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Review of the Nazgul Steed - Lord of the Rings
1/6th Horse action figure
Asmus Toys
03-18-15

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Introduction
A review of Nazgul Steed sixth scale horse action figure from the Lord of the Rings by Asmus:

With the completion of the final Hobbit film last year, it looks like our love affair with all things Middle Earth will be on a bit of a hiatus, at least for some time. But like any good franchise, the merchandising and licensing will go on long after that final film closes in the final theater.

Several companies are continuing to work on high end items for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, including Asmus Toys. They've released sixth scale action figures of the Morgul Lord, as well as Gandalf, Gothmog and Guritz. They have Eowyn, Tauriel, Aragorn and Bard all up for pre-order as well, planned for 2015.

They've just released both a regular Nazgul, as well as a Nazgul Steed. I skipped the Nazgul for now, but I couldn't pass up the horse, since it's such a perfect match for the future display. I'm also looking forward to getting one of their white horses for Indiana Jones, and was looking to see what to expect with the quality on this first release.

This guy is currently shipping from several online retailers, and will run you around $175. There's no exclusives or special editions.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Packaging - ***1/2
The large, flat box holds the horse and accessories in a high quality foam tray, covered with a plastic lid. The box graphics are eye catching and attractive, but there's one bit of weirdness. The obvious front - shown below, with the Nazgul charging toward you - has the tab to close the lid, rather than having it on the back. I suspect it wasn't intentional, but rather the boxes were printed backwards.

There's no limited edition numbering or Certificate of Authenticity, but there is a simple instruction sheet that will explain the basics. There's no assembly either - all the gear comes already on the horse.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Sculpting - ***
The key sculpting features here include his scale, the mouth and nose, and the overall design of the body.

The scale is decent, coming in at about 14" tall at the top of his ears, depending on how you get the front legs set. With a rider on his back, he looks about right, keeping in mind that the horses in the film weren't massive, just evil. 

They get that attitude across nicely with the sculpt of the mouth, teeth and nose. The skin of the nose is weathered and dry, and the large teeth are uneven and dangerous looking. They've done a very nice job here, including the use of an asymmetrical design, a trick used quite a bit by McFarlane to give a horrific impression with any sculpt.

The body is where things take a turn for the worse. They've designed him without a lot of girth, making the legs - both front and back - very close together. There's some weirdness with the legs too, including a back right leg that simple seems too short compared to the left, no matter what pose you attempt. The poor design and wonky legs means getting him to stand is a chore, and attractive poses are few and far between.

It's not really 'sculpting', but the hair of the mane and tail is quite nice, very full and thick, and easy to work with.

One final note on the sculpt: the hooves lack any texture or detail, making them appear cheap and toy-like. That's the sort of detail work that sets a figure apart from the competition, and is quite critical in today's highly competitive sixth scale market.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Paint - ***
'Paint' is a bit of a misnomer this time around, but there are some operations nonetheless.

The work around the mouth and teeth is solid, if a bit lacking in detail. I think a little more disgust factor on the teeth, provided with the right paint application, would have gone a long way to improving his look, but it's a minor nit.

Like the sculpt, the paint work on the hooves is severely lacking. Again, there's no realism here, and instead we get standard toy grade quality.

But let's be honest - the majority of the grade here isn't because of the paint, but because of the flocking. And that, I'm happy to say, is very, very good.

The coverage is excellent, and the flocking is quite even and consistent. The color is a nice jet black, and there's very little wear and tear. I did find one spot on the back where a belt was stuck down on the 'hair' in the package quite tightly, matting it down. You'll want to watch out for that, since it's not easily repaired.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Articulation - *1/2
Here's where the biggest issues arise, although I already mentioned it to some degree in the Sculpting section.

Each leg of the horse has three points of articulation - at the body, at the knee, and at the ankle. There's also two joints on the neck, one at the body and one at the jaw.

The neck works fine, and the head can even turn slightly side to side, adding some menace to certain poses. It doesn't drop forward quite as far as I'd expected, but it's a minor nit with this particular character.

Ah, but those legs. As I said earlier, they don't all seem to be an appropriate length, and they are too close together. The articulation could have helped with these issues, but alas, it does not. I was unable to get him to stand with all four hooves on the ground at once, and instead had to resort to poses with either the tip of one or more hooves holding up the weight, or with one foot completely in the air, or worse, with a weird lean in his stance.

This was a huge negative, and made ruin the rest of the work. I'm one to  prefer articulation over sculpt in most cases, but a figure (including a horse) has to be able to stand properly on it's own. I expect that of characters with two legs, so the expectation is even greater when there's four. When I was a kid, I had several Best of the West horses from Marx. I always preferred the ones with static poses for play, because I wasn't constantly fighting with wobbly legs and loose joints. I think that's also the route Asmus should have gone, picking a static pose for the legs and living with it.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Accessories - **1/2
I'm counting the rigging, bindings, saddle, etc. as his 'outfit', leaving just two items for accessories - the additional Nazgul sword, and the display base.

