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I’ve been having fun recently with the most unexpected of armies. I’ve been fielding an all-goblin army! Specifically, a Night Goblin Horde! It’s been a fair sight more successful than you’d think. I’m not going to say it’s unstoppable- no good tutorial starts with a lie, but it has had moments of startling success. Initially, in fact, all successes were startling. There’ve been a few moments at the other end of the scale too, but that happens to everyone, right?
Just so you know, most of my games have been between 1500 and 2500pt games, particularly 2000pts. I’ve recycled some of the following from stuff I’ve written in various threads but hopefully this tute will get everything in one place and I can spend some time making it clear. This might turn into a bit of an essay but I’ve tried to break things into handy sections, starting with army options and choices and ending up with a sort of ‘Part 2’ on tactics. While I don’t want to drone on about every single choice I have made a conscious choice to write a fairly comprehensive tutorial about what can be a really, really fun army to play.
But before we go any further… the most important thing that needs to be stated is the First Rule Of Goblin armies (F.R.O.G): Things WILL go wrong. Things will go wrong with a disturbing frequency. Are you clear on this? I’m not sure you are. Go back and read it again. And again. Clear now? Good, we can continue. Once you’ve accepted FROG then you won’t be irked or upset when it kicks in and your own fanatics destroy your most powerful unit and cause a chain reaction of panic tests leaving you with nothing on the table but a couple of snotling pump-wagons and a hero on a squig. The good news about FROG is that about as often as things go wrong, things will go right. Animosity will work in your favour as often as it will cause outbreaks of squabbling (OK- it helps to deploy your units with animosity in mind because bad deployment can make good rolls go bad and you don’t need the extra hassle). And don’t forget that as often as you snake-eyes your random move rolls the statistics say that you’ll roll stunningly high! I’ll come back to using the random move units later, they’re pretty important. First off I’ll take a look at choosing your army in a section I like to call…
Choosing your army!!
Goblin armies can be broken down to three main sections; ‘The Horde!’ (Just as an aside, is horde really the collective noun for any group of goblins? What if there’s only three of them?), ‘Damage Spammage’ units and the extra stuff that helps to buff up other units and fill niche roles. I call this last section of the army ‘Popcorn’.
The Horde! is exactly that, it’s those big blocks of goblins that cost a mere pittance of points. A good sized (2000pt) army should have 4-5 good sized fighting units. This means at least 30 goblins and 40 is a good number. Remember that gobbos will be on small bases and if you have wide units then you can get 2-3 extra warriors into any given combat. That said; don’t expect these guys to win fights through such crude methods as poking holes in enemy soldiers! These big blocks are all about winning by Combat Resolution. Most goblin units will be winning on CR before the combat starts, usually out-numbering and at least equal on ranks and banners. Having lots of solid combat units also lets you jump on exposed flanks more easily, causing Panic in the enemy and reducing your opponents CR even further. Blocks of 20-30 bow-armed goblins are also handy for this. They quite often get ignored in favour of your spear and hand-weapon armed units but they can act as aggressive flanking units as well as anyone else. If they don’t get ignored then don’t worry about it- if your opponent wants to send his units chasing your dirt cheap bowmen then that’s fine. Just flee and counter-attack with another unit. Another handy trick for your bow-gobs is to put them in nice square blocks and march them towards enemy archer units on hills or Large Targets. Against these raised targets you can fire every model in the unit. Once you’re firing 40 odd arrows a turn it doesn’t matter that any individual goblin is a bit useless. This tactic works especially well against giants- 2 units of bow-armed goblins can cause huge problems for them. Lots of shots get fired (don’t forget to stand and shoot!) and the giant’s player will often be cautious of the potential of fanatics. All for little more than 100 points!
After choosing your core units you should have a healthy number of units (7-8 ) with at least 20 goblins in each and at least 30 in the fighting units. That’s a lot of goblins! Are you beginning to see why it doesn’t really matter if one or two units get delayed slightly by animosity? You should be spending about 50-60% of your points here.
The last thing to consider for The Horde! is fanatics and nets. Nets are good on a couple of combat units, usually 2 or 3. Too many makes some of the units redundant and a waste of points. Fanatics can also be a bit of a points sink but I’m usually happy to spend it. I only have a couple of units with the maximum of 3 fanatics and these are my largest main combat units. I’ll sprinkle fanatics around other units in 1s and 2s, just to keep the enemy on their toes and to knock the occasional rank off enemy units. The possibility of 3D6 S6 hits is enough to put pause to many units' assaults.
