So, Codex Orks (7th Edition). What do I reckon? Is it proppah flash, or are Games Workshop muckin’ about?
Never a finer way to manage your life.
Neither, I would say. Codex Orks (4th Edition, 2008), beyond being a revision of one of my favourite codexs of 3rd Edition onwards, is also a taste of things to come with how Games Workshop intend to lay out the books for the foreseeable, although the honour technically belongs to Codex Militarum Tempestus (a brilliant idea that is by far and away the most woefully produced supplement Games Workshop have ever published, from the perspective of a professional pedant). If you want the short version, it’s good enough for an existing ork player, as mechanically it’s perfectly fine, with the odd buff and nerf here and there. The problem I have with it is it’s nowhere near as inspirational as its predecessors, and the truly exciting background ideas are one-liners, whilst what amounts to a Ghazghkull knockoff gets far too much space (Ghazghkull, of course, gets his own supplement). Coupled with a real lack of conversion work (which orks, more than any other army bar Chaos, excel at) in the obligatory model shots and it does a very bad job of selling orks as an army. The new format also, whilst not a bad idea in and of itself, needs serious tinkering.
I suppose my first problem is that I have so much fondness for the last book. It was a solid enough army, albeit with some disgustingly good units (Nob bikerz) and some woefully bad ones (Tankbusters), had plenty of room for imagination and conversion work, even if it kind of had to as in those days we didn’t have your fancy trukk kits and battlewagons and had to make our own, and I’d wager just under half of all Land Raiders sold ended up as battlewagons. If you wanted your army to look good, you really had to learn how to convert stuff. The upside is the book did a good job of selling the orks, with The War of the Dakka and the wonderful Tuska Daemon-Killer, amongst the various new stories. It wasn’t the same old stories of Ghazghkull krumping Armageddon, a character who is by far and away the most boring of all ork special characters.
These days, everything in the book has a model. This is official Games Workshop policy, so if there isn’t an official kit for it, it’s not in the book. That is why Looted Wagons were in White Dwarf (as opposed to being scrapped entirely), and this is why the codex has huge and incredibly ugly photos of the positively ancient plastic warbuggy (a kit that’s a good seventeen years old, and Gork’s bollocks does it look it) and the Gorkamorka Deffkopta (no one thought of just selling the Black Reach ones again, apparently). I don’t think this is a bad line to take, as it goes, but far too much of the codex is taken up with what amounts to stock photos of the studio ork army. The new army list format, which merges the old bestiary and army list into a one unit per page type affair, does save a fair bit of page flipping, but the problem is the background is trimmed down in some cases to barely a paragraph or two, and over half the page is taken up by a stock photo of the model in question. The worst offender is the painboy, which wouldn’t be so bad, but the new kit is such an ugly model (the one redeeming feature being the claw) which for some bizarre reason lacks the standard ork “fittings” that you’ll find on practically every other ork (and orc!) kit. No painting guides (which are either in White Dwarf or on the iPad), no alternative models, no suggestions or ideas on how to build up an army.
There isn’t much new art in the book, but despite some of the “clan” pics being rather ropey and somewhat off, the cover is great and there’s a wonderful two-page spread of orks fighting Farsight Enclave Tau. A lot of it is reused, and what isn’t usually is pretty forgettable. Not bad, far from it, just bland. It’s technically good, but doesn’t capture the eye or spark the imagination like stuff did in the good old days, an opinion so heavily marinated in nostalgia I feel rather queasy typing it.
