Hello, Scummers, and welcome to our first-ever Necromunday roundtable! We got preview copies of House of Iron, and we’re dead excited to talk about it. In this article, we’ll go through each category of the new book and give our initial impressions. Next week, we’ll update our Houses of the Underhive: Orlock article. There’s a lot to unpack, so trust us when we say we’re hard at work!
For our first-ever roundtable, we’ve got Necromunday greybeards Merton and Dan, who are joined by our very own greenhorns, Genghis Cohen and Kevin Fowler! Interestingly enough, Fowler, Cohen, and Dan are all Orlock players, so it’s easy to understand why we’re so excited about this! Merton used to play Delaque, but he’s been unable to resist the Siren’s lure of beef, and has more recently been running Slave Ogryns. Can’t say we blame him.
Consider this a companion piece to our official Review of House of Iron, which you might have missed if you were too busy pre-ordering your own copies of the book the other day instead of checking the site. Anyways, let’s get to the roundtable!
Dan: First off, this book rules. It’s up there with Blades as one of the tightest and most intriguing books out there for Necromunda. In 2017, when 40k 8th edition rolled out, my vast Imperial Guard (Steel Legion! Armageddon forever!) collection suddenly became one of the better armies to play, and it seems as if I’ve backed in to having one of the strongest factions once again! It has since regressed in efficacy, but for six months, the Armageddon 59th seemed unbeatable. I can’t wait for the crushing weight of expectations to ensure that my gang never wins a game.
Merton: I’m not an Orlock player, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this book doesn’t have me a little bit tempted to earmark them for a future third gang (using only bald heads, naturally). They’ve gone from being the boring baseline to a gang that works together to augment each other, and occasionally straps their recruits to rockets on straps and sends them careening towards the enemy. There’s so many interesting ways to build out an Orlock gang now, and honestly it’s such a relief to not have to try to defend them anymore with feeble cries of “…but they have good fundamentals!”
Genghis Cohen: Emperor damn it, any gang has good fundamentals if their player does, it’s meaningless! So I think this book is great for Orlocks, primarily because of the new Champion and Prospect options, which open up the gang to whole new strategies. Everything I’ve seen in it (and we haven’t seen all the background yet) is also just so cool. The Legendary Names, the terrain stuff, it just nails the Orlocks’ character. My only real complaint is that the Bravado skill tree is a damp squib.
Fowler: As a recovering Helot Cult player, the siren call of bandanas and denim vests was enough to convince me to pick up a couple of Orlock Gang boxes. Like Merton said above – House of Iron has taken a “Mario in Mario Kart” gang and given them a variety of interesting and unique toys to play with. My post House starting list will probably be 50% Wreckers, which is definitely goofy and cool, but can also do work. This book makes me very excited for the second half of the house codexes.
Dan: I’m really intrigued about the Arms Master. I’m disappointed that they can’t pick from the same selection as Road Sergeants and Captains, though. They’re called Arms Masters, dang it. Not Shotgun and Knife Masters. Other than that, I think they’re a solid countercharger or ranged support character. Their Rule of Iron ability will probably be best used as a support character, as the Arms Master needs to activate to use it, and a countercharger generally activates later in the round. However, access to the completely fantastic Arc Hammer makes me want to windmill slam a combat Arms Master into every list, and let my Road Captain perform the support duties.
Genghis Cohen: While I agree the weapon selection is disappointing, the Trading Post means that’s not the end of the world. Unfortunately they still can’t access Special or Heavy weapons even then, but there are some punchy enough basic weapons, and I think it’s necessary to keep Road Sergeants in the game at all! For 15 creds more at recruitment, Rule of Iron is insane. The ability to hand out Nerves of Steel is great, even with the restrictions you mention. But the bonus to Bottle Rolls – this guy basically comes with Iron Will twice. Can’t complain about that, one of these will keep you in the game a few times over a campaign. They’re clearly meant to fight up close, and I see myself taking one of the starting champions as an Arms Master. It’s nice to have some variety for Orlock champions besides “what gun do you want”.
Fowler: Specialists getting access to the entire Orlock weapon stash means that a buffing, close-up Orlock champ makes a lot of sense. Pair him up with a CC-focused leader and you’ve got a formidable fireteam.
