Black Orc Units and Characters
This part will list all the Black Orc characters and units and I will talk a little about what works and doesn't work for me.
Black Orcs do not have much in the way of variation: two types of character and one unit. They do make up for it by having a lot of special characters, though at the moment three of those have not had their special rules adjusted for this edition and not all work very well. Fans of Black Orcs should also be happy that the unit will now get a new plastic set. I don't know if it will make me want to replace my existing unit of old 4th edition plastic and metal models, but at least it should make it possible to assemble a unit without a selling a kidney to pay for it.
Being the biggest and nastiest greenskins around, the attributes of Black Orcs actually tend to be advantages. The designers don't seem to be able to decide on which attributes they should have, though, as they have changed quite a bit from edition to edition. Back in fifth edition, for example, Black Orc characters had +1 Leadership over other Orc characters, which meant that a Black Orc Warboss was Ld 10! Nowadays, only the Black Orc units get +1 Leadership.
Once again, Quell Animosity works at a range of no longer than the reach of
a Black Orc's fist. The rule is now more similar to what it was in 4th and 5th
edition, where a Black Orc character in a unit simply meant that the unit would
not have to test for Animosity. The rule was much more useful in 6th edition,
where it let any unit that failed an Animosity test within 6" of a Black
Orc re-roll the test, but as a consequence all Black Orc characters took up an
extra Hero choice. In this edition it is once again characters that prevent
Squabbling completely, but at the cost of the unit taking D6 S5 hits. (A side
note: In 3rd edition Black Orcs were more affected by Animosity than
other greenies, as they were more likely to fail the test. Allegedly this was
because the Black Orcs' habit of eating any smaller greenies which made them
more than usually disliked.)
Personally, Quell Animosity is the real reason I take Black Orc characters. The absolute certainty that a unit led by a Black Orc will never Squabble is great and makes a unit much more dependable. The downside of Quell Animosity is that when a unit rolls a 1 for its Animosity test, the unit will take hits, which will on average kill a couple of infantry or 1 - 2 cavalry. In an infantry unit this is quite acceptable to me and a couple of dead Boyz is a fair swap for not losing a turn of movement. In a cavalry unit it is more debatable, though Squabbling at the wrong moment and getting charged is not good for a unit of Boar Boyz.
Naturally, I see little reason to lead Black Orc units with Black Orc characters, as they add very little to such a unit that it doesn't already have. I find it much more useful to have Black Orc characters lead unit of normal Orcs and have the Black Orcs move around unaccompanied by characters - it is not as if they really need them.
Even though they do not test for Animosity, Black Orc units and single Black
Orc characters (including those mounted on Boar Chariots and Wyverns) get an
extra D6 move when the Waaagh! is called. Additionally, units of lesser
greenies led by a Black Orc who roll a 1 for their Animosity test when the
Waaagh! is called will only take D6 S5 hits is then able to move normally,
instead of taking D6 Wounds and being unable to do anything. This is
because the Quell Animosity rule kicks in and prevents the unit from actually
Squabbling, which is the thing that makes the unit take Wounds.
Obviously, getting an extra D6" move is very good for an infantry unit and is the equivalent of getting a free Waaagh! Banner. This can even be combined with the actual Waaagh! Banner, for a total charge distance of 8 + 2D6" if the banner is used in the same turn when the Waaagh! is called. This combo can also be used on a Battle Standard Bearer in a Boar Chariot, for an average charge range of 21" in a single turn. Whether you think that this extra move for a single character is better than the advantage you get when a Black Orc character joins a unit is up to you, but I find that the support given to units is better.
