Dwarfs – Part 1

I recently had posted a battle report of my Wood Elves vs. Dwarves and one of the poster’s here mentioned that he was still very interested in reading an army analysis of the Dwarf army from a Wood elf perspective.  So in response to his request, I will be providing a series of Army Analysis and Evaluation posts from the Wood Elf Army perspective where I analyze the army and the unit and provide examples of how I handle them.  The purpose of these posts will be to provide insight to the readers on how I play and how I perceive certain units with the Wood Elf army.  

There are only really three armies in the Warhammer Fantasy game that I have a constant struggle playing against; Lizardmen, Skaven and Dwarfs.  So these three armies will be the first ones I analyze and discuss.  This is not to say that all the other armies are easy to play against, it’s just those three give me the hardest time and despite my assertions that the Wood Elf army is “fine”, I really never expect success when I encounter those three armies due to the age of the Wood Elf book and the overall balance and efficiency of the other books. 

So without much further ado:


The Dwarf army is an interesting army when you compare it to the other armies in the Warhammer world.  They really have no magic, superior shooting to everyone in the game and the most important feature: they are dwarfs.  The Dwarf army is essentially the perfect mesh between a close combat and a ranged army, something that this Wood Elf player strives to emulate in his army. 

1.  The Entire Army is Leadership 9 or 10. – The entire Dwarf army being such a higher leadership causes issues for many Wood Elf players who attempt to create panic tests in Dwarf units.  The Wood Elf army also have several units (half the army practically) that causes Fear/Terror.  Having any army that is LD9 or LD10 is very difficult since Dwarfs also share another feature that Wood Elf units have…
2.  The Entire Army is Weapon Skill 4 or higher. – Much like the Wood Elf army, there entire army is Weapon Skill 4 or higher which means that when Wood Elves square off in close combat they are generally hitting on 4’s rather than 3’s.  The Dwarf army being Toughness 4 affects the Wood Elves combat effectiveness, especially when the Dwarf army is LD9-10 and has a very low chance of failing a Fear/Terror check.
3.  The Entire Army is Toughness 4. -  Many armies have varied levels of Toughness throughout their army.  The Dwarf army only has Toughness 4 for all of their units (minus Heroes/Lords and Warmachines), which means that Wood Elves are generally having to roll 4’s or 5’s to wound with their standard units rather than 3’s. 
4.  Superior Warmachines and Shooting. – The Dwarf army possesses the Dwarven Handgun which provides them with a +1 to hit and it’s also Str4 and armor piercing.  The Dwarf army also has access to the Grudge Thrower, Organ Gun, Cannon, Gyrocopter, Flame Cannon, and the Bolt Thrower.   Where the Wood Elf army does not suffer penalties for moving and shooting and at short range one of their units has Str4 shooting, the Wood Elf army in no way has access to firepower of this magnitude  since the Wood Elf army does not have access to any warmachines.
5.  Access to numerous Flaming and Dispelling options. – The Dwarf army possesses the ability to make practically every warmachine in the army possess Flaming Attacks by adding a specific Rune.  This single feature is very troublesome against Wood Elf armies since two most durable and combat effective units in the Wood Elf army (Treeman/Treekin) possess the Flammable rule.  Coupled with the effect that both the Lore of Life and Athel Loren both yield a Regeneration spell, Flaming template weapons are brutal to the Wood elf list.  The other issue is the access to multiple Dispel scrolls in the form of Runes of Spellbreaking and the Spelleater runes.  The magical standard available to the army can also automatically dispel all stays in play spells making things like Throne of Vines or Transformation of Kadon both difficult to cast and use. 

6.  The Dwarf Army is Movement 3. – With the new charge distance being 2d6+ movement and the Dwarf army having the Resolute ability, this movement rate is not a big concern.  You no longer can reliably be 7 inches away to always out distance your Dwarf opponent for charges and points denial. 

7.  The Dwarf Army has no magic. – The Dwarf Army not having access to magic is about as troublesome as the Beastmen not having a strong shooting phase.  It’s a non-issue.  The Dwarf Army may still be very effective in the Magic phase and don’t forget their Anvils of Doom don’t suck!

8.  The Dwarf Army loves Great Weapons. – Other than your warmachines, the entire Dwarf Army except for Thunderers and Ironbreakers has access to Great Weapons.  The fact that the Dwarf Army is wearing heavy armor already means that being Toughness 4, Strength 5 or 6 with a 5+ armor save isn’t such a bad situation to be in.  The army using Great Weapons means that they are not suffering from their Initiative of 2 and wounding most armies on a 2 or 3 and this is especially annoying against the Toughness 3 Wood Elves. 

So we have established that the Dwarf Army is tough, slow, strong , shooty and reliable.  The Dwarf Army is very effective in both close combat and the shooting phase of the game while maintaining a pretty formidable dispelling phase in their magic phase.  So, how does a Wood Elf army that is not very strong, tough or durable like the Dwarf army stand up to their bearded nemesis? 

Basic Tactica vs. Dwarfs

First and foremost, when dealing with Dwarves you have to capitalize on the key elements that Wood Elves have that Dwarfs do not; mobility and speed.  Mobility and Speed allow the Wood Elf army to not only reposition quickly but also set up for flank and rear charges with ease.  The main advantage of the Wood Elf army against Dwarfs is that the Wood Elves should always be able to pick their battles and rarely allow themselves to be charged at an inopportune time. 