The sword is a nice addition, and it's die cast metal. It's small enough that it isn't too heavy, and even my Morgul Lord, who is a tad floppy in the joints, was able to hold it aloft without issue.

The base is interesting. It's a nice sculpt, made from heavy resin, and the flexible post screws into place for added security. But what to do with it? It's an odd height, coming up past the saddle but not much more. It's similar to the Hot Toys deluxe stands, designed for flying figures. It's too tall to support the horse from underneath, without some serious contortions in the post. I ended up using it for the bucking pose in the photo above, bending it down a bit and placing the clamp around one front leg. I shot the photo so you could see it to the left, but I think that if you displayed him like this with a full side view, most of the post would be hidden behind the figure.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Outfit - ***
Some pieces of the outfit are a bit too clean and neat, but the overall look is solid.

There's a nice use of mixed media too, with leather, cloth, plastic and metal all working together to give the complete picture.  The sculpted saddle looks great, and there's several metal pieces, including chains and stirrups, that add heft and realism.  The work on the armor covering the face is particularly nice, and matches up well with the earlier armor on the Morgul Lord.

Some of the straps and bindings are a bit loose, which is probably on purpose. If you tighten them up too much, you'll end up flattening the flock, which can remain permanently. You'll want to adjust the various straps and buckles to get the look you want, but be mindful of the potential hazard.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Light Feature - **
The red eyes are activated with a small button underneath his jaw. The batteries are already in place, and there's no plastic tab to remove. That's good too, because this battery compartment is one of the most difficult to get to that I've seen.

It's hidden in the neck joint of the head, and you must remove the head to get to it. That means unbuckling the wrapping on the head, working with four tiny straps and buckles, then removing the whole deal. I suspect that's not the worst part. The worst part will be trying to get the head and wrap all back in place again.  I don't know about you, but that's not something I'd want to do, and the big reason for the low score here. 

It also wouldn't have effected the score quite as much if the eyes weren't so important - the red effect is a big part of the evil nature of his appearance, and with them off, he looks a lot like a regular horse.

Fun Factor - **
Because of the wonky legs and difficulty with posing, this figure does not live up to its potential in this category. This guy could have been great to work with, getting him and the Nazgul just right, but it ends up more frustrating than fun.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Value - **
Generally, the figures from Asmus have been a very good value, finding that sweet spot around $150 or so. Unfortunately, this particularly horse has gone up a bit, hitting $175, and I'm not sure that what you're getting is really worth the additional cost.

That's all the more apparent when the regular Asmus horse's (they have them in white and brown) go for $135. While this guy is flocked and has light up eyes, I'm not sure the overall quality warrants the additional $40.

If I hadn't had all the trouble with the articulation and legs, I would have gone that extra half star here to give him an average value. But with the quality issues I saw, it's hard to recommend the price.

Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys

Things to Watch Out For -
Not much. If the straps on the rigging are too tight, they will damage the flocking, so take some care when adjusting the various belts. I'd also be conservative with the eyes - you don't want to go through the hassle of replacing the batteries until it's necessary.

Overall - **1/2
Sometimes, a figure does poorly because there's lots of little things that add up to a big minus overall. And then there's those times where it's really one big elephant in the room, crapping all over the place.

This time it's the latter. While the price is a little high, and the location of the battery compartment for the light up feature is difficult to reach, it's really the legs and the difficulty with posing this guy that hurts him overall. It's hard to overcome something this frustrating, even with solid sculpting, paint and outfit scores.

It also has me worried about their regular release horses, which have so much potential. I have some of the older sixth scale horses around, but I was really looking forward to a high quality white horse for Indy, and a similar ride in brown for my Hot Toys Gorilla Soldier. The results here have me questioning that though, and I may have to re-think my pre-orders.

Asmus has been pretty good about listening to consumer feedback, so there's always a hope that they'll correct what they can (weird leg lengths, perhaps), and improve moving forward. Based on the early marketing photos, I pre-ordered the Tauriel, Eowyn and Bard without reservation, and I'm still on board with future releases. But there's no doubt that this horse missed the mark, at least for me.

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - *1/2
Accessories - **1/2
Outfit - ***
Light Feature - **1/2
Fun Factor - **
Value - **
Overall - **1/2

Where to Buy 
Online options include these site sponsors:

- has him at $175, but you can get him with the Nazgul as a set for $300, bringing the cost of both figures down by $30.

- or you can search ebay for a deal.

Related Links -
I've done reviews of the Morgul Lord, as well as Gandalf, Gothmog and Guritz.

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Lord of the Rings Nazgul Steed action figure by Asmus Toys


This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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