Necromunda I have to say was my first real love affair with Games Workshop. I’d played 40K, Man ‘O’ War and Space Hulk to name a few, but it was Necromunda that really grabbed me the hobby spot and gave it a good rummage, as Phil would say. [He’s right, I would. Ed.]
Released in 1995 and designed by Andy Chambers, Jervis Johnson and Rick Priestly it had the second edition Warhammer 40k rule set at its beating heart and, frankly, played a damn sight better than 40k. The boxed game included everything you needed to get started, including enough models to create 2 gangs. And most importantly the terrain. The terrain for Necromunda was something else and a bit of a first for Games Workshop, it allowed you to build a gaming board with different levels, ‘proper’ hard cover and walkways that were as flimsy as they were risky to navigate.
No one really used the plastic miniatures that came with the game from memory because they were a bit rubbish, and released alongside the boxed game were 6 gang boxes, which consisted of House Cawdor (religious nutters), House Goliath (homoerotic meat heads), House Vansaar (Dune Freman), House Escher (honestly just hot women), House Delaque (skin head gestapo) and House Orlocks (madmax greasy bikers). Each boxed gang came with 8 figures: 1 Leader, 1 Heavy, 4 Gangers and 2 Juves. The booster packs gave players options for weapon variants as well as a few models that are, even now, highly sought after.
Then in 1996 Outlanders was released which gave you more scenery and rules for several new gangs including the ever unpleasant Spyre Hunters. I don’t know anyone who wanted to play against them as it was pretty much a sure thing you were going to get your ass whooped. [I had no bother, are you sure you weren’t just rubbish? Ed.] You also got Ratskins, Scavvies, Redemptionists and the Arbites. The Redemptionists had the effect of making House Cawdor a bit more popular, but I always had a thing for the Ratskins but at the time could never justify replacing my Orlock gang because they’re amazing.
Anyway that’s enough of the proper factual stuff, time to gush. As I said Necromunda was my first real love affair with wargaming. This is mainly own to the terrain. I remember walking into my local Games Workshop for games night and see this multi-level game board with models on each level and guys measuring between them to get the best shot off. I have to say I was nursing a hobby boner. I had never seen anything like this, and that night I bought my box of House Orlock and some new paints and borrowed a set of the rules from the store and the next week I was back with my newly painted Necrosapiens ready to do battle.
It didn’t take long for people to start co-opting the Necromunda scenery for their games of 40k. Or better yet, combining sets for über games of Necromunda. It was an important moment in the Games Workshop hobby as it made the masses realise that games didn’t have to be played on green boards with hills, trees and the bunker that came free with White Dwarf that one time. In many ways Necromunda was genesis for things like Cities of Death and Apocalypse.
Something else that drew me in was the fact I got to name my gang and its members what I wanted and create a little back story for them, much like Lee’s Marienburger’s for Mordheim that would follow a few years later. They were the Necrosapiens (I was young forgive me). But again it was something I hadn’t come across before in a Games Workshop game and I got a bit excited. The development your gang and characters would go through created a rich and enthralling story and much more compelling than just marching armies across a flat game board. And much like Mordheim it gave you the ability to develop your gang by acquiring territory to earn money, and gaining skills and abilities as well as new weapons.
It was also the first game that I bothered getting involved with the national campaign. The battle for Hive Primus which from memory was immense and won by, as it goes, House Orlock. Go greasy biker boys!
At the end of the day though it was the terrain that made Necromunda the success it was, it was so ground breaking and made every game different. You could clip the cardboard walkways into the bulk heads in so many different ways creating towers and ramps, it also gave people the chance to create their own terrain and we saw some great bunkers and towers being brought in to add to the stores game board for the night’s games. I also very clearly remember having games round at my friends and none of us had any of the terrain so we used old carboard boxes and ice cream tubs and some really good imagination.
It’s sad that this massively inspirational and ground breaking game is now no longer in production. It was a great introduction to the Games Workshop hobby and a lot easier to learn and play than the special rules heavy 40K. I find it mad now that I have come back to the hobby to find Necromunda left to gather dust, having been neglected support these last few years. Yes I know there were articles in White Dwarf and the Necromunda magazine but only for a short period of time and I feel if new gangs or models that weren’t terrible had been released then maybe it would have grown. But then again maybe not. Perhaps it’s just me reminiscing back to those days when I got to a point in Necromunda people would refuse to play me. And with a sensible head on, it was never going to make Games Workshop loads of money because once you had your gang that was really it. Well that and some old cardboard boxes and ice cream tubs, so it was inevitable in this commercial lead economy we are in.
It is nice to see that this game does live on in people’s hearts and some games clubs have regular Necormunda meets. I find myself yearning for a House Escher gang that I always wanted but never bought. This has also inspired me to create a muti-level game board for Mordheim to play on with The Chaps. I know it’s not the right game but the principles of a good Necromunda board do translate.
So I say farewell to my first real love of wargaming, and shake my fist in Games Workshop’s general direction for all those who have never known the greatness of duffing up a rival gang in the underhive of Necromunda’s Hive Primus. If you are one of those people honestly, find the rules, find some models that’ll suit and have it. You won’t regret it.