Wednesday 22 June 2016

Dwarf Warfare

Osprey Publishing are probably best known for their huge range of military history books, but recently they have branched out into gaming and adventure books. Being a dwarf collector and gamer, I picked up one of the warfare books (the other two being on orcs and elves). The book is the usual style for Osprey - softback, a bit smaller than A4 size and 90 odd pages long.

The book is written in a semi factual style, the introduction explains that it is an examination of fantasy tropes. As you read through it becomes clear that Tolkien's influence (and thereby the Warhammer world) looms large, with a smattering of other backgrounds adding to the mix.

The book is split into four chapters, Dwarfs in general, dwarf troop types, dwarf strategy and finally some infamous dwarf victories. The writing is concise and informative, the illustrations are nicely done and are split between smaller black and white line drawings and full page colour spreads. It's a good quality product, as you would expect from a long standing publisher.

The first chapter covers dwarf origins and society, their deities and generally the way they live and integrate in the world. The second chapter looks into dwarf military life and discusses various troop types - the expected heavy infantry, crossbow, and war machines, with a smattering of more unusual types like bear cavalry and gnome woodwalkers (I suspect this comes from the D&D world but I'm no RPGer so could be wrong here).

The third chapter covers dwarf strategies in the field of battle and in siege warfare. It offers some interesting insights (to a dwarf player at least) as to why dwarfs tend to fight defensively. The final chapter relates some infamous dwarf victories against orcs, elves and men - I have to admit I found this the least convincing chapter as it tells tales about "famous" dwarfs that have no background anywhere else, so it's hard to be engaged here. Tales of Thorin's exploits or Thorgrim GrudgeBearer I would lap up, given my long history with the Tolkien and Warhamer worlds.

These reservations aside, I enjoyed the book. It's not a long read, you can whiz through it in an hour or two. I am a bit puzzled as to the target audience. Warhammer and Lord of the Rings players have long and rich backgrounds to draw inspiration from, as presumably do players of other long established systems such as D&D, so it's not "needed" by them. Newcomers to fantasy gaming who do not relate to these worlds and have recently discovered a non-descriptive gaming system, such as Dragon Rampant, Mayhem, or Saga may well find it useful to have their dwarf army grounded in some lore. At a retail price of £10 it's not overly expensive, and certainly not much more than the cost of a couple of gaming magazines.


Anonymous said...

I bet the target audience is former Games Workshop customers. Older guys who used to play WFB way back when and have now switched to a type of "generic" fantasy that looks suspiciously like a mash up of Middle Earth and the Old World. I find this approach rather disappointing as it means just offering more of what people already know, instead of expanding their horizons.

Nord said...

Generic fantasy is almost bound to be a mash up of Tolkien and Warhammer, they are the grandfather and great uncle of the fantasy gaming world after all. I was not surprised by the content but nor was I disappointed - in my best dwarf voice "if it ain't broke don't fix it". We expect dwarfs to be stolid, infantry heavy, defensive, etc - if you mean by expanding horizons that this should be changed then I would say no.

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