Ork Gorkanaut – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoThis review is later than planned because my daughter selfishly got sick and meant all my evenings were spent caring for her instead of building the Gorkanaut. I’ve still not finished it but I’m far enough along that I can confidently review it.

It’s awesome.

Review over.

Gorkanaut_MorkanautAs if! My opinions can never be confined to two words.

Just for the benefit of those that have been living in an Ork free cave for the last few months, the Gorkanaut/Morkanaut is the latest big kit to roll off the production line bring the Green Menace up to snuff with the Imperium, Tau and Eldar. And like the Imperial Knight there are options to build one of two types of big clanky architects of destruction.

Whilst I plan on having both variants in my Freebooter’s army I kicked things off with the Gorkanaut because it’s my favourite of the two. The only real difference is the primary weapon and the absence of the Kustom Forcefield. And a less mekky head.

The kit has needed instructions. There’s a lot of parts and some of them need to keep moving after the gluing and it wouldn’t take much to get that wrong without the guidance from the below par diagrams. And between the below par diagrams and the sheer volume of cool bits and bobs to add it takes a good long while to build the kit. If you’re planning on using it the day you buy it, start early.

It’s brilliant fun to build though. The kit strikes the balance between strength and posibility perfectly aside from the legs being a little static, but it’s forgivable considering the design of the model and the inevitable limitations. But there are options enough you can mix it up a bit. Plus if you’ve bought any other Ork vehicles there’s no shortage of odds and sods to really make it feel individual. Which is just as well if you’re planning on having more than one of these bad boys in your army. And why wouldn’t you?

The detail on the kit is awesome. The bulkheads have that rough and uneven feel of something that’s been hand-made which, of course, they would be. And the areas around the legs and feet have wearing from the legs being poorly designed and made which, of course, they would be.

The hard points and the weapons design means you can build either configuration without the need of lots of spare and wasteful plastic. It also affords some subtle variation as well as conversion opportunities. The big shootas would also look awesome slapped across the wings of Dakkajets for anyone wanting to really tool up their flyers.

There are lots of little touches to the kit that imply real thought on behalf of the Meks albeit none of it terribly clever. Like the mud guards by the leg and the fact it kinda looks like a Mek got carried away trying to build a suit of Terminator armour. It is a poor man’s Stompa in many ways though, in the same way that a Killa Kan is a poor man’s Deff Dred. It’s not a gripe as such but it does lack the same gravitas or the same degree of crudity to its construction. But it will still look badass on the board. Until you buy a Stompa. And for the difference in money you kinda have to ask yourself why you’d opt for the Gorkanaut.

But truth be told it’s an excellent kit in its own right and whilst the Gorkanaut’s big brother is the cooler and better value option it’s also the less practical one. And you can field two Gorkanauts for the points.

In game terms it’s typically Orky in its application. Volumes of dice from a big shooty weapon, in the case of the Gorkanaut, that will miss more than it hits, and a claw to tear open…well, everything. And it’s needed. The fact that it’s armour is 13 to the front and side is pretty amazing for Orks but it’ll still be vulnerable through sheer weight of fire and most armies having vastly superior anti-tank. So for the points it’s a gamble as you’ll be forced to send it stomping across the board in the hope of it making its points back.

The Morkanaut more so for me. Whilst it’s Kustom Forcefield affords it durability – which is handy considering the small transport capacity – but it’s single shot weapon will be useless 4 times out of 6. And even then the kustom mega-blasta lacks the punch to be major threat to heavily armoured vehicles like Leman Russ or Land Raiders. Instead it’s far better put to use crippling APCs and support vehicles forcing the enemy out into the open where the rest of the Ork army can wade in. The claw is for the big meaty stuff. But even then don’t hinge your game plan on it.

Annoyingly the support weapons will probably be more use considering how likely either ‘Naut is to get mobbed by nasty choppy units.. Especially on the Morkanaut as it lacks the anti-personnel potency of the Gorkanaut to thin the herd.

