My Tactics pledge: I am not the greatest player, nor a seal pup. I will endeavor to speak from my experience and always be honest about what is theory and what is play tested. Never will I assume to know better than anyone else... unless I must call out ego or pretension.

Repair Me...

The Big Mek has always been a vital cog for most Ork armies; as for the 7th edition iteration on the surface is left mostly unchanged, in fact one could say it is now bathed in even more options. The vast amount of Big Mek options though belie something very different when it comes to playability.

Before we get started take a quick look at the differences between the between the 2007 and 2014 Big Mek codex rules.

(Click to Enlarge)

Big Mek Rules 2007

HQ: Big Mek - 35 Points

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4

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8

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Bigmek rules

Big Mek Rules 2014

HQ: Big Mek - 35 Points

WS

BS

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T

W

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A

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4

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8

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UNIT TYPE:
Infantry (Character).
 
UNIT COMPOSITION:
1 Big Mek
 
WARGEAR:
• Slugga
• Choppa
• Mek’s tools
• Stikkbombs
 
SPECIAL RULES:
• ’Ere We Go!
• Furious Charge
• Independent Character
• Mob Rule
 
OPTIONS:
• A Big Mek may take ’eavy armour…4 pts
• A Big Mek may replace his slugga with one of the following:
- Kustom force field…50 pts
- Shokk attack gun…50 pts
• A Big Mek may replace his choppa with a killsaw…30 pts
• A Big Mek may take items from the Mek Weapons, Melee Weapons, Runts & Squigs, Orky Know-wots and/or Gifts of Gork and Mork lists.
• A Big Mek may replace his slugga and choppa with mega armour, kustom mega-blasta and power klaw…40 pts
• A Big Mek with mega armour may take items from the Ranged Weapons, Runts & Squigs, Orky Know-wots and/or Gifts of Gork and Mork lists.
• A Big Mek with mega armour can replace his kustom mega-blasta with a killsaw…10 pts
• A Big Mek with mega armour can take one of the following
- Tellyport blasta…25 pts
- Kustom force field…50 pts
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Readers of my previous tactics will notice a few changes to how these reviews are presented. Now you will find is a break down each unit into five broad categories.

Utility

The Big Mek is very limited, which might seem counter intuitive when you look at it from past performance. The biggest problem (unlike its little Mek brothers) is it takes up a valuable HQ slot. Then you take into account the Big Mek has always been tied to the power of the Kustom Force Field and/or repair abilities. The repair abilities are no different from a normal Mek (unless you take a Da Fixer Upperz) and as for the Kustom Force Field it has been hit with a serious nerf. The Big Mek just doesn't provide the same support it did before or at least enough support to justify it being an effective HQ choice. 

Cost

The Big Mek cost has remained unchanged between editions, and for what you get is priced fairly. The Big Mek cost rises precipitously when you take into consideration all the wargear. This becomes a big nuisance when trying to make you're Big Mek to do more than one thing. If you take a Big Mek make sure understand exactly the role it is going to play, because otherwise you are better off with just taking a Painboy or Warboss because it will undoubtedly perform better. 

Speed

Big Meks are blessed with access to a Warbike, it will cost you though, especially trying to hide your Kustom Force Field properly. The Big Mek isn't bulky, making for easy transport and deliver it to anywhere on the battlefield. Most likely though the Big Mek's battlefield role will leave it near your board edge, and won't need added mobility to be successful. 

Assaulty

The Big Mek can be dangerous in assault; either in Mega Armour or mounted on a bike, because an extra Power Klaw or Killsaw is never a bad idea. The Killsaw as a weapon of vehicle destruction is were the Big Mek can separate itself from other HQs. In the world of Imperial Knights you can play against meta; take a Big Mek instead of Warboss to deal a more assured destruction, and remember to always take your Lucky Stikk.

Shooty

The most alluring type of Big Mek is the shooty Mek, but is also the most useless. The Skokk Attack Gun is as unpredictable as ever and the BS2 will always leave other options wanting. Still, there is hope the Tellyport Blasta isn't all that bad and against unit like Centurions can be devastating. If only the Big Meks had access to all the Ork guns, like Burnas or Deff Gunz. The Big Mek as backfield support does give taking a Gitfinda a purpose, as you will most likely end up stationary.

The vast amount of Big Mek options belie something very different when it comes to playability.

 Mechanical Uniqueness

Kustom Force Field - 50 pts

The Kustom Force Field once the bane of many opponents, is changed for the worse. The good news first, the Kustom Force Field now provides an invulnerable save not a cover save, but putting a model range and not a unit range on it defeats the purpose. Now the Kustom Force Field only effects 6" from the Big Mek leaving it for only close-packed vehicles or Hero-Hammer units. You have to always weigh if you are better off with just taking a Painboy, instead of the 85 point investment required for a Big Mek with a Kustom Force Field.

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Shokk Attack Gun - 50 pts

I get it, its supposed to be silly and fun, but at 50 points I want a lot less risk than I am taking on. The random Strength is sad enough, but to have the doubles nonsense isn't Orky, it is just dumb. There is a hidden great weapon somewhere, like at 20 points I might be persuaded glimpse it. Still, if you are determined to take this ticking time-bomb better put it with a unit of Lootaz or Mek Gunz to just embrace the Dakka and go for it!

