Armored Princess Unit Analysis Part 2: Dwarves
Dwarves are still here, and while the most boring Dwarves are still pretty underwhelming, their forces now include more than two units that are actually worthwhile, not to mention enough variety that mono-Dwarf doesn't automatically mean literally one formation. They also include what some people consider to be the best or most broken unit in the game, which is a far sight better than how they fared in The Legend.
Racial relations-wise, Dwarves have moved to...
-2 from Demonic presence in allies.
-1 Morale from Undead presence in allies.
-1 Morale for Elven presence in allies.
-1 Morale for Lizardman presence in allies.
As with Humans, the 'reduced' Moral penalty from Undead and Demon presence is a bit of a technicality, since Armored Princess' negative Morale effects are higher. Similarly, the Elf/Dwarf racial tension has gone from a minor inconvenience to a fairly painful impact on the performance of your units even though it's still a -1. And now Lizardmen exist to bother them too.
Still, Dwarven racial relations are fairly tame, if less chill than Human ones. There's more hostile species in the game, certainly.
Hiring Cost: 220
Attack/Defense: 20 / 16
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Damage: 8-12 Physical
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Vengeful (If the stack is below 50% of its original numbers, it always crits)
Only change is gaining Vengeful.
Vengeful itself is... sort of a neat idea, but it's another one of those things that has more relevancy in AI hands than in player hands. If your melee meatshield is regularly losing half its forces, you're probably doing something wrong, whereas the entire enemy army is going to die in every battle if you're actually making progress in the game.
Even then, auto-critting is primarily a raw damage thing. There's some mechanics where auto-critting is a bit interesting -for example, it means Weakness becomes useless against badly mauled Dwarf stacks, because the crit overrules the forced minimum damage effect- but not many, and not very relevant ones. (I personally basically never cast Weakness anyway) I actually tend to forget they have it at all, because there's no reason to factor it into my plans.
Even their old niche of being an unusual intersection of having decent per-head durability while having a good Leadership-to-Health ratio isn't very notable in Armored Princess. For example, Knights are no longer worse at sustaining Spell punishment, are far better at absorbing unit-derived damage thanks to Mastery, have Circle Attack innately... all Dwarves really have over them is Running, which isn't much of a recommendation to them.
This is probably the worst game in the series for Dwarves-the-unit, honestly.
Hiring Cost: 40
Attack/Defense: 8 / 8
Initiative/Speed: 3 / 2
Damage: 3-4 Physical
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points), Strike (Charge: 1. All Miners purge all ongoing status effects and double their Defense, but cease to retaliate when attacked. Allied Foremen temporarily increase their Initiative, Speed, and crit chance)
Abilities: Night Sight (+50% Attack in underground and nighttime battles)
+2 to Health (Notably, this places them at better than 1:1 on Leadership:Health, making their stacks slower to die to Spells than Dwarves-the-unit), and they've picked up Strike. Strike is the big thing here, less for its mechanical significance and more for the fact that the game is trying to give them something distinctive. I applaud the effort, even if I'm not so sure of the results.
For the AI, Strike is something they tend to either immediately use (If there's Foremen on their side) or never use. (If there's no Foremen) The AI won't try to strategically wipe harsh status effects with Strike, and if there's multiple Miners the AI won't hold onto Strike uses to re-boost their Foremen.
For the player, Strike is an interesting idea hampered by the fact that it revolves around using two units the player gets little benefit out of using. You'll at least use Strike strategically, unlike the AI, or so I'd hope, so in that regard it's probably more useful for the player than for the AI, but it's still not great, especially since the effects you'd most want to throw off include some that prevent you from activating Strike. (eg Sheep)
That said, the biggest change to Miners is the presence of Foremen, particularly in AI hands. Driver's Whips affects all allied Miners, meaning battlegroups made up of multiple decent-sized Miner stacks and at least one Foreman are a big threat if you can't kill or lock down the Foremen -and Foremen have a monstrous seven Initiative, so it's easy for them to Driver's Whip before your forces can bring serious firepower to bear!
