Wednesday, 11 November 2009

To Rune or Not To Rune

 Out of all the races in the warhammer universe, the dwarfs are perhaps the most well known for their powerful and potent magical items.  The ability to inscribe runes and make the item powerful is a great feeling.  In gaming terms, the dwarf magical items are the most customisable available to a general.  In addition the characters all have generally an extra twenty-five or fifty points over other races to spend upon these magic items.  This however tends to give rise to players opening their purse strings a little too wide, and letting lots of coins fall out.  I'd like to address this.

Firstly, it is important that the rules for making items are known and followed.  It is common for new players to either ignore or not see them, thus making illegal items.  The main ones you really need to know are the following;

Each item may only have a maximum of three runes.
  •  Only one Master Rune may ever be placed upon a single item
  •  Each Master Rune may be used in each army once.  
  •  Finally, you may only have one item bearing a certain combination.  This means no two characters may have the same combinations on an item.
Those out the way, we can now look at the centre of this 'article'.  This is the problem many players have.  Expensive characters.  Why?  Because they tend to go to town on the runes available to the character/unit/war machine.  While you want your lord to be the uber-unit slayer and have the ability to do so, points wise, there is one factor many forget.

Dwarfs are M3

Why is this important?  Because, dwarfs lack the ability to deliver their all tooled characters into combat.  Instead, the combat has to come to you, the problem with this is a good opponent will avoid taking on the uber-lord in a frontal charge.  Thus, your cunning opponent has now proven their ability, by instead of barrelling forward into the clutches of your units, they have decided to flank you and engage the weaker warrior unit to the east.  The low movement of dwarfs means that it is nearly impossible for them to react quickly to such enemy movements.  This leads to the sorry state of your uber, and very expensive lord being as impotent as a goblin.  These points you have spent making him into a powerful dealer of death perhaps could have been better spent bulking out your units with more dwarfs.

However, at this point I feel it is important to mention the war machines.  There are only three that may be given runes, however, there is no maximum point limit to your runes, just as long as they follow the rules for runes.  It is very easy to get carried away, with many runes looking great and handy, however there is an important lesson to be learnt here.  The more you add, the more expensive it becomes.  What was once a humble bolt thrower, cost less than fifty points is now the peak of destruction, that is nearly double that cost.  Losing this will hurt you even more.  Of course, there are exceptions to this and adding an expensive rune combination can sometimes pull off something spectacular (Bolt thrower + MroImmolation, anyone?).

Another thing to consider, when building a character, - is that magic item actually required?  Is it worth spending lots of points to just make the great weapon magical, or will a plain old, mundane version do just as well?  This goes for other items, armour for example – get yourself a set of shieldbearers and that MroGromril is no longer needed.  Stick a single RoStone on him, and he's good to go.  In addition, something many people forget, the shieldbearers negate the need for the RoPreservation, due to the fact the lord is then unit strength three (US3), but it also maxs out the lords save to the best available for dwarfs – 1+ - when combined with shield or RoStone.  Every item or rune has its uses, check each carefully and you'll grasp which is good and which to avoid, like a dwarf with krut.

When it comes to choosing your runes for the character, just sit back and wait a moment.  Think about them first.  What is it you want them to be do during the game.  Are they to kill big gribbly monsters?  Or perhaps to taken on their enemy counterpart?  Or to hack swathes of enemies down?  Or are they to keep your warriors safe from spells?  These are important questions as they will, or should, have an impact upon the choices of armament of magical items you give said character (or even war machine).  The runes you give your character is very important, some will be wasted, where others are invaluable.  For example, giving your Master Engineer or Runelord on anvil, weapon runes might seem good in case they get into combat – but if they do, then you have done something wrong or your opponent has done very good.  Each character has their place in the battle, and they fall mainly into two categories.  Offensive and supportive. 

Offensive characters are the dwarf lord, thane and slayer characters. 
Supportive would be runesmith, runelord, BSB, Master Engineer

The offensive should be given runes that increase their abilities to take the fight to their enemy; so mainly weapon runes are a good idea.  But, they also need protecting – not much point going all out of assault if they cannot take the return blows, unless of course they're meant to die.  Thus, a balance of armour runes and wards.  These characters are there to add kills to the CR, adding a character with the MroSwiftness is and has always been a good method, for example.  It is up to you to find a good method of balancing your characters so they can give as good as they get.

The supportive characters are there to give your army bonuses or protect them.  This means, they do not always have to take part in combat.  In fact is it often better to keep them out of this, remember things like RoSpellbreaking have no range, so you could hide them and just have them acting as a dispel caddy.  However, a runesmith with a great weapon is as good as a hammer champion in combat.  So, don't be too afraid to get stuck in if the moment calls for it.  For runesmiths and runelords, you are better to load up on magic prevention, or defensive runes.  Their main role is to support your army and keep away spells, this can also be given to characters in the form of Magic Resistance (MR).  Again, weapon runes are of less importance to these characters, a great weapon does the job as good as a runed axe does.

There is another character which I feel warrants his own short paragraph.  The Battle Standard Bearer (BSB ).  I would say there are mixed feelings on this character, mainly due to how players decide to arm him.  Due to the fact he can carry three banner runes, of no limit, many tend to rune him up to the beard.  This increases his supportive role, along with the break test re-roll he can add to the anti-magic of the army or combat resolution, however he tends to be so very vulnerable.  As one of the most important characters in your army, he is under protected with only his toughness and his average save of 4+.  The other view is to protect him a lot more, via defensive runes.  This removes his ability to add any bonuses past the basic BSB ones, but does mean that he is able to survive long enough to pass his ability to the surrounding units.  It also means he can be given a few offensive runes to augment his already decent combat skills.  But, again, it comes down to what you prefer and how you want to use him.

I'm going to finish with a list of runes I believe to be the most useful to a dwarf general, but I would like to point out all of this is all just my own opinion on runes and characters.  I am not saying that you should follow my advice to the letter or ignore it.  Instead, I would suggest you try new combinations out and methods of playing with your characters, this gives you scope and you might even find a new and potent combination.  Every player is different, don't be afraid to stand to the side of the masses and learn at your own pace.

Weapon Runes
MroKragg the Grim
RoSnorri Spanglehelm

Armour Runes

Standard Runes

Talisman Runes
Rothe Furnace

Engineering Runes

All comments, criticism or discussion welcomed. :)



  1. Very nice article. For my Dwarfs I tend to not give any runes to my warmachines. As for my Characters I tend to but all the units I want in my army first, then I will go back and throw on some runes with the points I have leftover.

    I usually focus Runesmiths first then banners and last but no least my lord. I am with you 100% if you take a Lord with shield bearers he is already pretty darn good and needs little to augment him further.

    Anyway, excellent article, I found it very informative.

  2. Good article. Not a Dwarf player myself but I come up against them often enough and love the customisability that runes offer but totally agree with not getting carried away. As you say Dwarfs are easy to bring to combat on your own terms so it's not a good idea to put all the eggs in one stunty basket-case! :)

  3. Excellent write up - as a basic rule of thumb I limit my spending on runic items to 10% of my army list points. Find that this works pretty well. Another good way to get around the flanking problem is to deploy your characters on the corner of your units front ranks instead of in the middle. That way they you increase the chances of them making it into combat, and force the enemy to consider moving in a different direction.


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