The Noob Looks Into Necromunda

So I saw James and Bryan leaving on Tuesday with what looked like armfuls of stuff for playing, not just painting or working on stuff. It turns out that they were off to play Necromunda, so they could bone up on how to play. It’s a name I’d heard before, but nothing I’d actually looked INTO. And what with Games Workshop about to release their biggest box set of minis ever… Well, noob, you know what this means, don’t you? TIME TO LEARN YOU A BOOK. Well… time to have a look through and do some research anyway.

Now… In a completely DIFFERENT game, a Gen-X gamer, and as an expatriate Seattle-ite, I’ve got a thing for Shadowrun. I’ve even got the amount of dice necessary to play the previous editions should I ever get the chance. I’ve often paraphrased Blackadder in that I’d mud-wrestle my own mother to get a chance to properly play Shadowrun again. That game starts you off in the treaty city of Seattle. But to the south of that, you have ‘The Barrens‘. Yes, the font’s not the only thing Blizzard ripped off from FASA. However in this case, the Barrens are the ash-covered remains Tacoma, WA, after Mount Rainier erupted… well, August 17th 2017. So a few years ago. (Don’t fret. Blade Runner is no longer in the future either. That’s happened THIS month, gentle readers.)

And the Tacoma Barrens are chock full of gangers and go-gangs. Fighting for territory amidst the wreckage of those cities. And that’s what Necromunda reminds me of. Gangs fighting in the ashes of a wasteland. So let’s see how on the mark that is…

Honestly, this could be a Shadowrun skirmish happening in Seattle’s Gas Works Park. Which is fun to Laser Tag in.

The first thing I’mma say here is that Necromunda’s a skirmish game that bears some resemblance to most of Games Workshop’s other games, but I’m not looking to get into the ephemera of how the rules in THIS game are different from the rules in these four OTHER games. (That way madness lies, my dears.)

What we have here is what in Warhammer 40K is called a ‘Hive World‘. These are essentially dead worlds with great manufacturing cities on em. Think of a planet that’s gone through thousands and thousands of years of industrial abuse. Then think of all the ash and waste those factories have produced in the effort to keep the Imperium of Man supplied in its never-ending wars against chaos and xenos. Materials get brought in, the stuff gets made, the waste gets dumped. Necromunda’s a planet covered in ash and waste. An ecological nightmare.

“Where do these stairs go?” … “They go up.”

These great manufacturing cities, or ‘hives‘ as it were, are big enough that they reach into orbit like Olympus Mons does on Mars. These upper floors are where the miles long cathedral-like battlecruisers of the Imperium are made if that gives you an idea. Personally it makes me think of the endless city in the anime ‘Blame!’ whose creator, Tsutomu Nihei has suggested is perhaps bigger than 5 Astronomical Units (AU) in size. (An AU is the distance between the earth and the center of our star Sol. 149.6 million kilometers, roughly.)

A spire the size of every city on earth that reaches up into orbit. And flying buttresses ALL THE WAY UP!

But way down in the lower floors, you have gangs at constant war with one another. As above, so below, I guess. Each of these seem gangs seem to be factioned-up with different ‘houses‘ that run various operations in the hive. Recycling, mining & refining, intelligence, technology, medicine & chemicals, etc. And of course, being a game, each of these gang/house alliances gives rise to gangs that tend to express advantages and traits to do with houses they’re allied to. So you get archetypes like the big strong bruiser types in House Goliath’s gangs while you might have the really fast amazon types in House Escher’s gangs. Run and gun tactics in one gang, melee poison users in another.

And of course outside of all this inter-house conflict, you have even more types of gangs you can field in the game like the heretic Khorne-worshipping Corpse Grinder Cults, who supply the populace with food. Only that food’s only a step removed from Soylent Green. And they’re not shy about your knowing how the sausages are made. You’re going to have Hive law enforcement, The guilds that do public utilities and sundries, bounty hunters along with actual chaos and Genestealer cults.

At a guess, I’m guessing this is House Escher vs. House Goliath. Dex vs Str!

So… essentially it sounds a bit like industrial hell, crossed with the Shadowrun Barrens, Judge Dredd’s Megacity One on the Cursed Earth, the endless wasteland cities of Blame! and the inter-house conflict and drama of Dune. (Which I’d guess probably has some of HR Giger‘s design ethic for some biotechnological horror spice.) There’s even been expansions that take us out of the gargantuan city of Hive Primus and into the ashy desert wastes outside, which looks to me to be a nice little addition of the 80’s post-nuclear wasteland genre and the Mad Max movies to the formula.

Necromunda was once called Araneus Prime, and used to be part of a whole civilization called the Aranean Continuity. (Like Samus Aran?) Anyway when the Imperium of Man showed up and immediately demanded the Aranians join the Emperor’s empire. The Araneans counter suggested the Imperium join THEIR civilization instead. This led to some tense negotiations (with the Imperial Fists), but eventually the Imperium made their point. Then Chaos invaded the Continuity and wrecked EVERYTHING, with only Necromunda meaningfully surviving… If you call what was left survival that is.

So after having read up on this setting… the requisite GrimDark is still there… but this seems a lot more nutty-survivalist, heavy metal, megacorporation-fueled, gang warfare. The reasons for the war seem as varied as the factions, races, houses and gangs involved. I imagine a lot of it has to do with keeping the manufacturing going, destroying the manufacturing, religious or ideological crusading or straight up insanity like with the Corpse Grinders. The stakes would seem to be a lot more on a personal or community level than the all-consuming level of warfare between the Imperium and everyone else that exists. This is more yer down and dirty running the shadows, it feels like. It’s too bad there doesn’t seem to be a straight dice and paper RPG of this alongside the tabletop warfare thing. There would seem to be enough lore to support such a thing.


The game seems to go back to the very early 90’s, when it was released as just a set if low-key skirmish rules that grew into the first Necromunda. But in 2017, it was given a BIIIG update with the Necromunda: Underhive set, with subsequent miniature releases for the other houses. And now you’ve got this big Dark Uprising set coming out with the Corpse Grinder cults… I can think of several characters I’d want to translate into Necromunda fiends of once sort or another. (Maybe some of the characters from Escape from the Bronx (1983). TOBLERONE!! or other such characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder.)

But this looks appealing to me. It seems like a game you play if you want to do some fighting and you don’t necessarily care about why. There’s a bit of framework and lore if you REALLY want to RP a House / Gang / Cultist’s typical behaviours and styles of combat. And the ever-present zealotry of the Imperium of Man versus everything alien or evil is kind of back-burnered in favor of Warhammer 40K’s forever war in microcosm.

See ya round, Chummer. ^_^

-Edward WinterRose is a long time fan of cyberpunk future noir, and plays women characters to a large degree, and would probably end up fielding gangs from Houses Delaque and Escher, respectively.