Necromunday: House of Chains Review

An article by and    Gaming Generic Junk Necromunda Reviews        0

The Lord of Necromunda reminds you, never use a bullet where a blade will suffice.

Good morning, Scummers! It’s a new day in the Underhive, and if you’re here right now then chances are you’re just as excited as we are about the new book that dropped this weekend, House of Chains. We’ve had a few days to go through it so far, and man, this is a big one. So whether you’re a Goliath player trying to make sense out of all the new tricks and troops, or any other gang eager to see what might be in store for your house once their book drops, read on! 

It should come as no surprise, but we here at Necromunday are extremely hype about the House of Chains. Necromunda’s rules have been less than perfect so far, and this book goes a long, long way towards improving their format, which for nerds like us, is very exciting!

The House of Chains is like if Goliaths got a 40k Codex. There are a ton of new options for the beefy boys and girls, with a whole slew of new models and fighter types for Goliath players. And where older Necromunda books would be filled with copy-pasted sections, they’ve instead re-written most or all of the rules to come off tighter and easier to understand. Additionally, this book seems as if it was designed to push Gangs of the Underhive (GotU) into obsolescence, meaning that Goliath players could potentially play Necromunda with two books only!

Before we get into it, we just want to re-state how excited we are for this book. It is an extremely welcome and well-done format change for Necromunda books, and if the future of Necromunda is going to look like this, then it will be bright indeed!

The future is now. (Credit: Games Workshop)

Goliaths. Goliaths Everywhere.

Hate to break it to ya, but most of this book is about Goliaths! There’s some stuff in here that can be enjoyed by the other houses as well, but first off we’ll focus on the Goliath-exclusives, since they’re really the stars here. We’ll be getting into the real fine detail next week, once we’ve had a chance to run some test games with their new rules!

Once they’re in the vents, you’re never getting them out. (Credit: SRM)

Your New Beefy Friends

In the House of Chains, you’ll quickly notice two things about the fighters you can hire:

  1. Each fighter type now has a spiffy new name, and,
  2. Fighter profiles have a new format.

Let’s talk formatting. Now each fighter has their own equipment list, and certain fighters (the low-ranking ones) are restricted from equipping things from outside of their list. This is generally very good, as it removes ambiguity and clears up the “who can take what” issues that still exist. Also, rules that were in the “Gang Composition” section in GotU are now outlined as abilities in each fighter type’s profile. Three big changes to note:

  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. Armor is no longer given automatically, it has to be bought. Most fighters receive a discount on armor, sometimes making them cheaper than they were in GotU.
  3. While all fighter types are still able to equip Wargear from the Trading Post and Black Market freely as before, only Forge Tyrants, Forge Bosses, and Stimmers (with a conditional exception for Forgeborn) are able to do the same for Weapons. Everyone else is now limited to the guns on their House List!

With this book, Goliath players will be able to hire six different types of fighters for their gangs. We’ll quickly go over them and mention any big changes:

  • Forge Tyrant (Leader): No big changes here, just an expanded wargear list and a 5-credit discount. Forge Tyrants get the new Muscle skills as a secondary skill set.
  • Forge Boss (Champion): No big changes here, just an expanded wargear list and a 5-credit discount. Forge Bosses get the new Muscle skills as a secondary skill set.
  • Stimmer (Champion): One of the new fighters! Stimmers are like Goliath Champions (Forge Bosses now, ugh) on steroids. They are 25 credits more, but they come with 2+ WS and get access to some extremely gnarly new weapons. The Assault Grenade Launchers are the real standout here, we think, as it is a weapon with both Blast (3”) and Rapid Fire (1). Using an Unstable weapon on a fighter this expensive is risky as hell, but the destructive potential is often worth it.
  • Forge-Born (Prospect): The other entry in the new fighter character, Forge-Born are basically suicidal Juves. They have a rule exempting them from causing Nerve tests when they go Out of Action or become Seriously Injured, and they have access to extremely powerful and dangerous weapons. Prospects have the Gang Fighter rule, meaning that they count towards the 50% rule. With their cool new models and sick weaponry, expect to take a Forge-Born or two along in every campaign. They are also allowed to dip into the Trading Post for sidearms and melee weapons, meaning the old “juve with a flame pistol” archetype will forever live on.
  • Bruiser (Ganger): The re-branded Goliath ganger comes with an expanded wargear list, and the player has the option to make one of their Bruisers a Specialist at the start of the campaign, which gives them access to Special Weapons. This is a very cool rule change that gives players more agency in their campaigns. This also has the side effect of stripping Special Weapons out of the hands of non-specialists, meaning that your Bruisers will have to prove their worth before being handed a Grenade Launcher.
  • Bully (Juve): In GotU, Goliath Juves were so terrible they were basically unusable. In House of Chains, Bullies are a useful and affordable alternative to Gangers. They now come with Strength and Toughness 4, but they trade that for 1 less Initiative, and 2 fewer Cool. It’s worth it, though. Bullies are definitely the future of any Goliath gang, especially now that they also have the Gang Fighter rule as well. They now promote into Specialists instead of Champions once they’ve accrued enough advancements, allowing them access to deadlier weaponry.

