2 Dec 2014

Orks Tactica - Gretchin

Greetings fellow war-gamers and hobbyists; I welcome you to another entry in my Ork Tactica series with Gretchin being the focus for today. These runts are as pitiful in-game as you would expect given their role in Ork society, though truthfully I didn't expect the unit to be so limited with regards to the rules. While they make for a fine scoring unit due to their hilariously low cost per model and claim to Objective Secured in Combined Arms detachments, this review will focus on just why Gretchin are essentially limited solely to performing this one role and why you shouldn't consider them as a replacement to Ork Boyz for any other intended purpose. In any case, I hope you find this article to be useful to your endeavors to smash some heads!

While I might seem negative in my overall view of Gretchin, they are still a great scoring unit and I merely wanted to show how the unit is good purely in that role and no other.



As much as these units have enough of a hard time in the background given they are virtually throwaway slaves to an excessively violent culture, the depressing truth is that they also share the billing of the most pathetic squads in Warhammer 40,000. Don't take this to mean I think they are a terrible unit in all cases, however, as their points cost does somewhat justify their complete and utter lack of good qualities other than dying in droves as a sacrifice to ensure your other units survive. Still, there are some important comparisons to draw between them and other units that fit the "horde" classification, including Ork Boyz, Imperial Conscripts, Hormagaunts and so on; once one understands the respective value of each unit with regards to Gretchin, you will find there really isn't much to like about the little green runts. But first, let us look at what makes the Grots tick; seeing as they aren't 'Orks', they have a slightly more respectable Ballistic Skill 3, though this comes at the sacrifice of melee potential with a pitiful Weapon Skill 2. Initiative 2 and no saving throw whatsoever is humorously reminiscent of Ork Boyz but the two are duly distinguished by Gretchin being one of only a handful of units in the game to have a Strength or Toughness value of two or less.

You might think that Gretchin at least have Toughness 3 to represent the tough nature of Orks, but alas, it really is as bad as it seems; Strength and Toughness 2 on an entire unit that lacks saving throws of any kind, has only basic melee attacks, weak pistols and nothing else to validate them. That they lack the otherwise army-wide special rules like Furious Charge and Mob Rule limits their melee capabilities immensely and severely weakens their potential as an objective-sitter given their painfully below-average Leadership values (5 on the unit, 7 on the Runtherds or "sergeants"). While the Mob Rule chart does have many notable downsides, at the very least it offers Orks the security that their units will rarely if ever run away based on various factors such as unit size and attached characters. Having a form of Fearless which Mob Rule provides ensures that Ork units can rely on their numbers to soak up wounds and not have to worry about Falling Back, being Pinned or suffering from any other debilitating Leadership-based effect. That Gretchin lack this entirely means they become almost worthless as a tar-pit unit - which, given their complete and utter lack of tangible damage output means tar-pitting is their only viable use - outside of simply heaving bodies in the way of opponents and using them as mobile cover for other more valuable Ork units. Unfortunately, their tiny model size means it is difficult for them to apply cover per the intervening units or terrain rules to many other Ork units, while the best they can hope for with regards to Leadership is either some very lucky Warlord Trait rolls or a re-roll on that bittersweet Leadership 7.

Of course, this is all arbitrary if the Runtherds die as a Leadership 5 unit that suffers casualties in the dozens from Lasguns of all things may as well just be asking for death by uselessness. If dying to absolutely everything wasn't enough seeing as Toughness 2 and no innate save means even beating outnumbered Guardsmen in combat is no likely feat, the fact that they have almost zero damage output to speak of really kills their uses in an Ork army list - especially if you consider what Ork Boyz are capable of. While horde units aren't typically intended as killers, they at least have a field where they can just destroy opponents; Ork Boyz and Hormagaunts can easily swamp and destroy even elite melee units with their ridiculous amount of attacks, while Termagants armed with Devourers become one of the premier close-ranged anti-infantry choices for Tyranids while still remaining inexpensive based on their capabilities. Gretchin instead put out two attacks each on the charge at Weapon Skill 2, Initiative 2 and Strength 2, meaning 30 Gretchin on the charge (assuming no casualties from shooting, Overwatch and so on) fighting against 10 Space Marine Tactical Marines (a terrible melee unit) will inflict an average of 30 hits, 5 wounds for 2 dead Space Marines on average, and that is assuming the Marines manage not to kill any in combat either.

