Orks: Coping with an Outdated Codex

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I first started playing 40k when third edition came out. Phil had convinced my Dad to get into it and I shortly followed. I made a vague attempt to collect Imperial Guard but they weren’t for me, despite the awesome old metal models. They felt too structured. Too…sensible. I fell out of love with 40k for a while after, before a couple of years ago Jeremy gave me the Ork contents of the 5th edition 40k boxset as a birthday present. Phil followed that up with a copy of the Codex. And so began my journey collecting an army with the same level of finesse and sophistication as me…As a collector of Orks I am happy to say, without any prejudice what-so-ever, that it doesn’t matter what army you collect and what species they are: I hate them.

The answer to why this is, quite simple; it is partially because its fun to hate every other army, it makes them easier to kill, but mostly down to jealousy. I’m jealous of your guns, technology, your ballistic skill, reliability and your initiative. So why bother collecting Orks? Well they are just so different. It’s not just their great background and their rules but it is the general character of the whole army. You can guarantee that even if you play the same way every time, no two games will ever play out the same.

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However, considering they are an army with such great variety, for the Orks, nothing has changed in a very long time and this is making it harder and harder for them to remain a competitive force. I know they are not the only army still waiting on a new 6th edition codex, and I know their current book is very well written (which is probably why it has survived all of the games rule changes over the years), but the fact of the matter is the Orks have not had a new codex since the 4th edition of Warhammer 40,000 way back in 2007. For the last 2 editions of the game I have seen other armies getting shiny new guns, units and some brilliantly devastating new rules and this leads me back to the whole jealousy thing.

A week or so ago I agreed to play a new member of our group using Phil’s Ultramarines, using the new Codex: Space Marines and 6th edition rules. As far as the armies in the Warhammer 40K universe go, I have always reserved my most bitter animosity for the Space Marines. I have always felt that as cool as they look and their background is, they are the 40k Universe’s equivalent of that guy we all knew at school who never put any effort in but passes every test, always wins and as well as this, somehow gets the girl… Not that the Space Marines have any desire or need for such things. They are in fact the kind of army that make me want to run full speed across the battlefield towards them, shouting at the top of my lungs, and hit them hard in the face with something quite sharp or heavy (or both). Luckily for me this has always been the most effective way of winning, especially as an Ork will usually find that even in Power Armour, if you hit them hard enough (and enough times), they are just as squishy as anyone else.

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When preparing for the battle it was plain to see that on paper, just as they always have, the two forces look completely unbalanced with the Orks seeming to be completely out matched. The Marines can shoot further and far more accurately and even their base guns will ignore most Ork Armour, so there is no point in getting into a prolonged gun battle with them. The Space Marines are also as strong and as tough as most Orks and most importantly they are far less likely to run away. This of course poses a problem as unlike most other armies, even if you beat them in combat they are not going anywhere. To remedy this I plumbed the extensive green skin archives and consulted with some of the finest Ork tacticians, to come up with an almost fool-proof plan.

The plan was an old one but a classic. Overwhelm your opponent with sheer weight of numbers and grind them down. Then combine this with getting to them fast, or better yet very fast. Revolutionary! Granted it’s not the most elegant of plans but this is Orks not Eldar, and I have always found in the 5th edition of 40K that when in doubt this has proven to be the only way to really go toe-to-toe with and stand a chance of beating Space Marines.

I took large mobs of Boyz, some fast troops like Storm Boyz, Deff Koptas  and some trucks, plus a few special troops to deal with the inevitable well armoured tanks. Killa Kans and Tank Bustas specifically. I then ensured that set up my army in a good Waargh! formation; a wide line mixing fast vehicles in amongst the mobs to make sure I could hit his line in 2 waves. It got off to a good start as I lost fewer casualties than expected to gunfire and got my first units to the Space marine lines within 2 turns, but that is where the 6th edition changes made a difference and it all went wrong.

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(Some of the currently unpainted Waargh!)

