When the Gangs of the Underhive book and the updated Necromunda Rulebook were released, I was dragged by the local community into a Necromunda campaign. Whatever doubt I had at first about the game is completely gone, and I would rate it amongst the best GW specialist games (up there with Blood Bowl and Warcry). However, I believe trying to play Necromunda in one-off games, or much less a tournament, is a mistake, as it is not a competitive game and, as such, has some balance issues. That’s because it’s clearly designed to be great for campaign play, as it offers a ton of support for it.
Still, getting into the game can be a bit daunting, as the rules are more complex than those of the main GW games (40k and AoS), there are a TON of options, and they are spread through several books and PDFs. Because of it I’m creating this guide series, designed for those who more or less understand the basic game mechanics, but want to get into a campaign and need help knowing what options they have outside of the two pages that comprise their gang rules, from the Trading Post equipment they should consider to the Alliances they can make.
Of course it should be noted that I’m far from a veteran myself, as noted above, and I don’t pretend to be one, I’m just the “newbie who shows newbies around”, to put it somehow.
Which gang to play?
Probably the first thing you should do when getting started is choosing a gang. Each gang has a lot of depth to it, but here’s a quick review:
- Goliath: the brute force gang. While other gangs can choose between focussing on shooting or melee, Goliath should clearly do the latter. Goliath bands might seem really straight forward but, because of the lack of cunning skills for Infiltrate they need to actually get across the board, something that they achieve with superior physical stats (S & T 4) and access to some other key skills, such as Overseer on you leader and Nerves of Steel on your champions.
- Escher: the gang of poison and speed, Escher are a finesse band if there is one, with many toxin or gas weapons and wargear available as common equipment and an above average movement and initiative. Escher are a one trick pony band, but their trick is very good. With some Needlers, Stiletto Swords, Gas Grenades, and Chem Synths on everyone this gang can be a pain to deal with.
- Orlock: the generalist band, Orlocks don’t excel at anything but there’s nothing they’re bad at either, which combined with a tough leader makes for a perfect warband for rookies. The key to Orlock gangs is not focussing too much on any aspect so that your gang will be able to deal with any situation, meaning you have to find a balance between agressive and defensive fighters, as well as shooting and melee weapons for them.
- Van Saar: Necromunda on easy mode, Van Saar are the opposite to a Goliath gang, as they’re the shooting kings and definitely can’t do melee well. Of course this isn’t an issue since they shoot overwhelmingly well and have the tool to do it from the start, with plasma and melta guns being common for them, which combined to better BS and access to shooting skills makes for a really devastating warband, not to mention better armour than anyone and having the best brute you can get.
- Cawdor: the horde and fire warband, Cawdor gangers are cheap and have access to a ton of template/ blast weapons and the Blaze special rule. This means Cawdor have a lot of control over the board and can force other gangs into really unfavorable situations by overwhelming them with targets and reducing the number of fighters they can use thanks to blaze markers.
- Delaque: the shenanigan warband, Delaque are a weird but very potent gang. They get some of the best gang tactic cards, as well as some broken territories in Dominion Campaigns, but also have access to really good equipment in the form of weapons with Toxin or Web as common, and Cunning skills as primary which also helps.
- Chaos Cults: with some cool rules and good stats, coupled with cheap gangers and an excellent exotic beast, Chaos Cults are hampered by the fact their common equipment is quite lackluster. Fortunately this can be fixed after a couple of trips to the trading post, specially if you start with an understrength gang to have spare credits. Also they have access to Chaos Spaws, which are very random but can be really useful.
- Genestealer Cults: Another weird but potent gang, GSC have tons of awesome tools at their disposal, but are actually quite expensive. From a melee monster in the Aberrant to a very useful psyket in the Adept, going through great weapons for shooty champions, the only risk they have is not investing enough in anything and ending up with a gang not good enough at anything and without enough fighters to be a generalist as Orlock is. GSC probably should be played as an specialist gang, focusing on mastering an aspect before investing in the next one.
- Venators: the most customizable gang of the game, Venators are not made for beginners (but don’t worry, they were my first one too). Having access to most of the trading post when starting a campaign, besides being able to choose between different profiles, Venators can do literally anything in the game, but they pay a premium for it. The key to playing Venators successfully is making sure you make a warband whose fighters synergyse well between each other and trying not to copy what another warband does, as they’ll probably be better at it than you.
