Monday, August 15, 2011

Night Goblin Theory-Hammer: the Many Layers of the Onion

My best-warhammer-buddy Justin's Night Goblins and my Lizardmen have been seeing a lot of each other on the tabletop.  We've also been discussing ways to make the goblins more effective.  His army is not intended to be a super competitive face smasher, but it still needs to function well.  The army is primarily composed of big blocks of night goblins with fanatics, lead by Skarsnik.  In support he usually brings war-machines, trolls, an Arachnarock Spider or giants.  There are no orcs in the army, only night goblins and supporting monsters.  That's the way he likes it, nothing but sneaky gits that often squabble and occasionally kill each other.

After we exchanged several e-mails about goblin tactics, I came to the conclusion that to win with a night goblin army you have to think like a night goblin - i.e.sneaky bastard!  My theory is that the army needs to operate in layers.  The goblins won't win many straight, stand up fights against another army by going at them head on.  They need to whittle their opponents down so that when it comes to gettin' down to the nitty-gritty (close combat), the enemy is weakened enough to where the gobbos can do some damage.  It was as if orc gods Gork & Mork (or perhaps FAAC and WAAC) had come into alignment!

Skarsnik leads the way
Here's a breakdown of the layers to this proverbially onion.  First, you have Skarsnik's ability to place enemy units in reserve at the start of the game.  I'd also note that you need his high leadership to keep the goblins in line and prevent anything with stupidity from putzing around for the whole game.

Second layer is going to be magic and war machines.  The goblins will need enough shamans to give yourself a good shot at getting Itchy Nuisance, to slow down powerful close combat units.  This should be cast later in the magic phase to maximize the Sneaky Stealing lore attribute to prevent dispel against the Nuisance, then slow down a powerful unit.  Then war machines start hammering on whatever will hurt the most should it reach the goblin battle line.

The third layer is the fanatics (I hate them with a passion) and to a lesser extent, archers.  After taking a beating in the form of D6 S5 armoring piercing hits at the hands of a whole line of these bastards, you will hate them as much as I do.  This is the thing about night goblins - with only one or two units, a cunning opponent can avoid the fanatics or draw them out in a way to minimize damage (i.e into a forest).  With a whole army packing these maniacs, they're damn near impossible to avoid.  If you're gonna go night goblins, go all the way or leave them at home.

By the time close combat gets underway, hopefully the goblin's enemy has been weakened enough to where you can line up your goblin blocks, trolls and whatever else to beat on what's left of the other army.

A few weeks after our goblin-theory discussions, Justin and I rolled down to the LA Battle Bunker for a 3000 point game.  We elected to play Battle for the Pass as neither of us had played it.  What I failed to realize until around turn 3, is that the scenario really amplified the layer approach for the goblins.

Pre-battle, Skarsnik put my Temple Guard and Chameleon Skinks in reserve.  Playing down the length of the board meant these units had an extra distance to walk, limiting their contributions to the battle.  Next, Justin launched all his big stuff forward right at the get-go: two units of trolls and two giants.  With the narrow width of the battlefield and the other terrain, there was no getting around these guys.  The trolls were dealt with via my magic and close combat but the giants managed to wreak havoc dispite my efforts to machine-gun them with poison missile fire from my Skinks.

As my army pushed forward, I attempted to tread lightly, trying my best to avoid the inevitable massed fanatic launch and utilizing terrain to get them crash into a tree or hill.  Despite these efforts, they still managed to utterly annihilate one Saurus unit down to a few models.

The four goblin warmachines were not the bane of the Lizardmen, but with their low points cost, they were very effective considering they had to compete with the Gungan Sheild Generator (5+ ward save against shooting) put out by my Engine of the Gods.  Notably, the bolt throwers skewered some Saurus and a Rock Lobba finished off a Steggadon after it had been weakened by River Trolls - not a bad effort at all.

For the most part the magic phase was dominated by spectacular miscasts.  Justin had the poor luck to have his low level Shaman miscast to suffer a wound and then get roasted by Salamander puke (this was the only high moment for my three Salamanders, they spent most of the game eating their Skink Handlers).  His high level Shaman had a miscast redirected upon him via Cupped Hands of the Old Ones, resulting in his brain getting fired and losing 2 magic levels.  Karma kicked in next turn and my Slann miscast and went nuclear, killing 17 Temple Guard.  Strangely, the big toad survived.

In the end, the night goblins won by around 450 victory points - and we realized Justin forgot to deploy his spider riders, so the goblins won short-handed.  Overall, the layer-theory seemed to be viable and can hold its own.

The woe of aftermath


  1. Hmmm... I'd never quite thought about the gobbo's on these terms. I've got 2 games in with them in 8th, one a mirror match that came down to a single roll, and the other against warriors of chaos, pretty much the gobbo's antithesis. Steam rolled anyone?
    When I get back into fantasy, I'll have to remember the black hearted, smelly, cave matured onions. Thanks!

  2. I was cracking up reading your recount of our last adventure. I just wish that I could cup morks hands and reflect the miscasts back at you. Damn you cupped hands of the old ones!

  3. @Farmer Geddon - glad you enjoyed this, I hope you get motivated to play more fantasy!

    @Justin - My Slann got his share in the end... well, more like the Temple Guard, but they're about the same points.