Now, a sharp opponent will use light cavalry or small units of flyers to try and trigger your fanatics early, making them cause havoc amongst your own ranks and preventing damage to his own units. This is a bad thing to have happen and you should take action to prevent it. I usually make sure I’ve got a couple of smaller (i.e. 20-25 goblins) archer units with a single fanatic to prevent this- I’ll send these smaller units after those sacrificial trigger units and block them. Clever placement of your interceptors will prevent the enemy from reaching your main units and generating fanatic-based havoc.
Damage Spammage units have quite a different job to the rest of the horde. While The Horde! is there to lock up enemy units in combat, get on flanks and just generally swamp the enemy through numbers, the Damage Spammage units are less in number but much harder hitting. They’re there to smack enemy units around and actually kill things. What? You want the ability to kill things AND have ranks in the same unit? Go play Warriors of Chaos, goblins might not be for you.
Spammage units include Squig Herds, Squig hoppers, Heroes on Giant Cave Squigs and the joyous Snotling Pumpwagon. It won’t take you long to notice that most of the Spammage units are random move units, meaning that most of them will move 3D6 in a chosen direction. On average they’ll bimble along at 10” a turn, which is fine to keep up with your spear blocks and occasionally act as fast(ish) cavalry. FROG dictates that some of the units will spend a chunk of the game ponderously departing your deployment zone or will choose an inopportune moment to slink forward only a few of inches but that’s OK. We’ve already accepted that, right? The trick is to use more than one unit in any particular ‘attack group’. One pumpwagon can be inconvenient but three can be massively destructive. The good news is that occasionally a particularly excited unit will plunge head-long into the enemy, far faster than they (and often also myself) expect. Once one unit has hit home the others will usually follow over the next turn or two, crashing home into the enemy unit which has been pinned down by your original single adventurous unit. There are few units that can handle being hit by a pumpwagon or volley of squig hoppers a turn and still be effective (or even alive) afterwards. Make sure, then, that you deploy your Damage Spammage with good arcs of movement and I also try to mingle single model units (pump-wagons or heroes on giant cave squigs) with multiple model units like squig hoppers. This helps prevent the different units from getting in each other’s way. 2 or 3 full size hopper units would be spectacular to watch but in an actual game they tend to block each other and only rarely can they both fit into combat with an enemy unit.
Squig herds are an unusual option. They are quite savage (for a goblin unit) and can be a good size from a single army choice. The only problem is if they break before hitting the enemy. The best possible result for a squig herd is to plow into an enemy main combat unit, tear it up a bit then get destroyed and cause hits on lots of other enemy units. The worst possible result is that they Panic in the first or second turn and then cause a pile of hits on your own units. To avoid this I try and deploy the herds about 12” from my line centre, out on a flank. This gives them the freedom to go chasing an enemy unit but keeps them near my Army Standard (you’ll see why later) to reduce the chance of panic.
I’d happily spend as many points as possible on Spammage units but they are usually limited by how many Rare or Special choices you have. I’m going to mention Trolls at this point. Whatever form of Troll you have your eye on be very careful about adding them to the army. As great as they look, Stupidity is a huge let down for them. In an orc army, with a good Warboss, they’d be fine. With only goblin leadership to rely on they’ll be FROGged and just end up plodding aimlessly about and very, very rarely turn up in the right spot at the right time.
The final section of the army is the Popcorn. This includes your heroes, artillery, snotlings and any other bits and pieces you might add in. In a regular goblin army you might put chariots, giants and wolf riders in this section but sadly I don’t use any of these. They just aren’t Night Goblins so I leave them out of the army, handy as they would certainly be.
Artillery is in short supply in my armies, mostly because it competes with Damage Spammage units for vital slots. I usually field either a single rock lobba or a pair of bolt-throwers. The lobba is handy for squishing big blocks of enemy troops and reducing ranks, making life easier for you spear blocks later. It helps if you’re good at guessing ranges, which I’m not, so the bolt-throwers get more use. They’re handy for knocking out enemy cavalry units- there’s not much else in the army to take out heavy cav and occasionally you’ll get nice flank shots at light cav trying to trigger your fanatics. Still, they’re only BS3 so I wouldn’t rely on them too much.
