Necromunday: Houses of the Underhive – Cawdor

An article by and    Gaming Necromunda Tactics        0

Welcome back, scummers! It feels great to be writing about something besides scenarios for a change, and we’re pretty psyched to finally tackle one of our favorite gangs, House Cawdor!

House Cawdor is known for three things:

  1. Trash! As the poorest of the houses, they scavenge through the cast-off waste of the hives. Their wargear is made up from what they pull from the vast waste heaps in the Underhive.
  2. Religion! House Cawdor is the stronghold of the Cult of Redemption. The fiery Redemptor Priests preach that universal destruction is nigh, and if you want to get good with the God-Emperor, you’d better spend your time burning the heretic and the mutant. Cawdor soldiers are more than willing to die for their faith.
  3. Endless Hordes! While they might be the poorest house, Cawdor is also the most numerous. They infest the Underhive like rats, and where one falls, two will gladly take their place.

On the tabletop, Cawdor use unique and powerful weaponry made from scrap to pursue their goals of cleansing the Underhive of all filth. The hallmarks of a Cawdor gang are tons of templates and tons of expendable gangers. They are one of the most unique and challenging gangs to use, as their strengths are mostly unmatched by any other gang in Necromunda. While they might initially look like Necromunda on hard mode, we can assure you that they’re an extremely capable band of religious fanatics. So read on as we dive in to House Cawdor!

Blanchitsu-style Cawdor, as interpreted by, well, him. (Credit: John Blanche)


  • Flame Templates: Nobody in the Underhive can bring more template weapons to a fight than a Cawdor gang. It’s all thanks to a little weapon called the Polearm/Blunderbuss and it is the TRUTH. The trashbois can even do it cheaply which is truly wild. Their cheap template weapons are not only extremely effective at short range, they’re extremely reliable, can act as versatile weapons, and set people on fire! What more could you possibly ask for?!
  • Numbers: Cawdor gangers are hot garbage individually, but they’re cheaper and more plentiful than almost anyone else. You’ll never have to worry about not having the maximum crew size with a Cawdor gang, and if you permanently lose a few, who cares?
  • Pure Aesthetic: We usually stay away from non-in-game topics for these guides in Necromunday, but we can’t talk about Cawdor without mentioning just how gosh-darned cool they look. The gutter-punk candle-enthusiasts. The homeless zealots. “Are you sure they’re not zombies?” These are easily some of the best models to come out of the Necromunda range so far. This kit is truly the new Empire Flagellants kit. Real ones know what we’re talking about.


  • Trash Men, Trash Skills: Cawdor skills accurately reflect the Cawdor ganger’s home environment in that they are a pile of stinking garbage. Leader primaries are *sighs* fine, but champion primaries are a joke. Brawn and Combat?! On the only characters a Cawdor player can get with a native 3+ BS? Come on, man. Cawdor champs may as well not have any skills, which is just terrible design.
  • Few Long-Range Options: While Cawdor absolutely rule the template game, the rest of their ranged options leave a lot to be desired. The Heavy Crossbow is legitimately great, but just about every other option aside from the Long Rifle is barely worth it. Cawdor will get completely dumpstered in a Sector Mechanicus long-range firefight if they’re not packing oodles of Smoke Grenades (hint: this is the best way to beat a Cawdor gang!).
  • Low Armor Penetration: Cawdor are not in a great place regarding armor penetration. Their only options that are better than -1 are the Krak profile of the Heavy Crossbow (which you’ll probably never fire), and a couple of close combat weapons: the Two-Handed Axe and the Chainglaive, which are both terrible. They’ll need a ton of help from the Trading Post or Black Market in this respect, and will suffer for it in the late stages of a campaign without some lucky rarity rolls and a hefty wallet.
  • Some Conversion Necessary: Although all gangs have had some of their more powerful weapon options locked behind Forgeworld packs, the Cawdor sprue is noticeably lacking in firepower and variety. With only a smattering of Polearms and a pair of Heavy Crossbows offered in the box, kitbashing the rest of their armory or shelling out for some resin is an unfortunate way of life.

You absolutely have a minute to listen to them talk about their lord and savior. (Insta: @Yoritomoslaine)

Stand-Out Skills

Even though Cawdor Champs get short shrift here, there are still a few good options to take!

Bull Charge: The thinking trash-person’s choice for a melee-centric leader (please do not make melee Cawdor champs, thanks in advance), Bull Charge will give them a nice boost on the turn they charge.

