4. How big should a Battlewagon be?
Big Mek Oddballz removed his welding mask. Wiping his hands absently on a passing Gretchin, he stood back to admire his handiwork. His latest creation, a new Battlewagon for the Boss, was taking shape nicely. He took in its angular lines and well-sited weapons. He was particularly proud of the krusher, which he'd copied from another mek's design (although he'd never admit that to anyone else). He also congratulated himself on the uniformity and sheer quantity of the rivets which dotted its sides. He was about to pronounce the job a 'good-un', when the words died in his throat. Something was wrong. He could not put his finger on what it was immediately, but his mek's instincts were telling him that an essential feature was insufficiently Orky. Only after much squinting and head-scratching did he realize what was nagging at the back of his mind.
It was too small! His wonderful creation was barely large enough to hold a handful of Boyz. In fact, he would be hard-pressed to cram more than 5 or 6 of the runtiest Orks into the undersized troop compartment. Even the Grots would be complaining of claustrophobia.
As he was rubbing his chin reflectively, wandering how he would explain to his miscalculation to the Boss, he heard the revving of overtaxed engines behind him. Looking around, he saw Fidgit, the least incompetent of his Gretchin Oilers, driving a salvaged humie Rhino into the camp. It was badly damaged, and only two of its powerplants were running, and Oddballz' original intention had been to cut it up to make armour plates. But suddenly he had a better idea. Rushing over to his pile of plans, he made some quick changes. Yep, it would work.
"Oi - Fidgit! Back it up to da front of da Battlewagon and break out da big burna. We is gonna weld dat fing to da front."
Oddballz rubbed his hands together. With the extra space, he thought, he could even squeeze in his experimental squig juice cooler.
Prior to the advent of the Forgeworld version, there was little guidance on how big a Battlewagon should be. The codex includes a photo of a scratchbuilt Battlewagon by Adrian Wood. This is fairly simple design about 1 1/2 times the length of a Leman Russ (i.e. 7 1/4 inches or 18cm long), and almost twice as wide. The White Dwarf battle report that accompanied the release of the Ork codex featured a Battlewagon built by Andy Chambers on a modified Land Raider hull (which is about 6 3/4 inches or 17cm long). Converted out of spare parts from an apparently bottomless bits box, it had a ramshackle charm, and has influenced the style of many players' Battlewagons since. Most players seem to accept that a Battlewagon ought to have about the same 'footprint' as these models. The majority of official WH40k vehicles are undersized compared to the troops. It is not necessary for the model to hold literally 20 Ork models. It would therefore be acceptable to have something smaller, but anything as small as a Rhino tends to look rather unconvincing. In addition, it would offer an unfair advantage because it is a relatively small target.
Many Battlewagons are significantly larger than a Land Raider. This is due either to the builder wanting to literally fit 20 Ork models inside, or because the builder has adopted the Orky maxim that 'bigger is better'. These grandiose models are generally accepted, but remember that very wide, long vehicles can be unwieldy, will be more difficult to conceal, and will be very vulnerable to Ordnance weapons. In essence, fielding an oversize model is going to largely favour your opponent. Remember that instead of building outwards, you can always build upwards by adding towers, smokestacks and turrets to make the model more impressive. Increased height will still make the vehicle harder to hide because the 4th Edition rules are more forgiving in this regard than previous versions of the rules. As long as there are some large terrain pieces on the table, your Battlewagon won't be targeted too easily.
Boss Garshnak created this primitive looking Battlewagon using the wheels and tracks from a toy and sheet styrene. This is probably as small as you would want to make your Battlewagon, but the height created by the extra deck helps make it look more substantial. Notice the rust and weathering effects, which stop it from looking toy-like.
At the other extreme is PraetorianExImperialis' model, designed to look like a giant landship. Note that, although the model has been assmebled from many different sources, the nautical theme helps tie it all together.
