There are a great many factions and playable forces in the 41st millennium of the Warhammer universe, and more keep coming as Games Workshop ramps up their production schedule to diversify our options for playing the game and expanding our model collections. All of this is great for those within the hobby, but if someone is looking to dive in and get started, it can be overwhelming to choose a force to begin with. In this installment of the Army Selection series, we will be taking a look at determining whether or not playing and collecting Orks is a good idea for you. Whether you are a fresh faced potential new hobbyist or a crotchety old-timer looking to add a new force to their collection, the Orks have something to offer.
Fluff and Personality
Amongst all of the forces in the Warhammer 40K narrative, the Orks are the ones most likely to be seen as “Comic Relief”. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the army can certainly be taken seriously and played competitively, but they have always had more than a touch of humor written into their rules, fluff stories, and model sculpts. Keeping in tradition with the savagery, clan organization, and brutish nature of stereotypical orcs from fantasy settings, Orks of the 41st millennium have little to no command structure or central organization, and yet exist as one of the most numerous and dangerous forces in the galaxy.
The Orks were created alongside the Eldar by The Old Ones during their war against the Necrons many eons ago, using a blend of fungal and animal anatomy. The Old Ones were unable to finish their project before their unfortunate demise, and so Orks lack the psychic control and civility that were intended for their race, existing as a powerful and primal force with innate understanding of technology and control of weaponry, yet little of the social structure that would be associated with its responsible use. As a result, Orks are a brutish rabble, maintaining their threat to other races and spanning the stars thanks to a genetically encoded understanding of technology rather than any education or institutionalized training. As one might expect, the majority of their constructs are cobbled together from rusty sheet metal and belch dirty smoke from dozens of pipes.
Part of the reason that they are able to be successful with this technology is the subconscious gestalt psychic field generated by all Orks. The Orks themselves are unaware of their psychic potential and ability unless it is blatantly manifested in the aptly named WeirdBoyz, but the common Ork has more psychic power than he is aware of. Bluntly put, Ork techonology should not work in any shape or form. Often when other races obtain a piece of Ork machinery, they are baffled as to its design and efficacy, unable to reverse engineer any of it or discover how it functions in the first place. Ork technology ‘works’ in whatever a crude way it happens to in the hands of an Ork, simply because the Orks themselves believe that it will. This certainty of belief allows for chipped axes to cleave through power armor, shoddily thrown together ‘shootas’ launch lead projectiles in all directions, and dilapidated trukks trundle forward at breakneck speeds simply because they have been painted red, and every Ork worth his salt knows that the red ones go the fastest.
Orks operate societally on the principle that Might is Right, and the biggest Orks must be the best and the most right. They are further subdivided into clans, each with their own unique quirks and colors, though an Ork warband will typically be comprised of individuals from several different clans. This is in part because there is nothing that an Ork loves more than a fight, and will readily forget their differences in order to take to the battlefield, unless there are no suitable enemies in which case they will gladly fight one another. Bodily injury is frequent among the Orks because of their disdain for safety and their method of war, but it also serves an important purpose: Orks reproduce through the production of spores, and nothing releases more spores into the air than being gored by a chainsword. In this way, even if you defeat an Ork force, they will likely return and will be very hard to completely eradicate from a world. To quote an old Orky saying: “The Orkses is never beaten in battle. If we win, we win. If we die, we dead, so we don’t count as beat. If we run away, we can always come back for another go, see?”
For those who have ever seen the Mad Max/Road warrior films, you will recognize the ramshackle, post-apocalyptic visuals and costuming that were an obvious inspiration for the modelers and game designers at Games Workshop back in the 80s and 90s. This tradition has continued on to the present, and Ork models are still often dressed in a ridiculous combination of leather and sheet metal plating, strange tribal fetishes, warpaint, and exposed skin. Vehicles and walkers cobbled together from scrap parts by tinkering madmen and a general junkyard gang feel permeate the force which often makes for a fun-loving appearance and helps remind us all that this is just a game. This isn’t necessarily to imply that the Orks aren’t menacing, as they are gorilla-like in stature, hugely muscled and the very personification of bellowing rage when it comes time to make war, or WAAAAAAAGH as they will commonly roar.