Commanding Presence: If your leader doesn’t have Overseer, they’re probably going to end up in the thick of things, surrounded by a horde of grubby polearm-wielders. A group activation with four Polearm/Blunderbuss shots on a critical turn before your opponent can do anything sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Consider Commanding Presence.

Overseer: Overseer, while somewhat distasteful over here (Ha!) definitely finds a home in a Cawdor gang. Put it on a leader with minimal equipment and take either a pair of Heavy Crossbows or a Crossbow/Heavy Stubber combo with your champs and boom! Instant firebase.

Weapons and Wargear

Basic Weapons

Reclaimed Autogun: It’s like an Autogun, but slightly worse! The bright side is that it’s also slightly cheaper! Just like the normal Autogun, this weapon will not win games for you, but the fact that it comes in at only 10 credits a pop means that using it as the default back-up weapon for everyone in your gang is probably the best choice. Rating: B-

Sawn-Off Shotgun: Like we say every time this complete turd of a weapon comes up, there is no reason not to take a pistol instead. Avoid. Rating: F

Polearm/Autogun: The first of the Cawdor-specific “spear + gun = fun” weapons, the Polearm/Autogun is like the little brother to the venerable blunderpole. It definitely has good qualities, but if you’re gonna spend the cheddar to get one, why not spend the 20 more credits to get the better version? If you want range, spend 10 fewer credits on the Reclaimed Autogun. Rating: C+

Polearm/Blunderbuss: This is it, right here, y’all. The blunderpole. Cawdor players love them, everyone else fears them. Not only is this easily the best weapon available to a Cawdor gang, it is potentially one of the best weapons in the game. It combines what’s best about a Combat Shotgun (which we love here at Necromunday) with a pretty gnarly versatile weapon, and you can give one to everyone in your gang. The template weapon has two profiles, too, and one of them has the Plentiful trait, which means it automatically reloads should it ever run out of ammo! And then the other profile can set people on fire! This is easily the number one heretic purging weapon available in the Underhive, and you should grab a whole bunch. Rating: A+

Close Combat Weapons

Axe: The humble Axe is exactly that, humble. It gives a Strength boost, but it lacks AP or a to-hit bonus. It’s probably the second-best pure close combat weapon available to the garbage people. At least it’s cheap. Rating: C+

Maul: Let’s face it gang, the maul sucks. Never buy one! Rating: F

Fighting Knife: The ol’ shank ain’t the worst weapon around, but it’s not the best ever. The Axe is cheaper and gives a more reliable strength bonus. At least this one comes with some AP. Rating: C-

Flail: +1 to hit. +1 to strength. Entangle. 20 credits so even a juve can use it. The Flail is the thinking Cawdor ganger’s choice, and is easily the standout of the pure close combat weapons here. If they’re gonna be in combat, and they can’t take a blunderpole, give them a flail. Rating: B+

Two-handed Axe & Hammer: We’re grouping these two weapons together because they’re both kinda unimpressive. They’re -1 to hit and take up two weapon spots, so the only thing that makes one of them interesting is that there is a little bit of AP here in the Axe. A tooled-up Leader or Specialist might be able to dole out some damage with these, but there are better options out there. Rating: C-

Chain Glaive: The third two-hander in the Cawdor arsenal, the Glaive hits at the wielder’s full Weapon Skill when swung at Versatile range, with Damage 2 and a respectable AP -2. If does cost almost twice the credits as the Hammer and curiously lacks the Rending trait present in most other chain-weapons, but if you’re looking for a giant cudgel that screams “go away,” you’d be hard-pressed to find something better. Rating: B

The Thanes of Birdgate, casually stomping the sneaky non-believers. Credit: Merton


Reclaimed Autopistol/Stub Gun: Y’all, this is what we’re talking about right here. You might notice a theme in our Necromunday articles where we rank Stub Guns higher than Autopistols mainly because Stub Guns are only 5 credits, while the Autopistol comes in at twice that. But this right here is pure Cawdor ingenuity: an Autopistol that only costs 5 credits! Now the “potential for more shots vs. better accuracy and more reliability” argument can actually mean something! At 5 credits, either option is fine. Rating: B

Hand Flamer: Sorry to continue to beat this drum, but in the world of the blunderpole, any other template weapon is hot garbage. More strength in the flame hit is alright, but it doesn’t trigger Blaze any more often than anything else. Rating: C-