I'll start the Tactica breakdown with some Core Units:

Dwarf Warriors –

The core unit of the Dwarf Army: the Warriors.  I normally see Dwarf Warriors fielded in blocks of 20 with Great Weapons.  This means that they are sporting an armor save of 5+, an initiative of 1 with Always Strikes Last and a Strength modified to 5.  Whenever I am facing a unit wielding Great Weapons I will do my best to engage them not only on the flank or rear but with my heavy infantry units.  Treekin and Treemen are my chosen units to deal with Great Weapon wielding Dwarf Warriors, however if I have a flank open I will use Wild Riders or Dryads.  The Dwarf Warrior unit is your basic rank and file dwarf for all intensive purposes, they are Toughness 4 and Weapon Skill 4.  There is very little chance I'll be able to really utilize Fear or Terror since they will be LD 9 or 10, so I need to expect that I'm going to be hitting on 4's rather than 3's.  Ideally, I will attempt to cast Flesh to Stone on the unit I have chosen to engage the Great Weapon wielders in order to make the "To Wound" roll a 6 again rather than a 4 or 5. 

Dwarf Longbeards -

The upgrade to Dwarf Warriors, the Longbeards, are even more troublesome and annoying than their cousins.  These Dwarfs are now Weapon Skill 5 and Strength 4, couple that with Great Weapons and you have a Core unit swinging at Strength 6 that will generally hit on 3's.  As a Wood Elf player, I only have access to a few high Toughness units.  Therefore I can not and will not commit one of my overly expensive units to combating Longbeards in close combat.  This type of unit I will shoot with my Glade Guard and attempt to cast Dweller's Below or Amber Spear on.  I will not be able to capitalize on Fear, Terror or Panic since the unit is Immune to Psychology so that puts another check on the "do not charge" list.  If the unit is equipped with Shields rather than Great Weapons, the unit becomes slightly less dangerous and I feel more comfortable charging it.  As a general rule however, I would reduce this unit with ranged attacks/spells before committing a unit into charging it on the flank or rear. 

Dwarf Quarrellers and Thunderers

I am aware that these are two separate units, each armed with different weapons.  I am also aware that the weapons they use have different properties.  I normally see both of these units armed with Shields which grants them a 5+ armor save.  Both of these units have the same stat lines as the Dwarf Warriors, especially the Ballistic Skill of 3.  I treat both of these units mainly the same as far as how I deal with them.  I will however split this up after the basic tactica is discussed.    I generally see 2 units of either on the field, and they normally will have warmachine guard duty. 

This unit I will always use my heavy infantry or monsters like Treemen to charge them with.  Their crossbows are only Strength 3 and will require 6's to wound the Treemen or Treekin and they will not affect my armor save.  I find it very hard to flank/rear charge these types of units unless my flying units manage to get behind them.  These units do not last long against heavy infantry.
This unit is more troublesome than the Quarrellers.  While they have the same stat line and armor, they possess Dwarven handguns.  The Dwarven Handgun is Strength 4, 24" range, Armor Piercing and also grants a +1 to hit due to their fine "craftmanship".  (And people complain that Glade Guard longbows are overpowered...idiots)  This unit requires me to use a different tactics when engaging them, I will generally attempt to shoot this unit to death rather than get within short range.  Due to the numerous annoying units that  require my ranged attention in this army, I am normally forced to commit my unit of choice to close combat with these guys - Dryads.  The Thunderers will receive a -1 to hit because the Dryads are skirmishers which cancels out the Dwarven Handgun +1 to hit and while they need 4's to wound, there is no armor save to affect so the Dryads are rolling their 5+ ward save.  I will generally send the Dryads in first to eat up the Stand and Shoot reaction and then commit the Wild Riders or Eagles if the Dryads took too many casualties. 

The primary idea with the ranged units is that you need to be very aware of which unit you are charging.  The Thunderers serve as the Dwarf heavy armor killers while the Quarrellers serve as cheaper warmachine guardians.

Dwarf Rangers

The most annoying units in the entire Dwarf army are the Rangers.  While the unit can be upgraded from Warriors, Longbeards or Quarrellers; I normally see them upgraded from Great Weapon wielding Quarrellers.  This unit has the capability to get behind the Wood Elf line and take out key units like a Spellweaver or Hero on an Eagle.  I will normally deploy my army where the Dwarf player will not be able to deploy his Scouts anywhere advantageous (read anywhere closer than 12" from table edge i.e. 11.5")  Should you be able to counteract the Scout placement and keep them out of your backfield, then they are easily killed with ranged attacks.  Should you unfortunately have them sneak in behind you then I recommend using Dryads or Wild Riders to chew them up in your backfield before any substantial damage can be done. 

That will do it for the Core section of the army book.  In up and coming posts I'll be doing the Special and Rare selections and a few characters. 

I'll also be using this format moving forward for the other armies like Lizardmen and Skaven.  Keep in mind these tactics are how I fight the army and may or may not be the best methods but they are my methods.

I'll be doing an evaluation of the Wood Elf army book based on how I use the units in some of our up and coming episodes of The Deployment Zone podcast. 



  1. Good run down. Started reading your blog yesterday as I am picking back up Wood Elves after quitting when 8th came out. Good write up and great tactica around the blog.

  2. thanks for the writeup on dwarves! :-)
    i just started playing, about 8-10 months ago. i chose WE for their fluff(native american feel) but found the generalship required to use WE too much while also trying to learn the game itself. i have learned a good bit since then and am itching to give the woodies another try.