The goal of this article is to help the beginning dwarf player gain an insight in how an dwarven army is deployed in function of a battleplan, and perhaps even to aid some of the veteran players out there to come up with new ideas and post them here. Some of the ideaís presented here originate from the 6th edition Dwarf Army book, but itís always handy to include them in this article since they are in a way the most basic way for a defensive dwarven army to deploy. Also, since these tactics didn't make it into the new army book, most beardlings will be unfamiliar with them.
This article concerns the tactics and art of dwarven deployment. Dwarfs are an army that naturely take easier to playing defensively then offensively due to their low movement rate and utter lack of cavalry. The payoff for this are of course high toughness, high leadership, high armoursaves and the best and most versatile shooting units and warmachines.
The way you deploy your army will always depend on your mode of play, and on your armylist. If your armylists only consists of combat units, you will deploy and play very differently than if you were to play an all shooting unit army.
Important things to keep in mind:
Always deploy with a battleplan in mind:
Your deployment should always be made with your battleplan in mind. If youíre going for an offensive tactic, itís not going to help you to deploy defensively.
Deploy in a tight formation
In most cases, deploying in a tight formation is the very epitome of dwarven deployment. Donít spread your battleline too thinly but rather keep your units together to work as a coherent whole. If you deploy your units in a much too openly fashion, your units will get seperated and destroyed: divide and Conquer as it were. This should be avoided at all times unless absolutely unavoidable or part of a battleplan.
Try to learn from every game:
The best way to advance your grasp of deployment tactics is to take some notes of your deployment during and after the game, talk the battle over with your opponent. Ask him what you could have done to deploy better, with the battle in hindsight. This is not only the smart thing to do in a tactical respect, but it's also good sportmanship. Talk to your opponent and try to learn from him/her. You'l come to realise things if only because you'll get to see your army from an opponent's point of view. You'll find that most competent players will be more than happy to help you out. It's things like this that can add to the funfactor of any game.
Also, donít be afraid to take your time to deploy, within reason of course. If it helps, take a sheet of paper and draw your batteline. Since some people have problems imagining these things on the battlefield, drawing your battleplan/deployment up front can prove to be a big help.
Last but not least, remember that every victory is an opportunity to hone your skills. Every loss is an opportunity to overcome errors.
Use lone warmachines (with surprises) on your flanks and/or the far flanks of the battefield
When deploying, it usually pays off to deploy a relative cheap and effective warmachine, in most cases a bolt thrower, on the far side of your deployment zone. Doing so will force your opponent to either deal with it and commit a unit to deal with your warmachine, or risk exposing the flank of itís other units for a potentially devastating flank shots. This way, youíll end up facing fewer enemy models and consequently have a greater chance of winning combat on the other side of the table.
Also, keep in mind that things like entrenchment and the valiant rune can add to the number of turns your opponent has to commit his units to taking out your single, cheap warmachine. Note that the Master Rune of Immolation can also provide a nasty surprise without risking damage to your main units.
Make sure your warmachines have line of sight to as many enemy units as possible, but...
It almost goes without saying, but the only way your warmachines are going to be useful, is if they are able to see things to shoot at. Make sure however that they are either shielded on the side by combat units or that they are defended by the terrain itself.
...donít be afraid to deploy in woods and forests.
If the terrain doesnít allow you to immediately field all your warmachines with excellent lines of sight, it can perhaps prove useful to deploy a warmachine in a forest. That way, your opponent wonít be able to target it with most magic and shooting, and youíll be able to move out of the woods and line up for a flank shot. This tactic mostly favours cannons and bolt throwers.
Protect your rear
When playing offensively, don't forget that some units might try to attack your units in the rear. Flyers, tomb scorpions and the like are just one of the things that leap to mind. Using warmachines or letting a unit hang back to protect the rear of your battleline is a good idea in these cases. Also, a lone Dragon Slayer hanging back, protecting your vulnerable warmachines is also a good idea to look into.
The refused flank deployment tactic is a fairly generic one, and can be combined with almost any kind of deployment. It relies on you deploying on one of the sides of your deployment zone, in effect using the edge of the battlefield as a Ďflank protectorí. That way, you only have one flank to worry about.
