Uses for Gnoblar Fighters
It seems very strang to me, but a lot of people go without any gnobbo "fighters" in the Ogre armies. Often these people will exclaim "Gnoblars have real trouble killing things with a WS and S of 2!" or "Gnoblars die really fast, since they have a Toughness of 3 and no armour!" as if statements like that reveal any great insight into how a unit works on the battlefield. Anyone who can read and do elementary maths will tell you that both of the above statements are true, but that does not mean gnobbos are rubbish. Here is why.
- Cheap little buggers
- Resilient little buggers
- Psychological warfare
- Concealing your carefully laid battle plans
- Easiest victory points I ever earned
- Ogre and Gnoblar fighting side by side as brothers (and why they should not)
- The annoyance factor
- Sacrifice with intent
The best thing about gnobbos is their very low points cost. A unit of gnobbos can do a lot of the jobs a unit of ogres can (sometimes even doing them better) at a third of the cost of the ogre unit. The advantages of this should be obvious.
A unit of gnoblars will only cost you about as much as a single ogre, which is in itself a great reason to take them. Similarly, if you find that after having selected your army, you have 10 or 20 pts left over, consider throwing in a handful of extra gnobbos in your units. A few points can go a long way - how many ogres do you think you can get for 20 pts?
I personally always take as many Gnoblar Fighter units as possible, with the limiting factor being how many of the little gits I have painted. Inicentally, that is the only reason I find is acceptable for not taking heaps of gnobbos - painting them can be a chore. I painted my first unit of 30 fighters in a week, while the second unit took me a month.
Usually I might spend something like 5 to 10% of my available points on Gnobbos and they tend to earn more than that share of the VPs I get. One of the good things about gnobbos is that they tend to survive the battle (my enemies usually do not find that it is too much bother to eliminate them) and when you survive you only need to earn a few VPs to be useful.
A friend of mine, observing a battle I was fighting, sneered as I was deploying a unit of gnobbos and commented that a good missile volley would see them running home as fast as their little legs could carry them. That may or may not be true (I'll soon explain how it is not true), but against an army that is so vulnerable to missile fire as Ogres are, do you really want to waste shots of Gnobbos? A gnobbo has a T3, no armour and costs 2 pts per Wound, while an Ogre has T4, little (if any) armour and costs from 12 to 30 pts per Wound. If the enemy wants easy VPs, he'll shoot the Ogres.
And are gnobbos really all that easy to scare away? Against a unit of 30 (I tend to prefer this size), you need to cause 8 Wounds in a single shooting phase to force them to take a Panic test. That is 12 handgun hits and most likely 36 handgun shots (at a BS of 3 and long range), more shots than the enemy is likely to be able to throw their way. On a unit of 4 Ogres, on the other hand, you only need 6 handgun hits to cause a Panic test, which is quite possible.
Gnoblars have the advantage that while they are individually weak, a decent unit of them is not a pushover, the opponent cannot simply send a unit of Chaos Furies their way and expect to win. In fact, due to their almost certain +3 rank bonus and +1 outnumbering bonus, gnobbos can probably hold off enemy support units that cost half again as many points as they do. Note, however, that against any kind of decent combat unit the gnobbos will lose. If they are on their own they will probably flee, but if they are near to the General they have a good chance of holding, since they use his Ld of 8 or 9. With a Battle Standard nearby it gets even better.
It has to be said that even with all their advantages, what you get out of a 50ish point unit of gnobbos is not that spectacular, which is why you are paying 50ish pts for them and not 200. Therefore, the performance of a gnobbo unit can be greatly enhanced with a bit of psychological warfare. Thus, I will happily retell a battle I fought against a Dogs of War army where unit of Gnobbos killed one enemy Maneater in close combat and then broke and ran down the other. These little things help and often the thought of what a unit of gnobbos might do is a lot more threatening than what they actually do (they have certainly messed up by failing Bicker test at inconvenient moments far more often than they have wiped out enemy Maneater units).
To help you remember a fundamental factor when planning your tactics, I have created this little acronym - Ogres Are Fast, Gnoblars Are Slow. It should be readily apparent that Ogres, with their Movement of 6 are a lot faster than Gnobbos, with their Movement of 4 and tendency to Bicker, yet it does not appear that everyone gets this little clue and start placing gnobbos in front of ogres. Basically what it means is that if you want ogres and gnoblars to perform some coordinated task on the other side of the table you need quite a bit of time and quite a bit of luck. So much time and luck, in fact, that it is in my opinion better to remove the gnobbos from the plan and let the ogres do it on their own. Thus, instead of placing a screen of gnobbos in front of your Ogres to protect them from missile fire and spending another turn on getting across the table, and then hoping they don't Bicker and that you can get them out of the way of your ogres when you get there, consider beefing up the ogre unit to make it more resilient to missile attacks or using a screen of Ogre Bulls with no (or very little) extra gear as a missile screen instead.