But it’s an Ork vehicle and Ork players have come to expect very little from their army so anything that does come off is a bonus. And in the mean time they have a very cool model on the board that looks scary and might draw some fire for a couple of turns. And maybe, just maybe, it may take something down with it. If it doesn’t just console yourself with the fact that it was immense fun to build and looks awesome.

The Gorkanaut kit is available from Firestorm Games priced £55.25

Fast Movers in 40k

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Last Thursday I got a game of 40k in using my new Ork army. As it was their second outing I thought I’d mix it up a bit and give the Dakkajet a try because, well it’s freaking cool. For reasons passing my understanding, I told Lee I’d be taking a flyer which prompted him to tweak his army list to cram in a Strom Raven. I can’t blame him, I just wanted to be a sod and spend all game strafing him with impunity.

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I was my usual jammy self and managed to get my Dakkajet on the board at the start of turn 2 and immediately set about hosing down an Imperial Guard squad. The Storm Raven came on the following turn and turned the sky around my Dakkajet into a swirling storm of explosions and hot lead in an attempt to turn the Howlin Git into a big cloud of tin foil and fire. But as I mentioned, I was jammy. Passing 6 out of the 7 Jink saves forced upon me resulted in me breaking off and attacking a second Guard section with the Raven in hot pursuit. The Dakkajet’s number as inevitably up but it struck me how (a) cinematic it all looked (b) how flyers didn’t break the game as I feared and (c) how introducing flyers is a natural evolution in army selection and encourages gamers to take ‘all comers’ lists rather than tailoring them to suit a specific force or army composition.

Lee had a tactical advantage in so much as I’d told him I was taking a flyer. However ‘best practice’ as it were suggests that he should allow for that likelihood anyway. With pretty much every army having a flyer of some sort it’s reasonable for us as gamers to have a contingency to deal with them should we find the sky filling up with fast movers. Units with skyfire rules or an upgrade or ammo type. A flyer of your own is not unreasonable and if it turns out your opponent hasn’t taken one then you get to dominate the skies. It’s not exactly a lose lose situation other than the often heavy point investment required. Or you make the decision to ignore it and hope for the best. Having witnessed what my piddly Ork flyer can do I don’t necessarily recommend that option. A flyer will rarely win you the game, but it will give your opponent a headache whilst the rest of your army does the business.

But the point is this: Flyers were an important missing piece of the 40k puzzle. I was quite possibly the biggest sceptic (well joint first with Lee) when they first started to appear in 40k. It was a combination of things as to why. Firstly it was how simply flyers worked in Space Marine – that was never going to translate well in the creaking behemoth that is the 40k rule book. Secondly, the rules seemed reminiscent of Epic 40k. Which was such a wallowing turd of a game I was immediately concerned. And finally my feeling was that they would unbalance the game and give Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines and Necrons an insurmountable edge.

Whilst the latter is partially true it re-emphasises the point that 40k is at its best when armies are interesting. Built around combined arms rather than designing a power list to spank the living shit out of your opponent in three turns or less. And then hit on their momma. Solid cores of troops, elite units, assault elements, armour, artillery. All working together to the greatest effect. Add in aircraft and it all suddenly makes sense. It adds an extra layer to the combat, adds a new threat to the previously tame skies. It forces gamers to think in three dimensions beyond vantage points in buildings.

Plus it’s outrageous amounts of fun. Building the kits is awesome. It takes those early days of building Airfix F14 super Tomcats to a whole new (and way cooler) level. And using them is ace. They look great on the board, the rules make for new and interesting tactical decisions for both players. And board set up too has never been more important. Playing hideously open boards that have no place being anywhere other than Warhammer Fantasy or Lord of the Rings will spell doom and misery for any units that fall under the guns of a flyer. But I suppose that could make for interesting scenarios too and allow you to recreate the odd scene from the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. No bad thing there.

