Uses for Goblin Infantry
With the latest version of the army book, Goblins have gotten more expensive, while Orcs have gotten better. A lot of players have therefore asked themselves if there is any real point in fielding Goblin infantry. Others claim that things are now back to all right and that 6th edition was unrightfully dominated by gobbos to the exclusion of their bigger cousins. Personally I feel that they have again overcompensated and that making Goblins that much more expensive (and in the case of the common Goblin: giving them lousy starting equipment) while making Orcs that much better will lead to one race being preferred over the other - which was supposedly what they wanted to avoid. With a bit more skill it should have been possible to make both large and small greenies more equally attractive.
This article will deal with the things you can still use Goblin infantry for.
Attributes of Goblin infantry
Selecting Goblin infantry
- Good - the three-point Goblin
- Maybe - the four-point Goblin
- Avoid - the five-point Goblin
- Command options
- Adding characters
Uses for Goblin infantry
Attributes of Goblin infantry
This section deals with the things that make gobbo infantry different from other units in your army.
The main attraction of Goblin infantry is that it is relatively cheap, though not as cheap as it used to be. For the price of one Orc Boy with good equipment, you can get two Goblins with okay equipment. By choosing cheaper models you can have more of them and you are following the old greenskin rule of thumb, that "everything counts in large numbers". Alternatively, if you bulk out your army with a decent number of cheap troops, you will have more points left over to really tool up your nasty stuff.
However, for what you pay for them, gobbos are not by any means amazing value. Back in the old days of 5th edition, a reasonably-equipped Goblin (one with a spear and shield, for example) cost 3.5 points. That was pretty much okay and you could build some decent units. Three and a half points for your average gobbo was just right. In 6th edition Goblins got better due to the new Outnumbering bonus, which made all cheap models better. However, pretty much all infantry - indeed pretty much all units there were - got a bit cheaper. Thus three and a half points for a Goblin was still appropriate, but this was not to be, as the designers wanted to get away from half-points and priced gobbos at three points with okay equipment. This made them slightly under priced, though not excessively so. What made more of a difference was the introduction of the bonus armour save that infantry could get in close combat with a hand weapon and shield. Suddenly you could get a two-point Goblin that was about as effective as a three-point Goblin. Six years later we get 7th edition and yet another army book for the Orcs & Goblins. The army as a whole gets a boost, yet Goblins do not get much of a share in this, thus three and a half point with normal equipment would still have been about what they are worth. What happens is that Goblins go up in price and, in the case of common Goblins, start with worse equipment than they used to. Thus a Goblin that is worth about 3.5 points now costs 4 points. meanwhile, Orc Boyz went from slightly overpriced in both 5th and 6th edition to notably under priced in 7th.
This is not a very smart thing to do if the designers wanted there to be a reasonably tough choice between Orcs and Goblins. It would appear that the designers think that by having under priced Orcs and overpriced Goblins you get an overall balance, though this is only true if people buy both Orcs and Goblins. If people mainly (or only) buy the under priced Orc Boyz, you will not get this effect and Goblins will be relegated to being fast cavalry and war machine crew.
The other advantage that Goblins have, and the thing that actually gives them a place in mixed Orc and Goblin armies, is the Size Matters rule which prevents Orcs from having to take Panic tests when a nearby unit of Goblins flee or are destroyed. In a mixed army of big and small greenies, this gives the gobbos a role as support troops for their larger cousins. This appears to be the role that the designers intended for them. In an all-Goblin army, on the other hand, Size Matters has no effect and the difference from 6th to 7th edition is that your infantry suddenly got overpriced with nothing to really compensate for it with. Indeed, one thing that made mediocre infantry good was leading them with decent fighter characters, but these also got more limited for all-Goblin armies. Thus if you want to play without Orcs, prepare to play at a disadvantage.
Going back to mixed armies, the option to have cheap(ish) support units that will not cause panic in your main units is great, particularly in an army with otherwise unimpressive Leadership. With the new rules for fleeing, where a unit flees in straight lines and units fled through having to take Panic tests, an army mainly consisting of large blocks of quite slow units might very often get into a situation where a lot of Panic could be caused. With the Size Matters rule and a bit of forethought in placing your units, a mixed greenskin army should not have too much problems with Panic.
