Greetings fellow members of the Waaagh! and welcome to my latest Ork Tactica article, featuring the zany but always lovable Meks and Big Meks. These two are similar enough that I decided to review them in the same spot to save both time and space, while both are great choices to include in an Ork army - though obviously a Big Mek is probably the only one you would want if you decide to run without vehicles. I hope you enjoy this article!
Meks and Big Meks
While the ability to repair vehicles isn't necessarily mandatory in all Ork lists - especially if the already highly fragile Trukks or Looted Tanks are the norm rather than the exception - the two Mek characters (the Mekboy and Big Mek) can nonetheless prove highly valuable to an Ork army in most cases. This is generally due to the costlier Big Mek's access to the Kustom Force Field, an expensive but potent piece of defensive wargear that provides a handy 5+ invulnerable save to all nearby Ork units within 6", or to the one vehicle the Big Mek is embarked on if any. It is this particular wargear option that solidifies a Big Mek's place in almost any Ork list seeing as Orks are at their most vulnerable against shooting attacks, though obviously the two characters become even more useful if they actually have some tough vehicles to assist. Being able to repair vehicles on a 5+ with a character that just barely exceeds a dozen points in the case of a regular Mek is an awesome incentive to use the heavy hitters such as Battlewagons, Morkanauts and Stompas, while a Big Mek with Da Fixer Upperz relic can prove a sizable nuisance by virtually guaranteeing the vehicle in question runs at optimal efficiency. They can also provide some of the quirkiest weapons in the Ork arsenal with the patented Shokk Attack Gun and Tellyporta Blasta, though generally these are avoided in favour of minimizing the price of these mostly fragile characters.
The profile of both the Mek and Big Mek is equivalent to an Ork Boy and an Ork Nob, respectively, which serves to justify their low price per model; there is nothing special here other than the fact that they provide even more Strength 4 or Strength 5 attacks on the charge. They also feature all of the special rules typical of an Ork such as 'Ere We go, Furious Charge, Mob Rule and so on, though the Big Mek has the distinction of being an actual Independent Character. Whereas the Big Mek can be purchased just like a regular HQ choice and thus can help to save you some points when filling up your Combined Arms detachments, a standard Mek can only be acquired if you already have one of your mandatory HQ slots filled by (for example) someone like a Warboss or even a Big Mek. Meks are split off and must join an eligible Infantry or Artillery unit where possible, otherwise they are simply treated as a lone character. That they act like unit upgrades and are priced similarly to a Nob but with Mek's Tools at the expense of the improved profile (particularly the second wound) makes them worthwhile even in a list that already features a Big Mek. However, seeing as you need to be either embarked upon or in base contact with a vehicle in order to repair it, Mek's should really only be attached to Ork units with Dedicated Transports as otherwise they often won't have the speed or positioning to make full use of their Mek's Tools. In any case, Mek characters also have access to the Mek Weapons, a selection of handy and cheap weapons that are - as always - limited by the virtually army-wide Ballistic Skill 2 endemic of Orks. I feel most competitive Ork army lists should feature at least one of either a Mek or Big Mek just so that their primary transport vehicle is more likely to be able to perform its' role; the fact that these characters are so inexpensive means that it isn't exactly a huge investment to take one.
How to Equip Them
I would ignore the Killsaw upgrades on both the Mek and Big Mek because neither character is particularly suited to combat - not to the extent of a mere Weirdboy even - and nor do they really need a chainfist equivalent. I would reconsider a Killsaw or another upgraded melee weapon if you equip the Big Mek with Mega Armour, but even that kind of flies in the face of what the Mek is designed for - besides, a Power Klaw is good enough as it is! Grot Oilers are useful for helping to make sure you repair a vehicle at a critical moment, while any of the Mek Weapons are suitably cheap and useful ranged weapons - just be sure not to purchase them if your Mek will be hiding in something like a Stompa, Morkanaut or otherwise repairing vehicles every turn. The Rokkit Launcha is a surprisingly good investment for just a handful of points, however, and probably worth your time even if you don't think your Mek will get to fire it often considering just how cheap it is. If a Big Mek happens to be your Warlord, Da Finkin Cap is a perfect choice given how valuable having two Warlord Traits, especially if you can use the re-roll from being in a Combined Arms detachment. Otherwise, consider Da Fixer Upperz to be the ideal relic choice for a Big Mek seeing as the greatly improved chance to repair a vehicle is well worth a small additional investment in points; combined with Grot Oilers, the Big Mek becomes one of the most reliable "repair-men" in the game.