However, getting ogres and gnoblars to perform a coordinated task on your side of the table is a lot easier and required less luck. One example of a much better way of employing gnobbos here is against armies with a lot of heavy cavalry. These armies will probably want to move across the table to you, so the movement differences is less of a problem. More on redirecting enemy units below...
With the average cost of ogre units being rather high, you are unlikely to have very many of them. During deployment, this can be a problem, as might have to start deploying your important units while the opponent is putting down cheap and / or fast support units. Ogres can move quite fast straight forward, but with their wide units they move a lot slower if forced to start moving along the table rather than across it and thus it's vital that your units are in position when you deploy them. If you have to start deploying your important units before the opponent has to start deploying his, it's will be harder to get them into the right position and you might end up spending a lot of time getting your units into combat.
How do you avoid this? Deploy some gnobbos instead. They should not be vital to your plans and are dead cheap. One tactic I am fond of involves deploying my first units as if I'm going to deploy quite wide, with units stretching from one end of the table to the other. With a decent number of gnobbo units I can keep up this appearance for quite some time, until very late in my deployment when all my important units are deployed bunched up tightly together, ready to smash through a weak spot in the enemy line. In addition to gnobbos, Leadbelcher and Yhetee units are also good for this purpose, since they are either narrower or faster than normal ogres units and can more rapidly redeploy.
One of the easiest ways of getting victory points from a gnobbo unit is also the simplest: You deploy them somewhere out of the way and then leave them there, doing nothing with them at all. At the end of the battle they will either hold or contest a table quarter, in either case earning you 100 VPs. Now, this is another of those tactics that is so blindingly simple that people often don't think of it. Very often do I see that beginners at Warhammer will instinctively move units at their normal movement speed towards the enemy if they are uncertain of what to do with them (I have done this myself). As they become more experience they will more often march towards the enemy, but it seems to take quite some thinking before a player realises that a unit can perform while doing absolutely nothing. It is a very dull tactic, though.
Ideally speaking, the spot you deploy the gnobbos in should he reasonaly hard to get to for enemy units, to ensure that they are not just stomped into the ground by nastier units on their way to somewhere else. Behind hills, inside woods, in the far corner of the battlefield (or all three) are good places to place gnobbos where no-one will bother them. One very good thing about this tactic is that you don't have to worry about failed Bicker test ruining it.
If you have more than two units of gnobbos, consider moving some of them carefully up the table close to the short table edges and into the enemy half of the table, to capture or contest those table quarters as well. Often this is not neccesary, though, as your ogres will all be on that half of the table, holding or contesting those table quarters.
Additionally, if your opponent has ambushing Beast Herds or Dwarf Miners popping up behind your lines, consider deploying your gnobbos in a long line right at the table edge, to stop the enemy from entering there. It's a bit cheap and doesn't actually make any sense, but when you have experienced Miners entering the table and then charging in the same turn thanks to the Anvil of Doom a few times, you will want to do nearly anything to counter that particular ploy.
Some people will undoubtedly think "Hey, if my Ogres and Gnobbos gang up on the enemy, the gnobbos will provide ranks and outnumbering, while the ogres provide a standard and some kills. The best of both worlds!" If you find yourself thinking along these lines, remember OAFGAS (see above) - unless the fight is going to happen on your side of the table, it will require quite a bit of time and luck to set up, so much so that I don't consider it worth it. Another problem with this tactic is that the enemy can direct as many attacks as possible onto the gnobbos, and earn a lot of easy points of CR that way, so much so that the presence of gnobbos might be a disadvantage to the ogres rather than a help. Furthermore, the presence of the gnobbo unit might prevent some ogres from getting into a fighting position, which lowers the effectiveness of the tactic. Admittedly this is a general risk with combined charges, but with the low Movement of gnobbos they are more prone to this than other units.
This is something completely opposite to the above and involves putting your gnobbos in harms way, to disrupt enemy support units. Gnobbos may not be very dangerous, but get them into combat with an enemy war machine, archer unit or similar and they will tend to do quite well. This is doubly good, because missile units are one of the worst things ogres can face and you might not have enough units to deal with them in any other way, especially if they are placed out on the flanks. Instead of diverting your precious ogre units for this task (ogres are as mentioned rather slow when forced to wheel or do other any manoeuver more complicated than moving straight ahead), you can send some gnobbos their way instead. This generally forces the enemy to either shoot at gnobbos instead of at ogres or to divert other units to take care of the gnobbos. Both of these should be an advantage to you, because compared to the cost, gnobbos are quite resilient (see above).
