Necromunday: House of Iron Review

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“Once all fighters have either drunk or staggered, the Drinking Phase ends.”

Surprise, Scummers! We’re not talking about Shootout this week and it’s not even Monday at all, but you just know we couldn’t wait on this. We snuck a copy of House of Iron straight out from under Helmawr’s nose, and we’re here to let all’a y’all know what’s in store!

Our initial impression of House of Iron was succinct: “Holy crap.” This book is bonkers good. Before this book, Orlocks were a generally mediocre gang with a few fun tricks and good Basic weapons. They’d fold to dedicated combat, though, and could be out-ranged by just about anyone except Goliaths and Corpse Grinders. But with this book, House Orlock is immediately catapulted to the top tier of the Necromunda gang hierarchy.

Orlocks get two new fighter types, a slew of new Hangers-On, and a bevy of really excellent terrain options. With this book, they’re one of the most mobile, hard hitting, and flat out tough gangs around. Read on, dear Scummer, and let us show you what we’re talking about!

Orlock Gang Composition

It’s time for the Golden Archies to do what they do best! (Credit: Dan)

Orlock players can justifiably rejoice, as they can finally separate themselves from the morass that is Gangs of the Underhive. House of Iron opens up a lot of the same doors as Chains and Blades did for Goliath and Escher, respectively. House Orlock get:

  1. New names for each fighter type
  2. New profiles for each fighter
  3. New equipment lists

This is excellent! It is now obvious what each fighter can take, and easily clears up any ambiguity. The rules for Orlock gang composition have also changed to reflect the changes that we’ve seen in the previous two House books:

  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. No more free armor: fighters must pay for it from the gang’s pool of credits. While Champions can expect to be roughly the same price after you buy them armor, Gangers and Juves both go up 5 credits, but have no stat increases to justify the increase in cost.
  3. All fighters are free to equip Wargear from the Trading Post or Black Market, but only Road Captains, Road Sergeants, and Arms Masters are able to equip weapons from the TP or BM. Gunners, Wreckers, and Greenhorns all are restricted to weapons from their house lists. This is concurrent with both Chains and Blades.

Ready to roll out! (Insta: @sumpscraps)

Road Captain (Leader)

No stat changes. 15-credit decrease from GotU, but your Road Captain no longer comes with Mesh Armor, and, incidentally, Mesh costs 15 credits. So, you’re looking at virtually no movement where cost is concerned. Ferocity, Leadership, and Savant are your primary skills, while Brawn, Shooting, and Bravado round out your secondaries.

Expanded wargear options and access to Cyber-mastiffs from the word go add up to give the Road Captain a slight buff when compared to their entry in GotU.


Road Sergeant (Champion)

No stat changes. Same credit tomfoolery as above. Primary skills are Ferocity and Bravado, and secondaries are Brawn, Leadership, and Savant. No more Savant Primary for Orlock champions. It’s unfortunate, because the Savant skills are very, very useful in campaign play. Previously, Orlock champs were in an interesting spot where if they were equipped with non-unwieldy shooting weapons, they really didn’t need combat skills to pull their weight in the gang.

That’s where Savant skills really shined, making it so Orlocks could excel in the Post-Battle Sequence like no other gangs could. This will take a bit of getting used to, but it’s not a brutal nerf. Otherwise, Road Sergeants get expanded Wargear and Grenade options, resulting in a net neutral outcome.


Arms Master (Champion)

All right! The new champ! Clocking in at 15 credits more than Road Sergeant, the Arms Master gains a point in WS, pushing it to 3+, and the Rule of Iron, which is an ability to give a friendly Orlock fighter within 6” Nerves of Steel until the end of the round. Easily worth the 15 pts. It’s not all guns ‘n’ roses, though. Confoundingly, for a fighter named “Arms Master”, this character gets extremely limited access to weapons. They’re limited to Shotguns, Stub Guns, and combat weapons on their equipment list, and can only use Basic, Pistols, and Close Combat Weapons from the TP or BM.

However, their equipment list is loaded with defensive Wargear, perhaps placing them in the “tough as nails support character” category. Skills-wise, we’ve got Ferocity and Bravado as primaries, and Brawn, Leadership, and Savant as secondaries. We’ll take a closer look at the Arms Master in our revised Orlock article in November, but this character is, upon initial inspection, extremely interesting.

