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Themed Army Ideas
Other Ork Themed Army Ideas

The Dvergar
I got started playing 40K back in the “Rogue Trader” days, when one of the armies available was Space Dwarves, known as Squats (my pal Patrick Eibel had a large collection of them). As anyone who has been playing longer than 20 minutes knows, Squats are gone, gone, GONE! down the Memory Hole. Nevertheless, I’ve always thought space dwarves were cool, and I think there’s a place for them in 40K.

In bringing dwarves back to the game, there are two questions one must answer:

1) What miniatures to use for them?
2) What rules to use for them?
The most obvious solution to the first obstacle would be to use Dwarf miniatures from the Warhammer (fantasy) line. With a bit of work, one could convert them into appropriate 40K figures: in fact, master gamer Matt Birdoff did just that (and won a Grand Tournament!) with his “Thousand Squats” army  a few years ago. 

While I admire Mr. Birdoff for his talent and dedication, I readily admit that I am not nearly so talented or dedicated. If I were going to do a “space dwarf” army, I’d want to minimize conversions and save myself a lot of work. A few miniature companies (Black Tree Design springs to mind) make space dwarves, but quality, selection, and price are often issues, and if you go that route, you can’t use that army at Games Workshop events. 

So then, it would seem that the Lazy Army Collector (like me) would be stuck using GW Dwarfs—which then leads to the second obstacle: what rules to use for them? While one could choose almost any codex, it would be best if the rules used generated an army that had the typical dwarven attributes of toughness, tenacity, and good prowess in hand-to-hand combat. When one thinks “dwarves,” one does not think of Tau-like wimpiness. Likewise, it would also be best if space dwarves were not too speedy on foot: I suppose you could try to count dwarves as Hormagaunts, but it would just seem out of character to have them zip across the field. 

One could go the route Matt Birdoff took, and use Codex: Chaos Space Marines.  I seriously considered treating space dwarves either as Thousand Sons (as Mr. Birdoff did) or Plague Marines (how’s THAT for tough?), but relented when I took a second look at the GW Dwarf models: to me, chainmail + shields does not equal power armor. A previous version of this article used the Lost and the Damned rules from Codex: Eye of Terror, but that book is out of print and forces drawn from it are not always welcome in tournaments and some gaming groups.

If, like me, your beard has enough grey that you remember the Squats, you might consider using the Imperial Guard rules for them, as the Squats had a similar fighting style. But Guardsmen are hardly tough, tenacious, or good in the Assault Phase. What you get when you try to make a space dwarf army with the IG Codex is a bunch of short Guardsmen: if you’re ok with that, then roll with it, but the idea doesn’t do anything for me. 

So what rules to use then? I suggest Codex: Orks. “What?” you cry. “Using Ork rules to represent dwarves? Are you kidding?” No, Gentle Visitor, I am not: using rules for Orks allows one to build a tough, tenacious army that excels in hand-to-hand combat. Furthermore, because Orks are not a technologically advanced race, the GW Dwarf models (or any other fantasy dwarf models) will, if chosen with care and with perhaps a little conversion, nicely correspond with the rules. Keep reading, and I’ll explain further a little later on.

Here, then, are my version of “dwarves in space”: not Squats, not Demi-urg (GW’s oft-rumored reincarnation of the Squats), but the sinister Dvergar….

The Dvergar are an evil race of degenerate aliens found in the Angrboda system, not far from Fenris. Living underground and skilled in mining, their technology is of low level, but they are formidable hand-to-hand fighters, and what they lack in equipment they make up for with numbers and viciousness. Dvergar are reclusive, but will mercilessly fall upon any who wander into their territory. They have also been known to organize raiding parties to bring back captives to labor in their mines.

Dvergar are rumored to have plentiful stores of gold, titanium, and other valuable metals, so it is not surprising that they often have to defend their holdings against others. Dvergar weaponry and tactics are designed for fighting in tunnels at point-blank range; outside of that environment, the range and accuracy of their firearms is not nearly as good as those used by other races. Despite this, the Dvergar are difficult to defeat and will retreat grudgingly.

Dvergar are paranoid, greedy, and murderous, and have been known to fight alongside the twisted Dark Eldar, brutal Orks, and Chaos Space Marines—if the price is right. The Dvergar particularly hate the Space Wolves, whom they accuse (perhaps rightly) of attempting to steal their wealth. 

