Friday, July 26, 2013

Brokentooth's Guide to Goblin Greatness: Thoughts & Plans for Kings of War

You! No, not're hopelessly stupid. 'mind me to feed ya to trolls later. No, You! Yes You, scrappy half-wit! You've got potential, eh? I bet you sneak your siblings' food when they're distracted and blame yer momma.. haha!  I thought as much! Good, good! We need more crafty goblins around here.  Listen to ol' Brokentooth and might learn something.  Maybe you'll wear the brass crown someday eh? When I'm gone.. when I'm good and ready mind you, don't get any ideas, I'm watching you.  Might have broken teeth but my eyes are still sharp! 

Yes, listen to Brokentooth and I'll tell you how it all began. When I first gathered goblins and trolls to my banner.  When later the great mountain troll and jabberwock were captured.  When I set the crafters to making the mighty engines of war and carved out this empire for the goblins! 

There was a time when the larger folk pushed us around.  Never let yerself think yer small size is a disadvantage. It isn't! It's a blessing from the Great Goblin. Helps us sneak and get what we want! Our smarts are closer to the ground... wisdom in the ground, power in the ground.. not like the big folks with their heads in the clouds, groundless. "Pick on someone yer own size" some say.  Yes! Because those big folk are no match for the likes of us! 

Now sit, and get yer finger out yer nose and listen close, and I'll tell you how it began.. years ago...


So about a year ago I jumped into temptation on Mantic's Kickstarter. 
Now that the second shipment arrived awhile back it seems a good time to take a look at this project. 

The Decision: 

I selected goblins for the kickstarter, because 1. I like goblins and 2. I always thought they'd make a fun army: scrappy underdogs with plenty of odd monsters & warmachines. 

A year ago I was having a tough time deciding what i'd use the goblin miniatures for...would I like Mantic's game?  Would I make them for the new version of Warhammer?  Would I keep options for both? 

One thing I knew: no Orcs.  Hey, I love Orcs, but Goblins deserve their independence and own land.  
While it does sound like the new Warhammer has some aspects that remind me of what was possible back in the Warhammer I started with: 3rd edition...things like goblin units with a front rank of goblin heroes with greatswords.. I still remember when Bill surprised me with that! The fact is there are just too many things that don't appeal to me about Warhammer now:

* Magic is too powerful.  Gandalf threw some augmented firebrands at wolves and had invisble contests of will with Nazgul, he didn't blast out giant swirling purple vorteci with tentacles dragging down whole units at a time. And I prefer magic more Gandalf-esque than high budget Industrial Light & Magic. 

*Characters of Herohammer.  Kind of hard to stand up to the Lords of other races with mere goblins.  Sure, goblins should have a challenge and run more often, and need numbers to make up for shortcomings, but in Warhammer, Goblins are designed to be a supporting role to the Orcs.

* Arms race of big stuff.  Monstrous Infantry... then Monstrous Cavalry.  I'm a fan of the grunts.  Sure I like big things like trolls, but I want basic infantry blocks to be worth something more than a speedbump or tarpit. 

The Game:

Kings of War fixes all those problems for me. 

Magic is a simple system.  A nice perk, a touch of flavor, but not game winning on it's own. If you don't want to use magic even, no problem!  Unlike Warhammer, you don't have to devote a portion of your army to magic defense.  Don't try that in Warhammer. 

Characters are more powerful than average guys of course, but they're not likely to swing battles all by themselves.  Also, Characters aren't added to units like in Warhammer. They fight alongside units, not inside units. 

Goblins are viable.  
The way the army lists are designed and because of how combat works, everything is unit-based and that makes all the difference. 

For example:
In Warhammer, a unit of 3 trolls has the facing of a unit of 6 Dwarf warriors.  
6 Dwarf warriors have 6 attacks and 6 wounds: one for each dwarf. 
If the Trolls have 3 attacks and 3 wounds each, that is 9 attacks and 9 wounds..
  well you'd expect trolls to be tougher, so no problem. 
Well, the potential problem is for each wound the dwarves take, they'll be losing one attack, but the trolls don't lose any attacks until they've lost 3 wounds: they can attack as long as they're still alive.  
This makes balancing by a points system very difficult. 