Note however, that if the opponent has some good defence for his missile units and war machines, engaging them with gnobbos might be a bad idea and in that case, hanging around and forcing the enemy unit to do the same is more recommended.
I'm classing the throwing of sharp stuff under the heading of annoyance, because that is what they generally manage to do, even with two shots per model in the front rank. Their best performance was against an enemy Ogre player, where they managed to kill an Irongut. Since they can only throw sharp stuff when they don't march and they generally tend to march if close to the enemy, they don't tend to throw all that often and generally only when they can't march for some reason. That being said, one of my favourite manoeuvers with gnobbos is when the enemy has moved a light support unit onto their flank, thinking they are safe there. What I do then is turn the unit 90 degrees towards the enemy (takes a quarter of your move), expand frontage to let more gnobbos throw junk (takes half your move) and then move an inch closer before throwing a large handful of dice worth of horse shoes and false teeth at the enemy. Not too shabby against foes with Toughness 3 and little armour.
This little tactic is linked to my tactic of amassing all my nasty units into one rather small area and then breaking though the enemy line at that point, know as the refused flank tactic (in this case, the gnobbos are on the refused flank), which is in the Real World employed when you are heavily outnumbered, something ogres often are. In this case, the gnobbos serve a useful role by intercepting enemies opposite them and stopping them from assisting their friends who are under attack by the ogres on the other flank. As the enemy units swing across the gnobbos move forward to threaten the flanks of the enemy units, causing much confusion and slowing them down. Shown below is an illustration of this.
You might want to flank charge the enemy if given the opportunity and you should do so, unless dealing with nasty close combat units who'll break the gnobbos even when flanked (sadly, this is not all that hard to do...). The exception to this exception is if the enemy unit will be forced to pursue the gnobbos, which mainly include units that are Frenzied or who Hate the gnobbos (boo!).
Apart from missile fire, one of the things ogres like least of all are enemy knights. They move faster than ogres, hit very hard and are hard to damage. So what do you do if a unit of knights come speeding towards you? Shove some gnobbos in their path. As mentioned above, the speed difference between ogres and gnobbos becomes less of a problem in this case, since the knights will quite quickly be on your side of the table. Shove the gnobbos right into the face of the knights to make sure they can't go forward other than to charge the gnobbos. If they do not do this they either have to stay put or shuffle sideways. There are two ways of doing things if the knights charge.
In the first case you flee from the charge. If that is what you are planning, then the alignment of the gnobbos doesn't actually matter as they flee along a line from the centre of the knight unit to the centre of the gnobbo unit and all you need to do is to make sure the line points the way you want the knights to go. Ideally, you should have a suitably nasty unit of ogres nearby ready to charge the knights in return. The distance the knights will move depends on whether or not they catch the gnobbos (full move if they catch them, half move if they don't), but if the gnobbos are close enough to block the knights then they will in nearly all cases get caught, so you will know with a good degree of certainty where the enemy ends up. Make sure you have a unit of Ogres ready to charge that spot. If it's just a unit of normal knights, then a decent unit of Bulls will often be enough (remember to use clubs against knights, the armour piercing rule makes this the best bet) if you can get a flank charge in, because all you want to do is win the combat and auto-break the enemy. If it's a tougher unit of knights, for example a unit that is Immune to Fear, or you cannot get a flank charge in, then you want a tougher Ogre unit, such as Ironguts led by a Tyrant or Bruiser, or a unit of Maneaters.
In the second case you don't flee from the charge, though the gnobbos will almost certainly flee at the end of the combat round, even with full ranks and outnumbering (though of course they might pass the test, which is actually not that good as you want to deal with the knights without any silly gnobbos in the way). The knights will then either pursue or attempt to restrain themselves, unless they are forced to pursue and what they choose will depend on the opponent's asessment of the situation. If remaining where he is will mean he'll get flanked next turn, then he'll probably pursue. And if he does pursue, you never know how far he'll go (though most likely it will be somewhere from 8 to 13"). All in all, this is rather more risky than the first case and is generally only something you want to do if you can't (or won't, there are some knight units that are so nasty you just want to avoid them) charge him next turn. The point then becomes to make the knight unit face the wrong way, so that they have to spend more time getting back to where the action is, while you beat up the rest of his army. In this case, make sure the gnobbos are aligned so that the knights will face the way you want them to if they charge. A particularly nasty trick to use against enemies that have to pursue is to angle your unit so that the forced pursuit move will bring the knights into difficult terrain it will take them a lot of time to get out of.
This tactic can also be used against infantry, but it will often not be neccessary, as ogres can out-charge pretty much any infantry unit.
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