It's actually kind of fun to fight, even as it's frustrating how the player can't do anything equivalently useful. I've commented on this kind of thing before, but the Miner/Foreman interaction is probably the starkest example of it in the series, because the problem isn't 'well, you can do that like the AI, but it's a bad idea', it's 'you literally cannot do that, period.' The game simply will not let you lead four stacks of Miners that are each at your Leadership value: if you want four stacks of a specific unit type, you have to split your Leadership value four ways.
Also, if you're considering using Miners in spite of their issues and are thinking of using eg Phantom on them, keep in mind a Phantom using Strike will just instantly kill itself, because the Phantom timer is an effect it's purging. This isn't a huge deal most of the time, just one of those things you might not be thinking about and then be frustrated when you cost yourself unnecessarily.
Hiring Cost: 800
Attack/Defense: 30 / 22
Initiative/Speed: 3 / 2
Damage: 6-10 Physical
Resistances: 10% Fire
Talents: Salvo (Reload: 2. A ranged attack with equivalent range to the Cannoneer's base, which does 18-30 Physical damage against a single target)
Abilities: Archer (Range: 7), Siege Gun (Doubled damage against Gremlins and everything else considered to be an 'object'), No Melee Penalty
They've lost 3 Initiative! They've gained 40 HP (Which is 40% more Health, incidentally), which helps in general and especially for letting them really get use out of No Melee Penalty, but ouch, back in The Legend they were a fantastic unit for getting in damage early in a turn. Now they get beaten out by the vast majority of units, especially since a good number of old units got an Initiative boost.
The overall result is I actually tend to prefer Catapults for anti-Gremlin work in Armored Princess, as 3 Initiative is just too low to go before all but the weakest Gremlins, and even support from Onslaught and so on will often be inadequate against the stronger Gremlins.
Somewhat annoyingly, this set of changes is overall a lowering of utility in player hands but an increase in difficulty dealing with them in enemy hands, particularly when comparing Mage experiences in the two games: in The Legend it's not that hard to go before and butcher Cannoneers due to their fragility, where in Armored Princess they're much harder to nuke down to irrelevance in general, let alone in a timely manner. For Warriors and Paladins it's less clear-cut, because having your entire army outspeed an Initiative 6 unit in The Legend wasn't necessarily worth the effort if it cost you other kinds of utility, whereas your entire army going before Initiative 3 in Armored Princess is something you may well achieve entirely incidentally, but it still means that getting a unit into melee with them tend to get your melee unit ground down more than in The Legend.
Still, while the stat changes are fairly noticeable, overall Cannoneers aren't too different in how you use and fight them.
Hiring Cost: 920
Attack/Defense: 25 / 35
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 2
Damage: 10-25 Poison
Resistances: 25% Poison
Talents: Potion of Poison (Charge: 1. Target a single enemy unit, with an effective range of 7. It and all adjacent units take 5-15 Poison damage, and are Poisoned), Fire Water (Charge: 1. 10-20 Fire damage to one enemy unit with an effective range of 7, and Burns the target), Holy Water (Charge: 1. 15-25 Magic damage against a single Undead or Demon target with an effective range of 7, and inflicts the 'Holy Shackles' penalty. Can only target Demons or Undead), Energy Drink (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points. Unavailable if Undead or Demons are in the enemy army)
Abilities: Poison Resistance (25% Poison Resistance), Acid Spray (Ranged attack striking through all targets up to 3 tiles out, melee range enemies can't retaliate, with a 15% chance to Poison each target), No Melee Penalty, Alchemist (When any potion Talent is depleted, it's replaced by a Talent that will add 1-2 charges to the potion Talent in question. These recharging Talents all have a Reload of 2), Energy Drink (If there are no Undead or Demons currently on the battlefield, Holy Water is replaced by Energy Drink. Holy Water will replace Energy Drink if Demons or Undead enter the battlefield, until such time as there's no more Undead and Demons)
+50 Health. Nice! This seems to be a general trend with Armored Princess, by the way, that ranged units tend to be less painfully fragile than they were back in The Legend, and it's one I approve of. (Even if it tends to make them a bit more annoying to fight, as I commented with the Cannoneer) And of course they've picked up Energy Drink and the ability to remake each of their potions! Fire Water has actually lost minimum damage, but Holy Water now works on Demons, and of course Alchemists pick up what amounts to Running if there's nothing to hit with Holy Water, making their quality less dependent on matchup. (ie in The Legend they were at their best if there were Undead in the enemy army and also enemies that weren't resistant to Poison)
Additionally, Alchemists are indirectly bolstered by the boost to Burn and Poisoning, allowing them to still contribute significantly even against oversized stacks. This helps keep them relevant for much longer, and indeed it's actually worthwhile to toss Potions of Poison into lines of Undead before Holy Water and Fire Water just to maximize the percentile damage from Poisoning: hitting 3 targets with 2.5-5% damage apiece will usually work out to more overall damage than 5-10% damage to one target, and against formations where you can hit more than 3 units at once it's guaranteed to be worth it. The only caveat to that is that Burning lowering Defense is more useful if you want to prioritize taking apart a particular target.