You might argue that a Movement of 4 is not particularly slow and that most other infantry move at that speed. This is more or less true, but it is missing the point. While a Movement of 4 is not uncommon amongst infantry, nearly all units that do not have a Movement of 4 have a higher Movement, with just about no units being slower. The only units that are actually slower than Movement 4 are Dwarfs, who have their Relentless special rule, which lets them march regardless of enemies within 8". With enemies nearby, a Dwarf can move 6", while a Goblin can only move 4".
To make matters worse, Goblins suffer from Animosity, which means that once in every six turns on average, the unit will not move at all. This gives them an effectively lower Movement rate than other Movement 4 infantry. Additionally, it makes the Goblins unreliable. Sometimes you will have a great charge lined up against a helpless victim that cannot get away, only to see your unit Squabble and ruin your plans. This edition of the greenskin army books sees the Animosity rule simplified, with units having a greater chance of moving forward. By itself this is an advantage, but it is outweighed by the alteration of the Quell Animosity rule. In the old days you could use Black Orc units and characters to keep order in your ranks and keep nearby units moving forward. Nowadays the rule only affects units joined by Black Orc characters, with the effect being that surrounding units are now slower than they used to be, whereas units led by Black Orcs are faster than before. As players are more likely to place a Black Orc in an Orc unit than in a Goblin unit, this makes Orcs faster and Goblins slower.
And then there is the Waaagh! special rule, which gives units a greater chance of moving forward once per battle. As Goblins can get a lower bonus to their roll than Orcs can (for some reason), this again benefits Orcs more than Goblins and makes Goblins slower than Orcs. Thus in a head to head race, Goblins will tend to be slower than Orcs, despite them both having a Movement of 4.
It should come as no surprise to anyone with a minimum of math skills that Goblins do not fight very well. As they are slow they have a tendency to get charged and with their low Weapon Skill of 2, the great majority of enemy units will be hitting them on a 3+. Similarly, their lower Toughness compared to Orcs means that more models tend to die. Then, when striking back, the Goblins will be hitting on 4+ or 5+ and the few hits they do get will rarely result in casualties, as their meager Strength of 3 will have problems getting past enemy Toughness and armour saves. Thus you can expect on average less than one casualty caused by the Goblins per rank that is able to fight. Meanwhile even quite wimpy units can expect to kill one to two Goblins, leading to an unfavourable casualty balance.
What makes a Goblin unit less than completely useless in combat is the fact that you can build large units of them reasonably cheaply, giving you a high rank bonus and a good chance at the Outnumbering bonus. This +1 bonus is actually worth two points of CR, because if you do not gain it, then usually the enemy unit will and Goblin combats often hinge on there being more gobbos than enemies. Sadly (for the gobbos), the basic cost of a Goblin went up by 50 % from 6th to 7th edition, meaning that for the same points you get a smaller unit, so instead of three decent units you will now only be able to afford two, or you will be forced to field smaller units.
Goblins have a basic Leadership of 5 or 6, and to be honest the higher Ld of common Goblins rarely make a difference. Left to use their own Leadership, both units are more likely to fail than to pass a test, so you will do what you can to avoid having to test at all. One way of avoiding this is to keep Goblin infantry close to the army General, in which case their own Leadership is irrelevant, as they will be using his instead. The other way involves keeping units large, so there is little chance of Panic tests caused by 25 % casualties, and spread out with at least 6" between them, so that they cannot cause Panic in each other. Either of these two is what you will seek to achieve - you do not want your poor underachievers having to make Panic tests on their own miserable Ld, for example. If you have a significant number of Goblin units, you should also consider the Big Red Raggedy Banner, which greatly reduces the problems with Panic. Similarly, you also will want musicians for all your gobbo units, to help with rallying in case a unit does end up fleeing.
To make matters worse, Goblins of all types Fear elves when their Unit Strength is not twice that of the elf unit. Most of the time this little disadvantage does not matter (unless you fight against elves a lot), but now and then a unit will refuse to charge due to this rule and it is really a downside the poor gits should not have to be burdened with.
