Monday, May 6, 2013

So long, Underhive!

It's been so long since I joined this hobby.  In the late 80's and early 90's, I was simply a minis painter and wished I could actually have something somewhat resembling some kind of force.  I finally got a Space Marine army going just after 2nd edition hit, and had little hope of going much further.  Then I was able to talk my Dad into getting me a starter kit for Christmas- a Necromunda one!  It was expensive (for back then), but it came with everything two players needed to play a game, a campaign, or even some epic adventure of Rogue Trader goodness with minis (long before there was an RPG, mind you).  That was it.  I was hooked, and it started me onto the long hobby journey that led me to starting a little 'ol blog...

Well, I'm sure most of you have heard that GW is 'selling-down' their specialist games.  With this news seems to follow the idea that GW is setting up to sell.  I don't know that to be true, but I expected the specialist games to go away for many years now.  We, while wearing the power armour, went from carrying and promoting Warmaster, Mordheim, and BFG in our shops to not at all.  We were repeatedly told about the newly-established Specialist Games no longer being a priority and it was all a matter of profit.  Being a businessman, I understood.  In my opinion, this shouldn't be a surprise or even really news to anyone.  And that's all I think of the whole thing.

What does make me sad is seeing one of my favorite games get lost to history.  It makes me feel old.  Even Star Fleet Battles is still kicking around (that even has a new, more streamlined edition)!  I recently reunited with a friend from looooooooong ago and it turns out that he is now a Necromunda fanboy.  I've pulled my stuff out a number of times, only to put it back because I don't have enough of any second gang to get anything started.  Oh well, it is what it is.

So here's the whole point of this post- to pimp Necromunda one last time!  I love this game.  It's great for three reasons:
1.  It's a skirmish-style game.  There's no units and battles are between 8-14 models per side.  It goes fast, has alot of dramatic effects built into the rules, and represents some ridiculous throw-down potential.
2.  It's the old 2nd edition 40k rules.  For you newer guys out there, it's a great chance to see a snapshot of those long-gone days.  For you older hats out there, it's the multi-roll effects we've missed from back in the day!  Remember 'sustained fire' or 'overwatch (the old way)'?  They're here.  and finally:
3.  It's the grim-dark future in a scale that actually lets you get into it!  RPGs are great, but they are more about telling the story than participating in it.  Miniature wargames are great because they give you that 'participation' aspect, but the scale is too large for any meaningful storytelling (at the tabletop, of course).  In this case, you get to see what the poverty-stricken of the most hi-tech, stereotypical world in the 40k universe see.  You get to see all the elements of the 'Mad Max' inspiration of the 80's.

Now let's take a look at the actual game:

The rules used to be part of the starter box, but that's long gone and can now be purchased as a stand-alone book.  Better yet, GW made this a 'living rulebook' and made it available online and free.  Here it is:

You need to have some pretty cool terrain for this game.  Here's what the basic 'battlefield' looks like for an average game:

To be fair, if you don't have the proper terrain, you can make your own OR just pick up the Cityfight stuff that GW currently produces.  Some creativity (such as using movement trays as a basis for bridges and catwalks) can bring that terrain to life quickly.  Ruins, barrels and boxes, and even broke-down vehicles can really bring a Necromunda table to life.  Whatever the terrain you do finally choose- use alot of it!  Necromunda is a 'true line-of-sight' game and the terrain matters.  

Next come the gangs themselves.  Necromunda has 6 'basic' gangs, each representing a powerful family/clan/alliance with their own interests in whatever industry there is under the hive-city.  Each gang is simply the collection of various members of these groups battling for survival and dominance in the near-lawless Underhive.  And they each have their various special rules: 

The miners of the Underhive, responsible for the metallic ores so desperately needed.  They are the 'run-of-the-mill' team of basic dudes that can do anything.

They work in the Chem-pits, harvesting caustic acids and toxic fungi for use in manufactoring and food.  They are mutated to be big and tough, but not terribly bright or calm.

This gang gathers information for the lords in the middle hive.  They are sneaky and especially keen at subterfuge and sabotage.  But they hate bright light, a genetic flaw.

From the matriarchal clans, these women are mean and aggressive, proving their value and disrespecting men every chance they get.  Swift and nimble, they are a great threat.

This gang are the missionaries of the Imperial Cult.  They are very, very conservative and see all transgressions against the church of the Emperor to be a grave crime.  They are tricky, though, as they are less fanatics and more simply thugs.

Van Saar
Responsible for the manufactor of the master-crafted equipment of the noble houses, they are very adept at anything technology.  They are the richest of all the families, and that forces them to use that technology or lose everything.

But there's more!  Not only do players get to grow their gangs and gain new equipment and skills, but there's other expansions to the game as well!  Most importantly is the 'Outlaws', those gangs found to be beyond the law of the Underhive and made up of very esoteric elements.  

These are the mutants, zombies, and monsters of the Underhive.  They are plague-ridden and unhealthy, but they are also very bitter and mutated to be powerful in a fight...

Where the Cawdor are thugs, the Redemptionists are fanatics.  They burn and kill anything and everything that is frowned upon by the Church, and they have a bad habit of doing it to figures of authority...

They are the original natives of the Underhive.  Descended from family trees older than the history of Necromunda itself, these people have devolved to worshiping the native spirits of the hives and roaming as rats do.  Great guides, they are also fierce opponents.

Finally, the game has a deep and rich background as well.  When the noble sons decide to come to the Underhive and 'cull the herd' wearing extremely powerful suits of combat armor, it can ruin a gang's day.  Special characters are everywhere, and even things such as Bounty Hunters and Pub Scum can be hired to give some aid.  But Necromunda is all about the law, even if it can't get everywhere.  But when it comes to the Underhive, this is what it looks like:

If you have never played the game before, find someone that has and have them teach you.  If you used to be a Hive-head, make sure to grab up those last few things you need.  You may not be able to get it much longer, and it would be a shame to not be able to play ever again.

And never forget about this, the easiest way to get a gang if you can't get a 'normal' one:

I can't tell you how many new players started with Necromunda this way...

Happy Gaming!


  1. I started with Gorkamorka. Back when Orks were smaller and skinnier.

  2. Cool post. Highly suggest you check out Anthony Case's updated rules. His updates are very balanced and keep all the flavour. Our group loves necromunda and are ramping up to start up our 3rd campaign in 5 years.

  3. Eh... It's hard for me to have much of a reaction to this. I never played any specialist games, and I joined and left GW as an employee after they'd already been out of circulation in stores for a bit.

    It seems to me that one shouldn't be very upset by the fact that they're being sold down. The game systems haven't been supported for years, the models suck and nobody really plays them anymore...