 

Huuuuuuuuuuugs! (Credit: Games Workshop)

 

Gene-Smithing

We were initially hesitant when we heard about Gene-Smithing, concerned that we were about to see Chapter Tactics-level buffs bestowed across the entire gang. Thankfully, these upgrades follow more of the pattern introduced in Genestealer- and Chaos-Corrupted gangs, in that you can pay credits to unlock the base subtype, Vatborn, Natborn, and Unborn, and then pay additional credits to gain buffs for that character (or debuffs for a credit rebate). It ends up functioning similar to a perk system, and there’s nothing for free.

There’s guaranteed to be a lot of temptation to pile on Gene-Smithing upgrades, and having a Natborn Leader with the Tyrant’s Own upgrade for an extra +1 to two stats is mighty powerful, even if it costs an extra 40 credits. However, all of these traits are only able to be chosen during gang creation or recruitment, so gangs who get a bit too greedy with the splicing will find themselves even more strapped for cash and spare bodies than Goliaths already are, most of the time.

Dermal Hardening is going to be something for Arbitrators to watch for, though. 10 credits for a +1 to baseline Toughness seems a bit of a steal, so we’re going to keep an eye on that one.

We’re huge fans of the basic Unborn ability, allowing fighters of that particular lineage to gain access to an additional Skill List of their choosing as Primary. It’ll probably enable some crazy broken stuff that’ll blindside us down the line, but for now we’re just happy to potentially see skills taken by Goliaths besides Nerves of Steel!

Goliath Terrain

For those who haven’t gotten a chance to look through the book yet: No, this isn’t going to be an upcoming Zone Mortalis terrain kit. Goliaths can now purchase small scatter-esque terrain features and deploy them onto the battlefield in certain scenarios. Some of these are restricted to their deployment zone, others are only usable when the player is designated as the Defender, and others can be placed anywhere outside of the enemy deployment zone like a Frag Trap.

Most of these items seem to be on the flavorful but situational side, but the stand-out exception is guaranteed to be the always-useful Furnace Barricade. They’re cheap as dirt and can be placed almost anywhere on the map, giving Goliaths the ability to create the cover they need to advance through a previously wide-open stretch of the battlefield.

He saved up his allowance for three whole weeks to buy this barricade. (Credit: SRM)

 

The Muscle Skill

One of the more exciting developments in the House of Chains is that Goliaths and Ogryns get access to a brand new skill category: Muscle. While it might not be the most creative name, Muscle gives us two things:

  1. A fun, thematic, and downright really good new set of skills.
  2. An insight into how the rest of these supplements are going to shake out. Will every House get their own special skillset? We can only hope. Will GW be a little less literal regarding the names of these new skills? Again, we can only hope.

While we are going to go into depth on these skills next week, we wanted to highlight our two favorites to give you a quick taste of what’s to come:

Merton’s favorite: Fists of Steel – The fighter counts their unarmed attacks as having +2 Strength and a Damage of 2. With this skill, a fighter doesn’t need melee weapons. This is extremely good as it will both cause your opponent fits, and save you credits!

