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History of the Orcs & Goblins Army List

by Avian

I'm sure that very many people are actually interested in this, but I thought I'd do a little article about the four incarnations of the greenskin list there has been so far.

 

Contents

Army selection categories

3rd edition, Warhammer Armies

4th/5th edition, Army Book

6th edition, Ravening Hordes

6th edition, Army Book

7th edition, Army Book

 

Army selection categories

This section is about how the various army lists have been built up. For the purpose of illustrating this, I have separated the various categories into four main parts. These are:
Characters - Any characters, counting champions up to and including 5th edition. It has also included any mount, though chariots did not count towards this limitation in 7th edition.
Units - Any unit, including war machines and chariots. In 4th/5th edition the latter two were their own category, whereas in 3rd edition everything came out of the Rank & File category.
Monsters - Any monster or similar not ridden by a character. Note that this option has gone away completely from 6th edition onward and any monster not ridden by a character is essentially limited to those (semi) intelligent ones, like Treemen and Giants.
Allies - Any option to include models from other army lists.

  3rd edition 4th/5th edition 6th edition 7th edition
Characters Characters (1-33%)
- Heroes (1-20)
- Wizards (0-5)
Characters (1-50%) Characters (1-4)
- Lord (0-1)
- Heroes (0-4)
Characters (1-4)
- Lord (0-1)
- Heroes (0-4)
Units Rank & File (50%+) Mobs (25%+) Core (3+ units) Core (3+ units)
Special (0-4 units) Special (0-4 units)
War machines (0-25%) Rare (0-2 units) Rare (0-2 units)
Monsters Monstrous Hosts (0-25%) Monsters (0-25%) - -
Allies Allies (0-33%) Allies (0-25%) (see below)  
Mercenaries (0-33%)

The unit limitations listed for 6th and 7th edition are those for 2,000 to 2,999 pt armies. Below this level all limits were one less, while they were one higher per extra 1,000 pts (apart from characters who were 2 higher). Note also that the limitation on characters were Lords and Heroes in total, so with four available characters, you could have one Lord and up to three Heroes, or up to four Heroes if you had no Lord.

4th and 5th edition did not have an entry for Mercenaries, but there was a separate Dogs of War army book which filled much of that function released late during 5th edition. 6th edition did not have a listing for either allies or mercenaries in the army book as such, but there was an entry for Dogs of War units, which could be selected from the Dogs of War or Regiments of Renown army lists, usually counting as Rare units. 7th edition continued to use this system, though the option to include mercenaries was not widely announced and became more and more restricted through semi-official channels (e.g. official GW tournaments disallowed them).

4th/5th edition also had Ogres as a unit in the army, while every edition apart from 3rd had Giants as a unit (they were mercenaries in 3rd edition).

 

3rd edition, Warhammer Armies

by Nigel Stillman, Rick Priestley, Matt Connell & Richard Halliwell. With Bryan Ansell

The third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the first edition of Warhammer 40,000 and the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay essentially used the same rules, so you could have Space Marines fighting against the Empire if you really wanted to (the Siege book included suggestions for having futuristic warriors besieging barbaric world).

The 3rd edition book Warhammer Armies was not released together with the rulebook and in the meantime players had to contend themselves with brief lists called Ravening Hordes (a name used again in 6th edition). With the full lists, a lot of things were changed, amongst other things elites became affordable - originally a +1 stat increase doubled the cost of the model, which made no kind of sense at all. Included in the book were the following lists:

Army lists:

Ally lists:

Mercenary lists:

 

Characters

There were five breeds of greenskin characters, Goblins, Half-Orcs, Orcs, Savage Orc and Black Orcs. Each of which had five levels of fighters and each had five levels of wizards (even Black Orcs). As opposed to everyone else, the different types of greenskin characters did not have set names, so while a level 20 Skaven Hero was a Sewertyrant, you had to come up with your own titles for your greenskin characters. The levels, by the way, corresponded to the number of stat increases they had compared to a normal trooper.

Types:

Note that characters were limited in three ways: You could only spend 1/3rd of the army points on them, you could only have 1-20 Heroes and 0-5 Wizards, and you could only have a given number of each type of Hero or Wizards. The character with the highest Leadership was the General and any character could carry the Army Standard for an additional 50 pts. Goblin characters could ride Giant Spiders (what is now Gigantic Spiders) while everyone else could ride Wyverns.

