Warhammer 40k Orks army guide 2023

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 10th edition Orks

The Warhammer 40k 10th edition Orks army rules have been revealed by Games Workshop in a Faction Focus article on May 24, and they’re gloriously straightforward. This section covers the game rules for Orks in 10th edition – jump ahead to our dissection of the Orks codex if you’re more interested in the current edition.

In 10th edition, 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. It allows your Orks to charge after advancing, grants them +1 Strength and +1 Attack in melee, and grants a 5+ invulnerable save.

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

The 10th edition datasheet for Ghazghkhull Thraka shows that ‘Ghazghkhull’s Waaagh! Banner’ can push this effect further. The banner is the big icon carried by Ghazghkhull’s gretchin sidekick 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.

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

The first Orks Detachment is also simple and brutal in equal measure: according to the article, 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

The article reveals two new 40k stratagems for the Detachment, continuing the fighty theme. The ‘Orks is Never Beaten’ stratagem costs 2CP and allows Orks that are slain in melee by an enemy unit to fight back before their model is removed. ‘Ere We Go’ grants an infantry unit +2 to Advance and Charge rolls for a turn for 1CP; combine that with the Waaagh! ability to advance and charge for a healthy +4” threat range.


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

Orks Codex

The Orks Codex is your starting point for army building and juicy lore about the greenskin menace. Take note, though: for competitive games, you need the latest Balance Dataslate from Warhammer Community, and the latest Chapter Approved pack for points updates.

Ork society is split into roving warbands under the leadership of Warbosses, but these are united by the Clan Kulturs. Each Kultur provides different army-wide buffs to all your models, plus unique Relics and Warlord Traits. Goffs want to smash stuff in close combat, Evil Sunz are obsessed with speed, the show-off Freebooterz are about one-upmanship, and more.

The Orks are a simple race with simple pleasures: run straight at the enemy, fire off loads of dakka, then punch them. Ork Infantry and walkers have the ‘Ere We Go special rule, allowing them to reroll charge rolls. Mob Rule provides Ork infantry some protection against combat attrition tests, as long as they’re within six inches of another unit that is above half strength.

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

Many Ork vehicles are Ramshackle constructions. The Damage characteristic of attacks with strength 7 or less is reduced by one when it is allocated to a Ramshackle vehicle, as the low-calibre munitions ping away unimportant gubbins and ablative armour plating. Orks also use Dakka weapons, which have a higher rate of fire when targeting a unit within half range.

Once per game, an Ork Warboss or Speedboss Warlord can let out an ear-bursting bellow and drive their forces into a frenzy of violence, calling them to Waaagh! A Waaagh! grants all Ork Core and Character units the ability to charge after advancing, and one additional Attack in melee on the turn the Waaagh! is called – though if you’re playing Matched Play games, check the current balance dataslate, as this is often erratad.

A Speedwaaagh! removes the penalty for firing Assault weapons after advancing, increases the number of shots that Vehicle and Biker units fire with Dakka weapons by one, and improves the AP of Vehicle and Biker ranged weapons by one on the turn the Speedwaaagh! is called – what’s more, the bonus to attacks or AP even lasts into the next turn. 

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. With Strength 4 and 2 Attacks, Boyz are cheap and effective melee infantry. The Goff Clan Kultur No Mukkin’ About grants them +1 Strength after charging, and lets them cause an extra hit on melee to-hit rolls of six. Taken in mobs of up to 30 models and buffed up with aura abilities – such as the plus-one to hit for melee attacks provided by a Warboss or Nob with Waaagh banner – they’re a seriously offensive core unit.

Boyz’ defensive capabilities stop at their respectable Toughness of 5. An armour save of 6+ leaves them naked to Bolt Rifle fire, while their low morale will crack easily and cause further losses to Combat Attrition, once the shootin’s done.

To use Boyz well, you must get them across the field and into the enemy’s face intact. Painboys’ and Painbosses’ Dok’s Toolz aura gives nearby Orks infantry, biker, and cavalry a 6+ chance to shrug off any wounds they suffer.

Alternatively, the Big Mek with Kustom Force Field projects a small bubble of 5+ invulnerable saves, which can be enlarged by the Force Field Boosta stratagem, blowing out the force field for the rest of the game. Or stick a screen of puny Gretchin slaves in front of your Boyz and use the Grot Shields stratagem, forcing your enemy to target the grots first.

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

If you’re a real Ork, though, you know that the best defence is a good offence. The Tellyporta stratagem lets you set up one unit in a teleportation chamber before the game starts, depositing them nine inches away from an enemy unit in the Reinforcements step of your movement phase… though you might want to shove a massive Gorkanaut in there instead.

Or you could consider a more old-fashioned approach, and bring a psychic Weirdboy, who can use Da Jump to shunt your Boyz – or another Core unit – 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 doesn’t get the normal character ability to hide behind friendly troops.

But as the Prophet of Gork and Mork he has both a 4+ invulnerable save and cannot lose more than 4 wounds in a single phase. Ghazghkull is the only Ork who can call a Great Waaagh!, combining the effects of both a Waaagh! and a Speedwaaagh! and leaving your enemy wondering where all their units have gone. 

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.

Beast Snaggas are a complete subfaction within the Orks, 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 6+ invulnerable save. As experts at hunting much larger prey, they get +1 to hit on all attack rolls against Monsters and Vehicles.

Every Clan attracts its fair share of Beast Snaggas, but the traditionalist Snakebites have the most adherents of Da Old Ways. Snakebites are even harder to kill than ordinary Orks, and cannot be wounded on a to-wound roll of 1-3 unless they’ve been hit with an antitank weapon (Strength 8 or higher). Snakebite Squig models gain +1 to wound on melee attacks after charging, making their Squig-mounted units into even more terrifying combat monsters. 

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. You need a third Troops choice before you can expand your Patrol into a Battalion. 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.

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.

The Speed Freeks Speed Mob has seen competitive success. This Army of Renown was added in the War Zone Octarius Book 2: Critical Mass supplement. You’re restricted to taking only Speed Freeks, Wagon, and Aircraft units in your army. In return, all your warbikers will gain the Objective Secured special rule, and all your Speed Freeks models will replace their normal Clan Kultur with the Adrenaline Junky ability. Units that advance count as having remained stationary when they come to shoot with any weapon.

When they charge, they gain +1 attack, and the oily smoke they produce grants 6+ invulnerable saves, increasing to 5+ if they advance. This is an army that can rip across the board on turn one, declare a Speedwaaagh! and unleash a preposterous quantity of ordnance. The biggest challenge for this army is fitting all the light vehicles into your deployment zone.

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

Ork characters can be melee monsters. The Beastboss on Squigosaur even got a points increase in the latest Chapter Approved, reflecting its awesome killing power. With the Character keyword and nine wounds, Squigosaurs can’t be targeted by shooting attacks while they’re near a vehicle or unit, and their thick hide reduces the Damage of all attacks against them by one.

Add to this the Beast Snagga abilities, plus their Clan Kultur, plus a Warlord Trait like Half-Chewed (which allows them to ignore wounds inflicted by characters and monsters on a 4+) plus the offensive output of a tyrannosaur hybridised with a blender, and they will not be stopped until they make contact with the enemy and
bite them in half.

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

Each Clan has a strong buff that will push you towards a particular playstyle and away from certain units, but one unit per detachment may be a Specialist Mob, losing its Clan Kultur and gaining a hand-picked special ability.

Want to take some shooty Tankbustas in your Goff army? Make them Boom Boyz, granting them -1AP on their blast weapons in exchange for their Goffic combat prowess. It’s a good way to shore up a weakness or to bring models that you fancy in an army they wouldn’t otherwise fit into.

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.

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