Total War: Warhammer Dwarf guide

The Dwarfs are the best defensive army in Total War: Warhammer. Even their starting units, Dwarf Warriors, are sturdy enough to withstand a charge, and their ranged weapons are accurate and effective. This means you’ll have an advantage from the start of a campaign when compared to other factions. 

Unfortunately, they’re also slow, pricey and weak against elite cavalry. Luckily, you’ll be fighting orcs and vampires early on, so this isn’t a huge problem. Stay friendly with humans and other Dwarfs, fill your coffers, and when the forces of Chaos finally arrive you’ll be in a solid position to repel them. This is also a helpful metaphor for Dwarf tactics. Sit back, watch enemies break against your lines of elite infantry and tear them to bits with terrifying artillery. Khazukan Khazakit ha!

Anvil and erm...other anvil

Compared to traditional Total War armies, your options are initially limited. You want enemies to come to you, thinning them out with ranged fire before engaging them with your sturdiest units. Dwarf Warriors are fine for this, but upgrade to Longbeards as soon as you can. Your standard tactic is hammer and anvil: you trap an enemy in a defensive arm wrestle—that’s the anvil bit—then hit them in the flanks with your best offensive option. Without cavalry, your ‘hammer’ is more likely to be another, slowly-moving anvil, but it still works. Slayers are great for this because they’re (relatively) fast, but any unit with a two-handed weapon will do. 

Ranged units are another option, but make sure you deal with enemy cavalry before you expose their flanks. Quarrellers are surprisingly powerful, but upgrade to Thunderers for better armour piercing damage. In short, your early tactics are very Dwarfy. Simple things, done well, built on stubborn, grumbling foundations.

Drakes Too Good

One of the best things about Dwarfs is the range of elite units they can field. Standard Irondrakes use flaming drakeguns that destroy most lightly-armoured infantry units, and the specialist Trollhammer Torpedo version is perfect way to smash monstrous creatures before they reach you. Ironbreakers are ridiculously tough defensive infantry, and they come with blasting charges—useful ranged explosives that can be thrown before a charge. If you’re going for the hammer and anvil technique, use—you guessed it—Hammerers. They have two-handed weapons, and last longer than lightly armoured Slayers who are better used elsewhere. 

Everpeak Aircorps

Gyrocopters are tricky. They require serious micromanagement, and can often feel like an expensive risk. When used with caution, however, they can add some much-needed pace to a largely static army. Make sure to keep them away from ranged attacked and powerful flying units—easier said than done—and use them to nullify enemy artillery. Another great use is to fly along the line of enemy units while they’re locked in combat, dropping explosives on their exposed flanks. This is only possible with the gyrobomber version, which comes with 10 bombs instead of three. 

Hill behaviour

Dwarfs are dangerously obsessed with mountains, but hills are your friends, too. You want the opponent to come to you, ideally through a storm of deadly ranged fire, so find a high spot and wait. If this means moving backwards from the deployment line, do it. Survey the map, find spots where the enemy has to fight uphill and control them. If possible, put ranged units on a hill behind your wall of infantry - they’ll be able to shoot over the heads of your stunty brothers, safely doing unanswered damage. Once enemies are locked in place, you can also manoeuvre ranged units to an their flank and pepper them with armour-piercing missiles. This will lower morale even more, and cause many units to break. This tactic can be used effectively with a standard Dwarf garrison, leaving your actual army free to range far and take new settlements. 

There’s no Dwarfen word for sprint

One major problem with Dwarfs is you have no way to charge down fleeing enemies. Traditional Total War armies usually have light cavalry for this, but you’ll have to accept that some units will regroup and return to the fight. Even cowardly goblins can find their courage. You can counter this by keeping fire on fleeing units until they’re shattered, or trying to rout them before fleeing enemies return. Once all the units in the enemy army are broken, there’s no chance they’ll regroup. You can also chase them down with your gyrocopters, assuming you’ve managed to keep them alive, or keep the pressure on using artillery. 

Settle down

When playing the campaign, pay close attention to what structures you build. If you want to recruit Slayers, for instance, you’ll need a shrine and an armoury in the same province. There’s little point building structures unless you’re getting maximum benefit out of them, especially because you have a limited number of building slots. Use the building browser to survey what’s in each area, and watch out for warnings about duplicate buildings. Having two barracks in one province, for instances, is pointless: use that extra slot to make money, control public order or unlock elite units instead. 

Money matters

A Dwarf army doesn’t march on its stomach: it marches on stacks of shiny gold. Money is everything. It’s crucial that you remain solvent, so pay attention to costs, consider upkeep and fight within your means. Dwarfs are expensive to recruit and have high running costs, so careful management is essential. If a unit has served its purpose and hasn’t accrued much experience, disband it. Also, wherever possible, build structures that make money. If a settlement is safely nestled in the centre of your kingdom, knock down gatehouses and walls and build toolmakers and markets instead. Get it right, and you can easily draw in 20-30k each turn in the late campaign. Add it to your mighty treasure horde, and don’t share it with the Umgi. 

Be defensive

Consider building gatehouses and walls on settlements at the edge of your realm. The more advanced the structure, the better the garrison. If you actually build a wall around your settlement, it’s going to take a seriously powerful army to get through, even against a standard dwarf garrison. In my Long Campaign, Archaon, Everchosen of Chaos took massive damage trying to take a walled Dwarf settlement. The city fell, but at massive cost to his army. Two turns later, he retreated into Sylvania and was never seen again. 

Be diplomatic

Stay on good terms with humans and other dwarfs. You can add dwarf factions to your confederation, immediately increasing your reach and income, but consider what’s best for you first. Will it drag you into a war with the vampires? Do you need the money? Plan it carefully. Remember that in order to complete the campaign, you only need to be in an alliance with a faction holding one of the key areas—you don’t need to hold it yourself. Most importantly, stay friendly with the humans. They have decent ranged weapons with armour piercing properties, so a ranged tug-of-war is less in your favour. When the Chaos forces arrive, use that threat to build bridges and resolve existing conflicts.

Your place or mine?

You’re playing Dwarfs. You belong underground. Capture settlements with mines, such as Mount Gundabad, and build mines as soon as you can. They bring in stacks of cash, and can help you maintain large armies with expensive troops. Going north early in the game can help fund an expedition to the south of the map, but it’s not essential. Dwarfs have the best tech tree in the game, as well as some trade-specific commandments you can issue, so use these to buff your income from mines. 

Going Underground

Towards the end of the Long Campaign you’ll have to move your units across the map to reclaim lost dwarf holds in the north. This means marching through areas with high Vampiric and Chaos corruption, which will deplete your units through attrition. Have your armies use the Underway stance to avoid damage caused by corruption, but make sure your forces are study enough to win if intercepted: if you lose in the Underway, your army will be wiped out. The Underway is also crucial from a defensive standpoint. You can go under mountains to quickly relieve besieged cities, and use it to easily intercept Orc armies. Dwarfs struggle to catch orc forces because of their paltry movement allowance, so plan ahead and let them come to you instead. It’s the Dwarfen way.

For more general advice on how to run your Total War: Warhammer campaigns, check out our Total War: Warhammer beginner's guide. Read our guide to the Old World to find out more about the kings, gods and strange magic of the Warhammer world.