Armada Fleet Focus: Orcs

29th Sep 2020

Rob Burman

All this week we’re introducing the four launch fleets for our new epic naval wargame, Armada. Yesterday we introduced the heroic Basileans and today we’re looking at the other half of the two-player starter set – the marauding orcs.

The orcs could never be considered a seafaring race, but from the day they gazed out across the sea and saw two warring fleets ablaze as cannons roared, their greatest Krudger declared: ‘Yessssssss!’ And so began the orcs’ naval adventure.

The downside to Orcish ambitions were twofold: firstly, the Orcs couldn’t decide where to start, and every time they tried to make a plan, they simply fell to bickering and fighting. Secondly, not a single Orc had the first idea how to construct anything bigger than a raft, let alone how to sail it. Thankfully, both these problems had the same solution: Goblins.

All Orc vessels are designed by goblin Gadjits and built by a swarm of brow-beaten goblin workers. They vary hugely in design, cobbled together out of whatever raw materials lie close to hand, or from whatever enemy ships they can commandeer. As long as they follow the Orcs’ two cardinal rules (‘Make them faster,’ and ‘Make them more brutal’), the Orcs don’t really care what they look like. They simply represent a thrill-ride to a new and previously undreamt-of theatre of war. The thudding of long-guns; the roar of ships aflame; the screams of enemy sailors as they plunge into shark-infested waters… these are music to the ears of the Orcs, and the stuff of dreams.

To more civilised eyes, an Orc flotilla resembles nothing more than enormous piles of wreckage floating merrily along on the tide. Only when sails unfurl and the motley mountains of detritus change course and head directly towards them do most sea-captains start to worry. When the great hulks come closer still, and the massive prows reveal insane spinning sawblades, gigantic drills and ridiculously over-sized battering rams do they really start to panic. And rightly so – for up close, an Orc fleet is the most ludicrous and dangerous foe on the high seas. A foe that cares only for destruction and conquest for its own sake, and will go to any lengths to achieve it.

Main Battle Ships

The largest orc vessels are, at first glance, little more than floating shanty towns, complete with palisade walls, rusting armour plates, towers and huts, and swarming with goblins who constantly patch up damage and make ‘improvements’ on the fly. Up close, however, orc battle ships are a different prospect entirely.

Ripper Hulks

The largest and most improbable orc vessels are the Ripper Hulks – and hulks they indeed are. Towering higher than most land fortresses, these behemoths of the sea appear to float only through sheer force of will, for there is nothing about its lines, construction or handling that indicates the slightest seaworthiness. They move primarily under a frankly unnecessary amount of tattered sails, but are forever accompanied by the sound of clanking and banging, and crunching gears, the purpose of which has never been discerned.

Captained by the highest-ranking Krudger in the fleet, their tactics are simple but effective. In battle, they sail slowly and inexorably towards the biggest, most heavily armoured enemy ship they can reach, and set to work with their crude machinery – huge saws powered by goblin crank-wheels that can cut a three-decker in half, mechanical battering rams capable of denting even a dwarf Ironclad, and other devices more at home in a siege than on a ship. Any enemy vessel unfortunate enough to stray within reach may well find itself caught in the vice-like grip of an enormous grappling arm, which will hold onto its prey long enough for the Ax warriors to board it, shouting maniacally with the thrill of battle coursing through their veins.


The simplicity of the Smasher’s design makes the Ripper Hulk seem like a marvel of ingenuity. Despite that, these large warships are remarkably effective at what they do. They have one simple task in battle, and that is to harness every breath of wind in their sails, and ram full-speed into the first enemy vessel they reach.

To aid in this mission, the bows of these vessels are plated in thick armour and massive spikes, usually layered and beaten to resemble the face of some bad-tempered and hard-headed creature, such as a gore or slasher. Upon impact, fragile sailing vessels will likely be reduced to so much flotsam. Sturdier vessels might, however, find themselves impaled on the Smasher’s great ram, and must thus face the unfortunate prospect of close-quarter fighting against a horde of ruthless Morax.


The smallest battle ships in the orc fleets, Hammerfists do not really have the bulk or impetus to ram enemy warships, but this simple fact does nothing to deter the Gadjits, who set about embellishing their ship with enormous mechanical flails and pneumatic battering rams.

These seemingly impossible engines of destruction can achieve with ingenuity what a Smasher can only achieve with size, inertia and a fair wind, and are the vessel of choice for the true thrill-seeking orc.