STORY OF THE BOYS
ROGUE TRADEROrks were the first alien race to be produced for 40K, a metal boxed set called "Thrugg Bullneck's Space Ork Raiders" was released alongside the original plastic Space Marines to accompany the first edition of the game: Rogue Trader.
Orks were cast then as Sci-Fi counterparts to the greenskins in Warhammer fantasy Battle. They were a warlike and barbarous race who inhabited numerous empires within a particular area of the galaxy. They lived alongside a smaller race called the Gretchin whom the Orks mostly dominated and exploited. The Gretchin of old were rather more independant than the Grots of today though, and occasionally formed their own mini-empires in secluded parts of ork space.
Ork wargear was fairly standardised at this point, being in the main a more limited list of items available to humans. Ork warriors preferred the Bolter as a firearm (because of the noise it made as much as it's hitting power). Orks made use of special weapons such as Plasma Guns, Flamers and Melta Guns, and heavy weapons like Lascannons, Heavy Plasma Guns and Heavy Bolters. Armour was mostly restricted to Flak or Primitive Armour, though Squad Leaders sometimes aquired Powered Armour. Gretchin were far more destitute, taking to battlefields with Muskets, Pistols and Bows.
Little was revealed at this juncture on the origins, history or philosophies of the Orks. They were noted as being rarely psychic and had a long history of conflict with man (an anecdote told of first contact with the Orks, in which the Human and Ork spotted one another, didn't much like what they saw, drew pistols and shot each other dead). The rulebook included a more detailed look at a particular dispute between Orks and Humans, the invasion of Rynn's World by an Ork horde commanded by Warlord Snagrod, the Arch Arsonist of Charadon. Being the home of the Crimson Fists Space Marine chapter the planet should have had little trouble in seeing off the greenskins, but early on in the engagement a misfiring missile demolished the Crimson Fists fortress monastery, leaving the shattered remnants of the chapter with a hard fight on their hands. The introduction game set out in the rulebook ("The Battle at the Farm") pitted a squad of Marines against Thrugg Bullneck and his Raiders, who were attempting to retrieve a stash of valuables from a ruined farmhouse.
After the release of Rogue Trader a few more Ork models were produced to accompany the Space Ork Raiders boxed set. Blister packs included Ork Warriors armed for close combat or with specialist weapons. The first Ork vehicle was produced in the form of the War Buggy (a dune buggy touting a mean Heavy Bolter or Heavy Plasma Gun). Some command figures also appeared, including Power Axe weilding champions, Ork leaders in Power Armour, a grisly standard and a drummer.
CHAPTER APPROVED: THE FIRST BOOK OF THE ASTRONOMICONShortly after the release of Rogue Trader this book set about fleshing out some unexplored areas of the 40K universe, provided some army lists and a series of scenarios that pitched the Orks against another Space Marine chapter - the Space Wolves.
The "Wolf Time" scenarios introduced the Mekaniaks - Ork technicians whose aptitude for mechanics was more as a result of insanity than genius. A series of battles was fought in which the Space Wolf player had to destroy a number of Force Fields the Mekaniaks had built and maintained. The Mekaniaks assisted with the defence of their creations, sometimes with bizarre weaponry (one Mekaniak weilded an altered Heavy Plasma Gun he had named "Sally").
The list also indroduced a few ideas which were to influence later Ork developments, such as veteran Ork warriors, light vehicle squadrons and Ork Shamanic psykers.
Shortly after this the Ork Dreadnought model was released. It could be configured as a two armed "Killer" class, or expanded to a taller, four armed "Onslaughter" class.
Over the next few years the Ork backstory and model range was left pretty unaltered. A Wartrakk with Lascannon was produced as well as a Hop-Splat field artilliary piece with Gretchin crew and Mekaniak with mean looking whip. Adeptus Titanicus introduced the Gargants to the Ork arsenal. A range of Blunderbus, Shotgun and Musket armed Gretchin were released, as were a number of heavily armoured "Ork Nobles". A Scorcha variant of the Wartrakk was produced.
Towards the end of this period a mysterious blister of Orks was produced with no accompanying rules or background to explain or accompany them. The wrench waving Mekaniak was recognisable enough, but what to make of the grinning "Painboy" with his saw and apron, the whip weilding "Runtherd" or the unarmed and rather confused looking "Weirdboy"?
