There are a lot of Warhammer videogames (opens in new tab). Incalculable numbers of them. I got tired at somewhere around 50 standalone games and expansions when I searched on Steam, which is as high as I can count before I just wander off to make a sandwich. Shooters, RPGs, RTS games, two Total Wars, naval battles, space battles—they come in all manner of shapes and sizes. But none of them are demolition derby with Orks. That's a problem.
Speed Freeks (opens in new tab) is a new 40K tabletop spin-off that pits two teams of bloodthirsty, gasoline-guzzling orks against each other in brutal, vehicular battles. It's Twisted Metal, Mad Max and 40K all rolled into one—admittedly pricey—package. It only appeared last year, which is probably the only reason we've not seen a PC adaptation announced yet. It seems almost inevitable.
The orks of 40K love their junkyard vehicles, and you can field a lot of them in the regular tabletop game, where the titular speed-addicted orks fight alongside the rest of the army. Speed Freeks uses the familiar ork warbikes, but introduces some new buggies to the roster. They're gorgeous models, if you understand gorgeous to mean a glorious mess of scrap metal, spikes and barely fit for purpose weapons. Just look at this beauty.
I got back into Warhammer 40K a bit over a year ago, and while my painting skills have definitely improved, looking at professionally painted models still makes me ache. It's another benefit of the digital versions—no need to feel jealous.
While the core tabletop games, Fantasy Battle and 40K, see you pushing squads and armies up the table with, for the most part, simple manoeuvres, movement in Speed Freeks is an entirely different kind of affair, evoking dogfighting or ship combat games like Star Wars Armada or X-Wing Miniatures (opens in new tab). You're not just moving from A to B; you're skidding and turning and spinning as you try to get into the perfect position to take down the other team.
And then you collide.
There's a shooting phase and a separate fighting phase, so orks can engage in both ranged and melee combat, lobbing rockets and smashing into the competition. You can customise them, too, giving them handy abilities, including leaving an oil slick behind them. As well as regular damage, you can inflict critical damage, causing specific parts of you enemy's vehicle to break down. It's kinetic and chaotic, with cards and dice introducing random mayhem, but it's still a turn-based tactics game where you're making very deliberate choices and thinking in steps.
The structure, the rules and everything else could be comfortably transposed to a digital version, but it needn't be a 1:1 recreation. Indeed, the vast majority of Warhammer games aren't, instead using the setting and some of the big game concepts, but otherwise charting their own course. Sometimes they create new rules or have everything play out in real-time. As much as tactics games are my raison d'être, I can't help but dream of a real-time action game full of orks on bikes beating the shit out of each other.
The box contains a fair amount, letting you construct two teams of four to play on a variety of game boards, but it ought to at £90. It's also geared more towards one-off games, lacking any solid campaigns. The rule book dedicates a couple of pages to them and offers some ideas, but there's little in the way of structure. That's where a videogame could shine, though.
Imagine a proper, structured league with different ork teams all jockeying for position. You could play through whole seasons and tournaments in a day, tweaking and customising your angry ork boyz between fights. There needs to be a bit of drama, too, obviously. Vendettas, intrigue, betrayal—sport's no fun without it. You get most of that in Blood Bowl already, so it wouldn't be much of a leap.
There is actually a Speed Freeks mobile game, but it's an endless runner and came out before Games Workshop dedicated a standalone tabletop game to the ork racers, so I'm not counting it.
So c'mon Games Workshop, give the licence to Avalanche or Psyonix and put this on PC.