Necromunday: House of Artifice Review

An article by and    Necromunda Reviews        0

“Every shot in its place, and a place for every shot.”

Good mornin’, Scummers, and a fine Necromunday Necrosaturday to all!

We’re coming in hot with an early edition to drop some details and thoughts on next week’s House of Artifice, the new Van Saar book (kindly provided by Games Workshop for this review) bringing the gang ya love ta hate into the modern era. Let’s do it.

 

Van Saar Gang Composition

Right off the bat, our good friends now follow the same composition rules as the Orlocks, Escher, and Goliaths. To invoke a suspiciously familiar list, gangs from House Van Saar now follow these rules:

  1.  Juves and prospects now count as “Gang Fighters” meaning that they count towards the 50% roster composition rule (as gangers do) instead of counting against it.
  2. All fighters are free to equip Wargear from the Trading Post or Black Market, but only leaders and champions are able to equip Weapons from the Trading Post or Black Market. Gangers (and Specialists), Prospects, and Juves all are restricted to weapons from their individual house lists. This is concurrent with Iron, Chains, and Blades.

Unlike gangs from previous books, Van Saar gangs did not have their armor removed (in their case, Bodygloves), with their cost to recruit adjusted accordingly. They still come with ‘em!

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Prime (Leader)

  • Same statline, skills access, included Bodyglove, and cost from Gangs of the Underhive.

Primes gained access to Combi-Pistols of the Melta and Plasma varieties, which replace regularly-sized Combi-Weapons on their personal list. Getting up close and personal with pistols may be a bit more survivable with the new availability of field armors like Refractor and Displacer Fields, though!

In addition, the basic Las-Weapon suite (Gun, Carbine, Suppression Laser) can now be taken either as Mastercrafted weapons or with a Focusing Crystal. These Crystals are a bit different from their previous incarnation in the Book of Judgement! They’re an upgrade instead of an ammo type, and give whatever weapon they’re on an extra -2 AP and the Unstable trait.


Augmek (Champion)

  • Same statline, skills access, included Bodyglove, and cost from Gangs of the Underhive.

Mostly the same updated equipment options as the Prime, including the Combi-Pistol swap.

Augmeks mostly fill the same role in a Van Saar gang as they did before – big guns, ranging out with deadly accuracy. They’ve been spared from the Orlock Savant tomfoolery as well; they’ve got the new Tech skill, but it’s only as a Secondary.


Tek (Ganger)

  • Same statline, skills access, included Bodyglove, and cost from Gangs of the Underhive.

Gangers keep their ability to run with a variety of Las-Weapons and/or Plasma Pistols if you’re feeling jaunty, so most existing models with common loadouts are pretty safe from being invalidated. One Neotek can start off as a Specialist with the ability to equip one of the Heavy or Special weapons that the Van Saar know and love, and they’ll be blasting away with a healthy BS 3+ in no time!

(Credit: Games Workshop)


Subtek (Juve)

  • Same statline, included Bodyglove, and cost from Gangs of the Underhive.

Lasguns, Laspistols, some melee weapons and grenades, such is the life of a Juve. Apparently unable to gain skills thanks, to the same odd wording present in the Orlock Greenhorn profile.

At this point we’re confident that this is an overlooked error, and will be letting both flavors of juves gain skills in our campaigns. It’s fine, they’re juves. We’d love to see it clarified one way or another officially, though. Goliath and Escher got FAQs rapidly after Blades came out, so maybe GW is dropping errata every other book, and if that’s the case we might find out soon. Fingers crossed!


Archaeotek (Champion)

Alright, now we’re getting to the good stuff! These bad boys are clocking in at only a minor credit increase over a regular Augmek, and have a similar profile with an extra melee attack instead of Group Activations. They don’t have an Augmek’s full arsenal and they don’t need it either, because instead they’ve got access to the Rad Beamer and the Spider-Rig.

If you’re looking for a middle ground between the Rad Cannon’s blasts and the Rad Gun’s Templates, the Beamer can plug away in two modes up to 24” away. If you need a Rapidfire Rad weapon, or maybe you need accuracy and Strength 3, the Rad Beamer’s got you covered.

Or, if the notorious Van Saar 4” Movement is allowing choppy gangs to crash into your gunlines, invest in a Spider-Rig and marvel at your new counter-charge juggernaut. This thing slices, it dices, it Entangles, Parries, Shocks, and more! (The more is Paired and Versatile and +WS and -AP). It’s easy to go overboard and spend way too many credits on this guy, especially once you start looking at Light Carapace armor and Cyberteknica, but a rigged-out Archaeotek is gonna be a wrecking ball.

