Greetings ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another entry in my Ork Tactica series! The massive changes to artillery units wrought by 6th Edition gave Mek Gunz and its rivals from other codices a new lease on life, with the Orks getting arguably the most points efficient and variable version of the unit type. I hope you enjoy this article!
Ah, artillery units in Warhammer 40,000 are just amazing nowadays - in many ways, their meteoric rise in competitive gaming can be equated to the incredible buffs Bike units have received in the past few years. In spite of the highly vocal community critical of the current greenskin codex, Orks perhaps surprisingly have access to one of the best artillery units across the entire game system in the form of Mek Gunz. What makes these such beasts on the battlefield is that you can customize them to suit your needs unlike almost any other artillery unit - you can get anti-infantry, anti-tank, anti-air and other specific needs catered towards by any one of the seven different Mek Gun weapon profiles - meaning you can always have a tool to deal with a given target and shore up any potential weaknesses in an army list. The other major advantage in favor of Mek Gunz is their cost, being priced at around a quarter of a century' worth of points per Mek Gun and each ones' two attending crew, making them among the most raw points efficient artillery units you can find. They also take full advantage of the incredible defensive bonuses offered by being an artillery unit given that they can add what amount to Toughness 7 wound counters for a few points per model, combining well with the natural 3+ armor save and any form of cover to make for stupidly durable squads. Being Ballistic Skill 3 by virtue of using Gretchin crew actually allows the various non-blast weapons to shine whereas they so often don't when used by the larger Orks themselves, meaning that they can be directly compared to Imperial Guard Heavy Weapon Teams - which they outshine in almost every way imaginable. Truly, the downsides to Mek Gunz are few indeed; Gretchin simply cannot defend themselves in a melee, the Leadership value of the unit is awful - which can thankfully be alleviated by adding choice HQ models - and the often roving nature of most Ork units means that Mek Gunz can easily be isolated by a wily opponent. However, these minor quibbles don't really detract from the sheer power of Mek Gunz overall; they provide so much for any Ork army that it is almost unthinkable to skip them in a competitive force outside of those that specifically bar them such as a Zhadsnark-led biker themed force.
How to Equip Them
The choice of which gun to use is very difficult given that each of them serves a different purpose and thus can be integrated into any given Ork list and be expected to perform reasonably well. Cost and what type of firepower your army needs should be the key determining factors for the choice of which Mek Gun weapons to use, while making use of additional Gretchin and Ammo Runts is an incredibly inexpensive option to increase both the ablative wounds and reliability of the unit. This is arguably the biggest advantage that Mek Gunz gain over other artillery units; being able to be taken in squads and then add two extra Toughness 7 wounds to the squad per individual Mek Gun can make for a ridiculously tough unit. However, one must be careful to babysit them as they have a paltry Leadership 5 and thus must be kept in line by an attendant character if taken in large numbers. As for which specific Mek Gunz I recommend, I often find that the two basic choices are the best overall; Lobbas provide devastating anti-infantry firepower at a price almost no other unit in the game can match, while Kannons can greatly alleviate the anti-tank deficiencies of some army lists all the while making full use of that juicy Gretchin' Ballistic Skill 3. Kannons can be seen as Rokkit Launchas with superior range that can also fire an anti-infantry shell much like an Imperial Missile Launcher, making them the generalist option out of the various Mek Gun profiles; keep in mind that they aren't specifically better at anti-infantry than Lobbas due to the weaker Strength and lack of Barrage, but for the points they are the best at anti-tank.
Zzap Guns straddle the median between the weapon options in terms of price and are inherently zany with their randomly determined Strength value - between two and twelve - that is boosted by guaranteed AP2. Having Gets Hot and the increased chances of that occurring based on the Strength value makes it fairly unreliable, especially as crew models have to take the wounds, but the bonus of automatically inflicting Crew Shaken results on any glancing or penetrating hit inflicted against a vehicle does somewhat offset this - however, the chances of getting a low Strength value prevent me from recommending it. Bubblechukkas are strange weapons that roll one D6 and apply the result to both their Strength and AP values, meaning you can end up with anything from Strength 1 AP1 to Strength 6 AP6; that the AP and Strength are tied means that its profile is never "optimal" in the sense that it can't be an efficient Space Marine killer at Strength 3, nor can it punch through 2+ armor saves with Strength 2. Being a Large Blast is nice but generally Lobbas are just so much better due to the lower cost and massive bonus of being Barrage meaning they can snipe characters and hit the weak side armor of vehicles such as Wyverns or Rhinos without relying on a random profile-modifying roll. Kustom Mega Kannons are your best bet for heavy infantry hunting due to firing awesome Strength 8 AP2 Blasts at 36" that otherwise seem painfully scarce for Orks, and they have the advantage of having a guaranteed Strength value to reliably engage numerous targets.