Also, infantry units carry a lot of 'dead weight' when they have ranks of soldiers who may do nothing but add a rank bonus if their friends at the front don't die. Another balance issue: are the points for infantryman number 15-25 worth as much as number 5-14? It depends what happens in the battle. 

In Kings of War you purchase units by size, typically troops, regiments and hordes.  They have set points value with set number of attacks, defense and morale break points. 

As an added bonus, this means that all units are using the same system of fight at full strength until you waver and fight on until removed, regardless if it's a Giant or a pack of Trolls or ranks of Infantry or a Character. 
The stats are different but the system is the same.  
Easier to balance and it shows in the product. 

The Rulebook with Army Lists reminds me in a lot of ways of Warhammer 3rd edition: the lists are all together, they mostly have the same spells and access to the same magic items.  

Army construction is also very relaxed: 

Some units are 'solid' units: they're a backbone of the army. 
For every solid unit you are permitted to have 1 warmachine and either 1 character or 1 monster. 

So easy! 

And there are a lot of solid units to chose from.  In a Goblin army these could be goblin archers, goblin rabble, goblin spears, goblin cavalry (spear or archers). 

I heard on one of the warhammer podcasts not long ago, one of the hosts lament a proposed spell-strategy as unrealistic because he 'almost never sees an orc army with more than 1 orc unit" I was appalled. Really? 

That's a huge problem with Warhammer.  Some units, often ones that conceptually should be representative just aren't used because they're not as good as other units.  But in Kings of War, since all units use the same system of construction and balance, deciding to take a monster or a unit might be more about visual flavor, or minor game effects like unit frontage, slight increase in speed at the expense of some attacks, etc. 
Size doesn't matter so much: it's your stats and what you do with them that counts.

What you're left with is a game with simpler rules, a narrower tier of power between different army races as well as units within those armies and so a heavier focus on tactics. 

The rules are a free download at Mantic.  Can't get a better price than free, so check it out here

The Way Forward:

So I decided I want Goblins.  I decided I like the Kings of War rules and don't have any interest in pursuing goblins as a Warhammer/Kings of War hybrid army. If I decide in the future to pursue Warhammer again, maybe I'd be more likely to use my Dwarves as a hybrid game force or finish my Bayou Elves, but all-goblins in Warhammer just looks to be something I wouldn't enjoy as much as Kings of War.

And if I ever do play Warhammer with the Goblins it'd be under extremely casual and friendly circumstances where the opponent would have no problem estimating and fudging for the element bases. So no problem. 

This means I am completely free to do element basing! 

Old Fogey at Hobby Horse had a good suggestion on how to make units with smaller element pieces so they could be used for both, but honestly, the large single piece elements are much more appealing to me. 

I'll be basing goblin regiments on single element bases 100mm x 80mm.  
A good thing about this is: no movement trays! Just move the unit as a single playing piece!
But the best thing is it frees up the goblins to be rabble-mobs! Unruly masses, not clean neat orderly ranks!
Dwarves or Elves look nice in that Napoeonic aesthetic, but it isn't right for goblins! 

I'll also get away with using fewer goblins: as long as the footprint of the unit is correct, then it really doesn't matter how many are on the base.. though it might look odd to see 3 little goblins standing in a field! 

Since the rules are favorable for units, I'll end up with a goblin army that looks like a goblin army. 

Speaking of how it looks, the monsters are up to interpretation, so I have some varied creatures planned! 

Also, the game allows for Allies. 
Neutral armies can ally with neutral and either good or evil (not both) and Evil can ally with other evil or neutral and Good can ally with other good or neutral.  Feel free to take any unit you want, and if you have a solid unit you can muster a warmachine and a character or monster from the allied army as well. 

