What do Grots do when they're not being prodded towards the front lines, used as food, clearing mine fields, or running through enemy fire to bring supplies?
Mek Gunz are the product of... well, Meks that make giant-ass guns! Meks love making bigger and killier weaponry, and sometimes they come up with weapons that just aren't man (er, ork) portable, even by the most muscle-bound of skarboy Nobs. These weapons are generally fit for mounting on a Gun Trukk, Battlewagon, or even a Stompa! Sadly, many meks can sorely lack a momentous-enough Waaagh! to have a healthy supply of war-machines needing said big-ass guns. Instead, many less well-to-do mekboys strap their terrifying creations to overburdened wagons or spare trukk-wheel axles, park them in the back-lines, and launch volleys of random artillery-fire at unsuspecting foes.
This un-Orky job of sitting away from the front lines, not beating someone's head in, is given to Grots. This is actually a grand job for said weedy goblinoids, as they love nothing more than not being beaten senseless by their ork overlords (who are busy beating someone else for a change!). Unfortunately, many of these guns are less than reliable. You see, once a mekboy has had their fill of standard powder-and-shell weaponry, they will take to the time-honored art of MAD SCIENCE! and craft all manner of death rays, tractor beams, and assorted energy weapons. Regrettably, many of these fancy "Mek Gunz" are less than ready for prime-time, and many grot crewmen will most likely die due to their own weapons backfiring on them. It's a Grot's life, but it's all in the name of science, of course!
On the Tabletop
Go check out the Ork Tactics page for more reliable, specific, and up-to-date information on how to properly field Big Gunz and Mek Gunz.
Until recently, the only orky artillery that existed were Big Gunz. These are the old "standard 3" too-big-to-carry heavy weapons: Kannons, Lobbas, and Zzap Guns. These are actually Imperial Guard Heavy Weapons Team analogs. See, back in the day Games Workshop balanced the initial run of 2nd Edition and 3rd Edition rules by having easy analogs for every weapon across all of the races. The Kannon is a Missile Launcher, the Lobba a Mortar, and the Zzap Gun is a Lascannon. It was that easy.
These guns could be found on all kinds of things, from towed artillery to Looted Wagons and Battlewagons, all the way up to secondary batteries on Gargants, Battle Fortresses, and Battlekroozas (the space and naval varieties). While this is still true to this day, when many players think of Big Gunz they think of the artillery pieces.
The old Big Gunz are:
- Kannon:Exactly what you think they are. Except not. Kannons come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and calibers, but most common of all designs is the short-barreled, high-caliber breech-loader. The kannon actually serves the same function to Orks as the Missile Launcher does to the Imperium, capable of firing a solid shell or penetrating explosive for vehicle busting, or a canister shot or fragmentation shell to tear up infantry. Too heavy to be carried by even an Ork, these metal beasts are usually mounted on vehicles or artillery wagons, and have a longer reach than the man-portable Rokkit Launcha. In Gorkamorka, kannons were an ork-portable weapon roughly comparable to a orky elephant gun, but nowadays those weapons are called shoota-kannons. On tabletop, Kannons are known as the Old Reliable. Most flexible of your choices, cheap and cheerful.
- Lobba: Essentially a big metal pot jammed with gunpowder and a bomb, usually in that order. The Lobba serves as an Orkish mortar, and is favored by Grot artillery crew for being able to kill things without the enemy having to see you. The huge recoil it generates (beyond even the overblown Kannon) relegates it to being mounted (securely?) on vehicles or towed artillery platforms. It is powerful, but most armor will deflect its blast. Crunch-wise, great anti-infantry weapon in an army full of anti-infantry shit. Holy hell, just park five of these behind a building and go to town on Blobguard.
- Zzap Gun: A unique piece of technology crafted by energy-loving Mekboyz, a Zzap Gun is a rough approximate to a Lascannon. Roughly. The gun consists of a metal barrel covered in wires, a capacitor, and a power source. The crew use a lever (which electrocutes the user) to determine the charge built up in the capacitor before firing a literal lightning bolt at the target. The gun defies all known physics, and the power supply is so heavy that it must be mounted on something sturdier than a pair of green legs. The unpredictable effectiveness of the weapon deters some Warlords from using it, but if Lady Luck smiles upon your green, hairless hide, you might be able to bring down Land Raiders. While remaining unreliable as hell, even for Orks, 8th edition removed the worst side effects of the Zzap rule, and nixed Gets Hot altogether. What used to be majorly No Bueno is now merely Un Poco Bueno.
