Sunday, June 16, 2013

Detailing Denizens: Goblins, Trolls, and Future Projects

First off, from one dad to another, happy Father's Day readership. I logged on this morning and saw that we had exactly 25,000 page views - thanks for visiting and making this small team of bloggers feel like what we do is valuable to someone else.

Here we are, once again, continuing a Hobbit-themed summer as I try to plow through more of my army and terrain projects. This time the Goblins are our focus. Some of these conversions are fresh off the work bench, so I'm really excited to showcase them. As our regular readers may know, the only conventional army I haven't taken to tournament here at TMAT is my Goblin force, so I really want to not only get through the rote painting and glossing, but also want to make the conversions the best they can be. Here's the collection so far:

1 Durburz, Goblin King of Moria
1 Groblog
2 Moria Goblin Shamans
12 Moria Goblin Warriors with shields
4 Moria Goblin Prowlers with shields
16 Moria Goblin Warriors with spears
12 Moria Goblin Warriors with Orc bows
1 Cave Troll with Troll Chain
1 Bat Swarm

50 units, 557 points, 12 Orc bows + 1 Troll Chain + 4 throwing daggers, 4 heroes

This post will only be focusing on the warriors in the army and some of the formations. Later this summer, I'm going to be finishing conversions, paint jobs, and bases for the heroes, so more on that later.

