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The orks are a race from the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are described as being muscular humanoids, with green skin and a penchant for violence. The orks live for war and constantly fight anything in sight, including each other. In many ways they are analogous to (and based upon) the orcs of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy setting, although differences have emerged as the two universes have become officially separated. Alongside the Space Marines, Orks are one of the most iconic elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.


The general appearance of Warhammer 40k orks is fairly typical of other orcs; they have a large-boxy build with varying shades of green skin. Much like other races of Warhammer 40k, the Orks are divided into divergent armies with their own color schemes, background, and play-style. For the orks, these armies are called "clans". Some examples include the "Goffs" Clan with black and white colors (sometimes in a checkered pattern) with splashes of red and a preference (by background) for melee combat; another clan is the "Evil Sunz" that features a red and yellow color scheme and has a preference for using bikers and vehicles while "Bad Moons " smother their armour in bright yellow. In addition to the clan colors, some players will also paint the faces of their ork armies blue in a "Woad" fashion (due to the ork belief that blue is a lucky color). While these colors are mainly aesthetic, the ork codex does feature some rules such as "Da red wunz go fasta!" and is required that ork vehicles with this upgrade actually feature red paint. With the exception of army colors, ork armies are largely green with varying shades of hair colors and teeth. Color schemes for orcs are typically very rough and sloppy with lots of "rust" and "dirt" colorings.

Orky technology is sometimes referred to as "junkyard" tech. This is mainly due to orky armor/structures/vehicles having a "thrown-together" look to them. Orky body armor takes the form of bulky and ill-fitting metal plates being crudely strapped to its user, along with spikes or emblems to make the wearer appear more ferocious.

Orky vehicles also carry the theme. These typically look as modern-day industrial vehicles would had they been found in a junk yard, rebuilt with scrap iron/corrugated metal/wooden 2x4's/metal rivets, had various (and seemingly random) weapons attached and made to function (poorly).


The gameplay of the orks can be fairly straightforward. Orks are fairly easy to kill, but they make up for this by having a low points value, allowing players to field more models than a more "elite" opponent. Due to this, a favored strategy of ork players is called "The Green Tide". The strategy is an absolute war of attrition. The ork player simply purchases as many orks as possible (with only a few squads for specialized purposes like providing anti-vehicle support) and marches across the board to drown their opponent through sheer numbers. The orks are capable of more complex strategies however. This can be done with the use of specialized orks like "kommandos", "burna boyz", "storm boyz", "meks", "flash gitz", "weird boyz", etc. Even so, ork gameplay is typically stylized by outnumbering the enemy and overcoming them through application of brute force. Because of this, ork gameplay is viewed as being fairly forgiving of tactical errors or bad rolls.



Orks are green-skinned, a side effect of their blending on a genetic level with fungi and photosynthetic organisms (essentially being enormously complex lichens). Orks are genetically engineered for combat. They are extremely strong and immensely resilient, fortunate due to their lifestyle of constant warfare and primitive medical technology and techniques. Orks live for combat, and regard fighting as the highest form of worship for their (largely indistinguishable) gods, Gork and Mork. Orks are generally indifferent as to whom they fight, being as content to fight one another as any of the various other races inhabiting the Warhammer galaxy. As such, Orks are extremely disorganized and fractious.

They eat fungi of all kinds as well as human meat. A particularly favored ingredient in their diet are the squigs, a small organism closely related to Orks in biological terms. Squigs are comparable to two legged mouths, and are often coloured red. Most such animals are used for food or in other domestic applications (to the extent that Orks have a domestic sphere), but some particularly vicious varieties have applications in combat, mainly as attack dogs or living grenades. The only other major form of squig are the elephantine (or even larger) squiggoths. Particularly large examples are used as mobile fortresses, while smaller such beasts serve as pack animals.

Orks grow all through their lives, though the average Ork stands around the same height as the average man, at least given their almost perpetual slouch, meaning that, at full height, they would be much taller than a person. This typical pose gives them the appearance of a large, green gorilla. Orks grow at greatly varying rates, however, dependent on social conditions. The effect is notable in extremely aggressive Orks, which tend to grow much faster, for several reasons. First, due to the extremely peculiar nature of Ork physiology, social structure, and their unique psychic gestalt, as an Ork survives combat 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. If an Ork continues to be successful, gaining more respect, he may become a Nob (short for "noble," but pronounced "knob"), a leader of Orks, noticeably larger, tougher, stronger and of a darker green than the average specimen. Once he begins to grow, an Ork will generally keep getting bigger, stronger, and greener until another Ork defeats him, by whatever means. This indicates that the effects of adolescence in Orks continue indefinitely, but can be triggered on or off by defeat or success. However, the means by which Orks become greener is apparently not rooted in their physiology, but in their role as the comic relief in the setting. Orks achieve their theoretical pinnacle, socially at least, when a Nob becomes a Warboss or a Warlord, the rulers of continents and empires. Such creatures are exceptionally large, often standing over three meters (10') tall or higher, with the most powerful known to reach up to twice that height. And although they have achieved the highest possible rank at this point, as previously indicated, they continue to grow and become ever greener, until they are almost black.

In the extremely unlikely event that they are not killed in any number of gruesome and/or implausibly humorous ways, an Ork will live indefinitely. Orks seem to live longer the more powerful they are, with some truly legendary Warbosses rumored to be hundreds of years old. It seems Ork Warbosses are, in general, possessed of great longevity, again, assuming the extreme danger of Ork lifestyle and society (not to mention the constant warfare) does not kill them. The process causing this is unknown, but most likely another remnant of the initial genetic manipulation which created the Orks, perhaps with the intention of creating a recognizable and permanent leadership base for the Orks. Retirement is nonexistent in Ork society.

Orks' brutish behavior and choice to always use a direct approach in combat stems from their lack of a fear of death. They lack a traditional mammalian central nervous system, a strength built into the Orks during their creation long ago as weapons in a great war. Their cross-breeding with fungi allows them to reproduce asexually, which explains the lack of Ork females. This reproductive process basically involves the dispersion of spores from a decomposing Ork corpse, such that killing an Ork literally creates more Orks, which explains why Orks are so difficult to fight and eradicate, and how they are able to infiltrate and build up large populations virtually anywhere. The only known solution to this problem is to incinerate the entire area to destroy all Orks and Ork spores. Because Orks are so genetically similar to plants and fungi, their diets are extremely flexible - Orks can be used not only as meat, but also as yeast and phytochemical-containing fibrous plantlike sides. Thus, Ork Pie is a staple of Ork diets, particularly on the battlefield, where little other food is available, and dead Orks are in abundance.

Orks see themselves as the strongest, most violent species in the galaxy. Their only goal is to kill and destroy anything in their path, just to prove the point.


Orks use a modified form of Low Imperial (the language of the human Imperium 40 millennia in the future, represented for gamers by the English language), in which phonetic misspellings such as "kannon", "choppa", and "boyz" are commonly utilized in lieu of standard spelling. This seeming ignorance belies the species' evolutionarily advantageous ability to adapt the existing tools of others, be they tropes or tanks, to their own unique usage.


Ork culture circulates around seemingly random violence, which dominates every aspect of their culture. However, to characterize it as evil, malicious, or racist is to ignore the fact that it is in their nature. Most competitive activities amongst fellow Orks end in death. In fact, most activities Orks engage in involve death. Their culture (when not fighting each other) is mainly reminiscent of tribal methods, with a crude understanding of trade and commerce (although comically, their currency is said to be the teeth knocked out of each other in brawls). This may be a byproduct of the rather brutal 40K universe, however, and it is possible that behavioral conditioning of Orks could result in a more placid lifeform.

Ork behavior is dominated by the WAAAAAGH!, a gestalt psychic field they generate that affects the Ork psyche, as it allows Orks to instinctively recognize who is 'bigga N' Dead Killy' and therefore in charge, which also feeds into the physiological expressions of success. All Orks generate this field, and it grows stronger as the Orks enjoy themselves, generally while fighting. The WAAAAAGH! helps give momentum (and the name) to the Orks' planet-crushing WAAAAAGH!s. These WAAAAAGH!s are a cross between a mass migration, holy war, looting party and pub brawl, with a bit of genocide thrown in for good measure. Millions of Orks will gather together, drawn to the power of a single dominant Ork called a Warboss, who are essentially extremely successful Ork Nobs, distinguished from most Nobs thanks to their higher level of intelligence, many qualifying as geniuses even by human standards (which is not to say that Warbosses are always intelligent; some are simply too big, too green, and too strong to be resisted), though their lack of education can often lead their enemies to assume their stupidity (which is usually the last mistake they make). Once assembled into a huge mass, consisting of hundreds of millions or even billions of Orks and their countless ramshackle vehicles and spacecraft, the Orks will set off to find an enemy to fight. Ork Waaagh!s will sweep whole planetary systems away and destroy armies and fleets in tides of bloodlust and carnage, and only once the Orks have killed every available enemy will they start to fight amongst themselves again.


Orks prefer close combat weapons as they are represented in-game as being terrible marksmen, which they compensate for by building comically powerful guns, which are often manned, again for humorous effect, by the weedy Grots or Gretchin who are portrayed as being slightly better handlers of ballistic weapons than their bigger cousins, having a similar proficiency as an average human soldier (Imperial Guardsman) or Eldar militiaman (Guardian). The Ork Waaaaagh gestalt also works on their equipment. Aside from allowing Orks to form some form of hierarchy, this gestalt psychic field, allows slapped-together weapons, vehicles, spacecraft, and aircraft to function when, according to all laws of physics, they should explode, fall apart or simply not work- for example, when a human or eldar attempts to fire an Ork gun, it usually explodes. In the same way, the generalized Ork belief that vehicles or aircraft painted or otherwise colored red have higher top speeds than those painted or colored otherwise ('da red wunz go fasta!') actually results in measurably higher top speeds for Ork vehicles painted red. It is theorized by fans that at some point in the past, orks built two vehicles that were identical in their eyes, save for some internal difference that resulted in the red painted one going faster. This effect can be included in the game, with an Ork player using 5 army points to buy a "Red Paint Job" for any vehicle, giving it an extra inch of movement. In a similar vein, orks desiring stealth will paint themselves purple; the logic being that 'no one has ever seen a purple ork'. All this combined suggests that the only thing supplementing the Ork war machine is their own confidence in their methods- were there to be logic applied to the situation, the Orks would not be half as effective as they are.

The Orks are very simple in their naming conventions; a weapon is basically named for what it is or does, usually without any meaningful name. The spelling of the names follows the Orks' convention of broken English words. A few examples;

Slugga - Ork equivalent of a pistol

Shoota - Ork Assault Rifle

Big Shoota - Ork heavy machine gun

Speshul Shoota - Ork shotgun

Supa' Charged Shoota- A Shoota that is wired with an odd modification that allows it to easily pierce Space Marine Power Armour

Burna - Ork flamethrower/ industrial cutting tool

Skorcha- Heavier version of Burna, often vehicle-mounted

Deffgun - Ork heavy automatic weapon, usually looted and heavily modified

Beamy Deffgun - An Ork directed-energy weapon, typically shoulder-mounted and modified the same way as a Deffgun

Kustom Mega Blasta - Incredibly strong energy weapon, used mainly by Meks

Rokkit Launcha- Ork rocket launcher

Kombi Weapon - shoota with the addition of a single shot Skorcha or Rokkit Launcha

Snazzgun - personal weapon of firepower obsessed "Flash Gitz", extensively customized and potentially dangerous to the wielder

Dakkagun - Heavy automatic weapon, equatable to a .50 cal machine gun. Often mounted in pairs or double-barrelled configurations on motorcycles

Dakkakannon - Exceptionally large and powerful dakkagun capable of damaging enemy armour, wielded by very rare ork biker bosses

Boomgun - Ork tank cannon (Found on Looted Wagons/Leman Russ tanks)

Zzap gun - Ork tank cannon/ grot controlled cannon; electricity-based weapon

Killkannon - Ork tank cannon (Mounted on Battlewagons)

Lobba - Large mortar, rocket launcher, or even trebuchet/catapult

Shokk Attack Gun - A massive and unorthodox weapon that teleports members of the snotlings subspecies into enemy ranks or vehicles

Ork Warbosses

Wazzdakka Gutsmek - A Biker Boss who is the most killy speed freak ever known. Legend has it that he once destroyed a titan of the Legio Titanicus by driving through its void shields on his bike and smashing through the cockpit canopy. While still on fire from passing through the void shields, he set about slaughtering the princeps and his crew.
Ghazghkull Thraka - Possibly the most notorious Warboss alive. Responsible for the second and third Wars of Armageddon. He started as an insignificant goff boy, and after losing a fraction of his skull, went to see mad dok Grotsnik. The Painboy replaced the missing part of Ghazghkull's head with what is suggested to be part of a computer, and covering it with adamantium plating; after this, he claimned to see visions of the Ork gods, Gork and Mork. Ghazgkull united the tribes, claiming to be the prophet of the WAAAAAGH!, and prepared to assault Armageddon. Ghazghkull is a complete monster in close combat, managing to rip armies apart with his powerclaw and armoured bulk. He is all but impossible to stop, and many planets have fallen to his mighty hordes.
Boss Vulcha Zagstruk - A stormboy Boss who leads the infamous 'vulcha boyz' to battle. He and his elite squad of stormboyz are the shock troops of many an ork army.
Mad Dok Grotsnik - An ork 'dokter' who supposedly saved Ghazghkull's life when he was a goff boy. Ghazghkull's rise to fame gave the dokter the chance to experiment on Ghazghkull's orks.
Kaptin Badrukk - Badrukk is the leader of the Freebooterz; infamous Ork pirates and mercenaries. He is well known for helping Warlord Garaghak when fighting against the tyranids. He and his infamous mob of flash gits can light up battlefields with their highly powered Snazz guns.
Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter - An ork that plays a major role in almost all of the games from the Dawn of War video game series. He excels at escaping from the enemy when all seems lost making him intelligent in a sort and his combat ability is enough to take out an entire company of Imperial Guardsmen with no aid. His appearance and Wargear are similar to Ghazghkull Thraka in appearance. His campaigns are staged on Lorn V, Kronus, and the Kaurava system. He is still at large, waiting for the next moment to strike or simply building his WAAAAAGH! yet again.

See also

  • Ork technology



  • Chambers, Andy; Thorpe, Gav, and Priestley, Rick (1997). Gorcamorca: Da Uvver Book. Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-872372-55-4. 
  • Chambers, Andy (2001). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Orks (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-869893-38-7. 
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  • Scanlon, Michael (2005). Fifteen Hours. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-231-1. 
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