Firestorm Armada 2nd Edition – A Review

First an apology for being so quiet for so long. I was on holiday for a week which should have warranted an explosion of writing on my part. But there was no wifi. Heck there was very little phone signal. And chasing a toddler around acres of woodland, it turns out, was rather knackering so even writing offline proved too much as I was too wiped out after the little cherub went to bed. The review itself has taken a while to pen because I wanted to make sure I did the game justice. There was a couple of false starts where I began to write with no real direction which warranted the Ctrl-A, Delete bomb. So this review signals my return and I hope it was worth the wait.

firestorm-select copyIt’s been a wee while since I’ve reviewed anything from the Firestorm Armada universe so what better way than to look at the second edition rules and the new starter set? I’ll cover the rules in this article then look at the starter set and its bevy of toys later.

I’m a real fan of Firestorm Armada and the awesome models that accompany it. It was Firestorm Armada and its sister game, Dystopian Wars that I popped my non-GW-gaming cherry with. And it was a pretty easy decision to make as both games had gorgeous, reasonably priced, models and generally positive feedback from wargamers on Twitter.

FARB04-2 copy

For me, other than the sexy models, what makes Firestorm Armada, for me, such a brilliant fun game is the utterly embarrassing amount of dice you get to roll. When Firestorm Invasion (sort of) came out a while back it used a revised mechanic and I half expected Spartan to go that way with the second editions of Firestorm and Dystopian Wars. And I’m delighted to report that it isn’t the case. Because honest to God, starting an attack with 12 dice and ending it with 36 is immensely satisfying thanks to the exploding dice mechanic.

For the uninitiated the exploding dice mechanic works thus – any natural roll of a 6 counts as 2 hits and then you roll another dice. If that extra dice is a 6 it counts as 2 hits and you roll another dice. Repeat. It is, of course, a two-edged sword. What you can inflict on your enemy than can inflict on you but the trick is to get in first. And thanks to the retention of the alternating activation that’s still possible. It does mean that turns still take a while and big games will take half a day rather than an evening but that’s not the first game to be guilty of that.

So what’s new? Well quite a bit actually.

The main thing is upgrades for ships. There are options to swankify your weapon systems as well as hardpoints for system upgrades that give you largers ships extra armour, extra movement etc. It’s a big and important change for Spartan who did everything they could to keep the ships ‘factory standard’ to keep the game simple. But when you consider the variations across classification by fleet and by model was tiny and even non-existent something had to give beyond piling on more MARs special rules. Which I’ve always been irritated by and rarely used in any of the gamers I’ve played.

It’s great to see these options being opened up because it allows for real fleet building as well as applying some tactics to the process. Up to now every fleet list I’ve ever built has been entirely geared around the volume of dice I got to use. Because nothing else mattered. Whilst the upgrades won’t change the outcome of a game they’ll certainly make things more interesting. It’s also good that not all upgrades are available to everyone and allows you to tailor units into a specific combat role ala Battlefleet Gothic.

Another new addition is the battle log which is a poorly named means of tracking the game’s progress. If I’m honest it just doesn’t work. It’s based on morale which is a very iffy premise and fails to take into account how massively varied morale can be not just species to species but navy to navy, fleet to fleet and ship to ship. It’s a staggering over simplification that’s immediately made more complicated by the scoring system which forces you to take large squadrons of everything or face losing very quickly as it’s based around units being wiped out. Personally I think it’s just easier to total up the points the ships are worth. Fucking about with tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 ships and how many were wiped out which determines how many points is…well…fucking about.

There’s also some proper background in this book. It is, sadly, still quite poor. It lacks subtlety and presence. It just feels very safe whilst failing to really deliver any kind of impact. Yes it’s a big improvement. Yes I have a better idea of what’s going on. But does it shove its hand down my pants and have a good rummage? No it doesn’t. And that’s very frustrating for me because I’m a fluff gamer and I’ve always liked the idea of Firestorm. And with so many games out there with detailed background, there’s really no excuse for 15(ish) pages of background that felt like they were as much of a chore to write as they are to read. However it is an improvement, it is more detailed and it is more interesting than before. And the section on the planets is a nice touch too.

