I’ve always enjoyed films and books set in a post-apocalyptic world, you only need to look at my previous writing on Gears of War to understand how much I get drawn into it. Recently I’ve been talking to a few friends at work about this and we started reminiscing on the days we used to play in the Grim Dark universe of Warhammer 40,000. For those who don’t know Warhammer 40,000 (or 40K as its otherwise known) is a table top war game using 28mm scale miniatures characterised by the Super Soldiers of the Space Marines or the alien menace of the Orks. Personally I used to play as the Imperial Guard, a massive force of human soldiers who would make up for poor accuracy with pure weight of fire. I used to really enjoy playing the game but unfortunately it can be a very expensive hobby to get into and requires a large outlay of costs to get a sizeable army. Games themselves can last for hours so unless you’ve got a full day to give to it, you are going to end up rushing.
It was during a discussion with my friends that we remembered Necromunda, a game set in the 40k universe but instead of looking at huge battles between armies it focused on gang warfare in the slums of a Hive city, a massive vertical city stretching from the stratosphere all the way down to deep under the earth. Each gamer would take control of a game of 5 to 10 characters, all armed uniquely and fight out for money, tech and glory.
Recently Games Workshop, the company who created Warhammer and all its spin off games, stopped supporting its Specialist Games range and removed all products and rules from their website. This included Necromunda and has left the way open for fans to take control of the game and improve on it, creating a quicker playing, free rulebook. One site that has really made inroads is Yaktribe, a forum based community which has created free downloadable versions of all the rules for Necromunda, including the NCE or Necromunda Community Edition. An updated edition of the original rules which have improved on an already good game. Along with the downloadable information Yaktribe have online Gang creators so you can store all your gangs’ stats and info, you can even run your campaign though it and show what has happened in each game to all players. It’s a fantastic tool and very versatile.
After downloading the rules and information pack I got reading, losing myself in the fiction of the Necromunda underhive universe. The main game is split into six Gangs, each of which have their own perks and bonuses:
House Orlock: House Orlock is known as the House of Iron because its foundations lie upon deep ferrous slag pits. This massive resource has led to the largest profession in the house to be miners. While not only iron miners, this is their largest export. From a player perspective Orlock are considered the “default” house with no notable strengths or weaknesses, with their gangers getting access to Combat, Ferocity, and Shooting skills.
House Cawdor: House Cawdor is the stronghold of the Cult of Redemption. For this reason all of the gangers wear masks in public to hide their faces from the ‘infidels’ of the other houses. They are known to hunt mutants and heretics to the point of fanaticism (part of the Redemptionist influence) which bring them into conflict with gangs who would utilize them. From a player perspective House Cawdor is a fast moving close combat house with the gangers having access to Combat, Ferocity, and Agility skills.
House Delaque: Other hivers are justifiably suspicious of House Delaque, who specialise in spying and assassination. The gangers often wear large trench coats, with large internal pockets for concealing weapons and other large items. Most are bald and extremely pale. Many wear visors, goggles or have light filters implanted into their eyes, a sensitivity to light being a common Delaque weakness. Delaque territory is even more dimly lit than the rest of the hive, fitting for a people who are shrouded in mystery. From a player perspective House Delaque are the ranged specialists, with their gangers having access to Shooting, Agility, and Stealth skills
House Escher: Strikingly different from the other houses, the Escher population is almost entirely made up of women. The few men that are there are shrivelled and imbecilic and play no part in the normal affairs of the Escher. Men are held in contempt and pitied by the Escher, especially those of House Goliath who are seen as simple, brutish and unsophisticated. From a player perspective, House Escher are a fast moving and hard to hit close combat gang with their gangers having access to Combat, Agility, and Stealth skills.
House Goliath: They consider the hivers of other Houses to be soft and slack. In truth all hivers are naturally robust, being inured to the toxins and deprivations which they accept unquestioningly as part of normal life. The Goliaths, however, take a stubborn pride in their ability to endure hardship. Their style of dress emphasises a preoccupation with physique, featuring weighty chains and spiked metal bracers. From a player perspective, House Goliath are a slow moving close combat gang, being the only house to have gangers with access to Strength skills, and also having Combat and Ferocity skills.
