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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
comeback tour: 5 / 0 / 4
 
https://maledicton.games
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.
 
Kakapo42
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!
 
jonathan e
A lot to think about there! I've always disliked the "line by line response" approach so forgive me if I don't quote directly but take this by topic instead...

re: the vintage Orks, I think you're right and perhaps you had to be there - and to think of the Orks as claiming they could drown the universe in a sea of violence and brutality but not really being up to the job and running out of steam halfway through. Oddly enough that phrase "drown the universe in a sea of violence and brutality" has much the same effect on me as green Cockney Jar Jar - a kind of bone-deep shudder as if to say "not that, but not this either!"

The thing is, everyone's a destroyer of worlds these days: it feels like almost everyone, barring the Eldar and the Tau, is operating on that kind of scale. I rather liked 40K when the Orks and Squats and Eldar were just the other species that existed in it, and Chaos Space Marines were a pathetic bunch of renegades hanging around in derelict spaceships trying to survive and call it vengeance, and only the Tyranids really represented an existential threat to life as we knew it on all fronts. That's a galaxy with some breathing room in it. Born too late, that's my problem.

re: the Tau, particularly the original vision of the Tau and keeping the deplorables at bay: I don't see anything to argue with there!

re: the Times in which we come to the game; again, I find it hard to disagree, with either your case or your taste in music. (I detest how Evanescence in particular have become a meme because their breakthrough was a bit shouty and embarrassing. Any time those songs are re-recorded the way Amy Lee wants them done, they absolutely slap, in the parlance of our times.) But that's definitely a conversation for another place and time...

It has been said, by me and others, that the version of Warhammer you think "best" is the one you got into when you were twelve. I would modify this only slightly and say that sometimes you get another go - because while second edition 40K will always be dearest to my heart, it's sixth edition WFB that has the strongest claim on me and I would have been sixteen when I got into that. The one is the game that hooked me right on the cusp of pubescence and the other the one I got into as a young adult when I was starting to get a life, and I agree that our circumstances and our tastes go hand in hand.

re: WFB undead. A huge part of this is sour grapes because of the drive towards "uniquely Warhammer Undead" and away from "just a dead version of an Empire or Bretonnian army". As the owner of an extensively kitbashed Undead Empire army, encouraged into going harder by the rules in the previous edition, I felt like I was being told I'd done it wrong somehow?

Beyond this, there were all the oddities like the new Ghouls (I've eased off on these over the years but at the time I found them horribly bizarre, with their hard-crooked elbows and vertebral spikes) or the even spindlier and more brittle Skeletons. I remember the immense swooshy cloaks and stuck-out weapons which ensured half the characters would never be fitting in base to base contact with an enemy regiment while maintaining the proper facing, and I know it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things but they are gaming pieces and it would be nice if they were designed with function in mind as well as form? Couple all of that with the flattening of the army list (there were more powerful combinations to be pursued, but less variety in tactics overall thanks to Ghouls being a rank-and-flank unit and Dire Wolves not filling Core slots) and I wasn't best pleased.

BUT: we were talking about circumstances and taste up the line, and all of this happened to occur while I was on the fringes of the "all games are tourney prep!" scene that existed in Manchester at the time and being turned off Warhammer in general because I simply couldn't get an interesting game in. Rolling out an entirely new model range wouldn't have cheesed me off quite so much if I hadn't been living hand to mouth while trudging through my joyless MA year. So to an extent, it's not them, it's me.
Warhammer transmissions at Malediction Games

OG sixth edition: 20 / 6 / 21
comeback tour: 5 / 0 / 4
 
https://maledicton.games
Kakapo42
I myself have no problem going line by line (or rather paragraph by paragraph), especially when there's only a couple of points I feel the need to address.

jonathan e wrote:

re: the vintage Orks, I think you're right and perhaps you had to be there - and to think of the Orks as claiming they could drown the universe in a sea of violence and brutality but not really being up to the job and running out of steam halfway through. Oddly enough that phrase "drown the universe in a sea of violence and brutality" has much the same effect on me as green Cockney Jar Jar - a kind of bone-deep shudder as if to say "not that, but not this either!"

The thing is, everyone's a destroyer of worlds these days: it feels like almost everyone, barring the Eldar and the Tau, is operating on that kind of scale. I rather liked 40K when the Orks and Squats and Eldar were just the other species that existed in it, and Chaos Space Marines were a pathetic bunch of renegades hanging around in derelict spaceships trying to survive and call it vengeance, and only the Tyranids really represented an existential threat to life as we knew it on all fronts. That's a galaxy with some breathing room in it. Born too late, that's my problem.


I get this. One of the major reasons I switched off from NuGW material after around the 2007-2009ish mark is that it started going too far in the direction of "All destroyers of worlds, All the time". I find the Crossover Crisis on Infinite Worlds style metaplots currently in vogue with GW to be an enormous turn-off even above and beyond my normal hatred of metaplots in tabletop games, and the metaphysical escalation that permeated 8th edition Warhammer was one of my biggest problems with it (besides the 8th edition Wood Elf book grumblegrumblemuttermutter).

