Do you generally just hate people who own horses? Are you angry at being forced to live in the mountains and eat nothing but potatoes? Do you generally think Saruman is a pretty swell guy with some great ideas about how to make Dunland great again? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the Dunlendings might be the army of men in Middle Earth for you.
Who are the Dunlendings?
The Army of Dunland was a new legendary legion added in the War in Rohan book. Dunlendings, Wildmen and Thrydan Wolfsbane were all available previously, and had a role in Isengard armies as providing cheap bodies and bow shooting for cheaper than Uruk Hai and crossbows, as a source of 2 handed weapons and as an alternative to Orcs (Wildmen cost the same but trade a point of defence for a point of courage, and Dunlending warriors are better but a little more expensive).
In the lore the Dunlendings were the original inhabitants of Rohan, driven from their homes in the year 2510 of the Third Age by Eorl when he was given Calenardhon (renamed to Rohan) for helping the Gondorians. The territory was previously claimed by Gondor, and there were frequent conflicts between the men living there and their Numorean overlords. The Dunlendings then had a long running and bitter feud with the Rohirrim up until the events of the War of the Ring. This conflict saw two major high points, the reign of Helm Hammerhand and the burning of the Westfold.
The Army of Dunland Legendary Legion gives you a practical means of deploying a pure Dunland force, and the War in Rohan book gives three additional named heroes and three additional units to the Dunlendings, giving them enough variety to be competitive as a faction.
Why we are seeing more Dunlendings taken at events is that the they are very much an anti-Rohan faction, and Rohan dominate the tournament meta for a number of reasons (and explaining this is why I expect the article on Rohan to clock in at more than 10k words). With all Dunlending models gaining the Hatred (Rohan) rule (which gives +1 to wound) and a number of other bonuses, this really helps fighting Rohan in 500-750 point games.
As in previous articles, lets look at Movement, Might and Murder.
Movement – The majority is the army is on foot (though they move the 6” of men in ME:SBG) but War in Rohan adds horsemen, giving the army faster moving objective grabbers for 12 points each. Dunlending Chieftains also have access to Heroic March, the only model in the faction to have this.
Might – The Army of Dunland must take Thrydan Wolfsbane, a Might 3 hero with Mighty Blow (each wound inflicted on an enemy becomes 2 wounds) who is good for taking out other Hero of Fortitude level characters or chipping away at monsters or multi-wound infantry. The named characters all have three might, and cost from 55 to 70 points. Dunlending Chieftains have 2 might and clock in at 55 points, though you will buy them after you have run out of named heroes to take. This means Dunlending heroes tend towards being cheap, and in a 5/600 point force you will likely have 3 or 4. This means a reasonable supply of might for heroic actions.
Murder – Dunlending forces have plenty of axes (giving access to piercing strike) and two-handed weapons (giving +1 to wound to the wound roll). This means the two-handed axes can prove very useful. Dunlendings also have access to bows and their banners have a 6” rather than a 3” range.
Dunlendings lack monsters and ‘super’ characters and this means that when they come up against armies whose power curve peaks at higher levels (multiple big heroes like Gandalf + Aragorn, Dwarf heroes, multiple Mumaks, Ringwraith Flying Circus, etc) they lack the ability to reliably kill these opponents. With plenty of two-handed axes and a few model specific rules, you can chew through normal infantry fairly quickly when you win fights. Especially against Rohan, where you can combine Hatred (Rohan) with two-handed weapons for +2 to wound.
The Army of Dunland lacks magic and solid resistance to magic, and against some armies will struggle because of this.
The Army of Dunland peaks in power terms at games of 600 or less. The legendary legions that favour larger engagements (with multiple heroes over 100 points, large numbers of elite models like Mounted Rohan Royal Guard or Half Trolls, or multiple monsters) will tend to overpower Dunland forces at higher points engagements, but 5/600 point games where Dunland field all their named heroes are where they shine.
Dunland are a horde force, and benefit from taking over 20 models (ideally more than 25) at 500 points, and have ‘low’ defence (if you’re used to Uruk Hai, Dwarves or Monsters) but solid strength (strength 5 on some heroes and strength 4 on the other heroes and warriors of Dunland) but are a low courage army (the highest courage in the army is 4).
Dunland is also vulnerable to magic – the army does not have a lot of Will points to defend against it, and they have no magic of their own.