The Space Marines inflict 7 hits and 6 wounds on the Gretchin in "return" - even though they actually strike first in all cases - which leads to them winning the combat by five or four, ensuring the Gretchin unit will flee and is almost guaranteed to fall to a Sweeping Advance due to their significantly lower Initiative. If you run the same numbers with Ork Boyz, the entire Space Marine unit or almost all of it will be wiped out and, in the case of the Hormagaunts, before the Tactical Marines can even strike back! The difference becomes far more pronounced against Weapon Skill 5 opponents where the Gretchin start needing 5s to hit, especially when you consider that both Hormagaunts and Ork Boyz can improve their melee capabilities exponentially through unit upgrades that Gretchin lack entirely. Never mind that both Ork Boyz and Hormagaunts are all somewhat or significantly faster than Gretchin with Bounding Leap, 'Ere We go and Fleet all giving them some very handy speed boosts to reach combat, while featuring improved survivability - even the difference between Toughness 2 and Toughness 3 is alarmingly significant in practice! When you add in the mandatory Runtherds that function as regular albeit more expensive Ork Boyz, the price disparity between Gretchin and those other superior options only lessens and almost embarrassingly so, though I guess the fairest comparison is to the equivalently priced Imperial Conscripts.

The Conscripts lose a point of Ballistic Skill, have equivalent Weapon Skill and Leadership, but gain a handy 5+ armour save as well as an extra point in Strength, Toughness and Initiative. They exchange the pistols for superior lasguns (how is that even possible?) and even come equipped with frag grenades so that they can strike at Initiative (three) on the charge. Don't forget that they can be fielded in absolutely ridiculous unit sizes and have access to insanely cheap character additions that provide Fearless or a form of Fearless to them without taking up any of your valuable HQ slots. If having an improved Strength and Toughness with an actual armour save worth a damn wasn't enough to leave Gretchin struggling for breath while being drowned in a vat of their own retched making, the fact that the Guardsmen with rapid fire guns as opposed to pistols actually manage to beat Gretchin as an overall melee unit will see them flushed down into a dank hole of despair and mushrooms. Heck, I haven't mentioned Termagants yet that are just 1 point more expensive per model, don't feature mandatory character additions, gain easy Fearless from any number of Synapse units in the codex, are better in both combat and shooting, are quite a bit tougher and can take upgrades to further intensify their damage output. Don't forget Move Through Cover for extra mobility as well as the fact that they too are Objective Secured units in Combined Arms detachments; who cares about their low Leadership 6 when they will almost always be Fearless? The Runtherds really don't help out for Gretchin in that respect even if a re-roll to failed Morale tests on Leadership 7 is a decent enough reason to (be forced to) include them; the fact that they can be so easily forced to flee or Pinned (the re-roll doesn't affect Pinning tests) on a horde unit that will usually exceed the 100 point mark is not a good sign at all.

For a unit that is comparatively worse than almost any other horde unit in the game, lacks any real damage output whatsoever, has no use at all against vehicles and is easily the most fragile squad in the game (unless you count Spore Mines), you would think they would at least be cheaper than all of their contemporaries or good at scoring objectives. While Gretchin are Objective Secured Troops choices in a Combined Arms detachment, that they are Toughness 2 means even hugging cover will still see the unit drop in size and thus effectiveness in a matter of moments. If you want an actual horde unit, even one used simply as a tar-pit or objective baby-sitter, just take Ork Boyz instead - they might be twice as many points per model, but Toughness 4 and Mob Rule at least give them the tools to perform those roles effectively to a degree. You don't even need to bother with the vastly superior damage output the unit provides both at range (as Shoota Boyz) and in combat (in either configuration) to see that they are far more valuable than Gretchin for anything other than hiding out of sight behind an Aegis Defence Line or other suitable terrain while capturing an objective. When you factor in the mandatory Runtherds and the seemingly necessary Squig Hound upgrades for them to make sure the silly unit doesn't just run away the first or second time it takes a Morale check, an equivalently sized unit of Gretchin compared to Ork Boyz won't be too much cheaper all things considered.

Still, make no mistake that these are the cheapest Objective Secured squads in the game once you account for the fact that they are not part of a larger unified Troops choice (Conscripts) or require constant baby-sitting from units that provide Synapse (Termagants). The emphasis of both Eternal War and Maelstrom of War missions still sits firmly on capturing objectives, however they may be distributed, and as such the importance of inexpensive Objective Secured units in a Combined Arms detachment is still nothing to scoff at. While I do wish that Gretchin were capable of more than just being cannon fodder and objective-holders, the fact is that they do at least perform that role well even despite being Toughness 2 with no saves - if a Wyvern shoots at your Troops choice, it is likely going to perish regardless of whether it consists of Ork Boyz or Gretchin, after all. The fact of the matter is also that many army lists simply aren't suited to dealing with limitless fodder bodies intended to harass and delay, especially seeing as victory via destroying enemy units is the exception rather than the norm even in Maelstrom missions. Gretchin do have a place in Ork army lists in that sense if you have points spare or simply just want to dominate the objective game while allowing your Ork Boy mobs to advance without fear of leaving the home objectives as easy pickings, but be sure to protect the Runtherds and give them Squig Hounds - keeping these mobs in line is not easy.

