It occurs to me as I put fingertip to keyboard that my ideas for how to use Orks is very much situational. Given a battlefield snapshot, I could reasonably deduce what needs to be done at that moment and get ‘er done; but there really isn’t any overwhelming concept to have with Orks (or any army frankly) that works all the time against every opponent. Frankly, you just need to know your army and know what your opponent has and what he/she is most likely to want to do.
I toyed with the idea of doing a big post for each army; but that would take forever, and really; there’s enough variety in most armies that you wouldn’t be able to use that advice in every situation. On top of all that, I have no idea what army you have, what the terrain is, what the mission is, what points values you play at, your local metagame…etc… For that reason; take everything I say below with a grain of salt; these are “general tactics” that have served me well and might be of use to you.
I figured it would be best to divide up the tactics vs different army types and then by mission types. Obviously, this is quite generic; so bear with me.
All armies I design with competitiveness in mind must have elements of each of these: survivable troops/long range shooting/mid-range shooting or assaulting power/speed. For Orks, things break down more or less like this.
Survivable Troops: Nobz (bikers as well), Meganobz, big mobz of boyz, units of troops in battlewagons.
Long Range Shooting: Lootas, Lobbas, …looted wagons?
Mid Range Shooting: Shoota Boyz, Tankbustas, Meganobz, Kans, Buggies, Burna Boyz, Flashgits (ewwwww!).
Assaulting Power: Nobz of all flavors, Slugga Boyz, Stormboyz, Kans, Dreads, Burna Boyz, and, really, any Ork unit.
Speed: Trukks, Buggies, Stormboyz, Bikers (nobz too!), snikkrot-led kommandos, deffkoptas, battlewagons(kinda).
Try and get a mix of those units and you should have enough tools for most situations.
Now, let me give you some good, guiding principles for terrain layout for Orks. If you can (most tournaments I go to, you don’t place terrain), try and put as much area terrain in the center of the board as possible. This gives your boyz more survivability and doesn’t really change anything for you shooting at vehicles. Your vehicles should have the edge because you bring your own cover with KFF. Also, if your opponent has indirect fire weapons, try and keep him from being able to place terrain that will let him hide from your lootas/rokkits. If your opponent has no indirect fire and you think that they can outshoot you (shame on you!), try and put as much LOS blocking stuff on the board as possible without blocking avenues of approach. Basically, in most situations, you’d like to clutter the middle of the board to get as much cover as possible. Cover saves make Orks almost as tough as Space Marines at bargain prices, and don’t hurt your chances of killing MEQ (most common foe!) for most of your shooting; so you want to get as much down as possible.
Ok, now lets start with one of the more common armies you’ll be playing against: mechanized!
Vs Shooty Mech
Common Foes: IG, Tau, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Sisters, Marines
Shooty mech combines three things in my mind; mobility, firepower, resiliency based on AV. Most commonly seen in mech IG forces of either the vet variety or the platoon variety. Either way, you’re looking at stupid amounts of shooting that can work against vehicles or infantry. Tau can also be in this category; but they sacrifice numbers of shots for efficacy of shooting; either hitting more often or reducing cover saves. Mechdar was the stuff of nightmares in 4th (BORING nightmares), and the most effective way to run Eldar (imo). The shooty label might not be totally apropos, since they don’t dish out as much shooting from their vehicles as some, but it was the closest approximation. Dark Eldar can obviously just dark lance spam like crazy, and raider-heavy forces are pretty much the standard way to run them. Sisters love to load up in Rhinos and do drive bys, all while under the cover of exorcists, they can also get allied back up from IG. Marines of various kinds can also be in this category thanks to Razorback spam and preds and Typhoon Missile Launcher land speeders; lets also not forget rifleman dreads. BA probably pull this off the best of the MEQs at this point with RAS/Razor spam, not to mention storm ravens! By and large, this is probably the most common army type you’ll be seeing at tournaments since mech is all the rage (*yawn*). How does a balanced Ork army like mine deal with this type of force?
Here’s where fearless and large model count are a blessing. My blobs of guys love objective missions, sitting on objectives is pretty easy to do when there’s 30 of you (heck, grab two!) and you have at least the 5+ KFF cover save. If you can deploy the objectives, I recommend putting as many as you can close to the board edges near area terrain. Reason being, your foot-slogging troops can’t cover as much ground as your mechanized foe; and forcing them to go further to contest with their vehicles is a good thing. Also, try and keep an even break down of objectives with different deployments in mind. I like to have the objectives mostly in the middle of the two long edges (which helps keep them safer from outflankers).
