Friday, 5 February 2016

Elections of US America Election: The Card Game : The Interview

Welcome to ZTV where tonight we've lined up an amazing pre-election interview.

In the hot-seat we have Tomas Rawlings, Design & Production Director  of Auroch Digital, responsible for, among other things, the digital versions of Chainsaw Warrior and forthcoming videogame of Dark Future. But he is here tonight to discuss the Elections of US America Election: The Card Game

In the interviewers chair we have Zhu Bajiee, thrice standing Anarcho Syndicalist Party candidate for East Cheam, internationally famous leader of the Peoples Popular Front of Oldhammer (on alternate Tuesdays), campaigner for creature-rights and acting spokesperson for the Bugbear Liberation Front.

Elections of US America Election: The Card Game

ZB: Ahem *cough* The Elections of US America Election: The Card game eh? So why choose the  2016 American Elections as  subject matter?  is this so-called  game not just another tool perpetuating the continuing hegemony of American cultural imperialism?

TR: We did a newsgame during the 2010 US elections but I knew there was much more I wanted to say and I've always loved both RPGs and board games with a 'political' element. Politics is so human and you see the whole range of noble virtues and skullduggery. Perfect for a game, in short and the political event that impacts us all, wherever we live, is the US elections.

ZB: Well, certainly the US Elections get more media attention than the East Cheam by-elections, but then we are a Nuclear Free Zone. Back to gaming, obviously Monopoly was designed as a teaching tool by the Right Wing Capitalist elites of America to  justify their anti-revolutionary and destructive ideology, oppress the working classes with inflated property prices and obscure the  fact that all the land being bought and sold had been stolen from the downtroden indigenous peoples. However, there has always been an insightful and decisive revolutionary, satirical streak in British gaming, from the anti-establishment expressions on the Lewis Chessmen radically satirising the class system,  to Games Workshops early Warhammer such as McDeath - I have to plug that or the Peoples Popular Front of Oldhammer will lynch me - and, erm, the crossword in Private Eye.

TR: Sorry... was that a question?

ZB: I, er...  erm... maybe? Ah! What gaming or satirical material inspired you to do gamethenews , in the general, and US America Election: The Card Game, in the specific, as it were ?

TR: This game draws a lot from the real US system - I mean have you seen how the Iowa caucus works? It fascinating that the basis for who has their hand on the nuclear button can come from a bunch of people in a room having an argument. And the candidates? Larger than life! I've also drawn inspirations from a lot of games though too; Lords of Scotland is great, the Game of Thrones Board Game has good political intrigue, Warrior Knights also did politics well and also games like Kingmaker. What you want is to give the players to tools to back-stab each other and then add Cthulhu...

ZB: Right on comrade! Highlighting the parallel between medieval-themed games and the neo-feudalism of right-wing late-capitalist worldview really brings to the fore how the 1% are plunging us into the new Dark Ages. 

TR: ...

ZB: Is the abstraction inherent in gamification of politics ultimately trivialising and obfuscating to the very real socio-economic problems inherent in the corrupt and debased system of late western so-called 'Democracy', which is nothing but a three ring circus run by corrupt capitalist-interests? Do you think playing games about serious issues just trivialise them?

TR: I don't think so at all. Games are systems and a great way to represent one system (the US political one) is via another system (a game). As soon as humans get together, politics is not far off, even if we don't see it. Look at how MMORPGs develop factions and factions mean both in-fighting and group-fighting. Humour is also a powerful way to both get someone interested and challenge how people see things.

ZB: Yeah, you don't need to tell me about infighting, just look at that lot over there, the  Pompous Po-faced Peoples Front of Oldhammer. Splitters! (Followed by sounds of Zhu being pelted with rotten vegetables). Ugh. Yes, anyway, moving swiftly on...

TR: By way of example did you know that research from the time showed that during the darkest days of WW2 one of the biggest boosts to civilian morale was a scene in a film starting the musician and comedian George Formby where he punches out Hitler!

 ZTV profile: George Formby. The original Kung Fury.

ZB: Nice one George! This is the first physical game from Auroch Digital. In face of global warming and impending ecological disaster how do you justify the wanton murder of trees and destruction of the environment for the entertainment of ironically bespectacled latte-sipping, iPad waving decadent western consumer-classes? Why go for a physical card game, rather than a digital one?

TR: I cut my teeth as a gamer and game designer on physical. I started with D&D and Car Wars and moved to 40K, Chainsaw Warrior, Dark Future and Call of Cthulhu. I still play physical games and am really happy to see they have been undergoing somewhat of a renascence of late.

We interrupt this broadcast for a message on behalf of the Elder Gods Party.

ZB: Yes indeed, physical games are certainly striking a blow against the technocratic capitalist-state surveillance system. Is it difficult, as a designer, to achieve mechanical game-balance, and not to bias the game towards your own inherent and latent political agenda? Especially when, obviously, anyone in their right (or left) mind will be voting for Cthulhu in any of the forthcoming elections, ever?

TR: Yes, you've got to down-play Cthulhu's stats somewhat - else the game would be "Draw Cthulhu, Win." But its comedy gameplay any way so that gives us the licence to have fun with it all! The game needs to be funny, yes, but above all it needs to be good. Always good.

Next up on ZTV: Cthulhu vs. Trump. Satire ...or Prophecy?

ZB: I notice you have appropriated freely available Creative Commons artwork in the game. How do you sleep at night whilst profiteering off the the hard work of the downtrodden proletariat artists who graciously donate their work to the commons, which was intended for the benefit of us all, and not just take the mickey out of politics? 

TR: We have and we've credited it as we should. Over the years I've done lots of Creative Commons projects, edited Wikipedia and other such things. It is part of the rich tapestry of art and culture and I'm glad it is so! Lovecraft's work being out of copyright, for example, means it enjoys a continual re-invention and that is a good thing, even if not all that is made is particularly good.

ZB: Well I'm sure your card game falls in the 'good' category. Hey. Hold on a minute, me and Kelvin were talking about kickstarting a satirical / political card game, whilst discussing Chainsaw Warrior II, you nicked our idea! Oi where's my 10% ?!?! No, no never mind Kelvin's important contribution, just gimmie the money!

TR: ... :-)

ZB: Oi Rawlings. Come back here! What about  a fiver for the blog interview then? Cover the train fare to Mornington Crescent? No... He's gone then. Oh well. I'll never get that hotel in Mayfair at this rate. Sigh. I suspect that concludes our interview. Cheers comrade!

Gamify your politics, politicise your gaming. by supporting the Kickstarter for the Carry On Minister: The East Cheam by-Elections: The Card Game  Elections of US America Election: The Card Game  

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Of Ancient Orcish Animosity

Two Orcs | Tim Kirk | 1975
Presently two orcs came into view. One was clad in ragged brown and was armed with a bow of horn; it was of a small breed, black-skinned, with wide and snuffling nostrils: evidently a tracker of some kind. The other was a big fighting-orc, like those of Shagrat’s company, bearing the token of the Eye. He also had a bow at his back and carried a short broad-headed spear. As usual they were quarrelling, and being of different breeds they used the Common Speech after their fashion.

J.R.R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King. 1955

Jon Peterson has unearthed what may be the first published fantasy wargame rules, by Leonard Patt in his "Rules for Middle Earth" (RfME) as published in The Courier the newsletter of the New England Wargamers Association devised way back in 1970.

Leonard Patt Rules for Middle Earth 1970
One thing stood out to me in reading Jons assessment of RfME focusing mainly on it's textual and conceptual influence on Gary Gygax and Jeff Perrens Chainmail - that this is also, very likely, the first instance of a rule for determining the effects of inter-goblinoid animosity, the bane of every Orc generals life, and a mainstay of fantasy tabletop gaming for 40 odd years.

