Necromunday – Ash Wastes Review

Howdy scummers! It’s Monday Ash Wastes box set release day! We are psyched to tell you all about the new box and new setting for Necromunda. We’ve got a ton to cover so let’s get right into it! Many thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a preview copy.

What’s in the box?

Fowler: Folks, this is a large box with a significant amount of plastic (and paper) in it. Taking inventory, we’ve got:

Necromunda Ash Wastes Terrain
Ash Wastes Terrain. Credit: Colin Ward

Terrain

  • 3 small platforms
  • 2 large platforms
  • 2 hab units
  • enough modular platforms to connect them
Terrain alone fills half of the box.

The modular habs can be built with removable roofs, which we highly recommend. Our gameplay testing with this terrain is very limited, but we like the grimdark Ewok village playset – it gives a different flavor of hard cover. We need to do some more research here, but there seem to be some synergies with Sector Mechanicus terrain! Expect a follow up article about these sprues as we experiment more.

Hab unit underside. Credit: Colin Ward

Models

  • 10 Ash Waste Nomads
  • 4 Dustback Helamite Riders

The Nomads are a solid kit. Some folks were worried about these models being too monopose, but the torso sides are actually flat – you can use any arms on any body. It might actually make assembly tricky for folks who have never tried to get multipart kit arms angled correctly before. For every sprue of 5 nomads you get: 2 blast rifles, 2 long rifles, a blast pistol, a knife, a mono-hook, and a chain lance. This also means that leftover bits from the Helamite Riders are compatible – adding a right arm blast pistol and binoculars-holding arm (as well as oddly posed but nice conversion fodder chain lance and long rifle). We built ours stock / with extra dustback bits but will have more information about bashing in other kits in subsequent articles. Flat torso sides mean that guard / GSC / etc arm swaps should be a snap!

Necromunda Ash Waste Nomads
Ash Waste Nomads. Credit: Colin Ward
  • 10 Orlock gangers
  • 2 Orlock Outrider Quads

The Orlock main kit here is the same one you’ve known and loved for years – with the bonus that you will end up with at least one extra bolt pistol arm from Outrider leftovers (along with 4 heads, and heavy weapon mount heavy bolter & harpoon guns). Speaking of the Outriders – this kit was definitely a challenge to put together. For a Necromunda vehicle kit I was not expecting so many fiddly and fragile bits. At times it felt like building a dune buggy out of Nighthaunt swords! I highly recommend using sub-assemblies for painting, as there are some incredibly hard-to-reach places on the quads. GW’s quad painting video shows the optimal sub-assembly – quad, rider, and gunner separately. I’d go slightly beyond and suggest that you leave the tires off as well. The quads come with optional bases, which I don’t intend to use – but maybe that is your kind of thing!

Orlocks Outriders in sub-assembly. Credit: Fowler

The standard necro stuff

  • Barricades & objectives
  • Ruler
  • Templates
  • Tokens
  • Dice

This is all the typical stuff you would expect in a starter box. Some new tokens cover vehicle-related statuses. You can never have too many activation pogs. Rather than having the same set of dice in two colors, this box has one set with the standard Necro dice in black and the new vehicle ones in yellow. We’ll cover the function of the Location, Damage, and Control dice later in the review.

Double-sided playmat

Daytime mode
Night mode

If folks were looking for the matte and somewhat textured style of mat from the Dark Uprising box, you may be sorely disappointed. This is a rather glossy, (nearly) 3”x3” mat made of similar paper to the quick reference sheet. The nighttime side of the mat is cool, but the folds already had a bit of corner wear out of the box – which stands out on the darker mat. If this box is a fresh start for your Necromunda journey: 1. you are our kind of psychopath and we love you 2. the mat is perfectly fine to get you started. The rulebook recommends larger tables for some scenarios, so having a 4×4 or even 6×4 mat will have you completely covered.

Rules stuff

  • Ash Wastes Rulebook
  • Campaign Trade Routes Cards
  • Campaign Road Section Cards
  • Ash Wastes Tactics Cards

More about this book later, but it is a BEAST. TLDR is that this is a complete, updated rulebook. Even for games in the underhive, this book has you covered (save for the Dominion campaign). We’ll also cover the campaign and tactics later in the article.

What exactly is the Ash Wastes box?

