Kruel and the Gang

Another weekend, another Warhammer preview – this time devoted to the Stormcast Eternals and their latest adversaries, the scheming orc Kruelboyz. Now the Stormcasts do look nice, it’s a range that’s come on in leaps and bounds over recent years, but being essentially a filthy orc myself my attention has been squarely focussed on this new breed of swamp-lurking greenskins.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to any of my regular readers but I like these a lot. They’re nasty, spiky gits, much more in keeping with the wicked hordes of older fantasy fiction than the “misunderstood” tribal barbarians popularised by World of Warcraft and other modern sources. They look exactly like the kind of evil scum that might be found lurking in a wild and overgrown swamp, ready to carry off their unfortunate victims to a terrible fate. It may say nothing good about me at all but that’s exactly the kind of qualities that draw me to a faction and so of course I’ve been watching this release develop with interest, my fingers hovering expectantly over my sadly over-worked wallet whilst my pots of green paint shove their way to the front of the desk ready to be liberally applied.

Beyond this rabid enthusiasm however two things have struck me whilst looking at these models; where are the normal orcs and why are these ones looking so damn serious all the time?

Kruelboss

In Praise of Normal Orcs

Over in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium the greenskins are also gearing up for war. This time around the new models will be bring a range of new hunters and beast-wranglers to the faction – the so-called Beast Snaggas, some of whom even ride into battle on giant squigs.

New Orc

In the world of Warhammer 40k all orks belong to a tribe (that’s your personal collection – my army, Da Murdaboyz, being one example). Most orks are also part of one of six major clans (the Goffs, Evil Sunz, Snakebites, Bad Moons, Blood Axes and Deathskulls). A tribe may be made up exclusively of orks from one of these clans or it may contain members of several or all. Each clan has its own idiosyncrasies and defining traits, Bad Moons are wealthy show-offs for instance whilst the Deathskulls combine a superstitious obsession with the colour blue with a hunger for stealing everyone else’s property as soon as they can get their hands on it. Adding a third layer of complexity are the various ork “kultures” – the Kult of Speed for example, or the new Beast Snaggas. Some of these kultures tie themselves in well with certain clans but, and this is the clever thing, it’s not an exclusive arrangement. Take the Kult of Speed. These orks take their species’ love of hurtling around at a breakneck pace, something every ork enjoys to some extent, and turn it into a lifelong fixation. As a result they find a natural home amongst the nomadic petrol-heads of the Evil Sunz clan. The Goffs meanwhile are the meanest and most brutish orks of all, serious and ill-tempered they like the simple things in life – straightforward fighting with muscles and fists doing all the real work and none of that fancy nonsense getting in the way. They may take a dim view of the Speed Freeks and their time wasting antics, tinkering around with motorbikes or having silly races in the dusty wastes outside the camp when they should be concentrating on proper things like fighting. However that doesn’t mean that a few buggies or bikes will be out of place in a Goff army. After all it stands to reason that a Goff who races his way into combat atop a speeding bike will be able to enjoy a lot more fighting than his mates who have to walk all the way, and probably won’t reach the site of battle until the best killin’ has already been done. Meanwhile a Bad Moon might find himself tempted by a vehicle of his very own, and if he is he’ll buy one that’s fancier than anyone else’s – at least until the local Deathskulls steal it and paint it blue…

In practical terms this means you can make your army your own, choosing the parts of the Ork background that you find most appealing without finding yourself “locked out” of adding particular models to your collection. This works because, stripped back to the bare lead, plastic or resin, all these orks look relatively similar. There’s not much to distinguish a Bad Moon from a Goff until you’ve decided whether to paint him in garish yellow or cover him in black and white checks. These clans and kultures which have brought excitement and pleasure to so many hobbyists over the decades are rarely more than a coat of paint deep.

Over in Age of Sigmar however the differences are rather more intrinsic. A Kruelboy is a lean, spiky creature…

Gutrippa

… quite different to a hulking brute like an Ironjaw.

Ironjaw Brute

They’re both orcs, and they can certainly look good mixed together in a large army, but what they really need is something to tie them together – a missing link as it were. Where are the ordinary orcs?

Back in the old days of Warhammer Fantasy Battle the Orcs and Goblins range had at its heart mobs of Orc Boyz. The kit, when it was retired with the coming of Age of Sigmar, was well past its best but it continued to serve a key function – tying all the other orcs together thematically.