WAAAGH THE ORKS!During the last years of Rogue Trader there was an unprecedented amount of new miniatures, background information and wacky rules released for the Orks. This information was released within three massive tomes: the background only "Waaagh the Orks!" and two rules and army lists books "'Ere We Go" and "Freebooters".
Rather than being a race of raiders pretty much confined to a finite area of space the orks were revealed to be a nomadic group of travellers who had spread throughout the known universe. Rather than being a weak psychic race the orks were described as being inherantly psychic creatures who had little to fear from the dangers of the Warp that Humans and Eldar were so terrified by.
Ork breeding was looked into. At this juncture they were portrayed as birthing a litter of whelps from a marsupial pouch at the end of their lives. In this way only the toughest or most resourceful Orks survived to reproduce. Old Orks wandered into the wilderness to give birth and then die, leaving communities of young "Wildboys" who could be subsequently exploited as raw recruits for any Ork force that found them.
Ork flora and fauna were broadly described. All Orkoid lifeforms seemed to have descended from and algal or fungal ancestry and Orks enjoyed a highly symbiotic relationship with a wide variety of mushrooms and an eclectic mix of half-Ork, half-fungus creatures known as Squiggly Beasts. These squigs were highly specialised and were used by the orks as foodstuff, fuel sources, tools and even hair!
The origins of the Orks were postulated upon and the myth of the Brainboyz was told. Apparently the original greenskin race had been a highly intelligent but physically feeble species. They had bio-engineered first the Gretchin and then the Orks as manual labourers and warriors. Unfortunately for the Brainboyz their intellect was dependant upon a particular type of fungi that became extinct shortly after the development of the Orks. Realising that their society was on the wane the Brainboyz coded knowledge of their achievements into the genetic data of their creations - meaning that a certain percentage of Orks would carry inherant technological ability, or surgical skills, or animal husbandry, or the ability to develop psychic powers. Having "saved" their civilisation this way the Brainboyz were free to degenerate and let the Orks become the dominant Greenskinned race. The tiny, barely sentient Snotlings were thought to be the remnants of the Brainboy race.
The Orks in which these genetic specialities arose were known as Oddboyz, and they fell into many categories of which four were common enough to warrant further attention. The technological genius Mekboys were already established. Painboys provided medical and dental aid to their comrades. Runtherds were part slave masters, part farmers who raised herds of Snotlings and Squiggly Beasts and led them into battle. Wierdboys were psychic conduits, able to soak the energy produced by excited Orks and unleash it as bolts of lightning, waves of teleknisis and other lethal effects.
Another major introduction at this stage was that of the clans - each a combination of lifestyle and philosophy that most Orks conformed to. The most prominant of these clans was the Goffs, who put a particular emphasis on martial ability and close quarters fighting. The Evil Suns seemed to produce more Meks than other clans and fielded many vehicles as a result. The Bad Moons were richer than other Orks and had more Wierdboys. The Snakebites were nomadic traditionalists who eshewed Mek-made creations and rode to battle on boars. The Deffskulls were looters who employed a great many Gretchin. The Blood Axes had once ruled over the other clans but had been overthrown for dealing to closely with Humans.
Each of the clans included Oddboys (although some of the clans had more of a particular type than the others) and a ruling class of Nobs, the largest and most fierce of the warrior Orks. There were six different army lists to use depending on which clan the Warlord of the army belonged to. In practice the differences between each of the clans was fairly minor and the ability to take Ork mobs of other clans meant that (with the exception of Blood Axes with whom other clans would not work) any Ork army could access to pretty much any of the units available to Orks (and Blood Axes were compansated somewhat with Human Mercenary Squads).
The final book detailed the Orks who, because of their lifestyle or some perceived disability, had to live outside normal Ork society - the Freebooters. These units were many and varied and included such oddities as Dreadnought Mobs, Bad Ork Bikers, Ork Chaos Warbands, Flash Gits, Gretchin Pirates, Ork Genestealer Cults and Stormboys of Khorne.