 

Rank & File

Unit sizes varied a lot, though minimum unit size was usually 10 for Orcs, 20 for Goblins and 5 for more specialised units, such as Black Orcs, Wolf Riders and Snotlings. Maximum unit size was 20 or 30 for Orcs and all the way up to 100 for Goblin infantry. Back in those days, you did not have to take break tests unless you had lost 25% of the unit and so there was a good reason for having a maximum unit size.

Types:

Note that 3rd edition did have Fanatics while not having Night Goblins. Some units (generally those with missile weapons) could choose to skirmish.

 

Monstrous Hosts

Greenskins actually got rather dull hosts, they didn't have any Ethereal of Chaotic host and no big monsters.

Types:

 

Allies

Allies in 3rd edition used separate little ally lists with usually just half a dozen entries, making up a cut-down version of the regular list. They were separate, with their own Contingent Commander and worked as normal, though unless they were fighting against a hated enemy they had -1 Leadership.

Types:

Note that through the use of Chaos Allies, the greenskin army could include Chaos Goblins! These were essentially just normal gobbos that could get mutations (D6-3, rolled randomly).

 

Mercenaries

Mercenary lists were mostly structured like the ally lists, though they had to make loyalty tests (which could be influenced by either player spending extra points to bribe them) at certain times and could end up changing sides half way through a battle if you were unlucky.

Types:

 

4th/5th edition Army Book

by Rick Priestley

These two editions shared one army book, though there was a reprint for 5th edition with some minor alterations (none related to the army list). Ruleswise, the game went through a large change from 3rd to 4th edition, with essentially every part of the rules being drastically reworked. Of these, the most immediate ones that come to mind when you look at the army list is that the magic system has been completely redone with greenskins now being limited to just the new Waaagh! magic and magic items now being set instead of working more akin to the current Dwarf rune items, where you could combine abilities as you wished. The number of different characters went down from 5 levels of fighters and 5 levels of shamans, to 3 and 4 levels, respectively. The number of different mental characteristics also went down from four to one (Leadership), as those who were more used in Warhammer Roleplay were trimmed away.

Units also saw some consolidation, as a lot of things that used to be different units now ended up as a single unit with different equipment options. The notable exception is Orc Arrer Boyz, who are still a separate unit, while every other missile unit ended up assimilated. This appears to have been done to make room for a lot of new units, as Goblins now turned into three distinct breeds. It is interesting that the Empire list, for example, did not get a lot of new units (they lost about as many as they gained) and so things like Halberdiers and Spearmen are now two different units whereas in the Orcs & Goblins army they'd just be one unit.

Of note was also the removal of Half Orcs, who have not been seen since...

 

Characters

It is worth noting that during these two editions, you needed at least one mob of a given breed of greenskins in order to have any characters of that breed. So in order to have any Black Orc characters, you needed to take a unit of Black Orcs. Each breed of greenskin was represented for each character type, apart from Black Orcs, who had no shamans. The Warboss was always the general of the army, even if he did not have the highest Leadership.
Any character could get a great weapon or a crossbow (nice as characters had better BS in those days) at a low cost. All characters could ride the same mounts (steeds were very cheap), including chariots or monsters, which came out of your character's allowance. So yes, you could have a level 1 Goblin Shaman (28 pts) on an Emperor Dragon (750 pts) if you wanted to.

Types:

Bosses and BSBs could take 1 magic item, Big Bosses 2 and Warbosses 3. Shamans could have 1 per level.

 

Mobs

Unit sizes for everything apart from Trolls, Giants and Snotlings were 5+ models. Trolls and Snotlings were limited in that the highest possible number of units you could split them into was 1 per 5 models, rounding fractions down, and units had to be as even as possible. You could have a single unit of a single Troll, for example, but not two single Trolls.
One unit of each type of normal infantry (i.e. not Netters or similar) and each type of Orc cavalry could take a magic standard. All normal infantry could have great weapons (called double handed weapons) or spears and several types could have halberds as well. Arrer Boyz could get crossbows if they wanted to and Savage Orc Boar Boyz and Orc Big'uns could have bows. Light armour was anoption for the more civilized breeds, but was rather expensive.

Types:

 

War machines

This category included both war machines and chariots. These were limited in much the same way as characters in that you needed at least one mob of the appropriate breed to take any war machines or chariots crewed by members of that breed. As opposed to nowadays, Rock Lobbers and Bolt Throwers were crewed by Orcs and not Goblins.
Chariots had much more complicated rules than now, which essentially made it possible to kill each individual component of them (crew, animals, chassis) separately and had rules for the loss of each part. One chariot of each type (not a Pump Wagon) could take a magic standard.