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Warbosses and Nobs are now more vulnerable than ever, as instant kills have to be double the target’s toughness, not more than double. This is a game changer, as there are a good number of strength 10 weapons a space marine force can take. When I finally made it into combat I came across the next game changer. Furious charge is no longer as effective as it used to be. And the new overwatch rule means that some of the edge has been blunted from an Ork charge. Granted hitting on 6’s does limit the risk but rapid-firing boltguns will mean on average two Ork boys will drop. Seeing as you take from the front that can make the difference between a charge being successful and not. Which makes deployment, how you move mobs through the space and how you and when you choose to attack your targets more important than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, Orks do still dish out plenty of pain but the rule changes impact noticeably. Overwatch has the potential, given enough fire power and enough luck, to render your charge impotent. Which kinda sucks considering the assault phase is my thing. Between those changes and stuff like initiative being used  to determine whether or not a defeated unit runs, and a new Space Marine Codex, means that I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board.

The new Ork Codex can’t come soon enough and you better believe I’ll be getting it day of release and Believe me when I say I am looking forward to the new codex and I hope to be reviewing some great new rules or stat changes to level up the playing field a bit.

The Path to Damnation

What with the new codex for Chaos Space Marines now out and with the models in the Dark Vengeance box so awesome I’ve decided to collect a small(ish) Chaos Space Marine army. I’ve always ummed and erred about collecting a Chaos army. I’ve bought every iteration of the Codex and started collecting an army but always ran out of steam very very quickly.

In fact, when I was a young and plucky key timer for the Games Workshop I put my discount to good use and acquired myself a 3,000 point undivided army which included a squad of Noise Marines, Iron Warriors, Khorne Bezerkers and Plague Marines all with the appropriate metal bits and bobs, lots of the old metal terminators and a Daemon Prince with the plastic wings which cost £8 a set.

I managed to build the 3 land raiders, the Daemon Prince and the terminators. And I even painted some of them. But between taking on too big a project and being skint, even that army was eventually eBayed.

And so, in the closing months of 2012 I am once again wandering down the dark path to damnation. The big question was, of course, which Legion to collect. I’ve always liked, as much as you can when it comes to evil psychotic super soldiers, the Alpha Legion for their complexity and the Night Lords for basically being Batman super soldiers.

The problem I have is that I’ve got 2 companies of Ultramarines. That’s 215 Space Marines, 4 servitors and a butt load of tanks. I’ll be the first to point out that they’re not all painted. And won’t be for ages because I’m lazy. But I’ve painted and still have to paint a lot of blue. And collecting either of those Legions would mean, well, more blue. And the thought appalled me.

So I resigned myself to collecting Word Bearers which is fine as they’re way cool in the Heresy books but I felt like I wasn’t even settling for the Silver Medal as they were my favourite of the Legions I liked less than the other two. Then, whilst on Twitter today I had the realisation that I don’t have to do an established traitor legion, or, more to the point I can do a successor traitor legion. So rather than just opt for renegades or fallen space marine chapters I’m basing my force around an off shoot of the Night Lords which means I still get to encapsulate all the sinister intent but I don’t have to paint anything blue. Huzzah!

And so I present to you; the Dark Knights.
FOUNDING

In the aftermath of the Horus Heresy and the death of Night Haunter the Night Lord’s Legion, like many, were almost destroyed by a period of civil war and power struggles. Fragmented almost into none existence, dozens of ‘chapter’ sized forces broke away from the Night Lords determined to forge their own path, either cleaving out their own small, cruel, empire in real space or to wage their own personal, rage driven, war against the Imperium. A small few fell upon any of the traitor legion within striking distance in an orgy of grief fuelled violence.

Of those to abandon the Night Lords to their fate in the warp was the 15th company known by the Legion as the Dark Knights. So named for their own peculiar, if twisted, sense of right and wrong. Forever earning scorn from the more savage of their brothers both before and during the dark days of the heresy for their restraint. Although still masters in the art of terror, their twisted attentions were only ever directed at military targets or those they deemed guilty of a crime. What constituted a crime was decided by the Dark Knights themselves and their brand justice was swift, uncompromising, and violent in the extreme, striking from the shadows as the Night Haunter had always taught them and leaving nothing but death and mind bending horror in their wake.

Commanded by the dour and usually silent Malakai, the Dark Knights were among the few that refused to leave real space and flee to the relative safety of the Eye of Terror when the fleets of the Imperium sought to bring the traitors to task. Instead Malakai sought to find his Dark Knights a new home from which they could launch a campaign of vengeance against an unjust world.

For ten thousand years the Dark Knights have done just that. From adopted homeworld of Equinox they have launched countless raids not only against the Imperium but against any they consider unjust or guilty of hurting the weak. This has often brought them into conflict with not only other traitor marines but the Night Lords themselves.

