Here is an introduction to the warband I wrote a few years back:
Musings on Short Bearded Warbands
Our History with Dwarf Warbands (You Can Skip This Bit)
Our group's experience with dwarves has been interesting.
Stampper started a dwarf band in a campaign. After about four games, he chose to drop them and start another warband, he was so frustrated with them.
Later, he decided to try them again. He gave up on them again after a few games.
In the very next campaign, Jim gave them a try. He hated them.
I forget all of their complaints, but the main one was that the 3-inch movement meant that they performed poorly in the run-and-grab-stuff scenarios, which we rolled a lot (in most of these games there were four warbands playing).
Next I gave them a try - they performed poorly for me. In part this underperformance was my fault - I kept forgetting that they only went out of action on a 6, not 5 or 6. I am fairly sure that cost me a dwarf or two.
Anyway, some time later I tried a second band, since in general I like dwarves and I have a couple of tons of great old Citadel models. This band used a modified hero mix – we allowed only one slayer, but created a dwarf “champion” hero who replaced the second slayer. This second dwarf warband did very well. In fact, over time they were one the strongest warbands I have ever had.
Consequently, later when a different group started a campaign I tried dwarves again, going back to the official version with two slayers and no champion. They did well. Not brilliant, but pretty consistently solid.
About a year ago I tried another band, which ran as recently as the Christmas holidays in 2009. They are coming along very nicely indeed.
In my experience seeing dwarves played and playing them myself is that they are a fairly tricky warband to run, and are often going to be slooow out of the gate, but over time if you are patient they will more than likely come through for you.
On the whole, I thing GW was right to rate them as compatible with the official warbands, where so many other additional bands did not become "official".
Slow movement. Nothing you can do about it really.
Low initiative. Go with the flow and give two-handed weapons to anyone who can pack one - if you're always gonna go last in a melee, go last with gusto! Used to be you could give them spears so they could belly-stick all those speedy show-offs as they came in on the charge, but alas no more with the officially revised rules for spears. Note that buying two-handed weapons for everyone is a bit pricey.
Only four starting heroes: It gets better. Shard-wise they make out fine, but they get fewer cool multiple rolls early on.
Two of the four heroes don't benefit from many of the dwarf strengths: specifically, the two slayers cannot wear any armor and cannot pack any of the extra-long range missile weapons the engineer provides. This weakness never goes away. However, it effectively diminishes over time since once you have two promoted henchmen-heroes, they can carry missile weapons and wear armor so the weird slayers are only 1/3 of your hero compliment, not 1/2.
Expensive models: You receive excellent value for your gold – dwarves have great stats and special racial abilities - but your starting warband will be smaller than average (no pun intended).
They can wear heavy armor, pack shields, and still move 3. They become tanks. It's pretty cool. But all that heavy armor is expensive, so it takes time for this advantage to truly manifest itself.
Toughness 4 + the “Hard to Kill” rule (OOA only on a 6) = stubby immortals. Together, these rules make them some of the most durable warriors in the game. They may not earn as much experience early on as other warbands (because of their speed), but they also lose very few guys they have to replace, so it adds up. To repeat – you are far less likely to have to replace dead heroes in a campaign, especially if you take the Dwarf Racial skill Extra Tough, which lets you reroll a result on the Serious Injury table.
They always find an extra shard. So, even when they have only four heroes they do fine for money, and with five and especially with six heroes, they are going to be rolling in gold. Note also the four starting heroes can all take the Resource Hunter special skill, which gives them the Elf Ranger ability of adding +/-1 to their die roll on the Exploration chart. Over time, Dwarf warbands tend to become seriously rich.
They have some useful special skills. True for the general dwarf skills and the slayer skills. I have already mentioned Extra Tough and Resource Hunter, but there are several other really good skills. For example, the Slayer skill Berserker combined with the Slayer’s WS of 4 means there are a lot of targets he will hit on a roll of 2+.
Good leadership. When the captain goes Out of Action, nobody really notices... Even the little beardlings have a leadership of 8, the same as most human captains.
Long-range missile weapons. Gotta love the engineer. 36-inch range crossbows and 9-inch range pistols is a Good Thing. Dueling Pistols (one of the best weapons in the game) have their range increased to 13 inches.
The Weaknesses vs. Strengths Balance:
In my experience, Dwarven strengths outweigh their weaknesses, and the longer the dwarf warband runs, the more their strengths manifest themselves. And that is the important point to keep in mind: they are slow (hah!) to start in a campaign because they only have four starting heroes and underperform in snatch-and-run campaigns, but they become exceedingly powerful (and rich!) over time.
Building a Dwarf Warband.
You have to take all four, obviously (you always take the maximum number of starting heroes for any warband. Always).
For the captain, sometimes I buy the cheap Gromril armor, sometimes not. Starting out, it is only 25 gc more than heavy armor, for the +1 point of armor save. However, the other benefit of gromril armor (can be used with a shield without slowing a warrior down) is lost on dwarves, who are never slowed by armor. So, a good buy still, but with all dwarf models being so expensive, it might be better to scrape and save on kit to buy more henchmen (and the more henchies you start with, the more chances you have to roll The Lad’s Got Talent).
For the Engineer, I pretty consistently go with a crossbow and a hand weapon (hammer or axe) and have him hang back and snipe (so, no pistol). Now as he develops I usually add pistolier and eagle eyes and gift him with dueling pistols, at which point he will more consistently hunt with the pack.
For the slayers, I usually go with one with a two-handed weapon for the +2 Str and the other the other has a dwarven axe and a mace or hammer (I can never decide which configuration is better, hence one of each; it also makes it easier to remember which slayer is which).
In terms of henchmen, I usually have a mix of clansmen and thunderers. I never take beardlings – the more expensive clansmen and thunderers have +1 WS, +1 BS, and +1Ld compared to the beardlings, which is a steal for 15 gold coins, if you ask me. Going with beardlings might allow you to make your starting warband one or two stunties bigger, but be patient – you are going to max out you numbers soon enough, so start with the better henchmen (who, when promoted, will also make the better heroes).
Stat-wise, thunderers and clansmen are identical – the difference is in the kit they can take. Thunderers cannot take dwarf axes or two-handed weapons (booo!), and clansmen cannot take crossbows (or, for that matter, handguns, but who cares about the handguns?) In my first couple of dwarf warbands I started exclusively with thunderers, but later I realized how effective short pissed-off dwarves swinging two-handed weapons at people’s kneecaps were. Now I generally go with a mix. By the way – if you have a clansman who earns a promotion to hero, consider giving him the shooting skills as one of his two skill groups, because if he takes hunter, he can use any missile weapon and thus becomes extremely versatile; similarly, if you have a thunderer promoted, consider allowing him access to the combat skills so he can take weapons training.
Dwarf Treasure Hunters are a great warband – just be patient.