Hot stuff, comin’ through! (Credit: Games Workshop)


Wrecker (Prospect)

Who’s ready for jump-pack juves?! The correct answer should be everybody. If we’re intrigued about the Arms Master, then we are downright giddy when it comes to Wreckers! Wreckers weigh in at 55 credits per fighter, and have a similar statline to Greenhorns (Juves). They do get an extra point of BS, and two fewer points of Ld, though, so don’t expect them to give any orders. They also come with the now-standard Hot-Headed rule, making it so they don’t cause Nerve tests when they become Seriously Injured or go Out Of Action.

Additionally, as proto-champions, they can be promoted to Arms Masters of Road Sergeants down the road in a campaign. But where the rubber really hits the road (getting tired of road puns, yet?) are their jump boosters. Jump boosters give a bonus to movement, with the provision to let half of that movement be vertical. Also, if the Wrecker charges, they get a bonus to Strength and to-hit in the attached Fight action!

For skills, they have Shooting as a primary (what?!), and Combat and Savant as secondaries. For real, though, a fair question when considering making an Orlock gang is, “Why even take gangers at all?”


Gunner (Ganger)

An effective 5-credit increase with no changes in statline. One can be a specialist, and they can only use weapons from their equipment list. Primary skills are Ferocity and Brawn, and secondaries are Combat and Shooting. No surprises, here.


Greenhorn (Juve)

5-credit increase, no change to statline. Can be upgraded to a Specialist with enough advances, and cannot use weapons from the TP or BM. All standar stuff. Primary skill is Ferocity, with Agility and Brawn as the secondaries. What’s not standard, however, is an additional bit of language in the Greenhorn entry regarding Skills: “An Orlock Greenhorn has access to the following skill sets (note, however, that an Orlock Greenhorn may not gain additional skills).

We’re not quite sure what this means. Can Greenhorns not gain any skills? It makes sense in the Gunner entry, as they way gangers level up doesn’t include Skills unless the Ganger is a Specialist. This is a new bit of language that didn’t make it into Chains or Blades, and we’re not exactly sure what to do with it.


Cyber-Mastiff (Exotic Beast)

The doggos are back and they’re unchanged. Still great to have around, especially on a melee character. Both Road Sergeants and Arms Masters are able to rock a pair of pooches, while your Road Captain can strut his stuff with an entire pack of three.

They’re good dogs, Cyber-Brent. (Insta: @superultramambotangofoxtrot)

Legendary Names

Each gang gets a brand new mechanic to work with, and Orlocks get to play around with nicknames! The system is called Legendary Names, and there are two ways to get them:

  1. You can spend XP on a Legendary Name just like you would for a characteristic increase or new skill.
  2. You can assign a Leader or Champion a name when they are recruited into the gang.

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Each of these Names comes with both an upside and a downside, so they’re not a pure bonus or power spike. Lucky provides a fighter with a suspiciously Tzeentchian level of dice manipulation, but in exchange they’ll never be able to start off on the board in any of the many scenarios that use Reinforcements. There are three tables with six names each: too much to get into here, but we’ll go with the old standard: we’ll each pick our favorite, and tell you why!

Dan: I’m a huge fan of Bullet Dodger. Snatch is one of my favorite films, and i’ve quoted these lines innumerable times in my life:

Cousin Avi: Why do they call him the “Bullet Dodger”?

Bullet-Tooth Tony: Because he dodges bullets, Avi!

Bullet Dodger allows you to force a re-roll of a successful ranged attack once per battle, but with the caveat that the Bullet Dodger can only make Move (simple) actions in their next activation. Fun, flavorful, and not game-breaking. This name’s got it all.


Merton: I adore the little story that Promethium-proof Killer tells. The fighter completely ignores all effects of the Blaze trait, which is great in-game since it’s like having a Hazard Suit but I’d still be allowed to wear armor that’s actually worth a damn. The drawback, that the fighter is unable to use their Leading By Example ability, is hilarious and makes perfect sense to me.

If I’m a juve in a losing battle and seriously considering fleeing, I’m not going to be convinced otherwise by the big guy shrugging off multiple Hand Flamer blasts. Sure, maybe he’s fireproof, but I’m not!

These guys knew about Legendary Names way before everyone else thought they were cool. (Insta: @undeadhorse)

Bravado Skills

Any astute reader of this column won’t be surprised to learn that Orlocks are getting their own skill tree. It’s called Bravado and it’s honestly kind of disappointing. It hearkens back to the old way of designing a Necromunda skill tree: one obviously good skill, one situationally good skill, four frustratingly bad skills. There’s not a lot here that really stands out, but we’ll go with our favorites as we usually do.