If you win the roll to go first or second; there is no clear-cut guideline for which to choose IMO. Typically, in an objective mission, going second is awesome; but shooty-mech can alpha strike you out of the game; and, conversely, if you have a good Ork list, you should have some alpha strike potential of your own, so going first might be preferrable. Also, picking the side with the most objectives or the best terrain (or denying your opponent terrain that helps them) is a good idea. Another way to circumvent alpha strikes is going second and reserving everything. Denying a shooty opponent two rounds of shooting (potentially 40% of the game!) is a viciously effective tactic; even with masters of the fleet making you come in piece meal; this shouldn’t be as much of an issue since you are just denying them lots of shots (bonus points if you have stuff like snikkrot or deff koptas that can strike at your foe after coming in from reserve.
Things to consider as you choose to deploy or not and where. How much shooting does your opponent have that is a *real* threat to your troops? If its a bunch of TL lascannon razorbacks or lots of vendettas and few blast markers; you should be OK. Try and expose only that which is least vulnerable. With the meta game being so mech-heavy; most people build lists to combat that. Going counter-meta and having lots of infantry on the board that care little about melta/lascannon/autocannon shots is a pretty strong tactic for list-building IMO. Anyway, you want to strike a balance between survivability and doing damage to the enemy. Putting your lootas out is a good idea if you’re going first and can knock out a Manticore; but maybe not such a hot idea if they are going first and have a whirlwind or an eradicator… Again, I don’t know what’s in your list, so you’ll have to decide on your own; but my advice is if you can deploy something and reasonably expect it to take out a threat; do it.
You also have to figure out what your plan is. Can your list survive a shooting war with your opponent? If so, maybe just hug the center of the board and shoot it out. Can your opponent blow you off the table in 5 turns of shooting with relative ease? If so, you have to decide to either go balls-out and rush them (pretty much only works if you’re going first); or hunker down and grab what objectives you can (don’t be afraid to go to ground early and often with Boyz; troops surviving is paramount) after reserving most of your stuff. If you’ve got a mix of forces; a standard plan is to deploy everything but your speed units; move the resilient troops to nab objectives and maybe lend some shooting while your long-range shooting tries to deal with threats. The speed units show up from reserve and either counter attack as needed or else assault right away. Alternatively, you could deploy your speed units and make a reckless assault towards the enemy in hopes of both taking the pressure from your troops units and perhaps knocking out a threat. I don’t recommend this strategy, especially with troops units, as they are best used to go after objectives later in the game.
If you’ve followed my guidelines for terrain placement, the center should have lots of area terrain; try to use it to keep your troops alive; they are the most important element of your army in these games (duh). Another advantage of putting out all that terrain in the middle is that once your opponent gets sick of shooting you, they have to go get those objectives which should be near your deployment zone (or in it potentially with DoW and Spearhead). This is where going first and taking the side with the most objectives might be in your best interest.
Remember that in this type of mission it matters less how much of the enemy you kill as it does how much of your troops are still alive. If you’re risking a troop choice to take out a Heavy Support choice, you’d better have a good reason for doing so.
Kill Point Missions:
This is the type of mission that few people talk about when they extol the virtues of mechanized. Pop quiz: which is easier for Orks to kill; a rhino or a unit of 10 space marines? I’m sure you know… In fact, mechanized shooting has so many easier to get kill points than any other meta type (unless you are making up completely worthless lists). MEQ especially suffer when going this way. Not only are razorbacks easy to kill, but the units inside are smaller, and therefore easier to kill. Target priority for Orks in these cases is so straightforward as to be painfully simple: kill whatever is easiest to kill first unless it is a huge threat. The only shooty mech list that doesn’t suffer as much in this case is Eldar, since their vehicles are more rugged, typically, and the units inside are easy to kill in any event.
Unlike objective based missions where you might hem and haw trying to determine which is the best course of action; kill points is, again, straight forward. Go first if you can; hide easy KPs; rush the enemy. Those who constantly bleat about Orks struggling against mechanized will tell you that Orks somehow can’t kill vehicles. But this is just false propoganda (akin to the Imperial Guardsmen Uplifting Primer which informs one that Tau Railguns are weaker than lasguns). My 1850 Ork list can (and does!) fire 6 BS2, 3 BS3, and 2 BS2 T/L rokkits a turn (note: you only have to move up slightly to be in range of the tanks on turn one!) in addition to 15 lootas (15, 30, or 45 S7 shots) and 3 lobba shots (S5 on side armor 10 for IG vehicles and 11 on MEQ isn’t stupendous, but just a glance shuts off a lot of shooting) can usually shut down quite a bit. And, I’ll just keep moving up, and eventually I’m in charge range, and that’s when all those vehicles with rear armor 10 just get beat. Sure, you can move over 6″ to make me hit on 6s, but then you can’t shoot; and then you aren’t hurting me, so I’m still ahead, and a Nob on the charge has 4 attacks, that’s about a 2 in 3 chance of getting ONE hit, which is pretty much all I need.
