Since the first reveals from GW this year, there has been much debate, arguing and questions regarding the future of the Ork Faction’s most quintessential unit – the Ork Boyz. Massed infantry of the cheap and mean variety has been a core feature of the faction since the very first release in September of 1987.
The Ork model itself has certainly grown in statue and chunkiness since then – indeed the latest model release will find Boyz about 60% taller than their ancient 35 year old predecessor! With a new codex in the hands of many (but not all), we come to the big mega-brainboy puzzle – so what’s the deal with T5 Boyz? Just how bigger, better and BUFFER are they?
Grindin’ Da Big Ladz
Looking at the Ork stat line (and only the stat line) we can see that the jump from T4 to T5 is actually a really big deal. For years, Strength 4 guns (the classic bolter) were the bane of all Orks, but now they’re looking significantly less effective. The break down on each is as follows:
Under the Watchful Eye of the Waaagh’s Big Mek
This “to wound” math was the look that most people are viewing, especially those who didn’t cut their teef running big waves of Boyz in 8th and 9th Edition. Looking at the stat line in a vacuum is ultimately a useless comparison. We need to see how other changes effected an Ork Boy’s survivability, especially as this doesn’t account for the Boyz’ actual save. Looking at this 9th Edition codex, the biggest largely unacknowledged change is to the Kustom Force Field (KFF). In 8th Edition, it would have been unthinkable to deploy Boyz on the table and advance them across the field without being under the constant protection of its 5++. Large units are too big to fit behind almost all terrain objects, so the Big Mek became an integral part of every list. The KFF has been brutally downgraded to a 6++, gutting the horde save. It’s a downgrade so bad, most lists won’t even bring one now, so if you’re hit by any -1AP firepower, you’re a dead boy. Let’s be charitable at first, let’s presume you brought the KFF anyways, or you have the Snakebite 6++. Let’s get out of theoretical dice rolls and present a real situation – imagine you’re against a unit with a ballistic skill of 3+, and 10 shots. Sounds like a squad of pesky Space Marines! How many boyz go down?
Apart from Strength 4 shooting, the good news about the move from T4 to T5 starts to wear out. Versus S3, S6 and S7, we actually see drops in survivability that are as bad as the increase versus S4 was good. Imperial Guardsmen, clutch that trusty lasgun with deadly pride! Let’s be less charitable though, let’s presume you’ve given up on the Big Mek. After all, despite the fact he’s so much worse, he costs 30% more than before. Without him, if you fall prey to the numerous sources of -1AP firepower where do we stand?
To Much Teef for To Few Boyz
As I mentioned before, we can’t just look at stat lines to decide which Orks are *’ard* and which ones ain’t. A big aspect of horde play is filling the table with 100+ bodies and winning through sheer force of numbers. New Boyz are paying more per body, going from 8 points to 9 points – a 12.5% increase per model in points. In real terms – you can field 26.5 Boyz vs 30 at the old cost, so the difference gets bigger and bigger depending on the size of your horde. We have a finite amount of points we can spend, so accounting for the old amount of bodies vs the new amount of bodies we field, we find the following:
There’s a lot of hidden costs here as well. With horde play, critical mass is a major factor. Big Meks, Painboys, Waagh Banners, Weirdboys and Warbosses all increase in their effective value if you have more infantry for them to buff. We can naturally see how a Painboy is more valuable in protecting 120 Boyz (8th Edition costs) vs. 106 Boyz (9th Edition costs).
Out of the Warp & Into the Fray
You’ve stuck with me this long through a bunch of grindy math, but I hate to break it to you, none of this actually matters. In looking at survivability, in 8th vs 9th, or really any edition in truth, the biggest factor has never been your chances of getting wounded or your ability to make a save. Its speed, 100% speed. The reddest Orks have always been best, always will be. In 8th Edition, Evil Sunz (and ever so briefly Feral Orks) became the way to play hordes of Boyz because they cleared the distance faster and better. It doesn’t matter at all what your save is if you get to the target one turn faster, skipping out on an extra turn of being shot at. During 8th, I was a huge proponent of wide-scale use of the Teleporta and Da Jump to transport your boyz – no footslogging needed! Why walk through the battlefield getting shot at when you can just suddenly appear and murder everything? Looking into 9th, this is just flat out a method you’re not going to be using anymore. The biggest factor is the change to “’ere We Go!” Instead of allowing the Ork warlord to choose which die to reroll, we’re like everyone else again, rerolling both dice on a failed charge. The other big hit was Evil Sunz losing their +1 to charge clan culture. The combination of the +1 and old ‘ere We Go made rolling the 8” charge out of deepstrike spectacularly consistent. Let’s see some more math.
I don’t like my odds at 48% chance. Now, with that said, there are some ways to boost that up. Taking a Hero Vehicle and giving him the “Follow Me Ladz!” warlord trait, then combining it with the Ramming Speed stratagem gives the Hero a stellar chance of getting in and giving all your ladz a +1 to their charge. Grey Knights players are doing a lot of thought themselves around a similar ability combo. Not bad, but that’s a pretty hefty investment, a lot of moving pieces, and probably not the most effective use of a Kill Rig or Wartrike. The warlord trait only benefits your other units in charging the targets your Hero made contact with, which limits their charge choices. Additionally, if the accompanying ladz don’t make what’s still sure to be a tough charge, your expensive Hero is left out in the lurch.
All in all, as most of you probably realize by this point, running giant hordes of Boyz is most likely not the way to go. The end-all-be-all in running a horde is getting them into melee. You do that through resiliency or you do that through speed. In most situations, your basic Ork infantry is much less resilient and much slower. You’re going to take more shots and you’ll be worse at taking said shots. The big bad bogeyman of the Toughness 5 Ork Boy is almost completely a false narrative. Despite this T5 “buff”, your Boyz are worse in almost every situation, and your costly aura characters are generally less effective. As the T5 upgrade was a universal one across all infantry datasheets, the “buff” is really more of a boost for those units that would have never been operating under a Kustom Force Field. It brings more legitimacy for transport based MegaNobz and Nobz – with Trukk Nobz becoming a surprisingly spicy choice. Had the Loot It stratagem stuck around, we could have very well seen an interesting MANz or Nobz meta pick. Personally, I’m naturally a bit sad to see the change. I was excited to bring out some mass horde lists using Evil Sunz or Feral Orks in our post-COVID competitive events, but now it’s back to the drawing board. Sure, we can zoom around in Squigbuggies and blast everything off the board, but I yearn for the faction identity that I fell in love with years ago, and hope it can get back to its roots – a mean lot of ladz ready for a good scrap with 119 of their best buddies.
In future articles, we’ll take a look at artifacts and warlord traits. If you haven’t read it yet, I’ve also already taken an extensively deep dive into the (mostly not great) stratagems. Give it a look fellow warbosses! Stay tuned for more Ork coverage, and some new articles on Grey Knights and Thousand Sons from other members of GDFC.
is a founding member of Grim Dark Filthy Casuals, Author, Content Lead, Warboss, Tournament Organizer, and GDFC’s Chief Krumpin’ Officer