Normal Orcs

With these green lads at the heart of your army you could add in some Black Orcs (disciplined orcs in heavy armour), Big ‘uns (orcs but even bigger and tougher) or Savage Orcs (orcs who distain clothes and other trappings of civilisation and go into battle with nothing but bone clubs and loincloths). Standing side by side the Black Orcs looked very different to their Savage cousins (they were wearing a bit more for starters) but a mob of Orc Boys created a visual link that brought them together. As the greenskins have migrated across to Age of Sigmar the various specialised “types” have lived on – the Savage Orcs rebranded as Bonesplitterz, the Black Orcs as ‘Ardboyz and the Big ‘uns getting a swanky new range of models and becoming the Ironjaws. Now there are swamp themed orcs as well. What we don’t have however is the missing link, the ordinary boys who may not be fancy or particularly original, but who bring everything together – who take the disparate mobs of Kruelboyz, Ardboyz, Bonesplitterz and Ironjaws and forge them into an army.

Why So Serious?

For the most part the various settings and games under the Warhammer umbrella are on the one hand very serious, and on the other very silly. Take Blood Bowl for instance, a game which the players can – if they so wish – take very, very seriously indeed, developing for themselves the mindsets of chess grandmasters, whilst at the same time playing with undead footballers, drunken dwarves, pogo-ing goblins, chainsaw-wielding loonies and orc cheerleaders. Warhammer 40k paints itself as a very serious business (look no further than the 700 novels that make up the Horus Heresy series) but it also includes space vampires, space werewolves, all kinds of demons and other craziness that more sober sci-fi would never abide. Orks of course are the ultimate expression of that silly side. Even when 40k is trying to be sensible and grown-up, picturing the grand narrative of a declining and stagnating empire brought low by the flaws within our all too human souls, the orks just fart around at the back enjoying themselves. Collectively, they are the whoopee cushion on Roboute Guilliman’s chair.

Orc Cheerleader

Warhammer works well when it can be taken very seriously – look no further than the reams of historical and cultural background in the “House of…” books for Necromunda for example. However it needs that spark of silliness to bring out the flavour. All that Necromundan nitty-gritty is wonderful but it’s still a game of punks vs. aliens, and it still includes the character Smartacus, an ogre who leads an uprising after an accident turns him into a genius.

If the Kruelboyz have a flaw then it’s that they’re not very silly. Indeed for the most part they look serious and scary. Now there’s nothing wrong with that – as I said I really like that aspect of them – but really the Ironjaws aren’t particularly silly either, the Black Orcs/Ardboyz were always grim and dour and that only leaves the Savage Orcs doing their best to keep things daft and looking ever more out of place. But if the orcs aren’t silly then who is?

Gutrippa 2

To me that’s the one remaining problem with Age of Sigmar. The setting has grown from its challenging birth into something genuinely interesting and impressive. When it first launched six years ago it felt unfinished; the backstory little better than fan fiction, the models borrowed from WHFB with confusing new names and the rules leaning as much on players yelling at each other as on rolling dice. Nowadays it’s grown into an engaging, complex world in which even cynical old hands like me look forward to discovering the next chapter of the ever developing story. However these days it’s a sensible world for grown-up people. The goblins – in the form of the Gloomspite Gits – are as silly as ever but the Orcs have their serious faces on, and much as I love the look of the Kruelboyz I miss those daft old orcs. Perhaps in time though we’ll have both – serious orcs for serious battles and silly old orcs farting under the noses of those snooty Stormcasts.


27 responses to “Kruel and the Gang

  • savageddt

    A great take on your views of the current orks comparred to the Orruks. I do like the seriousness of the new orks, but I am still pissed that AoS became a thing…

    • Wudugast

      Thank you! I had very little love for AoS in the early days, and it still boggles me that a company of the size, wealth and stature of GW was willing to produce something so incredibly cheap and half-arsed. However they have managed a fine job of turning that around and AoS now is pretty good. As I see it they may not be producing anything new for WHFB these days but it hasn’t really gone away, we still have our old books and models, there’s Warhammer Total War (which I’m still hooked on) and GW are still chipping away on the “Old World Project”, whatever exactly that proves to be. Best of both (in an imperfect world) right? 🙂

      • savageddt

        Man i so want to get a pc and start up the old WH games. My last one was dawn of war 2 still… Ill get round to AoS at some point i guess. Just have to get used to it

      • Wudugast

        Ah memories! I used to love Dawn of War, played a lot of that back in the old days. My pc is a bit old these days, won’t play the newest games. Still got loads of old stuff to play though so I can wait. When you get around to getting a new machine I highly recommend Warhammer Total War for an Old World fix. I’ve been a big fan of the Total War series for years and back when I was at university I went on to whoever would listen that they should make a Warhammer version. Took them over a decade but it’s happened at last! Does this mean I invented it? Well I say it does and the game publishers say it doesn’t – I’ll let you decide for yourself… 😉 Silliness aside it was well worth the wait, every bit as good as I imagined it being.

