A lot of people enjoy building powerful army lists, to give them the greatest possible chance of winning the battle, before it even starts. I will claim that I am not one of those. I enjoy building themed armies that are generally reckoned to be somewhat sub-par, trying to make an okay list with that and then doing my best to win that way. That gives me an interesting challenge and I have found that you learn a lot more from using a weak list than from using a strong one, as there are more difficult problems to solve.
This page will be an ongoing chronicle which I will add to as I try out different types of greenskin armies. However, as I tend to pick a theme and play with it for half a year before I switch to another theme, this article will be updated slowly.
- Effects of special rules and magic
- Aspects of the themed list
- Selecting an army
- Deployment and tactics
- Effects of special rules and magic
- Aspects of the themed list
- Selecting an army
- Deployment and tactics
Races: Goblins, Night Goblins and Snotlings. Some people will
include Trolls and Giants and still call it an all-Goblin army, but I am not
one of those.
Unit types: Any, though with an emphasis on infantry
I started playing with nothing but gobbos (with attendant wolves, spiders,
squigs and snots) after reaching the conclusion that the mixed horde using the
7th edition version of the Orcs & Goblins army book was sufficiently powerful to
not really represent enough of a challenge, while at the same time being rather
more dull than the old version. Meanwhile, the Goblins had gotten more expensive
and they did not benefit from many of the new rule alterations which should make
them more difficult to use. Happily they were still quite fun, with a good
selection of new magic items to play around with, along with a lot of units that
had been considerably altered for the better.
An all-Goblin horde is quite interesting to use, as long as your opponent does not specifically tool up his army to defeat Goblins (by taking plenty of stuff that causes Terror or which can cause Panic tests with only a single casualty, for example).
Animosity: All-Goblin armies have no way of avoiding Animosity at all,
so you will just have to learn to live with it. You can to some extent
compensate for this by taking several units for the same task, which increases
the chance of at least one of them being operational on a given turn.
Waaagh!: This special rule is almost worthless for all-Goblin armies. The only unit that gets anything much out of it is the General's unit, who will use it to either get into charge range of an enemy unit (possibly the flank) or get a charge off without needing to take a Fear test. Any other unit will get a bonus move on a 4+ at best, if led by a Big Boss and that makes it very unreliable. Over all, the damage done to units, particularly units without a rank bonus (fast cavalry and Squig Hoppers) can easily be worse than any advantage you get out of it.
Size Matters: Apart from Snotlings, all your support units can cause Panic in your main units, which can be a crippling disadvantage. Considering that Goblin armies have lower Leadership than mixed armies, this gets even worse. Particularly those otherwise expendable and excellent fast cavalry units need to be treated with a lot more care than you do in a mixed army. You need to be very careful where you place your units, or they might easily end up fleeing through several friendly units, causing plenty of Panic.
Magic: Gobbo armies are limited to the Little Waaagh!, which is on average more difficult to cast than Big Waaagh! spells. Considering that Goblin armies don't get extra Power dice from having units in combat and have to use Power Stones and those very risky Magic Mushrooms if they want to get more Power Dice, this is not a good thing. Thus if you want to get a decent amount of spells off, taking both Bound Spells available to you is probably a good idea. These can also be taken by non-Shamans, which is a good thing, as they are less likely to take damage if the item backfires. Magic defense is also limited to the Staff of Sneaky Stealin' and Dispel Scrolls and the lack of the excellent Mork's Spirit-totem means that you will need to rely on Shamans for magic defense. As you are also forced to rely on having a decent number of fighter characters to make up for the lack of combat ability in your Core units, this means that you will often feel that you have one character choice too few available to you.
Magic items: One of the (few) advantages of all-Goblin armies is that there are quite a few Goblin-only items that are worth taking. Wollopa's One Hit Wunda, the Staff of Sneaky Stealin', the Brimstone Bauble, the Madcap Mushrooms and the Big Red Raggedy Banner are all useful items that are worth including.
Manoeuverability: All-goblin armies tend to have lower
manoeuverability than mixed armies, unless they are based more around cavalry.