Legendary Legion Rules
Thrydan is upgraded to a hero of valour, which means his warband can be 15 models, which helps you horde up.
Death to the Forgoil! – Every Dunlending unit hates Rohan models, giving you +1 to wound them.
Dunlending Pride – Banners all have 6” range.
Dunlending War Cry – Once per game, at the start of the fight phase, Thrydan can use this ability. All models within 12” get +1 to wound when making strikes (with hatred and two-handed weapons this will stack to +3 to wound).
Penetrating Strike – Not a legendary legion rule, but with most models armed with axes, if you have combats you are fairly sure that you will win, then think about using the penetrating strike special attack. This increases their strength by 1, but if they lose reduces their defence by D3. Check the to wound table to see if this will have any effect before you do it. On a Defence 5 model (like a Rider of Rohan) a Dunlending Warrior using penetrating strike will wound on a 4 not a 5. If using a two-handed weapon this would drop to 3. Against a Defence 8 dwarf or Ent this would make no difference at all and you shouldn’t bother. If you are doing it remember to declare it to your opponent before you start rolling dice.
You can see why this Legendary Legion is seeing a lot of play in a meta where Rohan are doing very well, as it is a hard counter to Rohan. While not as good as the Riders of Theoden ‘Death’ rule, it has a similar ability to use in a key battle round for murdering your opponent’s models, The Dunlending Pride rule makes banners twice as useful and gives you a nice big banner bubble, and getting a flat +1 to wound Rohan models rapidly gets you a pile of dead Rohirrim.
The War Chief of Dunland is a compulsory choice in the Army of Dunland Legendary Legion, and is bumped from a Hero of Fortitude to a Hero of Valour. Thrydan costs 85 points but can take a horse for 10 points (and you should do this) to gain the extra attack and movement, and the ability to knockdown in combats. Fight 5 won’t be beating Elf or Dwarf Heroes, but most human or orc infantry are below you. Thrydan is a mid-level hero, but is where your heroes top out. 3 Might points, 2 Will and 2 Fate, and access to heroic strike and heroic strength gives a reasonable hero, and with a two-handed axe and piercing strike he would be wounding defence 8 on a 4+ and defence 5 on 2+. Thrydan can thus be used and supported to win fights, where his Knockdown from his horse means he’ll roll six dice to wound and every wound is doubled due to his Mighty Blow. This can chop up heroes and monsters pretty quick if you support him to win the fight (as he’ll be rolling at -1 due to his two-handed weapon). Thrydan has Heroic Strike and Heroic Strength available, but these are situational. You may be better pairing Thrydan with Gorulf Ironskin, and Thrydan calls a heroic combat while that Gorulf strikes.
Thrydan also has a Stand Fast range of 12”. While his courage of 4 isn’t great it’s better than the Courage of 3 that Warriors and Wildmen have, and can help keep the army in the fight when it breaks.
A solid mid-level bruiser with Fight 5, Strength 5 and 3 attacks, 3 Might, 1 Will and 1 Fate. Gorulf is the only model apart from Thrydan who can Heroic Strike, which is useful for pairing up with another hero if you are facing high Fight models and want to Heroic Combat.
Gorulf can also Heroic Defence for free if engaged with an enemy hero, which is great to tie up a big enemy hero with only being able to wound you on a 6.
A great choice when fighting cavalry and a solid hero overall for 65 points. Frida is Fight 5, Strength 4 and Defence 6, with 3 Might, 1 Will, 1 Fate. With access to Heroic Defence and Heroic Strength, she is far more useful for her abilities. Frida also has a spear, making her one of the rare heroes that can support other fights.
Readied Stance – in a fight where Frida is engaged or supporting, cavalry models do not get their additional attack or Knock Down ability. This drops a lot of rank and file cavalry to one attack, making them much more likely to lose the combat.
Go for the Horse! – All friendly Dunlending models within 3” reroll To Wound rolls against mounts. This makes it much easier to cut down horses or Wargs and put enemy models or characters on foot, making them a lot less fast and taking away their cavalry abilities.
Frida is a must-take character against cavalry armies, and if the alternative is a Dunlending Chieftain, take Frida.
The Wild Man Oathmaker
The guy from Two Towers who makes the Dunlendings’ oath to Saruman, this character costs 55 points for Fight 4, Strength 4, Defence 4, and 3 Might, 1 Will, 1 Fate. The same price as a Dunlending Chieftain for 1 more point of Might and access to Heroic Strength. If it were not for his special ability, I would not take this model over a Dunlending Chieftain with better strength and Defence.