Overall though it is a huge improvement on the previous versions. The book is better presented for one thing – although there’s a few too many glossy photos – with examples that actually relate to the text around them. They’ve also finally done away with the profoundly irritating arbitrary use of bold that plagued all the other Spartan Games rule books up to now.

It all feels very tight. Rule explanations are clearer to the point that I didn’t have to read and re-read them to understand just what the hell the developers were on about. I still have that concern that there are too many steps to each stage so game play still won’t be as slick as it should be. But thanks to the standard of rule writing increasing at least there’ll be significantly less time wasted arguing over rule interpretation or spending an age flicking through an appallingly laid out book. Second edition is pretty bang on in that respect. It’s a much more natural, logical read. Thank the Lord.

One of my big buy bears about Firestorm (and Dystopian Wars) was the woefully vague rules for tiny flyers. Par of the problem was that explanations were dotted throughout the rule book and with no index it was all but impossible to find what you were looking for. All the rules are in one place now (huzzah) but they’ve also been hugely improved on to the point that one full understands how to use them. They’re still far too complicated for what should be a minor aspect of the game but it’s a big improvement. Improvement enough for me to buy more carriers? No, but at least I’ll make use of the one I have.

There’s also some scenarios. At last. It was badly needed in the core rules and far better than adding them into supplement books like Spartan did with Dystopian Wars. It was a frustrating move motivated by money rather than putting right a mistake. But the important thing one can feel like a campaign is no possible. Eventually anyway. The fleet lists have been taken from the book and put into two separate books costing £20 each. Comparatively cheaper than a Codex but that £20 covers all the good, or all the bad, species. So pence per page the value isn’t awesome if you only collect one fleet from the entire. book. But more on that another time.

The second edition rules for Firestorm Armada is a huge improvement on versions 1.0 and 1.5. The writing is stronger, the rules are clearer and have been – for the most part – logically improved upon. Not all the ideas work and it’s now a slightly more expensive game to get into but don’t let that put you off because it’s well worth it.

Firestorm Armada, second edition, and the Battle for Valhalla starter box are both available from Firestorm Games priced £18 and £72 respectively.

10 Years of Dawn of War

warhammerdowI was surprised to learn today that it’s been 10 years since the release of the original Dawn of War game. This auspicious occasion couldn’t be marked without a few words about a game that I not only invested hours of my life in but helped redefine the RTS genre.

When I first heard about the game I don’t mind saying that I was not optimistic. Up to then all the Games Workshop video games had been pretty shit. With the possible exception of the Space Hulk game on the Amiga and Commodore 64. Yes, I’m that old. Sod off. However as details began to emerge about gameplay – such as making use of hard and soft cover, as well as some semblance of a force organisation chart – I started to grow more positive.

Then I saw the graphics. Whilst it looks a little dated now, at the time they looked pretty sweet. The environment felt like the 41st Millennium. The Space Marines were a loyal representation. The animation was believable. And the finishing moves for each of the commanders was awesome. And best of all you could zoom right down into the action. Granted you needed a pretty meaty machine (10 years ago) to do that and it not crash but that was and is the joy of PC gaming.

When my copy arrived and I went through the lengthy install process then hit play. And I’m so very glad I did. The opening cut scene even now looks awesome. It bugs the living hell out of me because those few Orks could never take down a squad of Space Marines. And no sane Space Marine squad sergeant would allow his unit to meet a mob of Orks in open combat, but as I say, it looks awesome.

Actually it was awe inspiring. Those kinds of animations were rarely seen let alone in a Games Workshop computer game. Moreover it declared to the world that an animated Space Marine movie was possible. We’ve had one stab at it already and the fan made Lord Inquisitor on its way. One day… But the point is that it set imaginations on fire.

warhammer_40000_dawn_of_war_10

The campaign was a little ropey in terms of plot and voice acting. It was caught in that classic trap of a publisher wanting it to be accessible to non-fans and a team of writers who knew the lore but couldn’t write very well. But well enough that the campaign trundled along quite happily albeit laboriously at times. I do confess to being quite glad it was over when I finished the final mission.

