Posted 14/11/2016

Shieldwall Tactics for Iron Hills Dwarves

Recently, the Forge World office has resounded with the clangour of spears on shields and the occasional Dwarven war cry, and this is mainly down to the recent release of the new Iron Hills Dwarves.

These new models have been causing quite a stir; not only are they stunning miniatures, but they also have a truly impressive stat line in the game and the Shieldwall special rule (taking them up to a whopping Defence 8!)

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But what exactly are the best ways to make the most of these new Dwarves in battle? We caught up with Jay Clare, the Middle-earth™ team’s tamed writer, to find out.

It’s all about positioning:

Jay: “Positioning is the key to an Iron Hills army’s success. You need to make sure your Dwarves are always in base contact with two others in order to claim the Shieldwall bonus. Not only this, but it’s important to ensure that any Dwarf that loses a fight has the opportunity to back away into base contact with two other Dwarves, and therefore retain that all-important Defence 8 provided by their Shieldwall special rule. The way that you form your formation is vital; a shieldwall that is formed with the second rank directly behind the first rank (A) is much more effective than a shieldwall that is formed with the second rank offset (B), as that way your opponent cannot trap certain Dwarves if they get to pick the fights!”

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Protect the flanks:

Jay: Just as with examples of shieldwalls from the history of our world, the weaknesses of the tactic are the flanks of the formation. An Iron Hills army will likely be outnumbered meaning your opponent will be able to get around to the rear lines of your army and trap your Dwarves – a terrible situation to try to fight back from. The best way to overcome this is to set up your shieldwall next to a piece of terrain that will impede, or completely prevent, your opponent from surrounding you. Failing this, having a powerful Hero on your flank (Dain Ironfoot or Dwalin for example) will fulfil the same role, as well as providing some extra hitting power, which is never a bad thing! Having a powerful Hero on the flank allows you to defend it against your enemy with the ability to Heroic Combat and help out the other Dwarves that may be being overwhelmed elsewhere. This will force your opponent to fight your shieldwall head on, playing into the strengths of the Iron Hills Dwarves.

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So with all of these advantages, the Iron Hills Dwarves seem pretty formidable – do they have any weaknesses?

Jay: Absolutely, the great thing about the Strategy Battle Game is that no model or army is invincible; they all have their weaknesses that can be exploited. This is just as true of the Iron Hills Dwarves.

Divide and Conquer:

Jay: As mentioned above, the major weakness of the shieldwall lies at its flanks. Armies that outnumber the Dwarves will be able get around the sides of the shieldwall and attack the Dwarves at the rear; either trapping them and making them easier to kill, or forcing the Dwarves to back away in a direction to break up their formation. A clever player can pick their fights in such an order that will force the shieldwall to separate and the Dwarves to lose that all important Defence bonus.

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Higher Strength = higher casualties:

Jay: On top of this, whilst Strength 3 models will find the shieldwall to be a tough nut to crack, Strength 4 models suffer no such ill effects. This means that a Strength 4 army, such as Uruk-hai or Gundabad Orcs, can tackle the shieldwall in much the same way as they would for most other armies without needing to worry about picking the fights too carefully – it’s still 6’s To Wound either way. Models that receive a bonus when rolling To Wound are also a great counter to the Iron Hills Dwarves. Models such as Abrakhân Guard or Cavalry with lances (Morgul Knights, Haradrim Raiders for example) will provide a much easier way for your army to deal with the Iron Hills Dwarves.

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Jay wasn’t the only one with some advice on dealing with the Iron Hills mighty Shieldwall though… the Middle-earth team’s Adam Troke also weighed in with these tasty tid-bits:

Bowling for Dwarves!

Adam: Normally, Evil players use the Hurl Brutal Power Attack to cause carnage in the enemy ranks by making kills. Against such doughty Dwarves as the Iron Hills warriors, this isn’t quite so reliable. Don’t be put off though – a Mordor™ Troll or Cave Troll can still bowl a line of Dwarves over giving you a serious advantage: a model that has been Knocked Prone can’t strike if it wins the Duel roll, so position your Trolls/Fell Beasts on your flanks and get your ‘Hurl’ on.

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Deploy the Ultra-horde!

Adam: Iron Hills Dwarves are among the most proficient, and most professional, warriors in Middle-earth, and they will make mincemeat out of most foes. But there are only so many enemies they can fight… so consider a truly vast Goblin-town horde. While The Goblin King vs Dain Ironfoot is a legendary matchup (that in all likelihood will go the way of our blubbery Goblin friend), you get almost three Goblins for every Iron Hills Dwarf. Swarm into the Dwarven lines with reckless glee, safe in the knowledge that you can outflank and surround them in truly murderous numbers. Make sure you have your axes and picks at the front for Piercing Strike bonuses, and wreak havoc.

Even if you lose (always a risk with my own brand of tactical advice) you have to admit the image of a sea of Goblins swarming Dain Ironfoot’s veteran warriors looks utterly stunning!

With all this tactical insight, the next thing to do has to be to try out these ideas with your own Iron Hills Dwarves. Get them on the battlefield, form your own shieldwall and march your way to victory. Alternatively, if you are faced with an army from the Iron Hills, you should now have some ideas on how best to counter them – good luck!

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