16 January 2024
ORC BORG is an RPG that never takes itself seriously; not even for a single moment. It’s a cheerful “Oi!” to the universe that revels in a whirling celebration of silliness.
Coming from the same warped minds that brought us Goblin Quest and Spire, ORC BORG is based heavily on the mechanics of doom-metal MÖRK BORG; but also brings a unique narrative and aesthetic to the table. The choice of a limited colour palate here is masterful and hurts-your-eyes vibrant at the same time, a glaring mix of bright yellow, glowing pink and matte black. Coupled with Rollinkunz bold cartoon imagery, there’s absolutely nothing I own that comes close to making the same splash on a table. Taking it out feels - appropriately enough - like crashing a space ship full of war-crazed orcs into a library. I played it in our community café and multiple people bobbed over just to say “Sorry, but what is that?” I also had to hide some pages from my kids as the language is, ahem, colourful.
How do you play ORC BORG?
The basic theme is succinct and subtext-free; you are an ORC! You live in space, aboard an out-of-control junk rocket. You are eager to FIGHT and YELL and STEAL and KILL to secure a front-row seat for the Apocalypse! It’s about as subtle as listening to Motörhead at a funeral.
The zine waves you in with a light introduction to the theme, then hurls you into character creation; a familiar four stat system of Presence, Agility, Strength and Toughness. You roll some hit points, some physical features, gain a lumpy, hacked-together weapon and are ready to ROAR.
Nothing is quiet here: clerics are YELLPRIESTS, machine guns are DOOMCANNONS, melee attacks are HITTIN! Some pages you need to stand back from to process.
There’s not a lot of hand holding for the GM in this slim booklet. Criticism of MÖRK BORG often claim its more of an art project than something intended to be played; I don’t agree with that opinion, but if you did, ORC BORG is even more so.
There are three factions included, a bundle of monsters to fight and some truly brilliant ideas. Here’s two favourites; the BOOMBOX with expendable music “slugs.” We home ruled these slugs as cassettes that played once then caught fire, granting a bonus to attacks whilst characters rocked out to them. Secondly, BIG ROBOTS are janky mech war machines. They come in various cantankerous forms and uneven sizes. Our game ended with a boss battle fist fight between two barely functional siege engines, where one literally punched the other one into outer space.
For all that, I’ll admit to being disappointed with the lack of setting content. I love Grant Howitt’s writing and the lack of an actual adventure module was a shame. The last pages detail how to adapt any spaceship map or modern map into the game, but I found myself missing a loot table or random encounters that would flood our game with trashy-orcy-shouty-nonsense. The alternate Powers, Prayers and Technowizardly options add some tone, and the Orcen Prophecies of Doom are great for random events, but another four pages would have really sealed the deal for me.
If nothing else, ORC BORG lends itself to a type of terrible GMing where you say “Look, I don’t know, there’s a massive bomb, it’s loosely gaffer-taped to a massive hog or something? So… what are you going to do?” It’s a game built for crazy nonsense that comfortably excels at it.
Should You Play ORC BORG?
Do you secretly want to give up on the modern world, hammer together a rocket out of old washing machines and fire yourself into the sun? ORC BORG was written for you.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED… Pork Borg
Is a tri-fold adventure of blood-soaked pigs terrorising a hamlet a great companion to riotous murder monsters? You tell me.
ORC BORG Credits
Designer: Grant Howitt and Rollinkunz
Publisher: Rowan Rook & Decard