It’s taken me a while, however the gaming group are finally playing Necromunda. The setting is cracking, the game system solid, and the models are ace; so what took so long? Well, that would be the staggered release at work. A double edged sword if ever there was one. On the one hand we had two gorgeous plastic sets with rules to dive in to. Then again, we only had two gangs and minimal campaign rules to go with it. On the day I bought all the things and my best mate did likewise.
We played a couple games and enjoyed the s*/t out of it. Then I excitedly whipped up a Facebook page for my mates. I told them all how awesome it was. We played one big game, most using the legacy gangs, and then it all went silent. Trouble was, though there were campaign rules, it was all a bit sparse. The trading post (for all those post game shenanigans was just, alright). Now that Gang War 3 is out, that has all changed. That book has shifted the game from being a good one off laugh, to being a great campaign game.
Necromunda Review – TLDR
Necromunda is an ace future fiction game set in the confined subterranean hive city of Necromunda. The aesthetic is very much 80’s to 90’s sci-fi dystopian punk. The game revolves around brutal skirmishes as gangs fight for turf in the Underhive. Players activate fighters one at a time which keeps things fast paced and tactical. The core game provides everything you need for small scale games. The gaming tiles provided allow you to set up a 2d hive in a number of different ways.
The three supplements add in a host of new rules and add in campaign rules. These allow you to develop your gang and fight out turf wars. Books 1 and 3 provide the most extra value to the game. Gang War 1 being essential, as it contains the main campaign rules (along with the Goliath and Escher House campaign lists). Book 3 greatly expands the trading post (which adds in vast amounts of equipment for use in campaigns or one off games), along with a host of extra missions (and the House Van Saar rules). Book 2 mainly contains rules for Hangers on, terrain and a superseded trading post (Book 3 basically covers it and then some!). Although it does also contain the House Orlock rules.
There have (so far) been three White Dwarf’s with additional gang rules: Genestealer Cult, Chaos Cult and Venators (bounty hunters). At the time of writing these are still White Dwarf exclusive (I think). Overall the game is excellent, fast and fun to play. There is an incredible amount of depth if you invest in the supplements. The modelling opportunities are immense as well. It’s easy to write up and develop gang members that inspire you to make models to represent them in-game.
I highly recommend Necromunda to any gaming group that enjoys skirmish games that have a campaign system and scope for developing memorable characters. If however you prefer your box sets to be more self-contained, I would lean towards Warhammer Quest Silver Tower or Warhammer 40’000 Shadow Wars. Outside of Games Workshop there are a number of excellent dystopian skirmish games. I’ll do a round-up of some of my favourites at a later date.
Necromunda’s replay value drastically increases if you have the supplements, however without them the scope is somewhat limited. That said, do it, the game is awesome!
Necromunda – Core Game Review
As the above highlights, the supplements add a lot to the game. Due to that, this review will start by looking at what the core game offers. Contents wise, you have a ten man Goliath gang and a ten lass Escher gang, all the tokens, dice and cards you’ll need along with some bulkheads.
A cool feature is that the box lid doubles as a piece of terrain, perfect for learning the game or using as a secured vault or sectioned off area of the hive. The main rulebook is present and this has all of the core rules, including the Goliath and Escher gangs for one off games. You can either use the pre made fighter cards or design your own gang. I generally use the premade ganger cards as an ‘intro’ for those unfamiliar with the rules.
Being a gamer that enjoys customisation the premade cards have a limited use, however, they’re a neat addition that serve a purpose. You also get just over 20 blank ganger cards. I tried a Frixion pen that you can rub out and it works a treat. So you can make the most out of your blank gang cards.
Roster or cards?
This brings me on to my somewhat odd subheading. Being a seasoned gamer I am used to the more static roster way of playing. Where you have a sheet filled with all of your special snowflakes that you update whenever you pull off a supreme display of heroism. As such, it was odd to transition to cards. That said, though the game rules are intended for the cards, you can go down the roster route and simply roll in situations where you need to select a ganger randomly.
I admit with a pen that you can rub out, I like the cards. I find it easier to keep track of my fighter, especially with activations and lingering effects. If I didn’t have the magic pen, it would annoy me, as the cards look and feel nice and I’d rather not ‘ruin’ them with constant crossings out and amendments.
How does it look?
Really it is. The book looks and feels like a revamped Necromunda, it is packed with artwork of gangers and it still has a nostalgic punk 80’s/90’s feel to it. The design is on point, it feels grimdark yet clean and easy to read. Which is the perfect balance.
The models and scenery are the quality you would expect of Games Workshop, they are beautiful redesigns that retain all the character of their counterparts. The gangers are fairly posable, though there are specific combinations designed. However, with a little effort reposing would be a fairly simple matter, especially if you throw a bit of green stuff in to the mix.