The Bloodoath ability gives Wildmen within 6” Fearless, and the Oathmaker is himself Fearless. This is very useful against certain armies, as a lot of very expensive non-hero models cause Terror, and Dunlending Courage is not high. Fearless gives you the ability to sacrifice Wildmen to pin Terror causing models in combat, though make sure you are out of Hurl range if you can. This can be useful in fighting the Army of the Dead, and Terror causing models without access to Monster abilities, but also for pinning things like Ents or Trolls in place while you use your high Strength models to murder the accompanying lighter infantry (or swarm a single monster to trap and chop them up).
A standard captain level character, with Fight 4, Strength 5 and Defence 5, 2 Might, 1 Will and 1 Fate. With the only bonus action being Heroic March, this hero struggles to find a place in a 500 point force, but in a 750 point force you will have 1 or 2 of these purely because you need more might and there’s no other heroes you can choose. They are reasonably hard hitting, but not particularly impressive as heroes.
The Army of Dunland has a reasonable range of units that they can choose from.
For 12 points, you get a Fight 3, Strength 4 Defence 5 warrior. This model costs 12 points because of it’s equipment and 2 abilities.
Dunlending War Axe – a big pointy axe you can use as a two-handed axe or a spear. This lets you do a spear and shield wall, whereas previously you couldn’t unless you did a conversion and paid a point for it.
Bodyguard – As long as Thrydan is alive, the model passes all courage tests. This is very useful in a low courage army and makes them a lot more useful when facing Terror causing models or when the army breaks.
Favour of the Warchief – Huscarls supporting a combat within 3” of a Dunlending Hero get +1 to their fight. This encourages you to put a couple of Huscarls in each warband to maximise coverage, and give each warband a couple of Fight 4 warriors.
Do you want to take these? It depends. If you are going for the biggest horde that you can get then no, but if you are going for a more balanced force then a few of these should be included to help beef up your warbands.
A mounted Dunlending warrior, this 12 point model is great to add additional mobility to a warband, either for flanking or objective capping. Adding a couple of these to a warband is useful for objective capping, or adding four or so to Thrydan’s warband to give him a mounted warband to ride around with. Army of Dunland are not a strong cavalry faction, and with no bows cannot engage in the Parthian shot tactics that Rohan can. The Slay Their Horses ability is nice to have, but nothing to rely on.
Dunlending Horsemen can be used for their knockdown ability and high movement in hit and runs, to flank shield walls and trap models, or to cap objectives. You will likely not have many of them as they are not great as cavalry, and Dunland’s strength is their high strength infantry.
For 7 points these are exactly the same as Warriors of Rohan (fight 3, Defence 4, Courage 3) but for 1 point extra they are Strength 4. Realistically you’ll be spending 8 points because you’ll be buying a shield, bow or two-handed weapon.
The question is what to get, and that depends on you. With Shoot 4+ you’ve got reasonably reliable and cheap shooting, and you want to take some bows in order to pick on key models, and avoid your opponent stopping out of charge range and peppering you with whatever they have until you come to them. Some players build very bow heavy forces with 33% of models with missile weapons, to the point that bow armed models are the majority of Warrior models because they’ve spent points on Horsemen, Huscarls and Wildmen.
High strength on the basic warrior is the advantage of this unit, and, whether armed with two-handed axes to do penetrating strike or not, think how you want to use these fairly cheap infantry models to bully your opponents fairly cheap infantry models.
5 points for Fight 3, Strength 3 and Defence 3, you can spend a point to give them two-handed weapons. Pretty much the only thing cheaper than these are goblins, but if you combine these with the Oathmaker then suddenly they are fearless and run towards Ents, Warriors of the Dead, etc and can be used to tie them up. Fearless will also mean that they’ll hold an objective till the Oathmaker dies.
A warband of the Oathmaker and 6 or so Wildmen will provide you with more numbers on the table, but will also give you a small unit that passes all courage tests to move around the board. Vulnerable to shooting and higher fight infantry, but cheap enough to make up for it, they’re a good addition to the range of models you have.
A flock of crows for 20 points. Fight 2, Strength 2, Defence 3, but 2 attacks and 4 wounds. Also when shot at they are only hit on a 6. With the Fly ability they can move 12” and ignore all intervening models. They also take away Stalk Unseen from all enemy models within 12”, which is great for invalidating the Elven Cloaks some people use to avoid their models getting shot to pieces. Great for sticking the Hobbits full of arrows if you are fighting the Fellowship.
Crebain have two main uses:
- Grabbing objectives using their 12” move, only hit by shooting on a 6 rule, and 4 wounds, to then hold it and not get shot off.
- Flanking or trapping enemy models using their ability to move while ignoring intervening models. Careful placement can be used to prevent enemies being able to retreat (bear in mind Crebain are on a 40mm base) and ensure that they get killed. You can also engage supporting models behind the combat line, removing the extra dice that they contribute.
Building a Force
When planning your force, look at the size games that you want to play. Army of Dunland peaks at the 5/600 point level, which means you’ll likely be fielding less than 35 models (if you go Wildmen heavy).
You have to take Thrydan, who is 95 points on a horse and in a 500 point force accounts for 19% of your available points.
The named heroes clock in at 190 points together. With Thrydan that’s 285 points, more than half your points at 500, and almost half at 600, but that gives you 12 Might points to play with, and a bunch of interesting heroes with different abilities. If you do want to have three heroes at 500, then drop the Oathmaker unless you are taking a lot of Wildmen. Frida Tallspear is very good, and Gorulf Ironskin is a good fighting hero. If you are going to 750 points then you can take a Dunlending Chieftain as well.
Once you have selected your heroes you will need to decide how you are going to run your army. Taking a shield wall is a solid choice, and you have access to spears in the form of Huscarls, and a shieldwall of Frida and some Huscarls supporting axe and shield warriors gives you spears, Fight 4 Huscarls and makes you pretty resistant to a cavalry charge. This is a fairly hard counter to some forces like Rohan. Having some bowmen behind the wall able to exert pressure through missile fire, and you’ve got a solid anvil for the enemy to crash against.
Thrydan will be on horse, giving him a threat range of 10”, and you have the option of backing him up with some Dunlending Horsemen, or having him in a position to come in and flank when the shield wall engages.
A solid core of Dunlending warriors with some cheap Wildmen to support is the fairly standard way to build the force, but I would recommend experimenting over the course of a few games, ideally playing factions that aren’t Rohan to see how you handle the harder match ups.
The Army of Dunland mixes FW and GW models, though the only really necessary FW purchase is the named heros. The Forgeworld models are all solid modern sculpts, and the GW sculpts are pretty decent.
Cost is a factor, as there are no low cost plastics as there are in most faction forces. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact you won’t want more than 600 or so points, so two boxes of Dunlending Warriors and a box of Wildmen is probably the bulk of your troop purchases, and will fill out entirely your warriors if you are taking all four named heroes.
Crebain are interesting models, and you will likely only want a single pack of them. Dunlending Horsemen and Huscarls are pricey in cash terms, but really nice and something to get if you want. You can go pure GW models and just a single blister of named characters and spend around £150 to get your force. You could also add models to a mixed Isenguard force (an Oathmaker and Wildmen warband for example) and slowly build out your Dunlendings, or enjoy them as part of a mixed Isengard force.
Some people have used Victrix Vikings, where you get 60 plastic Vikings for less than the cost of 14 metal Dunlending Warriors, and source the plastic bows they need elsewhere and convert, or the Warlord Games Viking Bondi, which is a reissue of the Wargames Factory Viking Bondi. Another option is the Dark Ages Archers from Gripping Beast, which gets you 30 archers at a very reasonable price.
Another option is the conversion of Warriors of Rohan with weapon swaps and new shields.
As ever if you want to use non-GW models, check the policies of the events you want to attend.
While ME:SBG is the cheapest of the big GW games to get into, there is an exception for all metal/FW model forces. Talk to your friendly local games store, as direct only items can be ordered through stores though at a lower discount (the store I run does a 10% discount on direct rather than the normal 20%), and it can make getting all those models a little less heavy on the wallet.
The Army of Dunland is a solid competitive faction at smaller point events, and its power peaks at that level. In terms of look it is very dark ages, and owes a lot to the Vikings or Anglo Danes of the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries interms of stylek.
Competitively they are in a good place as a spoiler in a Rohan heavy meta, and the injection of a hard counter to Rohan armies has hopefully shaken up competitive play a bit.
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