Hi, having played several games with dwarves as part of the open playtesting of the v2 rules, I thought I'd assemble a post covering the sort of dwarves that exist in KoW, and how they compare to their Warhammer cousins, aside from not having recently been turned into the short, steam-headed sidekicks of the new Shiny Happy Warriors of Light.
Background-Well, they're Dwarves, with most of the attributes you'd expect. Short, bearded, brave and honourable, with a deep and arcane connection to the earth. Loyal allies, relentless enemies, expert craftsmen, etc. They're a little bit more arcane and less prone to wacky engineering than WfB Dwarves, which suits me just fine, but the major differences are in their relationship to other races. Rather than the endless siege from barbaric Orc hordes, their major antagonists are the other big 'good' empire, the Basileans, who have an unfortunate tendency to settle ideological differences with flaming swords, and the Abyssal dwarves, who continue to use greed to lure their noble cousins astray. Most interestingly for me, there's also some disunity in the Dwarven race, with a rebellious breakaway faction that defy the high king's authority.
But enough about the background, on to the sort of army they can field.
Overall playstyle- Again, you'll find the army true to general, and WfB, dwarf stereotypes, being based around tough infantry backed by tougher characters and powerful artillery and missile fire, but limited in its movement.
However, I find them significantly less limited in their movement than their WfB brethren, and less dependant on their artillery to cope with bigger threats, with enough movement to compete up with more mobile armies. A lot of the difference is in the context of the overall game-for example, with an average base movement of 5 rather than 4, dwarves being one inch slower is less of a disadvantage, and lets us reach the deployment zone of a stationary opponent a turn sooner, and the freedom of movement on individuals means our characters are very good at being where we need them to be, and can even turn around and hit flyers landing behind our lines. There are also several other mechanics which make it less of a disadvantage both to have a lower movement than your opponent, and to be mostly infantry.
However, the army also has some important tools that GW was never willing to give dwarves in mobile shooting units, Brock rider cavalry, and Earth elementals with magically enhanced movement which let us manouvre a lot better than our Wfb Cousins, and for the most part our infantry can match most opponents in melee.
Movement is still a problem, but it's a much more manageable one, and while the defensive shooting game is still possible, it doesn't define v2 dwarves the same way it does in Wfb.
The infantry-Probably the most familiar part of the army, we have Ironclad infantry with good defence and nerve, Ironguard with even better defence, and Shieldbreakers for mashing bad buys to a pulp with really big hammers. We also have unarmoured(and possibly orange-haired) berserkers which pack lots of attacks and a high nerve into small unit sizes, but suffer on the defence.
A significant addition to our combat infantry compared to Wfb are the Bulwarkers, a spearman unit that gains a few extra attacks over ironclad and, more importantly, the phalanx rule, which causes opponents charging to their front to lose their Thunderous Charge bonus. For most KoW heavy cavalry, this is similar to taking the lance away from a dragon prince, and making them bat at you with their basic S3, so Bulwarkers are a very good defence against such units.
Ironwatch provide static but powerful shooting, but unlike their WfB counterparts are weak in close combat compared to Ironclad. In KoW, multipurpose shooting/combat is the domain of the rangers.
It's a slightly different variety of Ranger, but no less useful. They don't have scouting deployment, which is very rare in KoW, but they get a Vanguard move, and make up for it with hunting crossbows that can move and shoot, and an ability to move, even charge, through terrain without penalty. Combined with respectable melee punch this makes them a very versatile and mobile unit that's really able to gain initiative early in the game, and continue to cause your opponent problems. Only problem is, you pay a high points permium for their flexibility and with only a mediocre defence, you can easily find yourself down those points if you use them too aggressively. But heh, nobody's perfect.
Fans of Irondrakes will, I'm afraid, be dissapointed with this list. You might be able to use them as snipers, or Ironguard with the Diadem of dragonfire, but whatever you count them as, they're going to lose some of their capabilities.
Overall, more than in WfB the infantry feels like the main strength of this army-the basic troops are solid, and the elite units like ironguard, shieldbreakers and rangers are top tier. It also doesn't suffer from high-strength templates, absurdly overpowered magic, or being pinned in place indefinitely by near-invulnerable characters or monsters.
The Cavalry-We only have one cavalry unit, the Berserker Brock riders, and it's an awkward one to learn to use properly, but that's a big step ahead of having no cavalry at all. The reason they're awkward is that they're 'medium cavalry'-not quite heavy hitting enough to use as heavy cavalry, but without the extra manouverability or missile attacks of light cavalry. What they do have, like their infantry counterparts, is a lot of attacks and a very high nerve, allowing them to both absorb and deal out a lot of hits. They also have Thunderous Charge(just less than heavy cavalry) and Vicious, so they're very good against lightly armoured targets on open ground. Like heavy cavalry, they are somewhat vulnerable to the phalanx rule and difficult terrain, so you have to be cautious of both, and lose a lot of their effectiveness against heavy armour, but used right they can have a big impact. They can also do well guarding against flanking manouvres, chasing remote objectives, and closing the distance against annoying artillery pieces.
The Artillery- Not quite the essential lynchpin of dwarven warfare that it is to warhammer dwarves, but still a powerful tool, mantican dwarves have a smaller selection of artillery pieces. An important difference is that in KoW, artillery has fixed fire arcs and can't move or shoot, so some care should be taken deploying them. They are also *very* vulnerable to melee attacks.