The latest editions have introduced four new big guns, called Mek Gunz, that help to really flesh-out the new weapons systems that are becoming staples in the Orkish armory. Mek Gunz can be found on Stompas and Gargants as powerful ranged weapons, and have been added to the list of go-to Ork heavy weaponry that can show up again and again (without codex wrtiers having to invent a new cool snazzgun for every new vehicle that shows its orky head).
In previous editions, you used to be limited to three guns per unit, and only three different guns to choose from. Mek Gunz have been a Gork/Morksend with the coming of 7th edition, and they remain excellent in 8th! Now, you have a total of seven guns to choose from and you can field six in a unit, plus Grot crew/gunners. A few of those choices are complete crap, but at least we have variety now! Each artillery piece has two Grot crewmen, and GW took away the option to buy more. Ammo runts used to allow you to reroll shots or scatter, though they no longer can be taken with Big/Mek Gunz. And since all Gunz are manned by Grots, they all have BS4+ (the new BS3), which is amazing for Orks. Sadly they have some stiff competition in the form of Lootas and Battlewagons.
The new Mek Guns come in these flavors:
- Kustom Mega Kannon: The kustom mega-kannon is essentially a much bigger version of the Kustom Mega-Blasta and the Ork's equivalent of a Plasma Cannon. This profusion of worky gubbinz and zappy bits works as a potent anti-tank weapon, but is as unstable as its smaller cousin. It is most commonly used as the main ranged weapon of Morkanaut heavy walker or as a Mek Gun. A reliable choice of AP-3 that will shred though armor and probably not kill itself over the course of your game. Just killing ONE Terminater will earn back your points.
- Bubblechukka: The Bubblechukka is an example of force field technology weaponized by Orks rather than being used for protection. It fires unstable force bubbles at the enemy that explode on impact. They vary wildly in size and solidity, some fly like meter-wide boulders that hit with a negligible strength, whilst others float down like small soap bubbles and, after bursting, inflict horrible damage. Here we have the oddest choice in our arsenal, and a highly variable weapon that can be shockingly effective at destroying heavily armored infantry (like TEQs).
- Smasha Gun: A miniaturized Lifta-Droppa gone all wrong. Another odd choice, playing somewhat liek a bizarro Zzap Gun. Outside of the Shokk Attack Gun and anything larger than a Deff Dred (read: Gorka/Morkanauts, Stompas) this is the only source of really heavy armor-penetrating Ork weaponry. Due to the randomness inherent in this weapon, it is great at taking out TEQs or other heavily-armored infantry, especially when you can mass fire from several Smashas.
- Traktor Kannon: An example of Orks mastering tractor beam weaponry, even on a small scale. The Traktor Kannon is basically a smaller Lifta-Droppa, but an actually functional one! Hell yeah! It's entire function is to literally rip aircraft out of the sky and smash them into the ground. This gained a reputation for being the best anti-flyer weapon in the game back in 7th Edition.
When Warhammer 40,000 was rolling around in it's 2nd Edition toddler years, it was heavily influenced by other British tabletop games of the era, including WWII-era ground combat games. Rick Priestley himself has gone on to make Bolt Action at Warlord Games in recent years. Orks have always had a bit of the German Wehrmacht in them, from their early-years "Hun" helmets to the propensity to call everything a "wagon" (Looted Wagon and Battlewagon are riffs on the german Panzerkampfwagen, literally "armoured combat vehicle").
In a recent twist of fate, the venerable Kannon has become just as effective an anti-aircraft weapon as the Traktor Kanon, a weapon literally dedicated to the anti-aircraft role. This parallels the well-known German 8.8 cm Flak gun, and how it was used in a dual-purpose role (anti-tank and anti-aircraft) during WWII. Where the 8.8 Flak was an AA gun revealed to be a competent anti-tank gun, the anti-tank Kannon has now become a powerful AA gun as well.
The more you know.
(You can also just slap like, all 4 mek guns on the same model if you’re patient and crafty enough.)