The Ash Wastes box set can be considered a self-contained boxed game in which players can pit an Ash Waste Nomad gang against a vehicle-equipped Orlock gang. The terrain, rules, models, and accessories provide everything you need. This is not is a rules reset of Necromunda, nor is it a comprehensive resource for every possible gang and vehicle. Outside of the updated core rules and Ash Wastes campaign section (plus the terrain of course), players who aren’t playing the gangs in this box may not get much yet, rules-wise. We expect a fast-follower supplement to flesh out the Nomad rules and bring vehicles to the rest of the gangs.

Lore Overview

Credit: Games Workshop

As befitting a planet ruined by millennia of exploitation and the sort of thing that happens everywhere in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the land outside of the hives is toxic and unforgiving at best. The setting for the Ash Wastes campaign is the Great Equatorial Wastes, a massive stretch of scorched sand and dust-choked roads that link Hive Primus with its neighbors. Hardy prospectors, traders, and raiders ply their trade within these lands while massive land trains carry vital cargo between the hives. Within the center of the region is Cinderak Crater, the graveyard of Hive Merdian; destroyed as part of a conflict to determine the line of succession of House Helmawr. Gothrul Helmwar, rival to his sister Cinderak, sabotaged the macro plasma reactor powering Hive Meridian in the hope of starving Hive Primus by cutting off the region’s primary source of food. That’s right, the guy killed billions of people in the hopes of starving billions more so he could be in charge of what was left. 

Within the center of the 100 km wide crater is Cinderak City, the largest settlement in the wastes and the hub of all activity in the region. All of the great Clan Houses of Necromunda maintain strongholds here, from the Rockforge and Brokebone Fighting Pits of House Goliath to the Ash Storm Observatory of House Van Saar. Palanite Enforcers and Cults are also prevalent throughout the city, along with Prospectors (both human & squat) and representatives from the Merchant Guilds. There’s something for everyone – all of the factions mentioned have hideouts or potential vehicles mentioned (like armored transports for enforcers). Unfortunately, we suspect that Slave Ogryns will need to ride in the back of a truck.

Editor’s note: There is mention of a cult that worships a dead daemon engine out in the wastes, with the intention of resurrecting it. Inject this directly into my veins.

Not everyone in the Ash Wastes lives to support the hives. The Ash Wastes Nomad Tribes, known to themselves as the World Walkers or People of the Ash, have existed in the barren wastelands between the hives for countless generations. Many of these tribes consider the Great Equatorial Wastes their home, and Cinderak City itself is a place of constant conflict. Mysterious outsiders who are always seen completely covered and never leave the bodies of their dead behind, the nomads work closely with the environment and use their Dustback Helamites in the way that the Great Houses use vehicles. The lore is intentionally sparse on who or what they actually are, but we expect to know more with future books.

Ash Wastes Nomads. Credit: Dylon

Core Rule Updates

Genghis Cohen: As with the Dark Uprising release, this is emphatically not a new edition of Necromunda. Almost everything remains unchanged, there are just a few FAQ-type issues that seem to have been tweaked:

The rules on the maximum profiles you can upgrade Fighters to have been re-worded, there is now an absolute maximum profile for every model in the game. This is mostly unsurprising (max 2+ WS/BS/Initiative, max 3+ on the 2D6 mental stats) or unlikely to come up in a campaign (max 6 Wounds and 10 Attacks), but Strength and Toughness are now also capped at 6. Toughness has always been the most popular stat to advance, and now the rules avoid experienced brutes going above T6. 

The original rule of no more than +2 S/T and +1 W/A over your fighter type’s profile still applies and has been clarified to mean the basic profile. This means that Goliath gene-smithing no longer raises your maximum possible stats. If I take a gene-smithing upgrade to give a Forge Boss +1W, he starts the campaign with 3 Wounds, but he may not then increase it further. If this is the intent and I’m reading it right, I think that’s a good change. 

The rules writers, bless their crazy hearts, have doubled down on the oft-ignored ‘no swapping weapons’ rule. They have expanded it to wargear, which now may also only be discarded if replaced by a ‘similar function’ wargear. This is obviously something that requires Arbitrator input, but the intent seems to be that Jimmy the ganger won’t give up his frag grenades unless you give him some other explosives first. For anything more complex than grenades or armour, this rule gets a little fuzzy. 

Fighters now test their Cool to flee the battlefield in the End Phase, immediately after the gang fails the Bottle check. The controlling player can then decide if his gang as a whole will flee the field at the start of the Action phase. This is a good change which makes the process a bit clearer. Still not entirely clear whether ‘voluntarily bottling’ for scenario purposes is choosing to fail the Bottle check, choosing to flee the field, both or either. 