What it did do very well was encourage different styles of play and tactical decisions rather than the classic ‘build a base, build loads of blokes’ approach. Which whilst fun is never gonna win you the big scores in the press.

The game also introduced us to the Blood Ravens. A most intriguing bunch who I guessed from the get-go their true origins. A chapter that likes psykers and wears red and bone armour. Remind you of anyone? That aside, they’ve become a part of the 40k lore and I’ve seen many an army take to the table. Which I think is a benchmark of the game’s success. That it’s influencing hobby as well as the hobby influencing it.

That said, it was never the plot that made Dawn of War the game we know and love today. It was how faithfully the models had been lifted from the table and put into a PC game. No one had tried to be clever with the styling or reinvent the wheel. They looked like rendered models kicking the living shit out of each other and that was and is awesome. It was incredibly satisfying watching a tactical squad take apart a unit of Ork Boyz. And the first time a Land Raider rolled off the production line and opened up with its lascannons was a very special moment.

However, where the game got really fun was the skirmish mode. 4 players, either online or AI or both, racing to build a base and kick the living daylights out of each other. My online experiences were tarnished by people running a force commander into my base, calling down a lance strike to cripple my capacity to do, well, anything and then suffer the indignity of sitting and watching a single tactical squad slowly shoot the few buildings that survived to pieces. However, if you went up against an opponent that wasn’t a total bell end it was the best fun. And you could spend hours with the delicate dance of war.

One of my favourite memories was a game against a vastly superior player to me. He was out foxing me at every turn and it was only through sheer tenacity I was able to hold him back long enough to force a withdrawal. Up to this point I’d been putting my efforts into building a strike force so instead I put everything I had into building an overlapping defence network with a few Dreadnoughts in amongst there as well. By the time the inevitable attack came there were so many heavy bolter turrets opening up that entire secitons of the map weren’t visible. And by this point I had a few squads in reserve so once committed what was a holding action became a route and I was able to roll up his force and destroy his base. It truly was a superb game.

And that’s really the point. Dawn of War is a superb game. The supplements kept the game fresh and kept fans of the armies happy. Although I never completed the Winter Assault campaign. I just found using the Imperial Guard tedious. Which is exactly how I feel about using them on the board so they clearly got the feel for the army dead on.

It’s times like this that you realise how much you enjoyed something and the only reason you stopped playing was because you forgot you had it. It’s easy to blame time but the reality is that we all filled our days with new games like Dawn of War II – which I just couldn’t get on with – and left it on a shelf to collect dust and ultimately get sold on.

But for those that did sell on your copies – you fools! – you’re in luck. The lovely people over at Relic are doing a competition to celebrate Dawn of War’s anniversary by giving away a big pile of cool shit including the games. Head over to their site to find out how you could win.

And remember, only in death does duty end… Ugh.

-Phil

Ork Stormboyz – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoIt’s no secret that I’ve riding the green tide. It’s equally common knowledge that I’ve managed to cobble together 1,000 points already. None of it’s painted yet but that’s fine as the deal between myself, Mat & Lee is that we can’t progress past 1,000 points until it’s all painted. There’s an advantage to that though as it gives me time to get use to the army before it gets too big.

And one of my favourite parts of my budding Waaagh is the Stormboyz. What’s kinda fun for me, being part of the Old Guard, is I’ve had the luxury of watching these models change over the years and each time I thought ‘those are really cool’. They’ve just got better and better. And less fascist as well which is a good thing.

99120103020_StormboyzNEW01The thing that impresses me the most is the versatility of the kit. There are options enough that you can build 10 Stormboyz that all look different. Individuality in a horde army is rare so the luxury of coming up with different combinations is a bit of a treat. From the 10 I built my favourite is the Stormboy clutching stikbombz in both hands and one between his teeth. He looks completely mental.

I think what’s cool about the models is while the background points towards Stormboyz being disciplined and well-drilled, it’s still by Ork standards so they still have that shit kicker look that makes the Orks, as an army, look so cool. Instead of like the aforementioned fascists in grey jump suits ala the 2nd edition version. And they’re still Orks so they’re still giddy at the thought of unbridled death and destruction from above. And all that comes through on the models very well. Equally the rokkit packs are crude but have an elegant simplicity that – like the Dakkajet – points towards a barely understood higher knowledge of aerodynamics and the principles of sustained flight. The 3rd edition models had nothing more than an Acme rocket strapped to their back which would have achieved nothing more than firing its wearer high into the air only to plunge to their doom shortly after. Which, whilst funny, isn’t very believable even by 40k’s over stretched concept of the possible.