Character selection will present you with some difficult choices. Sadly the days of bonus goblin characters are gone and we get as many as everyone else. It’s just too bad that goblin characters are so appallingly lame. A Warboss is essential, to get as high a leadership value as possible. I’m also occasionally tempted to use a regular goblin Warboss to get an extra point of Leadership but this has the downside of lacking in thematic consistency and has the practical downside of not letting you take Madcap Mushrooms which can be great fun. It’s worth adding a couple of other magic items, preferably ones that help keep your general alive (Amulet of Protectyness is good). I’ve been tempted by the Horn of Urgok or Pipes of Doom in the past but have never really been convinced by their value, especially the Horn. I think the pipes might come into their own against cavalry heavy armies but they’re not that common and it’s easy to dispel. As a final note, don’t forget about Skarsnik if you’re happy to use special characters.
The next essential choice is an army standard bearer. This little guy is a must because he’ll be your only chance to get a magic banner into the army and gives you re-rolls on break tests. As far as the banner itself goes the Badmoon on a Stick is nice, even more so if you have your general and BSB in one unit. That said, I do tend to prefer the Big Red Raggedy Banner which gives rerolls for panic tests. This can be invaluable for keeping your units on the table in the face of potential army wide panic tests.
Now, with those two pretty much compulsory choices filled you’ll normally be left with 2 slots to fill. For me this boils down to if I want 2 shamen or 1 shaman and a fighting hero of some description. 2 shamen can be fun but you’ll never truly dominate a magic phase, even with 2 level 2 wizards. If you take a pile of magic mushrooms and some bound spells then you will be sure to get some spells off but I’ve found that FROG always takes its heaviest toll in the magic phase. Usually I go for a single magic defensive shaman, with a dispel scroll for emergencies and either the Staff of Sneaky Stealing or another dispel scroll. Taking only a single shaman leaves you with a single slot for a hero that you can tool up for breaking things. One of my favourite combos is a NG hero, Giant Cave Squig, Wallopa’s Wun Hit Wunda, and a Brimstone Bauble. This is a pretty brutal combination and goes well with a few other Spammage units. With a bit of luck this guy can pull apart a heavy cav unit, enemy heroes on monsters or even be the spanner in a steam-tank’s works. He’s also a handy guy to have hopping around as a reserve unit, waiting for your big spear blocks to engage the enemy and then pile in to actually cause some damage. Watch out for that Bauble if you do this, though! You can make a similar hero using other magic items and keeping him on foot but I think it’s the all-or-nothing approach of the madman on a giant gribbly-beast that I really enjoy, FROG aside.
OK, I think I’ve covered everything that you need to know about putting the army together. Now’s probably a good time to go and have a cup of coffee (I’m going to) and then we can take a look at some of the basic tricks involved with wielding the army in a game.
All set? Good, welcome to Part 2, the bit about using your army to give your mates’ armies the bash. Before I go into specific tactics I really need to cover a couple of important points about Psychology. Lots of people think that Psychology is the end of the world for goblin armies and to be honest it can be a bit of a bummer at times. With a little care and planning, though, it can be no worse than any other army. Sure, goblins have a miserable Leadership, that’s undeniable. It doesn’t mean however, that they’ll flee in the face of any scary monsters that stick their heads up.
Three aspects of Psychology can be dealt with without any real inconvenience. Panic is going to be suffered by any army but only goblins have access to the handy Big Red Raggedy banner that allows re-rolls of Panic tests. Even at Ld8 you can expect to pass a good percentage with a re-roll. It’s worth deploying with as may of your solid units within range of your general and BSB as possible. Bearing all this in mind, once you start getting your units on the enemies flanks then you’ll think that Panic is one of the greatest rules in the book.
Fear can be tricky for anyone to overcome but gobbos have the extra problem of suffering Fear when fighting elves too! Imagine! Of all the nasty species in the Old World why on earth are Elves the scary ones? Never mind. Just pretend they’re skeletons and treat them the same. The thing to remember is that Fear loses a lot of its oomph when the Fear-causer is out-numbered. It will maybe reduce some of your effectiveness in combat but we’re not really relying on that anyway, are we? Throwing nets around a bit will even things up a bit, too. You will, eventually, end up in combat even if you don’t do the charging. This isn’t that bad- you’ll get your extra rank of spears from the word go! See? Fear’s no problem.