Blind Fire (shooting while pinned) is now -2 to hit, not a flat 5+. This actually makes it completely usable with a BS2-3+ model using an accurate weapon like a plasma gun. We should probably remember to try this in a game some time!

Charges are clarified in that they should use the shortest route possible – no more using your full movement to run around someone’s back to force them to turn and face you for -1 to Reaction Attacks

It is now explicit that a 1 to hit in shooting or melee always misses (I think this was already in an FAQ); same with save rolls of 1 always failing.

The rules for reloading are explicit that you can reload using any of the ammunition profiles on the weapon, although this does not overcome scarce ammo. This was already the case in RAW, but it makes clear that, for example, you can reload a grenade launcher using smoke grenades on a 4+, and can then shoot with your next skill using krak grenades (which reload on a 6+). Seems bizarre that’s the designers’ intent, but good to know!

Vehicle Rules Overview

Achilles Ridgerunner. Credit: Fowler

What about all these dice?

Genghis Cohen: Ash Wastes introduces 3(!) new sorts of D6 to Necromunda: Location, Damage and Control Dice. These are all used to see what happens to vehicles when they get hit, be it by shooting, melee attacks or collision with terrain/each other. Location dice determine what part of the vehicle is hit. 3/6 results hit the Body, ⅙ chance to hit either the Engine, Drive or Crew. Damage dice are then rolled to see whether the hit is glancing (3/6), penetrating (2/6) or Catastrophic (⅙). Most hits, even glancing ones, can or will cause the vehicle to become Stalled. This is almost like Pinning for vehicles – you have to take an Action to Restart before you can move again, although you get an automatic chance to do so in each End Phase, and you can still shoot. Most of the more serious damage results, in any location, can cause the vehicle to lose control, which, unsurprisingly, is where Control dice come in. If you fail the Handling check, which is analogous to Initiative for Vehicles, a simple D6 roll, your vehicle is likely to swerve 45 degrees (3/6), may jack-knife 90 degrees (2/6) and has a chance to roll (⅙) which will just wreck it instantly!

 It’s difficult to fully envision how vehicles will play out in the game. Not only have we not had the opportunity to play many games, we don’t even know the profiles for most vehicles! On the face of it, the vehicle damage rules remind me of 3rd-5th edition 40k. Vehicles were less predictable in their resilience than other models. You could spend the whole game taking hits and be no more than ‘shaken’. Or you could take a hit from a missile launcher in turn 1, that needed to roll a 6 to even glancing hit you, and blow up immediately (RIP my brother’s land raider, d. 2002 on our living room floor – I regret nothing and you will not be missed).

That’s probably a false comparison as vehicles in the Ash Wastes have some fairly tasty consequences to any damage taken. Shaken, the lowest result for Crew or Body hits, doesn’t stop you from shooting like old 40k (‘stunlocking’ vehicles was a rather irritating element of those old rules) but can cause you to stall out, stopping you moving. And losing control of the vehicle, a common result to almost all hits, is obviously going to mess up your position and facing even if you don’t stall. I expect vehicles, unless they have 2+ Handling stats or very high Toughness, to spend a fair bit of time skidding out, and of course there is a chance for them to Roll and wreck themselves every time. On the other hand, you need to Wound the vehicle and get through the saves to get these chances, so there will obviously be a big difference between the previewed Ridge Hauler and the fragile Orlock quads.

Driving Skills

Orlock Biker. Credit: Fowler

Genghis Cohen: We’ve long complained that skills in Necromunda are frustratingly unbalanced, with most categories of 6 having one standout choice, maybe 1-2 situational choices, and 3 absolute stinkers. Here I think the standout is Expert Driver, which grants +1 to Loss of Control tests. There are a lot of situations where your vehicle will take those tests, and they can cause you to roll completely and wreck your vehicle, so I think this is an important upgrade. My other pick would be Jink, essentially a 6+ special save to avoid a hit. Sounds like it would be number one right? Alas, unlike the popular Agility skill Dodge, this is once per round only. Boo. 

The only other one that stands out for me is T-Bone, which allows you to add D3 to your vehicle’s Toughness in a Head-on Collision. It’s hard to tell quite how big a part of the game ramming is going to be, but certainly it seems potentially very damaging (if dangerous to the active vehicle). It only looks tempting if you’re going fast, ideally hitting the other vehicle’s side (so the target treats it as a Side-on Collision and may roll) and, crucially, have a higher Toughness than the target vehicle. That last bit makes the hit weaker for you and stronger for the target. So this skill could open up the possibility of ramming similar class vehicles without it being mutually assured destruction. 

