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Armies of the Jungle: Dvergar Steeljacks (updated 10/29/2016)  by Kenton Kilgore
In the From Idea To Reality series, we chronicled the process of creating an army from scratch. In this series, we will showcase the finished results of our labors – the completed armies (as much as any 40K army can ever be considered “completed”).  By detailing how the army was collected, how the background and color schemes were developed, and how the army is used on the battlefield, we hope that this series will provide inspiration for those interested in collecting similar armies.

As anyone who has seen my Kurindans army can tell you, I like using Warhammer Fantasy figures in 40K.  I’m also a huge fan of Dwarves, and back in the Bad Old Days of Rogue Trader and 2nd Edition 40K, I envied my friend Pat’s collection of Squats (Space Dwarves, for new players and those of you who have to sit at the kid table during family get-togethers).  I like the idea of 40K Dwarves so much that I wrote a Themed Army Idea about them.

So although I had five armies (Space Marines, Dark Eldar, Necrons, Chaos Marines, and the afore-mentioned Kurindans) and needed a sixth like I need to headbutt a rhinoceros, I started, late in 2008, to collect Dwarf figures. As with my Kurindans, I immediately ran into two problems:

1. How to make them look like they belong in 40K?
2. What rules to use with them?
I discuss the answer to the first question in the “Modeling and Painting” sections below.  As for the second, I decided to use the rules from Codex: Orks.  Why?  Because Orks, while not being great shots, share the Dwarven attributes of being tough (T4), good hand-to-hand fighters (WS 4, 2 Attacks base), and virtually fearless (Mob Rule).  I could have used rules for Space Marines or Chaos Space Marines, but I already have both of those armies.  Why not use stats for Guardsmen or Tau?  Because they’re waaaaaaaay too weedy.

Army List
Currently, my army consists of two lists, each 2000 points, one called "Black and Gold," the other "Gold and Black."  You can find the latest here.

The latest Codex: Greenies has been out for quite a while, but it took me a long time to nail down how I wanted to reconfigure my army.  Why?  Well, because I wanted to do something distinct, that I had not seen in other armies (notably, my friend Pat's overly-large collection).  Specifically, I wanted to do the following:

  • Have all figures in 'eavy armor, to replicate the dwarven archetype of solid, well-protected fighters;
  • Use the 5 proxied Battlewagons that I already own.
To accommodate the Battlewagons, each list is split into two detachments.  Previous versions had a plethora of unit choices, but to maximize efficiency, I've restricted myself (for the most part) to Warbosses, Big Meks, Boyz, Tankbustas, and Lootas (in addition to the 'wagons, of course).  The "Black and Gold" list is geared for assault; the "Gold and Black" does shooting.  Yeah, shooty Orks.  Go figure.

Modeling and Painting the Original Figures
As mentioned, I first started collecting this army in 2008.  I could have gone to e-Bay and found old Squat figures from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, but I didn’t want to resurrect that old concept with all its baggage: no, I wanted something different.  Ork armies—even proxied Ork armies like this one—need a lot of figures, so I would need to use plastic ones if I wanted to build an army and still keep paying my mortgage.  Games Workshop, of course, makes very affordable plastic Dwarves for that fantasy game you may have heard of (“Warjammer?” “Warhamburger?” The name escapes me, but it’s something like that). 

To make my figures look more “40K” and less “WH Fantasy,” I didn’t give them shields; I didn’t use winged or horned helmets; I mounted them on round bases, not the square ones they came with; and I painted their armor in a dark tone, which, at a distance, fools the eye into not noticing that each figure wears chainmail. 

Original Dvergar figures using Warhammer Dwarf miniatures

I had a horde to paint, so I kept the scheme very simple and easy to do.  I primed the figures black, then went over armor, helmets, clothes, and boots in Chaos Black.  Skin was Codex Grey (for an alien look), hair and beards were Codex Grey with Skull White drybrushed over them.  I also drybrushed Boltgun Metal over weapons and Shining Gold over medallions and other “bling” that each Dwarf figure might have.  In homage to my favorite American football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, I painted a gold stripe down the middle of each helmet.  I “dusted” the black areas with Codex Grey for some highlighting, and washed each figure in thinned-down Chaos Black.  Bases were sand flocking, painted Codex Grey with a black wash and highlighted with Space Wolf Grey. 

