Above: Dwarves and their mercenary allies march on an Easterling settlement.
After your first battle as the Dwarves, you may think you've got this campaign all wrapped up. After all, you just routed a bigger army, and the losses your force sustained can probably be counted on one hand. Yes, you may have had a hard time catching the fleeing enemy, but your Dwarves are extremely tough and ready to take on Middle-earth. Right?
It's only when you begin to expand that the challenges of the Dwarven position become clear.
First, population. Most of your Homelands will see static population growth unless they are on low taxes (something the wealthy Dwarves can well afford). Even then, growth rates will be low, usually no better than 0.5%. And the population ceiling is similarly low. This forces you to train Dwarves sparingly, and ensure that the units you recruit can last for several battles without retraining. Even with care, any expansion will tend to bleed your Homelands of their population, forcing you to wait for populations to rise again before more training is possible. A defeat in battle can set back your plans for expansion by decades.
The second problem is a consequence of the first. Dwarven units are rare, due to the low population in your Homelands (which is the only place they can ever be trained) as well as their high cost. They also tend to be low in number. This makes actually holding your newly conquered towns difficult, either because of unrest or because of an inability to defend the settlement against overwhelming numbers of attackers.
The answer to these problems is more soldiers, but more *Dwarven* soldiers, even when possible to recruit, can severely cut into your treasury. You must therefore turn to Hirelings.
Hirelings are Men who have sworn their loyalty to the Dwarven Kingdom in exchange for pay, lodging, and protection. They can be trained anywhere outside of your Homelands - or, if you don't mind losing the ability to train Dwarves *for the rest of the campaign,* you can turn some or all of your Homelands into Mannish lands by constructing one of the "regional" buildings available (an example is "Lindon", which can be constructed in the Blue Mountains). This brings population growth - of Men, not Dwarves - and shuts off Dwarven recruitment, replacing it with the potential to train Hirelings. In most cases, though, you'll expand from your mountain settlements and find Hirelings in the places you conquer.
There are a couple of "core" Hireling units that you can train anywhere, but there is also a tremendous variety of Hirelings vased on the region where they are recruited. So, while any Mannish settlement can train Hireling Spears and eventually Hireling Guards, you will also find bowmen in Eriador, axe-armed skirmishers in Dunland, horse archers in Khand, slingers in Rhun - and many more. You'll note that these local Hirelings help to fill out gaps in your Dwarven battle line that badly need to be filled: cavalry and ranged attack.
Your Mannish provinces are also the only places you can construct Specialization Buildings. The Dwarves can build 4: Dwarven Weaponsmiths (improving the quality of your Hirelings' weaponry), Dwarven Guildmasters (increasing trade throughout the kingdom), Mercenary Halls (allowing the recruitment of powerful Hireling warriors in lands of the Northmen), or Mercenary Slipways (allowing construction of longboats - the only ships available to the Dwarven kingdom).
So the Dwarven campaign can be one of conquering regions specifically for the kinds of Hirelings that can be trained there, then putting these disparate Mannish troops together with your rock-solid Dwarven infantry to form a nigh-unstoppable force. But before you can think about Hirelings, you must develop (and expand from) your homelands.
The Dwarven Kingdom begins in possession of 7 disconnected settlements, even more scattered than those of the Elves. It's best to think of your kingdom as consisting of several independent zones. You may try to connect them eventually, but for much of the game they will be isolated from one another.
These settlements are not only distant from one another - they also house slightly different Dwarven cultures, expressed in the mod by giving different options for Dwarven recruitment. You'll find different units available in Hollowbold, for example, than you will find in Narag-zigil.
There are, however, some "core" Dwarven units that can be trained in every Homeland. These include the basic Axes - a no-frills unit that is the most vulnerable of all your troops (but, because they're still Dwarves, that isn't saying very much) - and Warhammers, whose signature weapon is effective against armor. Warhammers' lack of a shield usually encourages me to train Shieldbreakers instead (also armor-piercing), or the extremely well-armored Longaxes.
