Hammer of Math: Stabbing Vehicles in Necromunda

This week’s Hammer of Math brings a knife to a tank fight… and sees what happens when you use melee against vehicles in Necromunda.

While I have covered vehicles fairly extensively over the last few months, one thing that I have yet to examine is how effective melee is in the Ash Wastes. This came to light last week after looking at Mounts and how they can do things like ride-by their opponents, and since I can’t get the thought of bug-riding Nomads skewering Cargo-8s out of my head it seemed like this would be a good time to take a look. Kudos to “Brimstone” on the Necromunda Underhive Discord for asking the question that inspired this article.

Melee has several advantages over ranged attacks which represents the precision afforded to a skilled attacker standing next to a giant target which doesn’t fight back. First, the attacker may apply a +1 modifier to the Hit roll. Second, should the attack get past the hit, wound, and save check gates then the player can roll an additional Location choice. Since the Location and Damage dice are rolled simultaneously, this gives the attacking player a large amount of flexibility in terms of determining the best outcome. For example while a Catastrophic Hit against the Crew is devastating, subsequent outcomes are better allocated to other locations since they all have a Loss of Control check as well as a secondary effect. Note that for the purpose of this analysis I am assuming that an unconscious driver automatically fails any Loss of Control check they’re required to make. In terms of optimal effects, the ideal choice of location depends on the severity of the hit.

  • For Glancing Hits, the Drive is the only location that provides a significant benefit since the others only make the vehicle Stationary and Stalled.
  • For Penetrating Hits, the Drive is the optimal target since it permanently applies a -1 penalty to Handling, removes a Hull Point, and forces a LoC test. After that the Crew is a good choice (so long as they aren’t already blacked out), followed by the Engine, Body, and finally Crew once they are blacked out. In a Bone Road Death Race the Engine should be prioritized since it prevents the vehicle from moving faster than its Movement characteristic.
  • For Catastrophic Hits the Crew are the top priority so that they automatically fail all LoC tests. From there the order is the Drive, Engine, and Body. Once the Crew is unconscious the Body and Engine may be more desirable depending on whether the players wants to reduce movement or remove some particularly threatening weapons.

Necromunda Ash Waste Nomads Tribe Credit: Perigrin
Necromunda Urshilaku Tribe Credit: Perigrin

Simulating Melee

I took the script that I previously used for ranged attacks and modified it to incorporate the order of operations listed above. I looked at five different weapon profiles; two ranged (a best case scenario melta attack and the Nomad Charge Caster) and three melee options (Ambot, Ash Nomad Chain Lance, and a Death Maiden Shock Whip). I put those results up against a variety of targets.

First up is a light target represented by the Outrider. We immediately see that the Death Maiden’s attacks really aren’t contributing much here. Unfortunately the single point of damage on the Shock Whip severely limits the viability of melee attacks; just because you can hit the target where you want doesn’t mean anything if all you’re doing is a glancing hit. The boosted damage of the chain lance makes it a bit more viable, but the Charge Caster and Multi-Melta are both superior. The reason for this is fairly simple; while getting a chance to select your location is pretty useful, getting more chances to get a higher damage hit is even more important.

The Mauler is somewhere between a light and a medium target, which is amusing when you consider that it’s basically a guy on a large treaded bike. As before the shock whip is largely ornamental, needing over 30 attacks before it has a better than even chance of destroying the Mauler. The melee options all remain significantly less viable than the charge caster, let alone the multi-melta. The takeaway here is that a relatively weak vehicle like a Mauler is exceptionally hard to kill, regardless of the method used.

Finally we have the Chronos Pattern Ironcrawler, which is proof that they really do know how to build them over in the Ash Wastes. This T9, 3+ save monstrosity is ludicrously hard to kill even with a multi-melta, and regretfully a guy with a nasty looking stick doesn’t have much of a chance. While it’s possible that melee attacks have a higher chance of disabling these vehicles (which might be fun for a future article), if your focus is on destroying them there’s not much else to be said.

Credit: Keewa

No Loss of Control?

When I first ran the numbers, I found this to be a particularly challenging thing to wrap my head around. Shouldn’t the opportunity to choose your location mean you have a better chance of taking out the Crew and therefore getting a Loss of Control test that forces a wreck? The answer is yes, but it doesn’t really matter.

Take the example of an Ash Wastes Nomad trying to skewer a Ridgehauler with a chain lance. The attack hits on a 3+, wounds on a 5+, and the target will save on a 5+. That translates to roughly 15% of the attacks getting past the gate checks. For the sake of simplicity let’s assume the goal is to force a Loss of Control test via a Catastrophic Hit, and that the target has already had their crew knocked out so all LoC tests will fail. The chance of getting at least Catastrophic Hit result on two dice is 31%, so the multiply that by the probability of even getting to the point of rolling damage and the probability of getting a Catastrophic Hit is 4.5%. If we then assume that the target will always fail the LoC, then the chance of a roll is 1 in 6. So the net probability an attack forcing a roll is 0.75%, which would require around 93 attempts to have a 50% chance of getting at least one success. And that’s assuming every attack fails the LoC check.

Goliath Mauler. Credit: 40khamslam


Unfortunately melee just isn’t all that viable an option when it comes to taking out vehicles. While melee may make it more likely that you can disable a vehicle’s engine or knock the crew out, in terms of actually taking out the target the chances remain relatively low. This push Ash Wastes Nomads in even more of a bind, since their ranged options are limited outside of the Trading Point.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments feel free to drop us a note in the Comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com. That’s also the best way to suggest topics for future articles.