Generally left to their own devices, Snotlings do not fit into the traditional Orcs & Goblins hierarchy. Goblins torture them, like they do all things smaller and weaker than themselves, and Orcs will bully them into work for the same reason. In the latter scenario, Snotlings eagerly do as they are told with a full intent to please. Their lack of intelligence severely limits their helpfulness however, as an Orc demanding they bring him his favorite short stabba will receive everything but, and belonging to everyone else in his group. Many Orcs find their simplicity and willingness to cooperate endearing, luckily, naming them and keeping their favorites nearby. Foul-tempered Orcs and Squigs may still react with hostility and even hunger towards them.
While Snotlings don't build the elaborate (for greenskin) structures that Goblins do, and have never been seen smithing alongside Black Orcs, they do possess a sense of ingenuity. Even among Savage Orcs they will scavenge wood and metal, assembling devices commonly known as "Pump Wagons" which are a Snotling-powered Snotling delivery system resembling wooden bawkses, getting them into fights faster than their kin and doing much more damage to enemies than most greenskins will survive to do.
Oh boy, you thought Gretchins get no respect? Snotlings are figuratively (and sometimes literally) the icky paste at the bottom of the barrel of the Ork hierarchy. Viewed as nothing more than diminutive and immature Gretchins, these poor slobs get picked on and bullied by everyone within Ork society; even the wimpiest of Grots still have some sense of use.
To make things short, life for a Snotling is even worse than for a Grot. Their role in an Ork ecosystem is essentially to be caretakers of fungi and Squigs, and double as the primary food source for said squigs. While Gretchins form the overall 'middle-class' and second-class citizens, Snotlings are nothing more than dog food, pets even. And unlike their somewhat larger and more cunning cousins, Snotlings are as dumb as a brick, noted to behave more on animalistic instincts than raw independent intellect. These guys are the dudes that just have to be pitied.
Cannon fodder of a cannon fodder, that's it. Snotlings are so useless in a battlefield that even Grots consider them as cannon fodder. Since they're simpletons, they are often armed with very basic (we mean very basic) weaponry such as sticks, sharp glass or a wet sock. Obviously they would deal as much threat as a very angry kitten; fortunately though, they come in ludicrous numbers, resulting often in drowning their enemies in blood and bodies.
Sometimes an Ork with a Shokk-Attack Gun may use any unfortunate Snotlings as ammunition, since a Gretchin is actually smart enough to notice the danger while a Snotling is often too dumb to realize what is going on until it is too late. Often (if they are fortunate) the resulting Snotlings, after being transported through the Warp, lose what little sanity they have and start to attack anything like a rabid dog once they get kicked out of literal space hell; sometimes however they may just come out in ludicrous gibs or cease to exist all together.
Why it sucks to be a Snotling
- You're at the literal bottom of the food chain.
- You have almost no use at all.
- Of what little use you have is often ignored completely.
- You are dog food for a vast majority of cultivated Squigs.
- You cultivated the squig that ate you.
- Even Gretchins bully you.
- When you fall asleep in the fungus gardens, the next thing you realize once you wake up is that you are suddenly turned into a 'snotroom'.
- Yes even simple fungi are more likely to see you as food.
Why it still sucks to be a Snotling
- You're as dumb as a brick and won't notice anything until it is too late.
- You're nothing more than ammunition in the battlefield.
- You're considered the cannon fodder of the cannon fodders in the battlefield.
- Seriously, you are going up against Titans, tanks and supersoldiers with a stick and a piece of glass. Even Grots get to use knives and the occasional gun.
- You may get accidentally stepped/crushed on and nobody would even notice you, let alone care.
- You look like a Gretchin fetus.
- You will grow up to be the size of a house cat.
- The myriad variations of "Kick the Snotling" are among the more popular between WAAAGH! activities of your superiors.
- To say that Rippers (the lowest Tyranid creature) are the Tyranid equivalent of Snotlings is somewhat disingenuous, given that Rippers eat Snotlings.
Age of Sigmar
They exist in Age of Sigmar, likely under a new name. During the peace between Sigmar and Gorkamorka (the two-headed combined form of Gork and Mork, or maybe Mork and Gork) the Snotlings would have "helped" the other races construct Sigmarheim while adding Orcy touches.
On The Tabletop
Snotlings fulfill the useful Tarpit role using their 5 Wounds and low point cost, although in an army where theoretically anything can fill that function they stand out by being Immune to Psychology due to being a Swarm, and having them wiped out (which is quite likely as they have little to no survivability) does not panic your other troops.
They have a weak ranged attack involving exploding spores they can use that ignores Armor, although it is unlikely to do meaningful damage in most situations at only S2.
Pump Wagons are far more useful, showing up in many Netlists due to their high damage and ability to charge models without allowing a reaction move. They are fragile, but with target mitigation using enough Squigs you can easily force most opponents to pick their poison between the two.
Shokk attack gun ammo. That's it.
Age of Sigmar
Snotlings remain useful in the sense they are not a bad model to have, although in a game without points values where you can field as much of anything you want from any army their usefulness is questionable against simply using your dosh to throw at more big nasty models (assuming you play as a That Guy rather than playing for theme). They become slightly stronger if there are Orruks (Orcs) nearby them, and put out a lot of somewhat respectable Attacks.
Pump Wagons gain the ability to deal much more damage if you roll doubles.