The equipment available to Goblins is characterized by being mainly defensive in nature and quite expensive compared to the starting cost of a Goblin. It is quite possible to double the cost of a small unit of Goblins without adding a single extra model. This is not to be recommended; a cheap unit does best if you keep it cheap. The nature of the weapons of gobbo units encourages units to stay still, with neither the spears or short bows having much effect if the unit moves forward. This is not a good thing, as Goblins who stay in one place are not contributing much to the battle and are just waiting for something sufficiently scary to come and kill them. Better performance can normally be gained by purchasing protective gear for the little green gits - shields and nets. These means that when you charge with Goblins, the enemies who survive the gobbo attacks (that will be most of them) will do less damage and when the gobbos are the ones charged, fewer greenskins will die in the initial attacks, reducing the enemy combat result (as well as letting more gobbos fight back in return, but that does not usually do much). Goblins live by maintaining their high static CR (ranks and outnumbering), not by killing enemies, and by not dieing they are fulfilling this goal admirably.
Selecting Goblin infantry
Note that when I talk about the cost of a Goblin, I count nets as costing about 1 point per mode. This is accurate enough for large units, and for smaller units you don't want to take nets anyway.
There are three types of Goblins that cost three points:
- Goblins with hand weapons and light armour
- Night Goblins with hand weapons and shields
- Night Goblins with short bows
All are useful, if for no other reason then because that a three-point model that can have a +3 rank bonus is always good. Being cheap is the only real advantage a Goblin has and when you take them cheap and in decent-sized units you are playing to their strengths. Equipment-wise the margins are rather small and all three units above fare about equally badly in combat. There isn't that much difference between a unit of gobbos with shields that cannot fight and a unit of gobbos with bows that cannot shoot. On the whole, though, the Night Goblins with hand weapons and shield probably come out on top. As a unit of three-point models is only good at preserving their static Combat Result bonus, the boosted save in combat granted by hand weapons and shields make the gobbos survive slightly more often, which improves their chance of winning the combat - or at least the chance of not losing by too much. On second place we arguably find the Night Goblins with short bows. They fight marginally worse than the common Goblins and though their missile fire tends to be unimpressive (unless you are lucky), they can at least contribute a bit. And you don't even need to convert them up, something you need to do with Goblins with hand weapons and light armour. These gits come in on third place. Their Leadership may be better than that of the Night Goblins, but as long as both breeds of gobbos will fail a Leadership test more often than they pass it, that is not much of a selling point. A 6+ save in combat is pretty much useless and there is very little reason to convert up a unit.
There are six types of Goblins that cost 4 points, twice as many as you can get at 3 points.
- Goblins with hand weapons, light armour and shields
- Goblins with spears and light armour
- Goblins with short bows and light armour
- Night Goblins with hand weapons, shields and nets
- Night Goblins with spears and shields
- Night Goblins with short bows and nets
When you are taking a four-point Goblin, you are doing so for one of two reasons. Either you are taking a Goblin you hope will perform better in combat and thus be useful for more than mere support duty, or you like the look of the model as it is and don't care about how well it does. For some of the Goblin types, such as the Goblin with short bow and light armour, only the second reason is good enough. As the starting cost of Goblins is very low compared to how much their equipment costs, you will very quickly reach the level where buying more Goblins is a more effective buy than better-equipped Goblins. Furthermore, points spent on equipping Goblins will often be much better spent on equipping Orcs, who have the stats to actually use it well. Personally, I think more equipment should be priced per unit, instead of per model. Nets are an example of this idea; their usefulness is not dependant on the number of Goblins in the unit and the cost is not dependant on this either. The same should have been done with spears, pricing them at something like 10 to 15 points per unit to equip every rank and file Goblin.
