by Kenton Kilgore
For decades, Warboss Nadzdrag had led raids and mighty Waaaghs! across the galaxy, burning, looting, killing, in hundreds of battles against untold thousands of Adeptus Astartes, Astra Militarum, Chaos Daemons and Traitors, Aeldari, Tyranids, T’au, and—of course—Orks.
But never once in all that time had he experienced this strange sensation, this unfamiliar feeling that made his boots too heavy and his palms damp, that bent his neck and kept his eyes on the blood-red sands of Auros IX. Never had he known fear. Until now.
The cause of this newfound fear was the most dangerous being that Warboss Nadzdrag had ever encountered, more dangerous than the mightiest Space Marine Chapter Master, or the most ferocious Bloodthirster of Khorne.
Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the Prophet of the Waaagh!, the Beast of Armageddon, the mightiest Ork who had ever lived, towered over Nadzdrag, nearly twice his size, as they trudged along, three large mobs of Boyz shambling behind them. Following at a distance were a Gunwagon and several Deffkoptas.
“It’s…errr…” Nadzdrag stammered. For a moment, he considered that perhaps he ought not to have spoken until spoken to, but by then, it was too late. Screwing up his courage, he continued, his voice a little bit stronger. “It’s not far. Just ovah dere.” He handed Ghazghkull his spyglass.
The supreme warlord peered into it. Grunted. “Dat’ll do,” he rumbled, giving back the spyglass.
Nadzdrag had not asked Ghazghkull why he had recently arrived on this far-flung world, nor what he wanted with Nadzdrag and his Boyz.
But it didn’t take a Big Mek to figure out that if the warlord and his massive retinue intended to stay for long, that they would need provisions, including the most rare and precious of all on Auros IX: water. Which was why Nadzdrag was leading the mighty Ghazghkull to the oasis up ahead.
“And wut about dem?” Ghazghkull demanded pointing into the distance, past the oasis.
Nadzdrag raised the spyglass, squinted into it. Not far away, a wedge of small, squat figures in black and gold armor, stumping their way toward the smooth red rocks and the shimmering blue pool of the oasis.
He dimly recalled a brief but enjoyably violent skirmish with a similar bunch several years ago. If dey’se da same Stunties, he reasoned, dis could be a right riggy laff—an’ a gud way to show ol’ Ghaz dat I gots wut it takes ta be his right-hand Ork.
“Dem?” asked Nadzdrag. “Dey’se fer yoo. Thought yoo’d want a proppa scrap.”
“Yers,” Ghazghkull smirked. “Yoo gotz dat right.” He looked over his shoulder. “Boyz!” The lads snapped to attention. “Who’s thirsty?”
Spotting the approaching Dvergar, the Boyz cheered and hooted, a few of them firing their pistols into the air. Nadzdrag grinned, a mouthful of broken teeth. Dis was gunna be great!
My brother-in-law Drew has recently returned to 40K, and even more recently moved to within a few minutes’ drive of my house. As we both have the same day off on our work schedules, we’ve decided to have regular games.
As a teenager, Drew began collecting Orks in the 2nd Edition days, then dropped the game until a few years ago, when he began rebuilding his army of Greenskins. He went up against some of my armies a few times during the 7th and 8th Editions, and he’s played a several games of Kill Team against his friend Kramer’s Blood Angels.
This was the first time, though, that he had played a 9th Edition game, and this was to be only my second. Accordingly, we went with a low Power Rating level (76 each) and a simple mission, with a single objective to take and hold.
Games Workshop introduced the Squats, a race of “Space Dwarves” in the 1st Edition of Warhammer 40K (also known as “Rogue Trader”), but ditched them when it rolled out the 3rd Edition in 1998. I always liked the little guys, so in 2008, I starting collecting figures from the Warhammer Fantasy game, Mantic Games, and Reaper Miniatures to build my own Space Dwarf army, whom I named the “Dvergar Steeljacks.”
For several years, I adapted the rules from the various versions of Codex: Orks so as to field them on the table. Once Drew got back into 40K, I realized that our little gaming group of me, my neighbors the Becker Boys, Drew, and my buddy Pat (who has hundreds of Orks) didn’t need another Greenskin army in the mix.
As no one in our bunch plays Adeptus Mechanicus, and the high-tech angle goes nicely with Dwarves, I started using those rules for them, with good success.
I have two lists in my Dvergar collection, one very shooty, the other extremely stabby. Conventional wisdom would be to bring guns to a choppa fight, but as I’m always up for a challenge, I elected instead to go toe-to-toe, mano e mano (or Dwarfo e Orko). It would be a nice change for Drew to have an opponent who actually comes at him, bro, instead of hugging the back board edge, blasting away at his dudes as they run all the way across the table.
