Getting started with Necromunda

Hey everybody!
It’s my 900th post, and I wanted to do something kinda special to mark the occasion. As it turns out, Blood Bowl isn’t the only game I’m finally getting into! I’ve talked about Necromunda a few times on this blog already, so I think it’s about time to take a look at the game in more detail. Think of this as something of a sequel to last year’s brief overview blog!

The Basics
Necromunda Underhive is a skirmish game where players control the members of a gang, vying for supremacy in the Underhive. At its most basic, the game is quite straightforward, consisting of three phases in each round. To begin, players roll off to see who gets Priority for that round, then all the fighters are readied.

The Action phase sees each gang member activated, alternating between each player. Each fighter can take two actions. There are a number of different actions available to players, grouped into basic actions (which can only be taken once in each activation), simple actions (which can be taken more than once), and double actions (which take up both action slots for the fighter). So for instance, moving is a simple action and so can be taken twice, while shooting or fighting is a basic action that can only be taken once, and charging is a double action (though it does allow for a fighter to make a free fight action if he or she ends that charge in base-to-base contact with an enemy gang member).

Resolving both shooting and close combat attacks works exactly the same as regular 40k, whereby fighters make a ballistic skill / weapon skill check, and if it is successful, make a roll comparing the weapon strength to the target’s toughness and referring to the usual to-wound chart. The target gets the chance to save against the attack (unless the weapon’s AP value negates that), and damage is inflicted. If a fighter is reduced to 0 wounds, they are taken out of action. There is an end phase which, in the basic rules, is only there to mark the end of the round.

Advanced Rules
At its most basic, that’s it! There are a number of scenarios in the main rulebook that add a few special rules to the game, but overall victory is still attained by taking gangers out of action. However, there are a number of Advanced Rules that feature in the book as well, which really add a layer of depth to the game that can be somewhat confusing at first, though seem to be well worth adding in to give the game that all-important depth.

Within the Advanced Rules, there are rules for activating groups of fighters at a time – activating up to two additional fighters when you activate a Leader or Champion – as well as a host of additional tidbits that make combat so much more interesting (and deadly!) Rules for running out of ammo, firing two pistols at the same time (flying through the air is optional), stray shots, as well as assisting and interfering in close combat attacks all add to the tactical nuances that make the game so appealing. There are also detailed rules for suffering injury at the hands of rival gangs.

The End Phase comes into its own with the Advanced Rules. If any gang member is seriously injured, the gang will need to make a Bottle Test, which functions similarly to the Morale phase of regular 40k, with the exception that you’re looking to compare the dice roll + number of gang members injured or out of action with the number of gang members who started the game. You then get to make a Recovery Test to see if those fighters can recover or succumb to their wounds. When a fighter is initially wounded, others close by need to make a Nerve Test to see if their bottle goes. In the end phase, those fighters who Broke have the chance of Rallying.

Gang Composition
The main Necromunda Underhive base game comes with two gangs, Escher and Goliath, each of which came with pre-populated fighter cards that dictate how to build the models to make a named gang. When founding a gang of your own, each gang has options for how many of each type of gang member you can include as a start: Leader (usually one), Champion (usually two), Ganger (usually no more than the combined total of other gang members) and Juves (usually unlimited). Each type of fighter costs a number of credits to purchase, and of course their wargear and weapons also cost credits. The main rulebook gives 1500 credits as the limit for a starting gang, though 1000 credits seems to be more normal in the few brief conversations I’ve had about the game.

Fighters can sometimes have access to skills that give them additional options during the fight. Weapons have traits that can give even more options. It all begins to feel a little bit confusing (and not a little unlike 7th edition 40k!) In this respect, then, I think it’s a really great thing that GW have given us the basic rules to use as something of a primer, to get used to things before adding in all of the more complex stuff. Of course, Necromunda has had so much released for it up to this point that it begins to feel much like a sandbox game, but I’ll get to that in a bit!

There are also Tactics cards available for each gang. These cards are split between generic gang tactics, and gang-specific cards. You create a deck of them at the start of the battle, shuffling the generic ones with those of your chosen gang, then the scenario you’re playing will dictate how many you can use, as well as whether you get to choose your cards or have to choose them at random.

Of course, I say these cards are available for use – GW has not been able to keep them in stock, and most of them are no longer available for purchase. While sometimes the card packs and dice sets they put out with a new release are somewhat bonuses to the main event, these cards actually have new and additional rules to them that make it quite difficult to get into the game if you haven’t been there for each release. I suppose it’s always possible that there are just supply problems and GW are trying to put these right, but for now at least, it’s going to be difficult for newcomers.

Necromunda makes great use of terrain, and while the base game does involve some scatter terrain placed onto a tiled board, with all the rules needed for encountering it in a variety of ways, there are rules for multi-level gang skirmishes that take place among the gantries and chains of environments such as the Sector Mechanicus terrain.

With the release of the Palanite Enforcers last weekend, there are now seven gangs available to use in the Underhive. GW have also given us rules for Genestealer Cults and Chaos Cults in the game, two of the more convincing factions from regular 40k that make the most sense for use here! I’ve talked at length in previous blogs about just how much I love the more regular factions like these, which consist of just average folks (if Genestealer Cultists can be called “average”!) that have that indescribable grim-dark feel to them. I mean, it’s arguable that these factions are more 40k than Space Marines or Tyranids! All of which just adds up to yet more reasons to love this game!

While each gang was being released across 2018, they were accompanied with a Gang War book. The first Gang War featured advanced terrain rules to allow for the famous 3D-style games, while subsequent books included the rules for the new gang as well as a Trading Post featuring new and exotic weapons that your gang can come across during campaigns. These books formed something of a treasure trove of ideas and really bring out the RPG-style element of the game that so many people love it for.

These supplements were combined into the Gangs of the Underhive hardback book that came out last Christmas, and the updated hardback Rulebook, much to the annoyance of players who had been buying these products as they came out. Personally, I was of the opinion that these softcovers did at least allow for players to, you know, actually play with their miniatures for a year or so, which can only be a good thing.

So far this year, we’ve seen a pair of hardback campaign books released alongside the new plastic kits each quarter, The Book of Peril and, most recently, The Book of Judgement. While featuring rules for the new releases, there are also campaign rules and a whole smorgasbord of additional bits and pieces that can colour games of Necromunda in new and interesting ways. The Book of Peril is possibly most noticeable for introducing the idea of the Guilds of Necromunda as factions, something that has been teased for a while now…

Necromunda Underhive is a game that I’m hoping to play soon, having convinced a couple of people at the local club to give it a try. While the base game is decent enough, of course, there are so many additional moving parts and rules that add so much depth to the experience that it becomes something closer to a traditional RPG than a simple boardgame. The game is so customisable that it really boggles my mind, and I find myself just itching to play it whenever I think about it!

So I’m finally going to be playing some games with this very soon. I’m intending to feature the game quite a deal more on my blog hereafter, as it’s a game that has really captured my imagination right from the outset. Look out for more content as the months go on, and hopefully I’ll even get to try a campaign or two! It’s going to be an exciting few months as the year draws to a close, let me tell you!