The Orks are a race from the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are in some ways equivalent to Warhammer Fantasy Orcs, particularly in terms of their physical appearance, but vary in some biological and cultural details. They are seen by their enemies (everyone else, and sometimes each other) as savage, warlike and crude, but they are the most numerous species in the whole galaxy. However, the power of the Ork race as a whole is limited since they are split into hundreds of tiny empires, often warring between themselves. In the rare occasion that the Orks ever do unite, they are capable of destroying whole civilizations in a massive migration-invasion known as a Waaagh!
Orks first appeared in the Rogue Trader rulebook and the Space Orks boxed set, containing eighteen metal models. These Orks were squat, powerfully muscled humanoids, wielding crude ballistic weaponry (usually blackpowder or other explosive projectile-based equivalent) and large "stikkbombz" or stick grenades; along with their helmets and other paraphernalia. This equipment is reminiscent of German equipment from World War I.
Additional rules, cultural details, and painting guidelines were given in the later expansions Waagh Da Orks and 'Ere We Go!. An explanation for the combination of brutal stupidity with relatively high technology was now found: Orks had been created, in times long past, as a warrior race by the long-vanished Brain Boyz. This theme recurs in recent editions, the Orks having been created by the Old Ones as a race of bio weapons to fight the Necrons in the war that shattered the galactic civilization which existed prior to the rise of the Eldar.
Orks are genetically engineered to be muscular, aggressive, and none too bright; their technology is maintained by Mekboyz who have genetic dispositions to do well at special tasks. Indeed, the Brain Boyz were apparently able to encode information on how to build simple machinery in the genetic strands of Orks; thus Mekboyz require very little (if any) training in their function, since they understand mechanical principles at an instinctive level.
Specializations include Mad Doks, the ork equivalent of medics and doctors, who stitch up Orks wounded in battle, but also like to conduct unnecessary and gruesome medical experiments on their patients (such as replacing limbs with mechanical contraptions and transplanting heads); those who tend more towards these cybernetic experiments become Painboyz. The Slaverz (or 'Runtherders') direct the efforts of Gretchin (or 'Grotz'), the smaller and smarter servants essentially equivalent to goblins. Waagh da Orks also indicates of the existence of more specialised castes such as Bankaboyz, who controlled the Orks' supply of 'teef' (see Kurrency below), Yellerz who function as Orkish priests, and Brewerz who made beer; however, as the game became more combat-oriented, these were never mentioned again. Even Waagh da Orks gives no information on them other than their bare existence; it may be assumed that when the Orks go to war, these castes fight as ordinary Slugga (pistol) & Choppa (axe, large knives, clubs, pipes etc.) armed Boyz.The boyz who can afford it acquire big bore two handed guns, Shootas, and the boyz with even more teef buy big shootas, weapons that buck and spark at the pull of the trigger. Orks are brutish and speak with a low rumble and the occasional curse.
As the game evolved, some of the clunkier (if more flavour-filled) rules regarding Orks were dropped, though their culture remained much the same. For example, 'Ere we Go contains several pages of rules for mobs (i.e., squads) of Madboyz, Orks whom other Orks consider maladjusted, (it should be noted that an average Ork would be considered dangerously aggressive to the point of insanity in a human society). The Madboyz change their behaviour unpredictably according to dice rolls whenever conditions change, for example, when an enemy unit charges into combat with them. A roll is first made to determine which subset of behaviour is going to apply, such as 'Skitzo' and 'Manik', then another roll is made to see how this overall insanity manifests. The results vary from charging the closest enemy, with bonuses to their combat attributes ("Waagh! Dat makes me mad!") to phobic avoidance of all vehicles, even ones on their own side ("Urr! Keep dem wurrin' teknikol bitz away!"). While often found quite humorous, this was highly time-consuming, and dropped in the later editions, which were streamlined for combat. However, in the Feral Orks PDF, there are new rules for Madboyz. Weaponry such as the Shokk-Attak Gun and Zzap gun were also dropped, but are now reincarnated in the 5th edition of the codex.
