Thursday, August 31, 2017

Discussing Dwarf Mountaineers

Back in the days of yore, when proud miniature smiths still made their miniatures with metal, GamesWorkshop printed a curious one page article in White Dwarf. This article featured dwarves in strange alpine attire with skis and blunderbusses. This obscure article, lost in the swirling currents of game meta theory, is still in living memory for the more wizened and aged (and quite often bearded ) members of our community. I, of course, am referring to the Dwarf Mountaineers.
So let's dive in and comment, criticize, and consider them. 

Let's start by looking at the Bold Print Rules.

Mountaineers are scouts. For people well versed in Warhammer 3rd ed. there was a distinction in warhammer 3rd. ed. between Scouts and Skirmishers that was very different from subsequent editions. In later editions Scouts could deploy outside of their controlling deployment zone. In 3rd edition, scouts essentially function as skirmishers do in later editions. Skirmishers in 3rd edition benefited from a loose formation, however were largely unable to enter into close combat.

Mountaineers allow the dwarf player to place a single sloped hill near their deployment zone. The rule is 1 slope regardless of the number of mountaineer units, so this doesn't add up. This rule is important as it makes the subsequent rule substantially more useful.

Dwarf Mountaineers wear skis. These skis give them a movement bonus in the very particular circumstance when they happen to be moving downhill. In this circumstance they may move twice as fast. However, it's not clear if they may also reserve move at this speed. 

The Ski Charge
These skiing dwarves may charge upwards of 9"! ... so long as at least some portion of their charge distance is downhill. The rule also requires that they start at the peak of a hill. This raises a few questions. The rules do not appear to preclude the possibility of starting at a crest, going downhill for a few inches and then up a steep slope. This rule would require significant intuition on the part of the GM. The charge distance of 9" confuses the question of whether they can reserve move. Typically, a charge distance is double the move distance, in this case the charge is 1.5 times as large. So either the unit can reserve move totally a move of 12" meaning its charge distance is actually a slower move, or the unit cannot reserve move and essentially makes total moves (movement plus reserve) equal to normal dwarves.

Additionally the ski charge allows the mountaineers to fire their blunderbusses during their charge. This is a useful rule, if you are luck you will be able to make the enemy panick and ski directly into a pursuit. If you are less lucky you may be able to peg off a few models and negate an enemy rank bonus. 

Mountaineer Yodel of Doom
This rule is essentially meaningless. Since one could already acquire a magical instrument with battlerage, the rule doesn't change anything. 

Next let us consider the Mountaineers and their equipment.

These mountaineers have regular dwarf stats and come in units of 5 to 10. With a maximum of 15, this equates to 0 to 3 units of mountaineers. 

Blunderbusses are a rare weapon in any edition of warhammer. In every iteration, they have different mechanics (see 2nd ed. ravening hordes, the Empire war wagon, or the chaos dwarves.) In 3rd edition they were more comparable to arquebusses but with less range, less strength (at long range, much less), and variably comparable armor penetration. The Arquebus is objectively better, unless the enemy is between 6 to 8" away and heavily armored. Other than the magic instrument the mountaineers offer no alternative gear options in warhammer 3rd ed. 

So what's the take away?

From a points perspective, these motley dwarves are a steal. A normal dwarf (7pts) with a blunderbus (2 pts) and with the scouts ability ( 5 pts) would cost 14 pts. Montaineers only cost 10 pts. Without the terrain rule, their movement and charge rules would be seldom used. Even without that consideration, it is useful for a dwarf player to have access to scouts that are comparably cheap. 

With the addition of the mountain terrain there enter a few more considerations. First, is that dwarves typically do not have access to units that can charge 9"... at least not in Warhammer Armies 3rd ed. (There are those who would field a converted unit of dwarves riding diminutive beasts of burden. Yay, Oldhammer!) While the addition of the hill terrain makes the skiing rule much more likely to be applicable, the ability to deploy a steep hill is a massive benefit in itself. Placing a steep hill for only 50 points (minimum cost of a mountaineer unit of 5) could be a significant tactical advantage for the placement of artillery, ranks of ranged troops, a fortified position for a shield wall, part of a choke point to diminish your opponent's advantage of numbers, or simply to block LOS.

Leave your thoughts or battle experiences in the comments below.

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  1. Good posting. And funny thing... I wrote about dwarf mountaineer just a couple of months ago

    Pretty much agree with what you wrote here as you see.

  2. Read your article. We did come to similar conclusions :P Though you are also right to mention the ambiguity in the charge rule, whether the blunderbuss volley is calculated at a distance or as part of combat like a thrown weapon. Maybe it's time to update the Mountaineer rules to clarify.

  3. Originally posted in 2013 ......
    Cheers Kev