Special Weapons

Long Rifle: Cawdor seriously lack any sort of quality ranged support, so a cheap, reliable, sniper rifle with access to special ammo is clearly Emperor-sent. A champ with one of these will do very well indeed. Rating: B+

Combi-Weapon (Autogun/Flamer): All you need to know about this gun is that it costs 110 credits. A fighter with a Reclaimed Autogun and a blunderpole will be far more effective for less than half of the cost. Avoid. Rating: D-

Flamer: Interestingly, Cawdor get Flamers at a 10-credit discount, but that still doesn’t make them any better than, you guessed it, the blunderpole! Sorry to keep bringing this up, but the blunderpole is really, really good. So good that we’re talking about it in the flamer entry. Rating: D

Heavy Weapons

Cawdor Heavy Crossbow: All you need to know about the Heavy Crossbow is that it packs a 5” blast weapon that can reach out and drop that pie plate at 30”. It also has a Krak option for that hard target that needs to go down, and it only costs 125 credits. The Heavy Crossbow is legitimately a great weapon, and if you’re going to take an Unwieldy weapon, take this one. Rating: A

Heavy Stubber: The venerable Heavy Stubber will have a home in almost any gang, including Cawdor, but the Crossbow is a whole lot better. Rating: C+

Heavy Flamer: Heavy Flamers. Not even once. Rating: F-


Throwing around grenades in a Cawdor gang are a lot less effective when there is the potential for a bunch of templates everywhere. All damage-dealing grenades will have a lessened impact in the land of templates, but the Smoke Grenade still has a necessary purpose.

Smoke Grenades: With all these template weapons running around, you’re gonna want to give them a chance to actually get into combat. To do that, you’re gonna need smoke grenades. Having a couple on your blunderbois will pay dividends. Rating: A

Frag Grenades: Frag Grenades are usually a solid choice, but with access to Incendiary Charges from the get-go, they lose some luster in a Cawdor gang. Rating: D

Blasting Charges: The 5” blast is tempting, but the paltry range of Strength x 2 makes them risky. You’re probably better off with incendiary charges. Rating: D+

Incendiary Charges: The best option for dealing grenade damage in a Cawdor gang, the Incendiary Charge has a 5” blast and can cause enemies to Blaze it, which is always a good time. They’re a little pricey, but having a few on your second-liners will give anyone pause. Rating: B

Krak Grenades: We guess these make sense if you play against Enforcers in every game, but otherwise you’re better off avoiding them. Rating: D-

Choke Gas Grenades: Interesting, but really too expensive to be worth it. Rating: D

Selected Wargear

Bomb Delivery Rats: Do you remember how we said Smoke Grenades are the only really worthwhile grenade to throw in a Cawdor gang? We’re gonna stick to that, because Cawdor have an inventive and hilarious way new way to give their enemies the gift of explosions: strap the grenades to rats and have the rats suicide bomb their opponents. It works like this: If the fighter with the rats can pass an Intelligence check, they can guide the rat up to 6” to make a targeted bombing run if it ends its movement within 1” of an enemy (or friendly!) model. If they fail, the rat goes rogue and moves according to the scatter dice. Right off the bat, this might seem like a no-brainer, but the real trick is waiting until a ganger has rolled an Intelligence advancement to give out some rats. Cawdor gangers come in at 7+ Intelligence, or about a 58% success rate, but if you wait until they advance to 6+, the success rate grows to a compelling 69% (nice)! Either way, offensive grenades become way more useful in this framework. All the grenades can work with bomb rats, but we’re going to focus on the two best. Important note: A rat bombardier is probably going to run out of grenades rather quickly, so it is a best practice to give them two types of grenade to use with their rats. This is obviously more expensive, but it will ensure to keep the bomb rats flowing (scampering?).

  • Blasting Charges: When strapped to bomb rats, Blasting Charges really start to shine. Their shorter range is mitigated, and their potential for destruction cannot be denied. They’re also the cheaper of the two “good” grenades, so go ahead and grab them first. Rating, when strapped to a rat: A
  • Incendiary Charges: They don’t pack the punch that a Blasting Charge does, but a 5” blast with Blaze is still a hell of a thing. The easy second choice. Rating when strapped to a rat: B+

Emperor’s Wrath Rounds: This ammo turns the Blunderbuss into the less-good side of the Combat Shotgun, which is good, but at 35 credits, it is far too pricey for what it does. It’s a better idea to give your blunderpolers a Reclaimed Autogun if you want them to have more of a ranged threat.

