The elusive Chaos Dwarf army-list

This is something of a labour of love – my own version of an army-list for my Chaos Dwarves!

Amazingly (or not, depending on how long you’ve been involved with Games Workshop), no army-list was ever created for the Chaos Dwarves themselves – they didn’t even feature in the main Chaos list in Warhammer Armies!

Between the Chaos Allies list, Slaves to Darkness, snippets from various old White Dwarf issues, Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer Siege, I’ve cobbled together what I think is a decent list. Word to the wise, though, this is still a work in progress (I’ve just realised I haven’t included a war altar!) and hasn’t been play-tested.

Honestly, I’ve loved searching for all the material through the various outpourings from Games Workshop in those early days. Obviously, the Juggernaut makes an appearance in here but so does the infamous A$$-cannon and also the Tinman with Oxy O’Cetylene, the insane Chaos Dwarf engineer, from White Dwarf 83.

Hopefully it’s not necessary to point this out but better safe than sorry.. This is a fan-made list, totally for my own enjoyment and never for commercial gain. No infringement of copyright is intended – this is a homage.

So, without any further ado, here’s my Oldhammer Chaos Dwarf army-list: chaos-dwarf-armylist–a-return-to-chaos

It’s all about the fluff – part 2 – Kazad Unbar Brak

Let’s put a little more flesh on the bones of this back-story..

Looking at p.199 of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle rulebook, some key points in the Imperial Calendar (IC) timeline are:

  • -10,000 IC: The construction of the warp-gates and the arrival of the Slann
  • -7,000 IC: The warp-gates collapse and the first Incursion of Chaos
  • 2,300 IC: A huge Incursion of Chaos occurs in 2302 IC, resulting in the overrunning of Praag in 2303 IC
  • 2,500 IC: Present day, with the expansion of Chaos remaining active

The influx of Chaos in 2300 and the engulfment of Praag also coincides with the capture and disappearance of a northernly Dwarven stronghold, Karak Vlag (see https://whfb.lexicanum.com/wiki/Karak_Vlag).

This really got me thinking: the forces of Chaos sweep down through the Worlds Edge Mountains and a whole Dwarven stronghold vanishes!? What could I do with that?

I had read a fair few of the Dragonlance novels when I was younger and the whole ‘flying citadel’ concept was pretty interesting and had lots of potential for storylines, modelling and the like. What if something similar had happened to Karak Vlag?

In this narrative the fortress could not be found because, thanks to the awesome power of the Chaos gods, it simply was no longer there, a whole city uprooted from its foundations in the mountains to vanish into the Chaos Wastes.

The citadel would appear without warning, the twisted inhabitants descending to slaughter whatever unfortunates they found in their way, a whole thriving city of murderous Dark Dwarves bent on havoc and mayhem, before disappearing back into the Wastes from whence they came..

This idea had legs!

What about a name for this manifestation of doom? ‘Karak Vlag’ doesn’t very Dwarfy in the first place and it certainly doesn’t convey the right amount of dread and foreboding that seeing this monstrosity should cause.

There’s a certain insanity to the very idea of a floating city and, along with the warping power of Chaos upon the mind, there was a theme to work with there.

Working with the Khazalid lexicon on chaos-dwarfs.com and Bugman’s Brewery I thought Kazad Unbar Brak struck the right note – The City of Madness.

And who better to rule over this teeming hotbed of murder and mayhem but a certain infamous Chaos Dwarf – The Master of Madness from the Chaos Dwarf Renegades boxset!

chaos-renegades

In one fell swoop I had my backstory and my arch-villan/general!

** Addendum **

I took a little artistic licence with the Khazalid translation here:

  • Kazad = city or fortress
  • Unbak = to break permanently. ‘Unbar’ translates as “breaking” but I like the sound of this more.
  • Bran = Clever, alert, mentally sharp. The addition of “az” means that the word means a physical thing or place, giving us ‘Braz’. The addition of “ak” shows the root applies to an abstract concept, such as honour.

Kazad Unbar Brak = The City of the breaking mind / madness.

As the good and learned folks on The Oldhammer Community on Facebook have pointed out, this would more than likely be contracted to Kazad Un’Brak by the inhabitants. Thanks to Andrew, Matt and Ashley, in particular.