Note that Burning and Poisoning's percentile damage means Fire Water is actually usually better for opening up against Undead and Potion of Poison for opening against Demons than Holy Water. The initial damage will be worse, but unless you're trying to finish off a target or don't expect/intend for it to get a turn at all, Holy Water's lack of percentile damage hurts its relevancy. It's actually often better to just focus on using and reloading Fire Water and Potion of Poison instead of using Holy Water, honestly, which is a pretty striking contrast with The Legend.
Back in The Legend I commented that the Alchemist's acid spray attack is essentially superior to Potion of Poison. In immediate damage terms this remains true, but now that Poisoning is percentile damage Potion of Poison is usually going to be better to start with just for the guarantee of Poisoning the target(s). The main caveat to this is that if you're confident waiting a turn will let you hit more units at once with the Potion of Poison and you can spray something now, you might as well spray now and hit more targets later.
The overall result is that Alchemists have gone from being one of only two decent Dwarven units (And one that was severely flawed and didn't really stay competitive past the early-midgame) to being a fairly amazing unit that stays solid through basically the entire game. (Albeit having somewhat poor performance in Boss fights) It's awesome.
The flipside to this is that Alchemists are much more inconvenient to face, tending to cause casualties more and more consistently through percentile damage as Leadership values rise. They're also unusually difficult to predict, as I've personally never worked out their decision process regarding whether to reload a potion or hurl a different potion instead. That said, you'll temporarily somewhat neuter Alchemists as a bonus side effect of summoning a Dragon of Chaos (Assuming your army didn't contain Demons or Undead already), as they tend to prioritize hitting the Dragon of Chaos with Holy Water, even though Dragons of Chaos laugh off Magic damage and are actually vulnerable to Poison. It's not unusual for them to waste a Fire Water on the Dragon of Chaos as well, for that matter.
One point worth noting is that Gift doesn't exist in Armored Princess at all, meaning it's no longer an option to burn through all three potions and then Gift them all back. This is particularly relevant if you're playing base Armored Princess, as the Alchemist Ability doesn't actually exist in it, meaning Alchemists in the base game just plain run out of potions, with little you can do about it.
As far as new Spells and whatnot, there aren't really any new synergies worth mentioning particularly.
Hiring Cost: 7000
Attack/Defense: 54 / 60
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 1
Damage: 80-100 Physical
Talents: Earthquake (Reload: 1. Attacks all enemy units that don't Soar or fly, the damage dropping off with distance. Base damage is 60-80 Physical damage per Giant), Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Likes Emerald Green Dragons (+1 Morale if Emerald Green Dragons are in the army, doubled damage against Emerald Green Dragons)
+10 to Attack and Defense, +10 to minimum damage, and Earthquake has been boosted quite a bit -its new minimum damage is actually higher than its old maximum damage!
This doesn't change how you use them or fight them, but it does mean Giants are notably more relevant than in The Legend. It's also worth noting that Earthquake is a moderately decent way of generating a burst of Rage on the first turn, especially when facing a battlegroup that's more than the default 5 stacks, and since Rage is a lot more relevant in Armored Princess that's actually beneficial, but in the end Giants remain a neat-seeming idea whose execution really needs work. The new Spells aren't particularly great for them -Glot's Armor really seems like it should be good for them, but it's difficult to justify casting it ever so not really- and none of the new units or unit overhauls really do anything to bring Giants into greater relevance. They really need some way of getting around the battlefield other than the player Teleporting them, or something.