Genghis Cohen: Freakin’ love ‘em, stand-out of the book. Difficult to take many of these at Gang creation, they cost more than gangers! But I love the uses of mobility – what do these guys move, 15”? Charging 9+D3”!? That’s before you risk a roll to add another D3”, and maybe crash. They’re also the only Orlock fighter that can take Shooting skills as Primary, I see them with some fun Gunfighter builds and delivering Demo Charges. I know other Goonhammer players are down on Demo, but I see it as a reasonable side-grade to Blasting Charges (which Wreckers can’t get, although they are available at the TP for 5pts more than most Orlocks pay), which are one-use as well ⅔ of the time! You pay more, but one shot is often all you get and all you need. The Wreckers are also viable combat options – not only with the +1 to-hit and +1S on the charge, but they’ve got decent close combat weapon choices and they can access close combat TP weapons!
Merton: They cost more than gangers because they’re better than gangers! Sure, maybe they’re worse in melee and have a drastically more limited equipment list, and you’re probably going to run some gangers anyway because that’s what you’ve already got built, but Wreckers are crazy good and crazy fast. Mobility in Necromunda is key, both for maneuverability for sheer killing potential and to claim and attack objectives (and they’ve even got demo charges) as quickly as possible. Forgeborn and Wyld Runners be damned, I think Wreckers are the first Prospect where a gang could potentially wind up recruiting all four models in the box onto their roster.
Dan: I am super high on Wreckers. The mobility alone is excellent, but I wasn’t expecting their statline to be so robust! BS 4+ makes a Gunfighter Wrecker pretty scary even when armed with cheapo guns like stub guns or autopistols. Later in a campaign, when you can afford plasma pistols and hand flamers, this fighter type is going to be terrifying. I like giving them flails, too, to give them a nice boost in combat. I see taking at least one in every gang moving forward. The challenge is going to be keeping them cost-effective, as they can get expensive quick.
Fowler: Plasma / Flail Wreckers… be still my heart. It’s entirely possible that my next gang will just be a leader, champs, a specialist, and wreckers. The trade-off is easy, I’d rather have a faster fighter with a pistol than a slow one toting an autogun.
Changes to Existing Fighters
Genghis Cohen: Road Sergeants lose Shooting secondary altogether and swap Savant as a Primary for Bravado: not a great trade-off. Specialists lose Savant altogether but retain Shooting as a Secondary, Ferocity as Primary and gain Brawn (ugh) as Primary. Juves (Greenhorns) have Ferocity as their only Primary skill.
Dan: Yeah, but they can’t even gain skills!
Genghis Cohen: Allowing for Mesh Armour now not being included, Leaders/champs stayed the same cost, gangers and juves went up 5 credits, each which is shocking; Orlocks were nothing special previously. Also, there are some oddities on weapon costs. Combat Shotguns flit between 55 credits (the old Orlock discount price) and 60 (the Goliath discount price). Fighting knives are 10 or 15 on various fighters. Shotguns are 25 or 30. I don’t know whether to expect an FAQ or not on these.
Merton: Losing Savant is a real bummer, but it always seemed like such a consolation prize of a skill set. You guys had what before, some Combat Shotguns, Bolters, and then a reroll or money skill? I’d have rathered that Orlocks had something that let them be interesting from the start, instead of being forced to pick a skill that let them do a boring thing in a more effectively boring manner. The real crime isn’t losing Savant now, it’s that the designers gave it to them out of pity in the first place.
Genghis Cohen: Hey, while I sometimes took Savant skills, I gotta say I’ve always preferred Ferocity and don’t see Bravado overtaking it any time soon!
Fowler: As an Orlock neophyte, I won’t miss Savant much.
Dan: With the changes to Road Sergeants, I see the Road Captain stepping in to fill the role of support character. I’m already considering a Grenade Launcher build with Munitioneer or Fixer.
Genghis Cohen: I usually took the Road Captain as a melee brawler, cause the Road Sergeants were pants at it! That could change now, but who am I kidding, I’m giving him a cool Legendary Name and having him lead from the front. If you’re going down the support road, just sell your soul to Satan and take Overseer like a filthy Delaque.