The problem with equipping Goblins to do better in combat is that if you give them more stuff to perform better, they are also more likely to be victimized by moderately nasty enemy units out to earn a few easy Victory Points. It is simple math. If two units are pretty much equally easy to take out, but one costs 120 points while the other costs 90 points, you will probably target the more expensive unit for destruction. To be useful, a unit must then be more difficult to take out than a cheaper unit. This becomes a problem, because a more resilient Goblin unit will often need to be quite large - probably at least 30 models strong. at that point it becomes relatively expensive to buy spears for the unit, since you are still only getting a handful of extra WS 2, S 3 attacks out of those 30+ points. As mentioned above, I believe that spears for the average Goblin unit to be overpriced by about 50%. Back in the old days (5th edition and earlier) the price was ½ point per model, which worked out to about 10 to 15 points per unit. Those 30+ points spent will only in very rare cases result in another dead enemy model, and only if you are not charging. This is in itself a problem, since Goblins don't fight well and any bonus you get because you are charge is reduced when the opponent gets to strike before you do. If you are very concerned with cost-effectiveness, you will not take spears for Goblins. If you are a little less concerned with this (they are probably not that much overpriced), then you will spend the points on equipment on models who are more able to use it properly, or on more wimps. However, cost-effectiveness is not everything, and an expensive unit that can do a job is better than a cheap one that cannot. Whatever you do, though, do not buy spears for small units - by spending the points on more gobbos instead, you will more often gain the outnumbering bonus, which is almost always significantly better than the possible extra kill spears will get you. Spears are thus only actually worth it on largish units which will probably get the outnumbering bonus anyway.
Upgrading the defenses of the Goblins is much more easy to justify, since they work more often than limited cases in close combat. A unit of Goblins with hand weapons, shields and light armour will tend to fare better in close combat than a unit of Night Goblins with spears and shields and will get a better save versus ranged attacks. As Goblins tend to have a much higher static CR (ranks, outnumbering, etc.) than a dynamic CR (kills), having fewer gobbos die is a very good thing. As the common Goblin is the only one that can have both light armour and a shield, there is actually a place where they perform better than Night Goblins.
Nets fall into pretty much the same category as shields, in that it makes the gobbos more difficult to kill, unless you are unlucky. Nets only work in close combat, but they tend to work better than light armour, so in combat a unit with hand weapons, shields and nets will usually do better than a unit with hand weapons, shields and light armour. When comparing Night Goblins, nets tend to win out over shields and especially for enemies with a Strength of 4 or 5. Even at Strength 3, though, nets will tend to do as well in close combat as spears when the unit is charged, and is clearly better when the unit charges. A unit with Night Goblins with hand weapons, shields and nets will also tend to do slightly better in close combat than a unit of Goblins with hand weapons, shields and light armour, but will die more easily to ranged attacks. Thus I would rate the two about equal, except when there are characters in the units, when the extra protection the nets give to otherwise quite fragile gobbo characters make them preferable to the unit with light armour.
You also have the option of fielding gobbos with short bows and either nets (Night Goblins) or light armour (common Goblins). I really cannot see why you would ever field either of these units instead of the cheaper Night Goblins with just short bows. In both cases getting more Gobbos instead would have been a better buy than attempting to boost the meager defensive capabilities of your missile-armed gits.
Rating the six types, the Night Goblins with hand weapons, shields and nets come out on top. Not only are they the type that tends to do best in combat, they also give added protection to characters in the unit (unless you are unlucky and roll a 1 for their nets) and it is very easy to swap out a couple of models who have nets if you want to field the unit with just hand weapons and shields. On second place we have the common Goblins with hand weapons, shields and light armour. They only do slightly worse in combat than the Night Goblins with nets, are better protected against ranged attacks and have a higher Leadership (though this is largely irrelevant, as discussed above). Both of these two units are useful and can be safely fielded. The third-place unit is a bit more dubious. Night Goblins with spears and shields do worse in combat than the two first combos and are just as easily shot to death as the Night Goblins with nets. Not terribly good, but not that bad either. The fourth-place unit - common Goblins with spears and light armour - should probably be avoided. Their improved Leadership really does not make up for not having the option to go for hand weapons and shields when the unit charges, and the unit looks dead silly as well. For the two bottom positions, the common Goblins with short bows and light armour probably come in just ahead of the Night Goblins with short bows and nets. Both units are pretty much useless and the Night Goblins will also tend to cost more than the gits with light armour, especially as units with short bows should be fielded smaller than units solely equipped for close combat, to minimize the number of gobbos in the unit who will be in rear ranks and unable to fight.