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Dan: As a fervent adherent to the combat shotgun, I am a big fan of Shotgun Savant. It allows for a fighter to use the short range modifier when firing at long range with a shotgun of any type, and allows for the player to roll two dice when rolling for scattershot hits, and picking the highest. Orlocks are already deadly with their shotguns, but a fighter with this skill can become an Underhive legend in no time!


Merton: I don’t play Orlocks, so when I’m looking at anything in Necromunda I’m most excited for abilities and items that do something new. Orlocks lost a bit of their utility with Savant being moved to Secondary for their champions, but the new Bravado skill Guilder Contacts brings those between-game moves back in a big way. A fighter with this ability reduces the hiring cost for Bounty Hunters and Hive Scum by d6x10 credits each!

I’ve always found Scummers to be just a bit too expensive for single-game shock troops, but if they’re down to 20 credits a pop I’d be more than happy to flood my opponent with all five of my new disposable friends. Dan’s not sold on this skill at all, but I love it!

 

Orlock Terrain

There’s five new terrain options for Orlocks to purchase and place around the battlefield before any fighters are deployed, from flaming barrels to toolboxes to their unique Gang Relic. We’re shocked to say that almost every single one of these terrain items hits that sweet spot of both cool and good

The Orlock Road Relic eschews the minor buffs and 3” enemy proximity penalties of the Escher and Goliath versions in favor of straight damage, acting as a turret-mounted Heavy Stubber able to be fired by any friendly fighter in base contact with it.

Or, if you’re too impatient to wait for the whites of their eyes, might we suggest stocking up on Shotgun Surprises, Boobytraps that fire off a 6” circle (that’s bigger than a large blast!) of Sawn-Off Scattershot pain, all for barely more than the price of the normal weapon itself. We’ve been hard on the poor Sawn-Off Shotgun for years now, but it looks like this was the secret all along: it was a terrible gun, but boy howdy does it make a wonderful bomb.

Just be sure to remember where you hid the first one, before you turn around and sneak back home. (Insta: @butlerpaints)

However, as anyone who’s played enough Necromunda knows, there is always going to be the ever-present threat of the things that are just plain too good. We’ve got a hunch that Promethium Barrels are about to join that list. 30 credits, indestructible, can be placed anywhere on the battlefield at least 3” outside of an enemy deployment zone, and cause any enemies who activate within 3” of one to only be able to make a single Move action during their turn.

A few Barrels is plenty to completely shut down choke points, and on many Zone Mortalis maps will be enough to force an enemy to spend multiple rounds before they’re able to anemically shuffle out of their deployment zone. For scenarios with action-based objectives, this restriction is even more punishing. Pop a barrel next to your Relic or Objective in Border Dispute or Sabotage, and you’ll be completely immune to melee attacks or Demo Charges damaging it. Good luck convincing Houseless Gangers to join your side in Propaganda when you’re not able to make a single Coerce action!

It’s gonna be rough, folks. Spammable abilities and items that remove agency and options from the opposing player are never much fun, and they’re bound to create a frustrating experience that discourages enthusiasm for future games. We’re keeping an eye on these things, but at the very least there probably should be some way to destroy them.

 

The Friend Zone

Strong Alliances

If you’re the type who’s not above asking for help, Orlocks now have access to a trio of Strong Alliances, which functionally allow them to get away with disobeying their patron, at least once! From now on, they’ll enjoy a special close relationship with the Guild of Coin, the Fallen Houses, and the Noble House Ran Lo. (Our money would have been on House Catallus, but here we are!)

The Guild of Coin is largely unchanged from their previous incarnation in the Book of Peril, so if you’ve been running their retinue alongside your gang it’ll be business as usual. Better, even, as they’ve picked up the same crew-size rewording as the Slaver and Water Guilders in the books before them:

  • The Toll Collectors can now be fielded as a retinue in addition to the full crew size for the scenario, instead of costing a single crew slot.

If you’ve been buddying up to the Fallen Houses, we’ve got some bittersweet news for ya. They’ll still offer up the same bonus credits and reputation anytime you’re fighting the good fight against the cops or some Guilder lackeys, but their champion, the indomitable Rebel Lord, has taken quite a bit of a hit.