Patt writes “Orcs were basically very obnoxious and disagreeable even to each other” and when they “approach within four inches of one another, 1 die is thrown to see how they react.” On a roll of 1, the orcs will fall on each other in a bloody mass of loathing and combat.

Chainmail 3rd Edtion

In Chainmail (1971-1975), which up until the discovery of RfME was long considered to be the first published fantasy wargames rules, Gygax and Perren have it that "if Orcs of different kinds approach within a charge move of each other, and they are not meleed by the enemy, they will attack each other unless a score of 4 or better is rolled on an  obedience die." Chainmail of course, is the daddy of Dungeons & Dragons - the game that would dominate fantasy gaming throughout the late 70s and early 80s, and in the AD&D Monster Manual (1977) had quarrelsome Orcs with a chance of fighting among themselves 75% of the time.

Middle Earth Wargames Rules  by SELWG  (1976) declares "all Orcs / Man-Orcs / Uruks will quarrel among themselves." Then gives a 1/6 chance of a quarrel breaking out. On the subsequent turn casualties are rolled for, with a 1/3 saving throw. Presence of a Nazgûl or an enemy unit mitigates the unruly behavior, and the Orcs just do as they're told. It's nice that Tolkiens language is echoed here in the use of the word quarrel, and it's also interesting that MEWR uses RfME's less likely 1/6 than Chainmails 1/2 chance.

Of the ancient fantasy wargaming tomes I have laying around, Tony Bath's Setting up a Wargames Campaign (1973) Mike & Sheila Gilberts Archworld (1977), don't have rules for goblin quarreling - these being somewhat less Tolkienesque settings, and neither do they appear in Richard Halliwell and Rick Priestly's Reaper (1981) nor John Treadaways esteemed Lidless Eye army lists (1984) for WRG 6th Ed, which make no mention of inter-goblinoid fighting, nor does WRG 4th Edition's "Suggested adaptions for Sword & Sorcery fanatics" (1973).

Warhammer 1st Edition | John Blanche | 1983
1st edition Warhammer (1983) also has no rules for misbehaving goblins. However, in he supplement Forces of Fantasy (1984)  this oversight is fixed with the introduction of the infamous inter-goblinoid animosity table. And whilst this applies to Goblins, not Orcs (although we must acknowledge the fluidity of the terms, creatures previously known as Red Orc are now termed Red Goblins, etc.) the basis and mainstay of Orcish psychology in the Warhammer game for the rest of  its shelf-life from 2nd-8th edition is lain down here. In FoF a basic 1/6 chance is given of Animosity taking over, then a second die-roll to determine the Orcs behaviors, from no discernible effect to charging friendly troops. The behavior roll has several situational modifiers, from the ability of any unit leaders that may be present, to the presence of the enemy.  The rules also suggest tracking animosity points, so that after a number of infractions, the regiments will hate each other and attack on sight - the rules as narrative generator, feeding grudges into battle.

As such Warhammer seems to follow the structure of MEWR - roll for the chance of animosity happening, then roll for the effect. Rather than RfME or Chainmails single roll then subsequent inevitable infighting. Somewhat predictably, 2nd Edition Warhammer then turns this on it's head, having a single die roll 1/6 followed by a leadership test to rally the troops. 3rd edition has a single roll modified by the ld score, and later editions  return to the mayhem of 1st edition.