This is due to a couple of reasons, the first being that you will generally have
a larger army, which meanst that there will be more units to get in the way.
Secondly, with no way of countering Animosity and the Waaagh! rule being much
less of an advantage for Goblins, the average speed of the army will go down.
Discipline: In this area, Goblins take a double hit. Firstly they have all-round lower Leadership than mixed armies and secondly, Size Matters is of very little benefit since most of the army will be low in the pecking order. This can lead to support units panicing your main units, which does not happen in a mixed army. Terror in particular can be a pain to deal with. Furthermore, the army has, as mentioned, no way of countering Animosity and it will tend to rely on more random units to provide punch.
Firepower: As Goblins provide most of the firepower in a mixed army anyway, all-Goblin armies tend to have the same firepower as mixed armies. You can get heaps of cheap gobbos with short bows if you really want to, but with their miserable range and mediocre stats you need very wide units to get anything much out of them, and space will probably be quite limited so that is rarely practical.
Resilience: The over-all resilience of an all-Goblin army may be somewhat greater than that of a mixed army, due to the extra units you can afford. However, each individual Goblin unit will tend to be less resilient than comparable Orc units, which can outweigh this.
Combat ability: Goblin Core units are less able in combat than Orc units, which means that they are more reliant on characters in the unit doing damage, while the rest of the unit adds a high static Combat Result. This can be a problem, since Goblin armies can in this edition not include any more fighter characters than mixed armies. Goblin armies win combats either through the use of chariots or Squigs, or by ganging up on the enemy with several units at once.
The most important thing with Goblins is to not give up your advantage of
having cheap units by giving them too much stuff they don't need, as this just
gives you a smaller army. A good rule of thumb is to have about three units
(infantry, cavalry or snots) plus a character and a chariot / war
machine per 500 pts. If restrictions in the army list prevents you from this (it
is for example not possible to take 5 characters in a 2500 pt army), then
compensate by taking an additional chariot or war machine. Follow that guideline
and you should have a list that has both a good deal of punch and a high number
Lords: Of these, the common Goblin Warboss is my preferred choice. His Leadership of 8 is higher than any other Goblin's and greatly reduces the problems gobbo armies often have with psychology. Preferred equipment is the Horn of Urgok, the Best Boss 'At and a simple great weapon. I dislike Great Shamans as the risk of blowing up with an unlucky Miscast is just a bit too high for my liking and the Night Goblin Warboss is just not cheap enough to make up for his miserable Leadership.
Heroes: These mainly fall into three usage categories: Shamans, BSBs and fighter Big Bosses to lead your large blocks of infantry and Wolf Riders. Solo Big Bosses can be amusing, but I tend to use them more in mixed armies, who don't rely as much on Big Bosses providing punch to my combat units as my gobbo units do. You can get one of each of these if you are prepared to accept a mediocre magic defense (a level 1 Night Goblin Shaman with either two Dispel Scrolls or the Staff of Sneaky Stealin'), but I have come to the conclusion that this is a bit too little and prefer two level 2 Shamans with a mix of offensive and defensive items. As mentioned above, to get anything much out of magic in gobbo armies, you are probably going to need both Bound items, preferably carried by Toughness 4 Big Bosses or Warbosses. My Shamans generally hide in a large unit of Snotlings, where they do not have to worry about Animosity or Panic, which can seriously reduce the effectiveness of your spellcasting. My last Hero choice is either filled by a Big Boss on a wolf to lead my large unit of "heavy" Wolf Riders (against armies with little missile fire) or a BSB (against other armies). If I feel that Panic might be a problem, he gets the Big Red Raggedy Banner and goes and hides in the Snotlings with the Shamans. If not, he gets equipped to fight a big and goes off to lead a block of Goblin infantry of some sort.
