Welcome back to Plastic Cracked, you stinkin’ maggots! Today, I’m going to talk about my second project for Middle-earth Strategy Battle Game of 2023; Uglúk’s Scouts.
Every Middle-earth SBG player knows deep down in their heart that every Good army needs an Evil counterpart. With my Riders of Théoden army now fully playable at 800pts, I wanted something new for Evil at the same points level that would serve as a counterpart to this army. Fortunately for me, Rohan has a lot of enemies. You’ve got their rivals on the Westfold in the Dunlendings, the Fighting Uruk Hai of Isengard, the Morranon army of Mordor or the War Mûmaks of Harad, just to name a few. How do you choose which one to do?
The simple answer is you don’t. In fact, I’m going to do them all1! Still, you’ve got to start somewhere, so why not make life easy on myself and choose the faction with the smallest number of new miniatures needing painted? That’s how I found myself set on Uglúk’s Scouts.
The Legendary Legion, Uglúk’s Scouts, is made up of Uruk Hai Scouts, Mordor Orcs and a number of named characters (plus a couple generic Captains). Given that I already have a bunch of Uruk Hai Scouts that I painted exclusively for narrative games – and thus, have never seen an event – alongside a whole smattering of Orcs for my Angmar army, the vast majority of this army is already pretty much good to go.
So, what is missing from this army? Well, characters mostly. I needed a banner or two, a drummer, as well as several named characters such as Mauhur and Snaga. The first of these that I decided to paint was Mauhur – pictured below with Uglúk.
Mauhur is the essential character for any of the Uruk Hai Scouts Legendary Legions. His main ‘gimmick’ in the main list is any Uruk Scouts his warband can be upgraded to Uruk ‘Marauders’ for an extra point, giving them an 8″ movement instead of their usual 6″. This is a pretty huge upgrade and one that makes Scouts a lot more interesting and viable than the standard Fighting Uruk Hai which are otherwise identical but for access to Heavy Armour for another point. The downside to this is that Mauhur is a Hero of Fortitude, meaning he can only take up to 12 Scouts in his warband. Both Lurtz’ Scouts and Ugúk’s Scouts Legendary Legions lift this restriction by upgrading the whole army to Marauders for no additional points cost, as long as you bring Mauhur along.
Now, the last pair of minis that I’d painted before Mauhur were Gamling with Royal Standard foot and mounted, so this was a somewhat jarring change of pace. Mauhur is a fairly uncluttered miniature, with simple, pronounced2 detail and a fairly muted colour scheme. All in all, I knocked him out from primer to varnish in less than a full evening after work. This was an extremely welcome change of pace, although it did leave me questioning whether I’d actually spent enough time painting the miniature; after months of painting larger Cavalry heroes (with a foot and mounted version of each), I’d kind of forgotten how joyful it was to be able to smash out these tiny little Middle-earth characters in a few hours. There’s a few aareas such as the cloak that I could have probably pushed a little harder, but I’m overall pleased with how Mauhur turned out – his face in particular. A fun little palette cleanser that set me up nicely for the rest of this ‘easy win’ project.
Onto the next one!
At it’s core, Uglúk’s Scouts is a hybrid army of Uruk Scouts and Orc Warriors backed up by a few key personalities from the films. These being Uglúk/Mauhur on the Uruk side and Grishnakh/Snaga on the Orcs. I couldn’t say how key each of these heroes are to the armies success (besides Mauhur), but it feels criminal not to include them, given how crucial they are to the theme of the army. Around the time War in Rohan was released, ForgeWorld brought out a very nice pair of new miniatures for the Grishnakh and Snaga and so I had to snap these up for this army.
Now, I don’t have a bad word to say about the new Grishnakh model. He’s beautifully proportioned and finely sculpted, but in all honestly, I’m still just really happy with the one I painted back in 2018. He turned out to be one of my better paint jobs overall. I still really love his menacing hunch. With all of that in mind, I decided to opt out of repeating myself and skip straight to Snaga.
Another fairly straightforward miniature, although one that took a little more effort than Mauhur. The face, in particular, I found to be fairly challenging. There’s a fine line between capturing his “blue cheese” complexion and just scribbling over his tiny little face. My approach here was to paint in little streaks of Turquoise over the greenish base tone, then glaze the layer and highlight colours of his skin over it again to blend them in together a bit. I tried to copy the armour colourings from the ForgeWorld website, although I did find myself struggling a bit to make this much black interesting. I don’t know how visible it is in the photos above, but I did try to stipple a little subtle texture over the flat areas such as the knees to simulate the wear of the leather. When I wasn’t overly happy with how the metallics were turning out, I broke out the old faithful Dirty Down Rust and painted a few thin patches on his chainmail tabard and weapon to add a little grimy texture without pushing the whole thing too far into the brown direction.
On the whole, a fun little miniature to paint. A bit more of a challenge than Mauhur, but still achievable in a single evening.
With the Orc Command taken care of, it was back to fleshing out the Uruk Scouts.
Next up was as simple as it gets – one half of the Uruk Scouts Command Pack. No Shaman – those aren’t allowed in Uglúk’s Scouts – and no banner for reasons I’ll explain shortly.
One thing I consciously tried to do was to give the Captain a slight palette shakeup. I’m still using the same colours here, but I swapped around the prevalence of the warmer yellowy leather and the darker, more charred looking brown leather. As the miniature itself isn’t that different from the basic scout models, I find this helps him stand out a bit better – and I think gives him a slightly more menacing look.
The drummer was, on the whole, painted like any other Uruk Scout. Really, the only difference here was the addition of the drum. Much like on my Moria Goblin Drum before, I tried to apply some drybrushing towards the centre of the drum where it’ll get bashed the most, to give it a bit of a realistic weathered look.
But why no banner? Well…
Next up we have two Uruk’s carrying away Merry and Pippin from the Ambush at Amon Hen set. I really like these guys and thought they’d each make an excellent proxy for a Banner in the army. It’s not as large and obvious as a big piece of cloth on a stick, but it kind of makes sense – their objective is to escape with the Halflings, so of course this will redouble the efforts of the fighting Uruk Hai around them, right? From a gaming perspective, I think they’re also plenty noticeable in a crowd – what they lack in the stature that regular banners have, they more than make up for with sheer colour. Turquoise, blue, yellow, green, yellow and light fleshtones are all colours you won’t see on the rest of the Uruk’s in this army.
One thing I will say for these models however is that the Pippin’s hands are absolutely atrocious. Whether this is due to the source model or the pewter casting process I can’t say, but they’re stubby, chubby little blobs and I hate them with a passion. I’m reasonably pleased with how the faces turned out, for the most part – although Pippins eyes do look a touch intense. These are tiny little models with not the best definition to them, so I did what I could to the best of my ability.
And finally, we have four pewter Uruk Hai bowmen. Three of these are from the Ambush at Amon Hen set, another is from the metal Uruks set from the recent(ish) Made to Order run. Not a lot to say about these, other than they used the same bowstring technique as on my Riders of Rohan, only with a little Seraphim Sepia wash to stain them a bit.
With Ugluk, Mauhur, an Uruk Captain, two banners, Snaga and Grishnakh, I was just a little touch low on points for the army. I could’ve added another Orc Captain or something, but I decided that the 8 Uruk Hai bows that I had from the plastic Scouts kit was maybe a little bit on the low side as far as shooting was concerned. And when else was I going to be motivated to start paint some more of these metal Uruk Scout models if not now, eh?
And with that, my 800pts of Uglúk’s Scouts were done and dusted – let’s have a look at the whole army assembled.
Well, that’s my second Middle-earth project of the year completed – with significantly less effort than the first, I’m relieved to say. I think these guys will make a fine counterpart to my Riders of Théoden – a whole Cavalry army and whole Infantry army is kind of a fun proposition. You could get nitpicky and tell me that Riders of Eómer are probably the better fit for a counterpart to this army, but c’mon, gimme a break – it’s Rohan and Isengard. Let me have this.
Now, I’m not 100% done tweaking these guys. I might yet decide to go with a single banner – in which case I’ll paint the Scout Banner from the Command Set and use the Merry and Pippin Uruk’s as tokens for models carrying a Relic or something. I could put the points saved there towards getting another Orc Captain to help balance the numbers of Uruks vs Orcs. Additionally, I’ve got a good number of metal Uruk Scouts leftover from my two Made to Order kits, and I wouldn’t mind replacing some of the shieldless Uruk Scouts with some of these nice metal models with shields. A little something to consider down the line.
In the meantime however, I have a lot to be getting on with. I mentioned in my last post that I was getting my teeth into the Two Towers segment of the Lord of the Rings Narrative Campaign along with my friend Jack. I can assure you, that is already well underway. The Westfold will burn.
But until then, thanks for reading and happy wargaming!
1 The plan is to expand my Middle-earth narrative minis collection into The Two Towers this year and the scenarios call for Dunlendings, Harad and Isengard, all of which I’ve agreed to paint an amount of minis toward. Once you’ve painted the minis for some of the bigger scenarios, it doesn’t take a lot of additions to turn these into Matched Play armies in their own right. Win win.
2 Pronounced, maybe even a little bit sharp. I do like how well Finecast resin accepts paint – it’s even better than plastic in that regard – but good lord this material does not do soft edges all that well.