Advantages Small-scale wargaming, good setting, rules freely available and few models needed
Disadvantages Limited model support from GW, some lack of balance in the core rules
|Value for Money|
|Playability & Enjoyment|
|Design & Presentation|
Necromunda is a tabletop miniatures game created by Games Workshop (best-known for Warhammer and its futuristic cousin Warhammer 40,000). Unlike the aforementioned games, however, it’s not about large battles between rival armies, but rather gang warfare in a futuristic city. Each player controls a gang, usually between eight and twelve models, each of whom is equipped and fights as an individual. (This set the formula employed by later games such as Gorkamorka and Mordheim, though pioneered really by Blood Bowl.)The game is designed to be played on a table-top or similar surface, around four feet by four feet in size. For an exciting game, this should be heavily covered in scenery (preferably urban in nature and with multiple levels for gangs to fight across). The boxed version of the game comes with some slot-together cardboard and plastic buildings, which are a good start but not really enough. Enthusiastic modellers can produce breathtaking miniature scenery, but in a pinch Pringles tubes and cereal boxes will suffice.
Gang members are represented by miniatures, generally around 28mm high and representing appropriately the weapons that each fighter carries (for instance, one may have a shotgun, while another has a pistol and knife). All gangs consist of a leader, up to two ‘heavies’ (who carry the most powerful specialised guns), regular ‘gangers’ and the young and inexperienced ‘juves’ (who may find themselves used as bait or cannon fodder!)I won’t try to describe the rules in full. Combat (shooting and hand-to-hand) is based on the rules of 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000 (which was current when Necromunda was first released in 1995). It’s more complex than current versions of 40k, and in fact introduced some further complications, such as weapons running out of ammo or even exploding, but with far fewer models to keep track of it’s generally manageable. As well as one-off games, campaign rules are also included, allowing gangs to progress, acquiring more experience, special skills, and rare equipment as they do.
I could go further into the rules, and describing the various different gang factions (‘Houses’), but aside from making this a very long review, it wouldn’t really convey my opinion of it. If you want to find out more, I’ll tell you where at the end. Now, here’s my opinion: I think Necromunda’s a great game. I’d say that it ranks, along with Blood Bowl, as one of Games Workshop’s best – I definitely prefer either to the full-sized armies clashing in the more famous Warhammer games.I like having just a few models, so each one really counts. I like the more detailed rules. I like that the game includes plenty of flexibility for inventing or altering the rules to represent unusual cases, such as plague zombie invasions. I like the dark cyber-punk theme.
It’s true that there are some faults with the game. In the original rules, there were no (non-cosmetic) differences between the Houses when used in one-off game mode, only in campaign. The later addition of ‘house weapon lists’ was a poor fix, however, and often ignored by many gaming groups. Moreover, when playing in a campaign, the internal balance isn’t perfect. Some skills lists (such as techno) are much more useful than others (such as muscle), so some gangs eventually end up much more powerful than similarly experienced rivals. But these problems aren’t too serious and it’s easy enough to devise various solutions. (I should say this means departing from the printed rules, but this isn’t a game commonly played by strangers: a campaign will normally be run by a regular group, who can adapt the rules just as the rules of football can be adapted to suit a friendly kickaround in the park.)The main problem with Necromunda is that it’s been out of print for over ten years. Along with many similar titles, Games Workshop ceased to support it, in order to focus on their core systems. But if you look under the ‘specialist games’ table on www.games-workshop.com you will find that most of the models are still available (just not the basic game box!) and, even better, the rules can be freely downloaded. These rules are not those that originally appeared in the box set, but are updated in several ways. They’re not always improved (in my opinion) but these are probably the most ‘definitive’ rules these days and they’re freely available.
The original boxed game can still be found from time to time via sources such as eBay. As well as card scenery, templates, and the (obsolete) rule books, it included plastic models representing Orlock and Goliath gangs (twelve of each), but they weren’t the best and limited in options.The metal gang figures can be ordered from Games Workshop (or, again, often purchased second hand) but are over-priced even by their standards at £20-25 for eight models. The good news though is that it’s relatively easy to convert other more recent models, such as Catachan Imperial Guard troopers, to represent most of the gangs. (If you’re interested in this, some Googling will soon lead to many suggestions and examples.)
It’s worth noting that whereas Warhammer could, in principle, be played with rectangles or cardboard labelled ‘Orc unit #1’ (etc), the miniatures are particularly important in Necromunda, since each gang member is individually-equipped and one needs to judge how much of each can be seen in order to be shot at. But since the number of miniatures needed is small, this isn’t much of a problem. It’s much cheaper and easier to buy, model and paint a gang than to do a whole army for Warhammer 40,000. From this respect, I think Necromunda is (despite the more complicated rules) much more friendly for beginners.If you (or your child, from age 10-12 upwards) begins to show an interest in wargaming, then this is quite a good starting point, since it has a much lower entry cost and not much will be lost if it turns out to be only a passing phase.
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