Accordingly, I brought a Vanguard Detachment of:
- Black Warspar (Warlord). Counts as Tech-Priest Dominus w/ Pater Cog-Tooth
- Gold Warspar. Counts as Tech-Priest Dominus
- Steel Troopers. Count as one squad of 10 Secutarii Hoplites
- Steel Troopers. Count as four squads of 20 Secutarii Hoplites each
- Master Smith. Counts as Cybernetica Datasmith
- Steel Centurions. Count as 6 Kastelan Robots, each w/ 2 Kastelan fists, and incendine combuster
- DOGMA: Shroud Protocols. Opponent at -1 to hit when shooting at units more than 12″ away. Opponents cannot Hold Steady or Set to Defend vs. charging Dvergar units.
Secutarii Hoplites are an Elite Forge World unit which are, IMNSHO, far superior to any other close combat option the AdMech have available. They fight well, they shoot well, their weapons are S6, and they’re resilient despite T3 (4+ Armor Save, and two different Invulnerable Saves). You can get them in units of up to 20, and they don’t count for much in Power Ratings (4 or 8, depending on squad size).
The only nock against them is the short range (12″) of their shooting, so an opponent with mobility and longer-range weapons (say, Aeldari or T’au) can stay out of charge range and gun them down. To counter this, I usually put my Steel Troopers in “Dvergar Crawlers” (proxied Skorpius Duneriders), and grind them across the table.
That wasn’t going to be a factor today, though, as Orks are always kind enough to bring the fight to you, so I left the Crawlers in their box.
Drew is still unpacking his house and had a limited amount of figures available, so he rustled up this clump of Greenies:
- Ghazghkull Thraka (Warlord)
- Warboss Nadzdrag w/ power klaw
- Three mobs of 20 Boyz each. Nobz w/ power klaws; Boyz w/ choppas and sluggas
- Six Deffkoptas w/ various weapons
- Bubblechukka Mek Gun
- Gunwagon w/ big shootas, killkannon, and lobba
In a rarely-seen reversal, the Orks were outnumbered, but Drew was hoping that the Deffkoptas and other big guns would even the odds. Certainly not to be discounted was Ghazghkull, the Incredible Hulk of 40K in more ways than just skin color.
We played at my house, using a 4′ x 6′ table and terrain that might be familiar to visitors who have been with us since this site debuted in 2000. The very first campaign that Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel and I did for the Jungle was the Blood Deserts of Auros IX, wherein my Space Marines, the Fighting Tigers of Veda, launched an assault on an Ork world to seize it for the Imperium.
The campaign lasted 17 games and went on for two years, with the Orks retaining control of the planet. From 2010-2011, Pat and I played a 5-game follow-up campaign, Return to Auros IX, which the Orks again won.
For those campaigns, I had built and painted boards and terrain that resembled a Mars-like red desert, and for many years, Pat kept these at his house as his prize for winning the campaigns. Recently, he was kind enough to give these back to me so that Drew or the Becker Boys could use them at their houses.
As is my habit, I set up the scenery ahead of time, and let Drew chose which side he wanted. For this game, we were concentrating on using the new, 9e rules and our respective codices, so we didn’t do anything remotely challenging for a mission. The sole objective was a spring of water, an oasis in the desert: whichever army controlled it at the end of 6 turns would win the game.
Each of us had 12″ deployment zones. Drew won the roll to see who would go first, and placed his infantry in the center and very front of his zone, poised to sprint toward the oasis. He placed the Gunwagon on his left flank, the Bubblechukka atop a hill on his right, and kept the Deffkoptas in reserve, to appear on Turn 1 near my forces.
Given the mission parameters, I saw no need to try anything clever with deployment, which is just as well, because I’m terrible at it. I put my Kastelan Robots front and center with their pet Datasmith and the two Tech-Priests, backing them up with the 10-Dwarf squad of Hoplites. I flanked this blob with the four 20-strong squads, and we were ready for kickoff.
Like we’ve done for every battle report here on the new-and-improved Equatorial Rainforest, we’re presenting this report in narrative style. So that everyone understands what’s going on, we will, when necessary, explain something in game terms by putting it in [brackets] as an aside to the actual tale.
“Kill ‘em!” Ghazghkull Thraka bellowed. “Kill dem Stunties!”
Screaming and waving their arms, brandishing their weapons over their heads, the Orks sprinted forward, iron-shod boots pounding the gritty red sand. Blades thumping, a half dozen Deffkoptas plummeted from the sky over the right flank of the Dvergar position, firing shootas, rokkits, and mega-blastas into a large squad of Steel Troopers, killing seven of them.