 

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Tellyport Blasta - 25 pts

The newest toy to the Big Mek arsenal  isn't half bad, and the best of frankly bad shooty options. It is limited by the range and made worse by the fact only slow Mega-Armour Meks can use it. It shouldn't stop you from getting at least one shot off before attempting to make an Assault. If you are lucky you can possibly Instant Kill annoying units like Riptides or Wraithknights, at the very least cause some white knuckling for your opponent.

 

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Da Fixer Upperz - 15 pts

One of the two artifacts only available to Big Meks, the Da Fixer Upperz should have been included for all Big Meks. A one die improvement for a situational power is hardly worth five points let along 15 points. The Da Fixer Upperz also means you cannot take other more juicy artifacts. Unless your whole point is to hide in a Stompa, just please save the points or take something else.

 

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Mega Force Field - 75 pts

The second Big Mek specific artifact is the Mega Force Field, and as mentioned earlier still suffers from the inherent problems of a normal Kustom Force Field. the only difference is it costs half more and only marginally increases survivability. You can make the case for using it with a unit of Flash Gitz, along with being in Mega-Armour: now you have a mobile shooty platform that can deal a ton of damage. If it takes exotic mixes to make a piece of wargear effective you're almost always better off just keeping it simple and not taking it.

 

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Putting all Together...

The Big Mek is ostensibly penalized by the other HQ choices available to a Ork army. The Big Mek is now third string after the Warboss, Painboy, and in certain circumstances even a Wierdboy. The Big Mek is also hurt by regular Meks being attachable to almost any unit. Then you have the Kustom Force Field not being what it once was creating a recipe for dust collecting. If you still have dreams of shooty Ork lists or walls of repairing the Big Mek is capable of finding a home. Smasha Gun Mek Gunz with Shokk Attack Gun Big Mek for max AP death? You could do worse hiding in a Stompa with a Mega Force Field. The classic Battlewagon rush is gone, but Looted Wagons or Trukk based armies can find solace knowing they will at least get an invulnerable save from the ubiquitous Wave Serpent. If the Big Mek had additional abilities like Will Not Die for other units or provided something more to differentiate itself from the pack it could be something, but alas you are left with really trying to out think yourself to bring the Big Mek to the tabletop.

-- Big Mek Load Outs--

Assault Load Out: 90 pts Infantry (Character); Stikkbombs; Power Klaw; Mega Armour; Killsaw; Mek's Tools; Bosspole; 'Ere We Go!; Bulky; Furious Charge; Mob Rule; Slow and Purposeful

Shooting Load Out: 180 pts ; Infantry (Character); Stikkbombs; Kustom Mega-Blasta; Power Klaw; Mega Armour; Tellyport Blasta; Mek's Tools; Gitfinda; Mega Force Field 'Ere We Go!; Bulky; Furious Charge; Mob Rule; Slow & Purposeful

Balanced Load Out: 79 pts Infantry (Character); Stikkbombs; 'Eavy Armour; Killsaw; Mek's Tools; Kombi Weapon with Skorcha; 'Ere We Go!; Furious Charge; Mob Rule

Support Load Out: 115 pts  Infantry (Character); Stikkbombs; Choppa; Shokk Attack Gun; Mek's Tools; Bosspole; Warbike; Twin-linked Dakkagun x1; 'Ere We Go!; Furious Charge; Mob Rule

Formations

Council of Waaagh!: If you are going to go big better go for it now. The biggest threat to this Formation is getting shot to death before making an Assault, so you better take the Mega Force Field and leave the rest to Ghaz and his friends. You can also go the opposite route and use the Big Mek to soak some damage away from other models, leaving it with minimal upgrades and taking unwanted challenges.

Mogrok's Bossboyz: This Formation provides so many tactical opportunities, like dropping three Shokk Attack Gunz on your opponent's head. You can also duplicate past glories and spread out Kustom Force Fields to most of your army. You can also use the Outflank bonus and bring Tellyport Blasts closer to targets. The real bonus is though is not spamming one particular unique Big Mek ability, but finding the right combination with the Warboss and various Big Meks, like forming a nasty Nob Biker unit. Exploring this Formation is one of the best hidden gems for Big Mek lovers everywhere.

Detachments

Ork Horde Detachment: This is a great detachment to get a Big Mek into an army list, with the extra HQ slot it provides the most effective way for some Deathstar deliverance. You can make a pretty deadly super unit with shooting invulnerable saves, Feel No Pain, and a Waaagh. If you go this route make sure not to skimp on dropping enough points for the Big Mek, because you will most likely need both an Assault and defensive beast.
 
Great Waaagh! Detachment: Unless you are attaching a Big Mek to a Troop choice you won't be getting much mileage. This is silly opportunity for a Weirdboy and Big Mek to team up (keeping with the theme) to jump around the board by hoping for Da Jump, otherwise leave this fun train at home.
 
Final Thoughts...

Overall, the Big Mek has taken a step back, and we should have seen it coming. Games Workshop loves to downgrade old hotness for the new hotness and the Big Mek isn't any different. The saddest part about the fall of the Big Mek is it being the basis for many narrative streams in the Ork consciousness, and lessening its historical impact is unfortunate for all Ork players.

Warning

It's Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.