In normal circumstances, the flank not protected by the table edge should be the flank you place your flank protectorís on: Troll Slayers, Organ gun,... Anything that can either stop a charge in its tracks (organ gun) or keep the charging unit occupied for a couple of turns (valiant warmachines, Troll Slayers, Ironbreakers,...).
Double Refused Flank/Deploying at an angle.
This type of deployment is fairly simply and incorporates the good thing that is the refused flank tactic. Deploy your entire army at an angle in such way that the one side of your battleline is protected by the table edge (left/right) of your deployment zone and the other side by the by the edge of the table. (look at the diagram at Deployment tactic 2: The Bear trap for an example.)
Remember, just as your batteline doesnít have to be parallel with your deployment zone, your battleline doesnít have to be a straight line: you can for instance use the refused flank tactic to deploy a couple of units parallell to the side of the table and deploy other units with the double refused flank tactic, by using the flank of the parallel units as a flank protector and the end of the table as the other flank protector.
Deployment Tactic I: The Enduring Mountain
The Enduring Mountain setup depends on you having access to a hill or mountain (one tier or more) in order to work. It is one of the most standard dwarven deployments and suits almost any defensive mode of play. It works on the following principles: Donít move, wait for the enemy to come to you, and in the meanwhile, shoot the living daylight out of all the units approaching your battleline.
Place your warmachines on the hill:
Deploying your warmachines on the hill means that you can deploy them safely behind your lines protected as it were by the main combat units deployed in front of the hill. By doing so, you have ensured that the most direct route to your warmachines for your opponent (up and at them!) is negated since HEíll have to break your combat unit first. Also, since your warmachines are deployed on the hill, they can look over your combat units and look around the entire battlefield, even spot enemy units behind other enemy units, in effect making almost every enemy unit on the table a viable target.
Deploy your missile troops on the hill in ranks.
Deploying your missile units in an x wide and 2 deep formation on ToP of a hill has the benefit that youíve shortened your battleline, which is always a good thing. Remember, every dwarven army needs its units to stick together like the links in a mailshirt: if the gaps in between are too big, the blows/attacks will pass through. Also, since they are deployed on ToP of the hill, all models in the two ranks will be able to shoot. So, in effect, youíve shortened your battleline, added a rank to your unit and made maneuvering the unit easier without reducing itís effectiveness: a win-win situation.
(Addendum: donít forget: if the unit is charged, theyíll start with 2+ combat resolution (high ground and one rank)). In cases like this, it is almost mandatory to have a musician. This investment pays itself back in the +1 to CR in cases of a draw. Also, if the unit is forced to flee for whatever reason and escapes their pursuers, the +1 to Ld to rally will often mean that it can still have some impact in the rest of the game.
Deploy your main combat units in front of the hill
Try to deploy your main combat units (warriors, longbeards,...) in front of the hill, to make sure that the hill is defended from all sides, this to protect the missile troops and warmachines deployed on ToP of the hill. What will happen is that, since the easiest way to your warmachines is now barred, your opponent will have to break your combat units first, a daunting task due to the quality of even the most basic rank-and-file trooper.
A couple of other things to remember with this tactic:
1. Keep your centre strong: use Longbeards, Ironbreakers or Hammerers in the middle.
2. Keep your Battlestandard in the centre, in order that all your units will be able to benefit from the reroll for your breaktests.
3. A cunning opponent will try to keep away from your strong centre and will try to roll up your battleline by attacking on a (weak) flank. In order to counteract this, use strong warmachines/units on the flank, for example, organ guns, troll slayers, ironbreakers, flame cannons,...
4. Keep in mind that your shooting phase is meant to not destroy enemy units outright if it is not strictly neccessary. Use it to cripple them or trim them down in order to grant your main combat units that little edge theyíll need in combat.
Deployment Tactic II: The Bear Trap.
The Bear Trap deployment tactic depends on deploying with a weak center and two strong flanks, often in a double refused flank tactic. The idea behind this is to make the center a tempting target and to corral the enemy units in as it where before hitting them in flank with your flanking combat units.
Make sure your centre looks weak enough but is strong enough:
Deploy your warmachines in the centre, with missile troops supporting them on either side, preferable with at least one rank. These guys should be able to hold out for at least one-two combat phases in the event that they are charged. Chances are that your flanking units can be held up or need to spend an extra turn maneuvering for a good position for the flank charge, so youíll need to make sure that your centre will hold for a couple of turns.