In short – flyers have changed the game of 40k far more than I ever realised, and for the better. The potential for aerial shenanigans encourages gamers to write more flexible army lists. Tactics have to be rethought and adapted. The space has never been more three-dimensional and board layout is vital to affording your troops the protection they’ll need. It doesn’t mean flyers are overpowered because they’re not. They’ll still get shot to bits by one another and even without skyfire, it’s not as hard as you’d think to shoot something down, because I’ve done it. Of course there’s a commercial argument. If you have a flyer I have to buy one too. Little bit of yes, little bit of no. No one forces you to do anything and there are alternatives. But I struggle to entertain the financial point of view because chances are we’ve already spent a couple of hundred pounds on our armies already. What’s another thirty? Flyers represent an opportunity to bring some of the excitement, dynamism and scale from the artwork to the board. And that cannot be a bad thing.

-Phil

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide

So another Warhammer 40,000 game is in production. This time it’s 40k Chess. To be honest I have no feelings one way or the other on how good or not it will be. Or even how advisable it is to make a 40k version of the original strategy game when Games Workshop spend a lot of energy telling everyone theirs is the best. However the teaser and the animations look epic so for now I don’t really care.

And pay special attention to the bolters and heavy bolters when they fire. Because you can actually see the contrail of the bolt round’s rocket igniting. Which is pretty badass.

Tyranids Sighted

toxicreneOkay, it’s not much but this gribbly sod makes it pretty clear that the Tyranids are about to have another reboot. Most Tyranid players will be delighted after the last two codices were pretty sucky. Let’s hope this edition bucks the trend. Having had a couple of Tyranid armies over the years I, for one, would like them to return to their place as the horror movie close combat nightmares rather than an obviously commercially written army list.

Anyway, I’ll post more pictures as I find them.

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.

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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

Grey Knights Codex – A Review

 

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One in a million. That’s how many recruits survive Grey Knight boot camp.  And if you consider that those recruits are the top percentage of those already chosen from their home worlds as being the top specimens on their respective planets, the numbers start to get a little crazy. The entire population of Earth would probably yield barely a single Grey Knight – rounding up. That’s a whole lot of sacrifice for a single marine in silver armour, but then who else is going to remember the ever-changing names of every Daemon in the Warp and throw it in their faces?

Grey Knight Codex

The new Grey Knights Codex describes such details to give you a better understanding than ever before of lengths the Imperium has had to go to in the endless war for its soul.  On reading through the background of the frankly beautiful book, I was surprised at the number of excellent additions to their background – a stellar map showing the locations of the known daemonic  incursions and Warp storms throughout the galaxy, a detailed breakdown of the Chapter’s fighting strength, descriptions of all the Brotherhoods,  plus the names and duties of each Grandmaster and their second in command Brother Captains, a double page spread on understanding their Heraldry with examples and ideas on creating your own. It goes on and on and all works to impress upon you just how few and individual they are, and the magnitude of the task they face.

Their Chapter breakdown reads with some very specific numbers, such as 44 Purifiers and 98 Paladins – in the entire galaxy. Even when reading the same lists for marines you’re still somewhat safe in the knowledge that there are at least another thousand or so other Chapters out there to lend a hand if someone screws up. It’s all wonderfully compelling  knowing just how close humanity teeters on the edge of its doom, and the individuality the book enables you to impart on your small army of ‘man’s greatest, and fewest, heroes’ creates a firm link to the consequences should you fail.

The fantastic new artwork does a much better job of portraying their supreme fighting ability (the first double page piece is particularly impressive) and lends itself well to the idea that they are extremely proficient at killing daemons – but constantly under threat of being overwhelmed by the never-ending hordes they struggle to hold back. Usually only barely a handful of Grey Knights will be sent to deal with a potential incursion which their prognosticators can foresee (kind of like ‘Minority Report’) which enables them to show up at the right time with the minimum of force to get the job – so precious is each and every Knight – and only the greatest and most threatening of incursions warrants the mustering of a full brotherhood.