Contrariwise, my favourite vision of the 41st Millennium is the one shown through the lens of Codex: Tau, precisely because it's what you describe - in Codex: Tau, the Imperium, Orks, Eldar et all are just other civilisations that are in competition with the Tau.

But at the same time it is very possible to have too few Destroyers of Worlds, especially in 40k. Note that one of the key elements of the 5th edition Necron codex, and those that have followed it, was turning the Necrons from a menacing existential threat to life as we know it into just another species existing in the galaxy. This retcon made a lot of people very angry and is widely regarded as a bad move. I'm one of the people who thinks that, for precisely the same reason I'm not so keen on the happy-go-lucky Rogue Trader style Orks; it makes them feel less threatening and dangerous, which in turn deflates the setting's emotional stakes.

This is one of the reasons why I love the 40k setting of 3rd Edition - or rather 3.5 Edition to be exact - so much. It strikes an excellent balance between big existential menaces to keep the emotional stakes high, and more down-to-earth competition between different powers inhabiting the galaxy to keep things relatable and provide story hooks for games and campaigns. Likewise, I find the 3rd Edition Orks to be the best compromise between either extreme; they still have a quirky and zany side to them (especially the Feral Orks and Snakebites), and their quest to conquer the galaxy and bring total warfare to every planet on it is very much a 'dog chasing cars' kind of thing, but at the same time they are also a genuinely serious danger that commands respect and their end goal is not an empty threat.

jonathan e wrote:

re: the Times in which we come to the game; again, I find it hard to disagree, with either your case or your taste in music. (I detest how Evanescence in particular have become a meme because their breakthrough was a bit shouty and embarrassing. Any time those songs are re-recorded the way Amy Lee wants them done, they absolutely slap, in the parlance of our times.) But that's definitely a conversation for another place and time...

It has been said, by me and others, that the version of Warhammer you think "best" is the one you got into when you were twelve. I would modify this only slightly and say that sometimes you get another go - because while second edition 40K will always be dearest to my heart, it's sixth edition WFB that has the strongest claim on me and I would have been sixteen when I got into that. The one is the game that hooked me right on the cusp of pubescence and the other the one I got into as a young adult when I was starting to get a life, and I agree that our circumstances and our tastes go hand in hand.


That seems to line up with my experience, and I feel like I also fall into the 'second go' group. By rights I should be off on Facebook and/or Reddit enjoying 9th Edition and AoS. While 3rd Edition was the 40k I started out with, it was only on the very tail end of the edition and I was only 8 then. By the time I was 12 3rd Edition was all over and 4th Edition was entering its 4.5 'Late 4th' phase. The first games I ever managed to get in were 5th edition, and the first edition I could really come to grips with on my own terms (I.E. able to spend my own money on it and actually get to games with any reliability) was 6th and 7th edition.

Warhammer was even worse, since I largely ignored Warhammer in favour of 40k and Battlefleet Gothic (having favoured science fiction settings over Fantasy ones for much of my youth) until well into my late teens, so I started in 8th. I am exactly the sort of demographic all of NuGW's efforts are aimed at.

And yet here I am, on a Classichammer nostalgia site, waxing lyrical about game editions I've fallen completely in love with but never experienced first hand as they were happening.
Death to metaplots!
Naked Metal - my very own hobby blog. Go on, give it a visit, don't be shy!
 
jonathan e
"Metaphysical escalation" is a delightful phrase, improvable only by bunging an "eschaton" in there somewhere. You will get no argument from me about that, although you might on the topic of Necrons: I am one of the tasteless buffoons who can take either flavour of Necron quite happily. Upon rereading the old third edition Codex it's certainly atmospheric, but the fifth at least offers the space and nuance for 'Your Dudes' (in the parlance of our times) and is a bit less monotonously nihilistic, even if it is terribly on the nose and by the book in a lot of aspects (especially all that bunk about the return of a Silent King). I think perhaps it was dialled a little too far, and if the concept that Necron Lords retain some shadow of their former selfhood had been extended more cautiously there might have been more... harmony.

This idea of "emotional stakes" is a funny one. I'm not sure I value them as highly as you do. 40K's "lore" is all a rather silly pretext for any two given sets of toy soldiers to be fighting each other at any time, and I think it goes a bit wrong when it starts trying to evoke serious feelings and be about serious things, or perhaps to claim the sort of cultural capital its source material has. Don't get me wrong, I like that 40K is Dune and Paradise Lost and Alien and Lovecraft and everything 2000AD didn't leave nailed down, flung into a blender and left to go gnarly around the edges. I just don't think it needs to make me feel feelings; that doesn't seem necessary to its goal, as such, and when it turns into stirring manly and heroic material with Grown-Up Themes and fifty-volume novel series I find myself tuning the hell out. It can afford to be inconsequential and occasionally daft because, at the bottom line, the play's the thing.

But, you know, it's all a matter of taste. I can't deny the third edition core book looks great, and it's probably my favourite set of 40K rules overall. I am willing to entertain an amount of pomp for the sake of a good time.
Edited by jonathan e on 01-12-2020 10:47
Warhammer transmissions at Malediction Games

OG sixth edition: 20 / 6 / 21
comeback tour: 5 / 0 / 4
 
https://maledicton.games
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