It’s all about the fluff – part 1

As much as I wanted to charge ahead and start buying minis, I swore to myself that I was going to be a bit more disciplined than my teenage self and that I was going to try to do this right. I might have a job now, and not hoping to fund all of this on pocket money, but Chaos Dwarves are wildly expensive on eBay and I needed a plan.

More than this, though, I had read plenty of blogs in which the author had spent some time coming up with the background story for their army and it sounded like fun!

So here goes: a bit of research and storytelling before we get down to the army list..

chaos-dwarf-divider

Enter The Warhammer Fantasy Battle rulebook

I’m going to start from scratch and completely ignore all of the subsequent Hashut and Assyrian-themed, Big Hat stuff. It’s just not my thing.

In a way, given the amount of material that Games Workshop has put out to support this story-arc, this makes finding information more difficult but, in another, it’s also far easier at the same time – I just have to go back to basics.

The WFB rulebook itself is a good start for some background on the Chaos Dwarves.

P.202 – “The Dwarfs themselves became fewer and fewer every day, whilst their enemies grow stronger as every year passes. Only the support of the Dwarfs from the Old World has enabled the Imperial Dwarfs to survive this long. Following the recent incursions of Chaos, a new threat has emerged to the realm in the shape of the Dark Dwarfs – or Chaos Dwarfs. Since that time the Chaos Dwarfs have taken over many northern sections of the Worlds Edge Mountains. Only the hard-pressed alliance of two Dwarves holds, Karak-Ungor and Karak-Kadrin, holds at bay the unholy power from the north.

P.214 – “During the years following IC 2300, the Incursions of Chaos swept from the north, tainting the land and initiating the corruption of thousands of living creatures. Those able to do so fled before the forces of Chaos; those that could not flee were enveloped by the howling winds of change blowing from the north. This was to be the fate of many of the human and Dwarves communities of the northern world. Exposed to the mutating winds of Chaos, many creatures were twisted to become completely unrecognisable. Others were corrupted in mind only, their appearance betraying almost nothing of the change wrought within.

As the battle raged around the city of Praag, the incursions reached a mighty crescendo, releasing a final burst of warp dust over the land before slowly ebbing northward. But though the battle of Praag had been won, countless smaller battles had been lost – battles over the small villages of the north, over the farmsteads of the Lynsk, and over the small mountain villages of the northern World Edge Mountains. From among these communities countless fresh warriors rose to join the forces of Chaos, and previously free creatures became enslaved to the will of the dark gods. In this way the race of Chaos Dwarfs, or Black Dwarfs, was born.

During the ensuing two-hundred or so years, the Chaos Dwarfs have multiple and grown strong, building an empire amongst the northern part of the Worlds Edge Mountains. Like all Dwarfs they remain independent and laconic, fighting their own battles against their Dwarves kin. Ruthless and cruel, the Chaos Dwarfs have already swamped a large number of Dwarf settlements in the north, and seem intent on marching south and destroying the entire Dwarf realm.

Physique: Chaos Dwarfs are physically identical to other Dwarfs, except that their skin is inclined to be very pale or even greenish.

Special rules:
5. Chaos Dwarfs are no more inclined to make decent wizards that are other dwarfs. Chaos Dwarf wizards therefore have only half the power level of an equivalent human wizard.

From this I’m taking:

  • Chaos Dwarfs were tainted but have developed into a separate, self-perpetuating race/culture
  • They live among the northern part of the Worlds Edge Mountains
  • They are war-like – and both ruthless and cruel with it
  • They have an intense, pathological animosity towards all Dwarves
  • They are physically similar to Dwarves but with very pale skin
  • They are inept in the magical arts

That’s not much information to go on, just enough to give me some ideas.. and that’s the way I like it!

warhammer-map

Crush, crumble and chop

You wait months and months for a blog post and two come along at once.. typical!

Fast forward 20 some years – during which time I’ve occasionally glanced at the odd issue of White Dwarf on the shelves at a newsagent’s and invariably been disheartened by the cartoony minis, the absence of well-written fluff and the hard sell of the advertising and product placement to an adolescent age group in the magazine – and I’m clearing out a few old boxes at home when I unearth some old issues of WD that I’d kept. Leafing through the pages I’m right back in my wargaming days of the 80s.