Fowler: I’m still leaning towards melee-monster for my Road Captain, especially with Arms Master buffs and mobile Wreckers for more flexible screening.
Genghis Cohen: Road Sgts now have Savant Secondary, as do Wreckers and Arms Masters (Specialists lost it altogether). This means Road Captains are the only way to access that tree reliably. I had moved away from Fixer, Savvy Trader etc as being no fun in-game, but they were quite good skills for bringing success in a campaign. More seriously, Munitioneer was a staple in my gangs, my Heavy Bolter lads shed a tear for its demise.
Dan: Same. My Grenade Launcher champion was a staple in every gang. His combat upgrades usually can in the form of new ammo types, so that freed him up to take economy and support skills. Gonna have to shift how I use Road Sergeants, I guess!
Dan: Gunners effectively went up 5 credits in cost, and have received no changes in stats or rules. Kinda stinks, but whatever. They can still take 55-credit combat shotguns. Still worth it.
Genghis Cohen: I know it’s not the end of the world, 5 creds a man is small potatoes. But who is coming up with these prices at GW? Someone looked at Helot Cultists and Corpse Grinder Initiates and said “hmm, better bump the cost of Orlocks up a bit”? On the upside, Specialists can take (house list only) Heavy Weapon options now! Not sure any of them are a better deal than a plasma gun, but if you play on a lot of big tables it could be good. Also gives me a way to take a Harpoon Launcher or Heavy Stubber without feeling like I’m shorting a champion of a more powerful option.
Merton: I think that’s a first in these House Of books; Orlock Specialists getting full access to Heavy weapons. Looking at their equipment list, it’s virtually every single item that the gang had access to back in Gangs of the Underhive, even down to the Suspensors! Come to think of it, they don’t have any weapon restrictions at all, so they’re wide open to run any big gun they can get their grubby little meathooks on, up to and including a Seismic Cannon!
Genghis Cohen: As I read it, they can take the Heavy Weapons in their list only: Harpoon Launcher, Heavy Bolter, Heavy Flamer, Heavy Stubber. Still better than a poke in the eye.
Dan: As we mentioned in the review, Greenhorns can’t gain skills. Not that skills would necessarily make them amazing or anything, but it seems like a pretty random nerf to an already bad fighter. At this point, I think it might be better to save credits for a wrecker before spending the last 45 or whatever on a Greenhorn.
Merton: Even if it turns out the no-skill thing is an error, juves aren’t really exciting for me these days. They’re limited to their equipment list now, so the days of sending them to their doom with Hand Flamers is over. Besides, we’ve got Wreckers for that! Greenhorns need to exist as a fighter-type so you can get ‘em free from Settlements and whatnot. Beyond that, pbbbbbbth.
Genghis Cohen. Lovely fun little upgrade and very characterful, I want to build a model for this! Ultimately, while it is worth it by saving credits across a campaign, and makes Executioner and Firestorm shells, which are very strong and in-character options, even better, it’s quite a minor use of a hanger-on slot. I’d take one if I had the slots free, but would always prioritise an Ammo Jack, Rogue Doc, Brute etc first.
Merton: I love how many awesome Hangers-On we’ve been getting recently, and I hate how many of them are tied for first place in my hiring order when I’m planning out a long-term campaign gang. Between one of these guys, my Docs, and some Brutes, it’s starting to get hard to fit in everything I need as a Reputation-locked perpetual Underdog.
Dan: Love this hanger-on. I will absolutely be getting one in any campaigns I get involved in, when it’s safe to do stuff like that again. I think it’s more important to get your cashflow sorted early in campaigns, but I can see myself grabbing one of these as soon as I’ve got a good income stream.
Genghis Cohen: Too damn random! My instinct is take a hanger-on with Fixer, or buy your leader Uphive Raiments or whatever it’s called that does the same thing as Fixer. But I guess if you like gambling it’s cool, and I think the math actually works out better than Fixer unless you die after just a few rolls.
Dan: Hard disagree. As the immortal Wu-Tang Clan said, “Cash rules everything around me.” The Prize Fighter will probably make his hiring fee back after one battle, and then provide reliable and significant income for the rest of the campaign. In a gang that can quickly run out of money due to expensive prospects and special ammo, having that cashflow is huge. I can see myself picking up a Prize Fighter as my first hanger-on moving forwards.