From a hobbying perspective, The Orks are among the most entertaining and have some of the greatest breadth of options available. Painting-wise, Ork forces are rarely uniform and well-ordered so it is quite common for a broad spectrum of green skin tones and colored cloth to be scattered throughout the force giving it great visual variety. In terms of modeling, the Ork kits come with some of the highest number of additional components and optional flair to help make a force ‘yours’ as well as add further variety to the visual scope of the army.
Additionally, many modelers find that working on an Ork force is the most enjoyable amongst all of the options in Warhammer 40,000. Beyond the ability to craft your varying football hooligan Orks and their ramshackle machinery, the very nature of Ork “Kustomization” allows for a great deal of personalized conversions and off-the-wall features that can be put into a miniature. If you love the idea of throwing together some vehicles from the parts in the scrapyard, and a general sense of ‘well, it hasn’t fallen apart yet, so this looks like it’s finished’, then Orks may just be the collector’s force for you.
If you are a player who loves to laugh, there can be no better force for you than the Orks. Beyond the wacky appearance and humorous fluff written into every story about the orks and evident in the model range, the rules themselves often lend hilarity and randomness to a contest. Some of the more competitive players find this aggravating, as an Ork force has more variables to account for and less control over the force’s actions, but most players will enjoy the haphazard performance their Orks put on each battle. This is not to say that Orks are a lost cause and cannot win games, but it will be somewhat difficult to be routinely competitive with this army as it has a comparatively weak codex and requires more thinking ahead/contingency plans than your typical force. However, if you are the kind of player that likes a challenge, Orks are a great way to embrace that way of playing, and almost every opponent you have will love you for it, since nearly everyone loves seeing Orks on the table.
On its face, Orks appear to be a very assault oriented army. Most of the images you will see involve a giant Ork swinging a choppa as he wades into the thick of the fighting. This is certainly an option, but the relatively limited mobility options and the vulnerability to enemy fire means that quite often a large portion of your force will die before reaching the enemy lines. If you are prepared to accept the loss of many of your units and the death of dozens of models a turn, Ork close combat forces can still be viable. Some players prefer to bury their opponents in a horde of expendable swarming models, and the Orks are capable of this, particularly with The Green Tide detachment option.
A more common layout for an Ork army is known as “More Dakka”, wherein cheap, low accuracy, high output firepower is emphasized. If you relish the idea of drowning your opponent in a hail of bullets, rockets spiraling out of control through the air, and cannon blasts ricocheting off of every surface while clattering jet planes scream overhead, Orks will excel for you. Most of their units can be comically overburdened with guns, and if you strive to maximize this you will have a fun and hilarious force that can meet with some success. Alternatively, you can emphasize tough and durable Orks, bringing only the largest and toughest greenskins encased in robo-suit “Mega Armor” or makeshift dreadnoughts, giant walkers and mobile fortresses stomping their advance up the table.
Orks are one of the factions that has existed since the beginning of Warhammer 40K, and as such there are a great many models both old and new available to players and collectors. Searching for Assault on Black Reach models on eBay or elsewhere is a great way to add some initial models to your force. In addition, there are dozens of non-GW Ork and Orc models available, as well as fantasy themed Orcs that an easily be put into an Ork force with some conversion work. The Kustomization spirit of an orc force means many things can be scratch built, or cobbled together with plasticard and only a few official components to stretch a force. Unfortunately, Ork forces often need to field many models to be successful and so they are one of the pricier armies to get into if you decide to go the all-official model route.
There is tons of fluff written about them, and many generations of codices to read all of the information about them. There are also a great many supplements and sources of rules and models for the Orks, including Forge World/Imperial Armour, Armageddon, Sanctus Reach supplements, the Ghazghkull supplement, White Dwarf, and more. This allows for a great selection of models and rules so that a force can be customized many different ways and include lots of variety, in keeping with Orkish tradition.
Does an Ork force appeal to you? Would you be interested in starting an Ork army for Warhammer 40,000? Let us know what you think.