Happy ‘Munday, Scummers! We’re very excited to have Merton back this week, now that he’s made it through to the other side of a particularly nasty virus that’s going around. A lot of folks have been asking for it, so this week we’re tackling Necromunda’s equivalent of Build-a-Bear: Venators!
Initially, when the Goonhammer editors called us into their office and collectively screamed at us, demanding that we write this article and provide photos of some horrible-sounding man-arachnid hybrid, our instinct was to flip ‘em the bird and say, “No way, Rob. Venators are the choose-your-own-adventure gang, a guide would be useless!” That line of reasoning was considered to be insufficient, so here we are.
In all seriousness, there are endless amounts of choices available to any players who wish to start a Venators gang, and we’re here to help players focus in as they sift the wheat from the chaff. It’s easy to get decision paralysis, and we hope we can mitigate that in this article!
What Are Venators?
On paper, a Venator band is a “Temporary coalition of normally solitary Bounty Hunters,” which is absolutely a valid theme and a great excuse to dust off some of the incredible models Forgeworld’s put out for Necromunda over the past couple years. If you’re looking to run a gang crewed by Mad Dog Mono’s cousin and the best Grendle Grendlesen cosplayer on Hive Primus, this is your chance!
Beyond that, Venators are your chance to build a gang about anything, using any models and (almost) any playstyle. Each of their fighter-types has four variations to represent any sort of focus, from tough and choppy to small and shooty to something fairly fast and in-between. They can grab gear at creation from the Trading Post itself, and even specialize themselves further with individual back-stories that include a shrouded past spent fighting alongside one of the Houses, with access to all of the unique weapons and Exotic Beasts that come with it.
The only limits are your credits and your imagination, which is a prospect that can be as intimidating as it is liberating! We’ve been wracking our brains for a while trying to figure out how to tackle a faction where virtually all options are on the table, so if you’re considering Venators as your new gang you’re likely dealing with some of the same. First things first, you’re gonna need a theme.
Sticking to Themes
If your first inclination is to cosy up to your copy of Book of Peril and a notebook or the Yaktribe Gang Manager, you’re off to a rough start. Before any of that bookkeeping and number-crunching, what you really need is to define who your Venator gang is, and what they’re all about. You’re going to need a theme.
Starting off with a solid theme is key to building a successful gang, because it gives you a focus to define who your gang is as well as why and how they fight. You’ve only got so many credits at founding, and randomly picking weapons and wargear that seem good is a recipe for disaster. As anyone who’s gone grocery shopping without a plan and later walked out with $50 in mostly snacks (and maybe a vegetable) knows, figuring out the Big Picture should always be step one. That said; you’ve got a lot of options, all of ‘em in fact!
Maybe you’re a team of ex-ganger Bounty Hunters solving problems when nobody else can help, provided you can find them. Guest starring Carlos Slagmyst, who is also a Water Vampire but somehow doesn’t manage to cost 270 credits!
Perhaps you’re an unlikely congregation of murderers and madmen, united briefly to fulfill some mysterious (and most likely malevolent) goal.
Or maybe your crew is a more primitive archaeotech-wielding primitive headhunter tribe, teeming forth from a new breach in the Sump, determined to protect the sanctity of the long-lost collapsed dome they call home.
It doesn’t matter because it’s all viable, so get crazy with it!
Got a bunch of Kroot Carnivores collecting dust? Venator gang. Bought the Kill Team Rogue set exclusively for the dog and now you’ve got all these Elucidian Starstriders? Venator gang. Box full of random Tyranid bits and a bit of Green Stuff? Venator gang. It doesn’t even matter if the weapons you use are the exact representation of their official appearance. Keep things consistent, make sure your opponent knows what your models are armed with, and go wild.
Venators are a gang that exist to be the living embodiment of the Rule of Cool, a gaggle of misfits (or a finely-tuned elite squad) that could only possibly exist in a game willing to bend over backwards to accommodate them. When picking your gang’s back-story and theme, it’s helpful to consider a more model-first approach, building something that looks awesome and then using the Venator rules to figure out what it would best represent on the table.
