Ask anyone who is uninitiated in the ways of Warhammer (or indeed the whole fantasy milieu) what they associate with the 'fantasy' genre and they will probably say swords, sorcery and Dragons. Ever since the Middle Ages when cartographers wrote 'Here be Dragons' on their maps of the uncharted reaches of the world, and legends such as that of Saint George or Siegfried spoke of heroes slaying vile wyrms, right up to the relatively recent writings of Tolkien and beyond, Dragons have played a central part in the fantasy tradition. They can variously represent nobility, ancient wisdom, forgotten mystical powers, great strength, even greater age, fearful ferocity, an obstacle that must be overcome and base evil. What could be more intrinsic to the fantasy genre than the Dragon? And the world of Warhammer is no exception.
In the Warhammer world. Dragons are an incredibly ancient race. Be they referred to as Serpents, Wyrms or Drakes, the first of their kind lived many thousands of years before either Men or Elves settled in the Old World. Compared to those legendary times long past, today's Dragons are few in number. There was an age when Cold Drakes and Dragons vied for supremacy of the primeval skies. But those that exist in these turbulent times are reclusive creatures that spend long decades asleep in their hidden lairs deep beneath the oldest mountains.
As a race, Dragons display an infinite variety among their kind (especially in the case of Chaos Dragons). The species varies enormously in coloration and abilities, particularly in reference to that for which they are most well known - their breath attacks. Despite these differences (and they can be huge) all Dragons share the same ancient ancestor, for they are all the spawn of Kalgalanos the Black. The father of all Dragonkind sired offspring that were red, golden, silver, white, blue and all colours under the sun. These differences in coloration denote peculiarities in the differing metabolisms of Dragons, resulting in various subspecies being able to project a number of differing breath attacks from their great mouths. For example, Green Dragons belch corrosive fumes from their acidic gullets while Red Dragons breathe jets of roaring flames.
Dragons continue to grow in size as they age throughout their lives so that, if they live long enough, they are able to attain truly gigantic proportions (although as a result of their great size the more powerful Dragons are also slightly slower). In these lean times, the dying days of Dragonkind, few Wyrms come close to the size of Kalgalanos the Black himself. For the Father of all Dragons' body was bigger than a ship, his head larger than a house and his wingspan as wide as a battlefield. To take account of such variations in size and age, the scholars of the Old World classify older and larger Dragons as either Great Dragons or even as Emperor Dragons (in the case of the incredibly ancient).
Being able to have such all-consuming fiery death at your disposal in your Warhammer army conies at a price. Dragons are among some of the most expensive models points wise in the Warhammer game, but ultimately they are worth it!
Despite being few and far between compared to days of yore, Dragons can stilr be found right across the Warhammer world. Long ago, the skies were filled with the great winged beasts riding the thermals that rose over volcanoes. Nowhere were they more prevalent than in the skies over the realm of Caledor in Ulthuan. Now the volcanoes are cold and the Dragons sleep beneath the Dragon Spine Mountains. In the Old World, with the rise of the younger races, the Dragons also retreated to the mountains where they have had to face the destructive attentions of Dwarfs of the Slayer cult, but still some survive within the impassable mountain ranges. Despite the best efforts of Questing Knights, Dragons can still be found in the wild, untamed Forest of Arden while in the lands of the Empire the dark, ancient woodlands hide many terrible secrets. In the magical forest realm of Loren the peculiarly adapted Green Dragons of that land have found their own hideaways within the almost impenetrable Chasm Glades. From the frozen lands of Norsca and the ever-changing Realm of Chaos at the northern pole, as far as the scorching Plain of Bones to the south, where the great reptiles of times past went to die, Dragons can be found throughout the Warhammer world.
Tales abound across the Old World and beyond of infamous Dragons who have been tracked down by Questing Knights or Dwarf heroes and slain, for the good of all mortal races, and of evil wyrms yet to be brought to account for their heinous crimes against humanity. The greatest of all Dragonkind in the Old World still lie beneath their ancient stony mounds. They are the kin of the beast known as Graug the Terrible, or Dwarf Slayer. It was this foul creature that slaughtered the last Dwarf defenders of Karak Azgal, taking their treasure to line his golden nest which, as a last act of desecration, he made within the throne room of the Dwarf Lords. Having collected all the gold and jewels that lay within the stronghold itself, Graug began to roam further afield so as to increase his hoard. Even Bretonnia, the Land of Chivalry, fell victim to his attacks. Entire villages were devoured to satisfy his ravenous appetite while armies sent against him were all vanquished by the ancient serpent. After terrorising the lands of Men and Dwarfs for over a thousand years, Graug was finally slain by the Dwarf Skalf Dragon Slayer who, as his prize, claimed the fortress of Karak Azgal for himself and all Dwarf people.