Core: All the Core units available to all-Goblin armies are viable, but
their usefulness depends a lot of the equipment you give them. A common mistake
is to give units more stuff than they really need, which leads to a quite small
army and gives away the biggest advantage you've got. Goblin and Night Goblin
infantry work well in units of 20 to 25, as support for your larger units. These
support units should have a musician, but otherwise no extra equipment (Night
Goblin units can consider a single Fanatics and/or swapping shields for short
bows). In larger units of 30 to 35, they also do okay as combat units against
not too nasty opponents, though the inclusion of a fighter character to lead
them is preferable. These units can consider one equipment upgrade
(shields OR spears OR nets) and can have a standard if lead by a fighter
character. Wolf Riders work well in units of 5 or 6 with spears and a musician
and possibly short bows. Alternatively, you can field units of about 15, lead by
a Big Boss and with spears, shields and all the command options. Spider Riders
work well in units of 5 or 6 with a musician and possibly short bows. Snotlings
are useful because they don't cause Panic and can get a Unit Strength of 5+ for
as little as 40 points. Two or three units of two bases each is quite useful and
recommended. In larger mobs of about 6 bases, they also provide a decent hiding
place for Shamans.
Special: These are the damage-doers in the army. All of the Goblin ones are useful, but I personally tend to take Squig units and war machines more often than Wolf Chariots. It is not that Wolf Chariots are not useful, but I tend to find that fast cavalry can do a lot of the same things and don't take up Special choices. Squig Herds work in units of 4 to 5 hunting teams and Squig Hoppers work well in units of about 7. Neither unit can flee from a charge and die easily if exposed to missile fire, so make some effort to screen them with other units and don't advance straight up the centre. Spear Chukkas should be considered semi-compulsory in any greenskin army, and Rock Lobbers are also quite good against blocks of expensive infantry.
Rare: Doom Divers fall somewhere in between Spear Chukkas and Rock Lobbers in useage and gives you more artillery without spending those ever-limited Special choices, which you will come to appreciate. Pump Wagons are also worth considering, even though they are very unreliable and generally require some sort of way of bringing the enemy unit to them if they are ever going to charge something. I tend to find that they are most useful as a counter-charge unit and as another throwaway unit to deploy, giving me an advantage that way.
One of the advantages of all-Goblin armies is their ability to out-deploy pretty much everyone. You will often have twice as many (or more) units as your opponent and you must use this to give you the greatest advantage. In any normal battle, your opponent should have deployed his entire army while you are still placing out unimportant support units. This should let you place your important units where they can be most useful, so that your combat units can beat up his weak units, while your cheap support units keep his important units from getting where they want to go and your artillery shoots at them. Getting your deployment right is essential with gobbos because your low mobility means that it can be very difficult for an out-of-position unit to get anywhere useful. You also need to take care that you are not placing any small, fragile units (fast cavalry in particular) in places where they might get shot and cause Panic in nearby units.
Races: Any greenskin race. Whether you feel like including Trolls and
Giants is up to you, but they are quite fast and work well with a mounted list.
Unit types: Technically, mounted units are limited to cavalry, chariots and ridden monsters. I also like to include Squig Hoppers (technically infantry), Trolls (big infantry) and Giants (large unridden monster). The main thing to me is that no greenskin enters the battle on foot.
Having tired of the gobbo list I switched to a mounted list and was pleasantly surprised. It was a lot of fun to play with and actually did reasonably well, at least to begin with; whereas my gobbos had to work hard to scrape in a minor victory, the mounted list got a solid victory or massacre in four out of the first five battles (the last was a draw against a Tzeentch list with more than a dozen power dice below 2,000 points). Essentially, though, the mounted list mostly consists of somewhat overpriced and somewhat unreliable units and in the long run it shows. Against armies based around infantry it did quite well, but against armies that had both good manoeuverability and good firepower, things tended to be very difficult. The good thing about a mounted list is that while you get very few models, you are still getting a decent number of units and all your units are actually capable of doing something, a great relief after playing with a Goblin army for an extended time.