With this plethora of information came rules for numerous new units and weapons and models to represent them. There was the Squig Catapult which would fire pots of voracious carnivourous flying squigs at the Ork's enemies. The Shokk Attack Gun opened up a hole in the warp through which swarms of Snotlings would be forced, to appear within the workings of a hapless enemy Dreadnought or Tank. Stormboys were introduced as disciplinarian young Orks (who rebelled against their elders by taking war seriously). Skarboys were introduced as upgrades for a few members of each Goff mob. Mad mobs were made up of Orks who manifested behaviour that was considered outlandish even by greenskin standards. Tinboyz were Ork Robots, remote controlled by a Mekboy. Autocannon armed Warbikes were fielded. The Orks also got their first plastic kits in the form of a box of Boys who could be equipped with Bolters, Power Swords, Chainswords, Power Gloves, Plasma Guns, Plasma Pistols and Heavy Plasma Guns (the Meks sure made a lot of Plasma Weapons in those days). There was also a (much missed) plastic kit with which to construct a Battlewagon that could seat five whole Orks. The use of looted equipment became a feature of Ork armies at this point, and any Ork force with a Mek or two could also include Imperial Speeder, Robots, Land Raiders, Sentinals and Baneblades.
Other weapons and troops were described that never got models, such as some of the more bizarre types of Freebooter and the deeply odd Bubble Chukka. Also some of the older models were made redundant (such as the two armed "Killer" Dreadnought).
By the time the books and models had been published the Orks were the best supported of all the armies in the 40K range (even Marines looked malnourished in comparison). But playing games with these Orks was a bit of nightmare. The rules had captured the essence of a zany and slapstick army perfectly, but to play with a moderately sized ork was an exercise in bookeeping and cross-referencing. "How many power points has my Wierdboy got? What phobia are the Madboyz suffering from at the moment? Where did I put the Orky Event cards?"
SECOND EDITIONThe second edition of Warhammer 40,000 promised to facilitate larger battles and take a more even-handed approach to balancing the forces in the game. Orks again took centre stage with some new plastic Goffs and Gretchin included in the box to provide the Space Marines with protagonists.
The scenarios included in the game illustated the Battle of Armageddon, a Human hive world that was under invasion from an Orkish Waaagh led by a character introduced to lead one of the sample armies in the "Ere We Go" book: Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka. The defence was led by a force of Blood Angels. The invasion of Armageddon had been the subject of a boardgame produced before second edition 40K. The benighted planet had first to stave off a Chaos army and was now under siege by the Orks.
Rather than numerous hard back encyclopedias each army was sensibly given a paperback Codex this time round. The Ork Codex was pretty much a contraction of what had been printed about them in the Rogue Trader era books with the six army lists combined into one "catch all" list. The clans were still mentioned in passing but, unlike the previous edition, had no effect on army composition.
A few new troop types were introduced, such as the lightly armoured but well equipped Kommandos and virtually unkillable Mega-Armoured Nobs. New artilliary peices were also included, the Pulsa Rokkit that pinned your opponent for a turn or two with a force field, the Smasha Gun that picked an opponent up in a force field and then dropped it and the Traktor Kannon which drew an enemy towards you with a force field (the Meks sure made a lot of force fields in those days).
The model range was revised to some extent, with new Stormboyz, Snakebite Boarboyz, Goff Nobs and Skarboyz, a spiffy Dreadnought (though the "Killer" was still enjoying time off) and plastic versions of the Warbike and Warbuggy.
GORKAMORKAOddly enough towards the end of Second Edition the Orks recieved the spotlight again and underwent a major revision, just as they had when Rogue Trader was getting old. This time they were the (almost) sole subjects of their own game.
Gorkamorka was set on the backwater world of Angelis and took for it's the premise the efforts of a stranded group of Orks and their efforts to rebuild and refit their wrecked spacecraft. Each player took a group of Orks who spent their time exploring the deserts of Angelis for artefacts and scrap metal that might assist their Mekaniak masters in getting spaceborne once more; all the while avoiding (or, more accurately, seeking) trouble from embittered Muties, revolutionary Grots, primitive Humans, the odd Necron and rival Ork gangs.
The clans went pretty much unmentioned within Gorkamorka (the assumption seems to be that such cultural differences were set aside in such desperate times) although the Orks did break into two factions depending on wether they worshipped Gork (the Ork god of Cunning Brutality) or Mork (the Ork god of Brutal Cunning).
Gretchin and Snotlings are renamed Grots and Snots for Gorkamorka.