      • savageddt

        Some royalties should be paid to you for that idea at least. Ill check out total war soon as i ever get a system up and running

  • Gavroche

    I like the serious new orcs. And always hated the silly cartoony ones. So from my point of view it’s a definite improvement and I hope other miniature designers will imitate them, like they did with the comedy greenskins in the past 🙂
    I might even buy these when the Start Collecting box comes out!

    • Wudugast

      Oh make no mistake – I love the serious new orcs! It’s just that I also loved the silly old orcs. Still, it’s looking like that daft vibe is still alive and well in 40k so I reckon between the two I’ll get my fix either way. At least now we have both, and hopefully that’s something that GW will continue to build on with future releases. Plus, as you rightly point out, the “comedy orcs” have been copied by a lot of other companies and designers, hopefully the Kruelboyz will show them that serious evil orcs (ala LotR) are still as well loved as ever.

  • Mikko

    Another quality piece! For me the difference between the new, visually LotR style orcs and the traditional Warhammer ones is jarring. I’m not quite sure yet how I feel about it to be honest.

    • Wudugast

      I know exactly what you mean. If it had been me making the decision at GW I’d have turned the Kruelboyz into a whole new army (there’s enough of them after all) and at some point added a couple of additional kits to the Orruk Warclans range – preferably something that ties the Ironjaws and Savage Orc together (and brought back the Boarboys at the same time…). I like the Kruelboyz a lot but they do seem a little odd standing shoulder to shoulder with the other orcs, they’re almost as different to them as they are to the ogres or gits.

      • Mikko

        I think the Kruleboyz are a big departure stylistically, going in a more realistic (for a given value of the word) direction. It’s almost as if they are for another game, as AoS is still very cartoony, and not just with orcs. Cool as the Kruelboyz are, they look more like LotR minis in terms of proportions and overall feel, including the troll and the ballista that are both much more LotR than WHFB.

        I think there are a couple of interesting possibilities here, just winging it of course: they could also be a sign of things to come for AoS, although it does seem unlikely, as the new vampires for example were very stylized and cartoony. Another potential explanation is that as with a lot of other recent stuff (new Necromunda, Genestealer cults, Palanite enforcers, Corvus Cabal…) GW is going for a broader audience. The old GW orks are very recognizably GW orks, it’s a very established look. The Kruleboyz on the other hand could likely find a lot of use in other games as well, as more general orcs/hobgoblins/whathaveyou, as they don’t have a very obvious GW look to them.

      • Gavino

        I’d say it’s just the opposite, classical GW orcs are no longer recognizable as such in the marketplace as they have been copied so often. So I understand them wanting to move to a new aesthetic. Not so much more realistic as stylized in a different way, with somewhat different, less chunky anatomy. You also see that with the new Vampires and even with some Stormcast. It helps GW to stay unique and we will see more of it. Smart third parties might already start redesigning as well, although they’ll still have the legacy-nostalgia market.

  • Alex

    Nice thunks mate – I agree that the Orcs are getting a bit serious, but that is making for some really lovely minis with some intriguing possibilities … These new swamp dwellers put me in mind of Ian Miller’s WH40k art & would be a great starting point for a project to replicate that gritty old vibe.

    • Wudugast

      Cheers man 🙂 You know, I hadn’t spotted the Ian Miller vibe but you’re right. There’s just a grubby, nasty vibe about these guys and I can’t get enough of it! I still think the Gutrippaz could be turned into scalies for a Necromunda mutie gang and I’m getting increasingly tempted to turn the *checks notes* Marshcrawla Sloggoth (the crawling troll thing with the gobbos in the howdah) and loot it for my 40k orks.

  • John@justneedsvarnish

    Not being a GW follower I quite enjoyed this post! 🙂 Looks like there are orcs/orks/orkz to suit everybody’s taste (and I think I’d like some squigs in my historical armies)!

    • Wudugast

      Thank you! I always find there’s a bit of a balancing act with these posts, I try to make sure they’re accessible – or at least legible! – to someone who’s interested in miniatures but isn’t a GW fan. Not sure how many historical armies contained squigs but I’d like to imagine it was most of them. An army without squigs is an opportunity wasted right! 😀

  • theimperfectmodeller

    The way I see it, albeit on your behalf, is that Orcs are rather like cars, nice to have one for every occasion. 🙂

    • Wudugast

      Haha – I’ll take your word for it, my poor little car has to rise to every occasion all by itself! 😉 I do get your meaning entirely though, the greater the variety of models the greater the range of tastes that can be accommodated – and needless to say that’s a very good thing in my book.

