Friday, 19 December 2014

A Close Shave: High Elves vs Dwarves

As alluded to in a previous post, this week I was visiting a long-dormant Warhammer player (self-titled 'General Palafox') in the hopes of reintroducing him to the hobby.

I'll show him da ropes,
And destroy his hopes...

High Elves were his army of choice, and in the interests of a fluffy, tutorial game, I dusted off my Dwarves.

Since I'd be demonstrating the game, I'd need to keep both army books and the ruleset in the foremost of my mind. Now I haven't played High Elves ever, and I haven't fielded Dwarves for more than a decade, but I did make suitable preparations for the challenge.

I grew a beard.


Limited by what models I could bring/proxy, and wanting to keep it simple, I decided we would play a battle from the distant history of the Warhammer world ... The War of the Beard!


  • Thane: Gromril Armour, Shield, Rune of Iron (2), Rune of Stone, Oathstone
  • Battle Standard Bearer: Gromril Armour, Shield,
  • Runsesmith: Gromril Armour, Shield, Rune of Spellbreaking (2)
  • 22 x Longbeards: Shields, Heavy Armour, Full Command
  • 15 x  Miners: Great Weapons, Heavy Armour, Full Command
  • 1 x Grudge Thrower: Rune of Accuracy, Rune of Immolation
  • 12 x Rangers: Great Weapons, Dwarf Crossbows, Throwing Axes, Heavy Armour, Shields. Full Command.

Not having to worry about a competitive list, I just took what I thought would be fun. The general is kitted out for survival, since I'm always going to be on the back foot in combat, and the Oathstone is in anticipation of getting surrounded and flanked. I'm hoping the Runesmith will be able to destroy one spell and give me a chance in the magic phase.

Miners and Rangers will give some more interesting mobility than just slogging forward (I could have added Strollaz Rune to the Longbeards, but that seemed a bit too much pressure to apply in this game).

And, since this battle pre-dates blackpower or steam, just a Grudge Thrower for me. The Rune of Accuracy is a given, the Rune of Immolation could be a hoot.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.
Even 4,000 years ago, Longbeards were old, and dwarves held grudges.

High Elves

  • Archmage: Lv 4 High Magic, Talisman of Endurance.
    • Soulquench, Hand of Glory, Arcane Unforging, Fiery Convocation
  • Battle Standard Bearer: Heavy Armour, Shield, Elven Steed, Ithilmar Barding, Star Lance, Cloak of Beards, Luckstone.
  • 14  x Archers: Longbow, Musician.
  • 9 x Silver Helms: Lance, Heavy Armour, Shield, Elven Steed, Ithilmar Barding, Full Command.
  • 5 x Ellyrian Reavers: Spear, Light Armour, Bows, Musician.
  • 14 x Swordmasters of Hoeth: Great Weapons, Heavy Armour, Full Command, Banner of Swiftness
  • 1 x Eagle Claw Both Thrower

I think this list gives a nice taster of a High Elf army: strong magic, fast moving and a good bit of combat and shooting.

[The grey plastic proxies I used are too hideous to display here]

The BSB is going to be the fighting power here, hence the Star Lance. The Cloak of Beards was too perfect not to include.

I've never used High Magic before (although I might start now!), but there was a nice spread of spells: destructive, augments and one cheeky spell that can destroy my runic items (ulp!).


A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

The Swordmasters go on the extreme left, then the Reavers. The Bolt Thrower hugs the backline, hoping to avoid any Miner attention. Next up are Silver Helms with the BSB, while the Archmage bunkers down with the Archers behind Baby Jesus.

We didn't have any scenery, so had to cannibalise a Nativity Scene.

For the Dwarves, the Longbeards place themselves between the swamp and building, facing off against the Archers. The Grudge Thrower also occupies backline and Rangers scout ahead to face off against the Elven left flank.

The Reavers vanguard forward to threaten the flank of the Rangers. They don't manage to get out of their charge arc, but the Elves win the first turn, so they're in no danger.

And the Dwarves roll Hatred for everyone - of course they do. It's the War of the Beard!

High Elves - Turn 1

No charges are declared. The Reavers race past the Rangers and get into range of the Grudge Thrower.

The Swordmasters march forward, out of the Rangers' charge arc, on the left. While the Silver Helms position themselves outside of the Rangers' charge arc on the right (thus making me feel both stymed and boxed-in at the same time).

The Archers stay put, humming 'Away In A Manger' as they strum their bowstrings.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

It's a 9-dice magic phase and so beings an interesting cat-and-mouse game: General Palafox won't cast Fiery Convocation while I have my dispel rune (because I have a 50% chance of destroying it). I won't use my dispel rune on anything other than Fiery Convocation, which means there's a good chance he can cast Vaul's Unforging, and take away my dispel rune anyway.