Fowler: Agreed, he’s probably a first pick for me as well. I’ve seen folks making noise about losing out on extra cash because of losing easy Savant skill access – IMHO this is a more flavorful way of going about it. Save your skills for in-game effects and leave the $$$ to your punchy friend.
Genghis Cohen: Potentially useful but far too lol-random for my taste.
Dan: If you’ve got a Brute and some extra credits, I think the Grease Monkey is worth it. Otherwise, I don’t see them being all that useful.
Fowler: If I end up running 3-4 Wreckers, he’s a serious contender for third up after a Prize Fighter and Rogue Doc. Keep in mind that he’s a 40 credit dude with Munitioneer and a hand-flamer, on top of the brute and prospect buffs.
House Ran Lo
Genghis Cohen: Not a fan. They seem likely to cost you far more than they will earn you over a campaign, might make you a bit of money when their entourage is showing up, but the entourage isn’t actually much good at fighting.
Dan: I feel like allying with Ran Lo is actually going to hinder a gang rather than help them. Can’t imagine doing it in a campaign.
Merton: I do appreciate that the designers tried to make a “Gives You Money” Alliance that comes equipped with caveats to make it more geared towards gangs that need a hand, really I do! I wish they’d done something like Ran Lo right off the bat instead of the rules they gave Ulanti, though.
Fowler: I hope the models look cool.
Dan: Gang, these skills are disappointing. The only one I can really ever consider taking is Guilder Contacts to get cheapo Scum and Bounty Hunters. The rest are generally useless, and that sucks.
Genghis Cohen: Absolutely gutted. Those slippery scummers at Warhammer Community previewed a skill, the fairly tasty Shotgun Savant. Guess what, that’s by far the best skill in the tree for my money, and it’s no True Grit or Nerves of Steel. Guess it was all just empty bravado? I really want to like Bring it On!, which lets you ‘taunt’ an enemy fighter so he has to attack you over other targets, unless he passes a Willpower test. But then you realise that as a basic action, you’re taking a skill to let you do something which will almost always be worse than, say, shooting or charging the guy you’re taunting. I think Shotgun Savant is the only skill I’d ever take from this tree, and even then only at recruitment.
Fowler: I’m reminded of the Tiny Mix Tapes review of Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth. It’s hard to warrant taking any of these over any of the other options available. Considering how cool the Legendary Names are, this is a miss for me.
Merton: Yyyyeah. As much as I want to gloss over champions losing Savant, it doesn’t help much to soothe the burn that the replacement skill set isn’t all that impressive. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s certainly not Cawdor-level bad, but Bravado’s nowhere near a fraction of the wow factor as some of the Finesse offerings in House of Blades.
Dan: I am, predictably, a huge fan of the Legendary Name system. None of them are obviously OP (as far as I can tell), but they add a ton of flavor and fun to any Orlock gang. Personally, I’d like to see them be awarded for narrative reasons instead of purchased with XP or taken at character creation, but that’s something a creative Arbitrator can easily find a fix for. I already have a half-baked idea for creating a set of prerequisites that, once fulfilled, would automatically award a Legendary Name to a fighter. If I end up coming up with something cool, maybe I’ll write a Necromunday article about it!
Genghis Cohen: Hell yeah, so many of these are just pure role-playing gold. I mean, a lot of them aren’t rules you’d ever pick to try and win games, but hey. Some of the coolest are severe downsides for a very powerful bonus – Iron Hard lets you flat out ignore your first Serious Injury or Out of Action Result in a game (hurrah) but means that if you do go OOA, your crew will automatically fail their next bottle check (huroo). Many of the best, and the ones I am more likely to actually take at recruitment, don’t actually have a drawback. I’m a huge fan of Blade Breaker – roll a D6 when hit by a melee attack – on a 6, the attack is a miss and your opponent is Disarmed. No Escher Step Aside trick, but not too shabby. Each Champ/Leader gets one of these bad boys free at recruitment, which is great. At 6XP to pick one as an advance, I’m not sure they’re super competitive, but I’m thinking about it hard. I’d really like to introduce a house rule that Gunners can take a name instead of a random Advance when they’ve built up 6XP.