Gaming in the Underhive
The boxed game contains everything you need to play. As mentioned you can choose from the pre-prepared ganger cards or you can use the Goliath or Escher House list to play with your own custom gang.
One of the major differences to the previous edition is that of activation. At the start of a round you roll for priority with your opponent/s. The winner activates their first fighter. Then your opponent activates theirs and so on. Each fighter has two actions per round. Which you declare once you activate them. This mechanic works amazingly well for Necromunda, as rather than both gangs hunkering down and waiting for one to break cover, now, there is far more strategy in anticipating and reacting to how your opponent plays. This was probably the single greatest change. The game flows so much better. It’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth. Just when you think you have the advantage, some ganger comes crashing through a window spraying the room with auto-shells.
Within the book there is enough variation in equipment to allow you to play a number of different types of gang, however this comes with limitations. The supplements are were all the extras are. The core game is just that and though there is plenty of fun to be had brutalising one another in the Underhive. While the main rule book feels a bit limited compared to its predecessor, and old world equivalent (Mordheim, what a game).
Mechanics of movement, shooting and combat are very similar to Warhammer 40’000 8th edition. You have set values to hit and wounding requires a look at your strength compared to the opposition’s toughness (all done via the ever useful d6). All very quick and easy. Necromunda also adds in modifiers, so cover makes a big difference along with accuracy modifiers for ranged and close combat weaponry.
This opens up a variety of play styles, as well as some great modelling opportunities. Humble firearms like the Lasgun can be improved with the addition of a scope. Ranged weaponry and close combat both have their own benefits and drawbacks. Ranged combats main plus is that you’re opponent does not get to react for free, if they want to fire back they will need to activate a fighter to do so. You can also pin your opponent, costing them an action if you hit them. Perfect for slowing your enemies advance down. However, you roll an injury dice with ranged shots and it’s unlikely you’ll one shot a fighter unless you’re packing some serious heat.
Whereas in close combat if you take a fighters last wound off and seriously injure them you get to make a free ‘coup de grace’ action if you charged, combat is brutal! If you mess up though, your opponent gets to make a free reaction attack out of activation sequence.
All of the counters in the set makes this easy to follow. A quick glance will show you if a fighter is pinned (face up), seriously injured (face down), ablaze (oh yeah, you can light ‘em up), broken (like the Imperium) or just plain ready for action (ready marker).
Necromunda Supplements – That’ll learn ‘em
The Necromunda boxed game comes with the core rules. This includes skill, equipment and advanced rules for injuries and such. The book contains two factions, the punk ladies of House Escher and the gene-bulked Goliaths. That’s the crux of where it’s limitations are, there are only two gangs. GW were ace in providing ‘legacy rules’ however these lack the character of a full House list.
The core rules also don’t have the campaign rules in. In terms of gameplay Necromunda really comes alive with the additional gangs found in the supplements, and the opportunity to develop your gang. Sure, sometimes your ganger might take a harpoon to the gut and be dragged off a precarious ledge to their death, but that’s how the game can go and it’s all the more tense for it. Will he break his legs, or did his head explode like a melon. Wait, he’s critically injured, a trip to the doc will sort him. Ah damn, but that costs credits. He did have those chronic pains, maybe it’s better this way….
In a nutshell the three supplements contain new gang rules, terrain features, hangers on, a plethora of named characters, campaign rules (experience, credits, injuries, etc), and an expanded trading post. The supplements are currently £17.50 each. So on top of the core set (as you cannot currently buy the rule book separately), you are probably looking at about £150 with a bit of terrain.
That said, if you have a gaming group that enjoys the grimdark dystopian punk setting of the Underhive, this is a sure fire win. I recently bought the Van Saars from Triple Helix Wargames. They give a really good discount and service was top notch. A decent alternative to buying direct from GW, although it’s always a solid option to support your local store when possible.
One Last Thing
It would be a misgiving to talk about Necromunda and not mention the Inq 28 scene. To say the Necromunda ruleset is adaptable to Inq28 is like saying water is a good way to stay hydrated. There is a tonne of scope especially with how gang members have cards and their own activations (mini turns). I played a test game with a mate, we whipped up a super quick narrative just to see how it might work and it plays beautifully.
Overall Necromunda is a great boxed game, it starts off somewhat limited but the supplements really make it ace. There are those that will still want to wait for ‘their’ gang, which is understandable, however as it is, the game is at a great jumping on point.
Let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions feel free to shout.
Take care all.
N.B. Pictures used from Games Workshop website for review purposes.