Battle Bros Season Four, Chapter III: Build-a-Gang Workshop

Battle Bros is an ongoing bi-weekly column where Drew (PantsOptional) taught his brother Chris (head58) how to play Warhammer 40,000 and now is being hoisted by his own petard as he learns Necromunda. Catch up on their past adventures here.

Meet the Battle Bros


The older of the two brothers, and for once the more experienced in what is to come.


The younger brother, slowly realizing the horrors he has unleashed upon himself.

CHRIS: Welcome back, scummers (I’ve always wanted to say that), it’s your favorite pair of brothers… well, in your top ten… okay a pair of brothers back again to bang our heads against Necromunda, a game about class warfare and the struggle to seize the means of (space drug) production, mostly by setting other people on fire or using power tools to turn them into pink mist.

Last time we took a (probably mistake-laden) look at the basic rules and how Necromunda works. This time we turn to building a gang, both in the physical and the in-game sense. Let’s start out as you did – having a box of models unexpectedly plopped into your lap. How are you going to put them together? The boxes have between six and ten models in them mostly, and an impressive array of weapons to stick on them. Most of the weapons you can even identify if you have the gang’s House of book or some skill at Google image search. But what’s good? What are you going to glue onto these folks? It’s not like a box of Space Marines where you just give everybody a bolter and call it a day. You have to make actual decisions here, something for which we are genetically ill-suited.

Of course the model building and the mathing-a-gang-together can’t each happen in isolation. You have to at least have some kind of thought toward “how am I going to fit a decent number of these jerks into the right number of credits for this game?” Credits are points which you use to buy your gangers and their gear, just in case that wasn’t clear. But what is the right number of credits for a gang? Here Necromunda offers a plethora of options. Starting gangs in a campaign are suggested to start at 1000 credits, while a gang for just a one-off game runs from 1250 to 2000. These are really just suggestions though, the rules basically say “use whatever points you want, I’m not a cop.” But my point is: don’t just slap inferno pistols and missile launchers on everybody. First, your gang might not even be able to use those at gang creation (although the boxes are generally good about that), and second you may find yourself fielding way fewer models than your opponent, which really matters in an alternating activation game.

DREW: Left with a box of completely unfamiliar models and the semi-cryptic advice “don’t build what they show on the box,” I set about assembling the basic poses at least so I could decide on wargear options. This is when whatever kind of neurological/OCD stew I got bubbling reared its ugly head because I sat for a long time trying to figure out the perfect combination and what to do if I upgraded them mid-campaign – should I magnetize those tiny arms in case I wanted to buy one of them a grenade launcher? Did I in fact need to buy other boxes to represent every possible iteration of Eschers because my brain refuses to recognize weapons and gear not portrayed on a model?

A great example of what Sisters are supposed to look like with varied weapons, specifically SRM’s Sisters of Mercy. Credit: SRM

CHRIS: If you are able to magnetize those tiny little arms more power to you. I know I would end up in the emergency room with a Katamari-esque ball of glue, bits, and N52 magnets where my hands should be.

Aside from that, you are preaching to the highly neurotic choir here. I didn’t magnetize my Goliaths but I did end up building about 20 of them with varying loadouts. And I only did that after months of analysis paralysis. Fortunately I had the great Necromunda articles here on Goonhammer dot com and the 40K Badcast preaching the gospel of combat shotguns and spud jackers so I at least had that going for me. I still haven’t painted a handful of my models because I made Poor Choices and most of my gang would need to be in a very bad state indeed before I’d consider fielding those loadouts. I don’t know what I was thinking. I blame society.

Beyond gear, Leaders and Champions can pick a skill from a couple lists (each gang has a couple lists they can buy from at first, and they can pick up a few other lists later in a campaign). The Common Wisdom is that Nerves of Steel is the best thing for Goliaths and you should just spam that on everyone. It’s really great – when you would normally be knocked down by a ranged attack you can make a Cool check to just say “nah, I’m good” and keep on standing. Since Cool is a great stat for Goliaths this is super helpful! But to me, that sounds like cowardice. I only allow myself to take it on one fighter. That might explain my poor track record in Necromunda, but minor issues of principle are like the bridge at Gjallerbru to me and I will not waver.

