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Orks codex review - Waaagh! thing, I think I love you

The latest Warhammer 40k Codex for the fun-loving marauders offers exciting new list builds for the Orks, whichever clan calls to you.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - a Big Mek, an Ork wired into a suit of armor, wielding absurd weapons

Our Verdict

Five new Detachments offer distinctive ways to theme your army, from the turbo charged Kult of Speed to the sheer chaos of a Mek’s Dread Mob. This codex is packed with fun new possibilities for Ork players, no matter what first attracted you to the faction.

Reasons to buy
  • New Detachments offer thematic rules for the most popular Ork subthemes
  • New strategies are viable, without big changes to the datasheets
  • As usual, the book is a great package of lore, art, and model showcases.
Reasons to avoid
  • Some Detachments support a very limited range of units
  • Several character models have been retired
  • One or two Ork themes don't have a detachment - no love for Freebooters or Blood Axes

The new Warhammer 40k Orks codex is a green mean triumph, giving players new rules to build heavily themed Ork armies with distinctive playstyles. This review is based on a thorough read through of a review sample provided by Games Workshop, and close comparison with the outgoing index.

To make it clear how I’m looking at this book, I’m not a tournament gamer, and with points values and even core rules prone to change with GW’s periodic balance updates, any judgment on game balance has a short lifespan. I’m investigating whether the rules in this book allow players to play the Orks in fun, interesting ways, and particularly ways that marry up with the core fantasy that makes them appealing as a Warhammer 40k faction in the first place.

But what is the core fantasy of the Warhammer 40k Orks? While they’re known for their tough horde infantry, combat prowess, inaccurate firepower, rolling buckets of dice, and yelling Waaagh!, they’re a surprisingly diverse faction. They’ve always had a huge model range: in first edition 40k they had three supplement books with various units and army lists, and had just about as many models as the Space Marines.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - illustration of an Ork war force, a huge mob of Orks led by a large warboss, supported by giant Deff Dread meks

During third edition 40k, White Dwarf published a supplement for the Kult of Speed, speed-crazed Orks riding into battle on a fleet of smoke-belching bikes, trukks, and buggies. In fifth edition, Forge World added the Dread Mob list in the Assault on Kastorel-Novem expansion, a horde of unstable, clanking war-walkers under the command of an insane Big Mek.

In 2021 Games Workshop released the substantial Beast Snagga range, a call back to the boar-riding Snakebite models from first and second edition 40k and practically a sub-faction unto itself.

That’s a lot of toys. Games Workshop has very slightly downsized the Orks range with this codex, removing the Big Mek with forcefield, Nob with Waaagh! banner, Mad Dok Grotsnik, Boss Zagstruk, and Kaptin Badruk. But there’s still plenty left, all embodying a different part of the Orks ethos and the vibes of a particular era of game design. Different Ork collectors will have very different ideas about why the Orks are cool.

As we’ve seen with other Warhammer 40k codexes released in this edition, the GW design team has used Warhammer 40k Detachments to give players tools to shape their army around a particular playstyle or their favorite part of the lore. There are six Detachments in the new codex, including the Waaagh! Tribe which returns from the index largely unchanged.

Each detachment picks up a distinct sub-theme of the faction. While these don’t map over to the classic clans perfectly, the most distinctive army themes from Ork history have made it across. So here’s what we’ve got:

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - a green tide of Ork warriors blaze away with guns

Green Tide – lots and lots of Boyz

Games Workshop already previewed the Green Tide, a detachment that grants Boyz mobs a 5+ invulnerable save, and additional bonuses for units with ten or more models. For players who got into Orks because they saw the classic ‘Massacre at Big Toof River’ diorama in White Dwarf, or read or listened to the Warhammer 40k book ‘Helsreach’ by Aaron Dembski-bowden, Green Tide gives you better tools to realise your dream.

The challenge for Boyz mobs has always been how to get them into combat. Toughness five is nice, but that’s about the end of it for Boyz’ survivability, and while they’re good melee combatants, they need to turn up in large numbers to stand a chance crumping monsters or vehicles. The detachment rule tunes up their survivability, and the ‘Stratagem Come On Ladz’ lets you add D3+2 slain Boyz back into a unit, giving you a better chance to deliver a substantial punch when you at last arrive.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - Gorkamorka illustration of Orks firing guns and waving knives

The Detachment also has several ways to accelerate your Boyz. The native invulnerable save means you don’t have to use your Waaagh! defensively to protect your horde from a shooting army, saving it for when you’re in a position to advance and charge. The enhancement ‘Bloodthirsty Belligerence’ grants rerolls to Advance for the bearer’s unit, and re-rolls to charge when they have 10 or more model.

The Stratagem ‘Go Get ‘Em!’ grants a reactive move of D6” (or 6” for a unit with 10 or more models) towards a unit that shoots at them, and the ‘Tide of Muscle’ strat adds the current battle round number to a unit’s charge roll.

The Boyz datasheet gets a tune up with the ‘Get Da Good Bitz’ ability, which means objectives claimed by Boyz stay claimed even if you move models off them, This benefits any list, but particularly the Green Tide particularly, as you can worry less about nannying backfield objectives and concentrate at running head first into your enemies.

Every 40k meta has that one player who brings 200 Ork Boyz to a tournament. This Detachment is for them.

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Da Big Hunt – Beast Snagga rumble

Da Big Hunt is a boon for players who bought into the Orks with the Beast Snagga army set in 2021, and for new players picking up the Orks updated Warhammer 40k Combat Patrol. The Detachment rules let you pick an enemy Monster, Vehicle, Warlord, or failing that, Character, as your Prey during your Command phase; your units can re-roll charges and gain an additional -1 AP against their Prey until your next turn.

The Beast Snagga range has had some minor rules tweaks, relevant for any army list but particularly for Da Big Hunt. Nobs on Smasha Squigs are now just part of the Squighog Riders unit, and the Nob’s special abilities are gone. What’s more, Beastbosses on Squigosaurs can now join Squighogs as a retinue.

The Squigosaur rider’s toughness and wounds have dropped, but with the protection of a bodyguard this may wash out as not an issue. Its aura of charge re-rolls is now a +1 bonus to charge for its unit, and its ‘Single-minded Predator’ ability – which lets it use the Heroic Intervention Stratagem, even if another model has already done so – now costs 0CP. That drags the bodyguard along for the ride.

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The Hunta Rig now only has Firing Deck 11 and the Killa Rig has no Firing Deck at all, but both gain a little aggro tune-up to their Stikka Kannon; they’re immune to Overwatch when they charge a Monster or Vehicle they stukk with the stikka. The Hunta Rig also gains extra butcha boyz melee attacks for each model embarked on it, up to a maximum of six.

These datasheet changes push the Beast Boyz even more firmly towards melee, supported by movement shenanigans. Da Big Hunt doubles down on both trends. The Stratagem ‘Drag it Down’ grants Sustained Hits 1 to melee attacks, and against your Prey grants critical Hits on a 5+, while ‘Unstoppable Momentum’ lets Mounted units inflict Mortal wounds on the charge, with bonus dice when targeting your prey.

The ‘Glory Hog’ enhancement grants a Beastboss on Squigosaur and his bodyguard the Scouts 9” ability. ‘Instinctive Hunters’ lets you pull a unit off the battlefield at the end of your opponent’s Fight phase to enter Strategic Reserves, and ‘Dat One’s Even Bigga!’ lets a unit charge after it advanced or fell back, provided its charge target is your Prey.

This is a fast, melee focused list, aimed at a single primary target like an Orky bowling bowl. It only really offers bonuses to the ten current Beast Snagga units, but they’re on-theme bonuses that make them even better at the things they already want to do.

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Kult of Speed – bikes and buggies and planes oh my

There have been many generations of the Kult of Speed: from the weird little metal bikes and trikes in Rogue Trader, to Gorka Morka era trukks and traks, through to the gorgeous range of buggies GW released in 2018.

The Kurrent Kult of Speed consists of bikes, buggies, and planes, all lightweight vehicles, carrying medium ordnance and middling melee punch. They’re fast, but don’t have a high density of very high-strength weapons to crack through tank and monster toughness.

The Kult of Speed does not, directly, buff Speed Freeks firepower very much. Instead it doubles down on the need for speed, granting Speed Freeks the ability to shoot in a turn in which they advanced or fell back. There’s no reason for the Freeks to ever pull their finger off the trigger.