Moria Goblin Warriors with spears or shields:
Ah, the traditional "greenskin." Goblins with spears and shields are incredibly valuable because while they lack the average Fight value and Courage value of 3, their other stats are all average and the cost for each of these units is really low. So long as you have a hero who will keep your warriors in the game, the only disadvantage you have is a low Fight value (which only matters in the case of ties). For 5 points a unit, Goblin generals shrug and are willing to live with it.
Moria Goblin Warriors with Orc bows:
In my opinion, the Goblin archer is the worst archer in the game. For starters, his bow only has 18" of range. The only other units with this range are Dwarf Warriors - everyone else can capitalize on a better Shoot value at close range sooner than a Goblin can. The Dwarf Warriors not only hit their targets on a 4+ (which is better than the Goblin archers), but also wound their targets with Strength 3 hits, instead of Strength 2 hits. They also have Defense 6, so they are difficult to kill for any bowman who doesn't wield a crossbow. Most evil archers (particularly of the Orc race) have Orc bows: 18" range, Strength 2 hit. The advantage that all of these units have is they typically have a higher Fight value and they also move at 6" instead of 5". All archers that don't have Orc bows or Dwarf bows have normal bows (or Elf bows and crossbows), which shoot at 24" instead of 18". That alone is enough of a benefit to make the Goblins worse than any other unit.
But for all of this, you paid only 60 points for the archers. If archers from Rohan want to shoot back at this group, there will only be 8-9 of them. If Rangers from Gondor or Arnor wish to shoot back at these guys, there will only be 7-8 of them. If the enemy is a Dwarf or an Elf, there will be 5-7 of them. At the end of the day, if your foe were to only dedicate the resources you spent on your archers with the returning fire brigade, the enemy will be fewer in number than what you have...unless they have Hobbit archers. In this case, there could be as many as FIFTEEN of those annoying little archers and you're in trouble. Just run and hide behind a big rock, because there's no advantage you can gain over these guys unless you can engage them in close combat. In all other cases, use the mismatch in archery to your advantage and talk to your foe about how excited you are about having so many Goblin archers and the greatness of their exploits (if you give them enough attention that they take archery damage, the rest of your team will thank you). Keep in mind that Goblin archers, though numerous, are terrible shots - just because you have more than them doesn't mean anything, but if you focus your archery, you can pay for this squad in nearly every game.
Moria Goblin Prowlers with shields:
These prowlers are a simple conversion from Moria Goblin warriors, as the only Prowler models have two-handed weapons. As great as "two-handers" are, Defense 4 units just aren't resilient enough for me to equip with them. Shields, on the other hand, can make Strength 2 ranged weapons (or Strength 4 melee/ranged weapons) less effective at killing the unit and is gained by simply adding a shield. Voila! This said, Prowlers cost 3 points more than your typical Goblin unit and provide the following benefits: first, they have throwing weapons - the primary reason I converted a few - with a 4+ shoot value. This means that they can deal damage in the Move phase, target spearmen or banners if they remain in the second (or third) rank, and can assist in catching horse archers. The second benefit provided by a Prowler is that he is Fight 3, which means that your average warrior (Easterling/Haradhrim Warriors, Warriors of Rohan/Minas Tirith, Hobbit Shirrifs, etc.) won't win a melee fight automatically when the high dice is tied. Having a whole troop of Prowlers I don't think is worth the cost, but having a few throwing into different fights is very useful.
Goblin Prowlers are also great at trapping enemy units, as they get a static +1 to wound against trapped foes. This can be cumulative with a two-handed weapon, but I prefer to be supported by a spear instead. Consider the fights in the picture above: each Goblin Prowler is supported by a spear and has 2 shields helping out in the fight (some supported by spears). Against the Dwarf Warriors with shields, a Prowler would normally need to roll a 6 to wound: with his special rule he gets 4 dice that wound on 5s (80% chance of kill), instead of rolling 2 dice and wounding on 4s (75% chance of kill). It's a small pip (maybe even negligible, but it is something). Against Gimli, the Prowler originally wounds on 6/4+, but now that is modified to a 5+/3+ (8/9 wounds/round, so has a good shot of wounding) or with a two-hander on a 4+/2+ (5/6 wounds/round, so slightly lower).
Bat Swarm:
The Bat Swarm requires a bit more tact in using. It is important to provide cover for this unit. Since the Bat Swarm only has Defense 3, he remains vulnerable to enemy missile fire (4 wounds will go quickly because the bats are such a large target) - especially Strength 3 bows. Once the Goblins are in battle, the Bat Swarm's 12" movement provides the ability to move from behind cover (have line of sight first) and fly into battle. Once the Bat Swarm is in base contact with anyone lower than Fight 6, the Fight value of the foe will tie with a Goblin.
Cave Troll:
The Cave Troll is crux of the killing power of any warrior in a Goblin army. Cave Trolls not only boast a high Fight and Strength value, but have Defense 6 and 3 Wounds - perfect for resisting archery damage and getting into combats quickly. The strategy for using a Cave Troll has traditionally been find cover, charge to the enemy ranks, and let 'er rip (that is to say, there isn't much strategy involved). I have found in my use of trolls that the greatest difficult you will face is winning a fight against a Fight 6 hero - he may botch his roll or you may win the roll-off, but all too frequently, you will not roll a 6 to win the fight and your foe will be able to promote his high dice to a 6, in which case you are then wounded on 5s and cut down to size in a turn or two. Ouch. It's in cases like this where a Bat Swarm (which not only lowers your foe's Fight value but also lends 2 more dice with which to roll a 6) or a Goblin hero (like Durburz or Groblog) can be very, very helpful.
One other caution about using Cave Trolls is found when you're facing a spell-caster who can cast Immobilize on you (our loyal readership will recall that I love spell-casters and try not to bring an army that lacks one). Cave Trolls have no Will points and are not Resistant to Magic, which means they are subject to any successfully cast spell. If a hero like Celeborn cast Immobilize on the Cave Troll, Celeborn would reduce the troll to Fight 1 with 1 Attack, be able to charge in, and use his Elven blade to kill the Troll in a single turn. Speaking of Elven blades, under the new Hobbit SBG rules, an Elven blade makes Celeborn more likely to win a roll-off against the Cave Troll, so even if the Troll got the jump on him and charged before Celeborn could cast a spell, Celeborn still has the advantage. It is for these reason that, though I have a token Cave Troll in my army, I'm not looking into buying another - more on that later.

Since the Goblins were my first conventional army in LOTR SBG, I've taken a lot of time working through their battle formations and have come up with a few ways to organize troops that are both fun and simple. The inspiration for these formations is the Roman Gladiator who wielded a trident and a net - focusing on ensnaring his foe and killing him while trapped instead of worrying about his own defense.

