I think the first time I saw goblins was when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema. It’s a great moment. Entering the Mines of Moria, the Fellowship discover that all the dwarves have been killed. Good, but by whom? “Goblins!” declares one member of the party. After a tense trek through the tunnels, said goblins finally emerge to the beat of an ominous drum. With inhuman shrieks they burst into the room, brandishing wicked blades and adorned in spiky, makeshift armour. It’s pretty scary! What happens next?
They die in one hit to a Level 0 Hobbit armed with a frying pan.
Goblins. I love ‘em, every single one, from the humblest little snotling to the meanest boss – and I think you should too. Here’s why.
What’s in a Grot?
Goblins are wee guys who like to hang out! They are anarchists by nature, but their impressionable minds and diminutive bodies make them easily manipulated and pressed into service by dark lords and bigger goblins. They are well-suited to theft, but are not propertarians, so do not see it as theft at all – merely acquisition. They scheme, they chuckle, they make mischief and collect shinies. The real world is full of goblins. You might even be one! For my part, I identify somewhat with the little fellows. They usually have big noses, I’ve got a big nose, it just makes sense. Talk to me anytime about goblincore.
While my love extends to goblins from most settings, this article will focus on those who dwell in the Mortal Realms who, for reasons, are referred to as ‘grots’. They come in a few distinct, all delicious flavours.
First and foremost are the Moonclan Grots: fungus-addled cave dwellers who dress in robes with pointy hoods. They worship a malign entity called the Bad Moon, which is a moon that is bad, and which must be appealed to by performing dastardly deeds. Wherever it goes, the Moonclan Grots will surely make themselves known, crawling up from their hidden lairs to express their fanaticism. If the Bad Moon is pleased, they believe, it will stay around forever instead of buggering off, thus bringing about the ‘Everdank’ – a grim and grimy state of perpetual darkness in which the hooded goblins can thrive on the surface.
Worshipping the Bad Moon in their own way – believing it to be a big egg – the Spiderfang Grots live their lives surrounded by eight-legged friends. The arachnids are definitely the ones in charge, willing to tolerate their relationship with the grots as long as they are provided with a steady supply of food. The grots ingest the spider’s venom, developing horrible buggy mutations should they survive.
Together the Moonclan and Spiderfang fit under the Gloomspite Gitz umbrella, along with the lumbering troggs and sproingy squigs they join forces with. It’s a good umbrella.
Off to the side exist the sycophantic Gnoblars, whose symbiotic relationship with their Ogor Mawtribe overlords often sees them trodden underfoot or eaten as a quick snack. I think they’re cute but I wish they’d stick up for themselves more often.
There are two other kinds of grots who aren’t (currently) represented in a model range: Gitmob Grots and Grotbag Scuttlers. The former are plains-dwelling, sun-worshipping nomads who ride wolves. Everyone thought it was all over for them when their last models went out-of-production a couple years ago, but since then they’ve kept getting little mentions in the lore and a Warhammer Underworlds warband, so perhaps they’ll make a comeback? The latter have only ever existed in the form of lore nuggets: skyfaring scavengers who act like an anarchic mirror to the Kharadron Overlords. ‘Grot sky-pirates’ is such an inspiring hook that many hobbyists have taken it upon themselves to represent them on the tabletop, crafting all kinds of wacky conversions.
That’s all for now, but who knows how many other varieties of grot can be found in the near-infinite vastness of the Mortal Realms. That’s one of the setting’s biggest strengths – the community’s imagination is the limit!
Lore You Can Gobble
Grots have tonal range, from comic relief (sneaking into human settlements to steal glass bottles) to hellish nightmare fuel (turning you into a mushroom). They’re also adaptable, able to live their snotty lives nearly anywhere. Grot lore gives you, the player, mucho freedom to do with your little dudes as you please. Maybe your army dwells in the sewers beneath a Free City, or bounds across the treetops of Ghyran in a perpetual squigalanche, or makes its lair in the shadowy reaches of a mighty desert canyon, or even pretends to be a host of ghosts making its way across the Realm of Death. You can always be very creative with goblins.
