Friday, December 02, 2022

The Orcs of Asgard

I've talked about Asgard Miniatures a few times in the past. They used to run great full page ads in Dragon back in the day. I'm fond of several of their 25mm adventurers, particularly the Looter, their half-elf, and their magic-user. The latter is actually wearing a backpack and has some coiled rope. Not enough dungeoneering minis are properly equipped like that.

Today I want to talk about their amazing line of orcs, sculpted by Jes Goodwin. He went on to do big things with Citadel and Games Workshop, but his vision of orcs do not align with Warhammer big green goons half-inspired by the Incredible Hulk. Check these dudes out:

Many of the figures of the line are hunched over. Between that and their long, disproportionate limbs, you get a real inhuman vibe off of them. Yet their faces are at least as expressive as any human mini of the era. These orcs are uncanny not-quite-men. 


Some of Goodwin's orcs are bent so far forward so as almost to be prone. Tolkien's idea of orcs as degraded elves almost radiates from these poses. Yet they also possess a weird suppleness. It's almost sensuous, like the serpent in Eden.

These pictures are from thevikingforge.net, which seems to be selling the Asgard fantasy line at 1980's prices. Of course, the website design looks like state-of-the-art 1992, so it may just be hopelessly out of date.

Here's a pic of some painted Asgard orcs I found just googling for additional photos:

With those poses I can readily imagine the lot of them lurching forward like Gollum or the feral boy in the Road Warrior flicks. Also, I love the choice to use human skin tones here! I've often fantasized that--if I ever got into Warhammer Fantasy--I'd paint up an ork army in Caucasian skin tones just to troll my opponents.

12 comments:

  1. Shannon Ferguson10:04 AM

    Thank you for the blast from the past!

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  2. I've wanted to do the same thing re: painting a European Orc army for a while! actually wanted to do the same thing with goblins too but then suddenly it starts to feel a little antisemitic 👀

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    1. Yeah... that's a good call.

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    2. What about the flip side? Field a human army painted green and call them orcs?

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    3. Isn't that exactly what Gygax and co. did for Chainmail? Well, perhaps not green, but some non-human shade: I think they used 1:72 Roman soldiers as orcs alongside 25mm humans (thus achieving a Tolkienesque smaller stature for orcs - even the big ones). If I recall correctly, the Chainmail rules have a section on that sort of thing - 1:32 figures as ogres, etc. And isn't the Monster Manual ogre illustration traceable to a 1:32 Native American painted up for Chainmail games?

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    4. Yeah, but painting, say, a bunch of Brettonians with green skin and plonking them down at a game store event is going to have a different aesthetic effect.

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    5. True! I have tried it with elves (http://hobgoblinry.blogspot.com/2018/11/an-elf.html). With Brettonians, you might get a sort of Gawain and the Green Knight effect - perhaps surprisingly congruent!

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  4. I've always thought it's the natural skin colour for the orcs. Personally, I'm against orc photosynthesis. Just doesn't feel reasonable to me.

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  5. I've never really warmed to the notion of orcs as muscular, green-skinned, pig-faced "noble savages." Making them a bit more humanish in appearance actually makes them more loathsome and monstrous, fitting avatars of humanity's worst qualities.

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  6. Given that their (admittedly dated) website mentions paypal ordering and that company was founded in 1998, it's safe to say that Viking Forge has updated more recently than 1992. AFAIK they're still taking orders, although I don't haunt the minis collectors sites the way I once did.

    Alternative Armies (whose site is far more active and are definitely in business in a large way) has been slowly bringing back some of the old Asgard figs as well, although the orcs haven't appeared as yet. You can see the fantasy figs they do have for sale at the link, and they've been adding more pretty regularly over the last few years.

    https://www.alternative-armies.com/collections/tabletop-games-and-asgard-fantasy?page=1

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  7. Yeah, the Asgard orcs are spectacularly good. Some of Jez Goodwin's Citadel hobgoblins, ogres and LotR figures work very well alongside them. I don't think there have ever been better figures for the Uruk-hai than the Asgard "soldier orcs", with their short, straight, broad-bladed swords and menacing appearance despite being (correctly!) shorter than humans in stature. I'm often struck by how much attention 70s and 80s miniature designers paid to their sources: there are Ral Partha and Asgard orcs that have the S-rune for Saruman on their helmets (like a two-stroke C or a sideways V)!

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