As one of the houses with a House of book, Goliaths also have access to Gene-Smithing. More fiddly options! This involves little modifications in the 5-20 credit range to increase some of your stats, give a fighter a reroll on recovery dice, buy skills from lists not normally available to Goliaths, that sort of thing. Or you can choose some kind of flaw which gives you points back. Like Data Slug Overlay, where something went wrong in the vat and every game that fighter has to make an Intelligence test or gain the Insane condition. Fun stuff.

Another great example, this time SRM’s Goliaths to keep it consistent. Credit: SRM

DREW: Hold on. You’re telling me you didn’t take the “save versus insanity” option on everyone? We need to discuss your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

CHRIS: This is where one of the imbalances in the current version of Necromunda comes in. Goliaths can, and have to (as in you can’t buy it later with experience) buy their Gene-Smithing when a fighter is first created. Some gangs have these benefits from day one (Van Saar’s Archaeo-Cybertechnika, Cawdor’s Articles of Faith, etc.) but Eschers can’t buy their fancy Chem-Alchemy until after the first game of a campaign when they have the chance to go to the Trading Post (assuming their Leader or Champion survives the battle). Without that leg up they can have a very bad time in their first game if they are against a gang who does get their special toys right out of the gate. That can mean they don’t receive as many credits from their first game and thus can’t afford the Chem-Synths, so they don’t do as well in their second game. Circle of Life shit. Once they earn some cash they can buy pretty formidable but getting to that point is a challenge.

As far as WYSIWYG goes, it pains me to say that this is a game where we have to let go of our inherent Bert nature and embrace the Ernie. Think about it – if you’re in a campaign which is advancing along and you can buy a better gun are you really going to rip off the arms and upgrade the model to represent what you just bought? And before you say “yes, of course I am” allow me to say you’re an idiot.

DREW: Yes, of cou- ah, shit.

With that out of the way, I will say I still built my models with the intent of using them as WYSIWYG as possible at the start because otherwise my brain itches. After a little research and an admonition from Badcast Dan (“I’ve written entire articles on Goonhammer about this!”) I decided to go with a pretty standard build as outlined in the Houses of the Underhive writeup:

  • Gang Queen: plasma pistol, shock whip, and mesh armor;
  • Gang Matriarch: combi-weapon (bolter/needler), fighting knife, and flak armor;
  • Gang Matriarch: plasma pistol, laspistol, and flak armor;
  • Gang Sister Specialist: ‘Nightshade’ chem-thrower, stub gun, flak armor and a chem-synth;
  • Gang Sister: lasgun and flak armor;
  • Gang Sister: lasgun and flak armor;
  • Gang Sister: lasgun and flak armor.

Look, I wasn’t kidding, Dan really is an Orlock. I mean this in the most complimentary sense.

Those of you who are good at math can tell that’s only seven models out of a box of ten, so I built out the others mostly as Gang Sisters with lasguns, adding in a big sword and a pistol on one of them. I do love the idea of having a sacrificial dipshit so if at all possible I will run one of these as a Little Sister loaded up on the chems Hyper and Bad Blood  which will allow me to quickly charge her into the fray where she will inevitably die and splatter everyone around her with Toxin hits. Chris, I’m mostly telling you this now so you can forget it and then be surprised when I pull this on you.

CHRIS (looking up from gluing his fingers together): Say what now?

DREW: Don’t worry about it. Now that I’ve learned the rules at least to the point that I will only fuck up nine times out of ten and I have a gang built out, let’s move on to something much more important: colors and gimmicks. The downside to Eschers is that it doesn’t immediately suggest anything the same way the Corpse Grinders effortlessly connected to McDonald’s now-defunct mascots from our youth.