It’s the article entitled “Crush, crumble and chop” about the Chaos Dwarf Tenderiser and Whirlwind in WD 103 that really drew me in. I’ve always enjoyed the background stories and how they invariably create a rich view of the Warhammer world, full of dark humour and violence, and this one doesn’t disappoint. The story reveals the trials and tribulations of a Chaos Dwarf engineer, Thymbrin Snakebeard, and the descent into madness of the embittered and bloodthirsty dwarf inventor – a great short read.

I had both a Whirlwind and a Tenderiser back in the day and they were devastating pieces of machinery, ploughing into enemy units and cutting bloody swathes through rank upon rank of troops.. lovely stuff! The brutality of these machines is nicely captured in the graphic artwork that accompanied the article.

It got me thinking: I really loved Warhammer, you know.. Could I? Should I?!

There were maybe four White Dwarf magazines in that box, with another being number 108, the one with the “Chaos Dwarf Ballistics” article. Just like the earlier issue, this feature piece had more stark black and white artwork and more background fluff, this time covering the Chaos Dwarf swivel guns (and additions to the army list to boot).

There was an emerging theme here..

Over the next few weeks and months I found myself searching for more photos of the old Chaos Dwarf minis, searching online for all of the background material that I could get my hands on (there wasn’t much) and reading more about the newly written Oldhammer Contract.

And just like that I had the realisation that I was back into Warhammer 3rd edition and that I was going to get myself a Chaos Dwarf army!

A “Return to Chaos”.. geddit?!

So. Much. Green.

My first metal miniatures were a blister pack of Orc Arrer Boyz – great sculpts that were full of character – and they received more dodgy painting but hours of play and boyhood dreaming of battles and ambushes that really had nothing to do with Warhammer, specifically.

I can’t really remember how I graduated on to Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer Armies but getting those books was another watershed moment: there were lots, and lots and lots of minis out there! And what’s better than a handful of minis? Whole armies of figures, that’s what!

The two books really got me hooked. the more I read the more I loved the Warhammer world and the various races, with plenty of scope to bring your own imagination into play. To be fair, I don’t recall dedicating too much time to actually reading the rules – it was the photography and artwork that really did it for me. They were so evocative of what I came to learn was the whole ethos and culture of Warhammer, and so inspiring.

I guess it was between the description of the Uruk Hai in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the artwork in the Warhammer books that decided it for me: I was going to build and Orc & Goblin army!

The next 6 or 7 years saw me buy and – by and large – even paint a huge Orc & Goblin army, everything from Harboth’s Orc Archers to Ruglud Spike-can Commandos to the Orc War Wyvern – with plenty of Heartbreaker, Marauder and Grenadier minis thrown into the mix, too. The Goblin War Giant and Nick Lund’s Orc General’s Chariot were both labours of love but, in the end, I had a sprawling, unruly horde of goblinoids that even Kev ‘Goblin Master’ Adams himself might have been envious of.

I was particularly enamoured of the war machines that those vicious little goblins brought to the party. The skull-crusher was pretty awesome, as was the man-mangler, but both paled into insignificance beside my battery of lead belchers, complete with flayed troll faces.

lead-belcher

I think there were two forces that made me waver from the this path: Firstly, I REALLY got fed up with painting green. Only another Orc & Goblin general could empathise with just how much I mean that. I even acquired some chaos allies and went to town on the colour scheme just to get a break.

Secondly, though, I met a guy in my school who was also into Warhammer. This was astounding, when you think about it – some other person was into the same niche hobby (it would probably be called a “sub-culture” today, or something) that I was. In 1980s rural Northern Ireland. And in my school. At last, someone to play with!

Anyway, not only was this guy a great painter – Joe from The Dungeon / Modeller’s Nook in Belfast actually commissioned him to paint minis for display in the shop – but he commanded a big chaos army.

We ended up teaming up at a lot of the gaming conventions organised by Joe (in the old Maysfield Leisure Centre) to fight some enormous battles – 20000 to 30000 point games weren’t unheard of – and I became beguiled by the minis, the fluff and the devastating power of Chaos (and Khorne, in particular) on the battlefield in those sessions.

maysfield-leisure-centre.png

Cue buying Slaves to Darkness and Lost and the Damned, my Chaos allies detachment becoming a small army in its own right and the pots of green paint disappearing into the darkest corners of my painting station.

