Necromunda: Underhive

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Review: Going Deeper Underhive

May 26, 2018 by doctorether Cult of Games Member

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Necromunda is the second proper foray of Forge World and Games Workshop into the world of Specialist Games.

Specialist Games I hear you ask you padawan, what is that.

Well years and years ago, Games Workshop had a stable house that looked after the smaller spin-off games set in the Warhammer and 40k settings. These games were quite niche, focusing on aspects of the settings, ranging from small scale skirmish to large scale epic battles. Perhaps the jewel in the crown of this collection of Specialist Games, was Necromunda.

Necromunda is in it's 3rd edition now (perhaps 4th if you include the game Confrontation that was the precursor to Necromunda - not the same game as the one by Rackham). Necromunda takes players to the choking hive city of Hive Primus, and the battles for supremacy in these mile high cities for control of industry, technology and commerce, between 6 main Houses. Necromunda involves controlling gangs from each of these houses, and engaging in brutal fights across the shattered industrial landscape within the vast city.

Many aspects of Necromunda will be familiar to players of 40k. Boltguns are rare weapons for these gangs, plasma guns are dangerous to use - both for the victim and the user, autoguns and lasguns are the most reliable and ubiquitous weapons given that the foundries of the hive produce these on vast scales for the Astra Militarum. But the game really gets down into the nuts and bolts of combat, as each gang member is a character unto their self, armed with all manner of equipment and armour which in a game of 40k would be just a footnote, but in these gang fights can be key to victory.

Necromunda in the past 2 editions shared a rule system with 40k's 2nd ed, and which gamers will have seen reused in Shadow War: Armageddon. Long story short, close combat was a chore, working out modifiers etc was not rapid, but Necromunda was a favourite for many other reasons beyond combat and gun fights. Fighters seriously injured in a gang fight risked persistent injuries, capture, or death. But also gang members could gain experience, and as a result learn new skills, improve traits, and acquire new gear. This roleplay game like aspect to the game added an emergent narrative, which when combined with numerous players participating in a campaign, could lead to dramatic stories and tales of heroism.

Necromunda Underhive is a new excursion into this world, and unlike Bloodbowl, is not just a repackage of old content with tarted up printing and models.

Underhive is a self contained boxed game that allows you to play a series of linked games, or one of battles, between two preconstructed gangs, the Amazonian like Escher, and brutish Goliaths, with the option of designing your own gangs. Unlike previous editions of Necromunda there are no rules for injuries and campaign play, or for the other Houses.

If we consider the components initially what we get is a different experience to classic Necromunda. Inside are 9 double sided tiles, that when arranged created a network of tunnels within the underhive. This is 2d fighting. No grid, but only battles on a single level. Along with these tiles there are plastic doors and bulkheads, and barricades for the gangers to hide behind. Along with the terrain there are the 2 gangs (10 models each) that have many equipment options. And of course the models are to the standard we expect of Games Workshop in this day and age - dynamic looking and highly detailed. There are plenty of dice, templates, and also a few new components we can talk about with regards to the rules.

Necromunda and Shadow War: Armageddon operated like 40k 2nd ed. I activate each model in my gang at a time, they move (or run, or stand and aim), shoot, or engage in combat. Now the other option to running and shooting, was overwatch, where a ganger stays still, and takes aim, awaiting to fire on any target moving into or out of his line of sight. Overwatch killed the dynamic of the game. Entire gangs sitting ready to shoot, while the other gang did the same. Yawn.

Necromunda Underhive switches things up, borrowing a good amount from the current edition of 40k. So wound rolls, armour, all are now much quicker to evaluate. As is close combat. You simply roll your attacks and need to roll higher than your WS rating. No need to make opposed rolls like in the classic version. Underhive also introduces a few new stats, like Cool, Will and Intelligence. These, along with Leadership, represent a more nuanced look at how well mentally a ganger can perform - important when you are hacking a coded lock on a door.

But the key divergence of the rules is the turn sequence. Each ganger now activates in an alternating manner. I activate one of my gang. Then you do the same. There are some more rules that can alter how many get activated at once, but once a ganger activates they typically have 2 actions to spent. These are actions like move, shoot, reload, dive for cover, get up, etc. Actions are classified as simple, basic, or double. So reload is simple. Simple actions can be performed multiple times in an activation. Basic, like shoot, or aim, or move, are performed only once. To run, you move twice. To charge into combat, or shoot a heavy weapon, is a double action.

You can see that this turn sequence makes things very interesting. You can shoot then move. Move then shoot. Aim and shoot. And of course this all relies on you anticipating your opponent's next activations. There is a degree of bluffing to the game.

So what about 3d battlefields and campaigns. What about the other gangs, or campaign play.

The books Gang War 1, 2 and 3, bring to the game these extra rules, new scenarios, and the Orlocks and Van Saar gangs.

Great so this game is perfect right?

Wrong!!!

Between Underhive, Gang War 1, 2 and 3, plus rules appearing in White Dwarf, there have been many inconsistencies. Weapon ranges, hit modifiers, rules etc. It's been a mess. Frustrating to say the least. Gang War 3 has done plenty to remedy this, along with a errata that came out recently.

So conclusions.

Necromunda Underhive is a exciting and fun return to a beloved setting and game, with a great update to the fundamentals of the rules, while introducing some new things and expanding the world even further. We have 2 more gangs to be added to the game - Cawdor and Delaque, and we already have in White Dwarf rules for Genestealer Cults and Chaos Cults. Named characters are in the books, rules for an Arbitrator to run the campaign and more are already provided. We can also expect even more things as other Hive Cities are detailed, and new Guilds are added to the game.

So long as you keep a cool head and use some common sense many of the rules issues can be solved and you and your players will have hours of exciting and cinematic battles.

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