Recently, Nick and I played our first game of Speed Freeks, the Games Workshop game of warring Orks on buggies, bikes and improbable dragsters.
He and Will bought me the game last year, mainly for reasons of nostalgia, since this game is a descendant of the old GW classic, Gorkamorka.
Gorkamorka was our entry game into the GW universe. One day in 1997 we came across a demo of this brand new game in the Games Workshop branch in Staines. We left the shop with the boxed game and that was it. We collected most of the metal figures and later picked up Digganob, which added human, grot and mutie mobs. We loved the random silliness, both of the background and of the rules themselves.
When GW released the 3rd edition of 40K, our Gorkamorka figures became the nucleus of an Ork army. We still have all of our original models, although the plastic boyz on narrow bases were pensioned off when GW released Brian Nelson’s (still) excellent plastics. We played Gorkamorka for a good while before it slowly gave way to 40k.
Anyway. Fast forward to 2018 and we were intrigued to learn about the release of Speed Freeks. I might have dropped a hint or two, so on my next birthday I received the new boxed game.
The Speed Freeks box is packed full of models, markers and even a reversible playing board. The models are exquisite and the markers very solid. In comparison, Gorkamorka also had everything we needed to start playing, except for a surface. Of course, the buildings were a mix of coloured card and plastic bulwarks and the models, though quite serviceable, were less elaborate than nowadays. But unlike Speed Freeks, Gorkamorka had figures and rules for dismounted figures and the wartrukk was designed to carry individual foot models. There were even specially designed narrow bases to allow players to cram more figures onto the vehicle. Speed Freeks has no rules or models for figures on foot: in today’s version, every Ork or grot is on a bike or buggy.
The most striking difference I suppose is that Gorkamorka provided an extensive back story and campaign system which was further elaborated in the supplement, Digganob, with several additional mobs and models. The Speed Freeks box provides a bit of backstory for atmosphere and a sort of campaign. It is also possible to buy a few more models to supplement the box contents, but the new game is more of a stand alone game that does not draw the players into its world to the extent that Gorkamorka did.
Nick and I played our first game using the buggies from the Speed Freeks boxed set, four old 40k bikes and the two wartraks from the Gorkamorka box. At this point we noticed another great difference between the two games: while Gorkamorka’s mechanics were rooted in 2nd edition 40k, Speed Freeks has totally different rules, including special combat dice, which the players distribute in secret at the start of each turn. The rules are quick to learn and give an unpredictable and very enjoyable game. The mechanics owe a lot to X Wing, and even to Wings of War (or Wings of Glory, depending on how old your set is). Movement uses a set of measurement sticks, some of them distinctly curvy. In a challenging twist, there are limits to the number of times the more interesting sticks can be used. This means that a player really has to plan his mob’s actions as a team, since that useful curvy stick might only be usable once in the turn. There is also a good chance that a vehicle will spin at the end of its move, ending up facing completely the wrong way.
Unpredictable Speed Freeks may be, but the players still shape the play, both by the allocation of dice at the start of each turn and the selection of movement sticks.
The rules add up to an unpredictable and atmospheric game, in which buggies and bikes careen around the field, colliding, firing wildly and blowing bits off each other. We had a fine time. Speed Freeks plays fast too and is ideal for filling a free hour. I even think a non-wargamer would enjoy it, although I need to test this theory on some unsuspecting family members.
We will certainly be playing and enjoying this game again, but I doubt we will be starting a campaign. For that, I don’t think Gorkamorka can be beaten.
Over the Christmas break, my son Nick and I managed a nostalgic game of 40K. It was great fun to be back in the grim darkness of the far future. Between 1997 and about 2010, we played every Games Workshop game on the market, picking up each new edition and army as it came out. After a few years Nick’s younger brother Will joined in, becoming a very fine painter over time.
We drifted away from GW around the release of Age of Sigmar. I greatly regretted the destruction of the Warhammer world, which had been such a rich environment for campaign games and fiction. I just couldn’t get excited about the Age of Sigmar storyline or rules. But we didn’t consciously decide to stop playing GW: we just found ourselves playing fewer wargames and when we did, we played more historical rules.
We have played the odd game in recent years, particularly enjoying a multiplayer Epic 40k game in 2017. But this Christmas was our first return to GW since then. Although we do have every edition up to the sixth, we decided to play fifth edition, as we remembered this set best and our figure collection stopped growing at that time. I took Ultramarines and Nick chose Imperial Guard. We chose the Blitz scenario from the third edition rules, which required me to break through Nick’s line in an attack down the length of the table. We played this a few times in the old days and it was especially fun with Imperial Guard on the defensive.
We had 1,500 points apiece. I took a unit of terminators thinking they would deep strike, but in the 5th edition Space Marine codex this isn’t possible so instead of landing in the enemy’s rear, they had to shlep up from my base line (believe me, I searched the codex from cover to cover). I also took some scouts and scout bikers because I love the models, but the bikes in particular were a poor choice against a solid defence line. My vindicator was a more sensible selection, along with a razorback and a rhino. Nick meanwhile took a solid force with lots of lascannons, a Leman Rus and some Kasrkrin who could (of course) deep strike.
I sent my main force up the left, hoping to pin Nick’s left with the terminators. They sort of did their job and when they closed with the enemy line they were unstoppable. However, while they trundled forward, slowly losing men, Nick managed to rip my main assault apart. In particular he dropped his Kasrkrin at the right time and point to destroy my command squad with their fire. In the same turn he took out my vindicator with a lascannon-armed sentinel. I decided to debus my tactical squad to deal with the Kasrkrin and shot them up pretty effectively but at the cost of my only chance to get into the enemy rear area. The game ended after turn five with Nick’s centre dented but still in a coherent line and my objective categorically not achieved.
We really enjoyed our return to the grim darkness. We both love the back story of the Imperial Guard, pitting their unaugmented strength against supermen and aliens. This game showed how a good position, investment in heavy weapons and wisely used counterattack capability can spoil the Ultramarines’ day.
I am sure we will return to 40K from time to time but I don’t feel a need to upgrade to the latest rules. Although... it might be fun using an edition that allows terminators to deep strike.
I have played wargames for five decades. Recently retired, I have even more time to devote to it. More about me here.