The main background change lies in their method of reproduction. According to Waagh da Orks, Orks are born to feral enclaves as Wildboyz. They are then recruited into warbands and fight for a while with primitive weapons such as spears, before being recruited into a Boyz Mob and being given their first gun. If they survive the ensuing ten or twenty years of warfare, they become overwhelmed with the urge to go off 'lookin' fer sumfink' and wander back to their enclaves to breed, developing sexual characteristics on the way. In newer editions, however, adult Orks are constantly giving off spores which lie in the ground, often for years, waiting to develop into Orks or Gretchin. Thus a world invaded by Orks will be troubled by them for hundreds of years to come, even if the original assault is beaten off. The problem is in one way solved by the Orks themselves, however; they fight each other as often as they fight other races, and if they run out of other species to kill, they simply start waging war upon themselves.
The origins of the Orks have also been changed with the arrival of the 3rd edition of Codex: Necrons. In this book, a race called the Krork is described as a hardy green-skinned race, created by the Old Ones to defend their last strongholds against warp spawned horrors. In another part of the codex, there is some text in which the C'tan called the Deceiver expresses surprise that humanity and the Krork have spread everywhere. Since humanity and the orks are the most numerous races in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the connection is obvious (as is the name similarity). The book Xenology also implies that the Orks were created by an ancient race.
Ork weaponry is built by the Mekboyz or Mekanikz, as well as being captured from enemies or delivered as tribute. Weaponry is intentionally portrayed as being Heath Robinson-esque often steam-driven with clunky, early-industrial driving belts, hillbilly armor, and extraneous bells, whistles, and gongs. More recently, vehicles have spouted pollutants from wasteful engines, been coated in riveted plates, and altogether seem built from scrap parts. Weapons are often based on teleporter and force field technology, which the robust Ork physiology can use more easily than humans. A weapon found in 'Ere we Go, and reintroduced in the latest codex, is the Snotling Teleport Gun (also known as the Shokk Attack Gun). Snotlings are a tiny, Orkoid race even smaller than Gretchin and less bright than Orks, thus they are not usually of much use in combat. The weapon sends the Snotlings through a tunnel through a daemon-infested alternate dimension known as the Warp. The horrors the Snotlings experience drive them mad, and they emerge inside enemy power armor or vehicles as a biting, scratching mass. The Teleport Gun suffered from severe inaccuracy, but could be quite effective when it did hit.
In their current incarnation, Orks are very much a close-combat-optimised species, their weapons having short range and low accuracy - though this can sometimes be made up by sheer numbers. Orks are quite cheap in terms of in-game points, that is, it is possible to build a very large army, colloquially known as a 'sea of green' or 'green tide' from the skin colour. This is often necessary, since the effectiveness of an individual Ork at anything but the shortest range is small, and the Ork commander must be prepared to absorb considerable casualties in his effort to close in for a choppa work. This is in contrast to their earlier editions, where the large number of fun, but inaccurate weapons and special rules could easily make them rather unfocused, a jack-of-all-trades army but master of none. Some have accused the designers of regarding the Orks more as comic relief than as a serious army, and being more concerned with the flavour than the effect of weapons designed for them.