This is a counts-as paradise!    

This would break Warhammer something fierce.  To cherry pick allied units and then use your army's special magic, items, characters & unique units to combo-effect them? But in Kings of War it's not a problem because there are more subtle differences between units. The downside is that might not appeal to everyone. Some may want a full range of power and oddities, balanced or not.  But for me, I see this as a huge bonus.  There is enough variety for interest & choice, but the game looks more balanced and the wide variety is there for the visual aspect, which satisfies me fine. 

My miniatures so far: 

I'll be using Mantic, Games-Workshop, Reaper, Gamezone, and who knows what else! 

Yikes, this has gone on long!  So I'll save w.i.p. shots of minis for another time. 

Who is Brokentooth? :

A couple weeks ago, a few days after I got my Mantic shipment, while eating dinner I broke a tooth! 
A lower molar lost a cusp.  So disturbing. My upper molar always had a longer sharp cusp that would hit the lower tooth, and I tend to clamp my jaw when not noticing or when sleeping- related to stress no doubt. 
And it gave way. 

So 'I broke my tooth' became 'I'm brokentooth' and that seemed like a great name for an aspiring Goblin Lord! 

So the Brokentooth Tribe is born! 

More Mayhem to Follow!


Minitrol said...

Excellent I wholeheartedly approve of this decision and I can't wait for progress. I have a mess of goblins for allies and still trying to decide if I should keep em or flog 'em off.

Kings of war is great I haven't missed Warhammer AT ALL!

Thomas said...

I don't know how you did id, but after reading your post there is a little voice in my head sayin "... maybe I should give KoW a try?"

A lot of the facts you said about Warhammer are exactly the reasons why i did quit playing WFB a couple of years ago - bit KoW could be the new system to go for.

I'm really looking forward to seeing your army grow bigger and bigger, we all love Goblins, don't we?


Simon Q said...

I've got to admit I do Like the KoW Ogre's very nice looking overall.

I'm not sure i'd go down the big army route again. Not in 28mm scale anyway but you never know.

Daedleh said...

Great article Mr Brokentooth. Completely agree with your points of KoW vs WHF, especially regarding magic.

There are three other major points that drew me to KoW over WHF. Firstly the simplicity of the rules - 20 pages of core and special rules for KoW versus however many hundred for WHF. Secondly the unit basing - no more counting up how many guys are touching the enemy, counting up their attacks, counting up supporting attacks etc. Just "Your unit has 10 attacks, regardless of how many models are actually touching the enemy."

Thirdly the game rewards tactical play. WHF in my areas has devolved into who can make the biggest horde-deathstar and outlast the other player. In KoW, flank and rear charges are absolutely brutal (double attacks in flank, triple in rear) but in WHF there is next to no benefit for flank charges now with steadfast.

Thomas, I absolutely whole heartedly recommend KoW. The rules are free to download and they're fast, fun and tactical to play. If it weren't for KoW then I wouldn't be playing fantasy wargames any more. You can use your old WHF armies easily rather than buying a brand new one. Some of the armies don't have official lists (lizardmen) but can easily be played using counts-as or one of the fan lists.

Anne said...

I've been looking for "my" goblin horde for a while now and just can't settle on a style that says "you must paint me". I'm hoping Stonehaven does goblins next as I like his style of sculpting.

Old Fogey said...

A new army! Excellent news, I will be watching this, looking forward to seeing what you do.

Element basing for me for all my future new ventures (for non-skirmish games of course). Just putting the finishing touches to a unit for my VC army, looks far better on the element. And my next army will be the same.

One thing to consider is the size of the element. 60mm width seems to be a standard size (used in Impetus and Hail Caesar*), so it's worth doing a little research on other game systems if you think you might turn to them at a future date.

*size is not critical in HC, but multiples of 60mm seem to be the norm.

On a side note, is it worth starting some kind of inter-blog project, army painting style, maybe keep us motivated when we hit the 3 month barrier?