War of the Ring  | Tim Kirk | FGU 1977

 To Pippin's surprise he found that much of the talk was intelligible many of the Orcs were using ordinary language. Apparently the members of two or three quite different tribes were present, and they could not understand one another's orc-speech. There was an angry debate concerning what they were to do now: which way they were to take and what should be done with the prisoners.
J.R.R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers 1955
Tolkiens Orcs, be they skirting the southern the edges of Fangorn forest, taking the Hobbits to Isengard, or running amok in the tower of Cirith Ungol are not simply fighting amongst themselves because they hate each other (which they do, no doubt) but arguing about who gets the spoils of war - the prize of Hobbit captives, alive or dead, or the Bagginses Mithril shirt. This  suggests a more Tolkienesque model of Orcish behavior would have them be narratively motivated - the attainment of some prize or objective by one unit of Orcs, triggering the attempt to steal or usurp that prize by others nearby, so they may hope to earn glory from their masters. Similarly the clash of Orcs at the Isenmouthe that allowed Frodo and Sam to slip away causes minor scuffles and confusion, caused by different groups of Orcs trying to follow orders to occupy the same space, rather than bloodshed.

Still, just rolling dice to have your own troops bash each other is a venerable conceit, emerging from the dawn of the fantasy wargaming hobby, and certainly adds to the colour.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

An Unnatural History of the Fighting Fantasy Orc

The first ever encounter in the first ever Fighting Fantasy adventure, is an encounter with an ORC...  he's slumped asleep in a chair with a rather funky hat and patchwork leather armour on, and one has the choice to sneak past him or not.

ORC GUARD (note the wrong-handedness, maybe he is an an early MUTANT ORC, but no Russ admits it was just a slip) proving that exotic headgear is the nme of the game if you mean business, if you want to get a head, get a hat!

Or just be one of those ORCS sitting around  a table. One of the wonderful things about Russ Nicholsons ORCS is how threadbare, downtrodden, grumpy and human they are. Their bulbous noses and pointy ears give them a fairytale and aged appearance that perfectly suits Russ complex ornate and grungy visual style.  Russ's drawing there reminds me of these two disheveled denizens of Oil Drum Lane.

You dirty old Orc!
Perhaps not an intentional reference, but Russ's ORCS, like Galton & Simpsons rag and bone men, are cruel, occasionally nasty but are anything but two dimensional monsters, they seem to have a tired, grubby existance outside of being the bad-guys.They're almost sympathetic characters, something that no other illustrator of FF would quite brings to the mix.

The next ORCS we meet are haunting FF3  The Forest of Doom (1983), Malcom Barters use of white space through Forest of doom is masterful, integrating elements into the page in an almost dreamlike manner, capturing the sunburst through the trees. His ORCs seem of a kind with the precedent set by Russ, gangly large headed goblin-men, dressed in rags with unsavory appetites.

Ian McCaig Deathtrap Dungeon FF7. Here the ORC becomes much more muscular than  Nicholsons and Barters skinny, gangly freaks. The viceral form of Ians drawing is really quite outstanding, there's no wonder he is one of the most sought after concept artists and illustrators. A violent, action Gladatorial figure,  wearing a wide "championship belt", ranking him up against boxers and wrestlers alike. It is the first, but by no means the last time we see the ORC topknot. In fact this haircut comes to be something of a signature device of the Fighting Fantasy ORC. It could be a Hindu Shika, a Manchu queue or perhaps displaying various Arabian influences. It does also remind me of the Elf warriors in Ralph Bakshis seminal 1977 fantasy animation Wizardsdesigned by the mighty pen of Mike Ploog although the creatures concerned are not identified as ORCs.

It may be significant that both Balthus Dire and the GARK as drawn by Russ Nicholson in FF3 The Citadel of Chaos also sport the same hair style, suggesting it's something of a cultural rather than racial motif in Allansia.

Thanks to Kelvin Green for notign that I'd originally missed this one...

Les Edwards original cover for 1984s FF#8 Caverns of the Snow Witch (incidentally, available as an art print from Les site) very much in line with what Ian McCaig had set out in Deathtrap Dungeon, with topknot, small pointy nose and athletic physique.This ORC however, is kitted out with piecemeal leather and studded armour, and some natty tiger-skin pants.  Similar to original Warlock of Firetop Mountain that has a different depiction of Zagor on the cover than the internal art, the internal depiction of the ORC doesn't quite follow the same vision...