Gang Composition and Quirks
Venators have access to 3 types of fighters: Hunt Leaders, Hunt Champions, and Hunters. No Juves! There must be 1 Hunt Leader, and a gang can start out with up to 2 Hunt Champions. Like other gangs, a Venator gang must be at least 50% Hunters. Each fighter comes with a choice of four stat-lines. We’ve nicknamed them:
- Orlock (versatile)
- Squat (tougher, slower, still versatile)
- Goliath (combat-focused)
- Van Saar (shooting-focused)
The player must choose a stat-line for each fighter that cannot be changed after gang creation. These stat lines are mostly legit, and will provide a solid base for any Venator gang.
Venators do not have a House Weapons list or an entry similar to the entries in the House of Chains book. Instead, the player may arm them from the Trading Post. A Hunt Leader may purchase any weapon or item up to rarity 11, Hunt Champs get rarity 10, and Hunters get rarity 8, but can’t use Special or Heavy weapons. This provides a truly dizzying array of options for your gang, but if you’ve read any of our previous gang reviews, then you can probably anticipate what we’re going to say about weapons. Grenade Launchers good, Heavy Flamers bad, yadda, yadda, yadda. What serves for a house gang will probably serve here, too.
What you can do in a Venator gang is plug any holes that a house gang might have. For instance, Van Saar gangs have access to some really nice guns, but their combat presence is laughable. A Venator gang can have the nice guns and a couple of beefy fighters that will pack a punch in melee. We’re not going to go into all of the combinations here, because there are too many, but Venators have cornered the market on versatility.
Chosen on a case-by-case basis, any member of a Venator gang may choose a House Legacy when created or recruited. They can be different Houses for each fighter, and rather than modify any Skills or Stats, this option allows the fighter the option to purchase weapons and wargear from their old House’s armory. (A Hunt Leader’s Legacy can modify your Favors Table and Enhanced Boons in a Dominion campaign too, but we’ll get into that later.)
This is primarily used as a tool to acquire certain unique weapons as mementos of your fighter’s undoubtedly mysterious and tortured past, such as Web Gauntlets and Renderizers and Chem Throwers. In certain cases it may be possible to also buy some basic weapons and wargear at that House’s discounted rate, but the 30 credit price of admission for a House Legacy is usually too expensive to make that a good decision.
Hunt Leaders and Hunt Champions with a House Legacy are also able to purchase their former faction’s Exotic Beast, so if you’ve even had a hankering to see how well a Phyrr Cat and a Sheen Bird would get along on the same team, this is your chance!
Sadly, the rules are pretty clear on House Legacies being locked to the Houses as options. That said, Venators are a gang that exists to enable cool players with crazy ideas and awesome models, so we’re more than willing to bend things if our players want to run a grizzled detective down on his luck with an Enforcer Legacy or something like that. Arbitrators; if they come to you with some sweet ideas for a kit-bash and a rad backstory, just let it happen. If nothing else, that dude’s exploits’ll make for a hell of a story.
…unless of course he’s trying to sell you on some bozo who’s an Inquisitor who’s the best at finding rogue psykers and hunting foul Xenos and he’s got a cool trenchcoat and an awesome detective hat and a ton of field armor and a hand flamer and vortex grenades and suspensors and a power sword and a bolt pistol and web solvent and he’s always lucky and he’s the coolest and the smartest and the best.
Oh wait, that guy already exists and is totally canon. Presenting Inquisitor Obi-Wan Sherlock Clouseau, Ladies and Gentlemen.
One of the few aspects of a Venator gang that’s irrevocably locked at creation, make sure you’ve got your theme on lock and picking your Primary Skill sets will be a cinch! If you’re not super familiar with your options, we’ve written a quick Rundown of All Skill sets available through the Gangs of the Underhive book.
All Venators in a gang will be granted access to two Primary sets of Skills, chosen with a certain finality when the gang is first founded. You’ll have a pair of Secondary skills as well to pick, but those really don’t come up as options very often in Necromunda!
Unlike House Legacies, which are very particular in the Houses they list as options, skills appear to play it a bit looser, allowing the Venators to “pick any four skills sets.” Before you go any further, know that this is a lie.
If you’re thinking about delving into Palanite Drill or Savagery, both of these unique Skill sets are prefaced with a disclaimer declaring them to be the exclusive domain of the Enforcers and Corpse Grinders. We’re not saying that this should completely dissuade you if you’ve got some cannibalistic ex-cops in mind, but that’s a discussion you’re going to have to have with your Arbitrator.