On top of all that, Archaeoteks get a free basic Cyberteknica implant when they join your gang, and half off all of the rest of ‘em. We’ll get to those in a bit!

(Credit: Games Workshop)


Neotek (Prospect)

At twice the cost of a traditional Juve (and the same statline), you’re going to be paying a decent amount for a Neotek or two. We’d recommend you do so, because these prospects are amazing. They can equip most light ganger-style weapons, including a Hand Flamer and Plasma Pistol, but the real joy of the Neotek is their included Grav-Cutter glider.

The Grav-Cutter adds 2” to the Neotek’s Movement, allowing them to zip around at an astounding (for Van Saar, at least) 7” per action, as well as perform Fly-By Attacks that glance enemies they fly over half the time with a Strength 4 hit. They can’t be pinned by ranged attacks either, so anyone trying to stop these guys from harassing them is going to need a lot more than a Lasgun or two to slow them down. They’re only BS 4+, but that’s not as much of an issue when they’re in template range or close enough for Plasma!

Basically, the Neotek is exactly the sort of tool that the Van Saar arsenal was crying for. They’ve got the mobility to take a flank and uproot enemies that the rest of your crew can’t shoot down, or can zoom off and finally claim the scenario objectives that the rest of the gang is just too slow to reach in time. They’re not a full replacement for Teks and Subteks, but they’re an invaluable piece of the Van Saar puzzle going forward.

 

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Cyberteknica

As is tradition with House of ____ books, the gang the book focuses on gets a shiny new special rule to help differentiate them from the other house gangs. In this case, Van Saar gangs get access to Cyberteknica. So, everyone knows that Van Saar bodies are weak and sickly. Unsurprisingly, the tech-smiths at the heart of Van Saar have noticed this, too. So, at a pace that far outstrips members of other houses, House Van Saar makes use of specialized bionics to replace their “original” parts when they fail. Sound familiar?

In game terms, Van Saar fighters can do 3 things with Cyberteknica:

  • Buy it for their Leader and Champs at gang creation.
  • Buy it when a fighter advances (though this will send them into Recovery).
  • Buy it when a fighter suffers a Lasting Injury. The Cyberteknica will replace the fighter’s Injury, but the fighter still goes into recovery.

This stuff sounds really cool! So far, we haven’t seen a Lasting Injury mitigation tactic other than bionics, which are extremely rare and expensive. Van Saar gangs can buy Cyberteknica at any time to heal injuries, and that gives them a significant (bionic) leg up on the competition. Not only do these fancy bionics heal Lasting Injuries, they also add a bonus consummate with the new body part’s abilities. Additionally, Cyberteknica can protect against future Lasting Injuries: on a 4+ a Lasting Injury to a fighter that impacts the upgraded body part is ignored!

Each piece of Cyberteknica has three levels: Alpha, Gamma, and Omega. An Alpha piece gives one bonus, a Gamma two, and an Omega three. A fighter can upgrade existing cyberteknika during a campaign, too, but advanced Cyberteknica can be bought, there’s no need for progression. The one drawback to this system is that, like bionics, Cyberteknica adds to a fighter’s credit value, so an heavily modified character will end up being quite expensive.

So, there are a lot of these things, with three levels each, so we’re not going to touch on all of them in this article. We’ll mention our two faves, but we suggest that Van Saar players grab this book and pay special attention to this section, as it’s really cool!

Dan’s Favorite: One of House Van Saar’s biggest weaknesses is their relatively slow speed, so for me, Motive Cyberteknika jumps out as one of the more useful right off the bat. At the Alpha level, it allows for a fighter to ignore difficult terrain while moving. At the Gamma level it adds 2” to their Movement when they’re moving vertically. And at the Omega level, the fighter can reroll failed Initiative checks to see if they fall when within ½” of the edge of a platform. So, the character can get higher quicker and has a better chance of keeping their position. Nice!

Merton’s Favorite: Ooh, I’m definitely making my Archaeotek even more expensive with a Gamma-level Torsionic Cyberteknica. Anyone trying to slap away his Rad Beamer is going to have to contend with unarmed strikes at Damage 3 and +2 Strength. Actually, if I didn’t have to bother with a weedy little Van Saar Prime I could probably mock up a high-tech counts-as Ogryn list with a could of these dudes. I might have to work something up for a custom scenario at some point!

