If you're like me, (and who isn't?) you've said "I want a LOT of orcs, but I don't want to spend a lot of money."
"Impossible" said my friends, "Model orcs cost over £30 a piece!"
Sadly it was true, even plastic orcs were priced out of MY reach.
Even worse, they were 40mm tall, and just too dam' cartoony for my taste. (You may feel differently. You'd be wrong, of course)
So I shelved my project, until eM-4 Miniatures offered the "Fantasy Warriors" Rules as a free download.
This reminded me of the ex-Grenadier plastic orcs and dwarves originally released with them, also available from eM-4.
So I picked up a pack of 50 eM-4 Orcs for £ 7.50 and 50 random shields for £ 1.00.
I chose "FP02 Orc with Spear" because I felt it had potential for conversion. And I was right.
Of course when I opened the package, I was not so sure...
While I waited for the figures to arrive, I made swords for my Orcs-to-be.
A) Start: Bend floral stem wire into a rough scimitar-shape. You could use brass wire instead, but piano wire is not suitable. (It is tempered, and will not flatten easily)
B) The Blade: Flatten the blade area on an anvil. You don't need to be too neat, as these are crudely-made Orc weapons. If making weapons for more civilized types, more care will make better-looking blades.
C) Quillons: Fold some fine copper or fuse wire over and twist it, trapping the blade in the middle. Coat with super glue. If you want, you can curve the twisted wire before you coat it.
D) Trim: Trim the quillons to length, and cut a tip onto the blade, filing it smooth.
N.B.: This same technique can be used to make straight swords and (with a longer handle) spears and other polearms. They look less 'clunky' than the weapons supplied with many figures, and are harder to bend or break.
When the figures arrived, I was aghast.
At first they don't look like much. The plastic is a dull grey colour, and there is a line of flash across their shoulders and heads.
The colour & semi-gloss finish are perfectly designed to hide all detail.
To be frank, they looked like crap.
But I persevered, and cleaned a few. With my glasses on, they looked more promising.
The figures are ABS, which works a bit differently than styrene, but still files, sands, & drills well.
You will need "Super" glue (alphacyanoacrylate) to assemble them, as model cement will not adhere.
I first removed all mould lines, being careful to avoid damaging the ears when cleaning the head & shoulders.
All spears were removed with nail clippers: The hands were cleaned up with a needle file and drilled to accept their swords.
There is a locating lug on the back for a shield, and I removed that as well.
I carefully cut through each arm just below the shoulder joint.
This left the left shoulder as a ball joint, and the right as a short sleeve. (You also have to clean up where the left hand rested on the hip, and file a new edge to the dagger scabbard)
With a touch of a file, you can alter the position & angle where the arm is attached, and by simply rotating the arm, you have almost unlimited variation.
I started moving arms and attaching shields & swords, and soon found the unit starting to look pretty interesting. The joints generally are clean enough that there is no gap, and no filling needed.
Without changing the attachment point, simply rotating the arms dramatically alters the position and look of the miniature.
Moving the attachment point upward or forward will alter the pose even more.
Combining the two techniques allows you to have each figure different with little effort.
It was only when I primed the figures that I realized how much I really liked these figures.
The faces have detail and character, and repay careful painting.
I took the cheesy way out, and painted them with green skins: Hardly Tolkein-esque, but grey was too dull, and brown just looked wrong.
Eyes were yellow, save for the Hero, who got berserk red eyes.
I painted the clothes in various shades, and used a black magic wash overall.
I had originally intended to use thumbtacks as shields, but decided that they might make the figures too top-heavy. The advantage would have been that they would be large and blank, and I could blazon the shields.
But I was too lame to think of a blazon that wasn't also lame, so I was better off with the plastic shields after all. I painted them red.
All in all, I am very pleased: the figures look great, and were a lot of fun to build and paint. They are unique, and attract a lot of interest whenever I bring them out.
Best of all, three 16-man units only cost me £8.50.
Originally I was just looking for cheap orcs. I wound up with fun, good-looking, cheap orcs. I will be getting more, and I suggest you do so as well!