Animosity: Quelling Animosity will often be as bad as
squabbling, if not worse, so most of the time, a mounted list will just have to
learn to live with Animosity for those units that are subject to it and make
sure that any Black Orc characters spend the battles riding around alone in
chariots. The bright side is that a unit that squabbles will often be out of
range to be charged by enemy units, but on the whole you will not want too many
units that have to take Animosity tests and you should be careful not to place
two Animosity-prone units behind one another more than you strictly speaking
Waaagh!: A mounted list will usually consist of expensive units with little or no rank bonus. Therefore, calling the Waaagh! can quite easily be a method for crippling your own army without getting a noticeable benefit out of it. This special rule should essentially never be used, because it gives you almost nothing and losing D6 models in a unit of only 5 or 6 models can be disastrous. Waaagh! is better left for Orc-heavy infantry armies.
Size Matters: This rule is quite handy when you have an army with a lot of fragile units. Most notably, the support (i.e. fast cavalry) units should not cause Panic in anything else. Blocks of Wolf Riders are unfortunately not exempted from Panic caused in this way, which can be very problematic with their Leadership of 6.
Magic: I find it difficult to get much magic in a mounted list, mainly because I want to field a lot of Big Bosses in chariots. Thus my magic is generally limited to a level 1 Goblin with the Staff of Sneaky Stealin' who rides around in a Wolf Chariot. That only gives me 4 dispel dice, though I nick a power dice from my opponent and with some effort directed at mage hunting I have found that I mostly do okay. Getting more magic into a mounted list probably involves taking a Great Shaman on a Wyvern (not as stupid as it probably sounds) and upgrading the gobbo to level 2. I have tried out Orc Shamans on boars (including a Savage Orc Shaman with the Best Basha in a unit of Savage Boar Boyz), though the lack of the Staff of Stealin' caused some problems with my magic defense. Orcs are limited to Dispel Scrolls or the Staff of Sorcery and I personally find both to be dissatisfying unless I have a decent number of dispel dice as well.
Magic items: Most of the magic items carried in my mounted list are weapons, with a few protective items (the Best Boss 'At is highly recommended for a Wyvern rider) and magic standards (War Banner and Waaagh! Banner, mostly) tossed in. As I go light on magic most of the time, the Staff of Stealin' is often the only arcane item I take.
Manoeuverability: This is your main advantage and the key to doing
well with a mounted list is to use your good speed to compensate for your other
lackings. One-on-one your units will often not be overly impressive, but when
you use your high movement to gang up on enemy units the odds should be in your
favour. Similarly, the army depends on fast cavalry units to divert nasty enemy
units or take out enemy war machines and similar units.
Discipline: Animosity and Panic can be the bane of a mounted list, Animosity because there is very little you can do about it (Quell Animosity is not good in a small unit of very expensive models) and Panic because units are often quite small and it is not too difficult to cause 25% casualties in them. The annoying thing about Animosity is that most of the time, a failed Animosity test isn't that bad, because units can generally get places quite quickly in any case and will usually be out of range of enemy units wanting to charge them. Some times, however, a squabble at the wrong time can be disastrous and both times I have used the Waaagh! rule with my mounted list it was to make sure my general's unit would not squabble. Fear can also be a problem if you are fighting against the wrong opponent. Thus any unit that doesn't take Animosity tests and which do not take Psychology test is highly useful and I would always make sure I have a good number of them, to provide a reliable core to my army. This includes characters on chariots or monsters as well as Savage Orcs, Squig Hoppers and Giants. Ideally speaking, something like half of the units in the army should either be immune to Animosity or Psychology (or both).
Firepower: A mounted list has next to no firepower and you will just have to get used to it. You can include a handful of short bows to take pot-shots at vulnerable targets along with the odd Shaman, but mostly you will only do damage in combat. To compensate for my lack of firepower, I find it essential to take a good amount of fast cavalry to bait or divert stuff a standard greenskin list would be shooting at. Some people take war machines mounted on carts and pretend they still have a mounted army, but too me that is just wimping out.