Compared to three-point Goblins, even the best-four point Goblins will only tend to do better in cases where both units will have the outnumbering bonus. In cases where a larger unit would have the outnumbering bonus and a smaller unit of more expensive units would not have it, the larger unit will almost certainly do better. Taking more upgrades should thus only be done if the unit is sufficiently large already, and never be seen as a replacement for more warm bodies. This illustrates the old greenskin saying that everything counts in large numbers, and that things which are not in large numbers do not count. Instead of 20 four-point Goblins, take 27 three-point Goblins. The two units cost the same and the larger unit will almost always do better.
Once you reach five points per model, the number of possible setups also go down. The combos are as follows:
- Goblins with spears, shields and light armour
- Goblins with short bows, shields and light armour
- Night Goblins with spears, shields and nets
None of these three are useful, they all cost too much. For the price of 30 five-point Goblins you can have 50 three-point Goblins, either one unit of 30 and one of 20, two units of 25 or something in between. At five points you have lost one of the two worthwhile things about Goblins, being cheap. A model that costs 5 points, cannot fight, is badly equipped, has rubbish Leadership and suffers from Animosity is not a model you want to take. The Goblin with spear, shield and light armour was generally recognized as not very good back in 6th edition and then it cost only 4 points instead of 5. The problem with the five-point Goblin is basically the same as with the four-point Goblin - the equipment costs so much compared to the starting cost of the model that it very quickly becomes better to buy more models than to buy more equipment. If short bows and spears were charged per unit instead of per model, it might have been worthwhile to take any of these combos, but at the moment it is not.
Instead of a five-point Goblin, you should either take a lot more cheaper Goblins, or buy Orcs instead. A six-point Orc Boy with choppa, shield and light armour, is heaps better than a five-point Goblin. Being expensive without being skilled is not something that becomes a Goblin.
Considering how great a chance a Goblin unit has of fleeing at once during a battle and how very cheap the option for a musician is, I must recommend that you take one for every unit. With Leadership as low as Goblins have, getting a +1 to a rally tests boosts the chance significantly. With the cost of Goblins going up in 7th edition, a musician is more useful than ever, since it can prevent a greater amount of points from running off the table. The other ability granted by a musician is that it lets you win ties in combat if the enemy unit does not have a musician and, similarly, prevents you from losing a drawn combat when the enemy unit has a musician while you do not. This does not really happen to Goblins all that often, simply because their usually miserable performance in combat tends to mean that combats are lost instead of drawn. Therefore this should be seen as a rare side-effect of having a musician instead of the main selling point, though of course when it does happen that you avoid taking a break test at Leadership 4 or 5 you will be very glad you had that musician.
A Boss is much less value for the points, the upgrade costing the same as two to three extra Goblins and rarely being of much use. The extra WS 2, Strength 3 attack is very unlikely to do anything at all, while there are lots of other cheap upgrades you can take for other units that are much more worthwhile. Quite often he will be killed before he gets to attack as Goblins are more likely to be charged than to charge themselves, and a Boss is no more difficult to kill than an ordinary trooper. On the plus side, the opponent may forget to allocate an attack or two against the Boss, and so he might survive to strike back and actually kill something (though killing things is significantly less likely than getting to strike). The primary reason to buy a Boss has in fact very little to do with fighting. You take a Boss for his ability to issue and accept challenges. As described in my article on Tactics for Dummies, you can get a lot of this ability if you have a Champion and the opponent has a character but no Champion. On the other hand, a Boss with no character to guard is pointless most of the time, so you mainly want to buy a Boss for those units that will be joined by a character. for other units, the high cost of the upgrade means that I would not recommend it and instead suggest that you take more Goblins instead.
The value of a standard bearer can be difficult to determine. To be useful it should either make you win the combat by more, or is should prevent you from breaking. If you are likely to break anyway, then a standard bearer is only a disadvantage, since a captured standard gives the opponent 100 extra Victory Points. Goblins are hit doubly hard with this - not only are they quite likely to lose whichever combat they get into, the bonus VPs for a captured standard will often double the unit's worth for the enemy. Thus where a normal gobbo unit is around 100 reasonably easy VPs, a gobbo unit with a standard is worth around 200 VPs and is not significantly harder to take out. Goblins should therefore as a rule of thumb not have a standard bearer. Exceptions to this are units you intend to fight with, units that are not purely for support. In practice this will mean units lead by a Big Boss or the Warboss. Such a unit has a decent chance to win a combat and thus taking a standard is therefore less of a risk. Furthermore, as you intend to win your combats, a standard is much more useful.