To get the most out of this special rule, it is important to place your characters in the best positions. Let's say that in your army you have a Black Orc Warboss, a Black Orc Big Boss and a normal Orc Big Boss. You also have a unit of Black Orcs, a unit of Orc Boyz and a Boar Chariot and you choose to put the Warboss in the Black Orcs, the Black Orc Big Boss to lead the Orc Boyz and you mount the Orc Big Boss in the Boar Chariot. When you call the Waaagh!, only the Black Orc unit will get the automatic extra D6" move, while the Orc Boyz only get the normal +1 extra modifier to their Animosity test for being led by a Big Boss and the Boar Chariot gets no bonus at all. Instead, if you had placed the Warboss in the Orc Boyz unit, the Orc Big Boss in the Black Orcs and the Black Orc Big Boss in the chariot, all three units would have gotten the bonus move. The Orc Boyz would have gotten the bonus move because they were led by the army General, the Boar Chariot would have gotten it due to being the mount of a Black Orc character and the Black Orc unit would have gotten it because they are Black Orcs and therefore get it anyway.
In addition to having better than normal Leadership, Black Orc units also do not need to take Panic tests if they are caused by smaller greenies. While having no effect on units of lesser greenskin led by a Black Orc character, it can be very comforting to know that your expensive unit of elite fighting troops do not risk running away due to other greenskins. This rule makes a number of new tactics viable, such as using smaller units of Orcs as sacrificial units in support of Black Orcs. Using only normal Orcs this would be more risky and you are limited to only using unreliable Goblin and Snotling units if you want to be sure that the support units do not accidentally make the main unit run away.
It's not really right to call this a special rule, though apparently it was
one at some point during play testing (apparently one version allowed units to
swap weapons from one combat round to the next). As it is, it just means that
all Black Orcs come equipped with two choppas and a great axe and can choose
which to use at the start of each combat. This isn't a very good rule, as for
units it is nearly always better to use two choppas, while characters nearly
always do better with the great axe. For units this is because two attacks at
Strength 5 in the first round of combat is always better than one Strength 6
attack and only if you expect to be stuck in combat over several turns with a
foe with very good armour is there any point to the great axe.
If you want numbers crunched for you, see my Black Orc Performance page.
One thing Black Orcs have got to keep unchanged for the last four editions is the extra point of WS they have over other breeds of Orcs. Typically, this either makes it easier for them to hit their opponents, or it makes it harder for the opponents to hit them back. Coupled with the high Strength and multiple attacks of Black Orcs, it makes them great at doing damage. For characters, the boosted WS doesn't come into play all that often and it mainly makes a difference against other characters or the highly elite units of the Chaos, Elf and Dwarf armies.
Sixth edition saw Black Orcs being given heavy armour (up to that point they
had just worn light armour) as the only unit in the army being allowed to do
so. In 7th edition this privileged status was reinforced when all the magical
suits of heavy armour were dropped from the magic items list, leaving Black
Orcs as the only greenskins who can ever wear this improved body armour (apart
from a couple of Orc special characters, that is).
Suffice to say, heavy armour is quite good and any Black Orc character not wearing the Armour of Gork should buy it. Combined with a boar it gives the character a 3+ armour save, or a 2+ if he also carries a shield. For units of Black Orcs the protection given is okay and can be further enhanced by buying shields. Note however, that using the shields in combat rarely pays off and their value is more the added protection they give against spells and missile weapons.
Where common Goblins get wolves, Orcs of all types get the much 'arder boar.
While they can be a bit expensive, boars provide Black Orcs with a quite useful
+2 to their armour save (being able to get a 2+ armour save without using Magic
Armour is excellent) and have a very good Strength 5 attack when charging. For
characters, boars are the only way of getting a decent armour save, they give
them increased mobility (even in an infantry unit it can be good to have the
option to charge 14" out of it) and in infantry units you are effectively
"saving" one rank a file trooper, since the boar takes up the place
of two infantry models. For expensive infantry models (without spears), this
lowers the effective cost of the boar, as the model that would have taken up
the space where the boar's rump now is could not have done anything useful
anyway. And I think it looks good to have a character riding a boar in a large
mob of foot sloggers.