How about Terror, then? A lot of my opponents start out with happy visions of flying some terror causing monster into the centre of my army and standing back by my horde flees for the hills. Dragons and Vargulf have both tried this ploy. Sounds horrific, doesn’t it? Here’s the good news; the range of Terror is 6” and takes effect at the beginning of the following turn. The range of fanatics is 8” and takes effect immediately. You can see what I’m saying here, right? Any Terror-causing beastie that swoops in will suffer a succession of fanatic launches, one unit after the other (assuming it survives each wave). Even a lucky Vargulf won’t survive an relentless stream of S6 hits. A dragon might, to be fair. But who’s going to risk losing that many points in what is by any measure a sacrificial unit?
There’s one more thing that’s worth remembering about Night Goblins and Psychology. Giant Squigs, Squig Hoppers, Squig Herds, Snotling Pumpwagons, Snotlings and Fanatics are all completely immune to it. Handy, eh?
So… I’m now going to go through three basic approaches to using the army; The Engulf, the Flank Breaker, and the Swarm and Mop. Each makes use of some of the stuff mentioned above but often in different ways. This is the bit to remember during the game. (We can call this bit Part 3, if you like)
The Engulf is pretty simple and relies on your army being bigger than the enemy. This means more troops and more units. The big plan with the Engulf is to let the enemy advance and while you slowly spread across and around them. If everything goes to plan (mostly), then when the fighting really kicks off every enemy unit will be facing two or three of your units, with some of them on flanks and possibly even rear charges.
This will help you understand the following diagrams a bit-
Got it? It's not super-complex, I know. Let's carry on.
Diagram 1 might look a little extreme but the concept is sound. You WILL have many more units than most other armies, possibly even double their number. Few armies are able to put more than two or three major combat units into a battle. The trick here is to eliminate the small, quick enemy units and begin to surround the enemy’s core. Check out Diagram 2 to see what I mean.
Diagram 2 shows the goblin army spreading out and using the Damage Spammage units to eliminate the enemy flankers and fast units, isolating the enemy combat units and exposing their flanks.
Diagram 3 is pretty much the end of the game except for some dice rolling. You’d want to be in this position about turn 4, giving you a turn or two to break the enemy and chase down the last few units. Every enemy unit is stuck facing 2 or 3 goblin units (and their fanatics!). The survivors from the Spammage units have been able to move around behind the enemy or jump straight onto their flanks. The goblins will win through Combat Resolution, with the advantages of out-numbering, flanking and ranks the enemy just won’t be able to do enough damage to win.
How sweet is that, eh? It really works, too! I know what you’re thinking, though. What about enemy that refuse to advance into your weaslishly cunning trap? For those filthy cads you need to deploy the Flank Breaker. Deployment for the Flank Breaker is quite different to the Engulf, which had the Spammage units running wide on the flanks with the combat units in the centre. Diagram 4 shows the Flank Breaker deployment with all the Spammage units on one flank and all the combat units on the other. This is the one time I’d put the Squig Herds in the centre, they’ll end up on the flank of the spear blocks eventually. Diagram 4 will show you the sort of set-up you want. The trick then is to peg it across the table as fast as possible. You’ll take casualties on the way (static enemies are normally shooty enemies) but your numbers should be sufficient to get a reasonable number of combat troops into the fight. The shooty armies will often be a bit thin on combat units and the trick is to make your Horde look so formidable that the Spammage units don’t draw much fire.
If things go to plan then most of your units will be arriving on the enemy line about turn 3. With luck some of the Spammage units will arrive sooner and begin to cause some havoc. Over the next couple of turns you need to have your spear blocks lock up as much of the enemy army as possible (try and double up on combat units but even goblin spearmen should be ok against enemy archers; I mean you’ll have ranks and banners on your side). The spear blocks need to hang on for a couple of turns while the Spammage units work their way up the enemy flanks. With luck several units will pile on to each enemy unit at once, hopefully breaking them and causing a nice spread of panic. If any units have been held up animosity or other problems then you can use them as gap fillers and reserves (see- animosity CAN be useful!). Diagram 5 shows where you want to be about turn 4 or 5. Again from here it’s just a matter of continuing to push the flanks and holding on!
