Epic: Tau Orca

///Epic: Tau Orca

Another one of those “blast from the past” Dropship archive posts from yesteryear, this time for an Epic scale Tau Orca.

First seen in the Relic/THF game “Firewarrior” and produced by Forge World, the Orca is the Tau Empires primary military Dropship. With a largo cargo bay capable of holding over thirty Tau troops, Crisis Battlesuits and Drones, the Orca, along with the massive Manta Destroyer spearheads Tau planetary assaults.


The Orca shown here is one produced by Forge World as an exact Epic scale replica of it’s larger 40K cousin. The kit is very straightforward to assemble, however there are a few tips worth bearing in mind if you want to get the most out of the model.


The Orca has four main engines located along either side of the wide fuselage. As the Orca is effectively a VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) entry vehicle, the engines can be positioned in a number of ways from horizontal for level flight to vertical for take off and landing. TIP: If you use some care when assembling the model it is possible to allow the engines to rotate, such as those shown here. It’s not essential that they do and you can of course just glue them in place, however for those that want to make the most out of the kit, here is how.

Each engine consists of two parts; the main engine itself and a shaft around which it rotates. Once you have decided where each engine goes, select a shaft and one by one, remove any waste resin from the pouring channel at the end of the shaft. Dry fit the shaft through the hole on the engine and into the hole in the Orca’s hull to test the fit. The disk at the end of the shaft should be just flush against the engine without pressing on it too tightly. If the play between the engine and the disk is too much so that it moves loosely, just file the shaft down a little more until you get a perfect fit. When you have the shaft at the perfect length push it through the engine and apply a small blob off super glue to the end. Carefully insert the shaft into the hole on the side of the Orca and hold the engine and disk against the hull while the glue sets. If done carefully the glue will hold the shaft firmly but not stop the engine from rotating around it.

Note: The panel lines on each disk should face diagonally back at 45 degrees, so take care when gluing them in place.

Flight profile

dsorca02If you intend to have your Orca in full flight, then there are a number of things you may want to consider when assembling it other than just the engine position. The drop-down burst cannon turret in the belly of the Orca is designed for clearing landing zones prior to the transport touching down and deploying its troops. In the case of my first Orca (shown here), I have the guns operational and the landing gear extended to further give the impression that the ship is about to touch down. With the second ‘in-flight’ Orca I have modelled the turret in the closed position and retracted the landing gear into the belly to streamline the ship. If you want to do this you will need to clip off the landing struts from the feet and glue them flush against the underside. Additionally the three spacers on the underside of the burst cannon turret will need to be cut off and filed flat so that the turret can be glued flush as shown in the picture here. The separate cover will also need to be glued in the forward position to cover the cannons themselves.

Landing profile

One extra detail on the Orca which I haven’t featured in the first two examples, is the separate rear ramp. In creating the Orca, Will Hayes has additionally added a Crisis Battlesuit to the inside of the rear door. The rear ramp can be glued either to cover the back and hide the Battlesuit figure or stuck in the open position to allow it to be seen. As this will be how I base my third Orca (not shown here) I thought I would mention it as part of the ‘landed’ profile.

Painting the Orca

I decided up front that I wanted my Orca’s to match the Manta already featured previously and so duplicated the same pale brown and grey scheme used earlier. After undercoating the model with a black spray primer I then sprayed the entire model with Bubonic Brown before additionally spraying the underside Space Wolf Grey. After tidying up any areas where the grey over sprayed, I then mixed a little bleached bone into bubonic brown and lightly dry brushed the top of the Orca and the engines. After several increasingly lighter coats adding more bleached bone I then used a small and very old paintbrush to stipple the Vermin Brown patches over the armour. For the canopy and panel details I mixed 50/50 scorched brown and red gore to which I added increasing amounts of blood red for the highlights. The engines and intakes were then repainted black before being highlighted with fortress grey along any edges. The final task before picking out any details or markings was to mount the Orca at an angle on some brass rod over a base made from a few ruined buildings and textured with heavy gravel. The angle was deliberately added to show both the top and underside of the model when viewed from either side as well as give it the look of making a final turn on its approach to landing in a hot LZ.

Overall, the Orca is a stunningly dynamic model with a wealth of modelling possibilities making it a real favourite of mine. In partnership with the gargantuan Manta, I am sure plenty more Orca’s will eventually find their way into an invasion force at a later date. I probably don’t have enough Tau to do a full-on Epic army, but enough for an interesting allied force for sure.

By |2017-09-13T11:34:29+00:00July 25th, 2015|Categories: Epic|Tags: , , , |4 Comments


  1. Iain July 26, 2015 at 11:39 am - Reply

    The Orca is a favourite of mine. Its so utilitarian and very ‘function over form’ and I prefer it over the Manta, I think. I think that my preference is skids up, burst cannon out, rear hatch open…. I have no idea what situation that is – maybe on the final approach – but its the combination that I think really shows off the model.

    • Carl Woodrow July 27, 2015 at 12:29 am - Reply

      Totally agree mate, vastly prefer the look of the Orca. There’s something very pleasing about its no-nonsense design and solidity. It’s one of those minis that if I were to paint it again knowing what I do now I think I’d do it differently.
      That said I may have another one kicking about assuming I don’t paint strip this one. Just not a fan of stripping FW resin, I may need to experiment on something smaller!

      • Iain July 27, 2015 at 3:16 am - Reply

        Pretty much my entire Epic Tau force are unpainted right now, including 5 of these and a couple of Manta. It was the Manta that got a second sculpt without the cargo details, right? I wish I had picked up a few more Barracuda and AX-1-0 and Tigersharks!

        • Carl Woodrow July 27, 2015 at 7:43 am - Reply

          I wasn’t aware of the Revised Manta, that’s news to me. To be honest doesn’t surprise me though; the doors and drop down bay were very clever but a real pain as they kept falling off. Had to either glue open or shut.

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