Warmaster is arguably one of the best games Gamesworkshop has ever made. In scale, it is to Warhammer what Warhammer is to Mordhiem in scale. Just like with real life conflicts, when you start getting to the larger scale, Command and Control is much more important then practically anything else that is measurable. There are three basic considerations when playing Warmaster, at any point value: 1. Break Point; 2. Command and Control;and 3. Shooting is not effective.
In Death Ground, Fight!
There are two victory conditions in Warmaster- either kill the general of the enemy or kill 50 % of his units before he kills 50 % of yours. Characters are completely different in Warmaster then Herohammer. Sure, 3rd edition changed Warhammer from Herohammer into more core based… but compared to Warmaster its still Herohammer (yes, we have moved on in editions, and there is even more focus on big units, and casters over combat characters. The observation still holds- characters in Warmaster are command and control, not combat gods.). The ONLY purpose of characters in Warmaster is command and control. Even your general, tooled up with magic items and a monster mount if appropriate, will only have 1/3 the combat power of an unit. Think about that. In Herohammer, the typical lord will have the same combat effectiveness as an unit… and a monster mounted lord IS your army.
Characters can only enter close combat if attached to an unit. Keep your characters out of units, and they are pretty much immune to anything. Unfortunately, this means that the wise commander will only attach his general to ANYTHING only in a do-or-die, last ditch effort to avoid defeat. Any other time you are only asking to lose, as the enemy throws overwhelming force on the one unit that the general is in…
So, against anyone that has played Warmaster more then once, the real goal of the game is to eliminate 50 % of the enemy’s units.
While obvious, it is important to note that a weak human cannon crew counts for victory purposes just as much as a unit of chaos knights… Concentrating on killing the *weakest* half of the enemy’s forces is a highly effective way to win.
For Dwarves, for now it is enough to emphasize that a warrior unit with 4 wounds a stand and a great armor save counts as the same number of units as a flame cannon or a gyrocopter… which has practically no armor and no wounds in comparison.
Command and Control
Forget everything you learned about speed and the use of heros in Herohammer. As noted above, characters don’t belong in units. They few attacks they add to units is nothing compared to the usefulness of their leadership. Nothing moves in a controlled fashion in Warmaster with out a leadership test- that gets worse the more losses, the more moves and the farther from your commanders you are.
This is why Dwarves shine in Warmaster- despite no horses. Welcome to the Dwarven Foot Cavalry. With leadership 10, your infantry blocks can outmaneuver any unit of knights other then Elven. And elves are just a bunch of pansy tree huggers right? So who cares about elves!
Most Dwarven armies are just fine with just a general and a Runesmith. The Runesmith is just a good a commander as a hero, and his antimagic rocks. One leadership 10 general is more then sufficient for a 2,000 point army.
On a tactical note, units can form up in brigades. This is great as it reduces the number of orders a commander has to issue to move a given number of troops. Always form up your units in brigades of 3-4. Three warriors and unit of rangers work well…
Shooting Doesn’t do Anything.
Technical aside: In Warmaster, most units contain a number of stands (typically 3), and each stand contains a number of wounds (typically 3 for close combat units, 4 for Dwarves). In order to actually reduce the combat effectiveness of an unit, you must remove a stand. Wounds do NOT carry over from phase to phase. Therefore, you must inflict whole number of stand-wounds on an unit to do *ANY* damage to it.
Since shooting only has an extremely small number of attacks, and you *MUST* shoot at the closest target, it is extremely difficult for any actual damage to be inflicted in a shooting phase.
Putting everything together, the Dwarven Foot Cavalry army is born. Since shooting doesn’t do anything, only the break point matters, Dwarven close combat infantry is rock hard and missile units are weak- you want lots of warriors and rangers. Gyrocopters, cannons, and thunders only role on the battlefield is supplying your enemy with weak units to rack up the break points on.
The typical Dwarf army is a general, a rune smith, warriors and rangers in a 3:1 ratio (3 warriors per ranger unit). With leadership 10, these infantry blocks can fly across the table and demolish anything in four turns.
I am a very experienced Warmaster player, playing Empire and Dwarves. I have never been defeated against the Dwarves as an Empire player- because every Dwarf player I have come across has taken far to many weak, easily destroyed units. Playing as the Empire, I concentrate my knights on the weak units- typically only then needing to destroy one or two warrior units to win.
I am quite successful as a dwarf player with the above tactics- I have swapped armies with Dwarf players to teach them, and tried it against the high elves and tomb kings (arguably the top two armies in Warmaster). Most opponents are amazed as my Dwarven infantry blocks raced across the table in two turns and hammered their out of position and out maneuvered army into snot… laughing off the few shooting hits.
Remember the goal is not kill the most points of the enemy- but to kill half his units. You can lose 75% of your point value and only 25% of the enemy’s and win… if you kill half his units and have more then half of your own.
Aside- always have an odd number of units, if possible. It gives you the same break point as the higher even number.
Magic- I am sure one or two of you are wondering why I haven’t discussed magic items or magic spells. Welcome to Warmaster- if your enemy gets more than one spell off the entire game, its abnormal. And since you can autodispell (no irresistible force) on a 4+; no worries no the magic side. Though, if you have the points, its not a bad idea to grab a scroll just in case you play undead or high elves… whose magic is bit nastier.
Magic Items- 99% of them are a waste of points. The orb, before the revision, was a must take item. With the revision [which is mandatory in official events], the orb is back into the waste of points category. Only take magic if you have a fraction of 110 points left and you have no idea what you want to do with your list… and have already spent 20 minutes on army building trying to cram another warrior unit into the list…
Magic swords can be useful on a character, as 5-10 points is not that much. But in a Dwarven army; your general should never see close combat, and your Runesmith should have a scroll.
Though a banner for the hammers or ironbreakers could be fluffy… if not effective.
Engrave this on your army list, your forearm and any where else handy: Remember the goal is not kill the most points of the enemy- but to kill half his units.
Have fun! Warmaster is great game, and the Dwarven Foot Cavalry rock!