This week’s Hammer of Math heads back into the wastelands of Necromunda to take a look at the Mounted condition and the various options available.
When you’re out in the Ash Wastes of Necromunda, being on foot is a death sentence. The distances are vast, the terrain is hateful, and anything that moves is fast enough to catch a running human and rip them into easily digestible pieces. While some gangers may choose to ride in the bed of a Ridgehauler or inside a cramped passenger box, others choose the freedom of the open road as they ride some form of mechanical or organic mount. There are several advantages and disadvantages to making this choice, and the efficacy of those choices heavily depends on the rider.
As of this article, all of the items that grant the Mounted condition are considered Wargear. When the Wargear is put on a character’s Fighter card they gain the Mounted condition which produces a series of effects. First, the number of weapons they can carry is reduced by one (to typically two) and can’t carry any weapon with the Unwieldy trait unless it also has the Lance trait. You can still have bikers firing giant harpoons, but not much else in terms of heavy weapons. Mounted models are also limited to using only one weapon in close combat. Mounted models also can’t climb terrain or vehicles (but can go up ramps), and get +2 to their Initiative checks to perform a Retreat (Basic) action.
Where things get interesting are two more abilities; Ride By and “I Get Knocked Down…” which cover melee and getting hit respectively. With Ride By a Mounted model can move within 1″ of a single enemy model during their movement. If they do so (or move within Long rage of a Versatile weapon), then they can make a single close combat attack. However the target also gets to make a Reaction attack, and after that rules get a bit… odd. If the player is hit by the Reaction attack, the strength of this hit is determined by how fast the model moved. In some cases it’s possible that the strength of the hit is less than what it would be otherwise (for example a model going 0-5″ takes a S3 hit, even if the attacker is S4). Probably a good thing to houserule.
The other major rule is “I Get Knocked Down…” (someone must be a Chumbawamba fan), which covers how Mounted targets react when hit by a ranged attack. Normally a model that’s hit by a ranged attack is simply Pinned, but because Mounted units are on racing bikes/jetbikes/bugs they’re a little harder to take out. Instead the model takes an Initiative check (with a -1 penalty if the attack has the Blast (X) or Knockback traits). If they fail the check they take a hit with characteristics based on how far they traveled during their last activation, and then they become Prone and Pinned. But wait, there’s more. In order to get back up the model has to pass an Initiative check before they can make a Stand Up (Basic) action. If they fail the check, they action is wasted. And since it’s a Basic action, they can’t try to get up until the next activation. This can be brutal, as seen in the graph below.
While models with high Initiative like Escher champions can easily leverage their high Initiative characteristic to practically eliminate being pinned, the same is not true for other models. A 4+ Initiative like those given to Orlocks means that 25% of the time they’ll stay down for at least a second turn, while 5+ Initiative models like Van Saar or Slave Ogryns can potentially spend the entire game shouting how they’ve fallen and can’t get up. The real tragedy here is that it means we are denied the image of Lobo Slaves riding massive bikes, which I think we can all agree is unacceptable.
Currently there are three items which provide the Mounted condition. Every gang outside of Ash Wastes Nomads can get a dirtbike, Nomads have the Dustback Helamite (for two types of fighters, the rest have to walk), and Escher get a special jetbike courtesy of the latest campaign book. Van Saar and Orlock have access to unique bits of Wargear which seem like they probably should grant the Mounted condition, but instead do their own thing since they were released before Ash Wastes came out. As a Van Saar player with plenty of low Initiative gangers I’m grateful for this.
When the Book of the Outlands dropped it added a new piece of equipment for Wasteland gangs called the Waster’s Dirtbike. For 50 credits the model gained the Mounted condition and increased their Movement characteristic to 8″. This is essential for any models that want to participate in a Rolling Roads scenario, as anything slower will get left off the board (or be forced to ride on a vehicle). Where things get fun is that the rules also include a bit that, with your Arbitrator’s permission, you can add an Upgrade or two. Antigrav generators? Go for it. Extra Armour? Maybe your Arbitrator will be down for boosting your model’s Toughness characteristic. Gas Promethium Engine that spits out flame and causes any model within 1″ to suffer a S3 hit with AP -1 and Blaze? Now you’re talking!