- Enforcers: similar to Orlock since they’re also a jack of all trades gang, Enforcers have a more elite feel to them, as well as many unique dynamics in how they function in campaigns. Usually you’ll want a core of fighters kitted with boltguns, with a splatter of more specialised ones to do key jobs, like a melee champion or a sniper ganger.
Independently of the gang you choose I recommend doing a draft of what you want it to look once you advance a bit, as your gang won’t be worth a 1000 creds for long. Think about the weapons you want to buy later, skills you’ll give, even new fighters you want to make or a brute you want to buy. Thinking a bit about the future of your gang will help you avoid redundancies or useless equipment in your stash.
Also, if your group allows it, use printed gang tactics cards if you need them. Most card sets are very unbalanced internally and some cards are clearly better than others, so you don’t want to play with your cards chosen from a single box if your opponent has bought each one that has been released. Believe me, it isn’t that great when you are using cards to equip a frag trap on a ganger while your opponent is using one that makes your best fighter stay out of a game. Additionally this means getting access to underdog cards which, if you’re getting into an already started campaign, can help you a ton.
Choosing a Campaign
Usually this isn’t a choice you’ll be making, but you have to know which campaign you’re playing since currently there are two available ones, the Dominion Campaign (introduced in the basic rulebook) or the Law and Misrule Campaign (introduced in the Book of Judgement). They both work in the same way but for the following key changes:
|Dominion Campaign||Law & Misrule|
|You can control territories, of which many grant extra bonuses depending on the House you play.||You can control rackets, of which many are related to your allegiance and weather you’re Law-abiding or Outlaw. They generally give more credits as a reward and get better if you control a series of “linked rackets”.|
|In each game you draw “sub-plots” which can have minor effects over the game and give minor rewards.||In each game you draw “intrigues” which can have minor effects over the game and give huge rewards, however claiming them might force you to make an alignment check.|
Choosing to be Law-abiding or Outlaw is something introduced in the Book of Judgement and technically only for the Law & Misrule Campaign. I would however recommend house-ruling it for the Dominion Campaign since it has effects over the Trading Post and the Allegiance you can choose.
Recruiting your fighters
One of the cool things about Necromunda is that you can make your gang however you like and probably still be effective, however here are some standard fighter types you can build and how you can use them.
- Marksman: this fighters are built to do damage from afar, and usually are more about reliability than pure damage potential. This is because melee or short ranged weapons tend to be much more destructive than long ranged ones, but there is still a lot of value in having a guy shooting every turn from an advantageous position, even if he’s just pinning enemy fighters. Because of it I’d recommend prioritizing getting good BS (either through advancements or sights), reliable long ranged weapons (Long-las, Longrifle, even a humble Lasgun) and at not getting the price to high, even though some pieces of wargear, like Camaleonine Cloaks, are perfect for this fighters.
- Damage Dealer: unlike the Marksman, this guys are going to be on the front line, and can get expensive fast. Heavy armour, good weapons, rare wargear, they all should go to this fighters. Might sound counterintuitive to spend more credits on the fighters you’re going to risk the most, but the truth is that they actually need a lot of stuff to work at a bare minimum, but are really effective once you invest in them.
- Chaff: cheap fighters can come in handy in this game for a variety of reasons. First they will end up tanking shots for more expensive gangers thanks to the shooting priority rules, but also can be used to complete sub-plots and intrigues, as well as doing actions needed for the mission. Additionally they’ll rise the number of models your foe has to kill to make you check bottle, and can even provide assists.
- Support: some models in the game are made to buff your gang or debuff the opponent’s. Usually this is achieved through skills, like Overseer, Munitioneer or Medicae, as well as some psychic powers, but the truth is that many weapons also are designed more for debuffing than causing damage, and would fall in this category, such as Grav Guns, Dart Rifles, Smoke Grenades or Rad Cannons.
How you combine the different types of fighters (and weirder ones you manage to create) depends completely of what you want to achieve with your gang, but usually it’s a good idea to have some of each.
In the next article of this series I’ll write about the different territories and rackets and which ones should you prioritize, they’re quite a list!
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