Types:

 

Monsters

This category only included unridden monsters; those ridden by characters were paid for out of the characters allowance. It's worth noting that swarms cost 100 pts per base, a cost so ridiculous that essentially nobody bought them unless they got them at some sort of discount (Skaven got rat swarms at half price, for example).

Types:

 

Allies

Allies could be chosen from the listed allied lists and could be chose without restrictions from that list. So you could include just a selection of Chaos Sorcerers as your allied contingent, for example, and they would not count towards the limit of 50% characters in your army. Thus it was for example possible to have 75% characters and 25% units in the army, or 50% war machines, if you wanted to.

The inclusion of any Hobgoblin allies removed the need to test for Animosity for your entire army, making this little rule a contender for the most idiotic rule ever.

 

6th edition, Ravening Hordes

by Jake Thornton with Alessio Cavatore

With sixth edition, the first real attempt to introduce actual balance into the lists (both internally and externally) happened. I suspect that this was connected to the growth of internet discussion forums and larger tournaments that gathered players from a much larger area. Thus the old abusable systems which relied a lot on peer pressure was crumbling as players more often chatted with and fought against people they did not know. In the end, the change in how armies were selected was the greatest ever. Freedom in the selection of units and magic items were severaly reduced and the option for mercenaries and lone monsters more or less removed. Thus while you could in 5th edition field an army consisting of two characters on dragons and five Giants, this has never been possible since. However, the feeling that anything legal was fair, which had been more or less okay back in the old days - because if your opponent came up with something outlandish, then you had the option of doing the same - was now causing new problems. Now that everyone did not have essentially limitless freedom, the difference between a little freedom and a bit more freedom was more telling.

The desire to make each army truly distinctive from the others become explicit, which led to a whole host of new special rules, and often a lack of balance (a problem made worse by some writers being given projects they did not have the experience for). Also of note was the price coming down on just about all units, along with the new Outnumbering bonus to make big units do better in combat and the enhanced armour save for foot troops equipped with hand weapons and shields. All of these were clearly intended to encourage larger armies, which in turn would lead to higher sales for Games Workshop. In any case, the army list changed more for 6th edition than it has done for any other edition before or after. While the previous army book mostly just expanded the army list, while not altering special rules or points costs to any greater degree, this was more of a redo from the ground up.

Some of these changes were heralded with the Ravening Hordes booklet, which was included free with White Dwarf 250 (the issue when 6th edition was released) and also made available on the Games Workshop website. The lists were necessarily brief (averaging two pages including a few army-specific magic items, though the greenskins got three pages) and the goal was mostly to fit the old 5th edition army list into the new format rather than be a preview of things to come. I doubt that very many greenskin players ever used the Ravening Hordes list, as the Orcs & Goblins army book was released the month after and was essentially better than the Ravening Hordes list in pretty much every way.

 

Characters

With the change that limited the number of characters you could have, instead of their total points value, the greenskins lost a lot of what made them special back in the older days - a heap of low-power characters where other armies had a few more mighty ones. Most notably it made gobbo fighter characters much less common, a trait they later failed to correct in 7th edition. Shamans, on the other hand, became more attractive compared to fighters as magic became more dependable and for the first time you could go completely without a fighter character if you wanted to. One improvement that was done to Battle Standard Bearers was to led normal fighter heroes carry them, whereas in the two previous editions they could only be carried by champions, and even cost more. Another change back towards 3rd edition was that the general could now be any character, as long as he had the highest Leadership. It is worth noting that the character types remained as for 5th edition, so Forest Goblins did exist for about a month or so! The difference between common and Night Goblin characters became more marked (notably, common Goblins got better Leadership).

Types:

The maximum number of characters in a 2,000 pt army was 4, of which one could be a Lord.  The number of shaman types was halved, though the level 1 and level 3 shamans could be upgraded one level each, one result of which is that level 3 shamans are essentially non-existant. The option to ride monsters was drastically reduced, with the only one being the Wyvern, which was limited to Orc and Black Orc Warbosses. As Forest Goblins were still in the list, so were Gigantic Spiders, who then disappeared the month after and did not return until 7th edition.

 

Core units

In principle, Core units were meant to represent basic troops, to make sure each army was more or less typical of the race's background and stop you from simply filling your unit quota with stuff like Giants. Sadly, that principle only lasted until the Hordes of Chaos army book, which allowed chariots as Core units with no limitations (only the fact that most things in the chaos army ended up being overpriced kept the system from being a disaster).