It also goes together very well. The legs and torso are attached so they’re far stronger than the older models, witch just the chest to attach. There’s also plenty of heads to choose from so you can mix and match between typical Ork heads of the zanier options like the ones shown above. Where possible opt for the zany ones. They’re just better. The only considerations when building the Stormboyz are:

Position the model towards the back of the base. Because the model is leaning forwards to simulate takeoff they’re very front heavy. Whilst this isn’t such a big problem as the old metal/plastic kits of yore they’ll still fall over and it’ll still be annoying.

The other is check all the rokkit pack parts fit together before you glue them. Whilst the vast majority are interchangeable, one or two aren’t and if it’s the last model you build in the squad you’ll be kicking yourself. Plus one or two of the nose cones will get in the way of one or two of the heads so glue that on last where possible.

Now there’s a few naysayers surrounding the use of Stormboyz primarily around their woeful armour save with no option to upgrade it. But I say this is a good thing because it encourages you to use them the way they were intended which is either with maximum aggression so you close the gap between your line and the enemy’s as quickly as possible, or you hold them back to act as a rapid response unit. Coupled with the fact that they’re relatively cheap compared to other jump infantry and they’re actually a pretty useful squad to have in the army.

Their high toughness will keep the Stormboyz safe from squishy targets like Imperial Guard when they make it in to contact, so the Ork’s low initiative isn’t so much of a problem. Against Space Marines it’s an entirely different matter but the sheer weight of attacks – and the aforementioned low-cost – will mean win or lose the Orks will always come out on top. In the game I played against Guard they made absolute mincemeat of everything they came into contact with and the addition of a Nob is brutal.

Of course that’s an ideal scenario. They were able to close rapidly and managed to avoid shooting or made it into cover when they couldn’t. The bottom line is they are very very vulnerable so there will be some games where they’ll be cut to ribbons before they do anything. How you use them so incredibly important. It’s kinda sucky from an investment point of view as a unit of 10 is the best part of £30.

If you can find ways to mitigate that all but pointless armour save then you have a very hard-hitting unit for naff all points. Time you attacks so they make contact with other elements of the army and Stormboyz have the potential to run roughshod thanks to the speed they have over their ground pounding counterparts. More so if you take a couple of units of 10.

Personally, I love the Stormboyz. The models are awesome and the best fun to build, just like the rest of the Ork models I’ve come across thus far. The level of customisation is pretty good and they just look the best when they’re built and all grouped together. They’re chunky though so be prepared for them to occupy a lot of space on the board – a bit of an issue for a horde army – and a lot of space in your figure case. But the bottom line is they’re great fun to use on the board.

Ork Stormboyz are available from Firestorm Games priced £13.95.

Ork Bommer – A Review

warhammer 40000 logo

The Codex was largely responsible for me finally starting an Ork army but as I’ve always said time and again, you have to love the models you’re collecting or the project will simply never get finished. This is true or all armies in every game ever written. And it was true all those years ago when the Ork Bommer made its first appearance in Epic 40,000 16(ish) years ago. It was those models, along with the Thunderhawk gunship that sold me on that game. I loved the design, the haphazard nature of the construction and the ludicrously big bombs under the wings.

So when the Ork Bommer kit was released for Warhammer 40,000 I was delighted for Ork players the world over because they would know the same joy I did. Little did I realise that I would be in possession of one a year or two later.

When I decided to collect a Freebooter army I made the decision along with it that they needed to be the flashiest, wealthiest, gitiest Orks around and that meant more toys than anyone else and that means jets. It’s entirely possible I’m collecting a near useless army but it’ll look cool as it gets torn to pieces.

