Monday, May 29, 2023

State of the Orc Army - Memorial Day 2023

 Afternoon all, today is a federal holiday in the United States and so I had the day off work. Having gotten quite a bit of work done on my Oldhammer Orc project this month, I decided to unpack everything and get it on the table - see what I've done since the last review, and get a sense of what I want to add. Not to toot my own horn too hard here, but I'm honestly impressed to see what I've done so far:

All total, that's 115 Orcs, 47 Goblins, 15 Hobgoblins, 4 Trolls, 5 "Hobhounds," 5 Boars and 6 Wolves. A unit-by-unit breakdown (mostly) follows:

A unit of Goblin Wolf Riders with bows, joined by a Goblin Big Boss. A second unit of these is in my project box, waiting to be assembled and painted.

Harboth's Orc Archers, a classic regiment from 1987. I still need to do shields for them, and I have a large number of these in my closet that I could strip 30-year old enamel paints off and paint up if I so desired. Behind them is a Doom Diver catapult, ready to fling goblins across the battlefield. 

Da Red Bastids tribe, with a unit of Bog Trolls behind them. Da Bastids are done, I have four unpainted trolls in my project box awaiting painting.

The Black Fire Boyz, a unit of orcs that have begun wearing stolen Averland uniforms and imitating pike and shotte tactics. This unit is complete - I don't want to paint more puff and slash.

The first regiment painted back in 2019, these Black Orcs will be expanded out to 15 and given new shields. Behind them is Mighty Epigruel's Slop 'n' Go Chuck Wagon. I wish baggage trains had persisted in WHFB past 3rd edition. 

The Kingbreakers, my second block of 25 orcs. 

Some characters - a classic Orc Boar Boy, an Orc Commander from Knightmare Miniatures, an Orc Shaman and an early 2000s Games Workshop Savage Orc Shaman. Behind them are a block of Goblin Archers. The orc shaman's staff has a crack on the shaft, and I'm concerned it's going to snap off right above his hand. I've tried wicking some superglue into the crack to bond it, but if that proves to not be enough I'll replace it with a skull just above his hand - turning the staff into a shorter walking stick. 

A unit of Knightmare Miniatures' goblins up front, and behind them an Orc chariot converted from a Foundry Beastman chariot, and in the back "The Old Guard," my Orc Big'uns regiment (joined by the Battle Standard Bearer). I have enough goblins, from a couple manufacturers, rattling around in a box to where I could bulk this unit out to 40, maybe even almost 50 if I really wanted to, but it's not the highest priority.

The Old Guard are all sculpts first released between 1985 and 1996, mostly Citadel, but there are a few Heartbreaker figures in there as well. I've got 19 figures painted, and it will be bulked up to a 36-figure block. I've got more Citadel and Heartbreaker, as well as some Marauder and Alternative Armies figures in the project box waiting to be cleaned, based and painted; I think I still need to buy just 3 more figures to complete the unit. 

My Hobgoblin Mercenary Contingent, not fieldable in any edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles more recent than 3rd. I've got a dozen Mourngul Renegades, along with a Shaman and a Contingent Commander riding a Temple Dog (represented by a Reaper Krung Beast). In front, a Hobgoblin Beastmaster drives a herd of Hobhounds (represented by Knightmare Gnashers) before him. 

A better look at the Baggage Train. Part of me wants to add a couple more wagons (a torturer's cart and maybe a mobile shrine to Gork and/or Mork), but again, not a very high priority. 

So what's left to add?

There's a couple additional units I want to add:

  • 10 Orc Boar Riders. I collected these and made a few conversions (a standard bearer, musician, and a couple of weapon swaps), and they've been sitting primed and ready to go waiting for me to get a storage case to put them in afterwards. I've got the case now so these might be next on the table.
  • Another unit of five Goblin Wolf Riders, plus a Boss. I have these in the project box, I just need to get a Boss figure.
  • 15 Savage Orcs, to be fielded with the Savage Orc Shaman seen above attached. I've got 13 of the Mark Bedford-sculpted Savage Orcs from 2000, a few of which need some stripping, including a full command. Just need to collect two more. 
  • A Rock Lobber - this will be proxied with a Foundry/Warmonger "Mercenary Great Orc" carrying a gigantic medieval firearm (the "Orquebus"), surrounded by a crew of goblins ready to clean and reload between shots. This is already in my project box, though I might still add a Warmonger "Orcling" holding a telescope as a spotter. 
  • Mangler Squig. I don't know if I'll ever play 8th edition WHFB, which introduced this unit, but I have the Knightmare "Giant Gnasher" and I'm looking forward to making a diorama base for it. 

And a couple units that need expansion:

  • Another 5 Black Orcs painted, plus shields. I've got two in my project box, I just need to pick up three more. Shields will be the kite-shaped face shields from Foundry/Warmonger. 
  • At least two more Trolls painted.
  • 17 more Orcs for the Old Guard. I think I've got 14 in my project box, so I'll need to source three more.

 This project has given me a lot of joy since I started it in 2019, and also a lot to think about. One thing I've noticed in social media spaces devoted to miniature painting and wargaming, as well as in the language used to market products to us, is an emphasis on "spend less time painting" and "get [y]our army on the table faster." Faster, faster, faster - always faster! Does 21st century life not move fast enough already?

I've absolutely and categorically rejected this messaging. Being thoughtful and methodical in every aspect of this project has been the key to my enjoyment. Browsing manufacturers' websites, supporting small businesses, and taking the time to base coat, wash, highlight every figure...I have an army that is entirely my own, painted in my own style. I've gotten faster at it through dint of practice, rather than using tools and techniques designed to speed up the process. 

Something I've seen a lot of among people playing the latest edition of Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar is buying an army, speed painting it, playing with it for a season, then selling it to pay for next year's army. And that's just not for me; in ten years' time I expect to still be admiring this army in a lit display case in my home. It's been an investment in my own happiness and honestly, my health (I had my annual physical last week, and I attribute my improved blood pressure to spending less time on social media and more time painting orcs), and I'm far richer for having taken the route I did with them.


  1. WOW! very impressive, i love the Black Fire Boyz, the idea of wearing stolen armor, haha. and i must say a daring move of collecting orcs from different companies. i would be too concern of figures not being scaled with others. great job!!

    1. Thank you! The nice thing with orcs is I don't have to worry too much about scale - Harboth's Orc Archers from 1987 are just slightly bigger than some of my more recent goblins, and it all works out. Some of them have just eaten better/more than others. It also helps that about three quarters of the army was sculpted by Kev Adams - even across different companies and different decades there's some degree of continuity there.