HOMEWORLD

The Dark Knights occupy a small forge world in the Eastern Fringe. Outwardly the world of Equinox is a loyal and tithe paying world of the Imperium. It meets it’s quotas of small arms, munitions and light vehicles. Inwardly the world is ruled by the Dark Knights and is a world in a state of barbaric martial law, the citizens striving to be the model member of society for fear of what may befall them should they transgress. And beneath the surface further still is the unmistakable taint of Chaos.

Manufactorums run at full capacity throughout the year and even the darkest streets are safe to walk but few would ever dare leave their homes at night lest they incur the attentions of their masters. The Dark Knights lurk in every shadow and atop every tower, watching, searching out any infraction against their word and delivering judgement upon them. Whatever the crime the punishment is almost always death. The lengths at which the Dark Knights draw out the death is directly proportionate to the severity of the crime. For those that would take another’s life the Dark Knights would keep alive for weeks, if not months, whilst they went about the business of punishing the guilty.

For all the barbarity that their masters bring down on the heads of the unwary, the people of Equinox remember a time when the world was in anarchy. When the Dark Knights came to Equinox at the turn of M.32 it was on the brink of civil war. Ravaged by the Heresy and left to die, it was too small to get the aide of either the shattered Imperium or the Cult Mechanicus. The manufactorums were silent, the streets a danger to navigate by day or night and the Governor all but powerless to stop the ever pervasive wave of violence that was destroying his world.

When the Dark Knights descended in their transports, the livery of the Knight Lords emblazoned on their flanks, the over stretched security forces gave up arms, all to willing to accept a swift end rather than beaten to death by the hands of their own people. Instead the Dark Knights fell upon the rioting masses with barely restrained fury. Within hours the worlds populous was either dead or cowering in the shadows.

The Governor threw himself at the mercy of Commander Malakai who, with a grunt of contempt, beheaded him where he knelt. Turning to the commanding officer of the Equinox Security Force, the body of his former master cooling at his feet, appointed him governor of Equinox. Malakai gave him a single instruction; be prosperous and just. Transgressions of any type would be severely punished, however, in exchange for obedience and keeping their presence on Equinox a secret, the Dark Knights would defend the world from all threats wherever they may lurk.

In reality the arrangement was not quite so clean-cut. Although Malakai did keep his word and allowed Equinox to prosper over the millennia, the people were forever at the mercy of the Dark Knights’ cruel justice and the less savoury aspects of their nature. Indeed as the Dark Knights’ secret war against Imperium and traitor alike continues the inner circle of the chapter are forced to make ever greater packs with the denizens of the warp which inevitably requires human sacrifice.

Fortunately Equinox’s population stretches in to the billions so a few hundred citizens snatched from hab blacks across the world is barely noticed. Or, if it is, nothing is ever reported. The people of Equinox understand that safety at the hands of the masters comes at an often grim price.

It’s high production rate, regularly paid tithes and thriving society means that it draws very little attention from the Imperium as a whole and the Dark Knights go to great lengths to keep it that way. Warp lanes and transition points are rigorously monitored for the slightest sign of unscheduled traffic to the world giving the Dark Knights ample time to either attack or go into hiding in the even of an official visit by a member of the Administratum.

During such visits the entirety of the Dark Knights vanish from sight. No one knows where they go but most believe that they stalk the shadows, watching not only the visitors but the citizens of Equinox for the slightest hint of duplicity. Any they believe to have attempted to convey to the Imperium of Equinox’s true purpose is publicly mutilated and their corpse left on display as a warning to all.

BELIEFS & TRADITIONS

The Dark Knights have an all-consuming, if twisted, sense of justice and a strong moral code. However, this code is not only rigid as iron but requires the harshest of punishments for every conceivable form of transgression. And only the Dark Knights themselves know this code and see their actions, however violent, as a necessary and righteous administration of justice.

The Dark Knights are, at heart, traditionalists embracing the oldest teachings of the Night Haunter, his earliest writings speaking of how the strong must protect the weak. The strong that abuses the weak is to be cut out like cancer. The weak that would steal from their betters is as to a scavenging animal and deserves no more kindness than to be put down.

But the most important lesson that the Dark Knights embrace, that their father taught them, is to move silently, embrace the darkness and strike swiftly.