Summing up you should take musicians for all your Goblin units, a Boss for those units you intend to put characters in, and standard bearers for those units you intend to lead with fighter characters.
Whether or not you wish to include characters depends on what you want to use the unit for - if you want to have it as a support unit or a main unit. Support units run the risk of being sacrificed when it seems convenient, and even more so in greenskin armies than in other armies. Your support units you will therefore wish to keep character free, to let them do their jobs best. Main units, on the other hand, benefit a lot from fighter characters to add a couple of dead bodies to their Combat Result. For Goblins this is especially true and your average gobbo unit will struggle to defeat most foes by any significant margin unless led by a Big Boss or Warboss. I can actually go so far as to say that you should not ever try to build a main combat unit of Goblins unless you also intend to place a fighter character with them. In the old days of 5th edition and before this was relatively easy, as Gobbo characters were dead cheap and only limited by the fact that you could not spend more than 50 % of you army's points value on characters. Nowadays, sparing a character to lead a unit of wimps is a much tougher choice. It is now the number of characters you field that is limited and in 7th edition you don't even get extra characters in all-Goblin armies. Obviously the rules are less goblin-friendly than they used to be. It can therefore be difficult to find enough available characters to lead your units, which should again influence how many main combat units of Goblins you field.
When it comes to what type of character to add to a Goblin unit, you first need to ask yourself if you require your characters to be of the same type as the unit - i.e. if you will only permit Night Goblin units to be led by Night Goblin characters, and so on. If you don't require this, you can get a lot better performance, and there is nothing in the background that goes against this, so you shouldn't feel bad about it. take Night Goblins, for example. If led by a Night Goblin Big Boss their Leadership gets boosted to 6. If you instead have them led by a common Goblin Big Boss, you boost their Leadership to 7 for only 5 points more. You could have Night Goblins led by Black Orcs on boars, if you so choose. Some greenskin magic items work better in large units and by using Goblins to provide the rank bonus that fuels your Black Orc Warboss' Battleaxe of the Last Waaagh! or Mork's Spirit-totem carried by your Orc Battle Standard Bearer you get the same effect as with Orcs, only cheaper. Some people will frown at this use, though when the only advantages gobbos have are their cheapness and not causing Panic in other units, you have to make the most of it.
Uses for Goblin infantry
The uses for gobbo infantry mainly involve having them perform tasks that other units can do, but where gobbos can do it cheaper (and, consequently, in larger numbers) or without causing Panic in their larger cousins.
This appears to be all that the designers want you to do with gobbos in this edition - help out the Orcs. Goblin infantry are reasonably good as support units; they will not cause Panic in Orc units if they flee or die and you can get them in quite large units, which makes it difficult to shoot or zap them down to the level where they are ineffective. In the latter they differ from Goblin fast cavalry, the most common other type of support unit in the greenskin army. Fast cavalry is quite fragile since they come in units of only half a dozen or so models, while still being as easy to kill as the same number of infantry. Instead of five fast cavalry, you can have twenty infantry, who are much harder to shift. Obviously, the infantry are a lot slower than the fast cavalry, which limits what they can be used for to essentially supporting other infantry. Support units should be kept quite cheap - if you go much higher than 100 points in cost, then you are making the Goblins a worthwhile target by themselves and that is not good for a support unit. This will typically mean units of 20 to 25 models, no more than four points in cost per Goblin (preferably three) and no command options other than a musician. If you read my article on Goblin Fast Cavalry, the Goblin infantry can perform the following tasks:
- Flank charges
- Bait and flee
- Shooting things
Goblins can aid your deployment by giving you another unimportant unit to deploy. They cannot re-deploy quickly like fast cavalry can, but they can hold or contest a table quarter and are not that easy to shift. Twenty Night Goblins with short bows and a musician is the best gobbo unit for this task. They might not actually do anything much (do not entertain any hope of them shooting anything worthwhile), but using a 64-point unit to gain 100 VPs for yourself or deny them to your opponent is quite cost-effective.