They eat fungi of all kinds as well as meat. A particularly favoured ingredient in their diet are Squigs, short for 'Squiggly beasts' — a variety of symbiotic races about the size of a cat but only possessing a set of lower legs or no legs at all. In earlier editions, Squigs were said to be a form of Tyranid with Ork genes. These include the "Eatin' Squig", a limbless blob which feeds on fungus, the "Growler Squig", a legged variety used as a sheepdog for Gretchin (in third and fourth editions referred to as a "Squighound" and available as an item of wargear), the "Attack Squig" a powerfully voracious little beast available as an item of wargear, and the "Face-eater Squig", a ferociously toothed variety used both as a weapon and for entries in face-eating contests. (The Ork and the Squig both open their mouths and bite, in a parody of a kiss. If the Ork eats the Squig, he wins. If he keels over backwards, he loses.) There is also a larger sub-species of Squig, called a Squiggoth, that ranges in size from about that of an elephant to a 60-plus-foot monstrosity capable of stomping buildings into rubble. Squiggoths are used as pack animals and in combat as the carriers of mobile fortresses. Another species of Squig is the "Hair-Squig" which the Orks do not eat, but wear on their heads as a form of decoration, as Orks are naturally hairless. Orks are known for pitying Humans (uumies) for their lack of proper Hair squigs of varying colors.
Orks grow all through their lives, though the average Ork stands around the same height as the average man. The Ork would be far taller if he were only to stand up straight. In their normal walking and standing pose Orks hide about a foot in height; when standing normally in their pose they look similar to a gorilla. Orks growth rates can vary, however. The effect is notable in extremely aggressive Orks. As the Ork survives combats and wins trophies, the respect of other Orks will produce in him an effect somewhat similar to adolescence in the human male: he puts on muscle, becomes more aggressive and assertive, and generally throws his weight around. If he wins the ensuing challenges to single combat, he may become a Nob (short for "noble," but pronounced "knob"), a leader of Orks, noticeably larger, tougher, and a darker green than the average. Once he begins to grow, an Ork will generally keep getting bigger, stronger, and greener until he is beaten by a bigger or more cunning Ork. Warbosses and Warlords, the rulers of continents and empires, are very large Orks indeed, often standing over three meters (10') tall or higher. Ghazghkull himself is a towering 6 meters (19'6") in height.
Assuming they aren't killed in combat, a buggy accident or by a rival, an Ork will live indefinitely. As such, Orks seem to live longer the more powerful they are, with Ghazghkull possibly being a hundred years old. It seems Ork warbosses live a similarly long time unless a rival or enemy does them in first. The process causing this is unknown, but most likely another legacy of the old ones genetic manipulation, designed to create a more permanent leadership base for the Orks.
The Waaagh! is also used to refer to an Ork Warboss' army.
In the first edition of the game, Brain Boyz were the ancestors to the Snotlings. The Brain Boyz soared to intelligence upon eating a particular species of mushroom and spread across the galaxy with the help of their less intelligent Ork slaves, but whose empire fell apart when the Orks consumed all traces of the mushroom which only grew on their home planet. Before the Brain Boyz regressed into the permanently juvenile Snotlings, they genetically engineered the Orks' DNA to include a 'techno gene'. This gene developed in Orks as they grew, influencing their minds and releasing encoded knowledge; in a similar way that a human baby will reflexively hold its breath under water or a horse can walk half an hour after being born, an Ork's techno gene gave it information on how to fight, operate weapons, and speak his language. Ork specialists, such as Mekboyz and Painboyz, are the mechanics and surgeons of Ork society, and receive their knowledge through these techno genes. It seems this was a deliberate measure to ensure that the Orkoid race would survive in a hostile universe.
After the release of Gorkamorka and the revision to the Ork reproductive system presented therein, the Orks' heritage was revised to match the prominent role of the Old Ones in the game background of later 40k releases. The current story is that Brain Boyz were supervisors of the Old Ones, and the Orks are the descendants of the green-skinned Krork, created as a survivor race by the Old Ones in their wars against the Necrontyr. However, when the war was over it didn't take long for the krork to rebel. To ensure their masters' creations would not be wiped out they encoded the various techno genes into them and thus as a short time went by they regressed into snotlings and their legacy as well as the old ones was wiped from history.