Bretonnia has received the attentions of more than its fair share of Dragons, or so it would seem. Malgrimace was a ferocious monster, the greatest Dragon of his time, who terrorised the people of that fair and noble land. The cruel wyrm captured the King of Bretonnia's daughter but this proved to be his undoing for it drew the Questing Knight Jasperre le Beau to hunt him down and kill him in order to rescue the princess. Malgrimace's defeat earned Jasperre the title of 'Dragonslayer'. Almost as infamous was the Dragon Drogo Le Mai, who made his lair among crags within the wild heath that bordered the mysterious Forest of Loren. Drogo Le Mai had been a persistent scourge on the Domain de Beaumarchais and its neighbouring dukedoms. He was a fearsome Dragon (but then, aren't they all?) who plucked labourers from fields so that he might feast upon tender human flesh. Drogo was at last slain by two knights, Agravain and Jacques, whose quests it had been to kill the Dragon, set to them by the Lady Isabelle of Beaumarchais to see which knight would rule that domain. Between them, the pair thrust their lances deep into Drogo's gullet, through his open jaws, and through its black heart.
Despite the number killed by the knights of Bretonnia and Dwarf Dragon Slayers there are still a multitude of monstrous, winged, fire-breathing serpents ready to test the mettle of any warrior or army that might decide to stand against them.
Of the twelve races*, both good and otherwise, for which there are currently fully-fledged Warhammer Armies books, eight include Dragon-riding characters among their army lists, or at least, in the case of the Orcs and Goblins, a War Wyvern. Almost every race uses them (although notably not the Lizardmen, who have their own ancient reptiles). However, it is often through their riders that the great lizards' reputations are known. These human or Elf companions are often paragons of their own races (Orcs are something else altogether!). They are all imposing figures on the battlefield and many are renowned individuals whose exploits are spoken of in towns and villages across the Old World.
The High Elves of the island continent of Ulthuan are an ancient and honourable race. As such they have, in the past, made a special bond with the Dragons that now lie dormant within the cold volcanoes of the Dragon Spine Mountains in the thinly populated realm of Caledor. Long ago, the High Mage Caledor Dragontamer came to this fabled land and bound the Dragons to his will, using enchanted truesteel harnesses forged in the fiery heart of Vaul's Anvil. His descendants, in honour of the mighty mage, named the kingdom after him. Indraugnir, the greatest and oldest Dragon of that time, was presented to Aenarion, the first Phoenix King, by the Dragontamer and it was mounted on this fiery steed that Aenarion led the Elves against the Chaos hordes that threatened to overwhelm Ulthuan.
The Dragon Princes of Caledor are formidable yet noble warriors who are still able to rouse their Dragon steeds, when called upon for their aid in times of direst need. At other times the Dragon Princes ride to war on mighty Elven horses instead, which are armoured so as to look like Dragons. However, the bond between a Dragon and its rider is unusually strong thanks to the fact that generations of Elves and Dragons have grown up together over the endless centuries. As a result there are a number of particular skills concerning the care of Dragons which the Elves of Caledor possess but other races do not.
If a Dragon's High Elf rider is slain then the beast becomes subject to Dragonrage. Roll on the Monster Reaction Table in the Warhammer Rulebook as normal, but add +1 to the dice score. This means that a Dragon will never fly away from battle. On rolling a 6, you may choose any result you wish from the Monster Reaction table.
The Elves of Caledor have a natural empathy for Dragonkind that is recognised by all Dragons of any alignment. This gives them the power of Dragontamer. If a High Elf character is riding a Dragon and fighting in hand-to-hand combat with another Dragon, the second beast must pass a Leadership test on 2D6 before it attacks. This test uses the Dragon's Leadership characteristic if it is unridden, the rider's Leadership if it is ridden, or the General's Leadership if he is within 12". This test is only taken at the start of the combat, the result determining whether the Dragon fights to the finish or refuses to fight at all. Should the Dragon be attacked, it will always fight back, whatever the result of the initial Leadership test.