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If I’m honest, I was disappointed with the photography.  Someone got a little carried away with the lighting effects and there was no showcase of individual models which is always one of my favourite sections of an army book – I’m unsure if this is consistent across the new format Codicies but it’s not a change I’m happy with as I get a lot of inspiration from the individual efforts of the ‘Eavy Metal team.  There‘s also what look to be not one, but two non ‘Eavy Metal, and I guess ‘reader/staff submitted’, armies used in the photography and the quality just isn’t there.  They are great armies that anyone would be proud to own (although I’m not sure about the one with all the trophy racks, seems very Chaos) but in a premium book I expect premium quality throughout.

Onto the army list and there’s quite a bit of change, and you can expect a mixed reaction from existing Grey Knight players. They had a reputation as one of the stronger armies in 40k and everyone was expecting them to be toned down – and this has indeed happened.  All the Inquisitor stuff has gone completely – even down to the fluff, with only a slight link to the Inquisition being maintained. Most of the equipment and upgrades has been wiped away, no more Psycannon Bolts, or Rad grenades, or Brain Mines, it’s all gone along with all the Grey Knight specific Vehicle upgrades. It’s a bit of a shame as not only is there  still a mention of the more exotic pieces they use in the background, but it seems a lot of the army identity has now gone into the Psychic phase removing most of the choice you had in how you played with them.

Non Grey Knight players will be happy to hear the (now) Lord of War choice, Kaldor Draigo has had his wings clipped. He’s still a beast but no longer strength or toughness 5 – again, as much as this was perhaps needed, it’s still a shame to see perhaps the greatest Marine in the Galaxy reduced to a majority stat line of 4’s [I think most Space Marine players would argue that point by go on… - Ed].

You’ll be kept busy re-learning the points costs of the basic elements of the army as there’s ups and downs all over the place.  Some changes of note are Grand Masters have gone up slightly and trade-off their Grand Strategy for psychic level 2, whereas Librarians have gone down by a whopping 40 points – and a further 25 less for a level 3!  Strike squads have gone up but their equipment options have gone down so you’re still better off, and Terminators have gone down significantly but lose out on the changes to the Nemesis weapons – which is swords now have no benefit beyond being a Nemesis Force weapon and Halberds are +1 Strength instead of +2 Initiative – so the Terminators are now either less durable in combat or a lot slower. Purifiers went up slightly and the Apothecary for the Paladins is now a massive 55 points less – which equates to a free Paladin! Other highlights include special weapons now being consistently priced, which actually makes equipping one on your HQ a feasible option, and the Dreadknight has been given the sales boost treatment as you can now take a tooled up teleporting monstrosity for, on average, 70 points less!  The Vehicles are largely unchanged.

Generally the list seems to be pushing you to take more from the troops choices which is a good thing as there were some big errors in the last codex which made taking Purifiers over Strike Squads a no brainer. And with Terminators getting worse but cheaper, it’s now a harder decision to choose between the two troops choices.  However, the adjusted force organisation means you only need one as a compulsory choice and gives you an extra Elite slot at a cost of one less Heavy and Fast Attack – go figure.  I said before, it’s a shame to lose all the toys and although the Relics are some consolation, it’s taken away some of the individuality from the HQ’s that the background did such a job of adding to them.

With less being spent on your HQ and generally cheaper units overall you’re army should be larger but will rely even more on the Psychic phase to assert itself with a number of units now having access to multiple powers – and a Librarian should still be the first name on the team sheet.  Beyond him and perhaps the Dreadknight, the army balance is a lot better with more of the choices being just that, rather than easy hits and misses, and I’m looking forward to getting some more models on the table – but man am I going to miss those Rad Grenades.

-Lee