The Smasha Gun is very much in line with the Bubblechucka and Zzap Gun in terms of not knowing how powerful it will be each time it fires, but being Strength D6+4 and AP1 with no Gets Hot essentially leads to it being the "safer" Zzap Gun that costs more to balance out the advantages. Still, I find Kannons fulfill the role of general anti-tank and even monstrous creature hunting more efficiently than any of the upgraded weapons, at least as far as ground targets are concerned. Speaking of which, the last of the Mek Gunz is the Traktor Kannon that also fires a single Strength 8 AP3 shot that exchanges the anti-infantry alternate firing mode for Skyfire and the jaw-dropping Traktor rule. Basically, a Traktor Kannon will automatically Immobilize any flyer it glances or penetrates in addition to other effects - meaning you can cause successive Immobilized results to strip even more hull points off! - while any flying monstrous creature wounded by one gets to take its grounding test with a -3 modifier to the roll, meaning they can only pass the roll on a 6+. Given the impressive profile of the shot itself it should come as no surprise that the Traktor Cannon is the go-to anti-air weapon for Ork armies, while it adds some utility by being capable of shooting at skimmers at their full Ballistic Skill value as well. As a quick summary, I recommend Kannons for general purpose artillery fire and anti-tank shooting, Lobbas for infantry clearing duties, Kustom Mega Kannons for obliterating Terminator equivalents and Traktor Kannons for hunting aerial targets; the other weapon types are decent in their own right but should be avoided in favor of the aforementioned four for competitive play.
Given that the role of the unit changes wildly based on which profile you use, I'll briefly cover each one individually in order of cost and then alphabetical placement. Kannons can ping off elite 3+ armored infantry and multiple-wound models with Toughness 4 or lower such as Tyranid Warriors, though ultimately they make for decent anti-tank units against light to medium armored vehicles while also easily putting the hurt on monstrous and non 2+ armored gargantuan creatures. Try not to forget that Kannons can also pull light anti-infantry duties by firing Strength 4 AP5 small blasts in a pinch, but I would generally only do this if there are no other suitable targets for the main profile. Lobbas are best used against anything with a Toughness value that comprises multiple models, up to and including broods of Carnifexes; the weak AP value doesn't excuse the sheer amount of wounds that so many inexpensive Strength 5 small blasts can generate. Zzap Guns follow a similar methodology to Kannons albeit with a randomly determined Strength value, potentially being weaker or stronger based on a separate dice roll; however, AP2 increases their chances of potentially causing Explodes results on vehicles and dealing with heavily armored behemoths such as Tau Riptides.
Bubblechuckas are designed for unreliable infantry devastation by firing Large Blasts that can range from Terminator killers to horde exterminators, they are far too unreliable to be used for anything else. Kustom Mega Kannons are specifically designed for elite infantry hunting but can also be used for situational anti-tank purposes given that they are Strength 8 AP2 with small blasts, being able to easily deal with light vehicles. Smasha Guns are intended to be the heavy duty anti-tank guns that can punch holes through either Land Raiders or Razorbacks based on what the Strength value is, but generally speaking it is better to play safe and shoot them at monstrous creatures or light vehicles so that their random nature doesn't bite your army in the backside. Lastly, Traktor Kannons are specifically built for aerial defence and as such will absolutely rip apart non 2+ armored flying monstrous creatures, flyers and skimmers; you can shoot them at the ground and hope for some 6s but generally speaking they will be virtually dead weight against a force that lacks suitable targets. Otherwise, general tactics for artillery units apply; place them in cover to take advantage of their high Toughness, strong armor saves and vulnerability to close combat - Lobbas specifically want to hide out of sight to make the most of the Barrage rule, while the others can be placed on the upper levels of ruins and buildings so as to stop certain unit types from charging them. Lastly, Ammo Runts are always a great choice but are specifically an absolute steal for Lobbas due to the nature of multiple Barrage attacks; expending a single Ammo Runt to twin-link the first shot from a squad of Lobbas will in turn make the subsequent blasts that scatter off the initial shot more accurate due to the first shot being more likely to hit something.
Here are some optimal uses of Mek Gunz for you to try out;
Mek Gunz (5) - Lobbas w/ five Ammo Runts - For the points, there are few more efficient anti-infantry artillery units in the game, and these are fairly reliable due to the nature of Ammo Runts and how expending just one each time the squad shoots is enough to boost the accuracy of the entire unit.
Mek Gunz (3) - Kustom Mega Kannons - If you have trouble with elite infantry in your games, there's no better option for Orks to solve that particular issue than Kustom Mega Kannons; three should be enough to devastate nearly any 2+ armored unit.
Mek Gunz (5) - Three Kannons, Two Traktor Kannons - While I mostly advise against mixing the various weapons, Kannons and Traktor Kannons are distinct from each other only really due to the Skyfire special rule; having some ground power or anti-air power added to a squad helps to keep them effective no matter what target presents itself, while they are utter murder to skimmers.
Mek Gunz (5) - Five Kannons - The best all-rounder and inexpensive unit variation that can demolish basically any vehicle that is AV13 or lower, and any non-vehicle model possessing a 3+ or weaker armor save.
Mek Gunz (3) - Traktor Kannons - Three of these can cover your anti-air needs fantastically well as no flyer in the game short of a Super Heavy wants to stare these down, especially if their owning player is aware of the incredible unique special rule these possess.
Thank you all for reading this article focusing on the Ork Mek Gunz, I hope you enjoyed it! If you have any feedback for me on my work or you wish to discuss the merits of the greenskins' masterful artillery batteries, feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to reply. Thanks again!