The internal art by Gary Ward & Edward Crosby features Fighting Fantasy's first bald ORC. It should come as no surprise that Ward & Crosby are one (two) of my favourite Fighting Fantasy illustrators. Their line and pattern is like Russ Nicholson meets David Trampier, their drawings have a heavy, ornate, tangible quality that wouldn't be out of place in the AD&D Fiend Folio. They also did the drawings of Dave Morris Castle of Lost Souls solo adventure in White Dwarf, but as far as I know nothing else in the fantasy genre.

Ward & Crosby give their ORC a decidedly simian look, possibly following the work of Frank Frazetta in his Lord of the Rings portfolio 1975 but with further exaggerations - the low cranium, deep eye-sockets, sunken cheeks, no nose, extended maxilla (upper jaw) and tusks. As far as I know this is the first ever depiction of an ORC with this specific set of facial features, but it won't be the last. This look would go on to dominate the portrayal of ORCS in popular culture throughout the 80's and 90s, Citadel Miniatures mid 80s Orcs (sculpted by Kevin Adams) the Space Orks in the Waargh The Ork supplements for Warhammer 40k, and subsequently picked up by Blizzard in their Warcraft games.

FF14 - Temple of Terror (1985) - ORC ASSASSIN by Bill Houston. Much more humanoid proportions. It might just be that he is an ORC ASSASSIN, but he reminds me somewhat of Zarak the Evil Half-Orc Assassin from the 1983 AD&D plastic toy range, Half-Orcs are MAN-ORCs in Fighting Fantasy parlance.

Zarak via

HALF-ORCs? one may well ask half ORC and half-WHAT? whilst usually it means "half-human" in Fighting Fantasy it could be anything, and in this case TROLL!

"Orc Charge" by Chris Achilleos - however it's publication in Out of the Pit (1985) identifies the subject matter as DORAGAR - the long haired, spiky armoured crossbreeds betwixt TROLL and ORC, so not a depiction of ORCS proper, and deserve an enquiry all of their own, whence they come from and how deviating their depictions are.  It proved popular with Games Workshop who later used it twice.

The front cover of the Ravening Hordes (1987) supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Battle 2nd Edition (by far the  greatest edition of Warhammer ever). Interestingly DORAGAR don't appear in Warhammerland at all, and we assume they are intended to be Orcs, despite their dissimilarity with the designs of Warhamer Orcs, not least because they're not bright green.

White Dwarf 85. Still not ORCS tho.

As well as the front cover of Games Workshops Roleplaying Monthly: White Dwarf #78.  Art prints are available from from Chris web site I've yet to determine whether this piece was commissioned for Out of the Pit specifically as a depiction of the DORAGAR, and later renamed as "Orc Charge" to make the it more attractive for subsequent licensing, or whether Chris originally planned it as a depiction of ORCs  and Marc Gascoigne or someone else involved at Puffin picked it out to illustrate the DORAGAR. Either way, according to Out of the Pit, these are emphatically not the ORCS we were looking for...

And speaking of Games Workshop, the very next incarnation of the actual Fighting Fantasy ORC is 1986 Citadel Miniatures range of 60mm Fighting Fantasy toy soldiers. Pretty much eschewing both the features of the Fighting Fantasy ORC and the contemporary ranges of Citadel Miniatures Orcs which also tended to be quite wiry. Instead we have large, hulkng, muscular beasts, slightly reminiscent of the exaggerated musculature of the He-Man action figures popular at the time, which, when painted green, give the impression of the Incredible Hulk with a monkey head, which can only be a good thing!

via the wonderful Fantasy Toy Soliders Blog

The 60mm Citadel ORCs can also be seen as drawn by Dave Andrews in an advert for the range in the 1986 Citadel Journal, alongside SKELETONS, GOBLINS and OGRES. Dave brings his characteristic bold graphic look to the models. The whole range can be seen on the Fantasy Toy Soliders Blog and well worth a look. Facially, if not physically these ORCs do carry forward many of the features of the Ward & Crosby Orc, and while the Simian-Hulk look does recur in ORCs in other places, it's a long while before it returns to Fighting Fantasy.