Also trainable everywhere in your Homelands are 2 siege weapons: Ballistas and Catapults. The latter in particular are amazing against enemy troops. When set to use fire, they are capable of halving an enemy unit with a single hit. A unit of Catapults in your army will eliminate some of your range problems quite handily.
Starting in the west, the Blue Mountains comprise the first section of the kingdom.
Even these 2 settlements are separate from one another, however - reinforcing Hollowbold from Galbigathol requires that you march over territory belonging to the Elves or the Shire and at least one other faction. While this is possible, these factions may not take kindly to such trespassing, and may even attack you.
In the Blue Mountains, you will find Dwarves of a slightly different cultural makeup than the ubiquitous Longbeards. Here are the Firebeards and the Broadbeams, two houses rather distinct from Durin's line. Here also you will be able to train some special units - the hardy Shieldbreakers and Bows, your only Dwarven archer unit.
The Blue Mountains are relatively safe from attack, at least at the beginning of the campaign. The Elves and Hobbits are passive (making them good trade partners and trustworthy allies), and the nearest likely foe, Adunabar, will be busy fighting the Reunited Kingdom and perhaps Tharbad for some time. This gives you the chance to acquire some nearby land in, say, Lune or northern Arnor. The potential is also there to ally with the Reunited Kingdom and attempt to hold back the Cultic tide.
In the center of the kingdom is the capital, Dwarrowdelf.
Here you can train many troop types, including Longaxes (excellent against cavalry and large creatures like trolls, with the best defense of any Dwarven unit), Axethrowers (with a short-ranged but devastating attack backed up by a solid melee presence), and Bows.
Initially, the only route out of Dwarrowdelf is through the East-gate - the West-gate lies in ruins at the beginning of the campaign, still buried under stone and earth cast down by the Watcher in the Water. But, using a very cool and entirely unique mechanic, you can restore the West-gate and gain the ability to send your armies west, toward Ost-in-Edhil and Swanfleet (both independent settlements at game start, and both useful for trade and Hirelings). Restoring the West-gate is costly, but well worth it, as it boosts trade and allows your Dwarrowdelf armies to come to the aid of the Blue Mountains at need, or vice versa, and more easily march northward along the western flank of the Misty Mountains.
From Dwarrowdelf, you may also wish to establish a presence along the Anduin by acquiring the independent Andlang before the Beornings manage to take it, or taking Feorfeld before Adunabar or Rohan. Either path requires crossing Elven territory, so take care, and use Scouts or Emissaries to watch for any ambushing Elven armies in the forests.
The third region of the kingdom is the most well-connected. Erebor, Gunduthorin, and Baraz-dum in the Iron Hills comprise the most established and active part of the realm.
It is here that you can most quickly assemble your Dwarven armies, and here that you are most secure - for to your south lies the Kingdom of Dale, a permanent ally of the Dwarves. In the Dwarven campaign, the Men of Dale are mostly concerned with defending their own lands rather than expanding, so they will ensure that no threat will trouble you from the south. Baraz-dum may become a target for Easterlings, but on several occasions I've found that Dale will actually send out troops to protect your cities if they come under siege. Reliable sorts, those Men of Dale.
From this region, you can train Axethrowers and Longaxes as well as the basic Dwarven roster - or, in Baraz-dum, the superb Dwarves of the Iron Hills. But how best to put all of this Dwarven potential to use? I see at least 2 options: one, you could go after your victory conditions, which include taking Orodengrin to the northwest and reclaiming the Grey Mountains for the Dwarves once more, and then push westward to Gundabad itself. This means fighting lots of Orcs in epic battles where you will be monstrously outnumbered but, with some care, should come through victorious. This route also has the advantage of linking up your eastern and western enclaves - you could make a band of Dwarven territory that stretches all the way from the Blue Mountains to the Iron Hills. Taking Gundabad is a worthy goal in itself, quite aside from victory conditions, as it will increase the Authority of the Dwarf-king and increase his vassals' loyalty, as well as boost trade, once the proper buildings there are constructed.
