[40K] To All The Orks Wot I Have Left Behind

Waaagh It All Began

Second edition 40K is technically where I came in.

I didn’t really play properly – I must have set up and played the Battle for Armageddon scenarios (compressed onto a barely 3′ by 2′ folding table) half a dozen times in my grandparents’ house, but other than that I think I played two chaotic games against other eleven year olds who had even less grasp of the rules than I did and hadn’t even bothered with “army lists” or “staying within one Codex”.

SOMETHING about it had me by the throat, though. I think it was the sheer density of the thing: the rich, vibrant, busy art style; the encyclopaedic Wargear and Codex Imperialis books alongside the rules; the short fiction, some of it really haunting in how it portrayed the futility of life in the forty-first millennium (‘Griznak at the Bridge’ gave an Ork a kind of self-doubting, self-aware tragedy you’d never see in today’s tie-ins, and ‘Dark Communion’ is still the essence of Chaos for me) all the damn cards and templates, some of them for strange weapons I would never see fired in anger. And dear god, some of those rules were complex, some of that art was grim!

I know there was hue and cry on the early-days domestic Internet about GW “dumbing down for the kids” with the rise of the Kirby era box sets (my first Internet fight was with one Christopher Valera over his Burger Workshop pastiche, when I was one of those very kids and defending the space opera genre with intensity only the barely pubescent can muster – I doubt he remembers, and I would prefer not to). Having looked from third edition WFB to fourth I can see where that came from, but I’m not sure how it sits with 40K. Second edition 40K was a complicated beast for an eleven year old to grasp, and artwork like the Pontifex Maximus (which still gives me the conniptions to this day!) still made it in.

I played Necromunda, though, and found the rules (especially hand to hand combat – sweet mercy, what a mess that was!) much more accessible when single models were targeting single models. I suppose that’s what I really remember second edition as, in retrospect: rules for individuals, creaking and groaning as whole squads were forced through them. It took another go around for 40K’s developers to work out how it needed to be more than Fantasy In Space: the increased complexity of movement/placement, and the varied weapon loadouts in squads, were accommodated by knocking out the modifiers and conditions that applied much more smoothly to a regiment.

But all of this is just preamble. You see: I collected Orks. They were also in the box and Adrian Wood’s piece about his own army was in my first ever White Dwarf and look, Space Marines just seemed boring. The Orks were in this for a good time, a bunch of lads doing their best in a hostile universe. They had Gretchin with silly names, they had the comedy voices, they had that cool as shit Dreadnought with the four arms. And nobody wanted all of theirs so I ended up with a lot of extra figures.

No photos of that Goff army survive. This was 1996, and nobody was about to waste physical film on taking (bad) photographs of toys.

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