Even with these changes, we feel that Fallen Lords are still going to wreck house on the table, but it seems a bit harsh, especially to folks who’ve taken the time to kitbash their own models with now-invalidated loadouts. Of all the possible areas in Necromunda for a balance pass and tweaks, this is the second time that Recidivists have been specifically targeted. Maybe those Palanites are slightly more effective than we’d assumed!

  • Baseline wargear down to two Digi-Lasers, from four.
  • Light Carapace Armor downgraded to Mesh Armor.
  • Mastercrafted Laspistols removed as loadout option.

Never needed no flimsy Laspistols anyway! (Credit: Games Workshop)


Now, if you’re only here because you’re eager to get to the new stuff, the Noble House Ran Lo have you covered!

The Guild of Coin may control the banks and the flow of credits, but all of the major accounts are often in House Ran Lo’s name. In-game, they’re a credit-oriented Alliance, but with some interesting twists that make them especially enticing for a gang who might be falling a little behind in the rankings!

Their Checks and Balances ability allows their gang to gain 2d6x10 credits in each post-battle phase, but only if their opponent would have gained more credits in that battle than they did. “But wait!,” you protest, correctly, “Isn’t that just House Ulanti with more restrictions?” It would be if that was all there was to it, but House Ran Lo also have their retinue, the Auditing Conclave!

The Auditing Conclave is a pair of killers who’ll only show up on a low-roll of d6 plus Reputation, similar to the Merchant Guilders. They’re not as vicious as the Court Advisors, but with a Master-crafted Long Rifle and a Web Pistol at their disposal, they’ll certainly put the work in.

  • Plus, fielding these guys will net your gang an additional 2d6x10 credits, allowing for a whopping potential 4d6x10 credits each game thanks to House Ran Lo!

Brutes

The Jotunn Ogryn, Ambot, and Lugger Servitor are all here and unchanged rules-wise from their incarnations in the previous two House Of books. Normally we’d skip entirely over this section, but there’s been a major update to one of these fellas:

  • House Orlock now can acquire up to two Ambots for a 30 credit discount each, compared to any other gang!

The big boy comes correct. (Credit: Dan)


Hangers-On

Three fresh new pals to join the adventure, as well as reprintings of the standard five universal Hangers-On. On to the new!

The Prize Fighter is an Orlock exclusive Hanger-On, who largely spends his time between missions picking fights and bare-knuckle brawls. Betting on these scrums can net a gang up to 60 credits, but there’s a slim chance of the Prize Fighter taking a bad hit (or picking an opponent who had the foresight to bring a knife) and dying ignobly in the process! There’s a ton of new gear that Orlocks are going to want to buy now, and jump-starting their bankroll with a few all-ins might earn a Prize Fighter the coveted first Hanger-On slot in many gangs in the future.


The Grease Monkey is the second Orlock-only, and their tinkering allows them to overcharge either a House Brute or all Wreckers’ Movement for an entire game. Wrecker Jump Boosters are already insanely fast, so imagine a permanent Overcharge that adds another d6” on top of that! Naturally, they’ll be even more prone to catastrophic failure, but if you don’t mind occasionally re-enacting the climax of The Rocketeer, a Grease Monkey on your team is more than worth the risk.


Last but certainly not least, the Bullet Merchant is Orlock-aligned but available for any gang at thrice the cost, and friends, this fellow is worth any price. With a Merchant, all special ammo from the Trading Post and Black Market is Common (with wording that disqualifies Chem-Alchemy doses, mind you), and anything that would have the Limited trait now has Scarce instead. That’s huge!

For those of who glanced at Limited once and immediately swore off of it, forever, it’s the trait that causes an item to delete itself permanently once it runs out of ammo, and must be rebought. Now that it’s no longer an issue, let’s see what we can play with:

  • Fear and Scare Gas Grenades out of a Launcher – especially those wielded by Escher gangs and augmented by Chem Alchemy!
  • Gunk Bolts, Warp Rounds, Static Rounds, and all sorts of diabolical ammo types.
  • Firestorm templates from Combat Shotguns. Mother of God.

There’s a ton of ammo out there that’s good, really good, but the likelihood of it being a single shot and credits wasted has kept much of it from seeing play for the past year. The Bullet Merchant is going to be key in enabling some previously unaffordable tricksy playstyles, and we are ready for it.

Plantbuster Rounds for this Heavy Stubber, you say? Don’t mind if I do! (Insta: @pibminissr)

New Scenarios

We’ve got a pair of new missions in House of Iron, one ostensibly designed for regular campaign play, and a second scenario that’s just a little bit on the zanier side.