The Gunwagon fired a fusillade into the same group of Space Dwarves, but despite all its fury, it only killed one more, the squat aliens partially concealed by a shimmering energy field that threw off the Ork gunners’ already-poor aim. At the other end of the field, the Bubblechukka dropped a dense bubble of energy on one of the Steel Centurion robots, but it shrugged off the hit.
Most of the Dvergar advanced in lock step, robots leading the way. Most, that is, except for the Steel Troopers who had been fired upon. They moved, instead, to engage the Deffkoptas, firing searing yellow beams from their combat weapons, easily vaporizing four of them, the fried wreckage smashing to the sand. One ‘kopta pilot lost his nerve and peeled away at top speed, vacating the battle, leaving only one left against a dozen determined Dvergar.
“Wot’s all dis, den?” Ghazghkull thundered. “At ‘em, ladz! Double-time quick quick! WAAAAAAAAGH!”
The Orks answered their warlord’s groundshaking roar with their own barbaric yells, barks, and growls, hurtling pell-mell into the Dvergar, firing wildly as they came. The Bubblechukka again targeted the robots, and again failed to so much as scratch their black-and-yellow paint.
The Gunwagon had a bit more success, lightly damaging one robot [-1 Wound], but its lobba failed to hit a massive squad of Dvergar troopers nearby. Ghazghkull trained Mork’s Roar, the massive four-barrel cannon that was his signature weapon, against the oncoming robots, but though he hit three times, all of them were duds [Drew rolled three “1’s” to wound].
The pilot of the remaining Deffkopta fired on the Dvergar pursuing him, killing two. Flicking on the buzzsaw attached to the ‘kopta’s mechanical arm, he swung the craft in low, shearing into them, killing four before they chopped he craft and its pilot into pieces. Three of the Troopers retired from the battle, leaving just 3 out of 20 to continue on.
Ghazghkull led a mob of Boyz into the robots, a hail of overwatch fire [I played the stratagem] from the Centurions’ mine guns dropping Orks before they could strike. Ghazghkull smashed two robots into scrap, and nearly pulverized a third [-4 Wounds out of 7].
Sparks flashing from the rents in its carapace, the robot raised its enormous titanium steel fists and expertly hammered Ghazghkull with machine-precise blows to the face and neck [-3 Wounds off Ghazghkull].
Fighting at their warlord’s side, Nadzdrag and his ladz struck down two robots, losing seven of their own. Even the Gunwagon rumbled in to attack, damaging one of the remaining two robots [-1 Wound].
More Boyz crashed into the closest unit of Steel Troopers, who ignited their electro-hammers and activated their personal force shields, each of them enveloped in a crackling energy sheath. The Orks crashed into them, a great green wave against a score of black stones, hacking down 9 of the enemy [I failed 9 out of 10 4+ Invulnerable Saves].
The Dvergar fought back, killing 8 Boyz, the energy feedback from one of their shields grievously wounding the Nob leading the attack [Each save of “6” made in melee by a Secutarii Hoplite’s mag-inverter shield inflicts a mortal wound on the attacking unit]. Nevertheless, three of the Troopers retreated, leaving their comrades to continue the fight.
The Master Smith ordered the robot engaged with Ghazghkull to pull back so that he could repair it [regaining 3 Wounds]. A 20-strong squad of Steel Troopers moved to take its place, positioning themselves between it and Ghazghkull. As one, they fired, energy bolts sizzling through the warlord’s armor [-4 Wounds, the maximum he can take in a single game phase].
The Dvergar charged, severely wounding Ghazghkull again [-3 Wounds]; he only managed to smash one of them. Not far away, the Dvergar Warspars led a counterattack against Nadzdrag and his Boyz, slicing into them with their electro-combat weapons before the robot that had remained in the fight hammered the Warboss into unconsciousness. A fresh squad of Steel Troopers reinforced the ones that had been under attack, wiping out the Boyz that had assailed them.
Zoggin’ ‘eck? wondered Ghazghkull, stumbling away from the scrap [Drew had him Fall Back, because he was down 10 Wounds out of 12] as a mob of Boyz moved up to protect him. The wave of Orks had smashed against the Dvergar, looking like they would swamp them—but the Space Dwarves had held. Now, it looked as if the squat aliens were about to come crashing down on the Orks.
The Bubblechukka fired at one of the two remaining robots, but its aim was once again poor. The Gunwagon killed the last of the Steel Troopers who had been first attacked by the Deffkoptas, but, like the Bubblechukka, was ineffective against the robots.
The Gunwagon rammed into the Troopers who had attacked Ghazghkull, managing to kill one, but the Dvergar heavily damaged it [-9 Wounds]. The Boyz who had come to Ghazghkull’s aid charged the nearest Steel Centurion robot, hacking at with choppas, the Nob crushing it with his power klaw, until it exploded, but not before killing four the Boyz.