"Orks have not only survived, they have prospered and are more numerous than humanity. This at least is due in part to how they reproduce. Orks reproduce through the release of spores, which grow into a plant-like womb underground that nourishes the bodies of the various Orkoid species. This is the entire basis of the Orkoid ecosystem, producing first Squigs, then Snotlings who cultivate the Squigs and fungus, then Gretchin to build the settlements, and finally the Orks themselves. This means the Orks, where ever they go, will have an abundance of food, slaves and other resources, a moving ecosystem that supports them as they go on their Waaaghs!"
This also makes it extremely difficult to rid a planet of Orks, even if the initial invasion is defeated. Orks release spores throughout their lives, but they mass-release them at the moment of death; to prevent this you must burn the bodies shortly after killing them (within, as said in the Fifteen Hours novel, around seven hours, as the battle took around five hours, and Bulaven mentioned they would start walking around again in two hours) and then burn their bodies and heads. Without a nearby population of Orks, the fungus will eventually start the Ork life cycle anew. Decades after weathering an Ork Waaagh!, settlements on a planet can find themselves faced with an unexpected attack from feral Ork tribes coming out of the wilderness.
More unusual are the squigs. Squigs are animals that share the same general algae-based biology of the Orks and gretchin, and are used as food, clothing, weapons and even hair, being trained as guard squigs and attack squigs, as well as super-massive squiggoths.
In the first and second editions of the game, squigs were the result of Tyranid manipulation of Orkish gene-matter and could be present in either army. Orks were said to have discovered the first squigs aboard a Tyranid bio-ship and recognised them as being "Orky", subsequently taking the little creatures home. Squigs then spread throughout Ork space. However, since this conflicts with the more recent descriptions of the Orkoid ecosystem, this has been dropped. Squigs are now exclusively orky, with ripper swarms replacing them in the Tyranid list.
Mad Doks (also known as 'Painboyz') are responsible for fixing injuries that even the Ork physiology can't repair, such as severed limbs and brain damage. An Ork will only go to the Dok when he has no other choice, as these Oddboyz are infamous for trying out experimental procedures (such as the greatly feared squig brain transplant) on patients while they are under anesthesia (known as "concussion" to other races). Doks are responsible for attaching bioniks, although sometimes they aren't paying attention and replace the wrong part of the patient's body. (For example, Dok Blag's Mk I Exploding Leg.) High-ranking Doks are known as 'painbosses' and are known to be accompanied by cybork bodyguards.
Yellerz are Orks which have been naturally gifted with an incredibly loud voice. These Orks' usefulness is nowhere near as important as the majority of the other Oddboyz and they do not make an appearance in the 40K game. They do however appear in the specialist game Epic where they sit on top of Ork titans, known as Gargants. These are huge lumbering constructions built in the image of the Ork gods by Mekboyz. Using an amplifier to further increase their voices' volume, they shout communications to other Orks and Gargants and in return they themselves receive communications and orders from other Yellerz. Off the battlefield Yellerz also act as priests in Ork society, preaching to their brethren with their supernatural voices.
Mekboyz (also known as 'Mekaniks' or just 'Meks') are Ork engineers, who build all the gunz, vehicles, and other machines used by Orks. They are especially important to Speed Freeks. Important meks are known as 'Big Meks'. Their main cause of death would be officially listed as 'eksperiment (sic) gone wrong' if Orks bothered with all that sort of thing. In the current edition of Codex: Orks, Mekboyz can lead mobs of "Burna Boyz" or "Lootas" as well as repair vehicles using their equipment "Mekboy's tools." In the 5th edition main rules, Big Meks can also be used to lead an Ork army.
Pigdoks are an odd combination of Dok and Mek, although not as skilled as either individually. They are found in feral Ork tribes, tending the boars that are ridden to battle by the primitives. Their main use in battle is to provide 'doping' to increase the ferocity of the various beasts that feral Orks take to war, as well as some of the Orks themselves. Skilled pigdoks have been known to "swap" the hind legs with a single track/wheel and a big loud engine.
Slavers (also known as 'runtherdz') are the Orks who have the patience to take care of gretchin, squigs and any other slaves or creatures the Orks may have captured. Their trademark weapons are the whip and grabba stikk.