5. What armament and upgrades should the Battlewagon have?
Oddballz gave the side of the wrecked Battlewagon one final kick. Its innards were strewn about the ground, and oily smoke poured fitfully from the gaping holes that had been punched in its sides. There was barely anything left that was worth salvaging. He sighed. He had only finished building it on the morning of the battle, and already it was little more than junk - and it hadn't even fired a shot. He really ought to have listened to the other meks. They had all warned him that arming it with three skorchas was going to leave it a bit short on ranged firepower. The armour plates over the fuel tanks would have been a good idea too, as would the force field that Big Mek Sogbag had suggested. Clearly, he was going to have to think a bit more carefully about these things when he built the next one.
Before constructing the Battlewagon, it's worthwhile considering what its armament will be. You have a wide choice of weapons, and each can influence your design. Many players arm their Battlewagons on the basis of what looks good versus how it works in game terms. There is nothing wrong with that. This part of the FAQ assumes that you're interested in the role your Battlewagon will have in the game. None of these suggestions are set in stone. The effectiveness of a given weapon combination will always depend on your tactics, the type of game you play, and what's in the rest of the army. The tactics for actually using a Battlewagon are beyond the scope of this FAQ. Suggestions for modelling weapons and upgrades appear below.
You need to decide what role the Battlewagon will play in your army. Will it be used for transport or support? Another consideration is the type of armament. Will the Battlewagon focus primarily on the anti-armour role, or on the anti-personnel role? It is also possible to field a multi-purpose Battlewagon, which can take on different types of opposition and fill multiple roles.
If you are going to use a Battlewagon as a transport, then it has one major goal - to deliver its payload when and where it's needed. Shooting should not take priority over the transport role, so the weapons should be as basic as possible and can fire on the move. This means big shootas and skorchas.
Don't equip the Battlewagon with bolt-on big shootas unless you have points to spare. They have a hefty point cost and you won't be shooting them much. A skorcha may be worth having. You will want it mounted near the front to give it a clear field of fire, but remember you will often want to disembark your troops at the front, so it will be of limited use. Multiple skorchas are unwieldy and unlikely to be useful. You might want to add some spikes and blades to discourage enemy assaults on the vehicle, but enemy guns are a more common threat, so this upgrade is only for those with some points to spare.
Tempting as it is to fill the Battlewagon with something really nasty like Skarboyz, most Ork players agree that the most suitable unit to transport in the Battlewagon is an Ardboyz mob. With open-topped transports being fairly vulnerable, there is a good chance the troops on board will have to take armour saves (either by their transport being destroyed and/or because they've been compelled to disembark). A unit of Ardboyz versus Skarboyz will take fewer casualties in this situation due to their superior saving throw. Bear in mind, Ardboyz are also relatively expensive and a Battlewagon full of them is going to attract a lot of enemy fire.
A Battlewagon disgorges its passengers, in this case a mob of Orks led by their Warboss. The front ramp on Gordy2000's Battlewagon is ideally placed for disembarking passengers directly into combat.
By virtue of its strong front armour and the number of weapons it can carry, the Battlewagon is a useful support unit. In WH40k, units are normally more effective if they are optimised for a specific role. So the conventional wisdom is that it's best to configure the Battlewagon's weapons for either the anti-personnel role or the anti-armour role. A skorcha is not particularly useful for either role, so the suggestions below ignore the skorcha option.
A Battlewagon configured for the anti-personnel role will have 3 twin-linked big shootas, and additional bolt-on big shootas - these are often known as 'Dakka Wagons'. With the maximum number of bolt-on big shootas (i.e. 5, which will push the vehicle's cost up to at least 170 points), you will get 24 Strength 5 shots per turn, 9 of which are twin-linked. You can replace one twin-linked big shoota with a kannon, which gives you a weapon with a Str 5 Frag round that uses the small template in the same way as Ordnance (i.e. you don't use the Orks' BS 2), or a Str 8 Krak round that shoots with BS 2. In 4th Edition, however, the small template has to be placed over a specific model, so it tends to be less effective than previously, and the Krak round will normally miss. You may therefore find that the twin-linked big shoota is more useful.