The Ash Wastes Nomads feel like they’re in the same category as Enforcers in terms of a gang that seemed like a niche idea that was never fleshed out. A perfect example of this is in how limited their mobility is, as they are the only gang where every model doesn’t have the option to be given a mount. As they’re also the only gang which can’t gain access to vehicles, this puts them in a real bind in terms of being able to move quickly. Ash Wastes have access to two units which are mounted; the Wy’tari Stormcaller Champion and the Tarh’noki Dust Rider. Both of these units ride the Dustback Helamite, and due to the Born in the Saddle rule they always have to ride it. Both of these units have a pretty reasonable 3+ Initiative characteristic which makes it unlikely they’ll stay Pinned for very long, and gaining a point of Initiative only costs 5 XP. If a model with a Dustback Helamite dies then technically the Wargear goes to the stash, so if you want a gang full of desert raiders riding giant bugs all you have to do is wait for someone to die or retire some poor rider and steal his mount.
In terms of game effects the Dustback Helamite is basically a Waster’s Dirtbike that also has the Mighty Leap skill. It provides a Movement characteristic of 8″ to the rider, but the skill is an odd choice. What Mighty Leap does is allow a model to ignore the first 2″ of the distance of a gap when leaping across, which effectively means they can leap over gaps of 2″ or less without testing a skill. The odd part is that using a Move (Simple) action includes an option for a model to cross a gap that is no wider than the model’s base, and the base of a Dustback Helamite is 75mm wide. Since doing the math is something we do here, I ran the numbers can tell you that 75mm is equivalent to 2.95 inches. In other words the skill does nothing.
The Dust Riders are particularly interesting because they have a very high Movement characteristic, and can gain access to Special Weapons and Grenades from the Trading Post. They also have access to the chain lance, a 55 credit weapon with the Versatile trait and is perfect for doing a Ride By attack that hits at S+2, AP -2, and D2 with a 2″ range. Unless the target also has a Versatile weapon they won’t be able to hit back, and after the Dust Rider performs a Ride By attack then can still get their additional 2 attacks if they then perform a Fight (Simple) action. There’s a twisted part of me that wants to make a gang full of Dust Riders armed with grenade launchers that they’ve steadily accumulated from the Trading Point. Toss in a pair of Stormcallers to reduce visibility down to 6″ in 2 turns maximum and it could be a pretty brutal combination.
The final mounted option is from the Aranthian Succession – Cinderak Burning campaign book and is exclusive to the Escher. The ladies pay a premium of 85 credits plus the mandatory cost of either a twin-linked grenade launchers (75 credits), twin-linked plasma guns (110 credits), or twin-linked heavy stubbers (200 credits). The Twin-Linked trait is pretty significant; it allows a model to re-roll the Ammo dice (not the Ammo check, but the Ammo dice that cause a check in the first place). This means that the chance of an Ammo die forcing a check goes from 1 in 6 to 1 in 36. Paying 10 credits to dramatically improve the chance of a plasma gun from overheating is pretty huge. The Cutter also boosts the Movement characteristic of the model to 9″, and gives them an option to use a Deploy Gas Trap (Double) action to deploy a gas trap within 1″ of their base and them move up to their Movement characteristic. All in all this seems like a really effective option, especially given that the Escher champions have a 2+ Initiative characteristic and plasma guns are very effective.
If your gang is well suited for it (Escher to the front, Goliath and Delaque form a neat line behind her, Van Saar you know you belong in the back) then bikes can provide a lot of fun and flexibility. It wouldn’t be Necromunda without a few peculiarities, particularly around the Ash Wastes Nomads, but in general the rules are straightforward and the gameplay is a lot of fun. Hopefully this will be something Games Workshop continues to flesh out in future campaign books; Cawdor scummers riding gigantic rats wouldn’t be the craziest thing seen out in the Wastes.
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