Or, two, you could leave the Orcs for later and send an army southward, into territory held by the Easterlings. On your way, you could pick up any mercenaries (always a good idea for the Dwarves), such as Longbowmen and Slingers, and then take the fight to the foes of Dale. Where, exactly? Any place that is walled, wealthy, and that can grant you some useful Hirelings. Chief Cities (those with the blue banner nearby) make excellent targets, since they tend to have a large population, walls, and a high level of development. You may also look at useful resources in the area. Incense (found in Khand and Far Harad) is a rich trade resource, as is wine (in Belegant and Nurnen) and ivory (Harad). Livestock and wild animals allow you to make tanneries that can improve the armor of your Hirelings. And wooded regions - like Iaur Helcar, north of the Sea of Rhun - often have timber that can decrease construction costs with the proper industry building.
If some of these targets seem rather far afield, they are. But an elite cadre of around 8 Dwarven units can survive a grueling march through enemy territory, take your target settlement, and hold it against wave after wave of foes, with support from mercenaries, Hirelings, and the occasional band of Dwarven reinforcements. The biggest problem is often preventing such far-flung places from rebelling. (The best solution is to move your capital around.)
The last Dwarven Homeland is Narag-zigil, an enclave that is somewhat near the Erebor-Iron Hills region but is effectively isolated.
Trainable here are Axethrowers and Shieldbreakers, as well as a unit unique to this settlement: Dwarven Wain Bows. Wain Bows are essentially small ballistas mounted on pony-drawn carriages - a tremendously expensive force multiplier, especially when combined with catapults and any semblance of a battle line.
Narag-zigil is also important as it is most likely the first Homeland that will come under attack (usually from Rhun), and it is the place where you will first see the great strength of Dwarven walls. Just 4 units here can hold off hordes of Easterlings - and may have to.
The Dwarves have perhaps the most open-ended campaign goals in Dominion of Men. This is because your 2 settlements required for victory are both held by Orkish rebels at game start; from there, it is simply a matter of conquering a total of 25 settlements for the win.
So, where to conquer? I like to consider 2 factors here: trade, and available Hirelings.
The Dwarven economy is massively trade-based, at least in the early parts of the game. This is because your Homelands have no "Land Tax" income. (This only makes sense; Land Tax represents more-or-less static income from vassals and things such as farming, which the Dwarves do not have unless they turn over their Homelands to a Mannish population.) So, the early stages of a campaign will likely see you maximizing your trade income by building appropriate buildings and getting trade rights with neighbors.
Narag-zigil is a good example of the importance of trade. If you get trade rights with Dorwinion and Rhovanion, it can be a powerful wealth creator. But war with these factions (or whoever holds Belegant and Iath-in-Rhaw) may cut your total seasonal income in half.
This may give you some clues as to how to approach your conquests. If Rhun looks like it is threatening your trade partner Rhovanion, you may want to step in and protect the latter. Or, if Dorwinion attacks you, you'll want to eliminate them completely and take their rich lands for yourself. (In fact, having Dorwinion attack you is an excellent turn of events for the Dwarves. By taking Rathwin and Belegant, you now have a corridor that stretches from Narag-zigil all the way to Barding lands, giving you safe passage from Erebor and the Iron Hills down to the Sea of Rhun.) The goal is ultimately to keep the trade flowing, whether by protecting your trade partners or by holding the neighboring lands yourself.
Overall, though, the Dwarves don't necessarily have what you might call a natural enemy. Most other factions must fight, and in some cases effectively eliminate, another faction to claim victory. But in theory, the Dwarves can remain aloof from the politics of Middle-earth, choosing their conquests with precision and care.
The initial diplomacy settings see you and Dale at war with North Rhun, but this need not be a long-lived conflict. North Rhun usually has enough to worry about with Dorwinion on its border and aggression from the larger Chiefdom of Rhun. It is possible to get a ceasefire and trade with North Rhun, and perhaps even to ally with them. This will halt their war with Dale in the bargain.
