Alex Young’s Freebooter Orks
Ork Freebooterz – greenskins who forsake the traditional Waaagh! in favour of finding a ship and performing acts of piracy, pillaging and plundering their way across the galaxy – have been a part of Warhammer 40,000 lore since its earliest days. Different Freebooter warbands vary wildly in their approach to their trade – and Alex Young’s are an amazing example of just how wacky and creative they can get…
Alex: I started this army over two years ago, and huge amounts of planning and preparation went into this undertaking. Each part was researched before making a single model. I had planned to take it to an upcoming Throne of Skulls tournament at Warhammer World, but like many great plans, they never survive first contact with the enemy. What follows is a saga that spans years, includes a lot of trial and error and resulted in an army that fills me with pride.
I have been playing Orks since the early 1990s and the Rogue Trader era was a huge influence on me. I love the bright colour schemes, wacky conversions and sculpts of the past. I really wanted to capture the essence of this era in the models you can see here.
One major source of inspiration was the Thunderwolf Cavalry models which had been released a few years earlier, and the Space Wolves in general. I also wanted to use one of the Imperial Knight kits, which were very new at the time, but obviously I wanted to make it as Ork themed as possible, and I’d use squigs to represent basic troops that would run forward in a pack and grab objectives, while a few elite heavy-hitters backed them up. This army provided a small but elite force that would aim for the heart of the enemy’s line and then fracture into many small, devastating units in combat. That was the plan, anyway.
The overarching theme was an elite band of Ork Freebooterz, each with their own look and personality. I wanted them to be a complete, one-of-a-kind army and something unlike anything that had been seen before. Originally, I had planned to create hybrid Orks and Tyranids – Tyranorks, or Orkanids if you like. Looking at the paint schemes, I favoured Hive Fleet Leviathan, as I had never seen Orks painted with more human skin tones. I had always liked Freebooter Orks and the bright colour palette, so the decision was made – human skin shades with a bold primary colour paint scheme, though I eventually decided to save the hybrid Orkanids for a later day.
Next on the planning list were the models themselves. I had three main objectives here. The models needed to be easily identifiable as Freebootaz, but I wanted to keep that Space Wolves influence as well. The Orks were the easy part – Meks provided a similar bulk to Space Marine armour, but more ‘Orky’. The hard part was the animals. Squigs, both the cyber and normal varieties, were perfect for creating an infantry unit, but my Orks needed something big and scary to ride into battle on. I considered just using Thunderwolves, but they were too small, and after looking through all the beasts that the Citadel range had to offer, Mournfang Cavalry seemed to fit. They were big enough to support the mega-armoured Nobs that were going to be mounted on them but alien enough to continue with the unique look to the army.
Each miniature needed to be unique, in both colour scheme and modelling, and while I wanted the army to be distinctive, I also wanted it to be unified. Above all though, I wanted it to be something that no one else had done.
Warboss Kanis Orkborn and Thunderork Cavalry
These Orks were all based on the Meganobz kit and each one of them was modelled to be as individual as possible. There are loads of tiny details on each of them, and a vast array of green stuff and bits from many different kits spanning the 20 years I have been collecting Citadel miniatures. My Warboss, for example, has a cyber-mount – the back half of it was made from parts of a Trukk, a Killa Kan and even the back of the missile pods on an Imperial Valkyrie. Each of the mounts has had a lot of green stuff work done on them as I needed them to be armoured in a fashion that retained a very ‘Orky’ character.
The skin of each mount was tied into the orange squigs that I had already decided on, just slightly darker to indicate that they were bigger and older. The paint scheme for the Orks (having already been decided upon) was split up over each of the units, with yellow being the overriding colour but with different accent colours and checks to differentiate each model and unit.
To keep up with my Warboss, these Nobz needed to be ferocious and feral. The models themselves were just kitbashed from Meganobz and Nobz, and the paint scheme tied into the rest of the army. As for the cyber squigs and “normal” squigs, these were made from every squig that I could get my hands on. Each of them is different, and some of the models are almost 20 years old. The cyber squigs probably took the most planning – after quite a few concept sketches I had enough ideas to implement.
This big guy was a project all on his own. I had seen a couple of Knight conversions before, and these inspired me to try my own, while also pushing myself to do something better. The model is once again made up of many different kits including (but not limited to) the Imperial Knight, Killa Kans, the Ork Trukk, and the Forge World Meka Dread. Even parts from a Stompa went into making this monstrosity. A lot of trial and error went into this model, but I’m really happy with the overall result. If you look closely at the base, you can see one of the Orks being crushed by the Knight, whilst his mates look on laughing – is there anything more Orky?
This army took way too long to complete – so long, in fact, that the edition it was due for has been replaced and the army no longer works in quite the way in which it was designed. Happily, the rules for open and narrative play in the current edition of Warhammer 40,000 mean that I am able to field these as the Freebooterz that they deserve to be, and I’m looking forward to fielding them even more in the future.
The army, down to the last detail, is completely unique, and as far as I know, there’s no other army like it anywhere. It was a blast to build and paint and I’m very proud of it. The main thing I have learned from this project – a lesson that fits in well with an Orky frame of mind – is that if you are only happy with perfection, you will never be happy.
We are absolutely blown away by Alex’s commitment to getting this army the way he wanted it, and by the results. This is a truly stunning army drawing on deep Warhammer 40,000 background, and we love it. If Alex has inspired you to try your own unique Ork army, a Start Collecting! set would be a great beginning to your own horde – and remember to show us the results!