This is not a raging editorial about how 6th Edition WHFB is making a comeback, anything to do with GW’s impending (maybe) Old World game, or bad talking any other game in the process. I like Age of Sigmar. I like Conquest. I write about both of those and if rank and flank gaming is your thing definitely check out Conquest.
Dwarfs (or Dwarves to Tolkein) have always held a spot in my heart. Gimli was my favourite of the Fellowship when I was young and Dwarfs were my first Warhammer Fantasy army with the book above at the dawn of 7th edition in September 2006 (I was 12). I never even played 6th edition before this year. This is not “the” 6th edition dwarf book. I know that. I’ve got that one too and will surely be making lists and playing games with that one too for even more variation but this was the first fantasy book I ever had and played Warhammer with.
Why 6th Edition
Pre-Covid I was much more of a gamer than a painter. I would still label myself that way, having played nearly a dozen different game systems just this year. However before Covid it was almost all 40k and Age of Sigmar with some Middle Earth and the occasional small game like Blood Bowl thrown in. During the various UK lockdowns in 2020/21 I got much more into the actual painting side of this hobby – picking up various projects just to build and paint them, and maybe eventually game again. One of these projects was getting involved with a local group chat for Warhammer Fantasy 6th Edition; which seems to be widely regarded as the “best” edition for rank-and-flank Warhammer. Best is a pretty strong word, “most balanced” is something that gets thrown around a lot, but then there’s also the camp that only plays 6th Edition using the Ravening Hordes book which gave every existing (at the time) army very basic rules much in the way of 40k’s 8th edition Indexes.
Anyway. I just wanted to collect a dwarf army and the Citadel/Games Workshop sculpts are just fantastic, especially from the 90’s and early 00’s. These dwarfs look very much a race-apart from humans and elves; they’re not just short-humans but have exaggerated features (and fantastic beards, of course).
I already had some of the older 90’s and 00’s dwarf models, both plastic and metal, but started keeping an eye out for job-lots of Warhammer dwarfs in various places, buying them cheap and stripping the (often very thick) paint off of them. During this time though I wasn’t actually doing any painting, that didn’t start until November of this year.
Jumping forwards to the end of 2022 and one of the guys from this local 6th Ed group chat asks to meet up for a 2250 point game in town. I told him that I’d love to, it’d be great, but I don’t have a painted army! He says that’s fine and we book a table for a game in a few weeks. I decide to make an effort to paint at least the Lords and Heroes for my army that I’ll want to take and prime the other units so they’re not all bare metal and plastic. Instead I ended up fully painting and basing 137 dwarfs. Some units like Ironbreakers were incredibly fast to paint (they’re mostly silver!) while others took a bit of time like Long Drong’s Slayer Pirates due to all the different details and needing to be more careful with colours.
Painting the Dwarfs
I painted these up using underpainting by spraying them black, heavy drybrushing with Corax White (a non-pure white with good coverage) and using a lot of contrast paint, mostly:
- Fyreslayer Flesh (skin of course)
- Celestium Blue (cloth, one of the main colours)
- Snakebite Leather (leathers)
- Cygor Brown (beards and some gloves/boots)
- Gore-grunta Fure (beards)
- Skeleton Horde (great for blonde hair/beards!)
- Basilicanum Grey (more beards)
- Wyldwood (wood)
- Baal Red (weapon handles)
Other, non-contrast paints used:
- Leadbelcher (and a lot of it)
- Retributor Armour (trinkets, trim)
- Skullcrusher Brass (some metallics)
- Runelord Brass (some metallics)
- Castellax Bronze (some metallics)
- Barak-Nar Burgundy (the other main colour for clothe/gloves)
- Waaagh! Flesh (green cloth like on the Rangers sleeves)
- Ushabti Bone (horned helmets/pages in books)
- Soulstone Red (red gems)
- Nuln Oil (all-over shade at the end)
- Agrax Earthshade (all-over shade for Slayers)
The bases were incredibly easy and I do still want to go back and end more grass tufts to them, but I’ve run out and getting things delivered has been a real pain recently:
- Scale75 Soilworks Spring Soil
- Agrax Earthshade all-over
- Some cheap grass tufts off eBay that I only had a few of and need to order more for the army
This scheme is really that simple. The white beards are just the initial drybrush with the nuln oil shade over them too. The little freehand on the banners is just done in the same Corax White too, even.
This is the full painted collection that I put together in just under a month. Sadly those incredibly cool Doomseeker slayers are only usable in a full slayer army in the Storm of Chaos expansion book; just means I need to paint more slayers.
Since taking this picture I’ve actually painted up 10 dwarf warriors after realising how important it is to just have more bodies on the table in this game and will be painting more as well. Really I just want to show off here all the incredibly cool models that I’ve got painted up so far.