CHRIS: I still maintain being charged and devoured by Mayor McCheese would be one of the most amazing things one could experience in this life, and certainly the most glorious death.

DREW: I’m… worried about you. Back to the gimmick – the otherwise mostly-benighted year of 2023 did give us one gift in the form of a truly surprising movie which had the unsurprising effect of making the internet culture grifters/”warriors” of the world shit their Pampers. I speak, of course, of Barbie.

CHRIS: Nice. It’s like when I was playing Star Wars: Legion and I asked a friend to make a token bag for me using a fabric showing Rey and Porgs. Tilt all the right people before you even set a model on the table.

DREW: Exactly! It’s the same as the notion behind Hive Fleet Snagglepuss which was designed to reveal stealth homophobes. I had to wrestle with the notion for a while. Is it sexist to draw inspiration for the all-female gang from the doll/media that’s historically intertwined with a certain narrow vision of femininity? Ultimately, however, I decided that the eye-searing pink went well with the nearly-required neons that serve Necromunda so well and that the high femme nature of the Barbie franchise threw the subtle horror of the extremely violent and drug-addled muscle ladies into sharp relief.

Of course, with all of that thought of theme in mind, execution turned out to be a bit of a fuckup. I started with the en grisaille method, which is a fancy French way of saying “gray underpainting” (and definitely not Sl*p Ch*p, a phrase which would earn me a brutal bollocking back at Goonhammer Central Headquarters and Shitposting Manufactorum). I then hit all of that with various types of Contrast, using Doomfire Magenta as the neon pink element common to all of the gang. Unfortunately the grisaille really dulled down the blinding neons that I had hoped for in the pinks and hair but in the end I’m still happy with the results.

Aw man, even the rainbow got dulled down.

CHRIS: Seeing how you are not (so far as I know) Anish Kapoor you should have grabbed some of the Pinkest Pink paint. Maybe you still could for highlights or touch ups, or for when you paint the box of Death Maidens you will inevitably pick up.

DREW:  I’ve seen models painted with that stuff and sure it’s ten Freedom Bucks for a small tin of the powder but hot damn if it doesn’t look amazing. Still, something about “mix with water until thick” seems wrong to me.

CHRIS: Ten bucks isn’t all that far off from a pot of Citadel which will form a crusty ring around the lip and dry into a solid brick after 1d3 uses. And I’ll always encourage leaning hard into the wacky, especially in this game.

For my Goliaths I went full neon with some Golden Acrylics dayglo craft paints and I can’t really recommend that. I just wasn’t able to find any paints specifically for models which were obnoxiously bright enough. The Goldens are kind of goopy and watering them down doesn’t work well. They’re a slimy consistency, almost hydrophobic, and the coverage isn’t good so in places I may have glopped on more than I should because fuck your two thin coats, I’m a busy man. I found that if I poured some of the paint into my palette and waited a couple minutes before using it, it reached some kind of Goldilocks point where it dried out or thickened up enough that it had okay coverage but wasn’t too thick to brush on. Look, I’m no big city paint scientist, I don’t know what was happening here. I just know to pour it out, go grab a snack, and when I come back the stuff is better than straight out of the bottle.

Sorry not sorry about your retinas.

DREW: I appreciate the colors on those – their neons are full on Eighties workout spandex bright even with me shooping down the levels so they’re slightly less blinding than the eclipse – but those consistency issues would have driven me to throw them into the woods in a fit of full-on old man pique. Even unthinned Vallejo Model Color furrows my brow. I may also just be an old fuddy-duddy who’s set in his ways and far too locked in to Citadel paints for his own good.

With the rules read and the models both assembled and painted, what’s left? Oh no. Do I actually have to play a game? You know, the thing all of this is technically about?

Next Time: Yes, You Do

Can these morons actually manage to bumble their way through a game without murdering each other? That’s a rock solid maybe.

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