Tolkiens’ works give us only a few clues about dwarven battle tactics, as he has written mainly about battles where dwarves joined forces with other races – in which case they might not use their traditional military deployments during battle.
Apart from the legendary khuzdul battle-cry: “Baruk khazâd, khazâd ai-mênu”… meaning “Axes of the dwarves, the dwarves are upon you” (… as if you did not know that already)… let’s see what else we can unearth about the battles of the dwarves…
Stunning illustration “The Battle of Five Armies” by Justin Gerard
If we look a the extraordinary strength of dwarves and their smaller then men size, we can be sure though that their tactics used in battle differed greatly from that of men, ensuring their stature was used to their benefit.
With that in mind, below you can find our ideas on dwarven battle tactics:
Combat Style and Tactics
The Dwarven Shieldwall – A tactic often seen with many cultures where their physical stature was smaller then their oponents. In the shieldwall, a first line of defence is made allowing the troops behind to be shielded dwarves to enjoy a comfortable security.
Directly behind the shieldwall, archers are placed who attack over head, arrows crashing down onto the head, neck and shoulders of the opponents. Between the archers, dwarves with spears are placed. These would target any opponents that charge the shieldwall, piercing the long spears between the front shield, enjoying the protection of the shields while defending it from close combat attackers.
Once the shieldwall breaks down, individual axe warriors, that are behind the line of archers and spear dwarves storm onto the opponent which is now only a few feet away. The aim of the axe warrios is to disable as many opponents as possible in a short period of time, by wounding blows to the legs. . Opponents are incapacitated and then left to bleed to death while the battle continues.
With running melees across a battlefield, those targets which are easy to hit are the most tempting – legs and arms are the most obvious. Against a warrior in a mail shirt, the lower arms, face and neck are the obvious target areas, hence well protected. The lower leg is usually uncovered. This would be a huge advantage for dwarven armies, as they could easily reach the lower legs of their usualy taller oponents.
In addition to axe warrior also warriors that used blades, maces and clubs would be seen behind the line of axe warriors, mainly to protect the axe warriors from flank attacks and to finish off any wounded yet still dangerous enemies.
The Dwarven Boar Snout Charge- Similar to the Shieldwall, but in “arrow-head” shape. The sheer weight and momentum of the charge could drive the wedge through an opposing shield wall, turning the battle and spreading panic through the enemy. Formations of this type require considerable practice and training to achieve effectivness.
Leadership – contrary to most tactics seen with men, it was expected that a dwarven leader would lead from the front. Having achieved his position partly by his skill at warfare, it was expected that the leader would stand in the middle of the front rank, leading the charge and the boar snout. All would depend on his personal fortunes – if he fell, it is likely that his army would withdraw or rout. It seems to have been normal for the leaders of dwarven armies to attempt to seek each other out on the battlefield, attempting to ensure a quick victory by cutting of the head of the army. This might explain the higher number of dwarven uzbads that died in the fields of battle, compared to fewer leaders of men that died.