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Before in 7th we only added engineers to warmachines for some of their benefits and added defence. It was basically mandatory to take an engineer with your bolt thrower for the extra ballistic skill, and it still is. The benefits for other warmachines however were only mildly helpfull as you could be unlucky with the reroll on the misfire table and get a worse result, or just the same, and a cannon should be having a rune of forging in any case.
With the dawn of 8th, while we are working to find out how our army now works on the tabletop, engineers have suddenly gotten a different purpose. Apart from their benefits and the added protection of having another crewmember, a warmachine's wounds are now counted by the number of crewmembers it has. The crewmembers are in fact basically woundcounters for the warmachine. For 15 points your warmachine has 4 wounds.
This is a great advantage. Since everything can wound on 6's, warmachines became more vulnerable to a massed volley of str3 arrows, which before did not wound the machine. An additional wound on your warmachine can ensure it lives through the barrage of arrows, and will require on average 24 hits on str 1 - 5 in order to wound it 4 times. Let alone the number of shots in order to get that many hits, and the odd arrow that might be saved by a lucky roll of 6 for our crewmembers' light armour.
It is also a distinct advantage in an artillery fight, empire most notably. Empire cannons used to be the bane of our artillery because they would knock out our cannons reliably with D6 wounds. Our cannons now also inflict D6 wounds, which is immense, of course, so we are on even ground. The rune of forging grants the dwarfs another distinct advantage over their shoddy manling counterparts, and to top it off we can buy our warmachine another 'wound'.
We destroy eachothers cannons by rolling 3+ for multiple wounds, unless you are lucky your clan heirloom is going to be a smoking ruin. But with an engineer your opponent is forced to roll 4+, which can make all the difference, and 50% chance of losing your cannon is better than 66%. It is even better against enemy warmachines that inflict D3 wounds, because you can't roll 4 wounds with a D3, so no more despair if a lucky bolt thrower manages to wound you.
An engineer is a relatively minor investment, and worth it's points thanks to the new rules. You will just need to have a couple of points left in your list, but the points can often be found by removing a rune that did not ever reach it's potential in your games, or by dropping pistols, and one or two rank and file. When you are short in points for something the engineers can often be the first thing to go. Far from every army has the capability to fire at your warmachines with their own ( if there are even warmachines available to them ) , and bolt throwers are hardly a problem for another warmachine unless your opponent is very lucky with his rolls. Indeed often it might have appeared to be points wasted, because your opponent had nothing to fire at them, like certain builds of CC armies do. They can still be engaged by flyers, scouts or skirmishers sneaking past your lines however and a 4 wound warmachine might survive a round ( and remain standing due to beautiful stubborn ) , and prevent an enemy overrun move. Of course the engineers also grant their usual engineers benefits.
In short, the additional wound is awesome, and gives you the edge when trading fire. Not every army will be able to attack your warmachines however, so those points might be wasted. Luckily they have their regular engineers benefits still.
The bearded one; Master engineer
dwarfs errata Page 2
"Page 39 - Artillery Crew
... Ignore Gunners' Pride and Additional Crew"
engineers does not give extra wound to warmachines, they are not good anymore.
Having written up this entire thing..
I dunno, but then what are engineers ( not master engineers ) ? They are an upgrade to the warmachine, so are part of the unit. They do not stand around a few inches away. You need to kill him too to destroy the warmachine unit, right?
What we have deducted with a fellow dwarf general,
we give 15 points to replace an crewman with engineer, therefore wounds does not change,
He is still doing his job as giving extra options (Bs, rerolls etc)
But in my opinion i won't take an engineer now on.
a master engineer (he is not eating up slots) is better between 3 machines, also he can protect them better.
An engineer is still more or less mandatory for a bolt thrower, as the extra BS is extremely needed and you can get that for few points. You can do a master engineer, but that's 70+ points for BS5.
The bolt thrower, cannon and grudge thrower entries in the armylist say "you may add an engineer for.. etc." So not replace, but add. In all other respects he is a champion, and champions always have the same qualities as the rest of his unit, apart from a slightly different profile and some equipment options.
I plan not to use Bt due to fact that our cannon received a major upgrade,
(No guessing, d6 wounds) for 125 point i can nearly guarantee that i will hit something with it, however with BT with engineer i will fail to hit nearly 2,5 rounds (short range long range)
for 15 points i get bs 4 to BT nothing else (+5 pts for brace of pistol.)
for 70 points for master engineer (+4 pts for Gw, or +10 pts for BoP) , i will get an extra body to protect my machines,
put him neary a group of machines to command different machines each round also, entrench one machine against those pesky s3 arrow volleys.
In previous edition we got the +1 to hit the large targets, getting an engineer was nearly equal to getting an master engineer for BT.
I think that master engineer was more of a viable choice in 7th edition than 8th edition. With the changes to the machines, (basically the canon) i may not choose to get and engineer (master or none) at all.
I quikly asked at bugmans brewery, and while for absolute certainty it should be answered by GW, they agreed that the engineer is added to the crew, and being a champion means that apart from his improved stats he is the same as the rest of his unit.
The cannon got a boost, to be sure, but it is twice the cost of a bolt thrower too. Also for the cost of a master engineer you can buy a second bolt thrower. A cannon with master engineer ( or grudge thrower with master engineer ) will cost the same as 3 bolt throwers.
Also bolt throwers do not explode.
I myself use a cannon and a bolt thrower.
Why not use 3 Grudge Throwers, 3 Cannons AND 3 Bolt Throwers!
Remember that many armies are eschewing their fast hard hitters for large blocks of slow infantry. Dwarfs are uniquely capabable of taking quantities of firepower normally associated to 40k. The question is not wether an artillery piece can make its points back before the enemy closes, it is wether any enemy units of fighting strength will reach you at all.