Fowler: This is how you make fun Necromunda rules. These are all flavorful: some more useful than others, a sprinkling of hilarious effects, and a general playfulness that is seriously lacking in the new Orlock skill tree. I have particular interest in Promethium-Proof Killer, as I tend to spend a decent amount of time on fire; ignoring blaze may be worth giving up Leading by Example.
Genghis Cohen: I’m definitely building a Road Relic model! Cool as hell and actually handy enough in-game.
Fowler: The Road Relic is a great excuse to do some wild kitbashing, and a Heavy Stubber turret for 75 credits is an interesting proposition.
Dan: We’ve already talked about it in the House of Iron review, but the Promethium Barrels are immediately problematic. They’re indestructible, and confer a huge debuff to characters within 3”. If placed at a chokepoint, they can shut down the entirety of an enemy gang, all while giving the gang no recourse to improve their situation. In short, they’re unfun. There is an intuitive fix, though: make them destructible! If and when we figure out our recommendations for them, trust that we’ll post them in a Necromunday article! The rest of the terrain pieces seem really fun, though. I’m a huge fan of the Tool Box, as I love peppering the battlefield with powerups and bonuses.
Genghis Cohen: That’s a good catch, I missed the Promethium Barrels’ implications in my first skim through. Really good example of the design ethos behind Necromunda though. These are all things to be used as a sprinkling of interest in campaigns, and a lot of them can just break the game if you push it.
Merton: Having spent a bit more time with the rules on Promethium Barrels, it’s important to point out that they only trigger if you’re within 3” of one when a fighter activates. So, if it’s just a single one in an area you’ll be able to move-move past it, though if it’s only one barrel in the way that’s probably exactly where your enemy wanted you to go! I still think they’re going to be a problem when massed in overlapping areas, so maybe don’t do that if you want to keep your friends.
Dan: Road Block is cool blah blah blah. Big Bar Brawl looks like one of the most fun tabletop gaming experiences out there. I am aching to give it a shot.
Merton: Still super hyped for Big Bar Brawl. I was supposed to get a round of it in with a few of my locals the other night, but we skipped ahead to the drinking phase and forgot all about unpacking our models. Maybe next week, guys!
Fowler: Road Block strikes me as a great excuse to set up an intricate table and have an absolute bloodbath of a game. Bonus points if you’ve been kitbashing vehicles for your gang!
Dan: Y’all, the book is good. If you’re an Orlock player, you ought to be extremely pumped.
Fowler: Notably, it’s good without being too good.
Genghis Cohen: Not going to lie, all my Orlock gangs were looking pretty much the same with slightly different weapon combinations. This blows the bloody doors off in style. I can add basic weapon or close combat focussed Arms Masters, melee or Gunfighter Wreckers, my Gunner Specialists can take heavy weapons now – there’s just a lot more to play with. Then you give all these assorted reprobates their own Legendary Names!
Dan: That’s a great point. With limited options from GotU, Orlock gangs all generally resembled one another. I’m very, very excited to give different combinations of Wreckers, Gunners, and Arms Masters a shot. I’m still looking at a Road Captain and Sergeant making it into every list, but with the other options, the possibilities certainly seem endless right now!
Merton: Aside from a lackluster Bravado skill set, there’s a ton of options and builds for Orlocks now, to the point that there’s too much good stuff to fit into a single roster. Gangs are going to have to pick and choose what they want based on how their controlling players want to play the game, and not be terrified that deviating from some One True Build will prevent them from ever winning a single game. Their choices vary in quality from “Pretty Good” to “Holy Crap, Awesome”, and that’s fantastic.
Well, Scummers, we hope you enjoyed our little yakfest, here. We’re all obviously pumped for the new book, and we can’t wait to get some games in with it. We’d love to hear your thoughts or answer your questions, so feel free to drop us a line over at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Next week we’ll be back with an update to our Houses of the Underhive: Orlock article, so make sure to check it out. Until then, count your credits, get those re-loads ready, and don’t forget to feed the cyber mastiffs! Thanks for reading, Scummers!