Ork (Warhammer 40,000)

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For the Love of Waaagh, artwork by Morgan Bishop.

In the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000, the Orks are a race of aliens and a playable army in the tabletop miniatures wargame. Alongside the Space Marines, Orks are one of the most iconic elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Orks revel in violence for its own sake; their entire culture revolves around warfare. They are one of the oldest, most widespread and persistent of the Imperium's enemies and even outnumber the quadrillions strong humanity as a species, making them the most numerous species in the galaxy. Their simplistic personalities, reckless tactics and ramshackle technology make them the comic relief characters of the setting.

Tabletop game mechanics[edit]

A collection of Ork miniature figures for tabletop gaming

The Orks are oriented towards melee combat; their ranged units are rather weak. Most of their units have weak armour and are thus easy to kill, but they are cheap and thus can make up for this weakness with numbers. A favourite strategy is "the Green Tide": the player fields as many Orks as they can and simply marches them across the playing field to overwhelm or swarm his opponent. Orks do have a number of specialised units who can use psychic powers and attack vehicles (among other things), but typically Ork warfare is about brute force and attrition. Ork gameplay is viewed as being fairly forgiving of tactical errors or bad dice rolls.


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 colour schemes, background, and play-style. For the orks, these armies are called "clans". Some examples include the "Goffs" Clan with black and white colour scheme (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 colour scheme and has a preference for using bikers and vehicles while "Bad Moons " smother their armour in bright yellow. Some Bad Moonz, who are stricken with wanderlust, or have more teef (the monetary system used by Orks) than they know what to do with, become Freebootas, which wear eccentric outfits, and travel the stars in retro-fitted derelict spaceships, or Kroozas, which are mostly stolen Imperial ships. They often take on the appearance of pirates. In addition to the clan colours, some players will also paint the faces of their ork armies blue due to the ork belief that blue is a lucky colour. While these colours are mainly aesthetic, the ork codex does feature some rules such as "Da red wunz go fasta!" and it is required that ork vehicles with this upgrade actually feature red paint. With the exception of army colours, ork armies are largely green with varying shades of hair colours and teeth. Colour schemes for orks are typically very rough and sloppy with much details made to resemble rust and dirt.

Ork technology is sometimes referred to as "junkyard tech". This is mainly due to Orks' armour, structures, and vehicles having a chaotic and unkempt aesthethic. Ork body armour 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.

Ork 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.


In the universe of Warhammer 40k, 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 have been genetically engineered for combat by their creators, the Old Ones. 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 fractious.

They eat fungi of all kinds as well as meat, whether the source is sapient or not. A particularly favoured ingredient in their diet are the squigs, a small organism closely related to Orks in biological terms. Most such animals are used for food or in other domestic applications, 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 specimens are used as mobile fortresses, while smaller 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 human. 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; 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 (from "noble," but pronounced "knob"), a leader of Orks, noticeably larger, tougher and stronger than the average specimen. Once he begins to grow, an Ork will generally keep getting bigger and stronger until another Ork defeats him. This indicates that the effects of adolescence in Orks continue indefinitely, but can be triggered off by defeat. Orks achieve their social pinnacle 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 Warlords known to be more than twice that height. And although they have achieved the highest possible rank at this point, they continue to grow indefinitely.

An Ork can live indefinitely. However, in most cases this is rendered null due to the Orks' violent lifestyle. Orks seem to live longer the more powerful they are, with some legendary Warbosses rumoured to be hundreds of years old. Retirement is nonexistent in Ork society.

Orks' brutish behaviour and choice to always use a direct approach in combat stems from their lack of a fear of death. They lack a traditional central nervous system, which allows them to feel much less pain and discomfort than humans. Their spores allow 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, meaning that killing an Ork may literally create more Orks, which also explains why Orks are so difficult to 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 Ork spores.


Orks use a modified form of Low Gothic (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 utilised in lieu of standard spelling (the mentioned examples meaning "cannon", "blade" and "boys"). 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.

In some depictions, Orks have their own distinct language, which is described as guttural, grunting, and involving plenty of physical violence. In these depictions, most characters don't comprehend their language, and sometimes assume they don't have one capable of communicating complex ideas at all.


Ork culture circulates around seemingly random violence, which dominates every aspect of their culture. Most competitive activities amongst fellow Orks end in death. Their culture (when not fighting each other) is mainly reminiscent of tribal methods, with a crude understanding of trade and commerce (although they possess a currency, teef, said to be the teeth knocked out of each other in brawls).

Ork behaviour is dominated by the WAAAAGH!, a psychic field they generate that affects the Ork psyche, as it allows Orks to instinctively recognise who is bigger and therefore in charge. All Orks generate this field, and it grows stronger as the Orks enjoy themselves, generally while fighting. The WAAAAGH! helps give momentum (and the name) to the movements called WAAAAGH!, essentially a mix of a mass migration, holy war, and a looting party. Such a movement is composed of millions of Orks drawn to the power of a dominant Warboss, 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 and too strong to be resisted), though their lack of education can often lead their enemies to assume their stupidity. 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 set off to find an enemy to fight. Ork WAAAAGH!s will sweep whole planetary systems away and destroy armies and fleets, and only once the Orks have killed every available enemy will they start to fight amongst themselves again.

There have been many changes to Ork culture over the decades. Notably problematic the storylines have been removed from the lore by the creators. Orc Nobles are now simply refer to as Nobs. Ork Boyz have removed all references to slavery.


An Ork Stompa, a type of combat mech

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 by the Gretchin (a Warhammer 40,000 version of goblins) slaves. The Ork WAAAGH! energy field also impacts 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. In the same way, the generalised Ork belief that vehicles or aircraft painted or otherwise coloured red have higher top speeds than those painted or coloured otherwise ('da red wunz go fasta!') actually results in measurably higher top speeds for Ork vehicles painted red.

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 a 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 heavily modified
  • Beamy Deffgun — An Ork directed-energy weapon, typically shoulder-mounted and modified the same way as a Deffgun
  • Kustom Mega Blasta — An 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 customised and potentially dangerous to the wielder
  • Dakkagun — Heavy automatic weapon, similar 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 electricity-based tank cannon or a stationary cannon
  • Killkannon — Ork tank cannon (Mounted on Battlewagons)
  • Lobba — Large mortar, rocket launcher, or even trebuchet/catapult
  • Shokk Attack Gun — A weapon that teleports crazed snotlings (a subspecies of Orks) into enemy ranks or vehicles
  • Uge' Choppa — A two handed axe, usually wielded by Nobs
  • Gargant — A massive, robotic combat mech, the Ork equivalent to an Imperial Titan
  • Stompa — A smaller version of a Gargant

Famous Ork Warbosses[edit]

  • The Beast - Boss of possibly the largest WAAAGH! to have ever existed which came dangerously close to destroying the Imperium around 32nd millennium. The Beast was also the largest Ork to have ever existed (although the Eldar stated that during the zenith of their civilisation they fought warbosses much larger and more powerful that would have easily have wiped out the Imperium, though this could be Eldar arrogance), being at least ten meters tall. The real name of The Beast is unknown.
  • Wazzdakka Gutsmek - the most powerful Biker Boss ever known. Legend has it that he once destroyed a titan of the Legio Titanicus by driving through its energy 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 crew, and keeps their still burning skulls as his favored trophies.
  • Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka - one of 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 an Ork surgeon known as Mad Dok Grotsnik, who replaced the missing part of Ghazghkull's head with what is suggested to be a part of a computer, covering it with adamantium plating. After this surgery Ghazgkull claimed to have 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. He is almost impossible to stop, and conquered numerous planets.
  • Boss Zagstruk - A stormboy Boss who leads the infamous 'vulcha skwad' to battle. He and his elite squad of stormboyz are the shock troops of many an ork army.
  • 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. His preferred weapon is "Da Rippa", an Ogryn Ripper Gun modified to fire fuel rods. The radiation given off by the gun while firing is such that Badrukk must wear a lead lined coat for protection.
  • Gorgutz 'Ead 'Unter - An ork that plays a major role in all of the expansions of the original Dawn of War, reappearing as the leader of the Orks in Dawn of War III. He excels at escaping from the enemy when all seems lost, 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. He is still at large, waiting for the next moment to strike.
  • Kaptin Bluddflagg - A Freeboota Warboss, known for his obsession of collecting hats, that appeared in the Dawn of War II extension Retribution as the leader of the Ork Faction.
  • Old Zogwort - A renowned weirdboy who is said to have strangled 2 vipers at birth. Since then he goes into battle with a nest of vipers. He left his clan due to his curse of turning any unsuspecting independent character into a squig, and is currently a freebooter roaming the galaxy.
  • Grumbozz Slankshotta - An incredibly large Warboss who laid siege to the Hive Planet Slamparn. He is best known for his Skullkraka maneuver, and for his hideous stench. After the failed siege was lifted by The Golden Legion, Grumbozz retreated to the warp ascension point (WAP).
  • Grimskull - A Warboss who attempted to conquer a Forge World Graia in video game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. He would combat the Ultramarines and the Chaos Lord Nemeroth before being killed by Captain Titus. He is not confirmed to exist in the main timeline.
  • Kulo Kargash - This warboss referrers to himself as a planetary governor of the planet Xit. He is extremely obese to the point where he is unable to move around on his own power. Uses gravity suppressors on the rare occasions he does move. Is extremely paranoid of assassination and being overthrown.[Book of The Astronomican]



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