Necromunday: Hive War Review

Howdy scummers! So you’ve taken a peek at our How to Play Necromunda article and you’re ready to jump into the underhive… what now? With the release of Hive War, our advice for where to start has gotten a whole lot easier. You should probably pick up this box!

What’s in the box?

Escher Gangers. Credit: SRM

First, let’s talk about the minis. Both gangs are sneaky and backstabbly – the agile Escher and the shadowy Delaque. You get two sprues (i.e. 10 models) and bases for each gang, the same as the retail boxes. This is a particularly interesting matchup for a starter box. Thus far, Eschers have been the face of the Necromunda revival, along with the vat-grown hulks of House Goliath. Swapping the beef boys for the Dark City-cosplayers of Delaque evens the playing field quite a bit, and we suspect that games on the relatively small board should move very quickly. Each gang has a corresponding set of tactic cards that let you perform actions or gain benefits during the game – like activating additional fighters at once time or giving weapons the plentiful (i.e. easier reloads) trait. The tactics are simplified from the full game sets, and thankfully eschew some of the more feel-bad abilities.

Delaque Gang. Credit: Corrode

Following the trend set by the Dark Uprising box, the play surface is a double-sided glossy paper game mat. While the Necromunday staff is collectively pouring one out for the classic cardboard Zone Mortalis tiles, having separate 2D and 3D rule sets right off the bat can be a bit confusing for new folks. Easing the pain quite a bit here is the inclusion of 5 sprues of Zone Mortalis pillars and walls. We like the inclusion of more truly 3D terrain, and the ZM bits look great on the tabletop. Keep in mind that games in the provided environs are going to be very tight – perfect for the included gangs but potentially trouble for crews that rely more on bolters than shivs.

Necromunda Hive War mats
Credit: Games Workshop

The box also contains a sprue of barricades & objectives, rulers, a set of translucent orange templates, two sets of Necromunda dice, and a sizeable pile of tokens. While many tabletop game fans will have troves of hoarded dice, this pack contains ones with specialized faces. Ammo dice represent both the results of rapid fire weapons and the possibility of your gun needing to be reloaded. Injury dice rolls are used to determine what happens when a ganger loses all of their wounds – is it a mere flesh wound? Are they down for the count? Scatter dice show what happens when a weapon misses the mark – a stray grenade or plasma cannon shot. All of these things can be done with standard dice, but in our humble opinion it is way more fun (and visceral) to immediately see how the carnage turned out.

What’s up with that new rulebook?

The Hive War rulebook has some interesting changes, and we’re hopeful that this is a preview for future Necro books! This one is self-contained – unlike the ’18 rules, there are no references to Gangs of the Underhive. As we mentioned previously, the terrain rules are all 3D now – no more Zone Mortalis tiles. Interestingly, the book also has rules for all of the house gangs. This is a nice touch! The wargear options are limited to what comes in the standard gang boxes, and there are simplified lists of skills for each. Being able to get other gangs involved with these intro games is extremely cool. Box-only wargear keeps new players from having to worry about kitbashing or FW weapon kits while they are learning the ropes, but we always love having more variety! In terms of actually playing games, you are provided with a set of simplified missions and a basic framework to link them together. No arbitrator tools, campaign rules, trading post, or injury table. This does put a bit of a cap on how deep you can go with this set directly out of the box.

The most refreshing thing about the Hive War book is that it’s a much more approachable rulebook for new (and old) players. Taking the time to better explain things like priority, readying fighters, and firepower dice makes for a far more usable reference. With no rule changes, there may not be a particularly strong reason to put out a rulebook 3.0, but we’d love to see a revamped option for new players.

The Hive War rulebook makes the majority of the ‘18 rulebook redundant ASIDE from campaign rules, which makes moving on from this book a bit more complicated if you want to jump into being an arbitrator. Buying the standard rulebook just for the Dominion rules is a tough sell – we’d love to see a new supplement that takes on the heavy lifting for campaign rules and scenarios. If you are looking to graduate from Hive War to a full campaign, consider Law & Misrule (in the Book of Judgement) or even our Lost Zone campaign type.

Is this the best way to get started with Necromunda?

Escher gang. Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

If you have interest in either (or both) of the gangs in the box, Hive War is a slam dunk. You’ll have the rules, tokens, and even a rival gang to face off against! This would also be a solid bet if you have a gaming group that is completely new to the game – having the game mat is helpful if you don’t have any terrain appropriate for Necro.

On the flip side – if you are joining a campaign and just need to bring a gang to the game club you might be best served grabbing the main rulebook and a “House Of” book if your gang has one (and Gangs of the Underhive if they do not). Theoretically Dark Uprising is a starter as well, though it’s at an enthusiast price and contains two gangs that aren’t particularly newbie-friendly! 

TLDR Verdict:

Hive War is the best single-box option for new folks who want to start playing Necromunda in 2021. 

We’re really excited for more folks to get their hands on Hive War and take their first steps into the underhive. Escher vs Delaque is an interesting pairing – a sneaky, backstabby duo that should lend itself to fast-paced battles on a compact board. Our hope is that Hive War helps to get a lot more folks hooked! Any questions? Comments? Commiseration about the lack of Badzone Delta-7 tiles? Drop us a line at: