Orruk Backbreaker

As a Stormcast of the Immortal Tribunal he had been taught to trust his judgement, to have faith in Sigmar and in himself, but at this moment Aierion was not so sure he was doing the right thing. His mission was to seek out the tribes of Ghur, to look for allies against the forces of Chaos during this dark time. But the tribes he had found were… he disliked himself for even thinking it, but they were weak, they were scared and they were broken. The Eclipse had robbed them of whatever will to fight they had once had and the people of this blighted land with its rotten forest had not had much fighting spirit to begin with. Until he had found the Orruks.

The Orruks had been engaged in a battle with the black armoured warriors of Chaos when the Knight-Questor had arrived. He had seen the Orruk attack enacted with a precision that impressed him, even as a Stormcast: they were not the simple brutes they appeared. The Orruks – badly outnumbered – had risen from an ambush amongst the dead trees and thrust like a knife straight into the heart of the enemy, their heaviest troops at the fore. The forces of Chaos were on the back foot from the offset, unused to being on the defensive and the barbarian warriors hesitated and failed to gain any momentum. The Chaos warleader – a nameless giant with a skeletal facial tattoo – was dead before he had given a single order, crushed by the hands of the leader of the Orruks. And after that it was just butchery, and though the warriors of Chaos usually seem to relish a chance for butchery – for violence and raw aggression – the Orruks… well the Orruks just seemed to be having fun.

And now here he was, with the giant Orruk leader not twenty paces from him. The Orruk – who the grots called Backsmasher or possibly Backbreaker – he found their language difficult to understand, and they seemed to have a lot of words that all meant, essentially, ‘break’ – was a giant: maybe twice the size of the mightiest Stormcast. He was walking alone amongst the dead, while the few surviving members of his warband made camp in the trees nearby. Occasionally he would turn and grunt at the Stormcast, a sort of bark from deep in his throat. And he would clash his armoured hands against his chest. If it was an attempt at intimidation, Aierion could see how it would be effective.

“What is he doing?” Aierion asked the grot that was the apparent emissary of the warband. The grot was vile, its eyes were full of treachery and a low cunning. Overall, he considered, he would rather treat with a Skaven than take this grot at its word. In fact he was beginning to think this might be some Orruk test: he was fairly confident that if he drew his Sigmarite blade and cleaved the grot in two where it stood, it would likely improve the Orruk’s opinion of him. His diplomacy tutelage in the halls of Azyr had not prepared him for this. He eyed the grot, and considered his options, the grot, in turn, seemed to be studying his armour, looking for weak spots, or perhaps just something he could pry off and steal.

“That’s why ‘es called Backbreaker” said the grot, its voice unpleasantly nasal and its speech stilted. “‘E’s breaking their backs.” The grot’s tone suggested that although it was used to communicating with the Orruks, it didn’t anticipate that a Stormcast would be any quicker to grasp this sort of abstract concept.

“Why? They are dead, after all.” Aierion watched as the Orruk placed a giant armoured boot on the back of a naked, tattooed corpse and slowly shifted his weight. The bulk of the Orruk crushed the spine of the dead barbarian and the Orruk grunted, before moving to the next one.

“Dead round ‘ere come back. Deadwalkers. He don’t want that. ‘e says you cut off their hands, even cut off their head, they still come back.” The grot nodded respectfully, watching the big Orruk at work. “Bury em, burn ‘em, they still come. But the ones ‘e breaks – they come back, sure. But they ain’t a threat. Can’t stand up proper.”

Aierion nodded. It had a certain logic to it. The Immortal Tribunal had encountered the reanimated corpses of those they had previously defeated on several occasions. They had taken to burning the bodies, but the grot was right: this didn’t always prevent their return. He recalled the blackened, charred skeletons of Chaos tribesmen, moving with singular purpose. It was demoralising to kill the same foe twice: something his own enemies would know…

The Orruk grunted and gestured at the grot diplomat. This was how it communicated, Aierion realised: this was how it instructed the grots. It was like the Ghorons he had seen when first arriving in Ghur – great hairy creatures that roared and bellowed and beat their chests to try and warn invaders in their jungle home. But for all their brutish simplicity, the Orruks were no mere beasts: they had language and battle strategy. They had forged this wrought iron armour they wore which – though it looked barbaric – was impressively strong. Aierion was unsure if his weapons could even penetrate the Orruk warplate, and he had decided that if it came to a fight, he would attempt to spear the Orruk in the head, although he was not certain if his sword could even penetrate the Orruk’s immense skull, or even if that skull would contained anything the Orruk considered essential.

“The Backbreaker wants to know: if he crushes your spine, will you come back like this? No threat to us? Or does your god fix that sort of thing?” The grot grinned cruelly and Aierion was taken aback. “He knows of reforging? He knows what we are?”

I don’t like Orcs, they are just a bit too cartoonish and comical for me, which is generally fine but not something I really like in my own grimdark version of Age of Sigmar. I’ve long tried to figure out how I could do an Orc that would be more suitable, and oddly enough it was the name change that gave me the idea: I think ‘Orruk’ is what you get when an Orc – with its mouth full of overlapping teeth tries to say the word ‘Orc’: a grunting, guttural, animalistic noise. This gorrilla-like behaviour, with chest-beating and demonstrations of strength belies a cunning and intelligent creature: no mere beast. Albeit one that is dedicated to fighting rather than any peaceful pursuits. This Orruk doesn’t have a cockney accent or chant football songs: he grunts and stamps like a caged beast.

I wanted to hide a lot of the green skin as well, because bright green skin also looks quite cartoony. The dried mud warpaint is intended to balance that out a bit, but I had to leave some green skin so he wouldn’t be mistaken for an Ogor. I spent a long time building the green up from purple and blue, but a lot of that subtlety seemed to get lost. Orcs are difficult to paint I think, most examples look too vibrant and yellow, but if they are too dark they don’t quite look like Orcs.

The model is quite extensively converted, using the legs from the cool new Megaboss along with the torso of the Ogroid Thaurmaturge (both sculpted by Brian Nelson I believe, and quite compatible). I resculpted the shoulders to be much larger and added the Megaboss’ arms back as they were beefier. The hammer is from a Bloodthirster.

The head is an idea I have been playing with for years – I figure that Orruks would look a lot meaner without the sloping brow, so I cut a plastic Ork head in half across the nose, and repositioned the forehead. Then I resculpted the jaw and reattached the ears. The Thaurmaturge’s bull-like neck is really enormous – possibly a bit too big – but it really gives the impression that the Orruk is a brute force sort of creature.

23 Comments on “Orruk Backbreaker

  1. Masterfully done. You’ve just produced a great example of how orcs can be made less cartoony and more in line with the Dark Age od Sigmar feel. It’s quite easy to do with humans, chaos and the undead, but with greenskins it takes a lot more effort to achieve it. This piece as well as Robin Mannion’s goblin published in the AoS28 Facebook group might inspire more people to give it a shot.

  2. Damn, that’s one fearsome brute! Superbly executed conversion and sculpting work! Love everything about it! ^^

  3. very cool, i’ve thought about doing this type of thing to a 40k ork (of course i don’t like them looking cartoony). One of my thoughts was to borrow from the LOTR style orcs but they are just too wimpy looking next to heroic scale stuff.

  4. Wonderful! The cracked mud warpaint is so nicely done.

    And it’s impressive how different the ork head looks with the top half angled forward that way — never realized how much the sloping forehead contributes to the green gorilla look. I’ve got some wh40k orks on the way in the Shadowar box and have been trying to think of what to do with them and had been leaning towards embracing the ape-ness and turning them into Atavistic Abhuman neanderthal types.

  5. I find that there are different types of green – the muted more “natural” greens and then the more vibrant “neon(ish)” greens. If you were to stay into more muted territory, couldn’t you avoid the cartoony look? You already do so on the bottom part of the torso, could do the same on the neck? Muted and dark…

    That said, I love it. Such inspiration.

    • Thanks. I did end up going brighter than I had intended around the face and neck but I am OK with it, I like a small amount of vivid colour to draw the eye. He looked like the Hulk until I toned down or covered up the green elsewhere though.

  6. I commented over on Instagram that I found this to be beautifully done. Seeing it again is really stoking the urge in me to get back to my Greenskins.

    Just truly an amazing feat. I hate how cartoony Orcs have been presented in the past. The figures I have on my workbench I was adding more armour, more fur. I wanted to make them grimy, dark and bestial.

    You’ve beaten me to that and in a masterful way!

  7. Incredible work on both the conversion and the paint job. The use of the armored legs and the ogroid’s body worked really well.

  8. Simply brilliant!

    Really love the chains that keep the weapons looking even meaner. Like others I feel tempted to revisit my own tribe and see if I could do them more grim dark.

    Inspiring as always.

  9. To quote myself from Instagram; ” Wow ❤”

    As my nick implies I do like orks but as you I’ve never been a fan of the cartoony approach (except in BB where it belongs).

    I did a different variant which where based on Bane’s realistic skin O&G army when I redid all of my orks. This led me further into how I paint skin in general today.

    This has given me new inspiration though. Maybe I should get some new orruk plastics.

  10. Woaw… inspiring work, you can feel pure violence hardly contained !

    Do you guys know where I can contact Jake ?

  11. Man, I am really digging this site! Lots of great conversion and painting ideas. Love the crackled effect of the white. How was this achieved? Also were you using the same armor technique from the chaos warriors for this model’s leg armor and hammer? Thanks again for tips!

  12. Hi,

    How did you achieve the crackled paint effect on his warpaint? Looks amazing and I’m thinking about applying the technique on my warboss!


    • Probably not because I want to finish the warband he is with. After that I would consider it.

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