The bolt-on big shootas are fired by the vehicle's passengers, so you need some Orks on board to use them. As the Battlewagon is open-topped, everyone on board can fire their personal weapons. Consider arming the Ork mob intended to ride on the Battlewagon with additional big shootas, giving you even more Str 5 firepower. If the vehicle is intended purely for fire support, then the mob on board (which is effectively extra krew) could be quite small. A small unit of Flash Gits (which can have up to 5 Big Shootas, including the Nob's) would add another 15 Str 5 shots. Remember the troops on board (including those firing the bolt-on big shootas) can shoot at a different target to the rest of the vehicle's guns.
Battlewagons armed for the anti-tank role will have a zzap gun and 2 twin-linked rokkit launchas, providing (in theory, as the zzap gun is unreliable) 3 high-strength weapons all with a 24" range. This is a formidable support unit, which is effective against both troops in power armour and against tanks. The best cargo for a vehicle equipped this way is a mob of Tankbustas, equipped with their full allowance of rokkit launchas (i.e. 4, including the Nob's). The Battlewagon's armour provides vital protection for the Tankbustas and allows them to get within their rokkits' effective range. Given the popularity of power-armoured troops amongst WH40k players, this is a good combination. With this weapon configuarion, it will not be able to fire more than one weapon on the move.
Orchead the Red's Battlewagon is armed with a kannon and twin-linked big shootas, a common weapon combination for the support role. The model is based on the Forge World Baneblade, and features components from several other Forge World models (such as the Looted Rhino). A lot of this could be replicated with sheet styrene, as it is otherwise an expensive project, but the level of detail and texture of the resin pieces really helps to convey the impression of a heavily armoured tank.
Armed with a zzap gun and twin-linked rokkit launchers (mounted well forward to maximise their range) , Nightserpent's Battlewagon is well equipped for tank-killing.
Allocating your Battlewagon to a specific role and equipping it accordingly will maximise its usefulness - provided it compliments the rest of your army list. There are drawbacks to both of the specialised support versions suggested above. In the case of the 'Dakka Wagon' (with or without a kannon), the vehicle's anti-armour capability is low or at least very limited. In the case of the zzap gun plus rokkit version, all the weapons are relatively short-ranged and only one can be fired if the Battlewagon has moved. This you may leave you to not use its full potential very often. The anti-armour configuration is also weak against infantry.
With the Battlewagon being a Heavy Support choice, it can be used as a transport by any mob in your army in addition to providing fire support. To equip it to be useful in both the transport and support roles, you might consider arming the vehicle with the zzap gun and big shootas. This may go against the conventional wisdom, but it fulfils its purpose.
The zzap gun is one of the best anti-tank weapons in the game. When mounted on a Battlewagon it becomes mobile and is probably always worth having. Big Shootas can be used to fire at soft targets while the Battlewagon closes the range for the zzap gun to engage enemy armour. This configuration is less effective at the fire support role and more pricy than would be ideal for the transport role in order to gain versatility.It can be made more effective in a fire support role by transporting some Boyz with the appropriate weapons. Tankbustas if you need more anti-armour punch, or Boyz with Big Shootas if you want more anti-personnel firepower. Ultimately, it's up to you to work out which combination works best with your Ork army.
Agatheron's Battlewagon is an all-purpose vehicle, with additional big shootas to compliment the twin-linked weapons. This top view shows the position of the vehicle's weapons, which provide it with all-round protection.
Grot Riggers are an indispensable upgrade for any Battlewagon. These handy little runts are dirt cheap, and can make a big difference to the Battlewagon's fate. They are compulsory for Kult of Speed vehicles.
