I want to talk about Grots. These diminutive greenskins don’t get a vast amount of attention or column inches, but I’ve always been of the mind that they are key to making the Orks what they are – loads of fun. So let’s take a look at the life and times of these little beggers.
A Bit Of History
Of all the alien races to appear in Warhammer 40,000 the first were the Space Orks (Ok, so the Eldar can claim that too, but give them this). These were the Space Marines’ greatest enemies. Well, they were the first of many great enemies but at the time, these guys were the greatest threat to the galaxy. And scurrying between the legs of the lumbering Orks, were the Gretchin and slowly they began to make their mark on the history of 40k.
When Rogue Trader came out, as discussed in previous articles, there was a lot of borrowing from Fantasy. When the Orcs were ported over, the Goblins were too and in the 1st edition of Warhammer 40,000, these were the Gretchin. Back then, these small pointy-nosed space goblins weren’t entirely the subservient grots that we know today. Indeed, these guys could outsmart the larger Orks and even had their own empires and fleets separate to the larger clans. And in 1991, they got their first batch of models with some 20+ lead Gretchin appearing that still bare a great resemblance to those available today.
Arguably their greatest moment was the inclusion of 40 plastic Gretchin in the 2nd Edition Starter Box, though they suffered from all sharing the same pose and they didn’t have any of the humour of their metal counterparts. But since this point, they have been a real ever present part of the Ork Army. In 1996 the metal range was bolstered further with another 20+ models either carrying autopistols and swords or autoguns, and these restored some of the comic-relief which the original models had offered, while staying more in line with the grimdark. But by this point they had become the lackies of their muscle-bound cousins, and their cunning was no longer enough.
Grots as we know them today probably first cropped up in Gorkamorka. 1997’s release saw them become more rebellious and cheeky (especially when led by the infamous Red Gobbo) as they formed rebel gangs on the scorched planet and this takes us to today.
After a finecast release with a Runtherd just a few years ago, they now crop up in Ork kits in the same way that Nurglings crop up in Nurgle kits. Often hefting spanners, bizarre little knives and shootas, or doing something comical that is bound to get them stepped on by a Mek, they provide a softer edge that the Orks need. Without them the greenskins would just be scary and stupid. The grots provide a giggle here and there, often being the diminutive fall guy, almost a Mutley-like character, whether they’re hanging off the back of a dakka jet or getting sucked into Shokk Attack Gun.
Let’s Get Fluffy
All Ork clans produce grots. In fact, there are more grots than Orks. They are small, weak and cunning to a degree but their greatest strength is numbers. There are lots of them and together, when under the orders of a runtherd or mekboy, they can accomplish some great things (though they rarely get the credit).
As mentioned above, they used to have their own empires but this idea has been, for the most part, squashed (though there’s nothing to say you can’t have a bizarre ork society that doesn’t have a gene for creating bigger Orks). Forgeworld have given them a couple of nice bonuses though and you can now field grot tanks, forged from the scrap that the meks deem surplus to requirements. There isn’t a great deal more to their fluff anymore. The only named grot I can think of, Makari, has long since dropped Ghazghkull Thraka’s battle standard, so that’s about it for fluff. Oh, and there’s the Red Gobbo but he’s still stuck on Gorkamorka.
Time To Talk Tactics
What tactics? They’re Gretchin! 😉 You get a great big mob of them (at least 10), hide them until they can claim an objective and then that’s it. They die pretty fast so keep them in cover and only use them to score when it’s safe. The good thing is though is that they’re so cheap (even by Ork standards) and that means you can have a bucket load of them, though if you don’t want them to run away (seriously, if you don’t know what their leadership is, you’ll laugh when you see it) as soon as another unit looks at them, a runtherd is a good idea. And that is seriously about it. Oh, and make sure they go to ground every turn – they’ll need to in order to survive.
The only other things you can try is using them as a tar pit (but you have to make sure your enemy can’t scare them away or dish out too many attacks) or as a human shield (even though almost everything can see over them). Really, the best thing to do is get them to an objective and keep them hidden.
If Looks Could Kill…
I think the GW designers did a great job moving away from the ‘Goblins with Guns’ look that would have been so easy to plump for with grots. Even in the Rogue Trader era, they had more to them than that. They have the look of the trampled upon masses, which is fitting because that is literally what they are. Scraps of clothing, pieced together weapons and tools and rags denoting that they do the jobs that Orks won’t do (probably because they’re too busy smashin’ stuff).
I don’t know if you could ever go so far as to say that grots are cute, but for something with squinty eyes, a big pointy nose, green skin and fangs, they do have a certain charm. Their comedic nature is part of this and some of the facial expressions that GW’s designers have given them are priceless. Ranging from ‘nonplussed’ to ‘worst attempt at scary ever’, they have some great looks.
Ah, The Memories…
You know, I think it was Gretchin that gave me my hatred of painting large squads of models. When I first got the 2nd Edition box all those years ago, I used to love painting the Orks and Space Marines. Alright, there wasn’t a lot of variation in those guys but at least you could change a few arm positions and you’d get a different type of gun every now and again. But those grots, all 40 of them, put me off for life. So many autoguns…
That being said, I probably didn’t paint them all anyway. I was a kid who got very easily distracted and I think I remember actually smashing one of those Gretchin up in anger. That was a shameful moment, so it’s only right to pay homage to the long-suffering Gretchin here.
Do not pity the grot, but show it respect, for though it is small, and weak, and a bit of a pussy when it comes to actual fighting, it has a quiet, ugly nobility to it. It has been with us from the beginning and has made us laugh more often than cry. For those reasons, it deserves a little respect.
Are you a big fan of grots? Or do you plain hate them? What did you think of the post? Stick your comments below!