Donít spring the trap too soon:
If you start maneuvering your flanking units too soon, youíll expose their own flanks for a flankcharge, tying them down in combat and with that losing their support for the combat in the middle of your battleline.
This tactic is, in my opinion, one of the less useful ones. In theory, it sounds nice, but if your centre ends up too weak, your battleline will be torn in two and the leftovers will be facing a rearcharge in the next turn. Any cunning opponent will combine this with either a front charge and/or flank charge it with fast units like cavalry or chariots to make sure that it is destroyed quickly. In effect, he/sheíll divide your army in pieces and conquer it.
If your flanking units get held up in pointless combats, theyíll be busy when your centre is charged and wonít be able to assist it.
But if it works, you have a chance of carrying the day. In conclusion, this tactic is a risky tactic at best.
Deployment tactic IIIa: Deploying offensively: ďThe HammerĒ
This article is not meant as a tactical guide on how to use offensive army lists or on how to compose them but merely focuses on how to deploy them. For more information, look into the Offensive Dwarf Army Tactica by Dark Dwarves.
A tactic not often expected by an opponent is for Dwarves to attack. Quite often, even if youíre doubletiming it accross the board, most players wonít even realise the implications, so used are they to dwarfs playing defensively and being able to get the charge off against dwarfs.
The idea of the hammer is to only use combat units and gyrocopters. Miners and Rangers also fit in this picture in order to tie up the enemy units in early combats with your ranger unit(s) (one more if you include Bugman in your army), marchblocking them with your gyrocopters in order to better dictate the movement of your opponent and better pick your fights and combats. The miners are there to get the occasional flank or rearcharge and/or to dispose of warmachines and to claim table quarters.
The Hammer deployment tactic is not neccesarily a deployment tactic; it is more a battleplan then a deployment tactic. The idea remains the same, but varying situations and battlefield scenery setups may force you to deploy in a different way. Therefore, donít take this deployment tactic as set in stone. Be prepaired to improvise. This advice is valid for all deployment tactics but is perhaps the most valid for the Hammer tactic.
Deploy with a refused flank.
Use the refused flank tactic in order to secure one flank of the battlefield. When fielding an anrmy without any missile troop support, youíll need all the advantages youíll get.
Use strong combat units to defend your flank.
Since youíre going to move forward, deploying with a double refused flank is pointless, since your formation is more then likely to change. Therefore, be sure to include units that are able to stand their own against pretty much anything your opponent can throw against you, and deploy them on the other flank (Slayers, Ironbreakers, Hammerers,...)
Deployment tactic IIIb: Deploying offensively: "Steamrolling towards the enemy"
The Hammer is not the only offensive tactic out there by far. Not every offensive tactic requires you to take Gyrocopters, Miners and Rangers. They do is add some variety and flavour to an offensive army, but also require a totally different way of playing. The easiest would of course be simply taking an army that consists of warriors, warriors, warriors, and warriors, and simply steamroll towards the enemy.
Even in this farily simple case, make sure that you deploy correctly in order to support your battleplan.
Deploy as far in field as your deployment zone allows
While this sounds very obvious, we have already seen enough examples above why this shouldn't not neccecarily be the case. So if you're going to doubletime it accross the board, it won't do deploy to the edge of the table.
If you're going to be taking on a few surprises, make sure you'll be using them
What I mean by this rather vague subsectiontitle is, that if you want to take a few nifty items with you, be sure that they'll fit into your battleplan and that you'll be able to use them to the fullest. For example, if you're going to use the Strollaz Rune, make sure that your BSB is positioned as central as possible, the central position here being generic. If you have another idea or battleplan requiring you to put your BSB somewhere else, than feel free to do so.
Deployment tactic IV: Detachments
The Detachment style of play is a kind of play spearheaded by some of the regulars of the brewery, in particular Bor, Old Lawgrim and myself. It was originally meant only for Empire players, but was also doable by other armies. The only army that couldnít benefit from this mode of play was Dwarfs, due to their low movement characteristic. However, with the new army book and the new incarnation of the Anvil of Doom, it has become apparent that it was exactly what WE needed to make this kind of play possible.
The way it is played is very simple: it depends on large main combat units supported by small maneuvrable detachments of shooting units and/or hard flanking units of Slayers, Ironbreakers, Hammerers, Longbeards,... The detachment in front of the main block will flee from a charge, run into the main block, and be charged by the flanking unit in the following turn.
