Battle Report – Free Dwarfs vs Ratkin – 24/05/2020

I’m back with another Kings of War battle report. This time it is my Free Dwarfs vs Si Brand’s Ratkin – we played Push at 2000 points. Si was practicing for his Call to Arms game so we used the fixed two tokens each, plus one in the middle.

My track record with Free Dwarfs so far has been… patchy.

You can read about my initial impressions of the Free Dwarfs here.

You can watch Dash28’s live stream of my Call to Arms game using Free Dwarfs here.

I’m up to 12 games with them now and my win rate is holding at a respectable 50%. But this is still lower than I would usually expect with other armies – in the 2018 Masters season I had a 75% win rate at tournaments and I’d say that I can usually hold that level of win rate or above regardless of the army I play.

In all my games with Free Dwarfs so far, I feel like I’ve been playing with one arm tied behind my back. Every other army just seems to have better tools than the Dwarfs in every category – I can’t really think of anything the Free Dwarfs do better than anyone else.

I know I’m not using the more optimised list that I could. In V2, competitive Dwarf builds lent heavily on Brock and Rocks style lists with a wall of Def6 backed up by loads of Brock Rider. I’m sure there is a competitive Free Dwarf list down that path, but I want to try and include some actaul Dwarfs in my Dwarf list.

I also admit that I’m still fairly new with the army and its possible that my win rate is due to my inexperience. Although in the other new army I’ve started playing with recently (the Twilight Kin), my win rate has already exceeded 75%. Twilight Kin don’t have trouble winning, they have trouble with variety – Free Dwarfs have lots of variety, it just doesn’t seem very good!


So why am I bothering with them? Because they’re damn fun.

For all of their limitations and challenges, I’ve had a really good time playing the list. Its fun and its different to anything I’ve played before – for now at least, that’s enough to keep me engaged with the stunties.

This is the current iteration of my list. Its developed over time as I’ve started to get to understand the Free Dwarfs – I certainly don’t think I’ve cracked it yet but I’m happier with this list than I was with the previous iterations of it.

The two Ironclad hordes have replaced the Shieldbreaker hordes. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Shieldbreaker hordes are a bit of a trap, one of those units that looks great on paper but just doesn’t deliver on the tabletop for one reason or another. They have excellent combat potential and Pathfinder and Scout are great rules, but their low speed prevents them from being able to utilise that potential.

Ironclad hordes with items have a fairly similar damage output, but they maintain the Def5 and the Headstrong. Seeing as these hordes are so rarely going to get the first charge off, I decided to value the defensive stats higher than the offensive stats.

I’ve really enjoyed the two Ranger troops. They’re a very flexible unit with a good damage output in both shooting and combat. I was initially put off by their relatively low defense and 10/12 nerve, but I’ve found that they’re small enough to go largely ignored by most opponents.


The Ratkin

Si’s Ratkin list is really interesting – Ratkin without a single infantry horde.

Overall its a really tough list with several hammer units and a good amount of Rally and support pieces. I’m out sped and out gunned in combat, so I need to ensure that my shooting thins out some of his units before we get into combat or else I’m going to be outmatched.


Top of Turn 1

Because I’m an absolute amateur at this, I once again forgot to take a screen shot of deployment, but I only shuffled my army forward so you can pretty much see where it started.

I experimented with splitting the tokens across two unit this game – its something I never normally do so wanted to give it a try to see how it ‘feels’. I worry sometimes that things become the norm just because everyone does them, not because its necessarily the best way to play.

The Berserker Lord flew up in to the woods to ensure that the Night Terror couldn’t use the trees to hide out of line of sight. Everything else shuffled forward, preparing themselves to receive the incoming wave of rats!

Both Cannons fired at the Tunnel Runners but all their shots missed. However, the Rangers made up for it doing an impressive 6 damage to the Tunnel Runners between them – they failed to waver so on to Si’s first turn.


Bottom of Turn 1

The Night Terror moved up around the forest, putting itself in a position where it could see the Brocks, but they couldn’t see him – sneaky rat.

The majority of Si’s mainline moved up slowly. The Tunnel Runners turned 90 degrees left and gave themselves some cover from the Rangers.

The Tangle put Weakness on to the Berserker Lord – limiting what he was likely to do next turn. The Broodmother Drain Life’d the Vermin Tide, healing 4 damage back on the Tunnel Runners.


Top of Turn 2

Cry havoc and let slip the Mastiffs of war!

I decided to target the Shock Troop regiments with the Throwing Mastiffs as their def4 and relatively low nerve made them fairly soft targets. Between all of the throwing dogs, Rangers and cannons I had a fairly solid chance on wavering or killing two of the three units, which would seriously help me to even out the odds in future combats.