Hiring Cost: 600
Attack/Defense: 22 / 28
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 2
Damage: 13-14 Physical
Resistances: -10% Magic, 10% Fire
Talents: Driver's Whip (Charge: 1. +3 Initiative and Speed to all allied Miners. Does not end the Foreman's turn)
Abilities: Night Sight (+50% Attack at night or underground), Foreman (Allied Miners double their Attack and Defense. Additionally, Miners using Strike gain +1 to Speed and Initiative and are guaranteed to crit)
The first of the new Dwarven units in Armored Princess, and in some sense the only 'real' new one. It's primarily a reskin of the Dwarf as far as its model goes, but as a unit it's a lot more interesting. Also interesting is its internal designation in the code -miner2. That's consistent with their relation with Miners, but usually when a unit is labeled as name2 it shares a model, rather than having a conceptual connection. In fact, I think this might be the only case in the entire series of this happening!
As covered earlier with Miners, Driver's Whip can be an astonishing gamechanger when you're facing armies made of large numbers of Miners -and there's one functionally-plot-mandated Hero fight that shows this off deliberately- but Foremen also make Strike better just by existing. (Though remember: since Strike purges positive effects, you can't stack its Speed boost with Driver's Whip unless you make sure to have the Foreman stack Wait and Driver's Whip after the Strike has begun) Miners can reliably cover seven tiles on the first turn, between Driver's Whip and their own Running access.
Unfortunately, Foremen themselves are slow, fairly generic melee outside of their synergy with Miners. Their astonishingly high Initiative stands out in that context, but it mostly serves to make it difficult to prevent them from using Driver's Whip. They're serviceable enough as slow, generic melee, but slow and generic melee remains a terrible idea to use, and an unimpressive foe to fight. As such, Foremen are difficult to justify using unless you're the Paladin and just like the idea of abusing your Skill Resurrection 3, hurling Miners into the fray and ignoring their casualties entirely. Similarly, enemy Foremen can generally be ignored as a low priority if the enemies either don't include Miners or you're doing something to render the Miners largely irrelevant. (ie nuking them out of existence, Blinding them, etc)
I really like the flavor of the Foremen/Miner interaction, it's just really unfortunate that the gameplay isn't worth indulging most of the time.
Hiring Cost: 300
Attack/Defense: 25 / 25
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Damage: 12 Physical
Resistances: 20% Physical, 80% Poison, -50% Magic
Talents: Harpoon (Reload: 1. Targets an enemy unit that is 2-5 tiles away in a straight line with no intervening obstacles. Drags it adjacent to the Guard Droid and attacks it for 10-14 Physical damage with no chance to counterattack), Beam of Light (Reload: 2. Targets an enemy unit up to 3 tiles out, and hits all units, friend or foe, in the intervening distance. Most units below Level 5 become afflicted with Helplessness and lose 30% of their Defense for 2 turns. Units with Night Vision as well as Beholders and Evil Beholders are Blinded instead. Undead units take 5-20 Physical damage instead)
Abilities: Shock (Basic melee attack has a 30% chance to Shock enemies), Mechanical (80% Poison resistance, -50% Magic resistance, cannot be Poisoned, Morale never changes, immune to mental effects, cannot be healed or resurrected by most effects), Armor (20% Physical resistance), Eyeless (Immunity to Blind, Precision, and Greasy Mist. Also can detect invisible creatures)
New to Armored Princess. Interesting, their name internal to the code is droideka, suggesting Star Wars inspired the design? Either that or there's some entirely different explanation having to do with the game being Russian that I'm ignorant of. They look kind of like Destroyer Droids, in terms of being round and held up with a similar design of leg, so I'm personally inclined to suspect Star Wars influence, but it's not a given or anything.
Another interesting aspect of Droids (Both Guard Droids and Repair Droids) is the decision for them to not leave corpses. I'm kind of curious as to what drove that decision, honestly. Visual considerations? (The Droid design would be tricky to produce a death animation/pose that justifies the usual low-to-the-ground death result, thanks to their odd tire-esque shape) Not wanting Thorns to be able to use their corpses? Not wanting to have to do special-casing in general regarding necromancy and so on? Or... maybe it's some plot element?...
In any event, Guard Droids are the first of the actually good Dwarf units added by Armored Princess. They're a reasonably fast, respectably durable melee unit that can contribute damage without having to take damage, Beam of Light is really useful for locking down a wide variety of different units (And is honestly the only reason to pay attention to Night Vision as a trait), and as we'll be seeing in a minute being Mechanical gives them access to proprietary resurrection support, making it just fine to use them as tanks because you'll repair away the casualties before it actually costs you Gold or Grand Strategy progress. Mechanical also provides a variety of useful protections that make them difficult to bypass and also make it less viable to wear them down -if you saw the Extra covering unit damage types in The Legend, you would've seen how much more common Poison damage is than Fire damage, and the commonality of Burn vs Poisoning follows a similar trend, even into Armored Princess. ie Poisoning is very much the primary way enemies can inflict percentile damage on your forces, and Guard Droids being immune to this makes it much easier to keep their casualties to a minimum than if you were using a meatshield made of actual meat.
It's worth mentioning that Harpoon will drag a unit right over a Trap without triggering the Trap, unlike typical push/pull effects. I also frankly have no idea why Beam of Light's damage against Undead is Physical: I'd expect either Fire (stereotypes about eg vampires burning in the sun) or Magic (As the 'abstract/elemental that isn't Fire' damage type) instead. It's bizarre, and it's particularly weird how this results in it being very ineffective against Ghosts and Cursed Ghosts... especially given how Warriors of the North gives Ghosts and Cursed Ghosts a 'fears light' trait.
One particularly nice utility of Harpoon: in all the King's Bounty games, AI ranged units that find themselves next to one of your units will almost always step away and then attack the unit that was next to them. This means that even though it's technically not reliably possible to control what an enemy ranged unit targets in the way you can control melee unit targeting, in actual fact it's still essentially possible. The Guard Droid's base Speed and Harpoon's range is often enough to pull an enemy ranged unit next to it on the first turn, at which point it will prefer to target the Guard Droid... and since, as we'll be seeing, Guard Droid casualties are actually easy to undo, this is pretty ideal. This is impressive utility, with no real competition at that.
In AI hands, the Guard Droid is... erratic. They'll only ever use Harpoon if they start their turn with line of fire -if they have to move to get line of fire, they won't use Harpoon- and their second priority is very much to use Beam of Light with absolutely no regard to whether it will do something or not. When facing multiple separate Guard Droid stacks, the AI will frequently end up inflicting Helplessness 3 times (Or however many times is equal to the number of Guard Droid stacks on the field) on the same target, thus wasting the second two Beams of Light. More broadly, the AI doesn't try very hard to avoid breaking Blind, so even if you're bringing Night Vision-filled forces, what will often happen is Blind is inflicted three times on one of your units and then it takes chipping damage before it has the chance to miss its turn, thus completely wasting the Guard Droids' turns. Beam of Light is only a reasonably consistent problem if you're fielding an Undead-heavy force, and even there Beam of Light can end up doing worse damage than their base attack and the AI doesn't actually try to hit multiple targets. In fact, the AI is terrible about regularly catching its own units with Beam of Light!
On the other hand, if you're not mindful of Harpoon lines of fire and how they relate to Traps, you may find you get one of your units pulled into one of your Trapper Traps. If you get used to thinking of Beam of Light as irrelevant and leave a Night Vision unit to be Blinded by Beam of Light, that can cause serious trouble too. And of course if you are Undead-heavy, they can potentially do a lot of damage if you're not careful.
I didn't mean 'bad' when I said 'erratic'.
