November 28, 2011

On Orky goodness

Wonderduck asks:

You know, I've been reading Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium, and I'm struck by one question: why would anybody play as anything OTHER than the Orks? They appear to be the one bright spot in an otherwise craptacular galaxy.

It's true that orks have more fun; in fact, in the generally ghastly environment of 40k, where In The Grim Darkness Of The Future, There Is Only War (tm), they're pretty much the only ones having fun. But they're still pretty hideous!

Orks aren't really creatures of reason. They're programmed to be the way they are, genetically; in the ol' "nature vs nurture" debate, orks are 99.9% nature. Sure, for some of them that includes the knowledge of how to build spacecraft out of rusty scraps... And it's not that it's impossible for an ork to self-reflect or to appreciate a philosophical argument, but any ork that actually does is pretty much by definition insane. As far as other orks are concerned, it's more rational to wear your pants on your head than it is to ask "why are we here?" Orks don't ever, ever suffer from anomie.

Ork society is brutal beyond anything Hobbes ever envisioned. There are only two reasons that it works, to the degree that it works at all - orks are instinctively submissive (to a degree) to bigger orks, and the ork/grot/squig/snotling/fungi ecosystem is incredibly, unreasonably, what-the-zog robust. Pretty much everything is settled through violence, without even the benefit of ritual. That puts something of an upper limit on the size of an ork empire, simply because beyond a certain point a big ork boss doesn't have to worry about a bigger ork boss showing up with all his forces and kicking the crap out of him. Orks can't conquer the galaxy.

Wouldn't even want to, for that matter. Who would they fight? Each other? Well, of course they do that all the time, and if all the other factions died out, orks would happily fight orks until the heat death of the universe (that's as close to a victory scenario as orks get!) But they're also quite happy to have other species to kick around, get into scraps with, enslave and work to death in their happy-go-lucky, slapdash way. It's quite horrible if you think about it - orks are quite capable of being just as horrible as Nazis, though instead of by malice, they get there from sheer short-sightedness and impatience.

There are no "good guy" orks. There aren't noble orks. Their admirable qualities are limited to tenacity, and a kind of honesty when it comes to motivations. They're out to fight, and the only thing that will stop them from fighting is the promise of a bigger, better fight to come (and at that, they'll still scuffle, raid, and pillage on the way to that other fight!) But even those orks would still happily murder their mothers in their sleep, if they ever had mothers.

As for real-world reasons why they're not the most popular faction, the rules (especially in their current edition) favor small, resilient units in a mechanized-infantry setup. Orks generally get fielded in large packs of infantry with little armor and relatively little anti-tank capability. Their rule set is a little old and not really balanced to be competitive with the newer sets of army rules; unlike a couple of the older army books, orks are still a little competitive, mostly because they're generally pretty cheap when it comes to point values. (That doesn't necessarily dissuade people who like playing orks, because you can lose a game with orks and still have a lot of fun doing it. But not many people are drawn to orks because of their overwhelming rules advantages...)

Another real-world factor is, well, they aren't cheap when it comes to cash value. The average army for space marines might come to fifty models and a handful of tanks, with some variants having as little as a dozen figures on the table. Ork armies that go for a small number of elite models tend to suck; to take advantage of their strengths, you need a lot of orks, so 50 is miniscule and 100 is still on the low side.

Finally, there's the logistics aspect. I don't actually play 40K that often, simply because rounding up the various models and getting them down to the store is a real chore, especially when you start factoring in the large-size models such as trukks, deffkoptas, battlewagons, and what have you. And in tournaments, having a horde army is a disadvantage all by itself - it takes a lot longer to move all those models, which means you rarely finish games in the allotted time window. Finally, if you like having a nice painted army, orks are kind of a worst-case scenario - tremendous numbers of models, but complicated enough that speed-painting techniques such as dipping don't work terribly well for them.

Don't get me wrong, they've got advantages too, else why do I have so many of 'em? But it's very much a thing of attitude. If you're going to like orks, you don't need someone to tell you why orks are awesome.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at 04:18 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 870 words, total size 5 kb.

1 In The Grim Darkness Of The Future, There Is Only War.

And everybody has a toothache.  Or kidneystones.  Or both.

Look, I don't care how brutal the Orks are... any army that believes that "the Red Onez go fasta" would have to be my choice.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 29, 2011 09:37 PM (2YMZG)

2 That reminds me - the ork word for "dentistry" is the same word as they use for "economics". It's an, er, primary extraction industry...

The fun thing isn't that orks believe "the red wunz go fasta!", though they do. It's that they're right... ork civilization ought to break down regularly from poor maintenance, but it doesn't. Rusty guns don't jam, engines with leaky oil and fuel lines run, spaceships that oughta leak don't leak. Just lucky? Is it some kind of collective unconscious psychic power that causes stuff to work? Do the twin ork gods, Gork and Mork, actually exist and this is their effect in the world? Nobody actually knows for sure, including the orks, who don't spend a lot of time thinking about it.

In game terms, the Red Paint Job gets you an extra inch of movement a turn for five points (pretty good bargain).

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at November 30, 2011 02:25 AM (pWQz4)

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