My Gitz hail from a dark, dense and primordial forest in the wilds of Ghyran known as the Gloomwood. Spiderfang tribes rule the canopy, descending on strings of gossamer to stalk for Spider God sacrifices. Down in the roots dwell Moonclan Grots, skulking about and truffle-hunting. Troggoths doze in dank caverns beneath and amongst the mighty roots of the gargantuan trees. These multifarious types are constantly at each other’s throats, until something – such as the passage of the Bad Moon – unites them into a great horde known as the Dankroot Dastards. Beyond the forest are broad grasslands where Gitmob Grots eke out a living, and when the Dastards march they are pressed into service as auxiliaries and scouts by whichever Loonboss is in charge. I express this lore through lush, undergrowthy bases, which leads me to…
When it comes to painting goblins, it’s not all about quantity – it’s mostly about quantity. Unless you focus on troggs (which is valid), building a Gitz army means painting a lot of grots. Don’t let that put you off, though. I have painted well over a hundred of these little shits, and let me tell you: hobby does not get more therapeutic than speed-painting bucketloads of small horrible guys.
Once you’ve painted your vegetables, however, there’s a really diverse range of models to build, modify and paint. In models like the Sneaky Snufflers and Loonsmasha Fanatics you have really creative, weird infantry. In the horrible Fellwater Troggoths there’s an opportunity to paint bile and create water effects. Squigs can be any colour you want, from psychedelic technicolour to muddy browns and greens. Multiple imposing centerpiece models are available, from the incredible feat of engineering that is the Mangler Squigs to my personal favourite, the Arachnarok Spider. It’s just an amazing range, with so many hobby opportunities. I could go on about it all day.
Probably more than any other army, the Gloomspite Gitz are open to being painted in all kinds of idiosyncratic colour schemes. (Heck, grots don’t even need to be green any more. It’s the Mortal Realms, baby!) My Moonclan, for example, wear greeny-blue robes and stand on lush, mossy bases to paint a picture of their woodland abode. Meanwhile every unit of Spider Riders I have is a different colour, representing the various tribes and breeds of spider the army is composed of.
That’s Numbergrot! (Or, what it’s like to play with grots)
Confession: I haven’t played a proper game with my Gloomspite Gitz army yet. Fortunately, that shouldn’t matter, because I’ve read their rules and according to the bylaws of Warhammer that means I’m entitled to share my self-appointed-expert opinions.
The army is, broadly speaking, not built of reliable components. Your core units are desperately bad. Stabbas and Shootas are your Moonclan battleline, able to do two things: tickle the enemy and die in droves. Spider Riders are able to do good damage with their spider’s bites, but are otherwise ineffective and brittle. Squigs and squig riders can pack a punch, but cannot take one, and their Move characteristic is randomized. Tough-looking troggs can be surprisingly easy to topple and difficult to get to where they need to be. Even your large models are not very threatening, and low bravery is a constant headache.
Meanwhile, your allegiance abilities are unpredictable. The Bad Moon is passing overhead. If you stand beneath it, you get a buff, but it can rapidly drift off the table, leaving you weakened and vulnerable. You can sometimes alter the speed at which the Moon moves, but even then it’s difficult to bank on.
Because of all the above you could easily have low expectations of what’s possible with the Gitz. But you’d be wrong.
Command abilities, magic spells and assorted other nonsenses combine to craft a potent cocktail of buffs for your units, debuffs for your opponent’s units, and fun tactical considerations for all. If you take the right units you can have one of the fastest command point generation machines in Age of Sigmar, allowing you to negate that pesky battleshock and hand out all kinds of tasty treats to your goblins. Buffed to the nines, a big block of stabbas is a fearsome thing, spitting out whirling Fanatics and mortal wounds. With the right artifacts, command abilities and spells, Spiderfang units can absolutely melt enemies with their venom. All things considered, you’re still running on luck, but the Gitz have a knack for making their own.
Thanks to some White Dwarf updates, it’s now much more viable to run Squig-, Trogg- and Spiderfang-focused lists. They’re still not, like, mega powerful, but it’s very nice to see GW expand a battletome like this and it’s made a lot of folks (myself and my Spiderfang Grots included) very happy.
If the main game isn’t your pace and you’d rather play a smaller goblin force, Gloomspite Gitz have rules for Warcry and there are two grot warbands for Warhammer Underworlds. Both of the latter are a lot of fun, particularly the wolf-riding Rippa’s Snarlfangs, who are a refreshingly elite take on grots, more than capable of standing toe-to-toe against the toughest opponents and slaughtering hordes of lesser enemies.
It’s time to wrap this article up. I hope I’ve convinced you to consider increasing your appreciation of the ignoble goblin in all its myriad forms. Perhaps I’ve even encouraged you to paint a little goblin, or several.
Personally, I’m looking forward to painting more Age of Sigmar grots of all varieties. If the rumours are to be believed, the future of gobbos is bright…