Dan’s favorite: Unleash the Beast – The fighter gains access to a new action: Flex (Simple). When the fighter Flexes, all opponents in base-to-base contact are pushed back D3” if they fail a Strength check. Honestly, the effect of this skill is unimportant, because Dan loves that the Flex (simple) action simply exists. On top of that, there is a new Goliath Tactic card that buffs the Flex (simple) action to cause Nerve Tests within 6” because the Goliath fighter has flexed so hard that their opponents have decided to run away.

 

Tactics Cards in the Book?!

Clearly at some point while designing these new books, Games Workshop finally broke down and admitted that physical Tactics Cards are really hard to acquire. For the first time since their introduction, the full text of all eighteen new Goliath cards have been printed in a book, organized into a handy d66 table for rolling randomly.

We’re over the moon about this, and not just because we’ve pretty much been doing exactly this already for the past two years. Tactics Cards should be a vital part of Necromunda, and the more accessible they are for new players, the better. The chart doesn’t account for any of the 124 universal Gang Tactics cards or the existing 13 Goliath Tactics cards, but it’s a huge step in the right direction!

(Credit: Games Workshop)

House Favors & House Subplots

Hot off the heels of the Book of Ruin’s expanded House/Cult/Outlaw Favors list, Goliaths join in on the fun with a favor list of their own. The Goliath House Favor list follows the same basic structure as all the others, with a bevy of customized quirks. Rolls for free equipment must be spent on melee weapons, extra fighters arrive in the form of two pre-injured gangers rather than a single juve, and the top roll allows a fighter to choose a Gene-Smithing upgrade, post-creation. 

The new Goliath Subplot list replaces the normal deck of possibilities with a single suit’s worth of 13 tailored options. The existing deck was never particularly accomodating to Goliath sensibilities and playstyle (aside from Death From Above, because we’ll jump on enemies all day for free if you’d let us). Now, each possible roll makes a demand that’s not only possible for the average Goliath gang to accomplish, but may have well happened naturally over the course of the game anyway! That is, aside from Naked Brutality, where one of your fighters is tasked with killing an enemy while stripped of all weapons, wargear, and armor. If you pull that one off, please write to us. We need to hear your story.

Strong Alliances

House Goliath has a few favored partners when it comes to Alliances. Goliaths can make Strong Alliances with the following three parties: the Slave Guild, Narco Lords, and House Greim.

Slavers ready for action. (Credit: Games Workshop)

The benefit to having a Strong Alliance is that the first time the alliance would be tested, it counts as having automatically passed. Players will be familiar with the Slave Guild and Narco Lords from previous books, but House Greim, one of the 7 Noble Houses of Necromunda, is new. They’re ultra-rich military cosplayers who dream about creating an all-Goliath regiment of Astra Militarum. We’ll get more into what exactly they do next week.

 

New Hangers-On

In a firm commitment to liberate Goliaths from the Gangs of the Underhive book, all five basic Hangers-on have been reprinted here, as well as the addition of three new options. The originals don’t appear to have any changes, so Dome Runners are still pretty much garbage.

Totally sweet lookin’ garbage, mind you. (Credit: Games Workshop)

  • Brute Handler: Allows for Brutes on your gang roster to be trained up between games, possibly rewarding them with additional XP. Can be added to your crew in any fight, not just randomly when defending Home Turf. Grants nearby Brutes the effects of the Nerves of Steel skill.
  • Chem Dealer: All Chems count as common items at the Trading Post and Black Market. A single dose of Chems, Stimms, or Medikit can be purchased for free in the Pre-Battle Sequence, provided that the Dealer is reimbursed after the game.
  • Pit Trainer: Up to three fighters can be temporarily taught a random skill from their Primary or Secondary lists that persists for the next game, with the possibility of a Lasting Injury.

Of these three new hires, only the Pit Trainer is truly exclusive to Goliaths. The other two can be persuaded to work for any gang, provided that they can be lured away by doubling their salary. Neither the Handler nor Dealer are outright powerful enough to warrant purchasing House of Chains for them alone, but they still bring some neat tricks to the table that the right gang could use to devastating effect.

 

House Goliath Scenarios

Kindly ignore the first two words in this header: There is nothing about any of the three scenarios in this book that would prevent them from being run by any gang. In fact, you should be running them, because all three of these are amazing.