But on to the Bommer, or specifically the Dakkajet. I opted for the fighter over the bommer options because I like the idea of the Orks being flyboyz rather than psychopaths. They want to dominate the air and sow fear on the ground rather than fling themselves at it with far more ordnance than is sensible. It fits with my army theme that the pilots are Aces by Ork standards – aloof and skilled rather than kill junkies.OrkBommerNEW01

The kit is awesome. Providing you follow the instructions it goes together very easily. If you don’t then it’s a sodding pain as it goes together much like an Airfix kit so the fuselage is in two halves. This means if you don’t stick things in the right order you’ll be prising things apart. And much like an Airfix kit (other scale models are available) the fuselage will need to be to make sure all the joins take. Some parts a little thin so a prone to warping. It’s not a criticism as it’s a common enough problem with thin plastic, it’s just a word of warning when building the thing. Take the extra couple of minutes and make sure the joins have all taken.

Other than that it’s a pretty straight forward build with enough bits and bobs on the sprues that allow you to make some pretty distinctive planes should you choose to have more than one. Which of course you would. There’s a little bit of flexibility in the weapon load outs so you can move things around a bit but truth be told, without some snipping and clipping one Dakkajet will look much like any other which is kind of a shame, but something has to give considering the variety within the kit as a whole. And there’s nothing stopping you mixing it up with the parts available for a bit of variety. It’s more that the guns will be pretty much in the same place whether you like it or not.

What’s really awesome about the Bommer kit is that it speaks volumes about the Orks. Or specifically the knowledge hard-coded into the minds of Meks and the pilots. Its design is a lot like the MiG 19 with the intake in the nose and the swept back wings. It’s aerodynamic and features all the various bits and bobs a plane needs to fly. Granted the sophistication stops there as the intakes have spiky bits on them and the landing gear consists of a ski and a hook to bury in the ground. But hey, if it works… But it’s more like the Meks get bored or make do rather than don’t care about what they’re doing.

Basically it just builds and looks awesome.

In game terms there’s always going to be a divide when it comes to flyers. There are many who feel the rules are either vague or overpowered. Others – mainly the people who own flyers – like them just fine. Whilst I do think flyers can potentially dominate a game I have given the rules enough consideration because I never thought I’d take flyers so until I give the Dakkajet a shakedown I’m reserving judgement.

But there’s no getting round the fact that the between the special rules, armament and upgrades the Dakkajet – all the variants in fact – is a bit of a monster. You don’t get loads for you basic 110 points but the 3 upgrades – bringing to a still fair reasonable 150 points – gives you a base Ballistic Skill 3, an extra set of twin-linked super-shootas (making it 6, strength 6, AP 4 shots, re-rolling misses) and an extra roll to movement. Add in the Strafing Run special rule and you have a fast-moving Space Marine firing an assault cannon, minus the rending. That’s not bad. And if a Waaagh gets called that 6 shots goes up to 8 just to add insult to injury.

But for all that they’re still only armour 10 all round and Strength 6 isn’t going to do much against the majority of vehicles. That all changes with the other flyer variants equipped, as they are, with very large bombs. The Blitz Bommer is arguable better value being armed with two boom bombs. Whilst Strength 7 isn’t going to be blowing holes in Land Raiders, the AP 2 (and the large blast) will help to blow holes in terminators.

Although the fact that the pilot could be enjoying the diving part of his attack run so much that he’ll forget to do everything else (including pull up) is slightly off-putting. 135 points basic is a lot for what potentially could be a one use weapon. It’s very Orky and everything but I like my army to krump things rather than krump themselves.

The Burna Bommer is, of course, the middle ground for points but as you only get two missiles you’ll be buying another 4 jacking the price up massively. And they’re essentially heavy flamers you have to scatter. And as both bommer variants lose the strafing run rule their shooting will be far less effective as well. And overall the Dakkajet comes in about 10 points cheaper. And you’re probably better off taking a unit of burna boyz in a trukk for the good it’ll do you.

The point is this – the Dakkajet is weirdly the safe bet because it fires the most shots, for the least points and risk, with the greatest accuracy. Whilst it lacks the pyrotechnics of the other two it also doesn’t have the unpredictability of crashing into the ground or the bombs missing the targets altogether which would be the real kicker. It’s a great interference unit and will draw focus. If it eventually gets shot down it represents a fairly low outlay and will in most cases make its points back. Although if you’re using them right, the other two planes will as well.