Flank Breaker can make for a great game. It’s often a pretty close run thing if your depleted combat blocks can hold for long enough for the squig hoppers and pumpwagons to break through the flank and scatter the whole enemy line. A handy Waaagh! at the right time can help get you to the enemy line a turn quicker, too.
The final tactic is the trickiest to use and is usually at its most useful against really tough opponents like Chaos Warriors or Saurus heavy lizardmen. Swarm and Mop requires your army to hit in two waves and deployment is influenced by this. Your more random and unpredictable (but quite dangerous) Spammage units need to be in the front, with your larger ranked units behind. Those units should be as ranked as possible too. Also make sure you’ve got good line-of-sight for your artillery and try and pick up some aggressive spells for your shamen.
As you might have guessed Swamp and Mop involves throwing as many destructive units as possible at the enemy and battering them about while keeping your own line untouched and intact. Against enemy like Chaos Warriors, lacking in missile fire you can count on getting most of your Spammage units into combat in one piece. If one unit rolls well and manages to pin an enemy unit down then don’t hesitate to throw more in and completely overwhelm them. Every model you manage to kill is good news against these high cost/low model count armies. About turn 4 don’t be surprised or disappointed if all your Spammage units are dead. Just hope that you’ve done enough damage! While the carnage is breaking out in the middle of the battlefield use the time you’ve bought to redeploy your own troops. I like to bring one or two big spear blocks up behind the squigs and the hoppers, to keep the BSB in range. Don’t get too close, though! You don’t want to unleash your fanatics until it’s clearly all over for your swamping uits. It’s also good to send bowmen and a couple of spear blocks around the flanks, in preparation to jump on flanks and take any opportunity to add a few arrows to the enemy. Check out Diagram 7 to see where you want to be.
Looking good, right? From this point things will be pretty much the same as the Engulf. In case you’re wondering, the Engulf doesn’t work at all against the type of army you want to use the Swamp and Mop against. The enemy are just too tough and will slaughter your units while you’re trying to complete the engulfment. With the Swamp and Mop your plan is to have the enemy as beaten and knocked around as possible before they have to face your more or less undamaged spear blocks. Things can still get a little tricky- even beaten up Chaos Warriors are pretty tough to finish off. All I can recommend at this point is to get on flanks, push for rear charges and don’t hesitate to get every unit into the fight. If they’re nicely surrounded too, then your fanatics will have great fun plowing through multiple units. This is the highest form of entertainment. After this weight of numbers will really carry the game for you and you can wallow in glory like a great Glory Hippo.
That’s about it, I’m afraid. Hopefully there’s enough here to get you going (I’m sure there is- it’s a bloody mini-novel). I know I’ve not covered absolutely everything but I’ve tried to tell you all the things that have worked for me. If you have any particular questions send a PM to Karmoon. He won’t know what the deuce you’re talking about but it’ll work great as a mail filter for me (seriously- if you have a question then feel free to PM me… I’ll just forward it to Karmoon later).
Ps. In a month or two, once I’m back in my hometown, I’ll try and churn out a how to paint a goblin army tutorial without wigging out so badly you turn into Batman.
Last edited by The Paint Monkey; January 1st, 2009 at 01:02.
No more NG spearmen, thanks! Now I need some pump-wagons!
Looks a very good thread, do you mind if I use elements of this in the tactica I'm writing up?
To be honest, it's for the tutorial competition (and because I haven't added anything of real value to this site in aaaaaages and this will go a short way to redeeming my deficit) so I'm not sure what Blackhat wants seen done with them. Best wait and see, I think.
No more NG spearmen, thanks! Now I need some pump-wagons!
Sure thing. Its a very good tutorial nonetheless- I reckon it has a pretty good chance of winning.
Heck, niche or not its well written. I'd vote for it. (But then again, I probably am a touch biased seeing as I am Skarsnik's great nephew!)
My first army I fielded was a Gobbo Army. This thread rocks!
Great tutorial The Paint Monkey.
I also play a Night Gobbo horde army. I have 4 skulls pass sets, a giant, skarsnik and some squig herds. But I'll definately buy some "Damage Spammage" units in the future. I considered using goblin wolf chariots, but modelling night gobbos into the back and Squigs as steeds.
Anyway. Great tutorial. And I look forward to a painting tutorial.