Let me tell you a story:
The year is 1997, we are in the tail end of Warhammer 40,00 Second Edition, and Necromunda is starting to wind down.
Games Workshop have just released their latest in skirmish wargames; GorkaMorka! A tabletop skirmish game where each player controls a group or 'mob' of Orks as they struggle to prove that that they are top dog and deserve the respect and admiration of their mechanical god 'GorkaMorka'.
Like many skirmish games of the time GorkaMorka consisted of a robust campaign system including the ability to acquire a currency the the form of Ork Teeth or 'Teef' as they were known so you could buy better equipment and new recruits. In addition it also had ruled for gaining experience in order to learn new skills and also sustain injuries which involved trips to the local doc who most of the time would fix you up, other times however the doc would use your boyz in experiments grafting all manner of Ork Tek to their bodies. Sometimes this would be a boon including attaching weapons and wheels to the bodies, other times it would be a hinderance as I saw when my mob leader; Gogmek Narnob has his right arm replaced with a lumbering crane-like mechanism that looked bad-ass but messed up his accuracy no end!
And this was the spirit of the game. You didn't worry about your mob leader or even your boyz, you just charged them into the enemy and hoped that either Gork (or Mork) was smiling down on you that day.
Seriously! The way the game rules were designed it made the more reckless the move; the more rewarding it became. If you tried to protect your leader you ended up missing out on much needed experience points for your leader putting them at a disadvantage which was hard to recover from other than being overly aggressive from then on.
It was hardly the most tactical of games, where most strategies kind of focused around "'It them wiv a choppa!" But it was fun, a kind of fun that I have never found before or since.
This was added by the crucible of the game itself: vehicles!
There were three types of vehicles available: truks, traks and bikes.
The first: Truks. These were 4 wheeled vehicles complete with ok armour, good speed but was hindered by difficult terrain.
The second: Traks. These were vehicles that used tank tracks for 2-4 of its wheels. They were the slowest of all vehicles but were the least hindered by difficult terrain.
The third: Bikes. These were the fastest but also the weakest of vehicles.
Of course other than that there were little to no rules about what a vehicle should -look- like.
Sure you could buy the GW standard vehicle and use it like that, but you could also modify it as you saw fit. This was largely because of the golden rule of GorkaMorka:
A vehicle can transport as many models as can fit on the model
Yup! If you were able to fit the model on a vehicle; then it could ride on it. Of course at the same time, if said model ever fell off the vehicle then that counted as falling off in-game and as such would sustain falling damage and in the case of a high speed pursuit may involve extra damage as they get run over by the pursuing vehicle (more on that in a moment).
There was another rule being that your whole mob must be able to fit on your vehicles at any time, largely due to many games starting off with your mob on your vehicles.
These rules when combined lead many players; myself included to create all manner of ridiculous vehicles of monstrous sizes to fit their mob on board, why my mob actually spent its entire lifespan with only a single vehicle: a truk that was modded out with reinforced Armour, a high powered 'eavy shoota, spikes, a boarding plank and had of course been modelled by fitting the rear chassis from 2 truks together making it's storage space double that of a normal truk.
This truk had a great feel to it. It was mean and dirty, covered in rust and skewered Ork heads, each one representing an zork that my mob had killed. It was also a massive target and could almost always be seen at all times by the enemy.
I remember; one of my favourite moments ever was when we started off a game, my boyz jumped out and started to grab objectives while my truk itself drove at full speed towards the enemy leader who if I remember correctly was riding passenger on a trak, said trak was fitted with a missile launcher which subsequently fired at my truk, blew it to pieces sending my leader sprawling onto the floor knocking him unconscious as the enemy trak proceeded to drive right over him, stop, reverse over him, stop again, drive back over again and repeat this manoeuvre about 2-3 more times!
In almost any other game I would call this a 'dick move', but this was GorkaMorka! There were no dick moves, and in reality I cackled with delight as this happened all the while hoping the trip to the docs would result in either a fix for my boss' arm or something new-fangled to play with.
Of course the games' life turned out to be shorter than I am sure anyone expected as only a year later in 1998 GW pulled support for the game. I may be wrong but I always figured it was down to dropping sales and the poor turnout from it's expansion Digganob.
You see; what made GorkaMorka so amazing was its simplicity. There were only two factions, both of them being Orks and these were split into the Gorkas and the Morkas.
If I remember correctly the fluff describes the Gorkas as "Orks who like Loud Noises and Fast Vehicles" while the Morkas are "Orks who like Fast Vehicles and Loud Noises".
Then along came Digganob introducing three new factions:
The Diggaz: Human's who until recently had been trapped underground had turned feral and saw the Orks as Demi-God like figures. They used stolen Ork Tek and vehicles.
The Muties: Human's who had been mutated by the surface radiation of the planet. They didn't use vehicles instead riding into combat on mutated beasts.
Rebel Grots: Gobbos that had grown tired of their time under the thumb of the Orks and rose up to create a new world order.
All of these factions were great in theory, and our campaign quickly included one mod of each, however while the fluff of them all was great, they didn't play so well - with one exception.
Diggaz: these turned out to be pretty much just weak Orks and played out pretty much like a Necromunda gang, and we all found that if we wanted to play Necromunda, we would play Necromunda.
Muties: they just wernt very fun either to play with or against. It took lots of fan work to turn these from a novelty into a workable mob.
Rebel Grots: in a word - bundle!
That was it! Now playing bundle and trying to get as many of your Grots into combat with a single enemy was fun, but it was a tactic that made playing Orks seem sophisticated and they were pretty rubbish at anything else.
And so it died off, but ever since has always had a place in my heart.
This was the best game I ever played and recently I have developed an itch to play it again; of course I know it's a fallacy. There is no one in my area interested in these games, and the only person who may be interested lives on the other side of the country!
No, the itch comes not from the game itself but the nostalgia. I long to return to that time when I played games every week and really looked forward to each one, as in truly looked forward to each and every game.
I've never had that since, and it's something that my heart finds wanting.
Until next time; stay safe and I'll see you soon.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley