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Free papercraft Warhammer 40k alternative slams mecha together

Unlike Warhammer 40k, everything about Junk Runners, from rules to minis, is provided free - though you’ll need a printer and card!

Two junk runners cargo mechs face off against one another with their grabbing claws, one with a car on its back

Junk Runners is a free indie wargame with papercraft mecha minis, perfect if you want to join the cool kids playing sci-fi wargames like Warhammer 40k but don’t have cash to burn. Created by graphic designer and long-time gamer David Smith, it’s a love-letter to mecha anime like Macross and 86: EIGHTY-SIX.

Smith discovered miniature wargames through Battletech, inspired by his love of Robotech and the Macross anime. Like most gamers he’s played “many editions of Warhammer 40k”, and is a “big fan of campaign style skirmish games like Necromunda, Gorkamorka, and the new Monolith Conan Games”.

A battle scene from the indie papercraft wargame Junk Runners - blue and red quadruped mecha attempt to grab pallets of cargo, and blast at one another

Smith “wanted to make a skirmish game that could be easy to get into”. He says that “there are a lot of great games that no one is playing or trying out due to cost”.

He recalls how he had been experimenting with “papercraft humanoid robots” for some time. “I just love the designs and the concept of these sci-fi war machines ”, he says, “but they were too big for wargaming”. That was until he had the breakthrough idea of making “geometric, forklift drones”.

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He was inspired by the spider-like drones in recent anime series 86: EIGHTY-SIX. As a brief aside from this article, we highly recomm,end the series to anyone who likes grimdark sci-fi and kick–ass robot fights. Enslaved mecha-pilots fighting a doomed war against a drone army piloted by the brains of the dead? Yes please.

Smiths new crab-mech models are “big enough for papercraft and sized for tabletop games”. They, and the accompanying wargames terrain Smith has made, are the same scale as Warhammer 40k faction minis.

A junk runners papercraft mule mech carries a pallet of goods

The game rules, miniatures, reference cards, and background, are free to download from Smith’s website. The rules lean into the mecha theme. While some of the mecha have dedicated firepower, others disrupt enemy signals and make it harder for them to activate units, and some mule units simply exist to pick up and carry cargo.

Like all good mecha games, you can change the pilots in your vehicles, each one bringing unique skills.

Three pilot cards for Junk Runners, each with a portrait and the text of a special ability

Smith says he aims “to keep the rules simple and memorable”. They’re certainly short, filling less than 20 pages, many of which are taken up by scenarios. Smith hopes “to build a player base and to add models, scenarios, and lore in the upcoming years”.

If you’ve got access to a printer and some DnD dice, there’s nothing to stop you from testing out this game! If you’re a sucker for mecha and anime, there are two other indie wargames you need to look at: the unofficial 30 Minute Missions wargame, based on the Bandai model line of the same name, and the unofficial Gundam and Gunpla wargame Mecha Stellar.