Although the dictionary definition of orc is merely “monster,” modern authors universally follow the lead of Tolkien in using the term as a synonym for a large goblin. These have not had a fair press. They are fanatically brave in spite of being weaker and less practiced than most other humanoids, and must be kind to animals, since they train them so well. It is interesting that Tolkien’s characters describe them in terms very similar to those used by medieval chroniclers to describe Mongols, who in our day are considered a nice friendly people of slightly eccentric lifestyle. We might instead think of such goblins as a fantasy counterpart of the apocryphal northerner: clannish, rough spoken, given to imbibing of strong but peculiar liquor, keeping analogues of whippets and pidgeons, prone to mob violence at away fixtures and perhaps too easily influenced by radical politicians of other races. –Phil Barker, Sue Laflin Barker & Richard Bodley Scott, Hordes of the things
The paragraph above is the caption for the orc & goblin army list in Hordes of the things (or HOTT). I love this “defense” of orcs. The write-ups in the army lists are not all as good, but here’s my other favorite, for the “Generic barbarians” list:
Humans lacking in non-oral culture and fond of old fashioned sports like head-hunting, cattle raiding, or world conquest.
What else do you really need to know?
HOTT is a fantasy wargame that was first released in 1991 and which uses fairly simple principles found in De Bellis Antiquitatus (DBA). It uses the same standard unit size (an ‘element’ or base of several miniatures, usually three or four but as many as 8 or as few as one miniature might be used, depending on the troop type), but whereas DBA uses 12 elements for every army, HOTT has a ‘points’ system allowing armies of varying sizes depending on the troops bought. The rule book includes a large number of army lists, altohugh in principle there are relatively few restrictions on what kind of army you could field. The list of armies is helpful because it gives examples of what the authors intend by some of the very generic troop types, and also as sort of bibliography for some classic sources for fantasy gaming. The “generics” are elf or fairy, dwarf, goblin or orc, gnome, undead, reptillian, ratmen, medieval, barbarian, nomad, pirate, evil humans, chaos, good kung-fu, and evil kung-fu (the last two based on 70′s and 80′s movies).
Here’s the rest, the parenthetical entries being separate lists:
- Summerian myth (human, good demonic, evil demonic, hosts of the dead, Asag and the stone allies)
- Homeric myth (Greek, Trojan)
- Greek myth
- Arthurian epic
- Carolingian epic
- Irish epic (Ulster, Irish)
- Norse myth (Aesir, giants)
- Arabian myth
- Persian epic
- Japanese myth (Imperial descent, Kumaso)
- Indian myth (Rama, Lanka)
Those were the armies of myth & legend; there are also some semi-historical types that would incorporate mostly historical forces, but which are highly speculative and include fantasy elements. These are inspired by films, period legends, and popular culture.
- Semi-historical Egyptian
- Kyropaedia (Persians, Lydians) — Xenophon
- Arthurian semi-historical (Arthur, Saxons)
- Chinese semi-historical
- Da Vinci Italian [renaissance Italy + Da Vinci's drawings of war marchines!)
- Japanese epic [including legends as well as Kurosawa films]
- Aztec semi-historical
- Conquistador semi-historical
- Munchausen 18th century (Russians, Ottoman Turks)
- Napoleonic semi-historical
- Victorian science ficiton
- Boxer Rebellion (Boxer, Foreign devils)
- Alien invasion (Aliens, Humans)
Various fantasy books and stories:
- Hyborian (Northern barbarians, Picts, medieval states, Shem, Stygia, Black nations, near eastern nations, Vendhya, Khitai) — R.E. Howard
- Barsoom (Red men, green men) — E.R. Burroughs
- Fairie queen (Gloriana’s knights, League of enchanters) — Spencer
- De Camp Novarian (Othomae, Shvenite, Fedirun, Mulvanian, Paaluan) –L. Sprague DeCamp
- Well of the Unicorn (Vulking, Salmonessan, Dalarnan) — Fletcher Pratt
- Kregen (Pre-Prescott Vallia, Imperial Vallia, Loh, Clansmen, Radvakkas, Pandahem, Hamal, Moorcrim, Shanks)– the Scorpio/Kregen/Antares series by Alan Burt Akers/Dray Prescot
- Deryni (Army of ex-queen Ariella, army of grand-master Jebediah, amry of King Nelson, army of Archbishop Loris) — Katherine Kurtz
- Tekumel (this one does not list separate nations but just gives a list of possible troops) — M.A.R. Barker
- Dragaeran (Dragaeran, Easterners) — Steven Brust
- Black Company (Plain of Fear army, army of The Lady, army of The Limper, Shadowmaster’s army) — Glen Cook
- Dracula (Dracula, Dracula’s foes) — Stoker
- Discworld (Ahnk-Morpork, Seriphate of Klatch, D’regs, Agatean Empire, Agatean insurgents, Lancre) — Terry Pratchett
- Atlantis — H.Rider Haggard etc.
and lastly pure fun
- Christmas wars (Santa Claus, The anti-claus)
- Garden wars (Garden gnomes, Ants, Wasps)
The army lists are NOT in the free pdf that HOTT’s publishers have kindly provided while HOTT remains out of print. (N.B. this pdf is for personal use only!) However using the rules and some imagination, you should be able to make up whatever army you want. HOTT is designed with large scale battles in mind, but as you might have inferred from the inclusion of lists like “Dracula’s foes,” scale really doesn’t matter. A wild range of armies were on display on the Stronghold, a web site that for years provided resources for HOTT players including house rules, variant armies, galleries of armies, and so on. The site has been down for a few years but you can still see the front page and many of the pages archived here. The mythological and literary lists are generally well-researched (as you might expect a community of wargamers to do; after all considerable number of ancients wargamers have learned ancient Greek and Latin just to research the armies and battles of the period).
One of my favorite variants was called “D20 HOTT,” which attempts to create a point of conversion for D&D games to HOTT, so that your character can participate in mass battles. The only problem with such a scheme though is that players who expect the battle to ‘feel’ like a D&D combat will certainly be disappointed, and this might go even more so for spell-casters who will find their powers reduced to artillery or counterspells (if mages or clerics, respectively).