Other Easterlings are likely to be a longer-term problem. The Chiefdom of Rhun is very strong, and will only get stronger with time. Left unchecked, they may advance all the way to the Anduin in a few dozen turns. You may choose to trade and even ally with Rhun, but eventually they are likely to become very interested in the rumors of wealth at Narag-zigil. War with a huge Chiefdom can hurt your income unless you move quickly to control neighboring settlements, but their armies are not typically a great threat, apart from units like War Wains (whose special attack can damage even your rock-solid Durin's Guard) and heavy cavalry.
Eliminating the Chiefdom entirely isn't a feasible option for the Dwarves. While you can beat Rhun in battle after battle, holding all of their vast territories is rather difficult without extensive Hireling support. A bloody war of vengeance, on the other hand, seems properly Dwarvish. Sack the Easterlings' great settlements, set them to the torch, and move on, with the aim of holding only wealthy or strategically important cities, such as Raichost (with its high trade potential) or Tham (the Easterling capital).
[A note on "Expel Populace": I'll leave it to you to decide whether the "Lay Waste" option feels appropriate for the Dwarves - personally, I think that against a few select, hated enemies, such as the Orc-using Adunabar and the intractable Easterlings, the Dwarves would let their burning desire for vengeance occasionally get the better of them - but the "Expel" option has the effect of actually relocating the population to any settlement you own that has a governor. That means "Expel" is a cheap way to boost the population of your Dwarven homelands and thus recruit more Dwarves. It is pretty cheap, though, since the people you are relocating in such a manner are Men, not Dwarves, and shouldn't logically be able to swell Dwarven recruitment. This is one of those hardcoded mechanics that the player who cares about the lore must simply avoid using.]
In terms of local Hirelings, Rhun's territories will grant only Slingers. On the other hand, the lands of Rhovanion and Dorwinion will give both archers and much-needed cavalry. (These will probably be the earliest cavalry you'll see in the campaign, unless you turned one of your Homelands in the Erebor region into a Mannish province.) So it's worth it to hold a settlement like Iath-in-Rhaw, both to preserve the Narag-zigil trade routes and for some variety in your army.
Above: A useful formation for the siege defenses you are likely to fight as you expand into Easterling territory. Longaxes stand in guard mode on the front line, backed by Axethrowers, with slingers at the top of the hill. Your other attack-oriented units (Dwarves of the Iron Hills, Shieldbreakers, or Durin's Guard) prepare to flank.
In the western parts of your realm, much depends on whether or not you decided to war with Adunabar. Either way, it's likely that Adunabar managed to claim much of Eriador. Adunabar's units are stronger than anything you'll fight in the East. Trolls in particular are capable of smashing your battle-line to pieces with their repeated charges. To that end, you may want to target the Orc-holds in the northern mountains precisely to deny these units to Adunabar.
Expanding in Eriador to where you border factions like the Shire will be great for your trade income. Sarnford is an obvious goal, and is relatively easy to hold if you can take it. Further north, a strip of Dwarven territory from Lune toward Gundabad can give you a safe corridor for transporting both Dwarven and Hireling units.
One wild card in Eriador is Tharbad. If you act fast to open the West-gate in Moria, it's possible to take Ost-in-Edhil and Swanfleet quickly, before Tharbad can get there. Ost-in-Edhil offers good trade, but no training. Swanfleet allows you to train some versatile Hirelings - both bowmen and Dunlending skirmishers and axemen. These units, and the access into Eriador that these provinces provide, will help you expand your power against the Cult. But if you wait too long, Tharbad will get there first. By this point in the campaign, you may already be involved in a war with one or more factions, and adding another front (with the resulting loss of trade) may not be an attractive option.
So have patience, keep building and amassing wealth, and see how events unfold. Dunland or Adunabar may attack your trade partners, and you may step in to take some land for yourself. Rebellions may erupt in Eriador or Enedwaith, and you may be able to take advantage with a precision strike.
Thanks to your great riches and your incredibly strong armies, the options for expansion are almost unlimited. Take care to choose your foes carefully so as not to be overwhelmed, but trust in your infantry, which is more than a match for any Mannish soldiers you may encounter. Expand with an eye for profit and Hirelings, and you will soon lay claim to a Dwarven victory to make the heirs of Durin proud.