Which ever your preference, it Ork flyers are unsubtle, relatively cheap, terrors of the sky and earth. And they look bloody cool whilst they do it. The kit is excellent fun and not overly complicated so it can be built within a couple of hours. Even if you don’t field it, it’s a kit worth owning just to wave it around and make ‘neow’ and ‘dakka dakka dakka’ noises.

The Ork Bommer is available from Firestorm Games priced £24.75 (and worth every zogging toof!)

 

WAAC Hits the Presses

Wargamers All Against Cancer hit the Sheffield Live website today interviewing our very own Dave Wilkinson – aka @Docbungle. Aside from wargamers actually getting some good PR for a change (despite the journalist getting the name of the event consistently wrong) it’s so good to see everyone involved getting some well deserved recognition for their efforts, and the charity drive getting even more exposure.

I’m incredibly proud of Dave for how hard he’s worked and for how he’s tackled a very difficult and sad time. I can’t say I would act with half the strength, dignity and determination that he has and I’m lucky to call him a friend. I’m only sorry I couldn’t have been more involved – personal circumstances being what they were – but I hope, should the event repeat itself, I can help in the future.

Anyway, take a look at the video and if you’re feeling generous then bip over to Dave’s JustGiving page and donate some money. When the video was shot the total was over £3k, it’s now over £5k. Which really goes to show what a strong community we are.

 

Mark of War Live on Kickstarter

mow logoYou may have noticed the other a day a little post go up on this site by a chap going by the moniker of Gav Thorpe, talking about a project he’s involved with called Mark of War.

Well it’s live on Kickstarter and in need of your support. For the uninitiated it’s – in a nutshell – a tabletop wargame on your PC, Mac or mobile device. ‘What’s the point?’ I hear you ask. And you’d be forgiven for doing so because it is literally a tabletop wargame on your laptop, right down to the dudes being mounted on bases.

This may seem a bit odd but it actually has the stench of genius about it. Allow me to explain:

I’m blessed with 6 good friends, all of whom live locally to me, all of whom play the same games as me and are all, more or less, constantly up for getting together for a game. However wives, girlfriends, children, jobs, chores, the space-time continuum, amongst others, all transpire to see to it we all get together once a month if we’re lucky. Once a month for us to run three boards and have a chuckle. But at least we manage it. And we tend to see each other in smaller numbers more often than that for hobby nights if not games nights.

Now, thanks to Twitter and this site, I have friends a little further afield. Some as far as Canada and even Australia or even the Norther Wastes of Nottingham! Playing against those fine fellows gets trickier. Oceans have to be navigated, huge sums of money paid out on flights and hotels and that’s just to get me over there, we haven’t even factored in the exorbitant and nail-biting experience of checking an army of scale miniatures into the hold of a plane.

Mark of War allows tabletop wargamers the fun and frolics of playing a tabletop wargame anywhere in the world against anyone in the world. It’s not trying to replace the traditional wargaming experience but enhance it. It allows gamers to share an online wargaming experience which will only enhance their offline one as gamers will play more games. They’ll hone their tactics and, thanks to some very clever jiggery pokery, they’ll be able to customise their Mark of War armies which will only inspire gamers with physical projects.

acfbefb3f4f31d98dc93748fe484cc06_large

In the same way that films, books and TV shows inspire us, so too with Mark of War. It’ll give us ideas for our physical armies as well as adding to our experience as generals. And without the time and effort

But that’s not where it stops. The reason for Gav Thorpe once again gracing this site with his awesome presence is because he’s the man behind the world in which Mark of War is set. This means a rich and vibrant backdrop upon which virtual face will be kicked. It means immerse game play and a war that you actually care about winning. It’s the whole wargaming experience. They’re even using dice for crying out loud.

Banner_Orcs

Now there will be some who won’t be convinced. Who see this step in video gaming to be the final nail in the coffin of wargaming but that’s just not true. It’s the natural and obvious evolution from things like Vassal which I, personally, can’t stand. If I’m going to play a wargame over my computer I want it to look as rich and as lush as any gaming board I may build.