For the greenskins, the Core units got a lot cheaper in 6th edition and the new rules to encourage bigger units, Gobbos had it better than ever and you saw quite a few shooty/magic heavy gobbo armies (with the odd unit of Savage Orc Big 'Uns thrown in) at tournaments.

Types:

 

Special units

The setup for Special units in the Ravening Hordes list is essentially the same as we've had since. This relegated two old mainstay units, Boar Boyz and Black Orcs to Special, though later variant army lists were later introduced with these units as Core, which allowed for more themed armies. This was also the first time gobbos crewed war machines, rather than Orcs, which may have been inspired by 40K, where greenskin artillery have always been crewed by gretchin bossed around by Orks. Chariots went through a great rule change as they got a single profile now instead of the old system where you randomised hits and could end up killing off crew and steeds separately.

Types:

There was also a note telling you to treat your old Doom Diver models as Stone Throwers for now.

 

Rare units

The Rare unit selection gathered together a lot of stuff the designers apparently felt somewhat awkward about. The rules were excessively brief and clearly not very well thought out. I would guess that most of these things were units the writers assumed would not end up in the finished list, but felt obliged to include just in case. It is worth noting that out of seven Rare units, only three remained in the army book.

Types:

Don't ask me why Pump Wagons were a 0-1 choice, that has never made any sense to me, and had me worried for a while.

 

6th edition, Army Book

by Rick Priestley & Jake Thornton

The army book brought a lot of new innovations which have since been refined. The army book was the first one written (but the second one released) and a lot of stuff obviously had to be developed in a short time, which shows in hindsight. Take the choppa, for example: It was clearly intended as a way of distinguishing greenskins from other races, but instead of being different from, yet equal to normal hand weapons, they ended up most being inferior. Goblins, who were not lumbered with these implements, thus got relatively improved. The army book also brought with it a redo of Waaagh! magic and a whole host of greenskin-only magic items, most of which had names that told you nothing about what they did. For example, the Club of Crumpin' allowed no armour saves, while the Club of Fumpin' gave you +2 Strength.

With the policy that armies should be quite distinct from each other, halberds dropped out of the list now, and no greenskin has used one since (apart from Skarsnik in 7th edition, that is...), while crossbows had already been removed in the Ravening Hordes list. There was later produced a Regiment of Renown that used crossbows, but they never really caught on.

 

Characters

A notable change from the Ravening Hordes list to the army book was the disappearance of Forst Goblins, while Night Goblins and common Goblins got different mount options. The Gigantic Spider, a trademark mount for Goblins since 3rd edition, was dropped and only returned in 7th edition. Other than this, the army book brought little change from the Ravening Hordes list. Black Orcs now took up an extra Hero choice, which was presumably to compensate for the Quell Animosity rule, which now let any unit within 6" re-roll a failed Animosity test, instead of just stopping Animosity in the unit the Black Orc led.

Types:

 

Core units

 New of this edition was the possibility for Savage Orc Big 'Uns, whereas in previous edition only 'common' Orcs could be Big 'Uns. Night Goblin Netters were absorbed into regular Night Goblin units, while their comrades, the Clubbers, disappeared and have not been seen since. With rules becoming better defined, the regulation of fast cavalry status for Wolf Riders became explicit, while in previous editions any cavalry model with a 5+ save or worse was fast cavalry.

Types:

 

Special units

Compared to the Ravening Hordes list, the Special units really did not change much, though Orc and Savage Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns were introduced (regular Boar Boy Big 'Uns had sort of been in the old 3rd edition list, even though they only had WS4). The attempts at making Squigs be useful continued and now had Squig Herders and Squig Hoppers as a combined unit, with Hoppers having the option to hop out of the unit during the battle (a fairly useless option considering that they still only moved 2D6"). Squig Herds were otherwise reasonably good in combat if you bought low numbers of Squigs and very large numbers of Herders, but had the avantage that a single failed Panic test at Ld5 would leave you with a heap of individual squig models to move around the table each turn. This edition also saw the invention of Bullies - Orcs to boss around the Goblin crew - for war machines, which meant that the gobbos did not left to handle such important machinery on their own for very long.