  • Pete S/ SP

    Montrous orcs/orks/orrucks will always get my vote.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  • Xbogx Halo

    the sculpts are very good but they don’t look like warhammer orcs to me so i don’t see myself ever buying them

    • Wudugast

      That’s fair enough – I think there’s a lot of people feeling the same way. I like them but to me they’re not really Warhammer orcs, they’re a separate entity – awesome in their own right – and should have been treated as such. I’ve managed to snag myself some of the Dominion models so I’ll see how I feel about them once I’ve got them in front of me.

  • Kuribo

    GW should take note of this essay. It is well-written and a persuasive case for bring back humor. I always liked the lighthearted side of Orks and Ogres too. In 40k, the crazy custom vehicles (which were probably inspired by Mad Max even though I didn’t know it in my youth) were just awesome and why I bought some orks back in the day. I love the Gnoblars with Ogres as well because they’re fun little followers that give the faction a nice comedic touch. Perhaps the epitome of this is Greasus Goldtooth who I wish they would update and release. That was such a fun and cool sculpt! If and hopefully, when, I paint my Ogre project, you can bank on it having plenty of Gnoblars along for the ride!

    With that said, I like the aesthetic of the new orks even if I will almost certainly not paint any of them. I know that is a weird thing to say but they don’t really fit into my personal taste or painting aesthetic even if I think they do look cool. There’s no reason that there can’t be a balance of humor and seriousness even among Orks. I think the humorous side of Warhammer has been mostly lost by GW and I do hope they’ll bring it back one of these days. After all, both games are essentially fantasy and fantasy is not strictly dour and serious!

    • Wudugast

      Exactly. I think as the Warhammers have aged many people have started to forget the tongue-in-cheek side to them, and the fact that 40k especially was very much a pastiche in its early days. I like the serious side to it but there’s no reason to only have one or the other. Bringing back Blood Bowl has definitely reminded both GW and their fans that it doesn’t have to be serious all day every day though, and the new 40k orks have plenty of quirky and silly elements to them, so I don’t think it’s gone altogether, just perhaps a little less fashionable with the company than it has been in the past.

      Aye, old Greasus Goldtooth was great. Even if bringing him back proves beyond GW’s lore writers to wrangle I’d like to see more done with ogres – and with that aspect and aesthetic of the ogres in particular – in AoS.

      Regarding the aesthetic of the new orks that’s not a weird thing at all really, there’s quite a few factions which I can appreciate as models, I may even think they look cool but I don’t feel any pull towards painting them (Dark Eldar, Tyranids, Idoneth Deepkin, Tau, and many others). Good thing too really – my desk is overloaded as it is! 😀

      • Kuribo

        Hear hear! I really hope the Ogres come back in the way you describe. I don’t care as much for the serious Ogre sculpts like the most recent one. It is a great sculpt but there is nothing fun about it and that is what I want from that army. That is well said about what you don’t want to paint too. Tau are a great example of that for me. I just don’t care about painting them at all and may never paint one but I’m glad they’re there for anyone who does want to. I barely have a backlog currently but I’m trying to do so many different things that I can relate about feeling overloaded. If only the mini releases slowed down so we can catch up! 😀

  • snapfit

    Great article! I agree, the Kruelboyz have quite a serious appearance. However there’s one silly, warhammer-ry aspect: the shields. I really love the old-school, evil sunz vibe of them, they somehow seem out of place in regards to the general serious design of the models. I’ll probably use their shields for older Warhammer orcs, which should work quite well.

    Regarding the “missing link” between Ironjawz and Bonesplitterz: I think the new 40k beast snagga orks would fit right in a AoS Orruk Warclans army, as they wear a combination of fur, squig hides and crude metal plates. I’ll definitely convert some of them for my AoS Orruks, the squighog boyz would make great alternative Gore-Gruntaz.

    • Wudugast

      Thank you! You’re spot on about the shields, it’s almost as if the Kruelboyz have taken their silly side and physically separated themselves from it by putting it on their shields. It is very old school though, I can see them working really well on some older style orcs.

      Ooh, that idea regarding the squighogs is brilliant – those would really work to bring an AoS orc army together. I’ll look forward to seeing what you do with them. 🙂

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