“Yarr!” Ghazghkull laughed. “Dat’s right proppa! Stuntie-bot go BOOM!”
His grin faded quickly to a frown as more Dvergar advanced, firing into the ladz who had struck down the robot, killing 12 of them. More Steel Troopers charged those Boyz, slicing them down; still more charged the Gunwagon, carving it to pieces with their electro-combat hammers.
Another, lesser Ork warlord would have surveyed the scene—every single one of his Boyz dead, knocked senseless, or fled—and decided to leg it from there as fast as his iron boots could carry him.
But Ghazghkull was not just any warlord: he was the Prophet of the Waaagh!, the Beast of Armageddon, the mightiest Ork who had ever lived. Grinning fiercely, he waded into the fight once more, massively outnumbered, but absolutely uncowed.
He fired Mork’s Roar into the closest squad of Stunties, but only managed to kill one. He charged the last robot, not even flinching as it shot him at point-blank range [-1 Wound to Overwatch fire]. Bellowing loud enough to fill the empty blood deserts, his mighty weapon, Gork’s Klaw, tore at the robot again and again, until suddenly, everything went white.
[Ghazghkull killed the last Kastelan Robot, but I played the Machine Spirit Revenge stratagem, which causes a Vehicle to automatically explode, which took out Ghaz’s last Wound]
* * *
With a long, low growl, Ghazghkull roused himself back to consciousness. He was lying in a shallow crater, seemingly miles from where he had been. His skin was burnt, he was bleeding from several wounds, and his head throbbed in agony as if it had stomped on by a Gorkanaut, or he had gone a three-day bender of fermented Carnifex ichor.
He sat up with some difficulty, a few pieces of his shattered armor sloughing off. He was in the middle of an empty wasteland, utterly alone. The oasis, the bodies of the slain, the wreckage of the Gunwagon and the Deffkoptas were nowhere to be seen.
For a moment, he thought that perhaps the personal tellyporta that his new Mekboy had been fiddling to install in his suit had actually worked, and had saved him from certain death. Then he looked again at the low crater he was sitting in.
“Heh,” he chuckled. “Heh.”
“Heh heh heh heh.” Stronger.
“HEH HEH HARR! HARR! HARR! HARR!”
Thowing back his head, Ghazghkull laughed loud and long, and the more he thought of his miraculous escape, the more he laughed.
Another, lesser Ork warlord would simply have been blasted to bits when the Dvergar robot detonated in his face. But Ghazghkull was not just any warlord: he was the Prophet of the Waaagh!, the Beast of Armageddon, the mightiest Ork who had ever lived—and the only one ever (thanks, surely to the blessings of Gork and Mork) to survive being blown almost into orbit, and crashing like a meteor back to the ground, miles from his latest battle.
Winner: Dvergar Steeljacks (Orks concede)
Drew came out of his corner swinging, with Turns 1 and 2 of this game looking like Rocky III’s first fight between Clubber Lang and Rocky Balboa. Spearheaded by Ghazghkull, the Orks threw haymakers that had my Dvergar reeling.
Just like this guy, the Orks came to deal out an ass-whoopin'
My predicament was not helped by some stupid play where I forgot to keep the Tech-Priests and the Cybernetic Datasmith within 3″ of the Kastelan Robots, thus preventing the Dvergar from repairing their mechs. That was a frickin’ rookie error, and Drew made sure I paid for it.
And though I love Kbots, this battle pointed out to me that they don’t get an Invulnerable Save in close combat. Power klaws put a serious hurt on them.
Ultimately, though, what undid Drew was simply attrition. I had the bodies—90 guys to his 60—and mine were better quality. Because he didn’t have all of his collection at his disposal, Drew put his trust in Ghazghkull, the Deffkoptas, the Gunwagon, and the Bubblechukka to even the odds, but only the Great Green One pulled his weight.
The ‘koptas would have been better off starting further away from my guys, using the superior range of their heavy guns to better effect. The Gunwagon wasn’t much of a factor, and the Bubblechukka was worthless: it didn’t take out a single model.
Beware uv da Frogklam, an Ork-eating monster indigenous to Auros IX!
Still, it was a lot of fun, and we both had a great time. Once he’s all the way moved in, Drew will take home the boards and scenery, so that he and his brother-in-law Mike (who wants to start a T’au army) can play at his house.
Drew and I will have many more games, and Drew will improve, so I’ll need to stay on my toes if I want to keep beating him.
When I’m not playing or blogging about 40K, I’m writing killer SF/F for young adults, and adults who are still young. In This Wasted Land, my latest novel, 17-year old Alyx is lost and alone on a nightmare world of monsters never before imagined–and if they don’t kill her, the witch who has her boyfriend will.
I’m also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog. My first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons. With Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel, I created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.