Types:

 

Rare units

Rare units in the army book saw an updated set of rules for Doom Divers, which were rather simpler than before and a bit odd. Instead of the old, little template, they now hit at a single spot and instead of having the old rule for correcting the shot (you could subtract D6" from the scatter roll in 5th edition), they could now re-roll the scatter dice, which made hitting the spot you guessed much more likely, but did little to help you out if you had initiatlly guessed badly. The Giant rules were more or less copied from the old 5th edition army book, which had the problem that the old badly defined rules (very common in 5th edition) stayed badly defined, whereas most other things got clearer rules in 6th edition. The Giant rules have since been refined somewhat for each incarnation, though they still leave a lot to be desired in 7th edition.

Types:

 

7th edition, Army Book

by Matthew Ward

The Orcs & Goblins army book for 7th edition of Warhammer was the first one written by a person who did not play the army himself, and it shows in its 'hit and miss' nature. While a lot of things that were clearly problematic got improved (choppas being an example that always gets dragged out in these situations), a lot of units went up in price for no apparent reason. Greenskin cavalry, for example, all went up in cost because (as the writer explained) there was a feeling that cavalry on the whole was more effective than infantry in 6th edition and something should be done to redress that balance. Well, that trend started and finished with the greenskins. Similarly, there was obviously some dissatisfaction that some magic items were used nearly all the time, while others were almost never used, so the magic items list got almost completely redone, with most of the old items being tossed out for a new selection of items, where some get used nearly all the time, while otheres are almost never used. Not actually an improvement.

On the whole, we can probably be happy that the changes made to the army book in 7th edition were smaller than for any previous edition and that the basic framework was reasonably solid. An attempt was obviously made to bring the greenskins more into line with the background, an attempt that suceeded in some ways, but failed in others. Internal balanced was improved in some ways (most notably in the character section), while it was worsened in others (Big 'Uns of pretty much all types compared to their regular variants). Some people claim that this edition of the army list is actually worse than the previous one, which I disagree with. A lot of things did get worse, but those things are either not necessary or the other improvements outweigh them. The army probably has gotten more difficult to play, but you get more tactical options with the changes to Squigs, Trolls, Snotlings and so forth and a skilled player can now get more out of it than before.

 

Characters

One area that was generally done well in the 7th edition army book was the characters, which merely got tweaked. With the changes to the rules for Battle Standards and boars, a lot more setups became viable and chariot mounts not counting towards the number of Special choices did the same. An attempt was made to fix the problems with Black Orcs and their Quell Animosity ability, which made the characters take up an additional Hero choice. With the alterations, the various Orc characters became more similar and it was easier to fit Black Orc ones into the army, but now that Quell Animosity did nothing further away than arm's reach, Black Orc units were less interesting as a Special unit.

Types:

 

Core units

While only one unit was added to the Core section of the list in this edition (Spider Riders got reintroduced, rather similar to how they were in 5th edition), almost everything got tweaked. Basic Boyz got a lot better with their improved choppas and the new Waaagh! rule which favoured large units of Orcs, while Big 'Uns and Goblins of all types got more expensive for not much benefit.

Types:

 

Special units

The Special units section now saw Squig Herds changed back to being two different types of units, both of which got improved (contender for best change in the book). Black Orcs were no longer not limited to being 0-1 unit in the army, but got more expensive and contributed less to the army, which was not a very good change. Goblin Wolf Chariots were now 1 per Special choice instead of 2 as they were in 6th edition, which made Boar Chariots a lot more attractive (in any case, the option to have slot-free chariots as character mounts made up for this change). Boar Boyz were the major losers in this incarnation of the army book, as they actually got both worse and more expensive when people had mostly been hoping to see them made slightly better. Savage Boar Boyz got off somewhat better since their boars also benefited from their frenzy in this edition, but regular Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns were now rather sad.

Types:

 

Rare units

The Rare units did not change very much, though Doom Divers got more similar to their 5th edition incarnation and Pump Wagons reflected the changes to Snotlings (who went from characterful but awkward to use in 5th edition, to being essentially just a weak swarm in 6th edtion, to now being quite unique). Trolls could be fielded in units as small as one (a change that was probably made to please people who got the Skull Pass set with its single Troll, a fortunate accident if true) and while the basic Troll got better, the upgrades once again got more expensive (they had been free(!) in 5th edition and probably about right in 6th). Trolls also benefited from the greenskin Panic rules, which were now consolidated into a single rule (Size Matters) which also included Trolls and Giants. The option for mercenaries was left out in this edition, with the intend apparently being to let them fade outuntil they came up with a more interesting way of doing them than simply counting everything as Rare. Given that mercenaries had not actually had interesting rules since 3rd edition, one might hope that they'd eventually get inspired.

Types:

 

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