Both Cannons missed again, but with all the other combined shooting I managed to put 7 damage on both middle Shock Troops, wavering one of them.

On the right, the Berseker Lord charged the Tangle and the Brocks backed up, trapping the Night Terror (or so they thought). I charged the Berserker into the Tangle, not expecting to kill it but hoping that the Berserker would be in a good spot next turn to finish off any units that were damaged by my shooting.


Bottom of Turn 2

Between Radiance of Life and Drain Life, the Rats managed to reverse a good chunk of the damage I had done the previous turn.

The Tunnel Runners turned the face the centre of the board and everything else shuffled forward slightly.

On the right hand side of the board, the Night Terror managed to use his speed 9 and nimble to barely squeeze out of the Brock Rider’s arc by just a few pixels, threatening the flank of my army and my cannons!


Top of Turn 3

At the start of Turn 3 I was fairly happy with the way the game was going. I hadn’t been too outmanoeuvred (except by the Night Terror but he could see too much of my army) and my plan to thin his line had started well. Between the Ranger, Cannons and remaining throwing dogs, I should quite comfortably break two of his units this turn leaving me in a good place for the inevitable combat.

I did decide that I needed start putting pressure on his token carriers – in hindsight this was a big mistake and at least a turn too early.

I made (what later proved to be the mistake) of putting both Brock Rider regiments into their respective forests. I knew that this meant that they could both be charged, but in my mind they were still tanky units that can adsorb charges…

I fired two more Mastiffs and a troop of Rangers into Shock Troop regiment (2) but only managed 3 damage (That’s 16 shots on 4s and 3s and 10 shots on 4s and 4s – I’d hoped for more like 8 damage). To make matters worse they didn’t even waver. The rest of the shooting was tied up trying to stop the Night Terror hitting my flank – the plan to thin him out before combat was suddenly not going so well.

In an effort to save themselves, both Cannons fired at the Night Terror. One of them finally managed one hit (it only took 12 shots!) and did a not very impressive 2 damage. But the BSB with the Diadem and the Rangers pulled it back doing another 4 between them, wavering the Night Terror.


Bottom of Turn 3

Look at all those charge lines! I always knew that I was going to take the first charge because I was out sped everywhere, but I had at least hoped to have taken out one of his units with my shooting first!

The Hawpacks and the Brute Enforcer charged the Brocks on the left, doing 9 damage between them. That hurt but it wasn’t too bad – the Brocks should mince the Hawpacks on the counter charge and then would only be threatened by a hindered 3 attack Brute. In order to pull off this double charge he’d needed to drop his tokens so I was happy with the exchange.

The Mutant Rat Fiend charged the Brocks on the right and did 9 damage to them. This was entirely expected and to be honest I have no idea what I was thinking exposing them to that charge! Unlike on the left flank, I wasn’t putting any pressure on tokens and had no counter charge planned.

The biggest hit was in the middle though. By less than a millimetre, Si just managed to get the Nightmares AND Tunnel Runners with Brew of Sharpness into the right hand side Ironclad horde, blowing through them in one go. This was very good play from Si – I’d assumed that there was no way that he would be able to create a clear path for the Tunnel Runners, I was wrong.

Losing the Ironclad horde was huge because not only had I lost the unit, I had very little way of stopping those units steamrollering through my lines.


Top of Turn 4

Rangers (2) on the hill charged the Tunnel Runners to block them charging the other Ironclad horde. The Ironclad horde with Elite charged and killed Shock Troop regiment (3).

The Berseker Lord decided to disengage from the Tangle and charge the Shock Troop regiment (2) that was on 9 damage. My thinking here was to start killing as much unit strength as possible that was hanging around the two loot tokens in the bottom left corner.

The right Brock Riders did a very respectable 10 damage to the Mutant Rat Fiend but he held. I’d made a silly mistake with them and was going to lose them next turn as a result.

The left Brock Riders should wipe out the Hawpacks and then be in a position to cover the tokens, effectively pinning them on Si’s half of the board. With my remaining shooting, I was pretty confident that I could finish off Shock Troop regiment (1) that was on 7 damage.

Best laid plans….

Between the Brew of Sharpness and a Bane Chant the Brock Riders did 14 damage to the Hawpacks… and rolled double 1.

The Rangers (10 shots, 4s and 4s) and Pack Master (6 shots, 4s and 3s) shooting at Shock Troop (1) managed to do a combined… zero damage.

Bugger. I was now definitely going to lose both Brocks, had no way to put pressure on the tokens on the left and all of my shooting units were in range to be charged next turn.

Just to add to how well this turn went, both cannons missed with all their shots -again.