Prince Imrik, Lord of Dragons, is the last descendant of the house of Caledor, the Phoenix King of ancient times. As such, he is imbued with all the power and nobility of that great and noble house. When he calls on them, the greatest of the Dragons will wake from their sleep of centuries and come to the aid of the High Elves.
Prince Imrik is the greatest High Elf warrior of his age. Some even go so far as to say that in him has been reborn the nobility of Phoenix King Caledor and the battle prowess of Phoenix King Tethlis! The first an enemy will know of Imrik's presence in a battle will be when the Lord of Dragons plunges to the ground on the back of his Dragon in a burst of lightning-like, destructive fury. The great wyrm seizes its victims in its great claws and tears the poor wretch apart, or crushes them between its terrible fanged jaws, as Imrik thrusts his magical Star Lance into the ranks of the foe. The beasts themselves may change but Prince Imrik remains, guiding his fiery steeds with all his experience of countless campaigns.
Another of the High Elves of Caledor who has passed into legend is the mercenary Asarnil, who rides into battle mounted on his Dragon-steed Deathfang. Asarnil was the son of Aserion, the hero of a thousand battles, and in time became a great warrior in his own right. Able to rouse the Dragons of the mountain realm, one of the mightiest, Deathfang the Great Green Dragon, became his companion, and together they were all but invincible. However he earned the enmity of the Phoenix King Finubar having disobeyed direct orders after the Battles of Finuval Plain in order to protect his precious Caledor. Too proud to face Finubar's justice, Asarnil was stripped of his title and lands and exiled from Ulthuan.
A prince without a domain to preside over, Asarnil gathered together his weapons and armour and, riding on the back of his loyal Dragon mount, departed the island continent of the High Elves forever. The Dragonlord eventually found himself in the Tilean city of Remas, which was built on the ruins of a much earlier settlement once occupied by Elves, and allied himself with the Prince of Remas. Thanks to the assistance of Asarnil and the awesome Deathfang, Remas defeated its rivals. Since then the two inseparable companions have fought in countless battles across the Old World. Whoever hires them is almost guaranteed victory against their enemies.
On the whole, the Forest of Loren is free from many of the monsters that roam the ancient woodlands of the Old World. However, within the almost inaccessible Chasm G lades, which lie at the foot of the Grey Mountains, dwell the Forest Dragons, ancient reptiles awesome enough to rival anything that the darker forests of the world might have to offer and a race apart from other wyrms. Over centuries of isolation they have adapted to their woodland habitat, their nests protected by the inaccessibility of the Chasm Glades, to the extent that they no longer eat meat but rather the roots and branches of ancient trees.
With their hides of mottled green and the leaf-like appearance of their iron-hard scales, Forest Dragons are supremely camouflaged to hide among the trees of Loren, but still the Wood Elves know where to find them. A few exceptional Wood Elves, and in particular the mages of that race, communicate with the Forest Dragons who are just as much protectors of the forest realm as the Elves are and as a result are natural allies. On occasions a mage is even able to persuade a Forest Dragon to leave its chasm home and help the guardians of Loren fight off evil-intending invaders.
Like their kinder-hearted kin, the Dark Elves of Naggaroth have their own bond with Dragons, though it is a vile, evil pact made with human sacrifice and obscene promises to the bloody-handed god Khaine. Even the Dark Elf fleets that roam the oceans of the world, seeking out slaves to take back to the Land of Chill, make use of Dragons, not only as aerial attack units but also as the means of bearing their loathsome, twisted towers into battle across the seas. Sea Dragons are the largest of the Dark Elves' sea-going monsters, quite capable of carrying huge, spired castles on their backs. These creatures were once true Dragons but over the centuries they have mutated, perhaps under the influence of Chaos that is so prevalent in the dark realm of Naggaroth, becoming something less than true Dragons and yet more. They are now bound to the will of the Dark Elf sorcerers to do their evil bidding. Helldrakes are smaller by comparison but are still used to carry floating fortresses to war over the waves in a ferocious onslaught of claws and fangs.