And whilst the screens are very much WIP, Mark of War is shaping up quite nicely. Whilst I did raise an eyebrow at red Orcs and yet more elves, I can’t fault the styling or the originality of the world that Gav has dreamt up.

MoWMap

Coupled with the desire of Warpforged Games to keep the experience as authentic as possible it really could be something of a paradigm shift away from games like Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft and Vassal who attempt to recreate the magic of the wargaming board and the fluff but never quite managing either.

Mark of War will not only allow you fantasy fisty cuffs but army building and customisation as well. I’m not sure how that’s going to work – whether or not the models will be built in a modular way to allow for ‘swapping out’ limbs etc. It’s the only area that I can see Mark of War falling short of the real deal. But an elegant army editor should allow for some pretty awesome colour schemes rather than the crude tool featured in Dawn of War all those years ago.

Either way, this is a Kickstarter to watch – and to back if you have the coin. Gav Thorpe isn’t one to lend his efforts or support lightly and that’s good enough for me.

Ork Trukk Boyz – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoI’ve been immersed in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe for a long time. First Space Crusade, then Epic, then Warhammer 40,000 itself. And although I’ve always been a staunch and loyal defender of the Imperium my eye has always wandered towards the Orks, the way teenager’s strays towards the part of the news stand that has all the boobies in it. Even when the Orks were square jawed green apes who couldn’t figure out how a trigger worked, I was oddly fascinated.

Never enough to collect them though. I didn’t own any Orks until Gorkamorka made its brief appearance and I bought what is, to this day, one of my favourite models ever – a metal Ork Nob.

img07180nmI did enjoy this brief foray into Orkishness and if I had more people to play than my brother, I probably would have properly got into Gorkamorka and eventually got an Ork army. But it wasn’t to be.

And so time wore on and with each iteration of 40k, so too were the Orks tweaked and improved. And whilst it’s the current Codex Orks that has swayed into collecting them (1,000 points and counting), it’s the models from 1998 that really began to fire my imagination.

And so I find myself in possession of some along with the Ork Trukk, the kit that hailed a huge design shift for Orks, away from the truly woeful Trukks and general square, blocky and characterless constructs of old.

It was the release of the Trukk that almost swayed me last time. Especially when Neil got one for his – then – fledging Ork army. Compared to the its older brother it was a real coup. Aside from being bigger, it actually felt like an Ork vehicle.

TrukkNEW01The Trukk is a superb kit. It’s a huge amount of fun to build – for the most part. And manages to feel Orky without being comical or like it’d never actually work in the ‘real world’. I love the fact that engine has a fan and belts (albeit they’ll be a sod to paint). There are drive shafts and a transfer box and everything which is way cool. And the dirty exhausts are probably my favourite but of the who engine. Can’t tell you why, they just look perfect on the model.

In some ways it reminds me of the Airfix kits I used to build before I plunged into fantasy and sci-fi realms and was never seen again. Just the way the kit builds up and gradually takes shape over time. My only gripe with the Trukk is that the cab is too small to fit the Orks in easily. It’s a huge pain to fit the driver in, even though it’s a nice touch that you can decide to make the Trukk a left or right hand drive. But I had to cut bits down and leave the awesome gear stick out to fit everything in. Now I’m a pretty bright guy, but even I couldn’t figure out how to make it all fit in with out brute force and prying pegs into position. And the gunner sits higher than the weapons mount that you’re supposed to glue him to. Which is pretty damn annoying. It forces you to have the gunner at a daft angle much like the image above.

Aside from that, the kit goes together beautifully and, excluding clipping and cleaning, went together in a bout half an hour. And I was actually a little bummed when I finished it because it was so much fun. It’s kinda nice to be starting a new army – especially one that needs as many models as Orks – and to enjoy building the basic transport as much as I did.

In game terms it’s just awesome. For 30 points you get a hefty weapon included with the option of upgrading to an even heftier weapon – a rokkit launcher – for free. And being open-topped, the Trukk makes for a very cheap Ork delivery system. With the speed vehicles can now move at it makes up for just being able to cram 12 Boyz in. And now that insufferable damage table has been removed I can take them guilt free. The new rule of being able to roll to offset penetrating damage is pretty handy and whilst does nothing to keep the vehicle alive for longer, it does prevent it from being immobilized or destroyed. Because those are the only two results that matter to an Ork player.