If you are considering taking a Kustom Force Field or Shokk Attack Gun, I prefer the former every time seeing as it is not inherently random and provides more of what Orks need - a defensive buff against shooting attacks that isn't subject to the Ignores Cover special rule. Even though it has reduced effectiveness for a vehicle-based list because it no longer works in a bubble while embarked upon one, providing it to any kind of Ork unit is a godsend as - perhaps Mega Nobz and Battlewagons aside - armies can simply sit back and shoot your forces to death as they advance. Even for a mostly ranged list the buff is impressive, though obviously it is more useful for melee units seeing as they are far less likely to benefit from cover saves (and most weapons that Ignore Cover are medium to short ranged besides). As to whether it is as necessary as it was in the previous codex, I feel Ork lists can get by without one, though if you field a Gorkanaut, Stompa or Battlewagon, I find it mandatory. 'Eavy Armour is a great and cheap way to heavily improve the survivability of a Big Mek in case you cannot afford a Warbike or Mega Armour, though generally I do prefer to purchase a Warbike at the very least. On that note, I feel a Big Mek with a Kustom Force Field is ideally suited to a unit of Ork Bikers or Nob Bikers, providing them with a handy invulnerable save to protect against the inevitable Ignores Cover attacks directed their way - a Warbike is an obvious equipment choice here. This is my preferred build for a Big Mek as it provides him with the mobility and survivability to dash around and repair vehicles all the while keeping safe with a nasty and points-efficient unit.
Seeing as a Mek is a glorified Ork Boy and a Big Mek is a glorified Ork Nob, employing these characters in a list that doesn't feature vehicles is basically pointless unless you want to use the always valuable Kustom Force Field or gleefully watch the random and hilarious Shokk Attack Gun. Regardless of how cheap either character is even when fully kitted out, you really should be protecting them as best you can given how crucial they can be to any given vehicles' survival or really any Ork unit provided you make use of a Kustom Force Field. Hiding in a Stompa or one of the new big walkers is mutually beneficial for all as the Big Mek can't be targeted individually, while the super-heavy (or pseudo super-heavy) gains a tasty 5+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks. In the previous codex I would have recommended a Battlewagon due to the Kustom Force Field actually providing a bubble effect while embarked upon a vehicle, but now I'm a bit less sold on the idea unless you plan on running your primary combat unit in there. I generally wouldn't recommend using one of these in foot as they need to be in base contact with a vehicle to repair them, making a Warbike even more worthwhile here than it can be for some of the other characters in the codex.
There are numerous ways to use a Mek or Big Mek effectively, but I feel these are some of the more generic and useful to be found.
Mek - Grot Oiler, Rokkit Launcher (25 points) - This is a very cheap character that provides you with an inexpensive Strength 8 AP3 shot as well as the ability to repair vehicles. What more could you want?
Big Mek - Warbike, Da Fixer Upperz, Power Klaw (100 points) - Being the equivalent of a Nob Biker with the ability to repair vehicles on a 3+ is awesome at such a low price, while the twin-linked Dakkagun on the Warbike itself plus the Power Klaw makes for a powerful little model. Drop the Power Klaw as desired if you aren't worried about getting into a melee.
Big Mek - Mega Armour, Da Fixer Upperz, Kustom Force Field (140 points) - Mount this nasty but pricey little guy on a Stompa, Gorkanaut or Morkanaut and watch as they become nigh impregnable with repair rolls on a 3+ in each friendly shooting phase while providing the vehicle with a 5+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this latest article in my Ork Tactica series! I am a big fan of Mekboys and Big Meks with the new codex given the introduction of the Gorkanaut, Morkanaut and Stompa, while the value of a Kustom Force Field exclusive to the Big Mek (and Morkanaut) remains as high as ever. Like all Ork characters, they are blissfully cheap because of how easily they can be killed; if you can protect them either through a bodyguard or transport, they will perform well in most games. Thanks again for your support and I hope you have a great day!