Dvergar Regulars with mine guns and a hand cannon (count as Ork Boyz with shootas and a big shoota)

Because I went for quantity and not quality, I didn’t worry about detailing fiddly bits like eyes and belt pouches and such.  The painting went very quickly, and I really enjoyed it (which is surprising, because usually I consider painting a chore).  

I included some WHF Gnoblars (for Gretchin) and trolls (for Meganobz), added some figures from Reaper Miniatures for leaders and elite units, and was happy with what I had.

"Happy," that is, until I saw what Mantic Games had done with "Space Dwarves."

Modeling and Painting the New Figures
My pal James Arnold painted and gave me some of the Mantic figures as a gift, and I for a time, I was actually forward on a mad plan to re-do my entire army using models from this line.  But while these minis are just wall-to-wall awesome, I simply didn't have time, so I am incorporating the figures I've already bought and painted into the rest of my existing army.


To reinforce the Dwarven theme, I gave my Gnoblar figures to my brother-in-law Drew for his Ork army.  For a while, I retired the trolls, then brought them back.  I'll tell you what I did with them later.   

The "Black and Gold" army is led by a Warboss in mega-armor, represented by a Forge Father Iron Ancestor (the photo below was from the Mantic site, and is not how mine is painted).  In terms of scale, this figure is similar to a Dreadnought: a Steel Warrior miniature from above is only as tall as the Iron Ancestor's legs.  So it should look mighty impressive on the table!

Yeah, I could have opted to buy lots of Iron Ancestors and count them as Killa Kans and/or Deff Dreads, but I wanted to keep and use the Battlewagon proxies I already had (more about them in a minute).  


An army of badasses is nice, but most of them need to get into melee to actually do any good.  Walking is slow and leaves them vulnerable, so I thought that some units could use some nice, sturdy Battlewagons (open-topped to allow for assaults, of course) to get them into the fight.  But what to use for models?  Ork vehicles look too…well, Orky, and Imperial vehicles look…well, too human.

    Photos copyright 2014 by Games Workshop. Used for review purposes.

    For a Dvergar version of a Battlewagon, I wanted something low to the ground, really tough-looking, and distinct from anything else one might see in the game.  After scouring the Internet, I settled on Revell’s 8-wheeled, 1/35 scale SpaePz 2 troop carrier, patterned after real-world tanks used by Germany.  While not nearly as expensive as a GW tank, it wasn’t exactly cheap at $25.50 (+ s/h) online, especially not when I plan to have loads of them in my army.  But then, if I wanted to save money, I wouldn’t be playing 40K, now would I?

    Upon receiving the model kit in the mail, I was alarmed to discover that it is meant for expert modelers intent on building near-exact replicas of real-life vehicles, not gamer schlubs like me looking to slap something together ASAP and put it on the table.  The model had all kinds of fiddly bits, and the directions called for about 10 steps just to assemble the vehicle’s axles and suspension system, and putting on the wheels.  There was no way I was going to [fornicate] around with all that fussy stuff: I cut all kinds of corners, starting with simply gluing the wheels to the hull of the tank, and I very quickly had a stripped-down version assembled.

    A kit-bashed Dvergar Crawler, based off a modern military vehicle model and pimped out with Dwarven accessories

    To make the vehicle distinctly Dvergar, and not something that had been liberated from an Imperial Guard motorpool, I added some bits from the many, many Dwarf Thunderer and Warrior sprues I had lying around after I had built some basic guys.  I glued them on, painted the tank black, and accented in gold.  The round, shield-like bits “count as” armor plates. 

    Whoops! There's something very, very different about these two tanks, and it's not the bling on the back of one....

    Pleased with how the first Crawler turned out, I ordered four more, then found out upon arrival that while they were the same type of model from the same manufacturer, they were nevertheless a different version from the first one.  Each of the four is slightly larger than the original, and, most notably, they do not have the nice open space in the back to serve as a “transport area” for passengers.  Each does, however, have a larger turret than the first, so I left the turret off, leaving a big, round open space up front, which will serve as the “transport area” for riders.