The only drawback of Orks in Kill Point missions in general is the few easy to nab kill points they have as well; namely, trukks, buggies, deffkoptas, and any small unit. Mitigate this by leaving them in reserve if possible or just plain hiding them. Also, if some of your units get damaged and become liabilities, take them out of the fight as much as you can to deny that kill point. As in, if you lose two of three kans, try and hide the last one.
I’ve played against a TON of mech IG and mech SM and mech Eldar; and, while I don’t have actual statistics on it; I’d hazard to guess I’ve lost VERY few times in Kill Point missions against them (in two of the last TSHFTs that I won Best General at, my biggest wins were against mech armies in a kill point mission). I’m not saying that this mission and this matchup is an instant-win by any means; but it certainly gives you a bit of an edge; and use that edge to cut your opponent’s throat; it’s what Snikkrot would do.
That’s about all the advice I can give about fighting against shooty mech while keeping it as basic as possible.
Lets continue down the road…
Vs Assaulty Mech:
Common foes: Orks, MEq (especially BA), and Chaos
Less common than shooty mechanized forces; but more of a threat to Orks for various reasons. I’m going to throw dread-heavy armies into the general description here, as most of the ideas for countering this type of army are the same. These armies rely on the resiliency of AV, mobility, and also hard-hitting melee elements. Basically, instead of devoting themselves to shooting, they’re devoted to beating your face in with sharp and or hard things. As I discussed in the AV14 article earlier; in a series devoted to showing how Orks are competitive, there’s no real reason for discussing how to fight Ork on Ork (whoever charges wins!); but I’ll just mention that assaulty mech Orks can be very effective, and if you find yourself on the other side of the table of one, it might be good to know how to handle it. More common is going to be MEq armies running this style. Land Raiders full of nasty combat terminators (usually with some a character); or Stormravens with death company and a reclusiarch; or fast-moving blood angel rhinos (go go 18″ move!); or grey hunters bearing down in rhinos. All of these things can be very bad news for Orks. How do you deal?
Like the other version of Mech, this mission type is going to be a bit tricky. First of all; unlike a shooting mech force; assaulty mech forces are coming AT you, so being passive in the back field isn’t really an option. There’s almost certainly going to be a big scrum in the middle; and you’d better be prepared to duke it out. Also, in this situation, enemy vehicles moving fast isn’t as much of a bonus for you, because they are just delivery systems for the nasty troops inside. Ork detractors correctly state that Orks are potentially vulnerable to dedicated melee troops; fearless is a liability sometimes when the enemy is piling wounds on you (of course, conversely, if you aren’t fearless, you’re probably running away anyway…). Unlike watching an enemy pick off an ork here and there with shooting and taking advantage of cover, in melee, those advantages go away. Also, most assaulty mech armies are going to have better initiative and grenades… In addition to the vast list of ways that this type of force can make you cry; it’s almost certainly more mobile and therfore can concentrate on various elements of your army and get rid of them piece by piece.
With all that in mind, you probably want to cluster objectives in one area as much as possible. Its going to be easier for your foe to go and get isolated objectives and its better for you to be close together to be able to support your forces.
In this situation, I’d almost always want to go first. Seems counter-intuitive because it is an objective mission; but, being able to cripple your opponent’s mobility early is going to help you out in the long run.
Basic plan; use your long-range shooting to try and dent the advance of the enemy. Target easy to kill transports like Rhinos and Razorbacks, and, to lesser extent, stormravens. Lootas will be your best friends here, and you should get some with rokkits as well. However, unless you are supremely lucky, you are NOT going to stop all the vehicles before they start delivering their cargos at you. Now, you do have some advantages here. Unless your opponent went all Land Raider (unlikely); most of the vehicles he’s coming at you in he can’t assault from after moving. This gives you a a few MINOR edges. As your opponent moves his forces at you; he has to decide whether to move up, and disembark, and then assault next turn; OR move up and stay inside, then disembark next turn (a better choice more often than not). In either case, if he’s moved up to a position that he can assault you next turn; you can assault him in your turn; either the vehicle or the guys who jumped out. If the guys jumped out, you can also shoot them (which is why its usually best to stay in the vehicle) to reduce their combat power. If the guys stayed inside, you can shoot the vehicle and then assault the guys inside; or assault the vehicle and potentially get lucky and have them die because they can’t disembark (don’t count on this!). The point is, you should be able to assault them first. This isn’t always a great choice though; Space Wolves in particular will giggle with girly delight as they counter attack you; however, even in that harsh situation; Orks are almost 100% better assaulting compared to being assaulted. S4 and an extra attack are invaluable when trying to bring down your foes. Another option, is to just back away (even run away!) and deny them the charge. This isn’t always an option; but sometimes its the only choice you have. Forget fluff, you’re here to win, I don’t care if Orks wouldn’t run away, use your noggin!