Bone-throwing ORC SHAMAN and  HASHAK - the ORC-GOD both drawn by Paul Bonner and both appearing in Marc Gasgoines opus  Titan the Fighting Fantasy World (1987). The large-headed, tusked-simian, sunken cheekbones  strongly resembles Ward & Crosby's frozen Orc in Caverns of the Snow Witch, but also retain some of the gangly, rope-muscled physique of earlier ORCs. Paul would go on to produce concept art and illustration for Citadel Miniatures in a similar vein. However we don't see this particular combination of physiology return to the Fighting Fantasy milieu.

By strange coincidence Titan signals a bit of a quite period for the humble ORC.  Fighting Fantasy as a series foregoes the traditional Dungeon / Wilderness fantasy gaming setting and wanders off into more exotic locales, outer-space, under water, the mystic east and beyond for several books...

But then, the ORCs return, as do we...  to Baron Sukumvits Deathtrap Dungeon in the long awaited sequel, FF21 Trial of the Champions. Here  Brian Williams gives us two muscular, furry panted fellows - shades of Barry Windsor-Smiths design for  Marvel comics Conan the Barbarian but Brian also takes the ORC back to Ian McCaigs rendition in Deathtrap Dungeon, with matching topknots, creating consistency with the pre-simian image of the Orc.

Russ Nicholson follows suit with a rather crazed PYGMY ORC in FF23 Masks of Mayhem. It's one of the features of Fighting Fantasy that rather than have creatures exist in ecological niches - i.e. GOBLINS as small ORCS, there is ever increasing variety and specialisation, so instead of just ORCS, Fighting Fantasy actually has 12 ORC variants, from MARSH ORCS to SNIFFER ORCS and of course Masks of Mayhems PYGMY ORC. And that's not including the half-breeds such as the MAN-ORC or ORC-DARKELF crossbreed known as the BLACKHEARTS

One of these more exotic types turns up next...
The vampiric BLOOD ORCS. These look like they might be half-breeds with  AD&D Barbed Devils along side a more traditional vision of the ORCS...
Alan Langfords, FF24 Creature of Havoc, whose ORC commander strikes an impressive pose. Upright, very human stance and proportions, somewhat reminiscent of the Treens from Dan Dare. It's the only instance of an ORC in Fighting Fantasy that has this very upright humanoid stance and proportions. We also get to see one of Langfords classic horned, heavily armoured Lizardmen at the back, which Alan introduced way back in FF7 Island of the Lizard King (1984).

Dave Carsons hideous ORC in FF25 Beneath Nightmare Castle. Weird pointy head-gear and strange large watery eyes seem to make this ORC hypnotically disgusting.

FF26 Crypt of the Sorcerer (1987) by John Sibbick. These ORCS are very much in the same mold as mid-1980s Citadel Miniatures (Sibbick had provided artwork based on Citadel Miniatures designs for Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition), and indeed many of these motifs, especially the squarish jutting lower jaw can be seen to go back to Citadel Miniatures Fantasy Tribe range of Orcs  and their Ral Partha forebears.

This style of ORC will return, but before that we have a detour into the world of the weird. Take a deep breath, because these ORCS are far from normal...

FF28 Phantoms of Fear (1987) is a delve into the dreamlands of the ELVES, and Ian Millers nightmarish visions provide a perfect accompaniment for a journey into the dark and delerious realm of the elven unconscious.  The ORCs here are heavily armoured spiteful looking weirdos, ornate, spiked and layered. Broad noses, ornate helmets, shaven topknot haircuts (again, on PYGMY ORCS) layered and piecemeal clothing. But where previously ORCs had been depicted as gladiators, watchmen, and grumpy layabouts,  these are warriors, armed with shield, sword and mace, giving them a military edge not seen before. Ian also gives us a wonderful 3 armed MUTANT ORC for good measure. 

