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Classic Hammer » Warhammer 40K » 3rd Edition
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Evolution of the Ork
jonathan e
So third edition 40K was the first one I really got into (say what you like about dumbing the game down for the kids, I was twelve at the time and rather appreciated a rules set my mates could be arsed and trusted to learn), and on the whole I really liked it, but there's one thing that's always rankled with me. Even at the time it vexed me, although not so much that I didn't rush out and buy new models: when GW pulled something similar with the Undead a decade later I all but abandoned GW games over it, such was my nerdrage at the time.

I refer, of course, to what happened to the Orks.

When I started in 1996 Orks were hunched, round-jawed, gormlessly charming hooligans held over from the Rogue Trader days, who I always liked because it gave the lie to the whole "we're so 'ard we are" character of the army and revealed them for what they are, proper satire.

The plastic Warbike and Warbuggy just released when I started were hints of things to come: by 1997 Gorkamorka had landed and Orks were more compact, more low-tech, with straps and fur and primitive weapons with slightly silly but evocative names.

I got quite into Gorkamorka at the time and was on the cusp of picking up metal mobs when BLAM, 1999 rolled around and Brian Nelson appeared on the scene and suddenly Orks were big, angry, slabbed with muscle, roaring and gorging. It was all very impressive but even as a kid I felt something had gone. These Orks weren't funny. These Orks took themselves seriously, and any funny bits in the rules were more... "random things happen sometimes, that's how comedy works right?"

Don't get me wrong, I shelved my second edition starter box Goffs and my Gorkamorka mobs who'd been pretending they were Fast Attack choices, sold my Dark Eldar on the spot, and went right in with one of all the new boxes. They were ready in time for Armageddon and were the start of my 'proper' 40K-playing career.

But with the benefit of hindsight I see the newer, beefier, scarier Orks as the beginning of the end for 40K, the start of that long slide away from "everything in this universe is self-ridculing and we all kind of know and accept that" into, well, the po-faced fandom object that attracts very serious people and disagreeable political ideas and an ocean of tie-in novels and all that jazz.

I love third edition... but it did take my first love from me. Am I the only one on 'ere?
Warhammer transmissions at Malediction Games

OG sixth edition: 20 / 6 / 21
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Just Tony
You may be. To me personally Nelson's Orks and later Orcs finally made them look like the threat that they were always supposed to be. In my mind the humor was still there, they just looked more the part than the... older models.
Father, soldier, musician, Transformers fan, masochistic junior moderator type thing.
Personally if you ask me 40k's first steps on the road away from satire and towards grim-dark seriousness were in 1997 with the introduction of the Sisters of Battle.

But I digress.

On the subject of the Orks, I feel like I side more with Just Tony. The 3rd edition Orks are easily my favourite versions, and I've grown to resent GW's efforts to inject more comedy into them in recent years because it makes it hard for me to take them seriously as a threat. The 3rd edition 40k Orks feel threatening to me, they feel like a serious danger that needs to be adressed and really could drown the entire galaxy in a sea of violence and brutality.

I first started 40k, GW and tabletop gaming in 2002, almost two decades ago, so the Rogue Trader and 2nd Edition Orks have always largely been ancient history for me, but the more I hear about them the less impressed I am. I get that they hold a lot of charm for older types, but more and more these days when I hear Orks connected with words like "ridicule" and "comedy" and "gormless" I cannot help but picture a green Jar Jar Binks with guns and a cockney accent instead of... the accent from the Star Wars prequels, and promptly shudder in fear.

I understand that the actual 1980s Orks were much more different than that nightmare scenario, but the danger of them turning into that is just too much for me, as evidenced by some of the newer Ork GW fiction. I'm much happier with my Mad Max Uruk-Hai Mangalore mashups from 3rd Edition personally.

However, all that being said, I feel I may be able to sympathise somewhat. My first and one great love in 40k is the Tau, and I have born witness to all of GW's attempts to systematically assassinate their character and turn them from "bright unashamedly altruistic love letter to 20th Century Space Opera" to "Star Wars Prequel villains with anime robots". Incidentally I continue to maintain that had GW held true and kept the original 2001-2002ish vision of the Tau as-is, it would have made the perfect repellent for those disagreeable political fandom types.

But that is perhaps a discussion for another time.

I suspect one's stance on this may be connected to their formative exposure to 40k in the first place, as well as a variety of personality factors. I remember reading somewhere a line about 40k that has stuck with me now for years:

"You probably won't understand the appeal of Grimdark unless you're already a little bit Grim Dark yourself."

The original context of the line - which I have paraphrased somewhat because I no longer remember the wording verbatim - was discussing the Imperium in particular, but I feel it reflects to a lot of 40k elements. It is certainly true that for almost a decade after starting with 40k I seriously struggled to comprehend the appeal of most of the setting and in particular why anyone would find anything appealing about a good half of the factions in it, especially the Imperium, and that only changed after I transformed into a very bitter depressed anti-social teenager. It is no coincidence that I also started to appreciate horror films, Victoria Frances artwork and harder genres of music at the same time.

Those times have come and gone, but that imprint of appreciation for the grim and the dark remains with me, which is why my 40k home is still dark gloomy 3rd edition (with noble heroic good-hearted Tau and their trusty alien allies) accompanied by blasting Nightwish and Evanescence. It is also why Dark Passion Play is always going to be my favourite album of all time. However, at the same time I am aware that had I experienced a less painful adolescence, and been exposed to different pop cultural stimuli at different times, I could very well have ended up much more open to the older 40k that took itself somewhat less seriously. Art imitates life, and we are all ultimately shaped in our storytelling tastes by our lives and experiences.

What I think I'm trying to say here is that while I do not share the same level of fondness for the Greenskins of yesterdecade, I feel I can still relate on some level because 5th - 9th editions of 40k took my first love from me, so I know how that feels and that it really really sucks.

I'm also very curious about what you felt went wrong with the 2009 era undead in Warhammer. I mean, there are several stylistic and thematic changes to be discontented about, but I'm curious about which ones got under your skin?
Death to metaplots!
Naked Metal - my very own hobby blog. Go on, give it a visit, don't be shy!
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