How to Equip Them

Considering that only the Runtherd can actually take any wargear options out of the entire mob, there's little reason to discuss the verminous little Gretchin here. Runtherds can replace their Grabba Stikks with Grot-Prods as well as add a Squig Hound to their repertoire of tricks, though truthfully neither option is really anything to crow about. The Squig Hound is practically a necessity for Gretchin units as the re-roll for all failed Morale checks is so darned useful even accounting for the lack of Mob Rule, while the choice between one of the two melee weapons is unimportant seeing as a Runtherd is virtually a basic Ork. The Grabba Stikk is a defensive choice that doesn't really fit with a model that only has one Toughness 4 wound and a 6+ armour save, while the Grot-Prod wastes the extra attack a pistol provides if you want to make use of its cool but ultimately limited High Voltage special rule. My advice is to just keep the Runtherds cheap and take only the Squig Hound as you the Runtherds themselves are still hilariously easy to kill and offer insignificant damage output; these are not Nobz by any stretch of the imagination.

Best Uses

Considering the entire unit is entirely limited to ranged attacks with a 12" range and absolutely pitiful melee capabilities, they are best used as either a tar-pit or as an objective baby-sitter. Gretchin compare poorly to almost any similar horde-type unit such as Conscripts or even their larger Ork Boy brethren, restricting them to the role of a poor-mans meat shield for your more important units. Functionally, however, Ork Boyz still do this far better with Toughness 4 and an albeit pathetic 6+ armour save which means they won't fall to absolutely everything that so much as looks at them, while Ork Boyz can still be terrifying at close quarters. If you have the points spare in an army list and need an extra meat-shield unit but prefer raw bodies over regular Ork Boyz for whatever reason, Gretchin are "ideal" - be sure to stick to cover to make up for their complete lack of saving throws, or babysit a Big Mek with a Kustom Force Field. Don't bother with a Painboy if it wasn't already obvious; Strength 4 Bolters will ignore your Feel No Pain rolls, hilariously.

They are your cheapest Objective Secured unit by far, however, which can be crucial in many games, even though their complete lack of transport options or other forms of innate mobility do limit their uses in Maelstrom of War missions. A good way to use Gretchin is as bubble-wrap - surrounding a unit with individually spaced Gretchin in a semi-circle or full circle - to provide cover and prevent Deep Striking or nasty melee units from getting close to your more precious targets such as Morkanauts. In fact, employing Gretchin as bubble-wrap for a Morkanaut equipped with a Kustom Force Field is a nice mutually beneficial partnership as both units get an invulnerable save against ranged attacks while the Morkanaut should be much safer from Deep Striking suicide units armed with meltaguns and other common counters to it that operate at close quarters. What is important to note about Gretchin is that they can get re-rolls to failed Morale checks without the need for a certain Warlord Trait through their Runtherds, making them a more reliable objective-sitting unit than Boyz because re-rolls on Leadership 7 is more than decent enough to hold firm under duress.

Recommended Build

Seeing as Gretchin are heavily restricted in terms of options, I will instead focus on my preferred unit sizes;

Gretchin (20) - Two Runtherds, Two Squig Hounds (90 points) - This is the absolute bare minimum I ask of a Gretchin unit; they are too fragile to be used in small numbers, regardless of available cover. Having two Squig Hounds ensures that the unit won't just fall apart if one Runtherd dies.

Gretchin (25) - Two Runtherds, Two Squig Hounds (105 points) - This is my personal recommendation for Gretchin units, seeing as the third Runtherd is just unnecessary and the extra five Gretchin do make a minor difference. Spend any more points on this unit and it will quickly encroach on Ork Boy mob prices which is most definitely not what you want from a Gretchin squad.  

Thanks all for reading this latest entry in my Ork Tactica series! While I personally have had little success with Gretchin and feel there is little real value to the unit seeing as Ork Boyz occupy the same slot and are superior in basically every way imaginable, they do have their uses in certain lists because they are the cheapest Objective Secured unit you have access to. I would like to hear your thoughts on Gretchin and whether you have had better experiences with them in your games; please leave any feedback you have in the comments section below and I will try and address it as best I can! Cheers for your support and have a nice day!


  1. I had huge issues with Grot mobs as a troop choice prior to 7th edition. with the changes to detachments and all the current ways to buils a list Grot mobs are very useful now, if only to fill out another detachments troop choices. However, in earlier editions I have had Gretchen destroy Dark Eldar Archon (SP?) in hand to hand. Something about 1 on 30+.. Fun times.

  2. I use Grots as look out sir! meat shields for my SAG Mek.