And he does just that: Vaul's Unforging is successfully cast against my Runesmith, but I manage to stop it with all my dispel dice. With Soulquench out of range, he casts Hand of Glory to give his Archers another pip of BS.

In the shooting phase, the Archers take out one Longbeard, the Bolt Thrower gets two Rangers and the Reavers knock off one Grudge Thrower crew.

Dwarves - Turn 1

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

Longbeards begin their long march directly forward. Ignoring the danger ahead of them, the Rangers combat reform and move towards the Reavers (hoping to increase the charge range for the Silver Helms - and hey, if they get me, a rear charge will be the least of my worries). They lob their throwing axes at the Reavers, who lose two riders but pass panic.

The Grudge Thrower lands a direct hit on the BSB, but a normal Silver Helm obliges by taking the hit and the rest of the unit make their armour saves.

(back in my day, Stone Throwers didn't allow armour saves, grumble grumble....)

High Elves - Turn 2

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

Time for some pointy-eared carnage! The Reavers charge the Grudge Thrower and the Silver Helms charge the Rangers. The Swordmasters also charge the Rangers but fall short.

The Archers march forward to put the Archmage with 18" of the Longbeards. I guess this means if the Fiery Convocation doesn't get me, the boosted Soulquench will.

There were a goodly amount of power dice for magic phase, and my aim was just to hunker down and get through it. I let through a basic Soulquench, which takes off two Longbeards, and use the rest of my dispel dice to stop Vaul's Unforging.

The shooting phase is something of a dud with the Longbeards' toughness and armour stopping everything the Archers and Bolt Thrower can muster.

With throwing axes bouncing off their armour, the Silver Helms make it into combat. The Ranger champion challenges the BSB and gets cut down mercilessly. Two more Rangers are slain, for the loss of one Silver Helm, and the dwarves break and run.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

The Silver Helms pursue, but not very far, clearly more interesting in harvesting fresh beards than chasing down the survivors.

The Reavers kill the Grudge Thrower crew with such alacrity that I forget to trigger my Rune of Immolation (damn). They overrun to  cross the field to get back into action on the right flank (since I don't really have a left flank any more).

Now would be a good time for the Miners to arrive.

Dwarves - Turn 2

The Miners do not arrive. I assume they're on strike.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

The Rangers rally and the Longbeards continue slogging forward (we'll get there eventually ... with Dwarves, you're here for a long time, not a good time).

With nothing left to shoot, I content myself with growling insults into my beard.

High Elves - Turn 3

The Silver Helms once again charge the Rangers, and Swordmasters once again fail to make it in (they're so slow all battle - I may have forgotten to apply their Banner of Swiftness. Chalk it up to the same lost property department as the Rune of Immolation).

After taking some advice about expendable units and sneaky use of chaff, the Reavers dash through a gap between building and Longbeards to block up the dwarves.

Now protected for at least another turn, the Archers do the Wood Elf Shuffle and head backwards, away from the advancing dwarves.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

In the magic phase, it had to happen: Vaul's Unforging is once again cast - and I fail to dispel. The Runesmith doesn't take a wound, but who cares about that when the Spellbreaking Rune is now smashed.

With my magical defences down, Fiery Convocation is then cast - Irresistibly. Five Dwarves go down in flames and I even need the BSB's re-roll to pass my panic test (now I recall - the Longbeards don't take panic tests - but at the time, it felt like everything was running against me). As some consolation, the resulting backlash kills three Archers and ends the magic phase.

The Archers and Bolt Thrower account for a couple more Longbeards - my main combat unit is looking quite denuded and Fiery Convocation is still burning away on them.

In combat, the Silver Helms easily wipe out the remains of the Rangers and reform to face the right flank.

Dwarves - Turn 3

Having reached an agreement on pay and work conditions, the Miners appear on the field, burrowing up directly behind the Archers and spitting out dirt clods. With not a lot left on the field, I charge the Ellyrian Reavers.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

And for my magic phase, I actually bother roll for dice, since I need the power to dispel Fiery Convocation.

With my natural 2+, I need 17 to end it. I throw every dice I have.

Oh, this is going to hurt.

I lose another rank of Longbeards and take a wound off the Runesmith. And I still have to take another round of this before I can dispel it (on the other hand, the fewer models I have, the less damage it can do. So yipee).

In the combat phase, the Longbeards take revenge by hacking down the Reavers and overruning - my hope was to put some distance between the Silver Helms and my rear, and close the gap to charge the Archers.

However, the Dwarves get quite a sprint on and move too far forward, putting the Archers just one inch past their charge arc.