But, as with every battleplan, it hinges on a good deployment.
Deploy with your battleplan in mind.
I already covered this in the Basics section, but it is doubly true for the detachment tactic. If youíre going to use this tactic, be sure to able to use it! Make sure youíre detachments are deployed on the side of their Ďparent unitsí.
Protect your detachments.
When using detachments, youíll need to preserve them as long as possible, since it doesnít hold to have your detachments slaughtered before combat begins; the entire style of play depends on them! There are a couple of ways to do this:
1. Use meat shields. Use your missile troops to protect your detachments: deploy them in a straight line in front of the parent unit and detachment. This removes the line of sight that can be drawn from an enemy unit to your detachment and will in most case improve the efficiency of your missile units.
2. Deploy your detachments in such way that they arenít easily targeted by magic or shooting. This is especially important when using slayers since these orange furry guys can be downed by the metaphorical splinter.
Protect your Anvil:
When using the detachment style of playing, youíll perhaps come to depend on the Anvil. The great thing about this item is that it doesnít require line of sight. That way, youíll be able to deploy it to the rear of your deployment zone, defended by missile troops, detachments and main combat units.
Deployment tactic 5: Using Rangers/Miners
Miners and Rangers are unique troops in the dwarven army in the way that they are not deployed in a normal fashion. This has the advantage of creating a bit of suspense and tension and may even force your opponent to make deployment errors, since HEíll want to deal with them. That way, heíll be preoccupied for some time, buying you more time to maveuvre in such a way that suits you or give you more time to shoot at him. Also, due to the crossfire rules, rangers and miners in the path of fleeing enemy units will destroy those units once they flee through them.
Also, donít forget that the mere presence of a Ranger of Miner unit on the side of the board waiting to be deployed can be enough to influence an opponentís thoughts and his way off deployment.
Rangers are one of the more special troops in the army of a dwarf player, since they are basicly an upgrade for Warriors, Quarrelers and Longbeards. Warrior Rangers are the most basic ones and the cheapest. Longbeard Rangers benefit both from the Longbeard upgrade as from the Ranger upgrade, and Quarreler Ranger will make for a very shooty advance unit. Each has it's own use and tactics.
The great thing about Rangers is that they can afford to wait for deployment to finish by both sides and can afterwards deploy in the field due to their scout rule. When itís their turn to deploy, you can for instance deploy them in a terrain piece that is central on the battlefield and either marchblock any enemy unit moving in the vicinity, or force your opponent to move around it, thereby forcing him to disrupt his battleline.
Another thing that youíre capable of doing with your Rangers, is just to hold them in reserve until the end of the deployment, and afterwards place them in a weak spot in your deployment zone, that way youíll have a bit more flexibility in answering to the deployment of your opponent. Remember, Rangers may be scouts, but that doesnít mean you absolutely have to deploy them in the middle of the battlefield.
A thing to remember is that when fielding Quarreler Rangers, they can easily be deployed inside a building in order to shoot out of it's windows and benefit from its protective walls. They can keep your opponent busy with missile fire, allowing you to move up to support them. Also, if you're playing in a scenario where you have to control a marker, having a Ranger unit deployed in a nearby building and moving them towards the marker in the later turns of the game is also a gamewinning tactic.
Miners can be used in the same way as Rangers in influencing the hand of your opponent when deploying. The good thing about Miners is that they donít even have to be deployed: you can keep them on the side of the battlefield and starting from turn 2, youíll be able to roll a dice to see if they have found their way to the surface and be able to appear on the battlefield from any table edge.
Perhaps your opponent will be intimidated by your miners and deploy more to the back. That way, youíve just bought yourself an extra turn of shooting. Miners can also be used to mob up enemy warmachines or claim table quarters. Also, just like Rangers, Miners donít have to be deployed in reserve: using them to strengthen a weak spot in your deployment is also a valid use for them.
Rangers and Miners can also be used to augment the Hammer and Bear trap strategies.
Well, that's it from ME. All comments are welcome, as are additions and thoughts. I'd like to thank Dark Dwarves, his offensive deployment article helped ME think about the Hammer tactic, and how best describe it.
Edited by Dourin, 29 December 2007 - 03:30 PM.