1) The Trident Formation: Durburz, Cave Troll, Moria Goblin Warrior with spear (x4), Moria Goblin Warrior with shield (x4), Bat Swarm

This formation has all of your non-Goblin units and a small corps of Goblin meat shields to attract fire and spread out enemy foes. The formation includes both your Cave Troll and your Bat Swarm, so you can neutralize any hero or warrior that you need to. Durburz leads the formation from the back in typical Goblin style and the Bat Swarm will be hiding behind any terrain it can find (maybe a Cave Troll if cover is scarce). The Goblins should focus on holding a gap created by terrain, anchoring down their flanks to maximize their carnage. For 40 points, the Goblins in this formation should hold down at least a half dozen foes, allowing the Cave Troll and Bat Swarm to crush through the enemy. Also, this formation includes my two "Kung Fu" Goblins with shields (inspiration here), which not only adds some flare to an otherwise boring army, but also provides the only universally recognized in-the-way protection for a unit as tall as a Cave Troll.

2) Net Formation x2: Moria Goblin Shaman/Groblog, Moria Goblin Warrior with spear (x6), Moria Goblin Warrior with shield (x4), Moria Goblin Prowler with shield (x2)
The "Net" formation can be used to sweep around the flanks, though can also be used as the anvil for your army - note: I forgot one Goblin in this shot...he was on the B Stage helping with the next formation...yeah. Coming up in a crescent formation, the Nets close in around the flanks of the enemy, having a 6" solid line of shields (two of which have throwing weapons) backed up by supporting spearmen. The presence of Groblog in the army (more on him in a few weeks) improves the resiliency of the Nets, both of which can be kept within range of a single shaman's Fury. Groblog himself has 3 Might points, which means Heroic Moves can be called without using the precious Might point of your shaman (Groblog isn't a great fighter thanks to his Fight 3, so I assume he won't be assigned to many battles).
3) Alternate formation - The Foxhole: Goblin Warrior with spear (x3), Goblin Warrior with shield (x3), Goblin Warrior with Orc bow (x2)

For this formation to work, you need to be fighting in an area of restricted deployment (works really well on bridges or in tunnel fights. Here's how it works...
You have 3 Goblin warriors with shields in the front: their purpose is to prevent the enemy from harming the more vulnerable units in the back. For Strength 2 ranged weapons, only a wound roll of a 6 will kill these Goblins...not bad for only being 5 points each. Behind the first rank are the 2 Goblin archers and 1 Goblin spearman. The archers can look past their shield brothers to fire into the approaching enemy ranks, hopefully killing someone. As the enemy gets closer, they should see if they can take shots at spearmen behind the front ranks (usually weaker than the front rank of shields). In a third rank are the two other spearmen, each with a full inch or so between the waiting spearman and the second rank as shown in the picture.
As the enemy approaches, an archer move no more than 2" backward into the vacant space left by the third rank of spearmen. As he enters this rank, the closest spearman takes his place. A zipper effect then builds and the units change positions until the spears are supporting the units with shields and the archers are in the back. Their ability to see units is now greatly hindered, but at this point, you can either choose to hold archery fire or take risky shots at the enemy. As casualties are taken (likely to be from the front rank), the spearmen or bowmen can move into the vacant positions and fight about as well as their fallen shield comrades, since the only difference between a shield-carrying Goblin and any other Goblin is 1 Defense.
Why run this formation? For only 40 points, you guarantee 2-3 turns of checked enemy advancement in a restricted area. Usually, these 3 turns are all that is needed for the game to turn around elsewhere on the battlefield. If the enemy lacks spear support, your ability to win is rather high in combat, due to having more dice than he does. The only time when this formation doesn't work very well is when there is a hero who thrives on killing small units (like Aragorn or Gimli), but since that kind of hero typically costs more than twice what the Foxhole formation as a whole costs, you should have an advantage elsewhere (in the picture above, Balin and his Dwarves cost 121 points - more than three times the cost of the Foxhole unit). Capitalize on it.
Army list

