"By the Emperor's Holy Trousers, that reading can't be right."
Brother Cedric shook his auspex impatiently. It showed a concentration of alien forms, all moving towards the ravine which he and his comrades had occupied.
"Brothers, enemy xenos approaching. Prepare for an assault."
The Marines readied their weapons, confident that they could meet what was coming. There was a rumbling noise, and the screech of metal on metal. A massive armoured form lurched into view, weapons bristling from every aperture. Black smoke streamed from its oversized exhausts, and its tracks threw out clouds of dust as they tore up the ground. Brother Cedric saw shapes moving purposefully behind the machine's crude armour. The sun glinted off their rust-stained weapons. He realised that they were Orks. He had never encountered Orks before, but he was supremely confident that his men and their weapons were more than a match for some piece of Orkish junk.
"Missile launcher," he barked "Give them a taste of krak, then finish the survivors with bolter fire. Let's send them back to the heathen gods that spawned them!"
The missile spiralled out and struck home with a loud clanging sound, But when the smoke cleared the Ork tank was still moving - the missile had barely scratched it. That's odd, thought Brother Cedric - Ork vehicles aren't supposed to survive krak missiles. He saw a green hand appear above the and raise a single finger at him in an unimistakable gesture. The vehicle loomed closer, its tracks squealing. He saw that its slab-like nose was fashioned in the shape of a grinning Ork visage. He suddenly felt a little less confident.
"Wait for them to disembark," he rasped, his voice unexpectedly dry. "There should only be a handful of them - shoot them when they assault."
There was a shouted command from within the Ork tank, and it ground to a halt. Its weapons trained on Brother Cedric and his fellow Marines. There was a moment's silence. Brother Cedric braced himself. Orks were notoriously bad shots, and he knew his power armour should protect him from the few bullets that came anywhere near him, but there seemed to be a lot of weapons pointed at him.
There was another shouted command, and a hail of shells slammed into the Marines. His comrades fell on either side of him, and Brother Cedric's last shreds of confidence evaporated. Throwing away his bolter, he began to back away. Then the Orks stopped firing, and he wondered whether they might be intending to spare him. A spark of courage ignited inside him - perhaps these dim-witted creatures thought he was about to surrender. He turned to run for the safety of a nearby rock pile. But a ragged beam of blue light shot out from one of the many barrels protruding from the vehicle, transfixing him on the spot as it melted through armour and flesh in an instant. Brother Cedric stared stupidly at the gaping hole that had once been his chest. That's not fair, he thought. They're Orks - they're not supposed to be able to shoot like that. He crumpled to the ground. The last thing he heard was a raucous din that he recognized, just before the darkness overtook him, as the sound of many Orks laughing.
The Battlewagon is a source of much discussion between Ork players, and a common modelling project. Being such a large model, it provides an opportunity to show off one's modelling prowess and/or imagination, and an impressive Battlewagon model is the perfect centrepiece to an Ork army. It's also a useful unit in game terms, and a fun one to use. So it seemed worthwhile gathering the expertise of da Waaagh's meks and combining it in an FAQ that will, hopefully, assist less experienced modellers and encourage them to tackle a Battlewagon of their own. It was also a good excuse to showcase just a few of the weird and wonderful Battlewagon models that have appeared in the Mek's Workshop.
This FAQ assumes that you are looking for ideas for both building and using Battlewagons that will work within the core rules system for the 4th Edition of WH40k. Many players are entirely unconcerned with winning games or fielding effective armies, while other players often ignore or change rules they don't like. The suggestions made in this FAQ should not be seen as intended to invalidate that approach to the game. Indeed, although there is a lot of discussion of what is more effective or useful in game terms, you should not let any of this get in the way of creating a model that looks good. Please note that rules references in this FAQ are based on the 4th Edition WH40k rules, Codex: Orks and the Kult of Speed army list in Codex: Armageddon, and do not take into account any of the rules found in Forge World publications (such as the Imperial Armour books).
This FAQ is designed so that you can go to specific frequently asked questions, or read it as a step-by-step guide to designing, arming and building a Battlewagon.
And the first question is...