The Dark Elves of Naggaroth are infamous for their use of enslaved monsters, whether it be to carry their Black Arks on their voyages of destruction or to terrify the foe in land battles. There have been many Beastmasters in the past, but none have ever matched Rakarth in his ability to tame any wild creature. His steely-eyed gaze has subdued countless beasts that now fill the dungeons beneath Karond Kar, the Tower of Despair.
Since his childhood Rakarth displayed an almost supernatural ability to tame wild animals. At the age of eight he mastered the vicious Dark Steed Bracchus that even his father could not break. From then on, the horse was Rakarth's faithful mount, serving the Beastlord well until it was slain at the Battle of Finuval Plain. Rakarth now rides to war on the back of a mighty Black Dragon, named Bracchus in honour of the Dark Steed.
Under the corrupting influence of Chaos, a Dragon is able to achieve all its dark potential for cruel, destructive power. Chaos Dragons are wracked with mutations that make them appear to be an amalgam of two ancient reptiles, having two heads and two tails. Each head is able to breathe different forms of devastating Chaos power. This destructive energy merely augments the Dragon's savage death-dealing abilities that come from its long, sword-like fangs and terrible scything talons. It is hardly surprising then that they are the mightiest of Dragonkind.
The imposing figure of Egrimm van Horstmann riding atop his two-heacled Chaos Dragon is immediately identifiable when the Sorcerer of Tzeentch leads the armies of the Cabal against their enemies. Once the Grand Magister of the Order of Light, van Horstmann had sworn allegiance to the Changer of the Ways long before he feigned loyalty to the mortal Emperor. While pretending to serve the Order of Light he sowed his seeds of corruption in the darkness. He unleashed unimaginable horrors on the world before his evil and the depth of his deception was eventually uncovered by the Grand Theogonist Volkmar and the Inquisitors of Sigmar.
Baudros, the most infamous of all the Chaos Dragons, was freed from its timeless prison beneath the Pyramid of Light by van Horstmann. The sight of the Sorcerer riding across the sky from the Screaming Hills at the edge of the Chaos Wastes on the back of this sail-winged monstrosity strikes fear into the hearts of brave men. Baudros breathes both the Dark Fire of Chaos and Fumes of Contagion from the grotesquely fanged maws of its twin, twisting-horned heads and is capable of wiping out an entire army by itself, without the warriors of the Cabal to support it.
As already related, Wyverns are the most favoured monstrous mounts of Orcs and Goblins, particularly Shamans. It is a truly terrifying sight to see a greenskin warlord, waving his notched battle-axe, bearing down on you from out of the sky on the back of a venomous, armour-plated, sinuous beast with its fang-lined maw snapping at you as its snake-like neck darts forwards with lightning speed.
There have been many infamous Wyvern-riders from the green-skinned tribes of the Badlands. The Dwarfs speak of Scarbone and his Wyvern Bigbeast, which helped lead the assault on the doomed Dwarf stronghold of Kazad Grund, but none was more feared by the people of the Empire than the Ore Warlord Azhag the Slaughterer. He was one of the
most dangerous warlords of recent years, his destructive campaigns almost bringing the eastern provinces of the Empire to their knees. Having defeated countless Ore and Goblin tribes from the World's Edge Mountains, Azhag led his greenskin horde into Ostermark, looting several towns and destroying the Temple of Sigmar in Nachtdorf.
Azhag was helped to achieve his conquests by the Crown of Sorcery that he had in his possession. This strange iron crown was taken by the Grand Theogonist of Sigmar after Azhag's final defeat and locked away forever so that it would never again elevate some other upstart warlord to such a dangerous position. Azhag always rode into battle on the back of a huge Wyvern and would harry his fleeing enemies from the air after the battle had been won.
Of course it is not only these heroes who may ride Dragons, should the scaly beasts permit it. Bretonnian dukes and Imperial nobles have also been known to pay high prices in order to obtain Dragon eggs that they might raise the creatures from hatchlings to be their steeds in battle (this is as much for prestige as to reduce a foe to a pile of charcoal before them).
But why use Dragons in the first place? They have an extremely high points cost, they're big, obvious targets and attract unwanted attention: any opposition will no doubt try to knock a Dragon and its rider out first. But let's look at the plus points. Firstly a Dragon is a huge modelling project, which is a big part of what the Warhammer hobby is all about! To put together one of these imposing, ancient, winged lizards and then paint it up, putting in hours of painstaking work, is extremely rewarding.