Hiring Cost: 250
Attack/Defense: 10 / 25
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 5
Damage: 6-8 Physical
Resistances: 20% Physical, 80% Poison, -50% Magic
Talents: Repair (Reload: 3. Heals and resurrects an adjacent Mechanical unit for 40 HP per Repair Droid in the healing stack, +10% for each rank in Neatness the player has)
Abilities: Flight, Archer (Range: 5), No Melee Penalty, Mechanical (80% Poison resistance, -50% Magic resistance, cannot be Poisoned, Morale never changes, immune to mental effects, cannot be healed or resurrected by most effects), Armor (20% Physical resistance), Eyeless (Immunity to Blind, Precision, and Greasy Mist. Also can detect invisible creatures)
Notice that they're slightly short-ranged. Also notice that it largely doesn't hurt any because they're lightning-fast and fly.
Anyway, yeah, that's a reloading Talent for performing fairly significant resurrection in Droids. Repair Droids are the unit I was referring to when I said 'the unit some people consider to be the best/most broken unit in the game': Repair Droids make it far easier to avoid casualties, and are so good at this job that some people will actually run two half-strength Repair Droid stacks, that way they can reliably have them repair each other. Since they're flying ranged units with good Speed, they can also just kite many units all day long, so even though their actual per-turn damage is a little lackluster they're quite capable of contributing just on the basis of distracting and wearing down enemies. And they're surprisingly durable for a ranged unit in practice since most units do Physical damage.
Repair Droids are obviously best when paired with Guard Droids, but they're actually serviceable units even on their own, and reasonably interesting too.
Repair Droids are one of the most consistent units about illustrating that the AI doesn't really understand how to use high-Speed ranged attackers. It's not unusual for a Repair Droid to fly three tiles closer toward your forces, then back away one tile, then finally attack now that it can't spend AP on movement without ending its turn entirely. You can see similar behavior from any ranged unit, if its Speed ends up high enough thanks to Haste or the like, but it's basically a given with Repair Droids. It's mostly just goofy to see in action, but it does mean Repair Droids are slightly more likely to stumble into a Trap than you'd expect from a flying ranged attacker, among other intermittently-relevant scenarios.
Speaking more generally, Repair Droids are... erratic, just like Guard Droids, when used by the AI. Sometimes they'll undo 2 casualties on a Droid when they could've undone 24 casualties. Sometimes they'll flit around and never use Repair at all. Sometimes they'll actually do their job properly and massively set back your progress in killing a Droid. I've honestly never been able to identify any real pattern to this behavior: they're willing to move and then Repair, they're willing to move, land next to something that needs repairs, and then ignore it in favor of shooting one of your units, etc. There's no hard and fast rules that I can tell to what they'll do, Repair-wise. This is particularly important given that their damage output is, again, somewhat lackluster: Repair Droids that are taking potshots at your forces are generally creating less trouble for you than Repair Droids that are using Repair to undo dozens of casualties.
Do note that while their AI isn't perfect at this, they tend to try to stay outside of the immediate reach of your melee if they can. Slow melee is a really bad idea to take into a fight with Repair Droids, as they may never successfully engage the Droids if you're not providing support such as Haste, Teleport, etc. Repair Droids are fast enough trying to Slow them down isn't much help in this regard, too.
Hiring Cost: 1150
Attack/Defense: 25 / 32
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 2
Damage: 13-26 Fire
Resistances: 15% Fire
Talents: Create Droid (Charges: 2. Creates a Guard Droid or Repair Droid stack in an adjacent tile, type randomly chosen, whose Leadership totals 100-120 per Engineer in the creating stack. For each point in 'Neatness' the Hero has purchased, increase the Leadership by 10%), Repair (Charges: 2. Heals and resurrects an adjacent allied machine-type unit for 88 HP per Engineer in the healing stack. For each point in 'Neatness' the Hero has purchased, increase the healing by 10%), Shock Grenade (Charge: 1. Ranged attack which does 5-20 Fire damage to a single target enemy and Burns it, but additionally Blinds for a single turn all adjacent enemy units of Levels 1-3. Has an effective range of 7), Create Shock Grenades (Reload: 2. Only appears when out of Shock Grenades. Generates 1-2 Shock Grenades)
Abilities: Fire Thrower (Can fire up to 3 tiles out, hitting all units in a line, with no chance for affected units to retaliate. 15% chance for any given hit unit to be Burned), No Melee Penalty, Mechanism Optimization (Allied Guard Droids and Repair Droids gain +5 Attack and +1 Speed), Alchemist (Shock Grenade is replaced with a reloading Talent to add a Charge to it, when completely used up)
The only new Dwarven unit in Orcs on the March. It's primarily a reskin of the Alchemist, graphically, but it actually looks a lot better than the Alchemist! That's unusual.