    Another comparison of the original tank ("#7") and one of the newer ones ("#86")

    Keeping track of all those Crawlers and which squad is in which one could be a hassle, so I painted numbers on them. In another tip of the hat to the Steelers, I made the numbers correspond with my favorite recent players:

    #7—Ben Roethlisberger
    #36—Jerome Bettis (retired in 2006, but “recent” enough)
    #43—Troy Polamalu
    #86—Hines Ward (my wife’s next husband)
    #92—James Harrison (Monster Linebacker From Hell)

    To those who have heard of them, Dvergar are often confused with a race (perhaps extinct) nicknamed, by Imperial forces, “Squats.”  It is unclear if the Dvergar and the “Squats” are the same, distantly related, or share nothing save basic physiology.  The Dvergar inhabit several large asteroids within the Angrboda Nebula, not far from Fenris, home of the Space Wolves.  Dvergar are grey-skinned humanoids, roughly three-quarters the height of the average human, notable for what appears to be white facial hair, usually worn in the same style as a long beard. 

    Swathed in darkness and bathed in radiation from the surrounding nebula, Dvergar worlds are, at first appearance, lifeless asteroids of rock and ice.  In truth, Dvergar clans live beneath the surface in vast cities, mining for metals and minerals and growing fungi for foodstuffs.  Under such harsh conditions, Dvergar society is cruel and pitiless, with no allowance for weakness or mercy.  Dvergar have mastered space flight and Warp travel and constantly send out expeditions to plunder new resources.  To the Dvergar, lives, even their own, are worthless: only objects have any value. 

    Dreadnought Ferin Ironhammer and his band of Space Wolves have spent decades 
    searching for Dvergar strongholds, hoping to plunder the riches they might find there

    Ancient and bitter foes include the Space Wolves, the Eldar, and the Orks.  Because Dvergar are rumored to amass huge quantities of gold, titanium, and other precious metals, they are often the targets of raids and campaigns by Rogue Traders, Dark Eldar, and greedy Imperial governors.  Such assaults usually end in disaster for the attackers, as Dvergar asteroids are well-fortified, and the Dvergar themselves are masters of close-range fighting.  Chaos has no sway over the Dvergar, for they are followers of Order, albeit a brutal, oppressive one.  

    Compared with other races, Dvergar are not very technologically advanced, but what they lack in equipment, they make up for with numbers and tenacity: Dvergar will only quit the battlefield after suffering heavy casualties.  Most Dvergar wargear is designed for fighting underground, in close quarters, so their firearms are usually rapid-firing and hard-hitting, but inaccurate at anything past point-blank range.  Dvergar vehicles are usually limited to heavily-armored troop carriers or heavy-weapon toting robots that provide support fire. 

    To the Imperium, the Dvergar are considered a negligible threat, comparable to that posed by other, “lesser” aliens such as the Hrud or the Dark Eldar.  They do not possess the technological prowess of the Eldar, the Tau, or the Necrons; they are not as numerous as the Orks or Tyranids; nor are they as far-ranging and destructive as the Chaos Marines.  This is small comfort, though, to those who find themselves under attack by them. 

    Disturbing Discoveries
    If Inquisitor Varman Kumar was tired after the 26 hours he had spent working in the interrogation chamber, he showed no sign of it as he stepped out into the stone hallway.  The plasteel door slid shut behind Kumar, and Wolf Priest Horsa Drachenbane rose to his feet from the chair where he had waited.

    “What have you learned?” Horsa asked. 

    “I’m glad you asked me to examine and investigate your captive before you began your expedition,” Inquisitor Kumar said. He nodded to a servitor, who brought a bowl of water and towels. Kumar began to wash from his hands the grey ooze that was the alien’s blood. “He—if it properly can be called he—is very interesting.”

    “Did he tell you anything about the Wolf King’s ring?” Horsa demanded.