1. What is a Battlewagon?
"It is not clear how these Ork vehicles came to be called Battlewagons. The Orkish word for them is unpronouncable, and is in any case irrelevant. My research indicates that the word 'battlewagon' was used millenia ago by one of the early Terran empires to designate their largest and most heavily armour warships. How a sea-going vessel could be described as a 'wagon' is beyond me, but that kind of illogical language use was common in that particular empire. The term was also used in connection with armed wagons that were drawn by animals. These 'battle wagons' would be used in convoy, known as a 'tabor'. When the tabor was attacked, the wagons would be arranged in a circle, forming a defensive wall that was very difficult to overcome. One suspects the Orks would, if asked, prefer that their Battlewagons were named after mighty warships rather than primitive wooden carts, but you never can tell with Orks."
- Assistant Deputy Inquisitor Snord Ironbelly
There is no official Battlewagon model (yet), nor is there much in the way of artwork, although previous incarnations of the Epic WH40k game included some weird and wonderful 'Battlewagons'. In many ways, this is a good thing, as it gives players a lot of scope for creativity when it comes to designing their own Battlewagon. In terms of the rules, the Battlewagon is a tank, and open-topped, with heavy frontal armour, reasonably strong side armour and basic rear armour. It has a number of weapon options, and can carry up to 20 Orks. It is therefore amongst the more heavily armoured vehicles in the game, and the largest transport. This suggests that a Battlewagon model should be fairly massive, and it should be apparent that it has a very significant transport capacity - although it doesn't literally have to be able to carry 20 Ork models!
As with the other early 3rd Edition codexes, the Ork codex does not provide much information in the description in the army list. The description in the codex says there are 'all sorts of variants', and that they 'bristle with weapons', and have 'plenty of space for carrying a mob of Boyz into battle'. It refers to the fact that vehicles captured by Orks usually end up as Battlewagons. Forge World's Imperial Armour 2 (which is not 'official' in the same sense that the codex is) says that Orks regard any armoured vehicle as a Battlewagon, and notes that they tend to grow over time as weapons and armour plates are added on. The Forgeworld Battlewagon is a tracked vehicle that resembles an oversized artillery tractor, with a very large open troop compartment. It is a useful guide, but by no means definitive.
According to the Armageddon codex, Kult of Speed Battlewagons can have the armoured top upgrade. Vehicles with this upgrade have an armoured roof and their weapons encased in turrets. They can also be fitted with krushers, which are large rollers on the front, usually studded with spikes, and a kustom force field. These features will obviously affect the model's appearance. A number of upgrades are available to both 'standard' and Kult of Speed Battlewagons which would also alter the appearance of the vehicle.
An impressive Battlewagon built by Orchead the Red, based on a Land Raider hull. Orchead has captured perfectly the aggressive yet ramshackle appearance of a typical Battlewagon. It is painted to look like bare, rusty metal - a popular finish for Ork vehicles.
2. What does a Battlewagon look like?
Hidden beneath a derelict Trukk, three Gretchin pored over a ragged sheet of paper spread out on the ground in front of them. In excited, high-pitched voices, they argued over the elaborate schematic diagrams that covered the paper. The diagrams were the plans for a massive armoured vehicle, the like of which had never been seen, and were headed with the words 'Standard Template Construction - Highly Restricted'. So engrossed were the Gretchin that they did not hear Big Mek Oddballz approach. Only when his shadow fell across the plans did they look up, and then it was too late. A couple of sweeps of his kustomized choppa sent the Gretchin tumbling, and left the ancient plans in shreds.
"Pesky Grots," muttered Oddballz. "Always shirkin' and wastin' time."
He turned to go, when a fragment of paper caught his eye. He reached down and picked it up. On it was the layout for a highly effective armour configuration that could withstand hits from virtually any kind of anti-tank weapon. He looked at it for a moment, then stuffed it into his back pocket. You never knew when an extra bit of paper might come in handy.
Whistling tunelessly, Oddballz wandered back to his mekshop.
Ork players are an opinionated and individualistic bunch, and likely to disagree on many things. They do tend to agree, however, that Battlewagons should be big and impressive, with prominent weapons, plenty of armour plates (and rivets), and preferably a large engine as well. As a 'tank', a Battlewagon is likely to be tracked or semi-tracked. You could give it legs, but as walkers have their own rules this may confuse some opponents. Theoretically it could be a skimmer, but another thing most Ork players do tend to agree on is that Orks don't like skimmers, so this is probably best avoided.
