Tuesday, 9 July 2013

5 Changes 6th Edition Codex: Orks Needs

The problem with suggesting changes for Codex: Orks is that the current book is incredibly well written. It's lasted two editions without an update yet remains competitive and contains some of the best regarded lore on the orks. While certainly weaker than in previous editions, it meshes well with the current rules of the sixth edition and is an extremely balanced as an army. It's a force which has potential power, but requires players to actually think about what they are doing and use tactics rather than rely upon raw stats and special rules. Or plasma syphons. The fluff is well written and contains a balance between humour and seriousness which is borderline perfect. Being written in a dry enough manner to take the orks seriously and occasionally spiced up with humour. Either the overt kind which the race is known for or the far blacker kind making use of how much of a hellhole 40K truly is.

Truth be told this is the latest of multiple rewrites of this list as everything put onto paper kept coming back to "Keep Phil Kelly, don't fix what isn't broken." That's really all the book needs besides integration of some elements introduced after the fourth edition. Still, you can hardly write a list of improvements based upon that. 
As such here are the top five improvements the future Codex: Orks needs. 

5 - Better Integration Of Aircraft

Being a book from the fourth edition, Codex: Orks wasn't really made with fliers in mind. It's one of the few major rules updates it completely lacks and one it definitely needs to catch up on. While the orks thankfully do have fightas of their own, at the moment aircraft only work with very specific lists from the codex. It doesn't seem to be integrated well with the army as a whole and hasn't been designed as well as it could to operate alongside many of the units.

The aircraft themselves are also limited in comparison to what we see elsewhere. They lack the versatility of the Tau Empire's new additions despite having two bomber variants and one fighter. Again this is largely because they were tacked onto the book rather than made with it already in mind, but even considering that their abilities seem to be comparatively limited. Even the Dark Eldar Razorjet feels like it is better written and thought out than either of the three ork variants.

A further problem with the army is its comparative lack of anti-air defences and ability to bring down opposing planes. While it does have some, thanks in part to the ability to take buildings in armies now, like many it lacks a lot of options to truly deal with them. Either via units and weapons or special rules to somehow take them out of the sky. As the army currently stands it has a real shortcoming when it comes to air battles of any kind, from everything such as placing units alongside them to work effectively together to just shooting these things down.

In the lore certain Waaaghs! are generally presented as using them quite extensively from bringing in supplies DoW style to weakening defences. The rules definitely need to reflect this and update with the times.

4 - More Looting, More Lore

One of the aspects which really sets the orks apart from their foes is their technology and machines of war. Whereas the Mechanicum revere their machines, the eldar craft theirs from bone and Chaos infests theirs with daemonic entities; the orks pillage everything in sight. APCs, Leman Russ battle tanks, tractors, drop pods, anything which can still be driven they will take. The idea has been made that they will take anything with an engine, pimp it out and shove it onto the battlefield. It's a core part of their technology and quite an interesting one, having everything they know and develop be built upon scraps and remnants of others. The problem is that while books have used it, they've never quite fully embraced the idea of it in crunch or fluff.

Details and hints are always given, no argument there, The idea of how the Mekboyz have a genetic understanding of technology, how certain vehicles and ships have always been pillaged, the fact their technology is partially powered by self-belief; but a great deal of potential goes unused. This is a race who, given enough time and focus, can supposedly loot anything and turn it into a weapon of war; and it's an area which hasn't been explored beyond fan conversions. 

Take for example how Waaaghs! begin. The last book went into some detail upon how orks get from world to world and how a Waaagh! really gets going. How it builds up momentum over time, builds in numbers and how orks eventually become a system destroying horde. The level of detail behind the process is interesting but it was more a generalisation, showing them going from world to world before finding a space hulk. It skipped the origins of the Waaagh! itself and early developments of how they managed to get into space or how a planet's state can effect them.

Let's say a handful of ork spores manage to arrive on a agri-world seemingly safe from harm well within the Imperium's borders. One sparsely populated enough for a growing ork presence to go unnoticed and with a limited military presence if any at all. As the orks take over, they then naturally begin building machines of war out of anything they can get their hands on. Harvesters are turned into battle wagons, trukks are converted vans and dreadnoughts built out of load-lifting servitors. Even things as simple as shootas would need to be cobbled together, built out of construction tools, planting equipment, anything which vaguely resembled a projectile device in any way.
Consider what they would make warships out of or how they would reach orbit without transports. Converting their own out of vehicles, fuel tanks or perhaps even sections of buildings taken to bits and refitted into aircraft.

That is just one example as well, the vast differences between planets would create vastly different Waaaghs! depending upon which world they started from. Ones ruined by war and abandoned by both sides, lost craftworlds, failed tyranid invasions or even those affected by the Warp. In a fair number of those examples the orks would be corralled and cut down, but just think for a moment what the successful ones would look like.