High Elves - Turn 4

The Silver Helms are faced with a risky charge across the marshes, or a more cautious march past them. Having the upper hand, General Palafox elects for safety and moves them around the swamp, ready for a charge on turn 5. The Swordmasters amble along behind, ready for a charge on turn 12 or so.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

Ignoring the Longbeards, the Archers about-face to look at the Miners (they fail to swift reform, but their arrows haven't been great so far anyway). The Archmage races out of the unit, electing for the safety of solitude and a good line of sight on everything.

In magic, a boosted Soulquench (I now have so few dwarves, it makes more sense for him to go for 4D6, rather than hitting every model in the unit) kills four Miners. At the end of the phase, Fiery Convocation once again goes to town (although most of the town has already burned down) leaving me with five Longbeards and three characters.

The Bolt Thrower then takes aim with a single shot along the flank and hits a Miner. And then another.

And then another. And then another.

The fifth Miner does not become part of this horrific miner-kebab, and they pass panic.

Dwarves  - Turn 4

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

The Miners charge the Archers, who flee. And the Longbeards (what remains of them) reform to face the Silver Helms.

In the magic phase, I scrape all my power dice and irresistibly dispel that damn Fiery Convocation. Although at this point, it had probably just run out of things to burn.

High Elves – Turn 5

The Silver Helms charge into the Longbeards and make it. The Archers rally, angling themselves so a Miners’ charge will take them away from the other combat. The Swordmasters might as well be doing their laundry.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

A weaker magic phase (we were due one) – I’m able to dispel Soulquench, but a Hand of Glory does boost the WS of the Silver Helms, to put them on an even footing with the Longbeards.

In shooting, the Bolt Thrower once again tries its Dwarf-skewering trick, and takes off three more.

In combat, the High Elf BSB challenges and the oathstone-bound Thane accepts. The first thing that happens when he touches the base of his enemy is his runic armour fails due to the Cloak of Beards, taking with it 1T and 1W (eep!).

The BSB strikes first, hitting well with the Star Lance and getting two wounds through. I fail both my parry saves - until I remember this new Shieldwall rule that means I save on 5+. My general lives! He celebrates by chopping down the BSB and adding some overkill (That's for the Cloak of Beards! Haters gonna hate).

In the rest of the combat, the Silver Helms throw some attacks on the wounded Runesmith, killing him, but only getting two more Longbeards. The Dwarf BSB leads the Longbeards’ counterattack and fell two of the Elven Knights. The Elves lose the combat but hang on.

Dwarves – Turn 5

The very-depleted Miners charge into the Archers, who stick and we go straight to combat. The Archers actually do pretty well, loping down two Miners for only one loss themselves. Whistling ‘The Internationale’, the two surviving Miners link arms and hold fast.

A Warhammer Fantasy Battle Report between Dwarfs and High Elves.

In the main combat, the Silver Helm champion challenges out the Thane, who promptly hacks him down. The rest of the combat is a bit of a push, but with their BSB dead, the Silver Helms come off worst and lose the combat. They break, but flee 11 inches to comparative safety – except the Longbeards pick up their stumpy legs and catch them! The Silver Helms are destroyed.

With the hour getting late, and nothing in my future now but a barrage of magic missiles and bolts, I concede defeat. This one goes to the High Elves.

Result: 12:8 to the High Elves
(809:628 in imperial measurements)

If you'll excuse me, I'm just off to shave my beard.


What a cracking game. I had an absolute blast, as did General Palafox (by the end of Turn 2, he had already developed his own Power Stance for crucial dice rolls). I didn't need to tell him how to play, just advised him on his options and let him decide. As a tutorial/introduction, it worked very well.

In terms of the actual result - wow, did I get clobbered. The final result actually flatters me a lot: if the Elven BSB has killed my general in the challenge (and I was one lucky roll away from that happening), I would have been tabled, with only the Reavers to show for it.

I clearly have a lot to re-learn about playing Dwarves, but the obvious tactic would be to castle up in a corner and use my artillery. That's not for me - they may have been catastrophic, but I liked the idea of the Miners and Rangers and I reckon I can to use them to good effect.

The Longbeards impressed me, as did the general survivability of the Dwarves - sure, everything died, but it took a lot of hits to do it.

And something else: after building a list and seeing them play, I'm not so hostile to High Elf armies either. In fact, I wouldn't mind playing with an army similar to this one.

So who was the true winner? It was Warhammer. Warhammer was the winner here.


  1. One of the high points of the battle was explaining which spell Gen. Palafox could swap in:

    "There's Apotheosis - that's a healing spell."

    "Well... I am, at heart, a healer."

    "... or there's Soul Quench. That's kind of like a fireball."