Ignoring the ineptitude of his comrades, the Banner Bearer with the Diadem of Dragonkind continued to set fire to the Night Terror, putting two more damage on him and wavering him for a second time.


Bottom of Turn 4

Not many surprises this turn. Both Brocks inevitably died allowing the Hawpacks and the Mutant Ratfiend to turn inwards, pincering my lines.

The Tunnel Runners killed the Rangers in their way and healed up some more damage through Drain Life and Radiance of Life. They turned to face the remaining bulk of my forces.

Shock Troop (1) that had managed to dodge all my arrows (and throwing dogs) last turn charged and killed the remaining Mastiff pack, backing up onto the tokens for good measure.

The Nightmares holding the two tokens slipped past the Ironclad horde, taking themselves into my half of the board and to safety.


Top of Turn 5

Things were looking very grim and I knew at this stage that I was unlikely to win the game. I decided therefore to try and score as many points as possible while putting myself in a position where I could win if everything suddenly starting going my way with ridiculous dice rolls.

I turned the Rangers (1) on the hill to look at the Nightmares carrying the tokens and opened up on them with everything I had left. One of the Cannons hit with one of their shots (taking them up to two hits out of twenty shots!), doing 2 damage the Rangers and Diadem each added one more and…

Double 6 -boom! Too little too late, but still nice to see!

The Berserker Lord charged the Tunnel Runners to delay the inevitable.

The Packmaster had another go at shooting off the token carrying Shock Troops (1) but despite doing a couple of points of damage, he failed to waver or break them. The Standard Bearer charged the Hawpacks on 15 damage. He managed to hit them… but failed to damage.

It was pretty much all over by this point.


Bottom of Turn 5

Look at all those routed units…

The Hawpacks nimbled around into the rear of my Rangers (1), taking them out and reforming to face the rear of the Ironclad. The Berserker and both Cannons were picked up on the right hand side.


Top of Turn 6

I knew I had pretty much no chance now, but never one to give up entirely I went for the only plan I could.

The plan was; move the Ironclad horde so that it was facing left and across the half way line. Use the Packmaster to finally finish off the Hawpacks and pray that the little shooting I had left could waver the Tunnel Runners. Then if the Standard Bearer could break the Shock Troops (I did say it was an unlikely plan) I could potentially charge and grab the left tokens on turn 7.

It was a very last ditch plan, but I do think its always worth doing something, even if its very unlikely to succeed.

In reality, the Diadem did amazingly and managed to waver the Tunnel Runners and the Packmaster killed the Hawpacks (finally!).

It wasn’t a good situation, but it was probably the best I could have reasonably asked for.


Bottom of Turn 6

The Night Terror rushed to the middle of the board to grab the two tokens that were out in the open and the Shock Troops (1) that had survived so much shooting casually walked across the half way line in front of the Ironclad horde.

If there was a turn 7, I now couldn’t even pull it back to a draw. But mercifully the game ended at turn 6.

Free Dwarfs 1 – 8 Ratkin


So What Went Wrong?

I got a fairly sound thrashing there, so I thought it’d be helpful to break it down into what went wrong. I’ve boiled it down to three parts;

  • Si played very well
  • I played very badly in parts
  • My shooting failed to even the odds in the centre of the board

Si played an excellent game, especially in the movement phase. He managed to pull off a couple of moves and charges that were millimetre precise – full credit it to him for this. I thought that he was being over cautious at first and perhaps he was, but I made the mistake of not letting him make a mistake… if that makes any sense? He was playing very cautiously but I pushed my Brocks up and forced him to engage – I should have held back and shot until I had absolutely no other option.

I made a couple of silly mistakes, but the biggest one was my use of the Brock Riders. In my mind, Brock Riders are still tanky units that can absorb a lot of damage and then do a mountain of damage back.

I need to keep reminding myself that THIS IS NOT TRUE.

Now their nerve has reduced to -/18, their Def4 means that they’re actually one of the softer cavalry options in the game. Equally 26 attacks on 4s is roughly equivalent to 18 attacks on 3s (very roughly, don’t yell at me!), which is good but not great, especially with only TC1.

In my next game I’m going to use my Brocks as more of a close support unit, rather than think they can hold a flank on their own.

With the exception of the single Double 6 at the end of the game, my shooting really let me down this game – especially in the middle of the board. The cannons hit 2/20 shots and those Shock Troop regiments just refused to die! I did a good amount of damage early on, but this didn’t translate to any routed units all game. In future I need to remember to focus all my fire on one unit until it is definitely dead and then (and only then) move on to a new target.

The day after this, I played another game using the Free Dwarfs this time at 2300 points. Look out for that report coming in the next few days to see if I learnt anything from this game.



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