The strat ‘Dakkastorm’ grants the Sustained Hits 1 ability (or Sustained Hits 2 while within 9” of an enemy) on shooting attacks, and the mutually exclusive ‘Blitza Fire’ grants Lethal Hits to shooting (and triggers critical hits on a 5+ instead while within 9”). These provide a small bump, but still don’t turn your middle-weight vehicles into powerhouses. But there is more assistance for you to get your guns exactly where they’re needed.

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The ‘Wazblasta’ enhancement lets a Deffkilla Wartrike, and its bodyguard of bikers, move 6” at the end of the shooting phase (at the expense of not being able to charge). The Stratagem ‘More Gitz Over ‘Ere!’ lets you respond to your opponent moving a unit within 9” by making your own normal move of 6”.

With multiple small units this will be a CP hungry Detachment, so the ‘Speed Makes Right’ enhancement – which grants bonus CP on a roll of 3+ if the bearer is within 9” of an enemy unit during the Command phase – is welcome.

There are enhancements and Stratagems for combat too – this is an Orks army, after all – but the focus on maneuvering and getting close to the enemy to unload shedloads of ordnance really captures the Speed Freeks mind set of high speed, high octane, high calibre lunacy. It also keeps them mechanically distinct from the similarly mounted, slightly less oily, Beast Snaggas.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - a Dread Mob, a mass of yellow war walkers, and a unit of heavily armored meganobs led by a big mek

Dread Mob – mekaniak madness

The Dread Mob harkens back both to a Forge World army list of the same name, and all the chaotic and random rules the Orks have had over the years that reflect the ingenuity of their Meks. All your Walker, Grot Vehicle, and Mek units can ‘Try Dat Button!’ each time they fight or shoot, granting them a random advantage, or the choice of a bonus in exchange for the Hazardous weapon ability.

The Detachment makes a couple of other little rules tweaks. Gretchin become battleline, letting you spam up to six units of cheap, objective grabbing, command-point looting wretches. And if any of your units’ weapons become Hazardous twice in a turn, the Hazardous effect will trigger on a roll of one or two, rather than a one. Practically speaking, expect your stuff to blow up.

The Stratagems in this detachment mostly target Walkers, though some allow Grot vehicles like Killa Kans, Mek Guns, (and Grot Tanks, Forge World collectors) to play too. Most have an option to “push it” in exchange for gaining the Hazardous condition – ‘Dakka! Dakka! Dakka!’ grants re-rolls of one to hit to a unit’s shooting attacks, or rerolls on any to hit roll if the stratagem was pushed.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - a Big Mek, an Ork wired into a suit of armor, wielding absurd weapons

Despite the name, you can bring a lot more than just Dreads in this Detachment. Meks, Big Meks, and Big Meks in Mega Armor can collectively join units of Boyz, Lootas, Mek Gunz, Nobz, Meganobz, and Tankbustas, so there is an option to fill out a gunline of Dakka, Bad Moons style. A unit of Boyz joined by a Mek will be able to ‘Try Dat Button!’ – a great excuse for vintage players to crack out their ancient Cybork miniatures.

Then there’s the Stompa. This titanic Ork walker has never really worked competitively: it has a lot of offensive output, but a rubbish invulnerable save and is so tall that it can be seen anywhere on the battlefield. While the Dread Mob includes a Stratagem that improves the survivability of Walkers, it explicitly excludes Titanic units.

The Dread Mob won’t prevent the Stomper from dying before it earns its points back in the face of dedicated anti-tank firepower. But that’s never deterred people from using the Stomper before, and the Dread Mob can absolutely double down on the carnage and chaos it brings to the table.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - a Stompa, a colossal walking war machine covered in guns, with a massive chainsaw arm

Let’s say it’s turn one and your opponent has poured all their guns into the Stomper; it’s leaking oil, but still standing. In your Command Phase you Push Dat Button! and choose to give it Lethal Hits, as well as making all your weapons Hazardous. At the end of your movement phase a Mek tunes up the Stompa’s firing gubbins to remove a little bit of damage and give it +1 to hit.

When it’s time to shoot, you spend 1CP for Dakka Dakka Dakka!, and choose to push it, making all the Stomper’s guns doubly-hazardous, but granting re-rolls on all missed hit rolls.

Assuming you’re in range to fire everything but the Skorcha or to get any extra Rapid Fire shots, when you get to shooting you’ll land eight Deffkannon hits (one auto wounding), 17 Supa-gatler hits (two autowounding) nine Big shoota and Twin big shoota hits (one auto-wounding), and one supa-rokkit hit. The shooter will suffer about six mortal wounds from the catastrophic failure of so many turbo-charged weapon systems.

Will that remove 800 points of enemy models before the Stomper dies next turn? No idea. But it absolutely doubles down on the main appeal of this big idiot model – putting something huge on the table, rolling shedloads of dice, and laughing when everything goes to hell.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, a huge Ork warlord in a giant cyborg body

Bully Boyz – da biggest an’ da best

The Bully Boyz Detachment has a very simple army bonus – as long as you have a Warboss on the table (or riding a transport), you can call a second Waagh!, which only affects Warboss, Nobz, and Meganobz units. That’s actually a pretty broad list: Beastboyz, Squighog Boyz, Warbikers, and regular old Boyz can all be lead by one or other flavor of Warboss.

However, the Stratagems from this detachment all target Nobz or Meganobz units, so there’s a strong incentive to stick to the elites. Apparently the Boyz are too runty to use these advanced Ork taktiks. ‘Too Arrogant to Die’ gives your models a chance to fight or shoot before they’re removed as casualties; ‘Armed to Da Teef’ gives rerolls to hit; ‘Hulking Brutes’ worsens enemy AP from shooting attacks by one. Most of the Stratagems get better during a Waaagh!, too.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - heavily armored meganobs

There’s a ‘Tellyporta’ enhancement that allows a Warboss in Mega Armor (and his bodyguard) to deploy by Deep Strike, while ‘Da Biggest Boss’ and ‘Eadstompa’ make an infantry warboss harder to kill, and more killy, respectively. The last enhancement, ‘Big Gob’, gives a Warboss a chance to yell an enemy unit into Battle-shock, which – while it has tactical application for stealing objectives – we suspect won’t ever be used.

It’s all so straightforward that this almost feels like an index Detachment, except for the focus on a limited range of units. But it is characterful – the elite of the Orks aren’t finessed, they just hit hard and die harder. This is exactly the kind of force Ghazghkhull would stomp around at the front of.

What this Detachment is really waiting for is an update to both the Nobz and the Meganobz kits, which look tragically static, sane, and titchy compared to the mad genius of recent releases.

Warhammer 40k Orks codex - illustration of a huge force of Orks crashing into a Tau battleline

Judgment

Codex Orks expands upon the index it replaces primarily through Detachments, making a few nips and tucks to unit datasheets but not so many as to substantially alter how the faction plays. Current players should still reread their unit stats, as there’s just enough changes to trip you up if you’re careless.

Each of the five new Detachments pulls out one aspect of Ork lore to give you a distinctive way to build your army. Green Tide makes a horde of Boyz durable and surprisingly fast, drowning the opponent under green bodies. Da Big Hunt dials up the speed and aggression of the Beast Snaggas so you can apply relentless melee pressure to the toughest parts of the enemy list.

The Kult of Speed makes your Speed Freeks units even more maneuverable and ensures they never have to stop shooting. The Dread Mob rewards mad meks for covering the battlefield in clanking inventions, and throws in plenty of Orky randomness. And the Bully Boyz are a gnarled green fist that hits hard, then hits again.

If your collection is themed around the Deffskulls, Evil Sunz, Snakebites, Bad Moons, Evil Sunz, or Goffs, you’ll find they fit into at least one of these Detachments really well.

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There’s no Detachment to represent the sneaky tactics of the Blood Axes. This isn’t new per se, the Orks range has never really supported the Blood Axes beyond the Kommandos unit, but those waiting for the sneaky gits big moment will have to wait longer. Freebooters fans who’ve been waiting since 1991 for dedicated space-pirate support, now is not your time.

Overall, I’m impressed. As is becoming increasingly common when I review a 10th edition codex, I now want to build another army (I do not have time to build another army). In one word, this all looks like fun. And that, when you get to the heart of it, is the whole point of being an Ork.