Even if you’re limited to just the traditional Skill sets from Gangs of the Underhive, there’s still opportunities to create combinations that haven’t been seen from the traditional Houses. Beat Grinders at their own game with the offensive and defensive one-two punch of Ferocity and Combat! Bounce around the battlefield with Cunning and Agility until your opponent can’t figure out if they’re fighting Harlequins or Luchadors! Threaten to hold your breath until your Arbitrator allows you to take Muscle skills and Anything Else, Who Cares, because Muscle is super fun and it’s not gonna break the game!
Your Hunt Leaders and Hunt Champions are only going to be able to pick a single skill at creation like anyone else anyway, so any bizarre combinations you’ve got in mind won’t come into play until they live long enough to gain the XP for a second skill. Hunters, even longer, since they’ll first have to advance to Specialists before skills come into the equation.
Whichever ones you pick to start off with, make sure that it’s useful enough to carry them through until their full potential comes online!
- Legacies and Boons: In a Dominion Campaign, choosing a House Legacy for your Hunt Leader is borderline essential, as it is required to access Enhanced Boons for territories.
- A gang whose leader has a House Legacy also rolls on the House’s table for Favors, or on the Outlaw table if they don’t. Contrary to our usual guidance, we actually caution against allowing rolling on the Goliath-specific house favor table. Nat-Borns and Gene-Smithing is a can of worms you don’t want to attempt to integrate into Venators, trust us.
- Juve-Generating Effects: Most commonly seen in the Dominion Campaign with the base Settlement territory, Venators lack the Juve-class fighter that would be created on the standard roll of 6. We’ve chosen to modify the rules that were given to Genestealer Cultists in the Book of Ruin for this exact scenario.
- Suggested House Rule: “Settlement Territories do not generate Juves; instead, if one of the d6 rolls is a 6, they generate a single free Hunter with one of the four profiles chosen at random. If both of the d6 roll a 6, the Hunter’s profile may instead be chosen.”
- Fewer Followers: The threshold to add a second Hanger-On is 10 Reputation rather than 5, like it is for every other gang besides Genestealer Cultists. In addition, the only Bounty Hunters that may be paid and hired for their services are named Dramatis Personae, not the random customizable mooks. Do note, that this thankfully does not apply to Bounty Hunters that are recruited for free through other methods, such as Law-Abiding Boons and Outlaw Favors.
- Trading Post Access During an Uprising: The Damnation Phase of an Uprising campaign can be rough on a lot of House gangs, as being limited to their House Armories can cause huge gaps in a gang’s arsenal. Venators are once again the happy outliers here, able to Scavenge for all manner of necessary gear as their opposition is left helpless, gnawing the leather off of a Reclaimed Autogun.
- There’s an argument to be made that since the full name of the Black Market is “The Black Market Trading Post,” Venators should be allowed access to common/rare items from there as well. We’d consult with the rest of your players first before trotting that one out, lest it result in an actual argument
So, this is the part of the article where we usually give out some example gang rosters for new players to work off of. We’re not going to do this for Venators. There are too many combos, possibilities, load-outs, and archetypes out there for us to spend time on, and we refuse to pigeonhole another player’s potential creativity. What we will say is this: Make sure each fighter you build has a clear purpose.
Additionally, buy weapons before wargear, and as always, boys before toys.
Venators are an extremely cool part of Necromunda. They are the catch-all gang for people who want to go their own way. Most Venator gangs out there are passion projects and have a ton of story behind them. The most important thing to do with a Venator gang is to do what you want and have a good time doing it!
We fully support the idea that the most important part of a Venator gang is the gang’s narrative theme. While a Venator gang can be exceptionally effective on the tabletop, it’s kind of a waste of time to attempt to optimize them, because House gangs will probably do whatever a Venator gang wants to do, but better. But that’s okay!
Necromunda is all about the story, the journey, and the friends we made along the way! Everyone knows the best way to make friends is beautifully painted models and pages and pages of detailed backstory, and that’s what Venators are all about.
Good hunting, scummers!
We’re glad to be back in action and mostly Gunk-free, and a big thanks goes to our editor Rob for slummin’ down here in ‘Munda-ville and lending a hand last week. We’ve got some big plans for the upcoming month, so swing back next week and we’ll get started with our take on a real bounty system for campaigns. Hit us up on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org in the meantime, and we’ll see you back here soon!