Supporting Orc infantry by performing flank charges is another task Goblins do quite well. You deploy your units alternating between decent main units of Orcs (25 to 30 Orc Boyz with choppas, shields, light armour and full command) and supporting units of Goblins (20 to 25 Night Goblins with hand weapons, shields and a musician are best). If an Orc unit is charged it should not break and in your next turn you charge them in the flank with a unit of Goblins, as shown in the illustration below.
This should shift the combat significantly in your favour. Should the Goblins end up being charged in the flank in the next enemy turn then it is no great loss, they are after all only cheap gobbos. Remember that since they are suffering from Animosity, there is a one-in-six chance of the Goblins being unable to perform this task, which is why you should have several support unit on hand in case one fails to behave.
If the enemy unit charges the Goblins you can use them to bait and flee, letting your Orcs counter-charge the enemy unit in your next turn, for example together with a chariot or a Troll or two. As the gobbos should be quite close to your General, they should be able to rally later, especially with a musician. As they are quite slow, however, they are less likely to be able to do much of anything later in the game. This is much less of a problem if you kept the unit cheap, as you should.
Infantry, due to their low Movement, are not all that great at diverting, though they can have a stab at it. As they are rather more resilient than fast cavalry, you can even hope to tie up the charging enemy unit, opening up for a flank charge in your next turn. The good thing about using infantry at diverting is that it is easier to get them into the thick of things. Fast cavalry mainly hang around on the fringes of the battlefield, and it might be difficult to get them in a position to divert anything when the battle lines get close.
As for shooting things, Goblin infantry do not do it well, as I write about in my article on the failings of Greenskin Archery. If you want to shoot anything with Goblins, make sure you stick to three-point Night Goblins with short bows (though three-point Night Goblins with hand weapons and shield will probably shoot as many enemies to death).
Before you consider swapping out Orcs with Goblins, you must realise that Orc Boyz are much more cost-effective than Goblin infantry. The humble six- or seven-point Orc Boy appears to have been quite deliberately underpriced to make him the mainstay of the army, which makes it much more difficult to replace him with gobbos. An Orc Boy with a choppa and a shield or with two choppas can fight quite well and is still cheap enough to be bought in large numbers. What you get when you replace Orcs with Goblins is more models, though not as many extra models as before, and they fight significantly worse. a six-point Orc will do a lot better in combat than any Goblin you care to mention, as well as being more difficult to shift with firepower, having better Leadership and getting more out of Waaagh! To do well with Goblins as a replacement for Orcs, you must be able to gang up on your opponents, preferably flanking them. In a straight-up fight any individual unit of Goblins will do worse and, thanks to their lower Leadership, be more likely to break and flee. It is really no good to have more units if they just get individually beaten and run away, that is only a slow death.
When fielding gobbos as your combat units, you select some main unit and some support units as normal, though in this case the main units are all Goblins. These main units should be reasonably big, with 30 to 35 models per unit, with most models being of the four-point type. The units should have full command groups and be led by well-equipped fighter characters. Keep your General and Battle Standard Bearer close to the battle line, to give your units a greater chance of holding in combat. Any sneaky tricks you know should be used - anyone basing their army around a mob of overpriced wimps cannot be called unsporting. In support of these units you will be fielding support units of Goblins, as mentioned above. The difference here is that as your main units are cheaper, you will be able to afford more support units. The downside here is that your support units will now be able to cause Panic in your main units, as they are all Goblins. To limit this, the Big red Raggedy Banner can be very useful, as can fielding a General with a decent Leadership (i.e. an Orc).
The main point of usefulness for any ranked infantry unit is that they can do quite well even if they get charged, certainly better than just about any other unit type out there. In the case of Goblins, a large cheap(ish) unit backed up by a General with good Leadership and a Battle Standard Bearer can hold against considerably more expensive units. They will probably not win and if not supported they will just lose the combat each turn until you fail a Break test, but if you back the unit up with other units that can counter-charge against the enemy unit, then gobbos are not all that bad. Obvious choices for back-up is of course more Goblin infantry, which you will be able to afford due to the relative cheapness of gobbos.
Other related articles
- Goblin Infantry Performance
- Goblin Units and Characters
- Greenskin Archery
- Goblin Fast Cavalry
- Greenskin Chariots
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