To start, Road Block is a large-crew scenario that has an attacking gang attempting to get from one end of a path to the other. In their way are three roadblocks (that count as full cover) that each must be manned at least partially by the defending gang. The attackers have to assault the barricades, destroy them and their guardians, and get to the other side.

Frankly, we’re not quite sure that a mashup of Takeover and Show of Force is going to be a ton of fun for the attacking gang, as they’ll be forced into three separate fatal funnels against enemy squads hiding in heavy protection. On top of that, the sides of the road are designated as impassable terrain but don’t block line of sight, so any twists and turns will provide longer-ranged enemy guns with more opportunities to mow attackers down like a macabre Underhive tower defense game.

We’ll have to get a few rounds in with this one before we can give a final verdict, and it just may be that being able to assault a roadblock with your entire crew is enough to eventually overwhelm a gang that’s split between three. We may end up tweaking crew sizes, making the barricades slightly easier to destroy, or sliding the entire mission into the tunnels so that twists in the road block firing lanes. We’ll see!

Though without one of these bad boys, you’re technically playing Sidewalk Block. (Insta: @yeraybb)


…but that’s all irrelevant, because we know what scenario we’re going to be playing over and over again first: Big Bar Brawl. Anyone who missed out on the joy of the first Bar Brawl scenario in the Gang Raids packet from White Dwarf can finally experience the wonder and merriment in a new, larger, even more chaotic fashion.

Really though we’re burying the lede, because all you need to know to get excited for Big Bar Brawl is this snippet from the rules:

  • The Big Bar Brawl adds two new phases to the battle: the Drinking Phase and the Fighting Phase.

Everyone’s completely unarmed and unarmored, and the goal isn’t to kill everybody, it’s to be the last drunkard not passed out on the ground. (So still Last Man Standing, we suppose, but a bit more literal than usual this time!) It’s absolutely bonkers, even for Necromunda, and we can’t wait to play the hell out of this one. It’s super easy to adapt it into a 3+ gang Multiplayer Scenario, too! We already loved this game, but today we learned that we love it even more because of Big Bar Brawl.

He smokes and drinks like a fish in a chimney. Gutter was born for this mission. (Insta: @superultramambotangofoxtrot)

When the Dog Bites…

Nothing’s perfect, Scummers. While we’re extremely excited for House of Iron, not everything has worked out to be as cool as we wanted. Let’s get into where we think this book could improve.

 

  • Greenhorns can no longer get skills. What the crap is this? Other gangs’ juves can skill up all day long, but Orlock Greenhorns apparently can’t learn to fight better, even though all they do is fight. We’re hoping it’s a misprint, but until an official Errata says it is, we’ve got to go forward with our dumb-as-rocks Greenhorns.
  • Bravado skills are an exasperating return to form. If you look at the original skill trees that came out with Necromunda in 2017, they tend to form a pattern: 1 obvious winner, 1-2 situationally good pickups, and 3-4 dumpster skills. Bravado, unfortunately, sticks to this template like gunk on a Goliath. Where Escher and Goliath got iconic skillsets that really set them apart from their peers, Orlocks got…make a Bounty Hunter costs less. If we could properly express a dramatic sigh through text, this is where we’d do it.
  • The Power Knife gremlins are back! This time, power knives come with the “Backstop” trait, which…protects the crowd from wild pitches? What? Well, you know what they say, bring your mitt to the ballpark, take home a souvenir. Guess that’s what all those Servo Claws are for.

S’all gravy, baby. (Credit: Games Workshop)

Final Thoughts

These “House of ____” books are amazing. Each one has completely revitalized an existing house gang and added layers of additional narrative, flavor, and customizability to players’ toolkits. House of Iron is no different, and Orlock players out there should be thrilled. Plan on figuring out a way to deal with Wreckers, Scummers. You’ll be seeing a lot of them out in the wild, have no doubt!

 


Stay tuned, Scummers, we’re just gettin’ started! Swing back in a few days for your regularly scheduled Necromunday, where we’ll be bringing in the rest of the team (both of whom are Orlock players to boot!) for a Roundtable discussion on what we’re most excited about in House of Iron and what we’re all planning on building first. After which, on November 2nd, we’ll post our totally revised and up-to-date Orlock tactica article! Sorry we’re not going to be ready to post it this upcoming Monday, but it is going to need a serious overhaul! 

In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions, comments, or just plain general Orlock hype, hit us up over at necromunday@goonhammer.com. Enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see ya real soon!

 

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