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 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]

The Orks are oriented towards melee combat; their ranged units are rather weak. Most of their units have weak armor and are thus easy to kill, but they are cheap and thus can make up for this weakness with numbers. A favorite 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 specialized 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 die 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 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. Some Bad Moonz, who are stricken with wander lust, 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 Space 'Ulks, or Kroozas, which are space ships, mostly stolen Imperial ships. They mostly take on the appearance of Pirates. In addition to the clan colours, 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 it 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 orks are typically very rough and sloppy with lots of "rust" and "dirt" colorings.

Ork technology is sometimes referred to as "junkyard" tech. This is mainly due to orky armor/structures/vehicles having a "thrown-together" look to them. Ork 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.

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 (poorly). Weapons such as Big Shootas and Heavy weapons like the Boomgun.


In the fictional 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 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 meat, whether the source is sapient or not. 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 central nervous system found in most mammals and reptiles, a strength built into the Orks during their creation long ago as weapons in a great ancient 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 also explains why Orks are so difficult to fight and more so eradicate, and how they are able to infiltrate and build up large populations virtually anywhere imaginable from barren deserts to lush jungles, to iron glass and stone cities. The only known solution to this problem is to incinerate the entire area, or failing that the entire planet to destroy all Orks and Ork spores. Because Orks are so genetically similar to plants and fungi, their diets are flexible in the absolute extreme - Orks, and to that extent all Orkoids can be used not only as meat, but also as yeast and phytochemical-containing fibrous plantlike sides. The 'Orkoid Pie' is a staple of Ork diets, particularly on the battlefield, where little other food is available, and dead Orkoids are in abundance.


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 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.

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. 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).

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' 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 WAAAAGH!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.

"The Orks are the pinnacle of creation. For them, the great struggle is won. They have evolved a society which knows no stress or angst. Who are we to judge them? We Eldar who have failed, or the Humans, on the road to ruin in their turn. And why? Because we sought answers to questions that an Ork wouldn't even bother to ask. We see a culture that is strong and despise it as crude." - From Culture vs. Kultur: Thoughts on Orkish Society by Uthan the Perverse, a controversial Eldar philosopher.


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 Imperial Guardsman. The Ork WAAAGH 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 crazed and traumatized members of the snotlings subspecies into enemy ranks or vehicles
  • Uge' Choppa — A two handed equivalent of the normal choppa, stronger and as an ork would say "more killy". Usually used by Nobs
  • Paw' Puttroll — The use of cartoonish like dogs to unleash psychological torment to their enemies.

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 - 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, and keeps the still burning skulls of the crew as his favored trophies.
  • Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka - (Probably) 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, covering it with adamantium plating; after this, he claimed 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 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.
  • 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. Grotsnik survived attempted murder by disgruntled patients, and had to be pieced back together by his gretchin orderlies.
  • 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 3. He excels at escaping from the enemy when all seems lost, making him intelligent in a way, 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.
  • Kaptin Bluddflagg - A Freeboota Warboss, known for his penchant (or obsession as it is) for hats, that appeared in the Dawn of War II game 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.

See also[edit]



  • Chambers, Andy; Thorpe, Gav; Priestley, Rick (1997). Gorcamorca: Da Uvver Book. Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-872372-55-4.
  • Chambers, Andy (2001). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Orks (2nd ed.). Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-869893-38-7.
  • Chambers, Andy; Thorpe, Gav (1998). Digganob. Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-872372-01-5.
  • Johnson, Jervis (1993). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Orks (1st ed.). Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-872372-95-3.
  • Scanlon, Michael (2005). Fifteen Hours. Nottingham: Black Library. ISBN 1-84416-231-1.
  • Chambers, Andy; Haines, Pete; McNeill, Graham; Kelly, Phil and Hoare, Andy (2002). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Necrons (2nd ed.). Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-84154-190-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Priestly, Rick; Alan Merrett; Jim Bambra; Mike Brunton; Sean Masterson; John Blanche (1988). Warhammer 40000 Chapter Approved: Book of the Astronomican. Nottingham: Games Worcshop. ISBN 1-869893-33-6.