FF 30 Chasms of Malice (1987)  Russ Nicholson returns. Again, the topknots, however these ORCS are a more human proportioned type with a more muscular physique,  gone are Russ's aged, bulbous nosed and lanky limbed layabouts, instead these ORCS are toothy grinning, semi-simian fellows with more purpose and malice about them. Their costume remains a combination of patchwork armour and ornament, leaving behind Ian Millers heavy armour and getting their bare arms out in proper ORC style.

Alan Langsford returns in FF31 Battleblade Warrior (1988) -  his ORC SHAMAN looks on while what looks like a horned BLOOD ORC drinks from a normal ORC corpse. The face of the shaman looks something of a Liger whilst it's good to see the animal-pelt headdress remains from Paul Mullers original, it's a shame the leopard print kilt seems to have vanished.

FF34 Stealer of Souls brings us yet more ORC goodness from the pen of Russ Nicholson. It seems he has adopted the simian faces, rather than the  Russ's signature wrappings and heavy ornamentation. Its a convergence of styles that is going to stay around for a while.

FF36 Armies of Death Nick Williams. The human proportioned, round head, small nose physiology continue. This is the second image of an ORC with a large mallet like hammer.

Then, Chris Achilleos returns with his cover for The Trolltooth Wars (1989) entitled "Orc Hero" Again, this piece can be purchaed from Chriss website as an Art Print. It features a bodybuilder-esque ORC fighting a SKELETON. The Orc has a scimitar and a curved knife - popular weapon choices. 


MUTANT ORC complete with tentacle and crab hands.
David Gallagher, in FF39 Fangs of Fury, FF41 Master of Chaos (1990)and FF43 Keep of the Lich Lord (1990) who apart from the Tusker, the boar-headed orc, but the heavy bottom-lipped, bald-headed fellow follows very much the same human-proportioned, muscular design as established by John Sibbick, Russ Nicholson and Nick Williams. There is also at least one other one by David which I've missed the image of, with a top-knot once again reinforcing its relationship with the ORC. The Boar-headed fellow, while clearly some form of MUTANT ORC ties the Fighting Fantasy Orc into the Ploobian Orc genus, with it's genetic heritage in Chinese folklore, Disney movies and Star Wars. Moving swiftly on, without getting too side-tracked...

FF 54 The Legend of Zagor  (1993) by Martin McKenna. This ORC is having a tasty rat, whilst sat down. There's a lot of sitting around if you're an ORC in Fighting Fantasy land....

Although it's actually an OGRE sitting down in this one, and a grinning ORC in the foreground, with his ear-ring, fur and scimitar, that's an OGRE on the throne. Odd, that seating is such a theme in FF illustrations and this one seems particularly familiar....

Ian McCaig's Casket of Souls! (1987) both Legend of Zagor and Casket of Souls are set in Ian Livingstones world of Amarillia rather than the traditional Titan where most Fighting Fantasy is set.But nonthless, the bald, snub-nosed, wide-mouthed ORC is very much in evidence.

and another one by Martin McKenna again, from Legend of Zagor.

Wizard Series FF21 Eye of the Dragon (2005) (based on the mini dungeon in Dicing with Dragons, which also features an illustration of a Runequest Tusk Rider, as well as another Russ Nicholson ORC, but it's not strictly Fighting Fantasy so we'll leave it there) illustrated again by Martin McKenna, although some 10 years since the last ORC. The  Morning Star returns from way back in Deathtrap Dungeon, cementing it's place as the ORCs weapon of choice alongside scimitars, axes, two-handed mallets). The deep set eyes and pointy ears bring to mind  Mortiis or Mug Mecklebones from Ridley Scott's 1985 movie Legend. However I think what we're really looking at is the influence of Weta's  2001-3 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

ORCS in Peter Jacksons adaptation of The Lord of the Rings
Not that large pointy ears are particually new, if anything at all, they are one of the most consistent features of the ORC.