    “He doesn’t know anything about it,” Kumar replied. Horsa was visibly disappointed. “However, I learned—at least, I think I learned—a great deal that might be useful to you and your men.”


    “First off, he—and all other members of the Dvergar race—communicate by telepathy. They don’t have a spoken language.”

    “But we’ve intercepted their transmissions,” Horsa protested. “We have hundreds of hours of vox recordings—”

    Kumar shook his head. “Have you and your fellow Wolf Priests deciphered them yet?”

    “No, but we’re getting close to figuring out their langua—”

    “They don’t actually speak. Any vocalizations you’ve ever heard are gibberish: play-acting performed solely to mislead and confuse you—and waste your time. Your men should ignore anything they hear the Dvergar say or shout on the battlefield: it’s all distraction or intimidation.”

    “How did you determ—”

    “I’m an Inquisitor: my task is to find out answers that people—and xenos—don’t want revealed. And it helps to have some telepathic ability of my own,” Kumar admitted. He finished washing his hands, dismissed the servitor.

    They started down the hall. “What else?” Horsa asked.

    “What appears to be facial hair on them—”

    “Their beards,” Horsa said, nodding.

    “—is not actually that. I suspect so because when I cut some off him, our dear little friend was in quite a lot of pain. At least, I think he was. He—and his kind—might be very good at pretending.”

    “The beard—”

    “A mass of organic filaments, I believe,” Inquisitor Kumar replied, “thousands of them, each capable of independent motion. When I began exerting some substantial force on him, his ‘beard’ lashed out in all directions, either as an expression of pain or in an attempt to stop me—or both. Each tendril has some prehensile ability, but they aren’t very dexterous or strong—although they are harder to sever than human hair. They also maintain their ability to move for several hours after I cut them off our subject. And would you like to learn something really interesting?”

    “Go on,” Horsa replied.

    “Even several hours after I had removed some of these ‘hairs’ from our dear little friend, he was seemingly able to feel it when I cut, burned, or otherwise mistreated one or more of those filaments.”

    “Are you sure he wasn’t pretending?”

    “To confirm my hypothesis, I conducted some of my dissections and examinations behind a curtain. His psychic screams were very powerful.”

    “What are these…‘hairs’ for? What do the Dvergar do with them?”

    “Obviously, they carry nerves, but what their actual function is, I don’t know. Perhaps they’re part of their sensory system, like whiskers on a cat.”

    “A cat?”

    “A Terran carnivore used for rodent control. Never mind. Is this the way to the mess?” Kumar asked, pointing. “I’m hungry.”

    “Yes,” Horsa said. As they continued their way through the Fang, they passed scores of servitors and thralls—and the occasional Space Wolf. “What else?”

    “As the time passed and I continued to examine our subject, the thought struck me that he was bit too convenient.”

    “It was not at all convenient to capture one alive,” Horsa assured him. “It took our Scouts quite a whi—”

    “No, that’s not what I mean,” Kumar said. Inwardly, Horsa fumed at being interrupted again. Certainly, no Space Wolf would dare to do so. For now, he ignored the slight: Kumar was, after all, an Inquisitor.

    “What I mean is that—well, look,” Kumar said, stopping in the middle of the wide hallway as others flowed around them. “I recall reading in this place’s records that the Fenrisians were the first to encounter the Dvergar, even before your Primarch served the Emperor.”

    “Yes,” Horsa replied.

    “That, indeed, the Dvergar are ancient enemies of the Fenrisians, and are often mentioned and described in myths and legends, along with other, similar beings, like trolls and dark elves.”

    “Yes. What does this have to do with anything?”

    “Just this: don’t you find it a little odd that a creature so obviously alien so closely resembles a human, albeit a smaller one?”

    “Eldar—and Dark Eldar, too—resemble humans, to some extent,” Horsa replied. “What of it?”

    “Yes, but most aliens don’t,” Kumar reminded him. “Think of Tau or Orks or Tyranids, or Hrud, or Orgmanii. Some of them may have four limbs and walk on two legs, some of them may have bilateral symmetry and appendages resembling hands, but very, very few of them look so similar to humans.”