It's surprisingly accurate to think of the Engineer as the Alchemist+, even though they seem at first glance to have entirely different focuses. Alchemists frequently only have one, maybe two of their concoctions relevant in a given fight, while Shock Grenade is useful in the vast majority of fights, and the ability to refuel it allows the Alchemist to keep fighting at long range in more extended fights with not much worse pacing than the Alchemist. Meanwhile, being able to create meatshields is also very widely useful, and Mechanism Optimization also means the Alchemist can be useful just by existing. The only real caveat to this is that Alchemists are far better at rapidly wearing oversized stacks down to more reasonable sizes, thanks to being able to inflict Poisoning on multiple targets at once at range 100% reliably.
Note that Shock Grenade's behavior is fairly unintuitive. If you want to Blind something, you absolutely must be targeting something adjacent to the unit you intend to Blind. The unit you actualy target is only damaged. It's similarly not clearly intuitive that it doesn't do damage to units adjacent to the target, but it's true anyway.
Engineers are an incredible unit for stalling and for helping ensure you get progress on Grand Strategy. They get to summon twice back-to-back, those summons are reasonably durable and can be repaired to further extend that durability, including that you'll usually get a Repair Droid summoned as one of your two Droids, and Shock Grenades can take problematic units out of the fight entirely for a couple of turns, such as large stacks of Bowmen. The manufactured Droids are completely disposable and yet take a while to put down, unlike eg Thorns, and depending on matchup may contribute to stalling safely yet further -such as a generated Guard Droid using Beam of Light to disable a Beholder- and Engineers can even contribute decent damage in safety if slow enemies get nearby them, or if rough terrain lets them get line of fire on a unit without the unit being able to actually reach them itself. Getting them early on is particularly appreciated, since Grand Strategy is at its most important early on and they're fantastic for getting it, even against battlegroups that include ranged units.
In enemy hands, Engineers are, again, erratic. They overall prefer to summon Droids, with Shock Grenade usage tending to occur if you cluster units such that multiple targets can be Blinded (Note that the AI doesn't seem to understand that Eyeless provides Blind immunity, where it does recognize such for Level-based protection), but I've seen them chuck a Shock Grenade against an isolated Fire-resistant target and also seen them summon Droids when they had a perfect chance to Blind 2 or more units. They're just plain unpredictable. Strangely, I've never seen an AI Engineer use Repair in any circumstance, not even when they conveniently started their turn adjacent to a Repairable unit.
As such, Engineers can be a giant pain or almost completely irrelevant based purely on weird AI whims, in no small part because their own personal durability is sorely lacking. They're very much reliant on their Droid creation to force the player to do a lot of damage to enemies.
The relatively high Level of Engineers means it takes a long time to be able to shut them down with Spells, as eg Blind and Sheep require Spell Level 3 to hit them. This makes them one of a small pool of enemies you may seriously find yourself using Magic Shackles on, since Distortion 2 is enough for Magic Shackles to hit Level 4 units and Engineers are basically useless with their Talents disabled. This applies to the Alchemist as well, but Alchemists can be made less relevant with distractions (eg the Chaos Dragon distraction), where Engineers will usually elect to spawn Droids if there's any open tiles around them.
I quite like the Dwarven additions, in terms of shifting the 'character' of Dwarves away from 'generic medieval melee' and more toward 'steampunk/high technology for a fantasy setting'. This is a pretty typical way of making Dwarves distinctive in a fantasy setting, but that's because it works. This also ties fairly directly into their gameplay viability going up, so it's not like it's improving the narrative while hurting the gameplay or the like.
I do wish the Miner/Foreman dynamic worked better for the player, though.
Next time, we cover the Elves of Elon.