The only real downside to boar mounts for Black Orc characters is that the Armed to da Teef special rule gives you very little benefit - as additional hand weapons cannot be used when mounted and great weapons only give +1 Strength rather than +2. Considering the increased number of cheap and useful Magic Weapons, I don't think this is too bad.
Black Orcs are unique in that they have no Shamans, which is a shame, really. Would not a WS 4 Black Orc Shaman who was Armed to da Teef have been a great addition to the army?
As he is a Black Orc, this guy is the best fighter you can get in the
greenskin army, without resorting to special characters. Since he doesn't take
up an extra Hero slot anymore, I greatly prefer this guy to lead my army.
Equipped with heavy armour and a shield (normal or Enchanted) and riding a boar,
my General carries the Akk'rit Axe, the Kicing Boots, Best Boss 'At and leads
the army from a large unit of Orc Boyz equipped with choppas and shields. Also
worth considering is the Screaming Sword instead of the Axe & Boots combo,
especially against tough foes that like to bunch up, like the Dwarfs.
On foot: Mostly attractive because it is cheap and leaves more points for troops, but not so cheap that I would really recommend it. It also gets you the full advantage of the Armed to da Teef rule, which means you don't have to spend points on a decent Magic Weapon. For the near-invincible Warboss, give him the Armour of Gork and the Big Boss 'At and place him in a unit of Night Goblins with nets. Assuming the nets don't entangle your own guys, even Strength 5 opponents will only wound your Warboss on a 6+, and then he get a 5+ Ward save. With the rest of his magic items quota, you could for example buy him the 'Itty Ring, which again has the advantage that it will only hurt your Warboss on a 5+ (and you get the Ward save), should it backfire.
Mounted on a boar: A bit expensive, but I heartily recommend this option as the bonuses it gives are all very nice. Being a great fan of powerful characters in decently-powerful units, I like having my Black Orc Warboss ride around with a unit of Orc Boyz. The Warboss then adds his combat abilities, Leadership and Quell Animosity to boost the unit, while the unit provides a quite cheap rank bonus, a standard and most likely the outnumbering bonus as well, in addition to a few dead enemies. This guy is also the only character in the army I would trust to carry the Battleaxe of the Last Waaagh!, since he can get a 2+ armour save when carrying it, something no other character can. You could even have him lead a unit of Goblins, but I prefer to place my General in a unit that is less easy to blow away with missile fire and spells.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: I tend to find that Black Orc Big Bosses make much better chariot riders than Warbosses. Any Black Orc character on his own gets the extra D6" move for the Waaagh!, while only the General grants this ability to other units. Therefore, placing the Black Orc Warboss with a unit of troops and a Black Orc Big Boss in a chariot means that both get an automatic bonus move when the Waaagh! is called, whereas if you swapped the characters around, the unit would not get this automatic bonus.
Mounted on a Wyvern: As stated many other times as well, having your General fly around far away from the troops that desperately need his Leadership is not usually a very good idea and can be quite risky. The Wyvern-riding Warboss is therefore not really recommended for battles below 3,000 points. At 3k or above, though, a Black Orc Wyvern rider is not such a bad idea, most notably because he will get the extra D6" move when the Waaagh! is called, regardless of whether he is the General or not. This also contributes to make the Wyvern rider more pointless at the 2k level, as you are getting very little for the 25 points you pay to make him a Black Orc; Quell Animosity has no effect, Armed to da Teef is as mentioned a bit wasted on a mounted model and the bonus move when the Waaagh! is called is something any Orc Warboss would have gotten anyway.
