• thanks to my son, we've been devouring a ton of Tolkien related material.  How has the group found the goblins as proxies for 'regular' orcs in table top gaming?

  • In Tolkien (the books) goblins and orcs are the same thing and we felt this was about right for the look. Of course, the movies and D&D and everyone since have decided that since he used two names they are two things with goblins smaller than orcs so we will probably do a larger Orc set at some point with a similar vibe but bigger.


  • About half the heads are quite "LotR orc" like and if using regular historical stuff they scale well - they will look tiny next to gw warhammer/sigmar orcs but kitbash fine along side oathmark goblins or warlord orcs.

    Work pretty well with gw LotR orcs & goblins 

  • My thoughts echo those of @David Musgrave

    I find WA Goblins to be excellent for Tolkienesque gaming.

  • @David Musgrave that's going to be, I think, the primary use of them.  They are different, especially compared to the GW orcs based off the Peter Jackson trilogy, but I think they'll be fine for orcs (with the understanding that Tolkien used the words interchangeably) :)


    PS: Wargames Atlantic, can we have 'High Orcs', possible with hand iconography? ;)

  • I think the Wargames Atlantic goblins make fine Tolkien orcs/goblins, as do Northstar's goblins:  only a little shorter than humans (due to their poor posture), and a roughly human physique (compared to the spindly Reaper and other D&D style goblins, the runty and cartoonish Warhammer style goblins, and the hulking, muscular Warhammer/Warcraft style orcs.) 

    Both Wargames Atlantic and Northstar also steer refreshingly clear of the "noble savage"/"proud warrior race' tropes that most modern orcs tend to fall under, and the "annoying, shrill little guy" cliche that modern goblins tend to fall under, opting for more of a traditional fantasy take on the subject that wouldn't have looked out of place in older fantasy literature or RPG books from the '70s or early '80s, before the modern orcs and goblins were set in stone.


    As for Tolkien vs. D&D, if I remember correctly, Tolkien did mostly use orcs and goblins interchangeably, though I think he also used "orc" somtimes to refer a little more specifically to goblins bred for war, rather than left to their own devices, and also used the term "goblin-men" to describe the very distinctly meddled-with Uruk-Hai and some othes to describe what D&D would refer to as "half-orcs":  these seemed to have had some human ancestry to them, and seem to have thought of themselves as an improvement over both goblins and men, as I recall (I don't remember how much of my memory has become clouded by the Peter Jackson movies since the last time I read the books!)  The niche of Tolkien's goblin-men as I remember them seems to be split in D&D between half-orcs (in terms of the idea of orcs bred with men), and hobgoblins (in terms of an elite breed of goblins.)

    With that in mind, in modern D&D terms, I suppose that both Wargames Atlantic and Northstar goblins would probably nicely fit the niche of hobgoblins, which are generally portrayed as taller, smarter, more militaristic goblins, and distinctly different from the even bigger, stronger, more feral and wild orcs.

    In the end, I think I prefer the nice, retro take on the subject that Wargames Atlantic and Northstar use, and would homebrew my fantasy settings these days into something where these represent Tolkien-style goblins and orcs alike, without making any special distinctions between goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, drow, derros, morlocks, Lovecraftian ghouls, unseelie faeries, and so on.   All of these are terrifying "little people" who hide deep underground by day, and creep out by night to make mischief on the world of men and snatch away unwary victims to drag down to some unspeakable fate in the darkness below, and these figures work perfectly for the more militaristic portrayal of such creatures as conscripts into some Dark Lord Sauron wannabe's army!

    (Naturally, though, it's a your-mileage-may-vary kind of thing, especially where various wargmes are concerned.  These figures proably won't fit so well into formal game of Warhammer, I'm sure!)


  • I am going to use the WA goblins as orcs for my Armies of Middle-Earth project (using Swordpoint rules). Absolutely love their style

  • If it helps, I think Games Workshop has some (perhaps expensive, as GW products tend to be) licensed plastic Lord of the Rings miniatures in the general Peter Jackson style.  These do look fantastic, but, if you're like me, and have a bit more fun finding more affordable, unlicensed stuff that works just as well (if not better), then here are some possibilities for other LotR style minis:

    Rank-and-file dwarf and elf fighters:  If you haven't seen Northstar Oathmark figures yet, you might want to give them a quick look:  I think their dwarf and elf light infantry make some great old-fashioned Tolkien-influenced dwarves and elves.  (They have some heavy infantry figures as well, but those feel a bit more Warhammer/Warcraft to me, which might be a selling point depending on your style.)