House Van Saar: House Van Saar is renowned for the quality of its technical products. Its technology is no more advanced than that of anyone else, progress being almost non-existent throughout the Imperium, but the manufacturing processes are precise and its finished materials are of the highest quality. The Van Saar are marked out by their tight-fitting body-suits which help to sustain them in the harsh hive environment. Semi-permeable membranes in the suit reduce the loss of body moisture whilst various spots on the material change color to warn the wearer of airborne toxins and reduced oxygen levels. Older Van Saar are often seen sporting a neatly trimmed beard. From a player perspective, House Van Saar are the only house whose gangers have access to tech skills – and they back this up with shooting and combat skills.
Back in its heyday the game was expanded to include new gangs: these have of course been brought forward by the fans meaning you can still play as Enforcers, Redemptionists, Ratskins, Pit Slaves, Spyre Hunters and Scavvies as well as a host of other gangs created by the fans.
With all this variety and story to go though it took me a while to decide what I would start working on but in the end it turned out to be an easy choice. For my style of play, style of modelling and style of humour it had to be Squat Miners. A throwback from the early days of 40k these where a sci-fi version of your classic dwarfs armed with pick axes, mining charges and a general stoic nature that suited me fine. When creating a gang in Necromunda, instead of using a points allowance as you would normally in 40k, each player starts with 1000 credits and has to buy their gang and all their equipment. Each gang has its own rules of how many basic gangers you can have in relation to ‘juves’ who are a less experienced but cheaper form of ganger who can only be armed with the simplest of weapons. If playing in a full story driven campaign it is possible for each character to gain experience at the end of each game and level up, meaning your cheap juves might one day become full fledged gangers.
Necromunda campaigns also look to the health of your gangers. In a game if a character gets wounded only in some circumstances will they be automaticly killed (for instance, if a character is shot full on with a plasma gun and incinerated, there is not chance of them coming back) in normal games the character will “go down” and be incapacitated until the end of the game. At this point the player would roll on an injuries table to see what lasting wounds they might have. Now in some cases this will end in death but you can end up with some interesting situations like missing legs, arms, eyes or just a general hatred for the character that shot them. If a character does lose a limb it is normal for the player to re model the character to include their new limb, be it a peg leg or a full bionic prosthetic.
Now as Necromunda is no longer supported this means that the original models and parts are no longer made but if any thing this is a good challenge for the community. It gives players the scope to unleash their imagination and create their own individual gang from bits and pieces from other scale games. For my Squat Miners I started with a box of GWs fantasy Dwarf miners and then just threw the contents of my Bitz box at it. Sticking on lasguns, grenades and backpacks where ever they would hold. The community at large are fantastic help when it comes to creating gangs giving you somewhere to bounce ideas off and further resources to try. Its fantastic fun and really interesting to see what other gamers create, some wanting to stick to the original models will search though Ebay and such sites to create the perfect gang and its fantastic seeing these miniatures on the table. My Friend it playing with a Redemptionist gang currently and I’ve always like these models, they really embrace the Grim Dark future with all the spikes and flames and bring an element of pure madness to the table.
The game itself can be very quick to play with the rules being easy to pick up but a challenge to master. The gaming space itself is normally no larger than a 4’ square but always try to bring in hight on the table, meaning you can place characters high up to shoot down on unsuspecting victims. The more you play with more you can bring in like environmental rules, gas grenades, different types of ammo and even NPCs (Non-Player Characters) to generally get in the way and cause havoc. The fact with all these games you can write in an overarching storyline and RPG story elements really makes the game playable over a long period of time. I’ve seen games where people have started to involve real world elements into their games like maps, letters from crime lords and of course a bit of costuming to join in!
I would recommend Necromunda to anyone looking to have a bit of fun and introduce themselves to RPG games and table top war-gaming. It’s inexpensive to start and can become as complex as a player might want it to be and don’t worry, once my gang is up and painted and had a fight I will let you know how it went!
In case you missed it the link to Yaktribe is http://gaming.yaktribe.org/
Gang artwork created by Will Beck and used on the Yaktribe website.