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Warhammer 40k Orks army guide

Here's how to lead a Waaagh! as Warhammer 40k's Orks, whether you fancy a green tide of Ork Boyz, or a mechanised force of Speed Freeks.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Photo by Chris James showing a Ghazghkull Thraka model painted

Wherever humanity has gone in the galaxy, Warhammer 40k Orks were already there, waiting to start a fight. Orks live to fight, and some Imperial scholars hypothesise they were genetically engineered to serve as warriors in a long-forgotten war. Orks just know that there’s nothing better in the whole universe than a really good scrap.

We have guides to the other Warhammer 40k factions if you’d prefer something a little more po-faced, like the noble Space Marines (beakies), fanatical Chaos Space Marines (spikey beakies), or aloof Eldar (pointy-eared gitz). But if you want a force that greets the never-ending warfare of Warhammer 40k with a massive grin and a bestial roar, look no further than the Orks.

Here’s everything you need to know about Warhammer 40k’s Orks:

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing a huge Ork Waaagh! led by Ghazghkull Thraka

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Orks

The Warhammer 40k 10th edition Orks army rules are gloriously straightforward. The Waaagh! army rule makes the whole Ork army better at punching people and harder to kill for one battle round – and that’s it.

Once per battle, at the start of a battle round you can call a Waaagh! This allows your Orks to charge after advancing, grants them +1 Strength and +1 Attack in melee, and grants a 5+ invulnerable save for the remainder of the Battle Round.

Don’t forget that this triggers at the start of the Battle Round, so you can use it on the very first turn of the game if you’re particularly worried about enemy shooting and need that invulnerable save.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Orks Waaagh! army rule by Games Workshop

Warhammer 40k Orks Detachments

The first Orks Detachment is also simple and brutal in equal measure: the Waaagh! Tribe grants your Orks the Sustained Hits 1 weapon ability on melee attacks. This means that critical hits in melee will generate an additional hit.

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Orks Waaagh! Tribe Detachment rules by Games Workshop

Warhammer 40k Orks Stratagems

The Waaagh! Tribe comes with six Orks stratagems.

Stratagem Cost Effect
Careen! 1CP After an Orks vehicle rolls a six for its Deadly Demise roll (causing it to explode), the unit can make a Normal move or Fall Back before exploding, and can move over enemy units other than Monsters and Vehicles when doing so.
Orks is Never Beaten 2CP Pick an Ork unit that your opponent has just targeted in the fight phase and which hasn’t fought yet; until the end of the phase, each time a model is destroyed, it gets to fight before it’s destroyed.
Unbridled Carnage 1CP Pick a unit; for one fight phase, it scores critical hits in melee on an unmodified roll of 5+.
‘Ard as nails 1CP Pick an Ork unit (other than a Vehicle or Gretchin) that’s been targeted by enemy attacks in the shooting or fight phase; enemy attacks get -1 to wound.
Mob Rule 1CP Pick a Mob unit with at least half its starting models and at least 10 models; other Orks Infantry within 6″ can be targeted by Stratagems this command phase, even if Battle-shocked.
‘Ere we go 1CP During the Movement phase, pick an Orks infantry unit; it gets +2 to Advance and Charge rolls this turn.

Warhammer 40k Orks Enhancements

The Waaagh! tribe gives a choice of four Enhancements for your Orks.

Enhancement Effect
Follow Me Ladz While the bearer is leading a unit, add 2″ to the Move characteristic of models in the unit.
Headwoppa’s Killchoppa Melee weapons equipped by the bearer, other than ‘Extra Attacks’ weapons, have the Devastating Wounds ability.
Kunnin’ But Brutal While the bearer is leading a unit, the unit can shoot and charge in the same turn as falling back.
Supa-Cybork body Bearer has Feel No Pain 4+

Ork Clans

Ork society is split into roving warbands under the leadership of Warbosses, but these are united by the Clan Kulturs; Goffs want to smash stuff in close combat, Evil Sunz are obsessed with speed, the show-off Freebooterz are about one-upmanship, and more.