Ash Waste Nomads

Ash Waste Nomad. Credit: Colin Ward
Ash Waste Nomad. Credit: Colin Ward

Fowler: As of now, Ash Waste Nomads are statlines and unique gear choices. We expect a “Book Of” style supplement to flesh out their rules (and likely give other gangs vehicle choices) in the near future. Nomads are S3/T3 across the board, and come standard with a cloak that counts as a respirator & helps negate weather effects. Additionally, all Nomads aside from the bug riders have a “Sky Mantle” that lets them use a double action to gain the Hidden condition. Basic gangers and prospects are BS4/WS4, champs spec into shooting with BS3, and the leaders lean melee with WS3.

In terms of equipment, Nomads have an extremely focused gear list. Melee options are split into basic (blades with backstab or parry) and deluxe (the versatile but unwieldy chain lance and the swifter mono-hook). Blast pistols and rifles are new entries into the Necromunda armory. These are heresy-era weapons; essentially las weapons with Shock. Standard gangers also have access to long rifles. While this may seem like it has potential to unbalance matchups, between baseline BS4 and weather we did not run into feel-bads in our limited testing. The new heavy charge caster can spit out 5” shock rounds or S6 AP-2 D3 to a single target. While this might have seemed like a luxury in the underhive, we suspect that beefier weapons will have more play vs rolling metal targets. Watch this space as we learn more vehicle statlines!

Dustback Helamite Rider. Credit: Colin Ward
Dustback Helamite Rider. Credit: Colin Ward

Though the hullabaloo around Ash Wastes is that it is all about vehicles, technically the Dustback Helamite Riders are prospects – like Orlock Wreckers or Van Saar Neoteks. There is nothing stopping the gang as listed in the box from sneaking into the hive, with bugs in tow. They can take any weapons except for heavies! The chain lance really shines here. Lance weapons gain +1 strength on the drive-by or charge, which is particularly nasty paired with the versatile trait. We need more games to make a call, but a Helamite as a mobile long rifle platform is really calling to us. The change to keeping prospect gear on promotion also means that extremely lucky bugs could live long enough to become a skittering champion with a charge caster!

We will have a full article review of Nomads when they get their extended rules supplement. I built my list based on aesthetics and one of the preview examples – Leader with chain lance and mono hook, champ with charge caster, 3 gangers with blast rifles, 3 with long rifles, 2 with pistols.

Orlock Outrider Quad

WIP Orlock Outrider Quad. Credit: Fowler

Genghis Cohen: I like the look of these things pretty well, and I’m a sucker for a mobile heavy bolter (harpoon launchers less so – this was the perfect opportunity to bump them to 2 Damage and you bottled it GW, you cowards). But boy are they fragile. T4 in front, T3 elsewhere and a 5+ save. Any damage that goes through will likely wreck them in 1-2 hits. That’s in no way a bad thing, their base cost with crew is 115 credits, which doesn’t compare badly to a normal fighter. Really hard to say without seeing other vehicles to compare them to. But they seem less comparable to vehicles in 40k, which are significantly tougher models than infantry, and more like mobile infantry with rules to move (and flip over) like vehicles. 

Ash Wastes Gang Tactics

While most of these cards are vehicle focused, there are some universally usable options in this batch as well. We will mention a few of our favorites:

  • Always Carry a Spare is the reverse Click – automatically reloading a weapon that is out of ammo. 
  • Got someone on your tail? Gunk Spill essentially drops an oil slick behind your ride, James Bond / Spy Hunter style. An enemy vehicle within a couple inches of your back arc takes a loss of control test at -2!
  • Here at Necromunday HQ, we love doing incredibly stupid stuff. Look Out Below! Boosts the agility test for jumping between vehicles by +1. Here’s to playing the card and immediately faceplanting anyhow.
Congratulations for moving up 18 inches with no cover. The reward is a Goliath in your face. Credit: Fowler

New Mechanics and Rules

Battlefield Conditions

New for the Ash Wastes, we have a bunch of different regions to consider with the scenarios. These include areas defined as roads that are safer (or far more dangerous) to travel, on and conditions that affect visibility for charging and shooting. Also available to the Arbitrator are the regions of the Wastes that confer different nasties that can be rolled up to include in the battle. These range from mildly annoying to downright deadly… looking at you Acid Plains… In addition to all that (have we mentioned the Wastes aren’t friendly?) there’s also different seasons available to roll up, a 2D6 chart for each season, which add in another level of danger for you gangers. In general, you can think of this as an outdoor badzone system. If folks are worried about tooled-up gangers raining hellfire on unsuspecting opponents, there are environment-based inconveniences and hazards aplenty.