Major changes were made to the manner in which the Orks reproduce. Rather than giving birth to a batch of whelps in old age Orks are now described as reproducing throughout their lives by shedding spores. Each of these spores contain the genetic code for all the different varieties of Orkoid. If these spores land in the correct conditions they will develop into a fungus. At some stage in it's development the fungus will become receptive to a psychic signal given off by other fungi. At this point it will make a genetic decision, based the signal it recieves that will determine what it develops into. If the fungus is the only form of Orkoid life in the area it does not develop into an Orkoid, but remains a fungus. It gives off spores which mature into new fungi. Once there is a large enough patch of fungus in the area some of the fungi develop into Snots and Squigs. Fungi and Squigs form the basis of many of the things Orks need to survive. The Fungi provide the Orks with food and vegetable fibre, the Squigs are also a source of food, oils, hides and, in some cases, first aid. Snots instinctively farm fungus. With the help of the Snots the fungus patch grows even faster. New fungus now develops into Grots and Orks.
A new range of Ork models is produced to accompany Gorkamorka - showcasing a bigger and meaner type of Ork. The range includes the long awaited plastic Wartrakk (with a metal expansion for the Scorcha). New plastic Ork boyz, metal Grots and Snots, the Deth Kopta, and assorted Nobs, Spannas (apprentice Meks), various gubbins and a much vilified plastic Trukk.
THIRD EDITIONHaving updated the backstory and the appearance of the models in Gorkamorka the army list now recieves a major revision. The new Ork character and look doesn't suit the previous style of play, which was more about setting off a myriad of unpredictable zany weapons than getting stuck into close combat.
In order to counter this the Orks were given a much more assault orientated profile, dropping their ability with firearms in favour of increasing their savagery in assault. The list in the rulebook went some way to addressing this but the Codex rules made Orks truely something to be feared up close.
The background remained fairly unaltered from it's presentation in Gorkamorka (though the clans were given a mention in passing), though there was a return in style to the way orks were presented in Rogue Trader - piratical and barbaric raiders rather than zany creatures with "Kulture". The individual character of Ork field artilliary was taken away in favour of the broader categories or Lobba, Kannon and Zzap Gun. Grots were stripped of any remnants of individualist character (together with most of their profile). "Killer" class Dreadnought's returned as Killa Kans. Stormboyz ceased being young Ork disciplinarians and instead became dedicated Jump Pack troops. Flash Gits were no longer freebooters but upgunned boys.
The model range was given a fairly comperhensive redesign, applying the meatier aesthetic used for the Gorkamorka miniatures to the range as a whole. Dreadnoughts, Mega Armoured Nobs, Stormboyz, Burna Boyz, Ard Boys, Nobs, Kans and Warbosses all benefitted from the powerful new look.
Just over a year from the release of the new Ork Codex and miniature range the worldwide campaign for Armageddon was run, operating on the premise that Ghazghkull had returned to finish the job he had started just before Second Edition was released. A worldwide campaign was held to determine the results of Ghazghkull's invasion, ending up with a narrow victory for the Human defence.
The Codex accompanying the campaign gave a list for the fully mechanised Speed Freek Orks, allowing fans of the Evil Suns to field an army that complimented the clan's background. New models appeared for Ork artilliary, Tankbustas, Nobs, Painbosses and Ghazghkull himself.
Aside from having the minutiae of the Third War of Armageddon examined little was added to the backstory of the Orks, although it was theorised that Orks spored far away from Orkoid communities were more likely to become Speed Freeks due to formative memories of having to cross vast distances.
Once the commotion over Armageddon had died down the Orks recieved another army list in the form of the Feral Orks. This list concerned itself with many of the features of older Ork lists that were no longer described in the Ork Codex, such as Boar Riders, Madboys and Wyrdboyz. The profile of the average Boy in the Feral list was returned to that of the more sharp eyed, but less aggressive, Orks of previous editions. Rules are also included for the gigantic Squiggoths which had previously been confined to games of Epic 40,000.
The release of the Necron Codex provided a bit more revisionism to the Ork story. Rather
than being the debased descendants of the Brainboyz it now seems that the Orks are a
biological weapon created by the Old Ones to assist in their wars with the C'Tan. The
Orks were originally called the Krork and seemed to have been unleashed upon the Old One's
foes whilst half finished.