Dvergar are led by Dvergar Lords, invariably the most shrewd and brutal warrior of the lot. These are the equivalent of Ork Warbosses, and at least one must be included in every army. A Dvergar Lord must take the equivalent of ‘eavy or mega armor. Dvergar prefer fighting on foot, and thus, none of them use warbikes.

Dvergar warbands can include either one Engineer, the equivalent of a Big Mek; or an Ancestor Lord, an elderly, psychic Dvergar equivalent to a Warphead (with commiserate cost in points). Like their Big Mek counterparts, Engineers specialize in building and repairing equipment, though they have no equivalent to the Shokk Attack Gun; thus, this item may not be taken. 

Dvergar do not have any equivalents to Ork special characters like Ghazghkull, Old Zogwort, etc., so these HQ units cannot be used. 

Dvergar do not have any equivalents to Painboyz, Lootas or Kommandos (including Boss Snikrot), so these may not be used. Marauders (elite shock troops) are the equivalent of Nobz and Meganobz. The former must take Dvergar carapace armor, (i.e., ‘eavy armor), the latter use Dvergar powered armor (the equivalent of mega armor).

Exterminators (the equivalent of Burna Boyz) use flame weapons to keep tunnels free of vermin and intruders. Demolition Teams (the equivalent of Tankbustas) use explosives to start new tunnels; in war, they are responsible for taking out enemy vehicles.

In a Dvergar army, at least one unit of Marauders with carapace armor (Nobz with ‘eavy armor) must be taken. As a Dvergar Lord (Ork Warboss) is mandatory, this squad will count as a Troops unit. At least one unit of Dvergar Warriors must be given carapace armor; this is the equivalent of an ‘Ard Boyz mob.

The rest of the Troops choices may be filled by Dvergar Skirmishers (equivalent to Boyz) in light armor, either with Dvergar mine guns (shootas) and hand cannons (rokkit launchas or big shootas), or with hand-to-hand weapons (sluggas and choppas). Dvergar are slave-takers and have been known to press Cave Nomes (Gretchin) into service as cannon fodder.

Fast Attack
Dvergar warbands are not known for speed; thus, no Fast Attack units may be used.

Heavy Support
Guided by their Engineers, the Dvergar are able to manufacture clanking behemoths that are the equivalents of Battlewagons or Deff Dreads. They will also use Cave Nomes to crew artillery pieces: these are equivalent to Big Gunz batteries. No other Heavy Support choices may be taken.

Painting and Modeling
While one will be using figures from the Warhammer line, one doesn’t want to like one just dropped their Dwarf army on the table. First off, use round bases, appropriate to 40K, for all figures. Second off, whenever possible, lose the shields that certain figures come with! The army will already look very “fantasy,” and wooden shields only reinforce that image. 

Dvergar Lord
Above: A Dwarf Lord figure makes a great leader...
Photo © copyright Games Workshop, 2005

Dvergar favor dark and dirty colors for their clothes and tarnished metal hues for their armor. Skin tones vary from sickly yellow to gray to dark blue or black. Hair color tends to be white, dingy yellow, or gray. Dvergar are not the heroic Dwarves of the Warhammer game so don’t make them look like them. Painting the Dvergar as “bad guys” will also help your army look more like it belongs to the 40K milieu.

Dvergar with guns
Above: Thunderers can nicely stand in for Boyz with shootas
Photo © copyright Games Workshop, 2005

If you use vehicles, they should not be the same models as used by Orks; differentiate your Dvergar by finding alternative models. Remember, though, that you’ll want a low-tech look: putting a high-tech tank model next to your medieval-looking “dwarves” will just look…odd.

Above: Dwarf Warriors make good Boyz with choppas

General Tactics
The Dvergar are best thought of as a horde, albeit one with some very tough units. Surround the Nobz and ‘Ard Boyz with some expendable Shoota Boyz and Gretchin, mix in some long-range fire from Big Gunz and/or Dreads, and relentlessly stomp towards the enemy until you crush them under your iron boots! 

Related Pages
Other Ork Themed Army Ideas

Originally posted April 2005; revised August 2008 


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