My favourite General for armies below 2k (unless I'm running some sort of
themed army), yet the non-Battle Standard-carrying Black Orc Big Boss is rarely
seen in my army at larger levels, where any character choices not spent on a
(Black Orc) Warboss and a (Black Orc) BSB are spent on Shamans and Goblin Big
Bosses, who provide some interesting options that Black Orcs don't. As he is a
Hero and comes with a choice of weapons already, it can be tempting to just run
him with Armed to da Teef and spend the points on protective items (heavy armour
should be considered compulsory unless you buy the Amulet of Protectyness, which
I personally think is a bit of a waste for a character than can get a guaranteed
2+ armour save if he wants to). There are a lot of combinations of weapons and
Enchanted Items available which total around 25 to 45 pts, and all tend to be
more or less equally good. Examples are Martog's Best Basha and the Kickin'
Boots, the Akk'rit Axe by itself or a great weapon and the Kickin' Boots.
Getting a shield (possibly the Enchanted Shield) is always an option if you want
to spend a few extra points to get a cheap magic weapon instead of the basic
great weapon. Regardless of what you do, I would at least make sure that he
attacks at Strength 5 (or better), even if it is only in the first round of
On foot: This limits your armour save, but gives you more out of the Armed to da Teef rule. If you expect to be fighting heavily armoured opponents, then the Amulet of Protectyness will go well with your basic three Strength 6 attacks. Considering that he only has 50 pts to spend on magic items, it can be rather difficult to find anything that beats a basic great weapon wielded by a footslogger, and that is a decent reason to leave him on foot.
On a boar: As you have the option to get a boar for a very affordable 16 pts, which should definitely consider this. If you don't expect to be hit a lot, then a boar, heavy armour and being Armed to da Teef is really all you need. Otherwise a cheap magic weapon and a shield is quite affordable and good.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: The main reason to get a Black Orc in a chariot is to save a Special choice. However, you can do that with any Orc Big Boss and it is a toss-up whether or not there is any point in paying 15 pts more for not much of an advantage. Being a Black Orc he will benefit from the extra movement when the Waaagh! is called, but with my mounted list I found that Waaagh! was mostly a disadvantage and so I never used it. Thus the benefits of a Black Orc was an immunity to panic tests caused by regular Orcs, an extra point of WS and the option for heavy armour. Nice enough, but when I was short on points I never had any qualms downgrading him to a regular Orc.
One interesting consequence of the Armed to da Teef rule is that with Black
Orcs you can have a BSB equipped with a great weapon and additional choppa,
something most other armies cannot do without buying a magical version of these
weapons (Ogre BSBs must pay 30 pts if they wish to have a magical great
weapon). Presumably this has been done so that the BSB can still get a Strength
of 5, even with a lowered base Strength.
On foot: As with the normal Orc BSB, the option to leave your BSB on foot is a lot less interesting in this edition. However, if you stay on foot you get the most out of the Armed to da Teef rule and a Black Orc BSB with the Amulet of Protectyness / Best Boss 'At is decently protected, not too expensive and can fight quite well. Since the BSB comes with a great weapon, I would not bother to give him a magic weapon if he is on foot.
Mounted on a boar: As with the BSB on foot combo, this one is very good, though he cannot use an additional when mounted and his great weapon only gives him +1 Strength. His basic save is 3+ and he can get by with not taking any more armour than that. I do however, quite like the combination of Martog's Best Basha and the Effigy of Mork, which means that enemies with a WS of 3 or less only hit him on 6s, while those with a WS of 4 to 8 will only hit him on a 5+. Combined with a quite good armour save this makes him very resilient for a BSB (as long as he doesn't get hit by war machine fire, that is). Alternatively you can give him Mork's Spirit-totem and stick him in a nice, big unit of Orcs or Goblins. If you have a decent amount of magic, then the Sword of Might and the Horn of Urgok are also an okay option.
Mounted in a Boar Chariot: In my mounted list I had a lot of good experiences with this guy. Give him heavy armour and a War Banner and you have a surprisingly effective charioteer, with three WS6 S5 attacks and a +2 to his combat result from the standard. And if he loses combat, he can re-roll a failed break test. In my mounted list I found it nice to have a BSB that was not bound to being in one specific unit and the fact that chariots can't march wasn't a big problem because you often want your BSBs to hang back a bit anyway. He's not exactly cheap at 219 pts, but unless he runs into something with Strength 7+ I always found him worth it.
More thoughts can be found in my generic tactics article on Battle Standard Bearers.
With only one available unit, with only a single equipment option (other than command), this section is understandably short.
This unit got more expensive in this edition, for no reason that is readily
apparent to me. With the new rule that only gives you a rank bonus for units
that are 5 or more models wide, you will only be able to afford a smaller unit
and that unit will be losing rank bonus faster than before. Sure, the extra D6
move when the Waaagh! is called is good, as are the two Strength 5 attacks in
the first round in combat, but in my experience the same amount of points spent
on Orc Boyz is better. You get a unit that is twice as large, can do pretty
much everything Black Orcs can do just as well, is more resilient to firepower
and don't take up a Special choice. In this edition Black Orcs no longer help
prevent Squabbling in nearby units, which means that they support the army much
less than they used to.
There are a few things that make Black Orcs interesting, though. The first is their reliability; with a Leadership of 8 and immunity to Panic caused by any lesser greenies, Black Orc units are one of the few Orcs & Goblins units that can operate more than 12" away from the army General with some confidence. In addition to their good combat capabilities this means that the unit doesn't need to be lead by a decent character, which means that you can put them in units who are in much greater need of assistance. Characters will on the whole not add much to a Black Orc unit, who are already dependable, automatically get the D6 extra movement with the Waaagh! and fight well. The second good thing about Black Orcs is that they can take a Magic Standard and a simple War Banner can help outweigh the fact that getting a high static CR (i.e. ranks and outnumbering) with this unit is otherwise very expensive.
Being able to operate away from the General does not mean that this unit does not need support. On the contrary, being so expensive makes them prime targets for enemy firepower, and their lack of static CR can be difficult to compensate for. Thus Black Orcs should always be teamed up with smaller support units of regular Orcs or Goblin fast cavalry or various types.
Unit size can really be anything up to around 25, though such a unit will be very expensive and a couple of decent support units means that you can reduce the size of the unit somewhat. You could also field Black Orcs as a small, very dependable support unit for lesser greenskins, but I don't really consider that to be a very worthwhile use to points or Special choices and I would instead take two support units of Orc Boyz. Individually they are much weaker, but combined they cost pretty much the same as the single unit of Black Orcs and are Core choices.
Shield: This option is mostly just something you take to protect the unit from missile fire, as it is very rarely useful to use a choppa and shield in close combat. Only against units with a whole lot of Strength 3 attacks, such as Witch Elves and Plague Monks will the extra save make up for the lack of attacks you could have gotten with two choppas.
Command options: It seems that there is a new policy to make all champions very bad value for the points, as the Black Orc Boss is now both weaker and more expensive than he used to be. Considering that Black Orc Big Bosses have gone down to Strength 4, it is understandable that the Boss also gets the same reaction, but increasing his points cost rather than reducing it makes little sense. Additionally, since there is little reason to place characters in this unit, you get very little out of the challenge rule. The other two options are both worthwhile, though, and I recommend that you always take a Magic Standard (any of those available are good).
Black Orc players everywhere eagerly await the day when GW will see fit to update Morglum, Borgut and Badruk to fit with the new rules.
Grimgor is a killing machine, pure and simple. That's what he does and it's
pretty much all he does too. Savagely hated when the 6th edition army book was
first published, far nastier characters have since taken that place. Grimgor
probably isn't the one you'd take if you want an amusing battle, but if you
want smashed heads then he's the (Black) Orc to do it. In the transition from
6th to 7th edition he lost the special ability that gave +2 CR in exchange for
+2 attacks (often better!), his bodyguard is no longer Stubborn (bummer), but it
can now get a Boss, so Grimgor is at less risk of being stuck in unproductive
challenges he doesn't want to be in. And you are no longer limited in the number
of models to have in his bodyguard. Do not be afraid of having him leave the
unit and go out on his own, at least if there are no cannons nearby. He won't be
able to join any other unit, but he has much better mobility and can charge in
alongside other units in combat and really up the kill ratio.