    “Are you saying that Dvergar are related to humans?”

    “I started to think so at first—until I brought some videographs of our dear little friend to some of the other captives—alien captives—you have here.”

    “That must have been before I came on duty,” Horsa replied.

    “It was,” Kumar said, “but I found my way around. I started with that Ork warrior you have three cells down. I showed him the Dvergar’s image and asked him to describe what he saw. Do you know what he said?”


    “‘Ugly li’l zogger. Eyes. ‘ordes and ‘ordes uv nasty li’l eyes. And why all da moufs?’”


    “The Ork term for any number over five. Did you see more than two eyes on our subject? Or more than one mouth?”

    “No,” Horsa replied. 

    “Me, either,” Kumar replied. “But I made sure—repeatedly—that our Ork friend was not lying or playing games with me. The Kurindan four cells down from the Ork asked me why I was showing him what looked like grey running water. The Tau said it was a poorly-rendered vidpic of concentric rings of light. And the Eldar at the end of the corridor, she merely sneered and wished me luck in ‘dealing with all of them.’ She wouldn’t elaborate—despite my attempts to persuade her—on what she meant.”

    “But it would seem—”

    “—it would seem that how we humans see our dear little friend is not how he is perceived by non-humans. That each race looks at a Dvergar and sees something different. Which would help explain why our dear little friend looks so human despite being alien.”

    “We’re seeing some kind of illusion when we look at them?” Horsa asked.

    “An illusion either generated by some technological device—which I doubt—or by telepathy—possible—or some kind of gestalt. The Fenrisians who first encountered Dvergar may have expected them, on a conscious or unconscious level, to resemble creatures from their myths, so that is what they saw. And that is what humans still see, somehow.”

    “But you’re not Fenrisian,” Horsa countered. “How is it that you see him the same way I do?”

    Kumar shook his head. “I don’t know.”

    They kept walking, came to the mess hall. “I’ll leave you here,” Horsa said. “You recall how to find the guest quarters from here?”

    Kumar nodded. “Thank you.”

    “Anything else I should know?” Horsa asked.

    “They can will themselves to die,” the Inquisitor replied. “In the end, the little fellow just went dead, as easily as you or me turning off a light. I was monitoring his thoughts. He had no fear of doing so. None of them seemingly have any fear of death.”

    “Why didn’t he make himself die when he was caught? Why didn’t he do it before you interrogated him?”

    “And vivisected him?” Kumar shook his head. “I don’t know. He was in terrible pain. He could have ended it any time. He knew he had no hope of escape. Maybe he wanted me to carry out my work, to learn things about him and his kind.” 

    “Why would he do that?”

    “I don’t know—who can understand the mind of an alien?” Kumar asked. “Unless, of course, what he wanted me to learn was all wrong.”

    Using the Army
    There’s nothing terribly complicated about using Orks: load up on a lot of Boyz and go get ‘em!  The Warboss is an absolute terror in close combat, and is relatively inexpensive compared to HQ units in other armies.  Boyz with choppas mix it up in the Assault Phase; Boyz with Shootas hang back and grab objectives.  Tankbustas take out vehicles; Lootas deal with light vehicles or polish off infantry units.   

    In the "B&G" list, the 'wagons are outfitted for little more than delivering guys to the fight: the big shootas are there just so “Weapon Destroyed” results don’t become “Immobilized.” In the "Gold & Black" list, they have killcannons and roll forward spewing death.  They're supplemented by Trowe (the trolls) who count as Mek Gunz, hanging back and throwing rocks (count as kannons). 

    Despite the danger to the passengers, I keep the Battlewagons open-topped so my guys can assault right after they jump out.  Why not just use Trukks?  They’re fast but flimsy, two decidedly non-Dwarven attributes.  For the "B&G" list, I consider the front of each 'wagon as having a reinforced ram, which is very effective against enemy vehicles, and helps with Dangerous Terrain checks. 


    Originally posted April 2009; updated January 2010, February 2012, December 2014, February 2016, and October 2016


    Fighting Tigers:
    Codex<> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

    Other Pages:
    Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
    Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle