Ork (Warhammer 40,000)

Ork (Warhammer 40,000)
"Gork" redirects here. For the fictional alien species from the Animorphs series, see Gork.

The Orks are a race from the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe. They are described as being tall, 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, Chaos and Eldar, Orks are one of the most iconic elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.



Orks first appeared in the Rogue Trader rulebook and the Space Orks boxed set, containing eighteen metal models. These Orks were squat, powerfully muscled humanoids, wielding crude ballistic weaponry (usually blackpowder or other explosive projectile-based equivalent) and large "stikkbombz" or stick grenades. They also wore helmets and other paraphernalia, and the model range was reminiscent of German equipment from World War I.

Additional rules, cultural details, and painting guidelines were given in the later expansions Waaagh! the Orks, 'Ere We Go! and Freebooterz (the first being a fluff-only background volume with some painting guide hints, the second and third providing detailed army lists for each major Orkish klan as well for a host of colorful and bizarre collection of mercenary Orkish units, from Ork space pirates to renegade chaos worshippers, from motor-addicted speed freekz to Ork-genestealer hybrids). An explanation for the combination of brutal stupidity with relatively high technology was now found: Orks had been created, in times long past, as a warrior race by the long-vanished Brain Boyz.

The current Codex: Orks was released at the tail-end of 4th Edition, on the 12th of January 2008.[1] Despite the release date, most players view the Codex (alongside Codex: Chaos Daemons) as having been written with 5th Edition in mind. The Codex was accompanied by the release of a number of new models for the Ork range, including redesigned Trukks and Warbikes. The Codex also added units and equipment to the Ork army, many of which had been featured in the 2nd edition and removed for the 3rd. This includes the Shokk Attack Gun and the Weirdboy.


Orks are green-skinned, a side effect of their blending on a genetic level with fungi and photosynthetic organisms (explained in more detail below; compare to lichens). Orks are genetically engineered for combat, and quite efficiently so. They are extremely strong, and their squat bodies can withstand immense punishment. This is fortunate since Ork battlefield surgeons, known as 'Painboyz,' operate on a generally nineteenth-century level of "surjikul" knowledge (their favored form of anesthesia, when they bother at all, is concussion); unlike humans, though, Orks are quite capable of having limbs (or even heads) freely chopped and swapped onto a different body, and surviving the experience to fight again, much like amphibians. Orks live for combat, and regard fighting as the highest form of worship for their (largely indistinguishable) gods, Gork and Mork. Orks never experience fear, due to them being unaffected by the Nightbringer C'tan before it went into hiding.

They eat fungi of all kinds as well as human meat. A particularly favored ingredient in their diet are Squigs, short for 'Squiggly beasts' — a variety of symbiotic races about the size of a cat but only possessing a set of lower legs or no legs at all. In earlier editions of the game, Squigs were said to be a form of Tyranid with Ork genes. These include the "Eatin' Squig", a limbless blob which feeds on fungus (hence the name), the "Growler Squig", a legged variety used as a sheepdog for Gretchin (in third and fourth editions referred to as a "Squighound" and available as a piece of equipment for a hero character or squad, also known as wargear) and known for its growling ability (hence the name - it notably does not require food), the "Attack Squig" a powerfully voracious little beast also represented as equipment, and the "Face-eater Squig", a ferociously toothed variety used both as a weapon and for entries in 'face-eating contests,' a bizarre game in which an Ork tries to eat a Face-eater Squig before the Squig eats the Ork's face, killing him. There is also a much larger sub-species of Squig, called a Squiggoth, that ranges in size from about that of an elephant to a 60-plus-foot monstrosity capable of stomping buildings into rubble. Squiggoths are used as pack animals and in combat as the carriers of mobile fortresses. The last known species of Squig is the "Hair-Squig" which the Orks do not eat, but wear on their heads as a form of decoration, as Orks are naturally hairless.

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. The effect is notable in extremely aggressive Orks, which tend to grow much faster, for the following reasons. As the 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, and generally throws his weight around. If he wins the ensuing challenges to single combat, he may become a Nob (short for "noble," but pronounced "knob"), a leader of Orks, noticeably larger, tougher, and of a darker green than the average. Once he begins to grow, an Ork will generally keep getting bigger, stronger, and greener until he is beaten by a bigger or more cunning Ork. 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 not explained or even explicable (which is mainly to play up the humorousness of the Orks). Orks achieve their theoretical pinnacle, socially at least, when a Nob becomes Warbosses and Warlords, the rulers of continents and empires, are very large Orks indeed, often standing over three meters (10') tall (like a tree, which befits their greenness) or higher. Ghazghkull himself is a towering 6 meters (19'6") in 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. As an Ork grows, so does his confidence. As an Ork's confidence grows, so does his empire.

Assuming they are not killed in any number of gruesome and/or implausibly humorous ways, an Ork will live indefinitely (again, similar to a tree). 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. Like the trees that they resemble, they lack a traditional mammalian central nervous system, a strength built into the Orks during their creation by the long lost race of beings known to the Orks as the Brain Boyz. 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, explaining why Orks are such a difficult enemy to combat and how, along with their extreme physical hardiness, they can very easily 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 themselvs 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 the English language, in which phonetic misspellings such as "kannon", "choppa", and "boyz", which 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. 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 Waaagh!, 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 Waaagh! helps give momentum (and the name) to the Orks' planet-crushing Waaagh!s. These Waaagh!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 - any enemy. 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 have 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 they should simply fall apart. 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.

A few examples;

Slugga - Ork equivalent of a pistol

Shoota - Ork Assault Rifle

Big Shoota - Ork heavy machine gun

Speshul Shoota - Ork shotgun

Burna - Ork flamethrower

Beamy 'Deff Gun - Ork directed-energy weapon, typically shoulder-mounted

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

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

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

Killcannon - Ork tank cannon (Mounted on Battlewagons)

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

Ork Warbosses

Wazzdakka Gutsmek - A warboss on a bike who is the most killy speed freak ever known. Legend has it that he once saved a battle against a titan by driving through its void shields on his bike and smashing through the roof. While still on fire from the void shield, he set about the crew in his flaming fury.
Ghazghkull Thraka - Possibly the most notorious Warboss ever. Responsible for the second and third Wars of Armageddon. He started as a insignificant goff boy, and after losing a fraction of his skull, went to see mad dok Grotsnik. The painboy replaced Ghazghkulls skull with a chunk of admantium that made him see prophecies and the future. Ghazgkull united the tribes, claiming to be the prophet of the Waaagh!, 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. In the video game series Dawn of War, an Ork boss named Warlord Gorgutz is stylized after this character.
Boss 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 - A 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.

See also

  • Ork technology


  1. ^ White Dwarf issue 336 (December 2007)


  • Chambers, Andy; Thorpe, Gav, and Priestley, Rick (1997). Gorkamorka: Da Uvver Book. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-55-4. 
  • Chambers, Andy (2001). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Orks (2nd Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-869893-38-7. 
  • Chambers, Andy; and Thorpe, Gav (1998). Digganob. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-872372-01-5. 
  • Johnson, Jervis (1993). Warhammer 40,000 Codex: Orks (1st Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. 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 Edition ed.). Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-84154-190-7. 
  • Priestly, Rick; Alan Merrett, Jim Bambra, Mike Brunton, Sean Masterson, John Blanche (1988.). Warhammer 40000 Chapter Approved: Book of the Astronomican. Nottingham: Games Workshop. ISBN 1-86989-333-6. 

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