Orc Army Diary – Part 1

Orcs it is then! Just have to decide on which models. Actually, I decided some time ago, but I’ll walk you through the thinking as it may be of interest. At least, I’ll ramble about orcs for a bit 🙂

One of the first armies I had was orcs. At that point I’d collected a miscellany of models for managing combats in D&D, Runequest and the like. There were quite a few of them, but they weren’t a coherent force. Not by some distance. When I started playing Reaper and then 1st edition Warhammer I needed something a bit more organised. Unfortunately, whilst I could find plenty of people who were happy to play the games occasionally, none of them were willing to invest in a whole army. So, undaunted, I collected two: one Dwarfs and the other Orcs.

All but a tiny handful of these models are long since gone and so I am starting with a clean slate. This is probably for the best.

Orcs_-_Two_TowersWhere Do Little Orcs Come From?

Orcs in the modern fantasy sense are based on Tolkien’s interpretation, taking an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “demon” or “ogre” (or probably more accurately, “monster” in a broad and unspecified sense) and giving them a specific and defined form. In effect, this moved orcs from the dark and shadowy corners where they had long lurked, and out into the light where one could see what they looked like. This is essential for making models of them though is at the expense of some of their scariness. It also had the result of having to define something that had previously gained some of its fearful reputation by being unknown. There has been some difference of opinion on exactly what form they should take.

In terms of models, orcs generally fall into two broad camps. The first are what I think of as simply ugly humans. They might have fangs, scars and odd weapons, but essentially they are human in anatomy. More recently, this is the sort of thing you saw in the LOTR films and, therefore, the GW ranges that followed. This is nothing new though.

When I first saw orcs it was this sort of anatomy I was greeted by. These were Grenadier models sculpted by the very talented Tom Meier. Beautifully rendered models, though not really to my taste. I did have loads of Nick Lund’s Chronicle orcs which were not as finely sculpted, but had lots of character (and a vast range to choose from). Still basically ugly humans though.

Many other ranges have followed in this general vein. Whilst they may be stooped and grimacing and dressed in strange armours, they are still just ugly humans.

The second kind of orcs is the less human, more distorted (anatomically) and somewhat comical. This is epitomised by the greenskins of Kev “Goblinmaster” Adams who produced most of the classic range of orcs from Citadel. These vary in anatomy, ranging from frequently hugely overmuscled to occasionally spare and wiry, but almost always with long, gangly arms and huge heads with massive fang-lined jaws. Whether these creatures would work in terms of real world anatomy is somewhat debatable. That never seemed to reduce their popularity though, and they were a staple for Citadel and GW for many years.

Brian Nelson introduced a more carefully considered anatomy and a carefully rendered level of finer detail to the GW orcs a few years after Kev left. This has defined the classic GW orc to this day. However, they still retain the essential features laid down by Kev for GW: long, gangly arms, huge muscles and a massive head with prominent fangs.

Given its market dominance, it is hardly surprising that many smaller companies have produced orcs that are very much in GW’s style. Over the years people have produced some excellent individual pieces and these deserve to leaven the armies of the discerning Warhammer player. Others have cut their own paths with all manner of alternatives on offer. Have a look at this post which lists 41 different ranges of orcs.

Nothing Like Nostalgia

Having started with orcs, and having spent many years at GW playing with Studio orcs armies, I have a great deal of nostalgia for that range. However, it’s also linked very strongly with Warhammer, as it should be. Much as I like various generations of GW orcs I can’t bring myself to collect an army of them for something else.

The ugly human approach has never really appealed to me. The only times I had such an army was when no alternative had been invented. Even then the Chronicle orcs I chose had a tongue in cheek charm that they shared with Kev’s later, classic GW orcs.


Which leads me to the Foundry orcs. These were also sculpted by Kev, and so share a style as well as a humour which I find appealing. However, they have no association with Warhammer and are sufficiently different to have a style of their own. They are not po-faced, by any stretch, but even with their obvious humour you’d not want to meet one down a dark alley.

These are the orcs I’m going for. I’ve included a couple of photos of what they can look like en masse. For more nicely painted images take a look here.


Pretty much every orc army also includes smaller critters who fight alongside them: goblins. The history of goblin models is very similar to that of the orcs, with Kev and Brian repeating their respective roles for GW.

Kev also made a load of goblin models for Foundry, but although I like a few of them they are not all to my taste. I also have a more disparate notion of the smaller greenskins and so I’m not limiting myself to a single range. Instead I’ll be including models from a variety of manufacturers including GW, Foundry, Mantic and beyond. What I want to see on the battlefield is the same motley band of mis-matched renegades I can see in my imagination. I’m thinking that with a careful selection of models, some judicious conversion and a unifying paint scheme I can meld together the efforts of a variety of sculptors into an intriguing whole. We shall see.

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26 Responses to Orc Army Diary – Part 1

  1. redfox4242 says:

    Good luck with your Orc army project! I am sure you will create something spectacular.