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Tech Skills

House of Artifice introduces a brand new skill tree unique to house Van Saar: Tech. Yeah, we know. The tech gang has tech skills. Just like the muscle gang has muscle skills. Similar to other gangs who are not Orlocks, only the Archaeotek gets access to these as a primary.

  • Scummers, we try not to editorialize too much with these reviews. We have roundtable articles for that. But we’re going to be straight with you: these skills aren’t great! We’ll get into exactly why in our Van Saar article in a week and a half, but this section of the book is ugly. We usually like to include a favorite for each of us in this section, but this time it’s a difficult ask. We’ll soldier on, though.

Dan’s Favorite: Since I’m forced to make a selection, here, I’m going with Weaponsmith. The fighter’s weapons all lost the Scarce trait, meaning they can be reloaded if they ever run out of ammo. Very useful if you load up on plasma weaponry, which we know you’re going to want to do.

Merton’s Favorite: Woof. Dan went first here and snagged the only “good” one, so I’ll grab my fluffy fave, Rad-Phaged. With this skill, anytime you’re hit with a Gas or Toxin attack your opponent will be rolling 2d6 for the check and discarding the highest, as an extra line of defense. That’s not why I like it, though! Rad-Phaged fighters don’t just ignore Rad, they bask in it, healing a Flesh Wound on a 4+ if ever affected by an attack with the trait.

If I played Van Saar, I’d be sending him deep into an enemy cluster and dropping Rad Cannon blasts on top of him to keep him healthy and the opponent irradiated. I’d also probably lose, but that was gonna happen anyway!

 

Van Saar Terrain

When the Van Saar see something they like, they’re not above stealing a design and putting their own spin on it. There’s not a lot of brand new ideas here, more-so existing terrain options with an expected twist. 

There’s Rad Casters, which function identically to Escher Gas Censers, only with clouds of radiation that can cause Rad-Phage damage. Or Thermal Mines, like Blade Traps or Decapitators, only now with Melta.

Their unique Archaeo-Relic does cause insanity on a failed Intelligence check to enemies who end their turn too close, which is neat! There’s a more than a couple things in this book about ways to cause and mitigate Insanity for Van Saar, which is definitely not the niche status effect we were expecting to see repeatedly for the Rad gang with the Rad Guns and the Rad Sickness, but hey. It’s different!

 

(Credit: Games Workshop)

The Friend Zone

Just like its predecessors, House of Artifice gives Van Saar gangs new Hangers On, cleans up their Brute selection section, and introduces Van Saar’s strong alliances. For Brutes, nothing has changed! They can still take the arachni-rig, ambots, and jotunns at the same prices from GotU. That’s not bad news, though. The arachni-rig is still a monster if you’ve converted up a mini for it.

In addition to the standard Hangers On (Ammo Jack, Rogue Doc, Dome Runner, Slopper, and Gang Lookout), House of Artifice introduces 3 new Hangers On, two of which are hirable by any gang. Our three new Hangers On are:

  • Cogitator Core Servitor (Van Saar only): Van Saar gans are adept at co-opting (stealing) security tech to augment their own hideouts. In this case, they’ve installed a security cogitator core into a lobotomized  maintenance servitor. What this means is that when the Van Saar gang is the defender in a scenario, they are given an enormous advantage over the local turf. They can turn the lights on and off at will, get free booby traps, and even make it harder for enemy gangers to open locked doors. Pretty sweet, but these things come with a hefty 100-credit price tag.
  • Tech-Merchant: at 40 credits (80 credits for non-Van Saar gangs), The Tech-merchant will quickly make up for their hiring fee. After each battle, the Van Saar player can decrease the Rare or Illegal value of any item in the Trading Post of Black Market by 2, and get a d3x10 credit discount (to a minimum of 20) on any item from the Trading Post or Black Market. Very nice for those players who like going after exotic weaponry.
  • Data-Scrivener: These hangers on only cost 20 credits, and boy does it show. The ganger who employs a data-scrivener can roll 3d6 and discard the lowest when testing against their gang’s Intelligence. Nuff said.

On the alliance front, House of Artifice outlines house Van Saar’s Strong Alliances: the Promethium Guild, Imperial Imposters, and introduces the newest Noble ally: House Catallus. There’s no changes to the Pyromancers or to Imperial Imposters, so let’s instead focus on House Catallus!