This was getting towards the end of my first stint of Warhammer gaming, though. University loomed along with all the distractions of higher learning, beer, girls and rugby (and not necessarily in that order) which wouldn’t see me pick up a rulebook in anger again for about 20 years – and selling my Orc & Goblin army to pay for a trip to Australia.

Real life can – and often does – suck

So, everything is going swimmingly: job feels like it’s going places (and the places I want it to), just started a new miniatures blog, all is well with my world and then.. BAM!

Some major upheaval in work and everything goes off the rails for a few months!

It’s not exactly on an even keel right now but things in work are better than they have been for a few months and I’m starting to have the head-space to think about this burgeoning blog again.

Building from the back – The Chaos Dwarf baggage train

I guess that one of the things I valued most about Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd edition was the freedom that was given to the gamer to expand the Warhammer universe – there were simply LOTS of gaps in the fluff (and the product lines) that you could fill with your own brand of creativity / insanity.

That’s what I wanted to bring to my new (old) Chaos Dwarf army: colour, fun and hopefully not a little style.

Compared to my old – and long since sold – Orc and Goblin army that had a huge number of miniatures to call upon, the Chaos Dwarves from the 1980s and 1990s had very few figures in the product line but what they had were full of character. The legendary (or even mythical) Juggernaut or Ass Cannon, the volatile bazuka teams and those whirling, bludgeoning wheelbarrows of death, the Whirlwind and Tenderiser.

Still, I’d need to add to the tiny range of figures available from the time if I was going to build an army and those figures would need to be carefully chosen  if I was going to preserve the Oldhammer feel.

Enter the Chaos Dwarf Baggage Train from Old School Miniatures (https://www.oldschoolminiatures.co.uk/):

full-set-baggage-osm

I love everything about this set, from the snarling, muscle-bound demon pulling the cart, to the snaggle-toothed driver, to the bound Elfish captive. It really captures the flavour of those old Chaos Dwarf minis and will fits right in to the vision I was building for what this army could be.

I love it so much that I bought three of them 🙂

The cart comes with an entourage, too – four similarly evocative Chaos Dwarves that are equipped with all the equipment camp-followers would need, including a stove, blacksmithing tools and a bound pig:

cd-one-300 cd-two-300

cd-three-300cd-four-300

Not a bad way to start my army!

There’s also the promise of more on the way, with the Prison Cart alternative just having been unlocked in the Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/882426675/osm-presents-the-chaos-dwarf-baggage-train/description

Next up, it’s down to some serious work, planning what I want this army to look like and consist of. The baggage train was an impulse buy and that’s the one thing I promised myself I wouldn’t do this time around, particularly as I’m after some expensive 80s classics.

Plan, plan and plan some more!

A Return to Chaos: The journey begins

Picture the scene: It’s 1988 and a 14 year old boy is up on a shopping trip to Belfast with his folks. No such trip would have been conceivable without visiting that cathedral of toys, Leisureworld (long since gone, unfortunately).

The Star Wars figures on the ground floor were then the main attraction, with countless minutes spent covetously gazing at the Boba Fetts, Snow Troopers and Emperor’s Guards.

It was a chance visit to the third floor, to see the “big boys toys”, that started my now lifelong interest / love affair / obsession with miniatures, and fantasy miniatures in particular.

Even at that tender age I’d been a big fan of JRR Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” for years, with Bakshi’s animated “Lord of the Rings” having a particularly lasting effect on me, but this was the first time I’d seen those monsters and wizards and heroes in the flesh (or the lead)!

From among the shelves of Grenadier, Ral Partha and Citadel miniatures – brand names that meant nothing to me then – one thing jumped out at my cash-strapped, how-much-can-I-get-for-a-tenner, teenage self:

warhammer-fantasy-regiments-600-616

The Warhammer Fantasy Regiments boxset..  60 plastic miniatures at one go!

Thankfully, none of my early attempts at miniature painting survive to this day – but I’d taken my first step into the world of Warhammer!