    Rank-and-file Goblins and Wargs:  Wargames Atlantics goblins are excellent, and I think Northstar's goblin infantry and wolf-riding cavalry look pretty good in an old-school Tolkien style too - they look a bit different from Wargames Atlantic's goblins, but might work for a more formal, militarized breed of orcs.

    Rank-and-file human warriors:  I think it's tough to beat Wargames Atlantic's versatile Dark Age Irish, the upcoming Dark Age Goths, and Late Romans for a starting place:  these make splendid Middle Earth humans. Your mileage may vary, but I think most Dark Ages human warriors by various companies tend to look very Tolkienien, with only some historical kits outside that range fitting well with Middle Earth.  You might also get some mileage with Northstar's Oathmark human infantry, but these seem a bit bland and static for my taste.

    Sauron's human warriors:  Wargames Atlantic's Afghans and Persians might make some splendid Easterlings - the human armies summoned in from the far-eastern corners of Middle Earth to lead the Orcs in war and conquest, and I've just be reminded that Victrix makes some great war elephants/olifaunts that ought to be perfect for that sort of project. 

    Halflings, wizards, and other characters:  Wargames Atlantic's halfling militia are about the closest thing going out there to Tolkien-style hobbits in plastic, but they seem to me just a little too close to a formal army than it seems proper Shire hobbits might form up into, and Mantic's equivalent are in a similar boat - again, YMMV. I've seen some nice (GW, I think) metal halfling militia that look more like Shire farmers gathered into ad-hoc mobs - wish there were a plastic set like those!

    Northstar's Frostgrave hard plastic kits for wizards, knights, soldiers, crewmen, barbarians, and tribals are a great source of miscellaneous adventuring gear and figures, and can be used for sources of bits for customizing humans, elves, wizards, and more or less human-sized orcs/goblins pretty easily, and can be used to customize dwarves and hobbits with varying amounts of modeling work to make them look right (since weapon-holding arms tend to be shorter than typical human arms!)

    Alternatively, the plastic unpainted and pre-painted adventuring and NPC characters made for Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder RPGs by Wizkids and other companies aren't bad, but many are usually in more of a post-modern, flamboyant fantasy style that might look a bit jarring in in the relatively gritty Middle Earth setting, depending on your taste. That could be a selling point for some users, but there are some relatively traditional Reaper sculpts that might fit well in the setting. For example, I think Reaper's Bobby Jackson has been sculpting some very nice adventuring halfling "burglar" types in their Bones plastic line - these guys are really in the right spirit for Bilbo or Frodo and his friends.  Reaper's selection of Bones plastic human, elven, dwarven, and halfling adventurers and bearded, pointed-hatted wizards, is admittedly impossible to beat.

    Miscellaneous fantasy races, undead, and monsters by Reaper:  Reaper's Bones plastic "Black Bear Tribe Cavemen" would make excellent Wood Wose wild-men (these play a minor role in the books, but don't appear in the movies at all, to my knowledge), and their plastic "Rune Wights" and "Dreadmere Wight" make fine Wights.  (Reapers "Dread Wraiths" and mounted "Dread Wraith Knights" would make excellent Ring-Wraiths, if you can find them - these were funded in the last couple Bones Kickstarters, but don't seem to have appeared in Reaper's online store yet - you might find a good deal on these in online auctions and the like.)  It's hard to beat Reaper's dragons, too, and Reaper makes some giant demons/devils that would make fine balrogs.  Reaper has a great selection of Bones Lovecraft monsters, for a source of the sort of foul tentacled guardian beast that attacked the Fellowship as they tried to break into Moria.

    Ent tree-herders, giant spiders:  Mantic's Kings-of-War "Forest Shambler Regiment" seem a bit pricey to me, but might be the only source of plastic Ents that I know of.  Wargames Atlantic's giant spiders are a great source of Tolkienien spiders, but their legs are bit fiddly to assemble - bring some patience to the table for this kit, once assembled, these are beautiful spider models! Reaper Bones spiders are available for those with less patience, but can look a bit chunky in a toy spider kind of way.

    Trolls, ogres, giants:  It looks like Wargames Atlantic's upcoming Classic Fantasy trolls would be the perfect Tolkien-style trolls, but they don't seem likely to be ready until later this year.  Fortunately, these are popular fantasy gaming standbys and pretty widely available in plastic today:  Reaper makes some great, inexpensive Bones plastic trolls and giants in the mean time, and other companies like Games Workshop and Mantic almost certainly have some plastic trolls and/or ogres kits of their own that would work well enough.