Resilience: The primary weakness of the mounted list is that your models cost a whole lot and are not much more difficult to kill than infantry models. Any enemy army that has good ranged capabilities is the worst threat to a mounted list and needs to be cunningly outmanoeuvred (the nightmare list to face is an enemy list that has both good shooting and good manoeuverability).
Combat ability: This is another of your advantages - nearly everything you send into combat will be Strength 4 or 5. However, you will have few or no units with ranks (much too expensive in most cases) and so will be relying on dead enemies to win your combats, along with bonuses from standards and flank or rear attacks. It can also be a bit difficult to get above Strength 5 and most of time you will need Giants or Warbosses to get anything with more than a -2 armour save modifier. Dealing with enemy knights can therefore be quite difficult unless they are kind enough to present you with a flank charge. As mentioned above, combined attacks is often essential and few of your units can take on enemy units on their own.
Oddly enough, I have often found that it is difficult to usefully spend all
my points in an all-mounted list, which is much of the reason why I take Giants
(who are both useful and expensive). Fast cavalry tend to cost around 70 - 80
points per units and pumping large amounts of points into your Special units is
seldom very effective. Over all, cavalry units tend to do best in units of 5 or
6 (bigger than that and they are mostly good as missile magnets), which keeps
their cost down. The value of any cavalryman in the second rank is usually
Lords: As Leadership is quite a problem, you will probably want an Orc Warboss of some sort as your general, if you are allowed Lord choices. Safely placed inside a large-ish unit of Orc Boar Boyz he gives you a quite hard-hitting unit and also a unit that often looks scary enough to draw a lot of fire away from more vulnerable units. Slightly more risky options are a general in a chariot or a general on a Wyvern, both of which can easily lead to your general running off on his own and leaving his unreliable troops to rely on their own unimpressive Leadership. If you don't place your general in a unit, you will still probably find it better to keep him close to your other important units (or vice-versa). Some people have constructed more or less elaborate setups which allows the general (alone or in a unit) to perform a very long-range charge early on, but to me the wisdom of such a move seems highly dubious.
Heroes: Most of my Heroes ride around in chariots to free up some Special choices (a chariot taken as a mount for a character does not take up a Special choice, a very nice perk I suggest you make the most of). There are some nice setups that can be found in here, including a Black Orc Battle Standard Bearer in a chariot (mine just gets the War Banner and heavy armour), or a Savage Orc Big Boss with Porko's Pigstikka in a chariot (up to 7 impact hits at S5, then up to 11 attacks, also at S5, plus two S4 attacks from the extra crewman). Alternatively, both the Akk'rit Axe and the Screaming Sword are nice weaponry. In all cases, though, this leaves your character a bit light when it comes to protective items, a problem I have yet to find any good solution to. Concerning Shamans, I personally prefer level 1 Goblins, for their ability to ride around in Wolf Chariots and take the Staff of Stealin'. They are however somewhat vulnerable to getting shot and for a safer and cheaper option you might place him on a Wolf instead and hide him somewhere safe. I have, as mentioned, found Orc Shamans to be a bit unimpressive in a defensive role, but a Savage Orc Shaman with the Best Basha, Waaagh! Paint and a Dispel Scroll is at least amusing.
Core: The Core of a mounted list essentially boils down to two
variants of fast cavalry and Wolf Riders with shields (which aren't fast
cavalry). As a rule of thumb, I prefer about one unit of 5 or 6 fast cavalry
per 500 points, with a roughly even mix of Wolf Riders and Spider Riders (if I
field an odd number of units, there will be more Wolf Riders than Spider
Riders). Musicians and spears are both dead good and dirt cheap and you can
toss in some short bows if you feel like it, they are also dirt cheap and come
in handy now and then. Units larger than 6ish fast cavalry are pretty damn
useless and smaller units are both cheaper and more useful. Regarding non-fast
Wolf Rider units I initially tried out units of 15, like I used to field in 6th
edition, but they were just a bit too expensive for their cost. In more recent
battles I've commonly used two units of 10 instead (spears, shields and full
command) and they were okay provided they did not have to make Leadership tests
on their own basic Leadership. The inclusion of a Goblin Big Boss on a Wolf
would have made them better, but usually I find that I have no Hero choices to
spare. You could increase the size of the units a bit to let them keep their
rank bonus a bit longer, but I have rarely found this overly interesting.