Indeed this is drummed into initiates into the Dark Knights from the onset. Either recruited from defecting warriors from other traitor factions, renegades or the small number of gene breds, all must undergo the same final test in which they are required to evade detection for a single 32 hour day on Equinox whilst Malakai’s personal retinue attempts to hunt them down.

Only a handful have survived the full day but of those that don’t there is a varying degree of violence waiting for them dependent on how quickly they are caught. Any initiate thought to have been discovered too quickly will be lucky to escape with their lives.

It is also tradition, once an initiate has joined the ranks of his brothers as an equal that he be branded with the Dark Knight insignia across their back. The brand is worn with tremendous pride. Indeed veterans of many campaigns have fashioned smaller brands and marked their skin to denote significant triumphs in the name of the chapter.

Within the Dark Knights there is little active Chaos worship although they are allied with the Dark Powers. Initiates and novices are forbidden from worship and may only bear the mark on their armour.

As Dark Knights work their way through the ranks they are gradually educated in the power and dangers of Chaos. They are also free to pray to the Gods and make pacts and oathes to earn favour and gifts.

This not only prevents the chapter from descending into madness and mutation but keeps the chapters structure stable and prevents the scheming and infighting that plagues other traitor factions.

The highest tiers of the chapter have their fates forever entwined with the Dark Gods, their bodies forever changed but their souls fighting against becoming completely consumed by Chaos. Although Lord Malakai is under no illusion that not even his iron will can resist forever.

ORGANISATION

Totally roughly a chapter’s strength the Dark Knights are unorthodox in their organisation to say the least. The Dark Knights do not have a formal structure, seeing the rigidity of company’s etc at odds with their preferred method of waging war. Malakai is the chapter commander, with the honorific title of Haunter and at his command are 6 captains to lead his forces in battle as and when the need arises.

When forming a strike force, Malakai and his men simply call upon those warriors or squads that best suit the demands of the theatre and the objective allowing them to equip themselves as best suits the mission parameters, their superior officers trusting them implicitly to organise themselves.

Indeed the Dark Knights trust each other completely. Descent is rare as is friction amongst the rank and file. All are focussed on their goal which is to bring order to the galaxy starting with the cutting away of the old, tired, Imperium.

TACTICAL DOCTRINE

Relatively few in number, barely a chapter strength force, the Dark Knights are reluctant to get drawn out in open combat, lacking the armour that many of their foes possess. Instead they are the masters of psychological warfare and the lightning strike, preferring to lure enemies into a trap and attacking them with frightening speed, leaving mutilated bodies in the path of the enemy.

The Dark Knights, like all of Night Haunter’s children prefer the use of jump packs, closing swiftly with their foe and dispatching them in mortal combat. Devoid of scout companies the Dark Knights are adept at stealth operations. Indeed their natural flair for barbarism is ideally suited for sowing confusion behind enemy lines.

Additionally, through circumstance and necessity the chapter has a higher than normal number of Helbrutes and Heldrakes, despite their reluctance to promise too much to the Dark Gods. Despite that fact, the black and grey monstrosities are a common sight amidst the Dark Knights’ lines.

The Dark Knights reluctance to invest too heavily in the promises of Chaos has meant a resistance to all but the most concerted whisperings has developed naturally over the millennia. Only Malakai, his captains and his elite chosen have allowed for any gifts to be bestowed upon them. However, this resistance has also meant that those few members of the chapter that have become possessed are not fully taken by the daemon creature they have let in. Instead a symbiosis occurs making them a far deadlier threat. However this battle of wills takes a great toll on the physical form, as such any possessed marines of the Dark Knights are incredibly short-lived.

When being deployed the Dark Knights will seek to close with the enemy as quickly as possibly, weaken with close support fire power and then break the back of the foe in combat. And should an enemy surrender they will be granted a swift and painless death…

GENESEED

The majority of the Dark Knights are Night Lords either from the Heresy or by descent and therefore carry the lineage of the Night Haunter. When new recruits are needed and initiates from other sources are insufficient in quality they use an ever dwindling supply of geneseed from their fallen brothers. Gene stocks have reached such low levels that the Dark Knigthts have begun actively engaging Night Lords in the hope of killing and harvesting their geneseed.

WARCRY

As stealth and the lightning strike are both preferred tactics of the Dark Knights a warcry is an alien notion. The only noise you’ll ever hear in the presence of a Dark Knight is the screams of their latest victims.