But what about Land Raiders? Ahhh, Land Raiders; the ork-hater’s trump card. Yes, Land Raiders are NOT going to be stopped by your shooting (don’t bother, its a waste of time, shoot at Rhinos), and on top of that, the guys inside can assault after moving 12″ (18″ on a road!), so you can’t really get away or assault them first. So, what are you going to do when staring at that lumbering metal monstrosity? Best bet? Interdiction. This is where those trukks and buggies in particular, and sometimes kans; come in really handy. Move them up as close to the Land Raider as possible and force it to choose. Either it tries to ram through (very low odds of blowing up the vehicle and moving on); goes around and shoots the blocking unit (buying you time); or has the unit disembark and assault (terrible option as they need 6s to hit). However, a savvy opponent will have probably been shooting your units that can do this earlier, so you probably won’t have the option. How else can you shut this down? Ablation! A beautiful facet of 30 strong ork mobz is that you can string them into a protective circle around the rest of your army. Unless your opponent has enough movement to just tank shock through it and then deploy; they’re going to have to charge one unit and get bogged down. At that point, you can counter attack with other units. Once the unit is out of the Land Raider, it’s, more or less, easy pickings.
You should probably have more total units than your foe, so play the attrition game. Losing a unit to kill a unit is a good trade for you, especially if its a non-troop for a troop.
Lets quickly discuss what happens when your opponent decides that its just safer to tank shock you off objectives and win that way, without really assaulting. This tactic actually works really well with Land Raiders and cheap squads inside (I’m looking at you Blood Angels!). No sense getting out and dying, the Land Raider is scoring, and virtually untouchable by the Orks. Well, in this situation, kill what you can that isn’t a Land Raider, and then go all-in towards trying to bring down the Land Raider with Klaws and glancing rokkits. Ideally, you should be able to take out the other parts of the army and claim more objectives than there are Land Raiders to contest them, thereby winning. As well, try and make sure you are contesting objectives with vehicles (ideally a troop choice in a vehicle on an objective). Because its harder to ram vehicles off of objectives than it is to tank shock.
This is definitely a tough nut to crack; but if you play it right, you should be alright.
Kill Point Missions:
Just like with the Shooty Mech army; this mission type is going to be an easier matchup for mostly the same reasons (an abundance of easier kill points); but the tactics aren’t nearly so straight forward. For instance, those easy KPs in your army (trukks, buggies) are useful for interdiction… Do you leave them off, or do you use them? Also, running pell mell at the enemy is a mistake because that’s what they want you to do. So sit back and let them come to you through all that terrain.
Again, you absolutely want to go first to slow him down and get up in the kill points quickly. For all the same reasons we discussed above, Orks CAN kill vehicles at range; and while most of the lists that employ this strategy are going to be more-or-less immune to lobbas; so save them for last and try and drop those shots on units that bailed out of their wrecked vehicles. Packed up units can be freaking devastated by lobbas, and the more pinning checks they have to take, the better. Ablation is an even better plan in kill points as well. Try and force your foe to use multiple units to take out single units; then pounce on them with your speed elements.
So, what happens if your opponent has a more balanced mech force that combines shooting elements and combat elements in roughly equal measure? Well, odds are, you should still out shoot them where it counts, so most of what I’ve just written in regards to assaulty mech still works; but its less straight forward as before. Do you shoot that vindicator that’s threatening your battlewagon with grots inside it? Or do you shoot the stormraven bearing down on you with a DC dread with Blood Talons? Realistically; if you’re facing a mostly mechanized army with combat and shooting elements; you’re going to be about on par with it anyway, just try and figure out a way to put yourself in advantageous positions; which is going to be ultra situational. A balanced force doesn’t force your hand as much as lopsided armies as described above. It might be more advantageous to sit back and shoot if you feel you have a shooting advantage, or you might want to cross the board quickly and get into melee. Figuring out which tactic to use is going to take lots of practice against armies of this type. I’d say though, that more often than not, a balanced Ork list is best off moving into the middle of the board and trying to dictate the battle from there (while getting covering fire from long range stuff and distractions from speed elements). Cherry-pick individual strats from either type and use them as needed. For instance; you use interdiction on a Land Raider full of Blood Claws with a Wolf Priest; while pushing up towards his Long Fangs with your stormboyz while shooting his Rhino with lootas, while moving onto objectives in the middle with boyz, taking advantage of cover.
I was going to go on to describe how a list like this can take on infantry-heavy builds like Tyranids or Blobbed-up IG in either assaulty or shooty mode as well; but this has gotten super long, and I don’t think anyone doubts that Orks can deal with those situations pretty well (although, its been my experience that blob IG is the toughest win for me).
Comments, questions, additional tactical ideas all welcome.