OrkBoyz10NEW01As I say, I’ve always liked the Ork Boyz models. And considering their age they look pretty sweet. And whilst the poses are a little stale compared to the newer models, considering you need bloody tonnes of them that’s not the end of the world. And the better news is that they go together quick. Forty-five minutes from clipping to built isn’t to be sniffed at. Again because you need tonnes of them that’s a huge labour savour.

The nice thing is that the decisions are limited to: Shoota Boyz or Slugga. Big Shoota or Rokkit Launcher. Power Klaw or Big Choppa. And that’s pretty much it. Poses are all but irrelevant as they’ll be one of two hundred on the Boyz by the time your army reaches the manly heights of 3,000 points. Space Marines it’s all about cool poses and injecting subtle but important nuisances of personality into the build. With Orks it’s all about conveying the level of krump someone will experience when the horde makes contact.

And they just go together so easily. Very little cleaning or trimming. You’ve got enough variety of heads and torsos that you can build 10 without them look too samey, but on the board they all look the same anyway, so don’t sweat. it.

Sixty points earn you a butt tonne of rampaging unpleasantness. As a life long Space Marine player I’ve always been pretty dismissive of Ork Boyz. Mainly because I know my army well and always try to be disciplined with fire patterns so when Orks do make contact they’ve been so badly whittled down that a Tactical Squad can break the back of the assault and send them packing. However, having played a game with the Orks – quite rare for me in early unit reviews – I can say that if you use Ork Boyz wisely, much like the Tactical Marine, you’ll never need go any place else for your stable source of misery.

The armour upgrade is pretty much essential which does make them a lot more expensive but the trade-off is survival. Marines will have to pour twice as many shots into the Orks to kill the same number they would normally and that just isn’t enough if the whole army is kitted out that way. It guarantees a healthy percentage of your Orks will make it into combat and krump things. And when you consider the Marines will be outnumbered 4:1 that’s pretty grim. There’s a case for just doubling up on the number of boyz you’ve got but that isn’t tenable in larger games and there’s also a financial element that can’t be ignored. The Boyz are a lot more expensive now than they were on release. Twice as expensive to be exact.

Whilst I was originally distracted by the oh-so-awesome Flash Gitz, Dakka Jet (review coming very soon) and the Gorka/Morkanaut in the Codex, I’ve found myself really surprised at the fighting effectiveness of these incredibly cheap basic troops. Four attacks each for Slugga Boyz is not to be sniffed at, for 6 points. Should a mob of 20 make contact that’s fist fulls of dice, which, let’s be honest, is one of the biggest appeals about fielding horde armies in the first place.

Whilst I accept they were only squishy Guard in the game I played, a unit of 10 Shoota boyz (so 1 less attack remember) tore a squad to pieces with attacks to spare. The squad then got hammered by shooting from a unit of Stormtroopers, a command HQ, and a Guard squad until only the Nob remained. Who then went about tearing apart the Guard squad on his own. Using an army gives you whole new respect for their potential as a fighting force over just playing against them. And whilst Orks and Ork Boyz have clear weaknesses – shonky BS and Initiative to name just two – it’s made up for in other ways. The cheapness and brute force being the obvious ones. Plus it’s quite liberating taking an army where you can be a bit more cavalier with casualties, but I found it made me play more aggressively which was to my benefit.

As a jumping off point into the weird and whacky world of Orks, the Trukk Boyz box is pretty much a must buy if for no other reason than you save a fiver. It gives the army some badly needed manoeuvrability either for the Boyz or another element of the force, and gives you the beginnings of that all important – and very potent – fighting core to your army. And whilst the two kits that make up the box aren’t the newest models in the range they are still as wonderfully Orky as anything else and no one should feel bad that the Ork Boyz weren’t updated in the latest round of releases.

The Trukk Boyz box is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50
Ork Boyz are available from Firestorm Games priced £16.20 and the Trukk £20.25