    Sounds like a fun way to spend time with family - post some pictures of your goblins or other minis if you can, and let us know if you find any other minis that work well for you!  :)

  • For taller Orcs with a Tolkienesque vibe you can consider the old Wargames Factory sculpted Orcs now being sold by Warlord Games for Warlords of Erewhon. 

  • @Hudson Adams

    Personally, given how you've been doing fantasy thus far unless you already have renders, I think you should just do Orcs as a head swap sprue for your historical kits with various hats and helmets groups that would fit with each main historical era (fantasy shakos and Tricorns, dark age and Ancient style helmets, Arabian/Turkic style desert head raps, fantasy take on ww1/2 German helmets, bare heads, Landskenict hats, etc.), that way folks can make orcs that are scrappy, feral, Tolkienisc, mercenary or civilized for several different fantasy settings right away.

    The only reason I can see to do otherwise is if your already planning on doing something like the lizardmen weapon wise and have a slightly different body shape in mind from typical humanoids for the orcs (not GW, but maybe something taller then normal).

  • @Yronimos Whateley

    To me the best looking classic Tolkien style good human soldiers in plastic are probably the Normans by Conquest games and they probably look great next/opposed to WA's Goblins (know they do with  Oathmark's gobs and Warlord/WGF's orcs). I bet the Warring States Chinese would make awesome Easterlings with a good headswap, though the Persians work too as do Warlord’s Samurai.

    As to whether Tolkien ever made a distinction between orcs and goblins, I believe that is actually a heavily debated topic among Tolkien fans (one of many), and frankly it is not really important since I am pretty sure orc originally just meant goblin in German or some other language that had a heavy influence on English.


  • Agreed, Brian:  that might be the best idea, a sprue of orc heads!

    Dark Ages figures of all sorts are a good match for orcs, I think - the Irish and Goths look like great bases for more primitive orcs, the late Romans would make a fine base for more militaristic orcs, the Afghans or Persions would make fascinating bases for orcs, hobgoblins, goblin-men, or half-orcs!

    I'd hope for a sprue with a wide variety of different monster/alien heads in different headgear, which could be used for multiple factions or in multiple sci-fi and fantasy styles/subgenres. I love the idea of having orc heads in shakos and tricorns to add to Napoleonic or 18th century armies, as well as fantasy helmets, and sci-fi or modern helmets (pickelhaubes, for example), too.  Combine with Death Fields accessory weapons to instantly convert your modern, sci-fi, or fantasy figures into alien Death Fields factions!  Or maybe they're post-apocalyptic mutants, or aliens....  Combined with elaborate historical European uniforms and some fancy pole-arms, I think they'd come across like those orc-by-any-other-name winkie soldiers in the witch's army from the classic Wizard of Oz movie, and that's a good thing (those guys were one of my earliest exposures to a fantasy army, and it left an impression on me for over 40 years!)

    I see regular wishes for "pig-faced" orcs from gamers who remember old '80s fantasy, like this illustration from an old D&D edition, and the DFC toys that rip the illustratoin off: 

    Close approximations to these old-school fantasy orcs could be kitbashed from a mix of WA's existing goblin heads - or better still from hypothetical pig-faced orc  heads from a head sprue - on bodies from (say) Dark Age Goths or Egyptian infantry, along with those distintive Egyptian shields.  Generic spears and swords could be supplied from any historical set - Dark Age Irish or Goths or Egyptian khopesh swords would simplify the build, since those kits would be parts from kits I'd working with in such a project anyway.  The fantasy/ancient weapons are the easy part since army kits from Wargames Atlantic and other manufacturers include so many great spares to choose from!

    Wolfish-heads for wolf-man armies on the same sprue:  all the better to march with an undead or beast-man army with - a lot of great old horror and sci-fi was achieved with human actors wearing elaborate bestial masks or makeup!

    An "orc" head sprue could also supply alien heads that could be mixed onto historical, fantasy, or sci-fi bodies, with Death Fields accessory weapons, to make retro sci-fi aliens - "space orcs" is basically the aesthetic that Star Trek's Klingons run on, along with their counsins in other sci-fi shows like Babylon 5 (like the Drazi or Centauri), Lost in Space, and so on:


    So yes - an "orc-head" or "alien head" sprue with as big a variety of alien/orc heads in different styles and hats as you can fit on the sprues!  I for one would buy multiple sprues of this sort, and I bet other sci-fi and fantasy gamers would, too  :)

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