19 March 2019
Gorkamorka goes X-Wing via Mad Max
Once Games Workshop re-released modernised versions of Necromunda and Warhammer Quest, we knew it wouldn’t be long. Gorkamorka, the skirmish game of cobbled-together Warhammer 40,000 Ork vehicles, is cherished by those who bleed green. It was a phenomenal system with a high degree of verisimilitude and a vibrant campaign system that rivaled ‘Munda. It was nearly perfect.
So, Speed Freeks is here and I have some good and some bad news. The bad news is that this is not Gorkamorka – well, not exactly. The good news is that this is a killer design that takes that beloved concept and tosses it into a blender with X-Wing and a bit of good old-fashioned Car Wars. Like an Ork Nob guzzling his prey’s lifeblood, the resulting concoction goes down easy.
It’s impossible to discuss this game and not highlight those ridiculous buggies. While we’ve seen those bikes before, we haven’t seen anything like those two low-profile high-octane thrill rides. Both models consist of a large number of bits and will take quite some time to assemble – but they’re totally worth it.
The barricades and piles of detritus are also very sharp. They keenly sit atop the large folded board sections that make up the play surface, tying together the veneer of Mad Max and 40,000. This all sets the stage for the bloodbath to come.
The system is relatively flexible and very engaging. It’s a dice-allocation mechanism where you assign from your pool to different stats such as moving and shooting. Each is triggered in their appropriate phase and you’re given significant control over whether you want to slam on the gas or unload with all you’ve got.
Anyone discussing this game is going to have a hard time getting away from the X-Wing comparison. This is apt because movement is handled via a wide range of templates in similar fashion. Combat is comparable as well, in that the attacker rolls dice looking for hits and the defender tosses the bones looking to cancel ‘em. It’s simple and it works.
Once you drill down into the muck, though, it’s easy to see this isn’t exactly X-Wing. The movement is much more dynamic and wild, allowing for huge turns and a zany series of manoeuvres. This dynamism simply requires you pump more dice into the manoeuvre pool and give up opportunities for combat.
There’s also a subtle nod to Steve Jackson’s classic Car Wars as your vehicle can drift, spin and lose control. This captures that Mad Max: Fury Road gumption – you can never quite predict where an opponent will veer.
The core gameplay of Speed Freeks is exactly what it needs to be. It’s a game that’s a bit lighter and more free-spirited than its primary competitor Gaslands. However, it does face some challenge. It’s quite difficult and expensive to expand, and it also lacks a full-fledged campaign system.
The latter is disappointing as it distances the release quite a bit from its predecessor. This is softened due to the variety in scenarios and several ways to engage the game, but it still feels like a jagged scar on an otherwise alluring visage.
Speed Freeks may not be perfect, but it’s certainly a hell of a ride. As a boxed game crammed full of flavour and atmosphere, it succeeds in pairing that charisma with a very solid system of madcap automobile dueling. It’s mayhem on wheels and a long-toothed Ork is behind the wheel. I’d suggest you strap in but there’s nary a seatbelt in sight.
PLAY IT? – PROBABLY
It’s not exactly Gorkamorka, but a worthy modernised release packed with attitude.
Designer: Games Workshop team
Artist: Games Workshop team
Time: 30-60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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