The Beatdown is an exercise in restraint, a fresh take on the the gameplay themes explored in Shootout. At heart, it’s a one-on-one confrontation between two fighters as the rest of their crews alternate between holding them back and goading them on. Rewards are high for gangs that stick to a fair fight, but dirty moves like sneaking an extra fighter into the ring will lower your reknown and reputation gain!

Something To Prove is, in our opinion, a straight improvement over Stand-Off and Tunnel Skirmish. It’s a deathmatch, but there are two things that it mixes up to improve the experience in almost every way:

  1. Attack/Defend, where the Defender’s crew is randomly drawn and the Attacker is chosen by whoever has the Lowest Gang Rating(!)
  2. Reintroduces the Giant Killer Table, giving cumulative buffs for widening levels of Gang Rating differences.

We love seeing official rules for helping Underdogs. We love ‘em! If we were to say anything negative about this Scenario, it’s that Giant Killer is buried in here as a mission exclusive modifier, rather than being plastered all over the rulebook as a table that’s always in effect.

Feast of the Fallen defies explanation, in that nothing we possibly could write would ever do this crazy thing justice. One of your fighters may very well become the God of Fury, at which point their Unarmed attacks strike with the Blast (3”) trait. Just read this scenario, and then go and immediately play it. Holy crap.

 

Slave Ogryn Gangs

We’ve been laughing at the poor Jotunn Servitor Ogryn for way too long, and he’s here to politely change our minds. With the help of some of his extremely large, extremely nasty friends.

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Just when you’d almost wrapped your head around encountering the occasional Toughness 5 early-campaign Goliath, Slave Ogryns burst in to reclaim their spot as the Biggest Dudes Around. Clocking in at a gang-wide Strength and Toughness 5, with at least 2 Wounds each, these bruisers are more than capable of ripping apart the average Orlock with their bare hands. These stats come at an understandable credit premium, so Ogryn gangs can expect to run small, with a heavy focus on melee over shooting.

In our initial impression, Slave Ogryns function in a similar yet wholly distinct vein as the recent Corpse Grinder Cult. Whereas Grinders depend on getting across the board and into combat as soon as possible, Ogryns plod forward implacably. They don’t have any fancy masks or even any access to skills that would mitigate pinning, but they’ve got 5 Toughness! They’ll stand up, shuffle forward, and eventually they will reach you. (One of their ganger-types, the Lobo-Slave, does have a special ability that prevents it from being pinned by all non-seismic ranged attacks, so there’s always going to be some modicum of forward momentum going.)

Overall, it’s way too early to say whether these guys will turn out to be a viable faction capable of hanging in the Underhive, but we’ll find out soon. Merton has declared that Slave Ogryns are his new main gang, but the extent of his plan so far is something that he keeps referring to as “Fat Cawdor,” so we’ll see how that goes.

Ogryns have access to Incendiary Charges and enough Strength to throw them up to 15” away! If that’s not enough of a gimmick to get started, I don’t know what is. – Merton

 

Hired Guns and Bounty Hunters

Hired guns desperately need some sort of re-do to be truly worthwhile in Necromunda, and we were honestly surprised that they were getting any attention at all in this book. We were hopeful for a re-design, but we didn’t get it. We did get a couple of improvements, though, and we’ll talk through them along with some of the things we don’t like.

 

One thing we very much like, House of Chains gives Goliath gangs access to a new Hired Gun, the House Agent. The House Agent is a roaming Champion that isn’t hired like Scum and Bounty Hunters, but is instead petitioned for. A gang with lower Reputation will have an easy time hiring one of these monsters, but a well-off gang may find their House getting angry with them and demanding that they pay for their insolence!

House Agents are truly monsters. They can use up to 150 credits of weapons and wargear FOR FREE from the Forge Tyrant equipment list (it explicitly says this!). Combining this with their excellent and varied stat profiles, and their access to multiple skills, a low-Reputation gang can easily make up some of their deficiencies with one of these bad boys.

