Wednesday 12 August 2009

Orcs FTW

Every time I’ve tried to rationalise this in the past, it’s proven to be really hard, but I guess it’s time to try again. I think Orcs are awesome. If I can play as the Orc army/player or Nuthin’ But Net team, I will. In Blood Bowl I tend to play as the Undead, but that’s purely because they’ve got zombie cheerleaders. Anyway, why is it that I like Orcs?

Firstly, they give the villain in a fantasy saga a tangible presence. The evil wizard (Hey, they’re usually evil magic-users. What do you want from me?) has to have an army of underlings, otherwise it’s awfully hard to see him as a threat. Sauron, the bad-dude from The Lord of the Rings, has his army of Orcs, and the names change, but a rose by any other name: The Sword of Truth series has Gars, The Wheel of Time series has Trollocs. They serve the same purpose as Orcs, act like Orcs and pretty much are Orcs. Take something like the Harry Potter series, however – big, evil wizard with no Orcs, and he sucks. He’s got no tangible presence and more importantly, no Orcs.

I think my main love stems not from The Lord of the Rings, as you maybe expected, but rather from the rather cartoonish portrayal of Orcs in the Games Workshop games of the eighties/early-nineties. Here, Orcs were massive, muscle-bound monsters, capable of extreme and gratuitous acts of violence, but there was also a sense of humour to them too. Orc weapons were always unpredictable, and a bad dice roll could result in a well-executed battle plan going wrong in a way not seen since the days of Wile E. Coyote. Things blew up, Snotlings died, and the Orcs still refused to run away, instead deciding that a random act of melee combat was the way forward.

During my Warhammer 40,000 days I had a mixed army of Chaos and Orks. I always found that my problem, however, was my complete lack of strategic ability. Using any of the organisation heavy armies such as Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Eldar or Chaos always that ability to think one step ahead that I never mastered with Chess age eight, Warhammer aged fourteen, or business plans aged twenty-four. With the Orks and their massively damaging weapons, however, I could actually win a game or two on dice rolls alone. Every once in a blue moon, anyway.

Probably the best example or Comedic Ork Weaponry I can remember was a little piece of kit called The Shokk Attack Gun. This gun fired Snotlings (a small type of Goblin or Gremlin) through another dimension, teleporting them inside the vehicle, building or person they were fired at. Sometimes they’d completely overrun a Space Marine tank, sometimes they’d make a Librarian explode, and sometimes they’d just disappear into the Warp, never to be seen again. But it was the quirky randomness that made them so much fun. Makari, the famous Ork standard bearer’s only defense was “Uncanny Luck” – and I can’t help but feel that that was meta-humour at work.

Orcs were about fighting, drinking and plunder; like the result of a bizarre experiment to cross breed Dwarves and Motorhead. Sure my Dad could line up his Dark Angel army, my brother could infiltrate with his Tyranids, but my Ork army swarmed onto the table like a green cloud of death every time. Except when things went horribly wrong, which was roughly fifty per cent of the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I like dwarves too, and I don’t mind elves. Orcs, though, are totally where it’s at.

1 comment:

  1. Well done for getting rid of the anonymous posting. It forced me to reactivate my Google account so I could still post here, but it's a small price to pay.

    As I had to do that anyway, I've started that new 'blog people keep telling me I need to write. You can check it out at
    but remember that you're largely responsible for its existence.

    --- P.S. (The man who used to be 'Paulymorph')