Rolling Roads

A throw back to Gorkamorka and Speed Freeks, these rules are exactly what they sound like. Every turn, everything on the recommended 6×4 board moves 8 inches in the opposite direction of travel. This can force gangers and vehicles off the table, who can potentially rejoin in the next round. In our limited testing so far, Rolling Roads races (and very specifically the Bone Road Death Race) are the most fun of the bunch. Wacky Races, but with heavy bolters.

Battlefield Setup

The book gives us consolidated rules and recommendations for all 3 battle zones (Zone Mortalis, Sector Mechanicus, and Ash Wastes, with recommended board sizes. Who knew Sector Mechanicus was recommended to be on a 4×4 play surface? This also includes a cheeky mention that vehicles could be used indoors – though it will likely end poorly. 

Scenarios

Included are thirteen scenarios, five of which have an exclusively Ash Wastes feel to them, with only two using the aforementioned Rolling Roads rules. The stand out here has to be the BONE ROAD DEATH RACE, which uses the Rolling Roads rules and is an actual race, the vehicle leading at the end of the scenario is the victor. The other Rolling Roads scenario is Cargo Run. One gang is trying to get the truck to the destination while the other crew is trying to stop it. 

They’ve added in scenarios that include the weather of the Ash Wastes to complicate otherwise straight forward missions. The fuel cache scenario that was played on Warhammer+ is a great example of this – slightly updated versions of missions you know and love.

Manwolfs Sentinel. Credit: Fowler

Ash Waste Campaign 

New Book, New environment, new campaign. Like the Dominion Campaign, gangs are fighting for territory – only now it’s gone big time… and map-based. For the Ash Wastes, it’s all about roads. Roads are how your gang initially makes a pittance of income. Controlling roads between two settlements allows a player to set up Trade Routes, which is how your gang gets cash with an added trading bonus that either adds more Creds to your income or other boons. All of the Trade Route bonuses depend on where the route starts and ends. For the Ash Waste Nomads, noted as always being Raiders, controlling roads also gives them a small amount of income, but instead of having Trade Routes, they gain income for disrupting them.

The book includes a detailed map of the area and Trade Routes of Cinderak Crater, with all roads leading into Cinderak City. Roads are marked out as Near, Deep and Wild wastes, all with associated rules for how dangerous they are. With this is a D66 table for road sections to generate roads for your campaign players at the beginning of the campaign.

They break the campaign into two phases with a week of downtime in between. The first phase is the inviting Season of Flame, followed by the Season of Ash. The Season of Flame is all about capturing uncontested road sections, with each player having the chance to issue a challenge to another player. During the Season of Ash, challenges are levied towards road sections controlled by other players.

As I mentioned, the area the road section sits in impacts the danger involved with battling over it. The book includes three scenario selection tables, one for Near, Deep and Wild, that help to choose what scenario to use for your game.

To end the campaign, the book includes a set of Triumphs that players can achieve over the weeks. While on the surface it reads like there’s no overall winner, it allows each player to work towards their own goals and gives a lot more flexibility than just trying to accumulate Reputation or capture the most territory, which I think is very neat. My favorite Triumph of the lot, Let it Burn: The player that wrecked the most enemy vehicles in a single battle.

Is this box for me?

If you are new to Necromunda, like the gangs in the box, and want an all-in-one buy for games in the wastes, this could be a slam dunk. If you are already into Necro, there are a few things to keep in mind. While there are are vehicle operation rules in here, there are not individual rules (statlines, costs, etc) for vehicles that do not come in the box. Additionally, wanting to really grow gangs out from this box would require buying the books with faction rules; House of Iron for the Orlocks and what we can assume is an as-yet unannounced supplement for the Nomads. That said: as an abitrator, an Orlock player who has built a grip of vehicles, and as someone who wants the terrain & Nomads – the box speaks to me. The setting, rules, lore, and models are great – we’re excited to get more games in!

And that’s it! This was a big one, folks. We’ve mentioned some follow-up articles – and we also owe you a FAQ hot take. Too much Necro to write about! If there is anything else you want us to cover with the box… or if you just want to send us cool pictures of your cat – drop us a line at Necromunday@Goonhammer.com.