29 Nov 2014

Orks Tactica - Boyz

Greetings my lovelies and welcome to this new entry in my long-awaited Ork Tactica series! There is no doubt in my mind that this is the most significant and important article in this series given that Boyz are the standard for unit pricing across all of Warhammer 40,000, particularly in the case of horde units employed by the Astra Militarum, Tyranids and so on. As one of only two Troops choices in the Ork codex, Boyz are a pivotal aspect of any greenskin army list and are among the game's most well-priced units - even when you consider the drastic changes the Mob Rule special rule saw with the latest codex. I hope you enjoy this article, and be sure to smash some heads!

Ork Boyz


While this unit strictly decreased in overall effectiveness with the new codex given the added cost of the Shoota weapon exchange as well as the heavily worsened Mob Rule special rule, they nonetheless remain a staple of most Ork army lists because the Boyz themselves are some of the most cost-effective Troops in Warhammer 40,000. The basic profile might not be anything special but when you consider that each Ork Boy is just barely over a handful of points per model, you begin to appreciate just how valuable these lads are. I think the best way to articulate just how points-efficient Ork Boyz are is to compare them to the basic infantry of the popular Astra Militarum, Infantry Squads (as an individual segment of a platoon). For a point more per model, an Ork Boy has increased Weapon Skill, Toughness and Attacks all by one in addition to a reduced Ballistic Skill, Initiative and armour save again by one points each. The most important stat here is undeniably the Toughness value seeing as it comparatively negates a not insignificant portion of hits through failed to-wound rolls, something that is only ignored when Strength 6 or higher weapons are in play. When you consider that the vast majority of anti-infantry weapons are Strength 5 or lower this means that Ork Boyz are far more likely to survive a fire-fight than Imperial Guardsmen, even despite the weaker 6+ armour save; again, the most common basic gun in the game (a bolter) is AP5 which indiscriminately ignores the armour of both Guardsmen and Ork Boyz anyway.

Of course, the increase to Weapon Skill at the cost of a reduced Ballistic Skill signifies the Ork mantra of melee over shooting; that each Ork Boy has two base attacks before considering equipment or special rules is certainly impressive. Leadership 7 is also about average for a horde unit when you remember that Space Marines are mostly only Leadership 8 anyway, while Ork Boyz also have a fairly decent wargear collection. Each model has both a Slugga and a Choppa - a bolt pistol and close combat weapon, essentially - as well as handy assault grenades so that they strike at Initiative 2 when charging into terrain, giving them an advantage against foes that wield power fists or other Unwieldy weapons but generally being almost pointless otherwise. Each model in the unit can be upgraded to have a Shoota as opposed to a Slugga, losing an attack in close combat but gaining a Strength 4, AP5 18" weapon with a tasty Assault 2 profile; with the sheer number of Boyz you can field in a unit and given how cheap they are, Ballistic Skill 2 serves only as a deterrent to the tremendous rate of fire such a mob can dish out. Of course, Orks are nothing if not great fighters and the combination of Furious Charge and the all-new 'Ere We Go! special rules ensures this is the case even in the shooting-centric 7th Edition. Each Ork Boy dishes out a whopping four Strength 4 attacks on the charge (or three if they replace their Slugga with a Shoota) and is able to re-roll one dice when determining their charge distance rolls, giving them (and the entire army by extension) some much needed punch on the charge as well as a handy rule to actually help them get into combat.

In fact, despite the new Mob Rule and added cost of the Shoota upgrade generally relegating these to the "inferior twin" compared to their previous incarnation, the addition of Stikkbombs and 'Ere We Go! into their basic profile does make them more 'valuable' in a sense. Of course, the assault grenades make little difference on an Initiative 2 unit while 'Ere We Go! would have been unnecessary in 4th or 5th Edition anyway given how 6th and 7th Edition feature the often very crippling random charge lengths and Overwatch. Still, it is difficult to really complain about what this unit offers; that is, of course, until one looks at the new Mob Rule chart. Previously, any Ork units with eleven or more models gained the Fearless special rule which led to Orks being hilariously tough to shift in 6th Edition due to the removal of suffering wounds when a Fearless unit lost combat. Now, much like Tyranids, there are now new ways in which the units can flee the field or be Pinned even despite often being fielded in massive numbers. What the Mob Rule chart does is not only force you to take a Nob or other character in almost any unit, field them in units of ten or more models and also field a Bosspole, but it will also lead to your units suffering numerous casualties as a "reward" for not running away - the price of pseudo Fearless is that your units will now kill themselves. This isn't so bad for certain Ork units that have high Leadership or are generally unaffected by Mob Rule, but for Ork Boyz in particular that are "only" Leadership 7 and drop like flies to any concentrated shooting (as befits their low price and purpose) this can be an absolute nightmare.