Wyrdboyz (also spelled Weirdboyz) are Ork psykers. One major difference between them and the psykers of other races is that, instead of drawing upon the power of The Warp, a dangerous realm full of daemons, wyrdboyz draw on the power of the Waaagh! When drawing on the power of the Waaagh! Ork wyrdboyz are not in any less danger: if they soak up too much of this power, their heads explode. This is much like a catastrophic mistake for a Warhammer Fantasy greenskin shaman. In addition to the wyrdboy'z head exploding, the powerful psychic backlash that is unleashed can cause other Orks' heads to explode as well. Naturally, wyrdboyz avoid combat as much as possible, but the ability to gout green flame capable of melting armor and shoot bolts of lightning is too great for most warbosses to resist, and they get dragged into combat anyway. Some wyrdboyz actually become addicted to battle as most other Orks and seek out battles; these exceptionally dangerous individuals are known as Warpheads. Wyrdboys have made a comeback in the revised 4th edition Ork codex.
Smartboyz were first seen in the graphic novel Deff Skwadron, which featured the name Smartboyz several times, most often for the character Gimzod, a co-pilot. Judging by Gimzod's role, Smartboyz seems to be the name for normal fighter type Orks who are oddly intelligent, and who often find themselves used to help bigger Bosses on their missions in several things that the Boss might forget, like reminding them of their actual mission. Gimzod in particular was able to spell many words with an "h" in them, and often had a clear overview on the current situation. It is unclear where exactly a Smartboy stands in the Ork hierarchy. However, Gimzod's Boss once said: "There's a difference between bein' smartboy an' bein' a smart git.", indicating that Gimzod is only useful to him as long as he knows his place. It is also possible that Smartboyz are only tolerated in the Blood Axe clan and would be killed in other Clans because of being too un-Orky ('ez too tellagit!).
Other oddboyz include Sumboyz (bankers/accountants), Minderz (Bodyguards for Weirdboyz), Flyboyz (Pilots of aircraft and some spacecraft), Diggerz (Miners and tunnelers), and Brewboyz (alcohol manufacturers), all of whom have an important role in ork society (although not necessarily on the battlefield).
There are also many other oddboyz varieties whose role in Ork society is either barely noticed or are of no use in most battles, and are therefore never given much attention. Their talents however are essential to Orkz all the same and some dedicated players have been known to invent them to add more character to their Ork armies and Ork background in general.
In the 1st edition of Warhammer 40,000 an Ork Navigator made an appearance. This is the only mention of such a character and no explanation has since been offered for how the Orks navigate through Warp-space. It should be noted that this character was a psyker and, as the term "Weirdboy" was not yet in use back then, it is possible that Weirdboyz now fulfill this function in the current background.
Orks seem incapable of making the "th" sound with tongue and tooth, therefore they simply spit out an "f" sound, producing words like "teef", "fings", and "fink" as opposed to "teeth", "things", and "think".
In addition, they do not pluralise in the same fashion as humans, preferring the harsh buzzing of 'z' to the soft hissing of 's.' So, the term for multiple Orks armed with sluggas and choppas is Slugga Boyz, and so on for Mekboyz, Grotz, Mad Dokz, etc.
When (and if) an ork spells something in glyphic, it should be done "Fohnetikalee" (phonetically).
In the specialist game Gorkamorka, the surviving Orks of a space hulk crash on a desert planet and desperately try to rebuild a spacecraft from the ruins of their previous one so that they may leave the planet and rejoin the Waaagh! There are many theories about how this new spacecraft would do this, including the notion that it is really an enormous teleportation device which will transport all the Orks on to a passing spacehulk or friendly Ork craft. Another theory is that the monstrosity will simply take off into space with all the Orks aboard. However as the new space craft grew in size it began to gain a similarity to one of the Ork gods just as Ork Gargants do. This of course immediately led to a violent debate erupting between all the Orks present as to which god it looks like. Those that believe it looked more like Gork called themselves Gorkers and those who thought it to be Mork called themselves Morkers and the society was split in two. The rivalry between the two sides became the biggest obstacle to the Orks ever leaving the planet because as soon as they stopped concentrating on finding a way off the planet and started fighting each other, construction on the new space craft slowed to a practical halt and the battle between the two sides practically destroyed it. The Meks then decided to call the figure Gorkamorka to stop any future fighting and allowed any Ork to believe it was either Gork or Mork. This is just another example of how the Orks' built-in animosity has held back their progress severely and how their religion can inspire their violent tendencies. Perhaps this character flaw was purposely built into Ork personality by their ancient creators in order to prevent them from ever growing too powerful.
The Bad Moonz are one of the richest clanz (See below) due to their slight genetic difference which makes their teeth grow earlier and quicker, making them richer than the other clanz.
The way that they "make" their money has also been joked about many times. It is stated that if one Ork wishes to rob another Ork the former only has to hold down the latter and beat his face until all the teeth have fallen out.
A graphic novel called Deff Skwadron covers the lives of Flyboyz and breaks down the use of an Orky airplane. Notable parts are the brakes which are often removed, the gun-sight which is almost never used, the fuel lines wired through the cockpit in case the pilot gets thirsty, the dials that nobody knows what they do and also the 'steery-stick'.
Quite a lot of Ork technology should not, logically, work at all, but does anyway in the hands of the Orks, due to the latent psychic energy that the Orks project - in other words, if an Ork believes something will work, it might well do. This explains why Ork weapon often don't work when others try to use their technology, and why, though there is no scientific explanation for it, Ork vehicles painted red really do go faster than others.
An Ork army gives its commanding player numerical superiority on the battlefield (in fact, in the game Dawn of War, some of their technology depends on it), as Ork units are less point-intensive than that of other races. The downside of this is that Ork units perform poorly in individual ranged combat, and, like the Imperial Guard, require massed volleys of fire to ensure sufficient damage. Their melee abilities, however, are much more satisfactory (their close combat stats are on par with the space marines), giving them an edge in close combat and hand-to-hand battles. In addition, Ork armies can use a variety of original and interesting rule sets to help give them an edge over their opponents.
Secondly, Ork armies are very customizable; orks are easily converted (in fact, the battle fortresses of most players are little more than a mountain of leftover vehicle parts and weapons). Furthermore, looted vehicles add a huge variety of options when it comes to personalizing your army.
Thirdly, Ork armies, with their ramshackle vehicles and unusual inventions, are far less conventional than most of the other forces available in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. The unique (and often humorous) nature of the Orks contrasts sharply with the more serious tone of other armies, which may appeal to players who prefer a lighter edge on Warhammer 40,000's dark future scenario.
The simple ideology of the Orks ("We'z gonna smash dem Oomies ta bits n' pieces") allows for fewer hard feelings after what can sometimes be a game that leads to animosity between players. Even if da Boss dies, the biggest surviving Ork will gladly take charge after a battle and maintain the crude Orky heirarchy that his late superior worked so hard to instill. It is such that an Ork army can be decapitated a great number of times before losing momentum.
As a result, if da Boss falls in combat, da Army stays fully operable. This comes at contrast with most other Races, who realistically have a set-in-stone command structure that, once destroyed, effectively brings the Army down with them. The Orks are as tough as nails, and any given Army's survivability truly goes to show that "da Orks is da best, an pinky oomie skin ain't nuffin nex ta a fine set o' green hide".
The 5th Edition Codex:Orks (released shortly before 5th edition) was published on the 12th of January 2008.. New units such as weirdboyz and painboyz have been introduced, and many of the old Ork models such as trukks and warbikes were re-done. In addition, rules for weapons such as the choppa have been dropped, and weapons that were phased-out of the game altogether, like shokk-attack gunz have returned.