Gavin Mitchell's forthcoming comic-book adaptation of Steve Jacksons Fighting Fantasy Novel The Trolltooth Wars. The HELLHOUND handler is a HILL GOBLIN and the large, hulking creature in the background is  supposed to be an ORC (if I'm not mistaken, it could be a green OGRE) who appears very much in the Simian-Hulk vein that can be seen in the Fighting Fantasy 60mm figures, and is recognizably following last seasons World of Warcraft and Warhammer ORC imagery. I say "last seasons", as the ORCs in the Warcraft movie seem to not be green any more, and Warhammer got blown up or something.

The representation of the ORC in Fighting Fantasy never really rests or settles. Each artist brings their own predilections, influences and ideas of what an ORC may be like, and the world of Titan embraces it. Occasionally the artists follow the populist design of the times, occasionally they strike out on their own, occasionally they build upon previous Fighting Fantasy imagery and occasionally they completely reinvent it. Unlike the videogames and movies of today Fighting Fantasy didn't have a team of concept artists sit down and define the look of everything, instead Fighting Fantasy grew, piece by piece, ORC by ORC.  Many of the illustrations are classic, ORC-defining pieces of imagery in their own right. There are distinct trends, recurring motifs and patterns in the design, suggesting deviating genetic branches, loops and whorls and subcultures of ORC.

We could try to fit the changes in the ORC to historical templates - exotic cultural motifs such as the top-knot giving way to more generic bestial features, or a degeneration from meerly grumpy ner-do-wells to foot-soldiers of evil, yet none of these stories really hold true. While any die-hard Fighting Fantasy fan may have their favorite rendition of these ubiquitous antagonists,  it is seemingly fitting for a book series that is essentially about branching narratives, that there seems to be no linearity in the historical narrative of the Fighting Fantasy ORC. Indeed it returns us to a precodified view of monsters, where goblins, hobgoblins, fae, giants, elves and orcneas weren't strictly delineated groups as Gary Gygax proposed in his Monster Manual but instead sifting folkloric symbols for supernatural experiences and ideas that defy strict categorisation.

In pulling together this history, it has been hard to draw a line between it and other representations of ORCs - many of the artists who drew for Fighting Fantasy also had connections to Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures, Russ Nicholson having supplied illustrations that served as designs for many of their earliest ranges, Paul Bonner, Ian Miller, John Sibbick and David Gallagher would all provide artwork for Games Workshop as concept art or based on their miniature designs (many features of which directly echo Tom Meiers earlier "Giant Goblin" designs for Ral Partha), which, when we consider that the first ever fantasy miniature produced was an ORC  ME1 Man-orc with Sword from Minifigs Mythical Earth range, sculpted by Dick Higgs in 1972  it seems not unreasonable to extend the circle of enquiry ever further.

Minifigs Man-orc with Sword

And when we consider Fighting Fantasy's inaugral visualiser Russ Nicholson was active in Tolkien fandom (providing illustrations for the Anduril zine back in 1975) and the near universal availability of Tolkien imagery, we inevitably find the tangled roots of the Fighting Fantasy ORC claw us back to the dark origins of the modern ORC to be found in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the artwork inspired by it.

Nontheless, what  Fighting Fantasy did was to encapsulate the ORC (and arguably many other fantasy archetypes) for a time and space, a time when for many kids, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (which, after all, has sold two million copies) or Deathtrap Dungeon (topping the childrens best-seller list) encapsulated the ORC ZEITGEIST, create it's own, unique take on the monster and thrust him into unsuspecting homes, schools, libraries and imaginations where he had never trod before.