As numerous other famous bloggers and tournament players have attested to, this change alone can absolutely destroy the effectiveness of Orks mounted in Trukks outside of very specific lists featuring either target spam or Kustom Force Fields aplenty. The Trukk is fragile and is likely to be destroyed, often with an Explodes result seeing as it is Open-Topped; if it explodes with a twelve-strong unit of Boyz inside, it can be reasonably expected to kill five Ork Boyz at a time. Not only does the unit have to thus take a Pinning test for disembarking from a destroyed vehicle but they will also have to take a subsequent Morale test because of suffering up to 25% of their starting number of models in casualties during the phase. With Leadership 7 the unit is extremely likely to fail at least one of these tests, leading to a roll on the Mob Rule chart; a roll of a 1 will see the unit flee as they obviously won't be in combat, a roll of a 2-3 will inflict a further D6 Strength 4 AP- hits on the unit, likely killing another two, but only if a Nob or other character is present, and a roll of a 4-6 will see the unit flee as it will be below 10 models in the unit. It doesn't help that vehicle explosions are now Strength 4 against the passengers all the time where previously Open-Topped transports would only inflict Strength 3 hits on the occupants (a change that also severely cripples Dark Eldar) though admittedly this is the fault of 6th Edition, not 7th Edition.

Essentially, every time an Ork Boy unit - even a massive horde of 30 - fails a Leadership test (which is just below 50% despite my commonly absurd maths outcomes) it will have a 1 in 6 chance of running away and a 5 in 6 chance of suffering D6 Strength 4 AP- hits - though if a character is not present then the chance to flee becomes 50%. While some will argue that the chance to stick around even with units smaller than ten does make Mob Rule more useful in some cases than it was prior to the new codex, the fact that almost no Ork unit wants to be in such small numbers and also that Mob Rule increased their Leadership value based on how many models populated the unit made it so much better. It hurts enough that armies now have access to terrifying anti-infantry weapons such as Lobbas, Baleflamers and Stormshard Mortars on mostly hilariously cheap platforms, but now Ork will usually suffer even more casualties than before due to squabbling as well as actually having a chance - albeit small - to flee even when fielded in giant units. Considering how much more difficult it is to set up proper charges for a good melee (the only place where rolling a 1 on the Mob Rule chart is ignored) than it used to be this comes as a pretty hefty blow to the general usefulness of Ork Boyz and the various other dedicated melee options. However, I don't want anyone to take this to mean the unit is objectively bad; it remains incredibly points-efficient and provides the army with the much needed bulk it requires to offset its generally poor survivability and unreliable nature. I just feel that of all the Ork units subject to Mob Rule, they were hit the hardest by far and it is sad to see given they truly are the core of an Ork army. Still, there is always a lot to like about a Toughness 4 horde unit that will rarely flee the field and can be fielded in such insane numbers as to make even Tyranid players jealous - like with everything good in the codex, Boyz are cheap and perform their role well enough to justify their inclusion in almost any army list.

How to Equip Them

The choice between Slugga and Shoota Boyz depends on what you want the unit to do and what kind of transport you put them in. Slugga Boyz are essentially a pure melee unit and thus require larger numbers to ensure they can survive through opposing shooting phases and Overwatch, making them more suited to Battlewagons or foot-slogging. Shoota Boyz function better in smaller unit sizes because they aren't as focused on reaching combat, as well as providing shooting attacks from a decent range while inside their open-topped transports. I generally prefer Shoota Boyz overall because the extra shots from afar outweigh the bonus attacks Slugga Boyz generate in close combat, while they are more versatile by nature of being able to really threaten enemy infantry and flying monstrous creatures in the shooting phase. I would skip 'Eavy Armour on Ork Boyz because it is priced identically to the same upgrade for characters and Nobz while being far less efficient because of the wounds deficiency; these units can be quite tough with the upgrade but it makes them far too expensive for what they actually bring to the table.

The choice of Big Shoota or Rokkit Launcha isn't particularly easy seeing as both are priced identically, though generally my order is to give the Rokkit Launchas to Slugga Boyz and Big Shootas to Shoota Boyz. The reason for this is because paying extra points for Shootas specifically means they want to target infantry from afar, favouring the Big Shoota upgrade; for Slugga Boyz, their pistols are mostly there just for the extra melee attack and they are also more likely to be charging vehicles where they won't waste the potential Shoota option. In that scenario, the Rokkit Launchas give them some decent anti-tank or anti-monster capabilities as well as some kind of ranged presence; ultimately though, this unit will either be making Run moves all the time or not caring about the shooting phase anyway. I recommend a Boss Nob for all Ork Boy units not just because of how valuable they are as a Sergeant-type upgrade with their greatly improved profile, but also because it greatly reduces the chances of a unit fleeing due to the Mob Rule chart. Essentially, Nobs became even more valuable as characters than they were in previous editions; the patented power klaw-wielding Nob is still as useful as ever to give the squad some very nasty melee presence even after the initial combat round, or as insurance against monstrous creatures and vehicles. I definitely recommend the Bosspole wargear option on a Boss Nob because that one re-roll can be the difference between running away or suffering some casualties as a buffer.

Best Uses

As with any army that relies on a mix of durable heavy hitters and fragile but inexpensive hordes, Ork Boyz excel at flooding your opponent with a wealth of Objective Secured scoring units that can either be run in multiple smaller units mounted in transports as a few titanic hordes. In that sense you really don't want to over-spend on these units as there are many roles they cannot fulfill or targets they are essentially utterly useless against, namely flyers and fast skimmers that can avoid or otherwise ignore Ork Boyz. Considering that these units are more efficient melee units than almost any other Troops choice in the game, there is a pretty obvious place you want them to be - even Shoota Boyz are still at home in a combat with their ridiculous amount of Strength 4 attacks on the charge. Normally the fragility of these units and their equivalents such as Hormagaunts or Conscripts forces them to rely on cover and thus sacrifice striking at Initiative order on the charge, though the fact that Ork Boyz come stock with assault grenades and can re-roll one of their charge roll dice means they can hug cover with little penalty whatsoever.

Whether you are footslogging with Ork Boyz or not is another question entirely with most lists tending to favour a mix of Trukk-mounted and horde-sized mobs, though generally I feel this more comes down to your local area than anything else. Wyverns are one of many units that will obliterate foot-slogging units within the space of a few turns before they can ever do anything worthwhile, while dealing with cheap but insanely fragile Trukks is hilariously easy. There's no really easy answer, especially seeing as an exploding Trukk will regularly force an Ork unit to take both a Morale and a Pinning test in the same turn, leading to greater risk with the Mob Rule chart. I feel that spamming twelve-strong mobs of Shoota Boyz in Trukks isn't as strong of a tactic as it used to be simply because so many of the newer codices deal with them far too easily as well as the Mob Rule chart being a massive downside, even despite the new-found importance of Objective Secured. This does largely have to do with Trukks being far more likely to simply explode with the changes to the Ramshackle special rule, while the increased cost of Shoota Boyz themselves doesn't help much either. Still, the all-new Morkanaut with a Kustom Force Field can provide some much needed protection to Trukks, while spamming stupidly cheap Objective Secured units with such good mobility is almost always worthwhile in Maelstrom of War missions.

As for running Ork Boyz units on foot, the gradual shift from kill points to victory points scored via objectives that began with 6th Edition means that your Troops choices became a heck of a lot more valuable, especially with Objective Secured. This favours large, inexpensive units that aren't too fussed with sacrificing their shooting phase so that they can make Run moves to the nearest active Tactical Objective destination - something to keep in mind, of course, is that Orks do not use a third of the "Secure Objective" cards from your typical deck. With all that in mind, Slugga Boyz are good for running up the field to get close enough to a unit and destroy it rather than running Shoota Boyz on foot seeing as they are cheaper and can make Run moves without worrying about using their Shootas. Shoota Boyz are the better all-round choice for advancing up the field but sometimes you might find saving the points (even though the added cost is insignificant) to be preferable. If you want backfield units to baby-sit the objective markers in your table half then I prefer Shoota Boyz with their two shots per model at 18" making them a fairly decent anti-infantry unit, while using medium-sized squads to protect Mek Guns and Lootas is also ideal. As for what targets these units prefer, having native Furious Charge and access to Power Klaws or Big Choppas on their Boss Nobs means they can potentially deal with vehicles but are generally far better suited to attacking non-vehicle unit types whom they can drown in a literal tide of attacks. Their Sluggas or Shootas are only really suited to dealing with the various infantry unit types; even if you take a few Rokkit Launchas in the unit they will still be far too inaccurate and unreliable.

Recommended Builds

While there are so many potential builds for Ork Boyz of both kinds, I am a particular fan of these; use them as a base for your own mobs and tailor them to suit your army list as necessary.

Ork Boyz (30) - Boss Nob, Power Klaw, Bosspole (220) - This is your bog standard horde build designed solely for getting to the enemy as quickly as possible while keeping all those meat-shield bodies as cheap as possible.

Ork Boyz (30) - Boss Nob, Big Choppa, Bosspole, Shootas, three Big Shootas (245) - This is the all-rounder type unit that doesn't have to get within 12" of enemies - which is conveniently the most common rapid-fire range - to start seriously frightening them.

Ork Boyz (12) - Boss Nob, Power Klaw, Bosspole, Shootas, one Big Shoota, Trukk (159) - I like this unit because it is still nasty on the charge, packs in some decent ranged capabilities and has a fair amount of models. With how cheap this unit is it is hard to complain given they will generally beat the equivalent in points on the charge.

Thank you all for reading my analysis of Ork Boyz, a unit that forms the foundations of almost all Ork army lists. As one of the most cost-effective squads in the game, Ork Boyz provide players with hilariously cheap and potentially nasty Objective Secured units that are quite a bit harder to slay than most typical horde units. With that said, I am eager to hear your thoughts on Ork Boyz of both the Slugga and Shoota variety - how have they performed in your games and what do you feel are their strengths and weaknesses? I appreciate any and all feedback or critiques you have for me so feel free to leave a comment below and have a nice day!


  1. yaay! Great to see the recommended back!

  2. Great to see the recommended [builds] back! - I meant

  3. Awesome article I am building a squad of my own, and find this kind of thorough analysis very useful for the planning of my army.