The trusty cannon still exists, and is even trustier since it never misfires *at all*. It will, however, miss outright two thirds of the time, so you can't exactly depend on it to deal damage when you really need it to kill something. However, the one third of hits will hurt anything badly, so it's still a big psychological presence. Only a truly iron-willed opponent will be happy gambling on that to hit roll, so you still get a lot of board control, and sometimes a lot of damage.
The Bombard is similar to the cannon, but a lower piercing value makes it weaker against high armour. To compensate, it does slightly more hits, and can fire indirectly to ignore cover.
Organ guns have lots of shots and a decent piercing value, dealing reliable damage over a 24" threat range.
Flame Belchers are special, being the only warmachine in the list without reload, allowing them to move 4" and still shoot, partly compensating for their small range. They also ignore *all* to-hit modifiers, making them good against units in cover or individuals, and they get a *lot* of shots. As with rangers, a source of mobile firepower is a big aid in dealing with the more annoyingly fast and elusive opponents.
Artillery can be supported by Warsmith's-more subtle in their bonuses than WfB master engineers, they do however boost all artillery within 3", and also provide inspiring. While lacking in combat ability, some magic items can add extra utility to this character.
The Elementals- Competing with rangers as my favourite unit, the new Earth Elementals not only add a lot of character to a previously bland dwarf list, they also provide another powerful movement tool.
They come in Lesser and Greater varieties, and like the Ironguard are a unit whose main strength is resilience. High defence, unwavering and with decent nerve, they take a lot of effort to get rid of for their points cost, and while not as deadly as Shieldbreakers will do reasonable damage while they're on the field. The Greater Elemental, with a high Crushing Strength, show's little respect for opposing armour.
Like rangers, they have a movement of 5 and ignore penalties for difficult terrain, giving them decent mobility, but are limited in their capacity to advance by an inability to use full ahead, the KoW equivalent of marching. However, they really shine in their synergy with the Stone priest, a dwarven spell caster with a deep connection to the stones and the spirits that reside in them.
As well as providing inspiring to Elementals, stone priests have the powerful 'Surge' spell, which similar to the rune of Oath and Honour on the previous anvil of doom, can allow an elemental unit in range to make a second move during the shooting phase. Needless to say, this is a very powerful tool for close range manouvering. Flank attacks are deadly in Kow, and those flyers and fast cavalry which can flank most of your units with no danger have to be a little bit more careful around Elementals if a stone priest is nearby.
While focussed on supporting elementals, the stone priest does have a second spell available-'Bane chant' can add a small but significant point of CS or piercing to the attacks of any unit in the army, tipping the balance of a combat in favour of the dwarves.
The Leaders- Inspiring is a key ability in KoW, pretty much the equivalent of a WfB battle standard, but spread across several models. We have two characters that are inspiring to anyone-
Army standard bearers are cheap, but basically non-combatant. Some magic items can add a useful ability, but otherwise they're just here to wave their flag and cheer everybody on, which is an important job.
By contrast, the King is a frontline leader. As well as inspiring, he adds a reliable two or three wounds to a combat, has an excellent defence that can hold up all but the deadliest opposing units for a turn or two, and with the freedom of movement from the individual rule, has an uncanny knack for getting where you need him to be. All in all, a generally brilliant supporting character. The warbeast mount turns him into a combat monster on par with the greater elemental, but takes away the freedom of movement and protection from shooting of the individual rule-a trade I'm not personally inclined to make.
The Berserker lord is our other fighting character, and like lesser berserkers trades extra attacks for a lower defence in comparison to the king. Also like weaker berserkers, he has M5, so is even better than the king at getting where you want those attacks, and can be even faster with the addition of a Brock for extra movement and vicious. However, his inspiring rule is specific to Berserkers, which can limit your deployment options.
The Ranger captain is best thought of as a ranger-specific Army standard with vanguard. He'll do the occasional wound in shooting or combat, but this is a secondary ability.
Warsmith's and Stone priests I've already covered.
The Mad Science- Okay, fans of of the more imaginative aspect of dwarf engineering will, I admit, be very dissapointed with this list, and I'm afraid there are no gyrocopters, but there are a couple of nods to this side of dwarves-
The battle driller is a cheap melee monster with the mobility of a small base and the individual rule, and a random but potentially high number of attacks in close combat. Unlikely to be spectacular, but quite possibly useful.
The Steel Behemoth, by contrast, *is* spectacular, a monster that outshines even the greater Earth elemental in resilience, raw combat damage, and points cost. It even has a respectable short range missile attack for when you aren't able to get into combat. Exact details of the design are, as I recall, somewhat vague, and may well vary between individuals.
The magic items- A lot weaker and more subtle(and more balanced) than the magic items in WfB, these items can still be very useful, and importantly aren't limited to characters. Any unit other than monsters or warmachines can take one, and while subtle, can really change the character of a unit. For example, the Diadem of dragonfire gives a unit a short-ranged breath attack, while other items can add the Heal or lightning bolt spells to your normally non-combatant army standard bearers. Those of you who really miss gyrocopters can even make your dwarf king fly, with the Wings of Honeymaize. Less powerful, but still very useful tools, and excellent for adding a little extra character if you want a themed unit.
In conclusion, I actually prefer these dwarves to WfB dwarves. I'll understand other dwarf players feeling sorry about the lack of runes, gyrocopters and irondrakes, but personally, I prefer Elementals and arcane Earth magic, and I really like the sort of tough, resilient combat army these dwarves can field, while still having enough support elements to avoid being inevitably outmanouverd and flanked by faster adversaries. For me, their extra advantages outweigh what they lack.