The background is a little flat, lacking that certain something that shows the author really loves orks, that enthusiasm fuelling you to build a Waaagh! of your very own. Tuska Daemon-Killer is relegated to a single line in the timeline, as is the War of Dakka. The Beast, the mysterious Ork Boss-of-Bosses who brought the post-Heresy Imperium to its knees doesn’t even get a mention at all, which struck me as particularly egregious. An ork warlord who almost achieved what Horus couldn’t, and Abaddon seems to be studiously avoiding, and they don’t get a single line. Either the writing team (for it is a team, not a lone soul in the highest tower, working feverishly in silence) simply forgot, or (as the staunchly orky part of me would think) they’d rather we forgot anyone could assail the might of their ‘oomie Garry-Stus. As noted, Ghazghkull barely gets more than a page, not because it’s a story that’s been told to death and can be recounted in numerous supplements, wikis and novels, but because he’s getting his own supplement. The new Honestly-Not-Ghazghkull -Guv Warboss is Grukk, who can be summed up as Yet Another Ork Warboss. This goes on for a good six pages of pretty boring prose. It takes a lot to somehow make an ork warboss boring, but through hard work and diligence they achieved it. A codex, to my mind, is supposed to inspire, enthral and enthuse the potential player, to give them dozens of ideas for an army they could collect. In that respect, Codex Orks falls rather flat.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. Just they seemed to be obsessed with what is dull (six pages on an ork warboss as bloody boring as Grukk) and what is good was throwaway lines. A Goff warboss looting Necrons and wearing them as a hat. A Deffskull boss wiring himself into a looted Forge World, going mad in the process but able to pump out huge amounts of war materiel. A Tau seeding ship being stolen and turned into an enormous battle-cruiser. A space hulk fitted with an enormous shokk-attack gun that was turned onto suck, rather than blow. Nice ideas that inspire, and there are more there. Orks having wild and crazy adventures, and having huge amounts of fun into the bargain. A lot more of this would have been nice. That we got it at all was good, but we could do with a lot more.
But Stuart you charismatic stallion, I hear you cry, who gives a tinker’s toss about fluff? Give us the crunch!
The list is more-or-less like it was. We’ve lost Wazdakka and Zogwort, simply because they didn’t have official models, so those of you who spent hours converting your very own Wazdakka are out of luck. HQ units no longer move other units to Troops, no doubt because of the advent of Unbound lists making a mockery of the force organisation chart. Beyond that, very little has changed beyond a little slot-shuffling, a little tinkering to make some units worth a damn and others less of an auto-include, and the addition of the Gorka/Morkanauts. The codex does like to mention them wherever it can, as they are the big new kit for the book. Beyond filling the gap between Megadreads and Stompas, they’re not that interesting to me, although I’d like to see a Kustom version in a Forge World list, much like their Kustom Stompa or Kustom Battlewagons. Beyond a few bugbears that could potentially gimp modelling opportunities (Painboys can’t have ‘Eavy or Mega Armour, making my own Bad Dok Shatter’And a huge target) I’m pretty happy with it, mechanically. Unbound lists means I can take my Dreadbash, I’m not beholden to take a ton of Boyz as filler, and those I do choose to take can all be ‘Ardboyz.
The list itself is no longer divided into a bestiary and army list, with each unit getting a page for everything. In theory, this is great, as it saves a huge amount of flicking back and forth, and my only problem with the new paradigm is that each unit has an enormous picture that takes up at best a quarter and sometimes over half the page with a photo of the model, which is always from the studio army list and assembled stock. I said it before, but it does bear repeating, that with smaller pictures and a broader selection of sources for those images (maybe even just using colour artwork rather than photos of the models we’ve seen so many damned times) it’d be a great idea. Right now, it still needs serious work.
All in all, Codex Orks is fine for those of us who are already on-board. Beyond one frustrating mention to the notion that ork tech works simply because they believe it does (an internet meme based on a misunderstanding that I really wish would just bugger off) and completely ignoring the Beast, it’s a fair enough book. It could have been a whole lot worse, it could have been a whole lot better, but it’ll do. Ork players tend not to need their hand held by Games Workshop, as we can build what we want out of anything and everything, and we’ve plenty of background material and fan material to keep us inspired. My concern, however, is for those new to the game, who’ll find the book rather bland and uninspiring, lacking the humour and creativity that drew us old gitz in, and they’ll end up playing Beakiez.
As a new direction for codexs? Good idea, needs serious improvement. The writing staff need to seriously up their game, and maybe give the book another once-over before going to press. There are typos and inconsistences, irritating to professional pedants, but nothing on the level of Codex Militarum Tempestus (which I’m not convinced was proofread). Between those two and Codex Astra Militarum Imperial Guard Games Workshop does need to get their arses in gear. There’s solid groundwork here, build on it.