(Credit: Games Workshop)

House Catallus is known as the House of Masks, and their reputation on Necromunda is of extreme sneakiness and masterful manipulation. Their nobles wear expertly crafted carnival masks that they never remove and follow “The Invisible Truth”. This “truth” teaches that the only way to endure the unending brutality of life on Necromunda is to never exist at all. Very creepy!

As an alliance partner, House Catallus grants the gang use of a terrifying and deadly House Catallus Carnival. The Carnival is made up of a Masked Killer, who is a combat monster of unparalleled ability, and a Mindfrayed who is little more than a suicidal morale disruption bomb. Most importantly, House Catallus agents wear colorful motley and perhaps the best way to describe them is Murder Clowns. We imagine that there is a…certain subset of folks out there to whom that idea is very interesting.

Additionally, House Catallus gives some campaign-level benefits that are…questionable at best. Their drawbacks are similarly enigmatic. We’ll leave it up to players to judge whether or not this alliance is worth it, but you won’t ever be bored when allying with House Catallus, that much is true.

 

New Scenarios

We’ve got two new scenarios on hand that are geared towards use with Van Saar gangs, but they can indeed be played by any gangs. These two missions are, at the very least, excellently named. They’re both “kill the target” missions, of which we already have too much of, to be honest, but they’re fun and thematic, so not a big deal.

  1. Deus Ex Machina: In this scenario, an Abominable Intelligence has possessed a random member of the defending gang. The Van Saar gang is tasked with hunting down this fighter and recovering the piece of tek that contains the AI’s machine spirit. It won’t be as easy at is sounds, though, as the fighter that the AI possesses has all of their characteristics improved (it’s actually extremely easy because the attacking gang is Custom Selection (10) and the defending gang is Random Selection (10), but that’s snappy enough to make it out of the parenthetical, here)!
  2. Last Rites For The Machine: In what is easily the more interesting mission, this one gives the defender a “Fading Legend”: a Van Saar house agent of advanced age carrying the spoils of a long and infamous career in the Underhive. The defenders are thrilled to escort this fighter into battle one more time, and the attackers want to see them gone for good. It’s an interesting premise, and the Fading Legend has a baked in rule where they literally fade away during the battle. However, the attacker’s victory condition is letting the Fading Legend fade away, so their best strategy in this mission is to run around and hide until the Fading Legend obliges. Arbitrators might need to futz with this one a little.

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Final Thoughts

Scummers, if it’s not already apparent, we had a hard time mustering our typical level of exuberance for House of Artifice. It’s not that this book is bad, by any means! Folks who were having trouble with Van Saar gangs can rest easy, it’s definitely not as much of a power spike as House of Chains. If you play Van Saar, you’re gold too – Archaeoteks can fend off most melee champions that wander too close to your crew as they inch forward, and Neoteks are a game-changer with their sorely-needed mobility. Buy this book. Use these models.

In the previous three House of ____ books, it seemed like Games Workshop was attempting to bring all of the existing gangs up to the power level of the nigh-untouchable Corpse Grinders. An Escher or Orlock gang these days evolves throughout a campaign a lot differently than they used to, and some playstyles have shifted entirely. For Van Saar, however, it’s clear to us that the powers that be considered the gang good enough, and kinda phoned it in on everything else. It’s a missed opportunity.

Cyberteknica isn’t atrocious, and a trait system based on elective bionics is a cool concept, but almost every single one of them is at least twice as expensive as it should be (yes, even Alpha Cranials, a paltry 30 credits for immunity to Insanity). Tech skills are rough, and most of them are Escape Artist-level of situational (yes, even Mental Mastery, which grants immunity to Insanity).  Everything else feels a bit like a Rad- and Melta-flavored palette swap of existing ideas (yes, even the high mobility Neoteks, which fill the same new role that Wreckers did as the flying Orlock prospect, and thankfully do not grant immunity to Insanity).

We love Necromunda, and we would have loved to see Van Saar get the same loving attention that was given to Orlocks, Escher, and Goliath, but that doesn’t seem to have happened here. We’re not mad, but we are disappointed.

 


A rare misstep in the Underhive? Tune back in in two days on actual Necromunday, when we open up Artifice to the rest of the crew for a third and fourth opinion. It’s roundtable time, and we love to be wrong! Hit us up at necromunday@goonhammer.com with any what-have-yous, enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see ya real soon!

 

 

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