The orks aren't simply a group of looters who occasionally land on worlds and pinch military vehicles. They're self-replicating, superhumanly durable psychic aliens, with an innate understanding of technology and a level of ingenuity on par with MacGuyver. Give them a pile of scrap and they will turn it into laser cannon given enough time and experimentation. The Imperium shouldn't just be treating them as intergalactic vermin, they should be dreading the idea of them stumbling upon a mothballed fleet or getting to an undefended world.

The orks have one massive advantage over all other species in this respect. Both the fluff and the rules should really reflect this and integrate it fully into its future codices in some way.

3 - Better Integration Of The Tribes And Clans

This is a problem many codices share: major factions remain underused and underdeveloped. This was a problem brought up in both the Eldar and Tau Empire lists and it remains true here. While by no means as bad as in those books they did feel pushed into the background. Utilised only in the twelfth to fifteenth pages and then never really referred to again outside of the odd moment. Many stories which would have served as a perfect example of the clans often went unused or were never cited to have any relation to them. Grog Irontoof for example would have made a perfect Bad Moon Warboss, yet besides gathering Flash Gitz he never had any connection to the clan.

This lack of examples isn't as damaging or lackluster as it is in other books. Ork culture isn't quite as neccessary to define, working in a very different way from tau sept worlds or eldar craftworlds. There isn't quite as much to explore and the characters aren't individually as deep or complexly written. On the other hand however there are a fair number which definitely warrant a bit more focus or tales to explore them. The traditionalist Snakebites and their way of war is not something we've seen much of, and it contrasts them heavily with the more technologically inclined orks. The Blood Axes method of doing deals with humans and even taking ships, guns and supplies off of them is something worth exploring, especially given their suggested reason for this: 

"Us Blood Axes have learnt a lot from da humies. How best ta kill 'em, fer example."

Yeah, imagine for a moment orks using some of the better Imperial Guard tactics. More strategised blitzkriegs, amassed assaults or targeting leaders first in their attacks. It would definitely go some way towards balancing out the overall opinion that any ork force is a mindless horde simply determined to get to grips with the enemy.

This isn't to say that the codex should become completely devoted to them or have entire sections expanded to devote time to the clans, far from it. All it needs is to integrate elements of them slightly more into certain parts of characters and stories. Not for it to overwhelm the book or remove any ideas for orks who are not a part of such clans, just enough to utilise the unique elements they offer.

2 - Old Enemies Of Humanity

The orks are remembered as a very long standing part of the universe. They were the most prominent enemy the Imperium fought during the days of the Great Crusade, one of the oldest parts of the canon and a force which humanity has fought more than any other over the years. While the eldar manipulate events, avoid fights or keep to themselves and Chaos is its greatest foe, the orks are the most numerous. Capable of launching assaults and massive invasion forces at a far greater rate than the Black Crusades, and on a scale rarely seen or surpassed until the arrival of the tyranids. They have been a part of some of the galaxy's most famous wars which still rage today, battling them for thousands of years, and as such their book should reflect that.

This isn't to say the current book doesn't do this. Close to five pages are devoted to the second and third wars for Armageddon, their most famous conflicts. However, at the same time every single detailed campaign is set at the very end of the 41st millenium and we're only told they're old foes in the codex. There is plenty of opportunity for older battles with the race and even areas which could allow for a vast amount of creative freedom.

Take the final paragraphs of Horus Heresy: Collected Visions for example, where it had been noted that xenos had taken advantage of the civil war. Carving their way into the heartland of the imperium and forging new empires. The orks might have been bloodied by the imperial crusades and many of their empires conquered, but they were far from completely defeated. Other forces or new Waaaghs! might have arisen during the two year war and fought either side, attacking strongholds or Imperial forces. Both Fulgrim and Galaxy in Flames showed orks doing just this, attacking Imperial worlds and winning just before the war began in full. It would be an interesting thing to see the orks fighting the Imperium at the height of its power and would even help to contrast with later changes in tactics.

Rynn's World among others noted the orks had learned from them, apparently having adapted to their methods in certain ways. It would serve as an opportunity to contrast how they've changed, how they've learned to fight their enemy and show their older mistakes. Hell, both the previous Codex: Orks and other sources suggest that the inspiration for ork gargants originated from seeing imperial titans.

Even if they avoided the Horus Heresy entirely or the events following the Emperor's death, there are still centuries to work with. Vandire's Reign, the time in which the Imperium was split once more into two kingdoms, the Age of Redemption; all eras which the orks would have fought the Imperium in.

Writers for these books seem to have real trouble working with ten thousand years of lore when it comes to fights and battles, so perhaps now is the time they finally did try to make use of it. Perhaps adding a small degree of evolution to an otherwise largely stagnant universe while they are at it.

1 - Growth And Intelligence

Out of all the 40K races the orks are usually the ones brought out to die the most. While you might have individuals like Starbane or M'Kar who exist purely to make a certain author's armies look better, the orks are the ones generally treated as a mindless horde. One which can be out-thought and overcome via better training, skill or even basic intelligence. The reason for this is understandable - Orks are traditionally a horde army and 40K's sense of humour. As a rule they are a hard foe to truly take seriously and seem like small potatoes compared to daemons, psychic elves or reality devouring horrors bleeding into reality. However, all of them should not be treated in this manner.

For every few hundred warbosses who die is a one smart or tough enough to overcome their enemy. For every thousand Waaaghs! that fail against the defences of a world there is one which has orks with enough ingenuity or bloody mindedness to break past them. For every warboss who survives the destruction of his forces and limps away, only to die later having learned nothing; there is another who will consider his enemy's strengths and act accordingly. The entire ork race seems to revolve around the weak dying off in order for the strong to advance, and that's an element which could be kept more central to some of its themes.

The last codex emphasised upon the possibility of orks learning from past experiences and tougher figures arising from their failures, but only in small bits. The War of the Dakka was one, failing against the tau repeatedly but then learning how to combat against them effectively. Even using the failings of one specific commander to have them break the traditional tactics which would have won them the day. While many orks do go for the traditional approaches people know them for and can achieve victories via them (Tuska the Daemon-Killa anyone?) they're generally the toughest ones too stupid or battle-scarred to die. The ones who have survived their traditional swarm assaults the most and have become best at them. You could argue the reason Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka is as good as he is because he's master of both. Having survived the harshest of wounds, yet still being smart enough to do ingenious batshit insane things like land roks within a mile of his armies to surprise Imperial forces.

The entire ork race doesn't need to be turned into ultra-tough or surprisingly tactically adept killers, but the book needs to better show what they are capable of. Display that the race is often underestimated by its foes due to the many who do not learn or live long enough, but having a few who are terrifyingly capable at warfare. It's all there, it just needs to be properly outlined and detailed to make it clear to readers.

So those are the top five changes the orks need. Many of these are just devoted to enhancing the themes of the last book but they really are the things which came to mind the most while re-reading it. Fluff-wise all it really needs is to tighten up a few ideas, make a handful of points clearer and better utilise what it has. Rules-wise it needs a bit more variety between individual factions and to reflect the fluff besides re-statting certain units.

No doubt many of you have your own opinions and concepts about the improvements the army needs or disagree with some choices. As such, please feel free to state your thoughts in the comments section below, i'd be interested to hear the opinions of ork players.


Warhammer 40,000 and all related characters and media are owned by Games Workshop.


  1. "The problem with suggesting changes for Codex: Orks is that the current book is incredibly well written. It's lasted two editions without an update yet remains competative and contains some of the best regarded lore on the Orks." This statement seems half baked (oh, and it's spelled 'competitive').

    I think that the book was well written... for 4th edition; it was written with 5th edition in mind, which is complete bull-plop as no-one can predict the failures of rules and future erratas, which under powered it already.

    "It's lasted two editions without an update yet remains competative" is a lie and you should know it. Orks since 6th edition started have been mostly fun army lists with a few spam lists that people can't seem to strategize around, while the other races can have various competitive tournament worthy lists. You go on to talk about WAAAAAAGHS! which in my opinion made Orks plain fun to play as. Then 6th edition nerfed fleet of foot rules and left WAAAAAGHS! less effective and less strategic. The reason that it has lasted 2 editions without being re-written is because GW has been too busy re-writing their profit margins- errrr, I mean Space Marine codecs. Was the Ork codex broken? No. Was it under-appreciated and under-developed? Yes. But GW was not interested in fixing that, since Orks did not sell as much as SM and other factions. And the only reason they are making a new one in this edition is because a good portion of other factions are getting updates as well (before Orks as well for that matter, not that IG and Tyranids should have to wait longer).

    The lore part of the above statement is dead on though, as well as throughout the rest of the article as well. Oh wait, I almost forgot, you mention that 'The weak die so that the strong may thrive' and so on so forth like it is an Ork specialty, yet that can be said for everything in the 40k universe. The strong thrive by killing the weak. This goes for the Imperium, the Xenos, and the forces of Chaos. You could say the exact same thing for all the SM chapters; how many chapters failed for the number of existing chapters to survive- and thrive -throughout the history of mankind? Yet I have not seen that in any codex with the exception of IG Veterans, which is still stretching it in my opinion. Have you seen it in any other codex? I'd love for some citation if you have.

  2. As a tyranids player I wish the sixth edition codex came out later