The Good: Striking first with seven Strength 7 attacks with a re-roll to hi will mess up any unit that charges him, letting many more Black Orcs survive to fight back. Being Immune to Psychology is not a bad usually a bad thing when you are resistant to getting charged.
The Bad: Having to pursue (due to Hatred) can lead the unit into situations you don't want it to go and it risks getting flank charged. Monstrously high points cost.
The Dull: Seeing as he is so hard, but insists on walking around on foot and only joining his bodyguard, a lot of opponents will doing their very best to avoid him altogether. Thus he is not very likely to ever see combat against a competent opponent. Most of his special rules were removed in this edition.
Bodyguard: Considering that this unit will be a huge missile magnet, I suggest bulking it up quite a bit. Giving it the Waaagh! Banner to help Grimgor get into combat should be more or less compulsory. As mentioned above you should always get a Boss (that is to say that you should have a full command group).
Old 4th / 5th edition special character given an update in an Annual during
6th edition. He didn't have any special magic items back then, so they had to
invent some for him. I have the miniature lying in a bitz box around here
Unless they give him a nice overhaul in 7th edition, Morglum is not a character you really want to field, as he really doesn't have enough good sides to make up for his bad ones.
The Good: Since he causes Fear, he make any unit he joins immune to Fear as well. Has the sense to ride around on a boar (the favoured mode of transportation in 7th edition). Not too expensive.
The Bad: Doesn't really fight very well. Though the Ward save is the equivalent of a 5+ Ward, an unlucky roll means that he is two thirds dead and thus gives away half his VPs. As with all the un-updated characters he takes up an extra Hero choice.
The Dull: Immunity to Psychology does not transfer to his unit, so it is essentially pointless, unless you want to run him around on his own, which you really don't.
Borgut's rules were printed in the Storm of Chaos campaign book. Due to
the Gork'll Fix It spell now being something that is cast on the enemy and the
fact that his armour is not in the new book, Borgut doesn't really work if you
are using him together with the 7th edition army book. The following is written
with the assumption that you are using the old 6th edition army book and
possibly also the 'Ard Boyz list.
I must admit that I'm actually ashamed to use Borgut in battle, because he is seriously under priced. Had he not has his "upgrade to Big 'Uns for free" special ability his points would have been about right. As it is, he is about 50-60 pts under costed.
The Good: As mentioned: Very cheap. Decent in combat, quite resilient (unless something negates his armour save) and the free Big 'Un upgrade is great. He is also the only way you can get a Great Shaman below 3.000 pts in the 'Ard Boyz list, due to his high Ld. You could also use him if you want to take a Wyvern rider below 3k, since his Ld is equal to the Warboss'. The 'Eadbutt special ability is okay, but a bit unreliable.
The Bad: Very vulnerable to attacks that negate armour save. Low WS (for a Black Orc)
The Dull: I wonder if there is a mistake in his rules. Seems odd to have an axe that lets you re-roll armour saves. Perhaps it was meant to have the Bash 'em ladz spell instead but somebody goofed?
This is the special Games Day 2000 miniature (I was there, I got
The Good: Badruk is good for taking out enemy characters in challenges. The Dwarf trinket keeps him safe (at least for one round) and 3 S7 attacks with Killing blow are quite nasty. It is particularly juicy considering that all regular Black Orc Big Bosses went down to Strength 4. Quite affordable too.
The Bad: With heavy armour alone and no Ward save, he had better hope he can take out the enemy in the first round, or he'll probably not be there the next round. As with all the hang-over 6th edition characters he takes up two Hero choices.
The Dull: Otherwise just a normal Black Orc Big Boss. Doesn't even have a very interesting (or long) history.
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