Important Notes

  • Scummers, Bounty Hunters, and House Agents all get the “You Get What You Pay For” rule. This states that these fighters are not counted during the Choose Crew step of the pre-battle sequence, but are added to the gang afterwards, and may take the number of fighters above the number specified by the scenario. This is a huge improvement, and gives Hired Guns some much-needed utility.
  • Equipment ambiguities are still in effect. The December 2019 FAQ makes it clear that players have to factor in the cost of a Scummer or Hunter’s weapons and wargear when hiring them, but the language is not printed here in this book, which is a shame.
  • Trading Post restrictions are not clear. Outlaw Bounty Hunters can purchase equipment from the Black Market up to a rarity or illegality level of 10. Law-Abiding Bounty Hunters may purchase equipment from the Trading Post, but there is not explicit rarity restriction like there is with Outlaw Bounty Hunters.

(Credit: SRM)

In Case You Were Wondering…

Peeking behind the curtain, here are some of the questions we spent the weekend asking each other and ourselves, both as Arbitrators for our groups and weedy non-Goliath players.

Do I need to buy this if I don’t play Goliaths or Ogryns?

No, and it feels incredible to say that! The era of buying every single Necromunda book is finally over. Sure, there are two Hangers-On and three Scenarios in here, but it’s not like you’re going to be missing out on the entire Black Market or a new House Favors Table if you sit this one out and wait for your own gang’s book.

Does House of Chains fully liberate me from GotU?

Almost! Games Workshop did a pretty solid job importing all of the Gang Composition rules as well as most of what you’ll need to function in a campaign and everything you’ll need for a fight. Chains has Muscle skills, but doesn’t contain any other lists you’ll have access to like Ferocity or Leadership. Also no Trading Post, so you’ll have to at least borrow someone’s copy of Gangs of the Underhive if you’re looking to get some exotic gear for your champions.

Should my group ban House of Chains, or parts of it?

That one’s on you and your Arbitrator, but we’d recommend full adoption and seeing how it goes. House of Chains is an overall buff to Goliaths, but mostly in the amount of new options they have for dealing with various situations. They’re still investing credits into any bonus they gain, and that’s ultimately more toys and less boys. Besides, it’s not like folks collectively agreed to ignore Orlock, Van Saar, and Cawdor’s rules in the Gang War soft-covers just because Delaque was still stuck on the Legacy PDF!

Wait, how does Rapid Fire work with Blast?

Pretty cleanly, though the rules explaining it are a bit all over the place. Even if you miss with your initial hit roll: after scattering, any enemy fighters with a base “beneath the Blast Marker [are] hit by the attack,” causing Rapid Fire to trigger. You’ll have already rolled for the amount of Rapid Fire shots beforehand, so each fighter underneath wherever the Blast Marker winds up landing will eat that many blasts, each. Rolled three for your Rapid Fire with one dude underneath? Three Blasts. Two dudes underneath? Six Blasts!

Can’t forget about ol’ Chungus! (Credit: SRM)

Final Thoughts

Scummers, this is one hell of a book. The amount of depth, character, game design, and thoughtfulness that went into the House of Chains is absolutely stunning. We didn’t even mention it yet, but there are a full 35 pages of Goliath lore before the rules even start! This book is amazing.

The one nagging question that remains is: What does this book mean for other gangs? Fortunately, we have some information on that. In the last update on Warhammer Community, they’ve shown that once a quarter they will be releasing a new House Supplement. If these upcoming books are as near as cool as this one, then every House gang (at least) will have a ton to look forward to in 2020. What remains to be seen is whether each of the remaining Houses will stay completely unchanged as these books come out. Many of the alterations to the Goliath fighter profiles can fundamentally be classified as Quality of Life improvements, and it would be a shame if later houses like Delaque and Cawdor have to wait for over a year before they’re able to use Juves that count positively towards their Gang Composition.

We have no idea what awaits the non-house gangs, but we can be sure that when we find out, you can best be sure that we’ll write about here at Necromunday!

That’s all for us this week, Scummers! This was one of our bigger articles, but we’re going to get bigger, stronger, and meatier next week as we revisit our entry on House Goliath and update our recommendations to be in line with this new content! We hope you join us, so until then, stay jacked! As always, feel free to comment below, on Facebook, hit us up at the Necromunday-specific necromunday@goonhammer.com! We love hearing from you guys!

 

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