It is likely to have predominantly vertical armour, probably consisting of big slabs of armour plate that have been welded and/or bolted together. It will have multiple weapon positions, perhaps protected by crude armoured shields (possibly made from scavenged pieces of other vehicles), sandbags and/or spikes. It will often have one or more ramps or exit hatches, to allow it to disgorge its cargo of Orks. Although in many cases the Orks are expected to leap over the sides. Another common feature is a tower or raised platform, often bristling with weapons. Big exhausts are also common.
Nightserpent's Forge World Battlewagon. This model is built largely 'out of the box', with the excellent Forge World zzap gun as its main weapon, additional weapons (in the shape of Forge World rokkit launchas), and some added detail. In particular, a rebuilt driver's compartment and a kustom force field. It is configured as a Kult of Speed vehicle, with a prominent krusher.
3. Are Battlewagons worth having in my army?
The sign says 'Gooba's Mekshop Big Sale - Everyfing must go!' But Gooba's current customer is proving to be a hard sell.
"'Ow about dis one den, chief?" He gestured towards the hulking vehicle. Resplendent in a new coat of paint, it looked very impressive. Gooba hoped the Goff didn't look too closely, however, as it had a rather nasty hole in the engine compartment.
"Wot'll I do wiv dat?" The Goff Nob's face, criss-crossed with scars, wore what passed for a look of puzzlement.
"It's a Battlewagon, chief. It'll do whatever yer wants it to do. Shoot stuff, or carry yer Boyz, or just look tuff. You'll never 'ave to footslog it into battle again."
"But I loiks footsloggin'." The Goff's tone made it clear that this wasn't an opinion he was going to change any time soon.
"Okay, okay, chief. Battlewagons ain't for everyone. Um, let's see..." Gooba's mind raced. "I know - 'ow would yer loik to look at a kustom force field?"
This is always a difficult question to answer, because it will depend on the points level of your army list, and the type of games you play.
A Battlewagon with a few upgrades (including a Big Gun) will cost about 150 points. In any Ork army below 1200 points, that's a fairly significant proportion of your points sunk into a unit that can (and often will) be lost to a single shot. It will be a large and juicy target, guaranteed to attract the attention of your opponent's lascannons, brightlances, or railguns. Its loss will leave a big hole in your army. As Ork armies rely to a large extent on superior numbers to be effective, you might feel it is preferable to invest those points in more troops.
That said, the Battlewagon will, if it survives, be able to deliver a large unit of Orks right into your opponent's front line. It also makes an effective fire support vehicle. So, unless your opponents regularly take large numbers of tank-killing weapons, it is worth considering in games at the 1200-1500 points level. In smaller games, it is probably going to leave you with insufficient troops.
In games of 1500 points and above, you should have little difficulty fitting a Battlewagon into your list. Consider if it fits both your style of play and the composition of your army before inclusion. There will always be a risk that your precious model will be destroyed in turn 1, possibly taking a large number of embarked troops with it. You have to be prepared to accept a disaster like this if you want a Battlewagon in your army. You may also prefer faster, more numerous vehicles like Warbuggies or Trukks, or close combat-oriented support units like Dreads and Killer Kans, in which case the Battlewagon may just be using up points spent there.
You may find that your Battlewagon's chances of survival are increased if you include another heavily armoured vehicle in your army. This will compel your opponent to split his fire between both targets, increasing the chances that one will survive. Realistically, this means taking a looted tank, and the most common choice is the looted Leman Russ (a useful vehicle in its own right, due to its Ordnance weapon). This uses up more points and reduces the points available for core units like Boyz mobs. In the end, it depends on your style of play whether this is something you can live with.
Kult of Speed armies can take multiple Battlewagons. The same considerations apply in relation to smaller games, because Kult of Speed armies need a core of Trukkboyz and Warbikes, and the points for these units mount up rapidly. But in larger games, it is worth considering including more than one Battlewagon. Taking two Battlewagons has the same advantages and disadvantages as taking a Battlewagon and a looted tank, but two Battlewagons gives you the means to deliver two large mobs of Boyz into close combat. You also have the benefit of their combined mobile firepower. Having said this, it is rare for Kult of Speed armies to contain more than one Battlewagon in games of 1500 points or less.
Gordy2000's Kult of Speed army arrayed for battle. Two Battlewagons take pride of place in the vanguard of the army, surrounded by light vehicles.