Sean said...

All hail Brokentooth. I have been flirting with Oldhammer, got my 3rd edition off the shelf even. I'll have to give KoW another look. I was always a fan of the green skins, my Orc horde had quite a few Goblins lead by Half-Orcs. They still ran away.

fireymonkeyboy said...

I keep hearing really good things about this game. Going to have to look into it.


Mattias Darrow said...

I would expect no less than an elegant, balanced game from Mr. Cavatore. I've recently fallen in love with Warmaster for many of the same reasons you list...good stuff.

I'm going to have to give KoW a read through.

Laughing Ferret said...

Thanks Everyone!

I really mean that... I get inspired all the time to start new projects (a reason I love skirmish gaming: i can start new projects much more often!) but a large army needs a lot of time & energy, so I'll be feeding off feedback to keep me going ;)

Minitrol: interesting & reassuring to hear!

Thomas: I can understand that, it's why I gradually abandoned the idea for hybrid basing. It's just a good system

Simon: The Ogres are very nice. I have a bunch from the Kickstarter. I know.. large 28mm armies are daunting... I still have to paint my Draniki and my Quar ended up being a very big army that's got a lot of work ahead, but I thought I'd lost interest in pursuing a 28mm large fantasy army. But playing some 28mm Martian Empires for VSF which is essentually element basing got me thinking fantasy armies would be fun. I never lose the appeal of fantasy and large armies scratches a different itch than skirmish.

Daedlh: Yes, I'm loving the simpler, clear mechanics. refreshing.

Anne: Yes, picking a goblin is an important decision. Finding the right Goblin to fit your life, that is truly compatible is the most rewarding relationship you can have. The right Goblin is out there, looking for you too. Join eGobliny today where you'll be matched from among our endless goblin tide members... :) Yeah Stonehaven might make some nice goblins.. I'd wish for that too.

Laughing Ferret said...

Old Fogey: The 60mm is a good point. I've looked into Fantasy Impetus.. it looks like a good system. And 'Fantasy Rules!' is a good system which uses 60mm squares when 28mm. But I think for Impetus I'd use that as an excuse to build a 15mm army. I do feel the pull toward 15mm fantasy too.

If considering a 60mm wide element for KoW, you'd be left with either 60x80deep (since goblins smallest infantry unit is regiment -they never have just troops) or a couple 60x40. Needing a 100mm front facing, that could either mean a 60 & a 40 or a 60 and two side strips of individual based goblins. Then a Horde could be 3 60s and one individual side strip. I'm guessing for impetus or other games though that 60x40 would be more useful than a longer base size of 60x80.

So for this project I'm still leaning toward the 100x80 though the 60x40 building blocks is interesting. I'll give it some thinking.

I've liked your Vampire army progress! After the Goblins I may have to make an Undead army... I've always been tempted by a skeleton army, which is viable in KoW. And since I have the curse of the opposing faction, I do need 2 armies for any system I pursue.

Yes, an inter-blog motivation would be a good idea. The Warhammer Forum was good motivation when I was building the Bayou Elves (until being out of the country for half a year & the new edition derailing the army stalled it out). I have a friend who's also starting KoW with an Abyssal dwarf army. He's started a blog but hasn't have many updates or time for it. it's on the blog roll: lead closet. once he gets more progress he might be up for that too.

Laughing Ferret said...

Sean: Goblins will do that. They're weedier than most in KoW too, but they're cheaper and their weediness isn't as severe as it could be. The cheaper regiments means more regiments are possible, which means allowing for more characters, so more inspiration coverage and maybe some zapping magic too. Nice to know a Goblin army is possible without needing an Orc to lead their army.

FMB: Definitely worth a look. And the rules are free, so doesn't cost anything ;)

Mattias: I liked Warmaster too, though haven't played it in a long time.

Francis Lee said...

So you like Goblins? Looking forward to this and maybe some inspiration?

Bill said...


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