In ninth edition 40k these Clans had their own special rules. That’s gone from the 10th edition Index, but we expect something like it to return as a Detachment when Codex Orks eventually releases.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Photo by Warbringer showing a Deffskulls Orks Kustom Boosta Blasta model

Speed Freaks Speed Mob

Some Orks get as addicted to travelling fast as they are to hitting stuff and shooting guns. These movement-addicted Speed Freaks, also known as the Cult of Speed, often form up into like minded mobs of petrol heads, racing across the lands or even the skies in their ramshackle vehicles.

In ninth edition 40k the Speed Freaks Speed Mob army of renown was, for a while, a competitive force to be reckoned with. It was restricted to just using Speed Freaks models, but had a bevy of bonuses that allowed it to cross the table at breakneck speed and drown your enemy with shell casings.

The Speed Mob isn’t part of 10th edition 40k yet, but we’ve never seen a more likely candidate for being converted to a new Detachment. 

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - photo from Chris James showing Ork Boyz models

Ork Boyz

The backbone of the Ork army is the humble Ork Boyz unit. By default Boyz are armed with a Slugga and a Choppa, for three S4 attacks at AP-1 that his on 3+. Combine that with the Waaagh! Tribe’s Sustained Hits bonus, and should you get a full unit of 20 into combat you’re going to score about 47 hits, or 54 with the Unbridled Carnage Stratagem.

To use Boyz well, you must get them across the field and into the enemy’s face intact. Boyz’ defensive capabilities stop at their respectable Toughness of 5. An armour save of 5+ leaves them fairly vulnerable to dedicated anti-infantry firepower.

Attach a Painboy to them to grant the unit Feel no Pain 5+, or a Mekboy with Kustom Force Field for a 5+ Invulnerable save against ranged attacks that you can increase to 4+ once per game (twice with a Grot helper)

If you’re a real Ork, though, you know that the best defence is a good offence. Bring a psychic Weirdboy, who can use Da Jump to shunt your Boyz through warp space and land them nine inches away from an unlucky enemy unit. 

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Photo by Chris James showing a Ghazghkull Thraka model painted

Ghazghkull Thraka

Ghazghkhull Mag Uruk Thraka is the right hand of Gork and Mork (the Ork gods), prophet of the Ork Waaagh!, scourge of the Imperium, and greatest living warboss in all of Ork-kind. Ghazhgkhull was also one of the first special characters added to Warhammer 40,000 and his long and twisting life story has evolved in step with the game itself.

Once a humble boy on a backwater world, Ghaz’ life changed when he was shot through the head. Mad Dok Grotsnik patched him back together (and made a few improvements), and, when he awoke, Ghaz was driven by a divine vision: to lead the greatest Waaagh! the galaxy has ever seen.

Since the opening of the Great Rift, Ghaz’ has careened across the galaxy, drawing ever more Orks to his apocalyptic crusade. Even having his head cut off by Ragnar Blackmane of the Space Wolves Space Marines chapter didn’t slow him down, and he’s back in a bigger, meaner body than ever before.

If you want to get inside the often cracked, sometimes decapitated, never perturbed head of Ghazghkull, we recommend the novel Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waagh. We could derail this whole guide gushing about it, but the short version is, it’s one of the best Warhammer 40k books full stop, let alone books about Orks.

Ghazghkull is a force of devastation on the tabletop. The size of a Redemptor Dreadnought and considerably more powerful in melee, Ghaz can be stuck at the heart of a mob of Meganobz, and can even ride in transports – though he takes up the space of 18 models…

Warhammer 40k 10th edition Orks Ghazghkull Thraka datasheet by Games Workshop

The 10th edition datasheet for Ghazghkhull reinforces his role as the Prophet of the Waagh. ‘Ghazghkhull’s Waaagh! Banner’ is the big icon carried Makari, and it’s a totem of Ghaz’s supremacy as an Ork warlord.

When you call the Waaagh!, Ork units within 12” of Makari gain the Lethal Hits weapon ability on melee attacks. That means that critical hits in melee (usually on a natural hit roll of six) will automatically wound – and Orks roll a lot of dice in melee.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Warhammer Community artwork showing a Beast Snagga Ork on a Squigosaur

Beast Snaggas

Beast Snaggas live in the wilds of Ork-infested worlds, hunting the monstrous squigs that roam the wilds. Sometimes they even capture these beasts, and, with enough violent ‘discipline’, harness them for war. Steve Irwin was basically a human Beast Snagga.

The Beast Snagga keyword shows up on a lot of Orks, and by and large they stick together, with their own troops, leaders, and ramshackle war machines botched together from scrap metal, high explosives, and angry squigs.

They are so covered in scars and bionik bits that lethal injuries bounce right off them, giving every Snagga a Feel No Pain ability, usually 4+. As experts at hunting much larger prey, their melee weapons tend to have the Anti-Monster and Anti-Vehicle abilities, letting them automatically wound on much lower rolls.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Warhammer Community photo of the models in the Orks Combat Patrol box

Orks Combat Patrol

The Orks Combat Patrol is one of the best deals for 40k modelling fanatics. It contains:

  • An Ork Warboss in Mega Armour, toting an ‘Uge Choppa.
  • 20 Ork boyz – 10 tooled up for close combat and 10 with bullet-spraying shootas.
  • Three Deffkoptas, packed with rokkets and bombs
  • A stomping Deff Dread, which you can arm with lethal Dread Klaws, or load out with plenty of dakka.

This makes a great core for a standard Ork list, though it’s not the place to start if you want to build an exclusively Speed Freeks or Beast Snagga force. Before you commit to an infantry horde, first paint your Ork boyz and ask yourself “do I want to paint another forty of these?” If the answer is yes, congratulations! You have what it takes. Now buy two more boxes of Ork Boyz to get started.

If you don’t fancy that much dinner without any pudding, use Trukks and Battlewagons to protect your Boyz with steel instead of more bodies. If you love painting green flesh but fancy a different flavor, a mob of Beast Snagga Boyz will provide both melee prowess and an excuse to acquire an awesome Kill Rig for them to ride in. 

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - photo by Chris James showing Orks fighting Space Wolves on tabletop

Orks tactics

In Warhammer 40k, Ork armies are brutally unsubtle. Infantry hordes charge alongside smoke-belching walkers while ramshackle vehicles unleash massed volleys of inaccurate gunfire. Meks unleash blasts of wild energy from their experimental weaponry, while primitive Beast Snaggas charge at the enemy lines atop snorting squig beast mounts.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Photo by Chris James showing an On Orks Nob on smasha squig model

Hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em fast, and hit ‘em again for good measure. Orks rampage across the galaxy killing, enslaving, burning, and conquering, and that’s how they play on the tabletop. With a wide model range, you can define your own style of conquest, but it will always involve direct violence, most of it up close.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Photo by Nerodine showing Bad Moons Orks models

Orks lore

On the surface, Orks lore is really simple. Orks spend most of their time fighting one another, the winners growing larger and claiming ever larger territories. Specialists such as the Mekaniaks, who are born with an innate understanding of technology, or the Painboys, who provide Ork ‘medicine’, allow the Ork species to conquer whole worlds, then solar systems, then sectors.

When a charismatic Ork Warlord gathers enough Orks to their banner, their combined excitement incites a wild crusade of sector-swallowing violence called a Waaagh! Worlds burn, and ever more Orks are drawn in to join the fun.

The truth of the Orks is a little more complicated. Their innate genetic knowledge of technology, incredible resilience, and utter love of war, are actually the result of careful genetic engineering performed at the dawn of time. The ‘Krork’ were created by the Old Ones as weapons for their war against the Necrons. The Old Ones were destroyed, and since then the Ork species has become ever more slapdash and bestial.

The Orks don’t care, mind. Mooning over ‘lost glory’ is an Eldar thing to do. Occasionally, a powerful Ork Warlord will arise with the strength of mind to imagine what the Ork species might become if it really, really tried to have a proper fight. Ghazghkull Thraka is giving it a good go in the current 40k timeline – there’s also the Beast Arises novel series, set in M32, which shows just how badly things could go for the Imperium if the Orks ever do ascend to the power they once wielded.

Warhammer 40k orks army guide - Warhammer Community photo of the Codex Orks cover art on a blue background

Orks Codex

With 10th edition just launched, there isn’t a Warhammer 40k Codex for the latest edition of the game – yet. For the time being you should go to the Games Workshop website and download the Orks Index.

With photographic thanks to Nerodine for his lurid Bad Moons, Warbringer for his Deff Skull Speed Waaagh, and Chris James for his grungy Goffs.