When it comes down to it, that high points cost is worth it! A Dragon is a massive, leathery-winged monster with fangs like ploughshares, talons like scimitars and the ability to breathe a plethora of noxious or flammable substances from its maw. The mere sight of such a beast bearing down on them across a battlefield instills a primordial fear in most troops causing them to act on their most primitive instincts and run away! It takes someone truly special (or clinically insane) to stand up to a Dragon!
With between 6 and 8 Attacks, just one Dragon in an army can have a truly devastating effect on the battlefield. Just as it can dish out more than its fair share of attacks, a Dragon can stand up to numerous attacks simply because most of them will just glance off its scaly, armour-thick hide. Being able to fly means that with a Dragon in your army you can take on high flyers sent by the enemy, the bane of many a general. Dragons are noticeably more powerful than other large, flying monsters such as Manticores, Griffons and Hippogriffs, able to strike them down before they attack your own troops.
Don't hold back with your Dragons either. What is the point in having such a creature in your army if you don't use it? Your Dragon will undoubtedly attract the attention of the enemy, becoming a focus for their attacks. It is such a huge threat that they will probably want to destroy it as quickly as they can (although it's possible that the enemy will be so terrified of the monster that they prefer to leave it alone and hope it will just go away). Don't let this put you off. You can pretty much ignore the foot soldiers barring the way, as your Dragon will shrug off their attacks, and instead you can concentrate on sending the monster and its rider after the serious targets, which are a threat to your own force.
And of course, going back to the point with which I started this article, one overriding reason for including a Dragon in your army is that these mighty, ancient, winged reptiles are inherent to the fantasy genre! What else can make your army stand out better than a Dragon? It is the mark of a truly remarkable general that he can call on such a magnificent and awe-inspiring beast as a Dragon to fight for him in times of need. Of course, they look great too, as a centrepiece to your miniatures collection! So, as I bid you farewell, I wish you well in your Dragon-hunting and may Kalgalanos smile on you in your quest to tame the beast of all beasts - the Dragon!
Of course, it goes without saying that Dragons are truly a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. Such is the impact they can have on a conflict that it can be fairly said that the Dragon race has helped to shape the history of the Warhammer world. The following rules apply to Dragonkind in general. For the special rules associated with particular characters see the relevant Warhammer Armies book.
Fly: Dragons have wings and can fly up to 24" as described in the Warhammer Rulebook.
Scaly Skin: The scales that cover a Dragon's hide are extremely hard, acting like armour that protects them from attack. This gives a Dragon an armour saving throw of 4+, regardless of the Strength of the attack. This save is only ignored if the attack discounts saves altogether (e.g. stone throwers, bolt throwers, cannons, etc.)
Terror: Being huge and frightening monsters. Dragons cause terror as described in the Psychology rules on page 49 of the Warhammer Rulebook.
Dragon's Breath: The nature of the breath attack, that Dragons are renowned for, depends on the beast's colour. Breath attacks are worked out using the teardrop-shaped template. (If, for some reason, this is not the case, special rules for the Dragon concerned will explain how the attack should be worked out instead.) Place the broad end of the template over the target and the narrow end at the Dragon's mouth. Any model lying under the template area is hit on a D6 score of 4 or more.
Dragons use their breath attack in the shooting phase. Dragons fighting in hand-to-hand (or should that be claw?) combat can continue to breathe in the shooting phase but must direct their attacks against the units that they are fighting. Models removed as a result of breath casualties in the shooting phase are not counted towards the combat result.
Chaos Dragons have two breath attacks, thanks in part to having two heads and in part to the corrupting influence of Chaos itself. The Dark Fire of Chaos causes a Strength 4 hit on a victim. The Fumes of Contagion also causes a Strength 4 hit but allows no armour saving throw.
Green Dragons belch acrid clouds of corrosive green fumes, which irritate eyes and even dissolve skin! A model suffering an attack in this way suffers a Strength 4 hit (with no saving throw for armour allowed). In addition, a unit attacked by choking fumes may be forced to give ground as they back away from the inexorable approach of the corrosive cloud. The unit must take a Leadership test which, if failed, results in the unit moving directly away from the attack by D6" (this does not affect the unit's move next turn). The Forest Dragons that dwell within the sunless Chasm Glades of the mysterious Forest of Loren are a form of Green Dragon.