  2. Sounds good, look forward to seeing some painted models on here. Not a huge fan of GW style orcs meself, perfer ‘ugly humans’ personally. That said those Foundry ones seem to be a bit nastier than GWs like you say, which is nice. Though I’m not sure I’m brave enough to take on a ‘horde’ style army these days.

    Oh, Merry Christmas and a Happy New year and all that Jazz

  3. I’ve a somewhat strange fondness for pig-faced monsters or humanoid pig creatures (lord knows why) so I could be interested in doing something skirmishy with those chaps. Similary I’m considering doing a dreadball team based around these pork-based chaps from Impact!
    That’s assuming I can think of some nice conversions of course.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Well that range of models is already most of the way there. I’m sure we’ll see all manner of fun variations on DreadBall teams over the next year. I’m looking forward to it 🙂

  4. I know Kev has been freelancing and doing lots of “classic” goblins for a variety of companies. Check out Hasslefree, among others: http://www.hfminis.co.uk/shop?category=miniatures~fantasy-orcs-%26-goblins

    (Their range also includes other sculptors, but they are nice too!)

  5. Ben says:

    There’s some very nice Orcs in the Foundry range. Been looking over them myself the past few days with an eye to putting together an army for GoB.

  6. wachinayn says:

    I’m glad you chose Kev. Adams miniatures. He’s my favourite sculptor. I think his work has tons of character.

    In fact, I was going to recommend more recent Kev. Adams ranges, but seeing that you’ve already checked Otherworld minis and the Kev Adams challenge blog, probably you already know them.

    Incidentally, I believe that Mantic goblins match very well in style with the Goblinmaster’s work. I should probably look up the name of the sculptor.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I have a feeling the Mantic gobbos were done by Bob Naismith, but I could be mistaken. He does a lot of work for Mantic.

      I was intending to include a scattering of the Mantic goblins in my army. I’ve got a couple of metal ones and will look at the plastics to see what conversion potential they have.

      • Ben says:

        He definitely did the Orcs for Mantic.

      • wachinayn says:

        I love the Mantic metal goblins, but I’m afraid I can’t recommend their plastic counterparts if you don’t want to cut corners. The casting is not very good in these. However, it should be easy for you to look at them for yourself. 😉

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I’ve not really looked terribly closely at the goblins, t be honest. I focussed on getting the right orcs first. I know that the goblins came out a bit soft, which was disappointing. Still, I’ve seen some nicely painted up that I think were the plastics, so maybe they aren’t as bad as all that. It’s not always easy to tell beforehand.

  7. tornquistd says:

    Nice choice of sculpts they contain an impressive amount of character.

    I am interested in your selection of metal over hard plastic or resin. My past experience outside of wargaming has been with plastic so I am more comfortable with it and have focused on hard plastic. You have a lot of experience and exposure to all the types it would be interesting to see your take on the negatives and positives with metal, hard plastic and resin.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      If I had the choice of the same sculpt in any material I would take hard plastic every time. This most important reason for this is converting. I won’t have duplicate models in my army, so when the range is smaller than I need I convert the extras. Hard plastics are the easiest to cut, reshape and to glue. That does, however, also make them the easiest to clean and assemble, so it’s win/win. It’s just a pity that they are so expensive to set up for the companies that make them.

      I haven’t worked much with resin. However, both resin and metal have similar disadvantages when compared to metal: they are harder to work with and more awkward to glue. In the end though, you can do the same modelling and converting with any of the materials on offer – it’s just faster with hard plastic.

      However, my intention here is to make the best army I can and not worry whether it takes a bit more money, time or effort to get there. I’m not going to cut corners*. This means that I need to look primarily at the end result, and in this context the Foundry orcs are the ones that have the most character and visual appeal for me as I explained above. So, even though they are metal, I’m happy to work with them. I have, as you suggest, worked with metal many times before.

      Also, unless I’m misremembering or they’ve changed recently, Foundry still use an old fashioned white metal rather than the pewter that’s become more fashionable. This, among other things, is slightly softer which means that my tools might not have to be replaced every other figure. Much nicer to work with 😉

      *well, except I am not going to try to paint every model to Golden Demon standard because that would be insane and the army would never get finished.

  8. Ben says:

    There’s some nice looking Goblins just popped up on Kickstarter from Red Box Games. Not due to ship till September though.

  9. mattadlard says:

    Puppets do ome great character heads http://puppetswar.com/category.php?id_category=57
    and make for some great conversion pieces, to add character, which does come back to Jakes pont on original figures concept which has its appeal.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Fun stuff there. It doesn’t fit my vision of this army though. If I was doing an orc mob for Necromunda or something like that I would certainly consider it. Or a sort of fantasy wild west…

  10. mattadlard says:

    Thanks for the wild west comment, its given one an interestng idea…

  11. Jacob says:

    Hey where do I go about placing an order for orcs like these I’ve seen similar ones around but haven’t been able to find a site with this style or figure out how to contact Kevin Adams directly if that’s how it’s done, big fan!

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