Special: Normally you will feel that you have too few Special choices in your army, as so many of your most useful units come from this category. To ease the pressure somewhat, I recommend that you place some of your characters in chariots, which means that you can devote more of your Special choices to Boar Boyz and Squig Hoppers. Above 2,000 pts, I would often field a largeish (10-12) unit of basic Orc Boar Boyz as a bodyguard for my general, which worked decently unless they got shot at too much. Commonly I'd also field a smallish (5 or 6) unit of Savage Boar Boy Big 'Uns to have a hard-hitting unit that doesn't need a character, and either two units of Squig Hoppers or a single unit of Hoppers and an additional chariot of some type. Squig Hoppers I have found to be very nice with their ability to charge in any direction while ignoring terrain. Being Immune to Psychology and having two S5 attacks each is also great. Chariots of both types are quite nice and well worth having (if cannons are not common). Going back to Boar Boyz for a while, I rarely found much reason to take common Orc Boar Boy Big 'Uns or regular Savage Orc Boar Boyz, reckoning that it took Savage Big 'Uns to do well without a character and that with a character I might as well go for the cheapest type of Boar Boy.
Rare: The only thing in this category that is strictly speaking mounted are Pump Wagons, who are just a bit too slow for my taste when I am running a mounted list. Giants and Trolls aren't actually mounted, but they are quite fast (a lot faster than Pump Wagons) and thus fit in, if you ask me. Personally I am quite fond of Giants in this list (one or two of them); they work quite well with other units as they are on a narrow base and being Stubborn on a Leadership of 10 means that they can tie up charging enemy units so that you can counter-charge with your other units. Another thing they can do well is to deal with very hard enemy units that normal greenskin armies would have shot with their war machines.. Trolls are also quite nice, either as units of single Trolls (nice for support) or in bigger units, where they perform much the same role as your medium cavalry.
As your units generally have good manoeuverability, it isn't really all that critical where you deploy them, as they can often get other places relatively easy. Thus good deployment is often a question of making sure your units do not get shot at too much and have reasonably good approaches to where they want to go. I tend to start by deploying my fast cavalry units spread evenly across the front of my deployment zone, with the Spider Riders more towards the centre (since they are slower) or in units of difficult terrain (where few other units want to go). Once I have deployed all of those units I should have some idea of where my opponent will be deploying and my other units go in between or behind the fast cavalry where they seem to be most useful (beware of sticking important units behind Animosity-prone fast cavalry unless you really need to as the chance of not getting anywhere greatly increases). If my opponent has a dangerous but slow-moving unit, I will generally deploy away from that and leave it stranded with nothing much to do.
Most of the time, you will win by outmanoeuvering your opponent and most of the times I have lost it has been because I have spread out too much and let the enemy units I would like to stay away from get into the game. A much better solution is to use your fast cavalry to divert and distract nasty units that can out-charge or out-fight your units. As mentioned above, the worst thing to face as I see it are armies that have both good firepower and good manoeuverability (possibly with some Fear-causers thrown in). You really want to isolate the manoeuverable units while ganging up on the firepower units and that can be quite tricky to pull off when you need to do both things in the same area of the battlefield.
As with my Ogres, I tend to find that a plan that involves attacking on a relatively narrow front is the best, using either the Refused Flank or Flying Wedge tactic (see my article on Greeenskin Battle Tactics). When a lot of your units are overpriced, this type of approach shifts the odds more in your favour and you are making the most out of your strengths. Hesitating in these situations gives your opponent more time to bring reinforcements into the battle and more time to shoot at you. At the same time, it is important to check the positions of your units, because they often flee quite far when they (intentionally or unintentionally) do run away.
Other related articles
- How to Win
- Tactics for Dummies
- Starting an Orcs & Goblins Army
- Sample Greenskin Army Lists
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