While a Mek or Big Mek with a kustom force field is not technically an 'upgrade', it is a good idea to get one on board or close enough to protect the Battlewagon. Although this device is less useful than it was in the previous version of the rules, it still has its purpose. The Ork codex entry says a vehicle is treated as 'hull down' when protected by a kustom force field. 'Hull down' in 4th Edition means the same thing as 'obscured', so the vehicle would treat penetrating hits as glancing hits on a 4+. Confusingly, the current FAQ for the Ork codex says that the kustom force fields provide 'concealment'. This may mean that it works the same way as smoke launchers (penetrating hits always count as glancing hits), or it may mean it simply obscures the vehicle. Either way, the Battlewagon still has a reasonable chance of avoiding a penetrating hit. The Mek or Big Mek should also have mek's tools, so he can try and repair the Battlewagon when it is damaged. If you can spare the points, give him some Oilers to increase his chances of successfully repairing the vehicle.
Oddballz Big Mek, equipped with a kustom force field and mek's tools ( and with his favourite Grot riding on his shoulder). The kustom force field is represented by a 'looted' Tau Shield Drone. He is shown riding in a Battlewagon (allowing the kustom force field to protect the whole vehicle), and walking beside it (where he can repair it, if necessary, and is at less risk of being blown up).
A Battlewagon configured for the assault role should have the upgrades that enable it to get there as fast as possible. Turbo boostas and a red paint job are the most useful. Armour plates will also help ensure survivability if there are sufficient points.
Stikkbomb chukkas will increase the chance of a successful Tank Shock attack. One should note that Tank Shocking is a risky business, so only take this upgrade if you have found it an effective tactic.
As it's not intended to get in close, the support Battlewagon won't need the speed-enhancing upgrades. It can still benefit with the survivability gained from armour plates if you have the points to spare.
Kult of Speed Battlewagons
Kult of Speed Battlewagons deserve separate consideration. They are available in greater numbers than footslogging Ork armies and as transport options for certain units. Additonally, they get unqique upgrades - specifically the armoured top, kustom force field and krusher.
When fielding multiple Battlewagons you can take different weapon combinations on each vehicle, or equip them all the same way. A lot will depend on what else is in your army and the units riding in the Battlewagons. As always, think about the role the vehicle is going to have and how it compliments the rest of the units.
Battlewagons intended for the assault role should not have the armoured top. It greatly restricts the positioning of the passengers when they disembark. More importantly, it means the passengers can't assault in the same turn as they disembark. For Speed Freeks, who rely on getting into close combat quickly, this is suicidal. It's very likely that enemy troops will be able to kill a large part of the mob in the turn they spend standing after disembarking.
Battlewagons providing fire support probably should have the armoured top, as it makes them significantly more likely to survive being hit. This role is questionable for a Kult of Speed Battlewagon because the rest of the army will normally be seeking to get into close combat as quickly as possible. Once in close combat, the Battlewagon will be deprived of targets. The armoured top restricts the number of passengers on board who can fire their own weapons.
Since the Battlewagon isn't a Fast vehicle, a force field is an obvious choice for a vehicle that does not have an armoured top. It negates some of the disadvantages of being open-topped. The rules state that it prevents the +1 to damage rolls, but NOT the 2 hits for templates, so it only provides limited benefits. Once you give it the armoured top, the passengers can only disembark from a single designated Access Point, so consider the best place for this to be located (hint: it's the front!).
Krushers are best suited to Battlewagons intended for assault, since they will get close enough to the enemy to use them. Since you want the target unit to pass their Leadership test and get 'krushed, do not include a stikkbomb chukka on a krusher equipped Battlewagon. So take either the krusher or the stikkbomb chukka, not both.
Gordy2000's Kult of Speed Battlewagons. Both are based on 1:35 scale 'Buffalo' kits (the Buffalo was a World War 2 amphibious vehicle, and there were numerous variants). One has an open top, and the other has an armoured roof and its main weapon (a zzap gun) mounted in a turret. Gordy has not altered the basic kits a great deal, but has added a lot of subtle detail that makes them into very convincing Ork vehicles.
Once you have decided how to arm your model, it is time to start building it. Which, coincidentally, is what the next section is about.