BIG DISCLAIMER: I have never collected a dwarf army. This blog post will be filled with a lot of opinions about dwarves that many Dwarf players will find controversial. Continue reading at your own risk. You have been warned.
When I first got into warhammer I was drawn to Night Goblins. My first minis were the late 5th/ 6th edition multipart plastic night goblins. I remember reading the 6th edition Orc and Goblin book. I loved hearing about the mischievous goblins and their wars with the Dwarves. Out of happenstance I got a copy of 6th edition Dwarves (the blue one.) Over the years I have read that book many times and glanced at it's artwork for untold hours as a kid. Perhaps it is my nostalgia, but GW's Dwarves peaked in this book and it wasn't a high peak.
My goal in this post is to turn my attention toward Dwarves. I am looking to sculpt my own dwarves and this means that I need to reflect on what has come before me, meditate on the essence of dwarvishness. So, here, I will discuss what I see as the trundling and stumbling history of GW's dwarfs - what they sometimes got right, missed opportunities, and where I think they often failed.
The stumbling of the Dwarves
|This one ad shows all of the conflicting aesthetics.|
The forgotten height of the dwarves
For me, the archetypal seed of Dwarvishness was planted in my childhood mind by Tom McGowen and Victor Ambrus in their 1981 Encyclopedia of Legendary Creatures.
While I can't find the exact text of the passage - what stood out in my child's mind was that Dwarves were ancient mountain-dwelling craftsmen. This view was reinforced when I watched the 1977 Hobbit cartoon.
There's no blackpowder, cogs, cannons, steampower or any of that nonsense here. This depiction of dwarves feels the most grounded to me.
What's your big problem with steampunk anyways?
A missed opportunity
- We can look to the troop options typically available in Saxon and Viking armies - these additions might look like:
- skirmishers with javelins or bows
- hunting dogs
- more maneuverable infantry elements like sea raiders
- We can lean into mytho-history of northwestern europe, we can imagine dwarves with the power of words - runes, spoken stories, oaths, commands, bonds that empower them in battle or harm their enemies - these might look like:
- bards/skalds - story tellers that encourage their allies, or use words to taunt their enemies to charge them
- Runic craftsmen - carving runes in waystones and rocks
- blacksmiths - putting performative words onto weapons
- priests who use words - like a kind of word magic that binds you or the enemy to act certain ways, or speaks things into existence like lightening or fear
- or maybe a caravan/camp with treasure, the implication being the enemy has to come and take the treasure or it's allure causes them to lose discipline and try to take it.
What my Dwarf Range might look like
- warrior-type heroes
- craftsmen chiseling runes on stones
- Infantry types
- dwarves with spears in a shieldwall
- dwarves with swords/axes/hammers in a shield wall
- Dwarves with dane-axes
- Elite Warriors
- peasant dwarves with javelins or bows
- sappers/mine workers - armed with mail and mattocks
- sea raiders
- battlefield forge
- baggage train with golden hoard
- animal handlers with dogs?