Blue Dragons have the ability to spit out bolts of lightning generated within them. This electrical charge attack does not use the flame template. The lightning has an initial range of 12". A single enemy model within range is nominated as the target. The target is hit on a D6 roll of 4+. If the target is hit, the lightning bolt will then leap to a model touching the original target, again on a roll of 4+, and so on, and so on. This continues until a roll of 3 or less is made, meaning that the lightning bolt has hit the ground and been earthed. The Dragon can direct the boh to some extent by choosing where the bolt leaps to next where there is a choice. Any model struck by lightning suiters a Strength 6 hit from a Dragon, a Strength 7 hit from a Great Dragon and a Strength 8 hit from an Kmperor Dragon. Armour saving throws are allowed as normal.
Red or Fire Dragons, as you would expect, breathe flames. Each of the enemy models hit suffers a Strength 4 hit from Dragons, a Strength 5 hit from Great Dragons and a Strength 6 attack from Emperor Dragons. Damage and saving throws are worked out normally. The Dragon also causes extra damage on particularly flammable targets, such as Mummies and freemen.
White Dragons breathe a freezing chill mist so cold that enemies are frozen on the spot. Any frozen model suffers 1 wound on a roll of 6 on a D6, regardless of its Toughness, with no saving throws permitted for armour. A frozen unit may fight if attacked but will require 6's to hit, otherwise if may do nothing else at all until it thaws out. Those affected by the freezing chill are automatically frozen for 1 turn; after that they must test to see whether they thaw out at the beginning of the player's following turns. Units frozen by a White Dragon must roll 2 or more on a D6 to thaw out, those frozen by a Great White Dragon require a roll of 3+ and the victims of an Emperor White Dragon's icy breath must roll 4+.
Black Dragons emit thick, oily smoke from their mouths. Each model hit by this breath attack is choked, suffering a number of wounds equal to D6 minus the target's Toughness. No armour save is allowed. Great Black Dragons inflict 1 extra wound on top of this total, whilst Emperor Black Dragons inflict 2 extra wounds.
Zombie Dragons, titanic skeletal Undead creatures from the forbidding Plain of Bones, with wings of ragged, parchment-like skin, have their own particular Pestilential Breath attack. Zombie Dragons can expel a deadly black vapour from their rotten throats that blackens skin and withers flesh, resulting in an agonising death for the victim. Any model hit in this way suffers 1 wound on a D6 roll of 4 or more. No armour save is allowed except that given by magical armour. However, Zombie Dragons have a second defence. Clouds of flies surround their decaying carcasses. When a Zombie Dragon is lighting, these insects fly into the mouths and eyes of its opponents, the terrible distraction making them deduct -1 from their to hit rolls in hand-to-hand combat.
Wyverns make their nests in dark caves, high on the upper slopes of the World's Edge Mountains. It is there, having braved the perils afforded by the crags, that Night Goblins find what they prize so dearly - Wyvern eggs. Wyverns are the mounts particularly favoured by Ore Shamans. Amazingly, these vicious reptiles develop a strong bond of loyalty to their masters.
Wyverns should not be underestimated as they are ferocious creatures that must be bound by magic or years of training if they are to be ridden, or fight for their masters in battle. As a result, it is subject to the Bound Monster rule (see the Monsters section of the Warhammer Rulebook). They are highly prized battle-steeds as they cause terror and are able to fly.
They do not, however, have any form of breath attack. Instead, they make up for this with their envenomed tails. In hand-to-hand fighting, before it makes its normal attacks, a Wyvern may make a special envenomed tail strike. To do this, roll a D6. Any enemy models in base contact with the Wyvern that have a lower Initiative score than the number rolled are automatically hit by the Wyvern's sting and suffer a Strength 5 hit (with large monsters and riders, and crewed chariots, each rider, mount or crew member is treated separately).
Wyverns, although not strictly Dragons, are still related to the Dragon species. They can be longer and more sinuous, with mouths full of cruelly barbed teeth, but lack forelimbs. Like Dragons they are scaly beasts, their hides made up of thick, overlapping plates of horn which acts like armour in its ability to protect them from injury, giving them a saving throw of 5 or more on a D6.