That’s 117 metal dwarfs, 10 plastic ones, weighing in at 2,680 grams. Or 5.9 pounds for the Americans. Hefty army.
The First Game
For the first game back in rank-and-flank Warhammer we agreed to allow named characters (the done-thing for this edition) and I wanted to use the character that I never got to when I was young: Thorgrim Grudgebearer.
Now, using up 780 points joined to a unit that was 218points in a game of only 2250 points was probably real-dumb. Generally speaking in wargaming there are only a few instances when you should be spending nearly half your points in one unit on the table: it is fast, flexible, and able to dish out serious damage when paired with both of those OR it somehow scores you an incredible number of victory points by not dying. Dwarfs are not fast, they are not manoeuvrable in any way, and not-dying is great but doesn’t win you games of 6th edition. So this was probably my first mistake.
List building in this structure definitely scratched an itch, too. Needing to fill out core units, limited on what/how many characters I could take to lead the army, etc etc etc. Also rune-crafting is just incredibly cool. Mixing and matching runes on characters, banners, and artillery is one of the best parts of this book by far.
The list I used for those that care, and this is where I’m told I added something up wrong as well probably:
- Thorgrim Grudgebearer – 780pts
- Thane: Oath Stone (Hammerers), Rune of Cleaving, Rune of Speed, Master Rune of Gromril, Rune of Resistance – 160pts
- Runesmith (joins Ironbreakers): Shield, Rune of Spellbreaking, Rune of Iron, Rune of Stone – 117pts
- 10 Quarreller Rangers: Shields, Great Weapons, Full Command – 175pts
- 10 Thunderers: Full Command – 165pts
- 12 Longbeards: Shields, Great Weapons, Rune of Battle, Full Command – 218pts
- 14 Ironbreakers: Full Command – 212pts
- 14 Hammerers: Full Command – 198pts
- Grudgethrower: Rune of Burning – 85pts
- Flame Cannon: 140pts
Thorgrim definitely feels very expensive in an otherwise very slow army. I know that my opponent is bringing an Orcs and Goblins army using the Ard Boyz army list out of Storm of Chaos which sounds really cool. I went through about a dozen different iterations of this list, tossing up various Special units like Slayers or Miners but that meant I didn’t have any artillery which just felt incredibly wrong for dwarfs.
Post game thoughts
I need more units on the table and to not spend 780 points on one model. Don’t get me wrong, Thorgrim did murder a giant basically on his own, but that’s all he did and then wasn’t in a position to get any other charges off and was ignored/avoided. My elite units were flanked, often, and my artillery dispatched of because there weren’t enough units on the table to protect them. Adding in a unit of Miners so they can come on back-field or from the side would give some significant board control and help deal with enemy artillery as well.
Dwarven ranged units like quarrellers and thunderers are actually not bad in combat, either. Usually when your back-line ranged unit gets into combat it’s game over for them, but these are really just as good in combat as dwarf warriors and can even be given shields to make them nearly as tough, too.
My guess ranges were definitely very good, and I only rolled Hit symbols for the grudgethrower without any disastrous misfires either, very lucky overall but can see why taking a rune for +1S is so important on this piece, making those impacts hit harder for its cost and taking up a Special slot will be great going forwards. For artillery though it’s hard not to notice that 2 bolt throwers at about the same cost as 1 grudgethrower is more reliable and likely dish out more damage as well; not having to roll the artillery dice and not accidentally blowing itself up is massive. That said, dwarfs have a lot of safeguards to make artillery more reliable between runes and engineers so just investing some more points there seems very worthwhile.
Magic is real good, I had forgotten just how hard it can hit and the Orcs only had a single caster. Investing more in magical defence is a great step, but also it wasn’t quite the overpowering all-encompassing magic phases I remember during later iterations of fantasy games, either.
All in all it was just really fun shoving around blocks of metal dwarfs
More 6th Edition?
Definitely. Playing this has scratched a wargaming itch that I’ve had for a while now and something that other rank and flank games just didn’t quite get for me. Is a lot of that formed entirely from reminiscing of a simpler, younger time in my life? Almost assuredly. But between getting to play with these old metal models and building an army list that can really feel incredibly unique it was a very fun experience over all.
Is this the best game ever? No. I can already start to remember and see flaws in its design. There’s no singularly perfect wargame and that’s fine. The community around me for this specific game is very friendly and has been very welcoming to me and all of my dumb questions. A bit of self-regulation and group-regulation around certain lists/combinations seems to be the way to make sure everyone is having a good time; just like pretty much any other wargame there is. I think we’re even going to do a multi-game mini event meetup in the new year too, will be fun to see more armies on the table.
I very much look forward to playing more games and doing more list building with my dwarfs, as well as getting the rest of my backlog of them painted up for even more unit variation, in the coming months!