You will notice that the current Goblin list doesn't reach 600 points, so I add a Ringwraith to my army to provide some diversity. Here's a sample list that I've used and have found to be very fun (though not competitive - see the discussion in the conclusion for how I plan on building a competitive army):

The Denizens of Moria: 602 points

Durburz, Goblin King of Moria - 60 points
Groblog, King of the Deep - 55 points
2 Moria Goblin Shamans - 90 points
1 Cave Troll - 80 points
12 Moria Goblin Warriors with shields - 60 points
4 Moria Goblin Prowlers with shields - 32 points
16 Moria Goblin Warriors with spears - 80 points
12 Moria Goblin Warriors with Orc bows - 60 points
Ally: Ringwraith with 2M/10W/1F - 85 points

50 units, 12 Orc bows + 4 throwing daggers, 5 heroes

This list relies on having a lot of units and keeping them alive. Using your Ringwraith well requires some tact, but you can cripple enemy spell-casters or neutralize heroes of all kinds with Sap Will, Transfix, or Drain Courage. You should be able to get 6 spells off during the game, which means that 3 heroes should be taken care of by this single 85 point hero. Guard him well and consider some of the guidelines discussed during Flight to the Ford month.


In order to grow the Moria list, I'm planning on buying a pack of 6 Wild Wargs: two of these wargs will be converted into Wild Warg Chieftains (WWC) based on some epic conversions I've seen. WWCs are fast with a great Fight and Strength value, but best of all each of them has 3 Will points, which means they can either distract a spell-caster for several turns to buy other units more time or can hunt down spell-casters and kill them early. Given that my armies (and a growing number of Glenstorm's too) use spell-casters, being able to fight them is a necessary skill. Additional wargs not only provide speed to the army (and screens for the WWCs from Strength 3 bows), but also lend Strength 4 to their fights, Fight 3, and (here at TMAT) the cavalry bonuses against infantry. For 4 points more than a Moria Goblin Warrior with no equipment, I think it's worth buying a few. I'm hoping to have the wargs purchased in the Fall, so we'll see how that goes and I'll include a discussion of the WWC in my post later this summer on Moria heroes.

That's it for now - have a happy Father's Day and happy hobbying!


  1. You should convert some wargs into warg marauders. These guys are beasts, expecially if you're playing with the new monster rules. (they can't be dismounted, so hurl, *the* cavalry killer is useless against them.)

    1. I've thought about warg marauders - their D5 makes them more resilient to most archery and the unit can shoot in response. Need to play-test them to see whether they're worth the cost (if I recall correctly, you can get 1 Warg Marauder for the cost of 4 Wargs/7 Goblins).

  2. They cost a quarter, but with three attacks and wounds, and being able to shoot twice even while in combat, (though don't expect to kill much with these shots) and being one unit so they cannot be dismounted, and not being affected by cavalry counteer charges (iirc), they are really quite good for their cost imo. The only downside is the slightly low defence, as well as the 'normal' fight value.

    But overall I'd say they're worth their cost, and you should include ~3-6 depending how many points you're playing.

    I would also look into ashrak and venom back spiders. Re-rolling all to wound hits is superb, they're like miny spider queens.

    1. Not a bad idea - the marauders are definitely worth their weight when fighting cav, as virtually all non-hero cav are only S3 (so D5 is okay) and usually 1 attack (as they are not considered infantry).

      I'd be more interested in trying out the new Fell Wargs from the Hobbit, as they don't require LOS at the start of their turn to charge a unit, which I think I'd find more useful in combat on the field. I'll need to playtest them, though, to see if that's something I'd like to invest in (as they cost almost double the USD of their Trilogy counterparts).

  3. Excellent write-up, Tiberius - as you detailed the trident and net tactic, a few of our games came to mind and I thought, "Oh: that's what he was doing," :) The foxhole tactic is very clever and seems to be pretty effective - we should get a game in sometime to test these strategies out, :)

    Looking forward to seeing the final conversions, and really liking what you're doing with Groblog and a few of the other guys you're converting!