Cult Icon: In this case, it’s not a chaos or alien cult, but the good ol’ cult of the God-Emperor! The Cult Icon is always useful, but especially so on a Cawdor leader that is going to be on the front line. Don’t just buy one of these, though. Have a plan and a reason for it, as its cost of 40 credits is the same as another blunderpole.

Though sometimes, it’s also a chaos cult. Meet the Leprous Lords. (Credit: Norbert Perret)

Items to Target at the Trading Post

Suspensors: The Heavy Crossbow is really, really good. Wouldn’t it be better if your champ could move and fire with it? Go grab some Suspensors and watch your Crossbow do a ton of work each battle.

Gunk Bombs: Gunk bombs not only slow enemies down, but they also change the Blaze threshold from 4+ to 2+. This is HUGE for a gang where everyone can potentially have a Blaze weapon. Grab some for your rat guy or a front-liner and howl with laughter as your opponent’s whole gang catches on fire!

Giant Rats: They’re cheap, they can screen your fighters from charges, and they can give your fighters much-needed assists in combat. Can’t go wrong, here.

Grenade Launchers: Grenade launchers are always good, y’all. They’re smaller blasts at lower Strength compared to Heavy Crossbows, but they’re a whole lot cheaper and not Unwieldy.

Boning Swords: You might remember from our coverage of the Corpse Grinder Cults, but we were gaga for Boning Swords. Cawdor gangs will tend to get into melee more often than not, so a little bit of help in that department from a solid and cheap option is always appreciated.

Tactics Cards

Our boys have a ton of great tactics cards in their personal House selections, and synergize amazingly well with a lot of the universal Gang Tactics as well. Here’s a few for ya right now, but don’t be afraid to check out our master list and see if there’s some others that might work for you too!

  • Let It Burn: Even if you’ve chosen to include ranged weapons in your gang like Autoguns and Long Rifles and other things that don’t dole out flame templates, play this card to rectify that mistake for a round, bestowing the Blaze trait on every bullet you fire. You’ll still have to roll to hit, which does feel a bit weird, but with enough rapid fire you’ll have the whole enemy lit up in short order.
  • Call the Faithful: Although there are still a few uncapped crew-size scenarios floating around, generally you’ll be limited to a ceiling of ten fighters in most missions. Play this card to beat the odds, adding an additional d3 trashy friends to the party. It’s random, but when you’re playing the numbers game the only real requirement is fanatical devotion to the God-Emperor and a pulse.
  • Effigy of the Damned: This is it right here, the single tactic card that is peak Necromunda. We’ll leave it up to your individual groups to decide whether it’s peak Necromunda because it’s absolutely bonkers and ignites an entire tile or terrain piece on fire and causes anyone activating inside of it to take Blaze tests, or if it’s peak Necromunda because the card specifies “turn” instead of “round”. Since technically, a “turn” is the individual single/group activation within each overall “round”, if your group chooses to go by RAW on this the card is more akin to a brief flash-fire, but really more of a wet fart. (This has been your monthly reminder to send your rules questions to for possible inclusion in the next FAQ.)
  • Service Tunnels: Allow yourself a brief taste of a world where Cawdor have better skill choices, and give one of your fighters Infiltrate for deployment. Sneak in around the corner for a first-round gout of flame while the rest of the crew advances in the chaos, or stay in the shadows and pump out as many bomb rats as possible.

    Blind devotion doesn’t discriminate. (Insta: @Necromundatom)

Brutes, Pets, and Friends

Stig-Shambler (House Brute)

The first question you should be asking when you’re considering converting up a House Brute should be “Is this thing going to look super cool?” If the answer is yes, then by all means kitbash up your own garbage-pail Master Blaster. The next question, in a distant second place, is “Does this thing fill a role that my gang is elsewise lacking?” For the Stig-Shambler, the answer is a resounding “Maybe.”

As a Heavy Stubber platform that only halfway mitigates the movement restrictions of Unwieldy shooting (it can move in exchange for a loss of accuracy), the brute fails to outpace a regular Cawdor champion with the same weapon in both price and efficacy. Twin-linking the stubber will increase rate of fire and potential damage, but when each shot is only landing on a 4+ or 5+, you’ll be struggling to connect with any of them!

In theory, a gang could always run a Stig-Shambler with a Heavy Flamer, which wouldn’t give a single damn about accuracy. Trundling forward 4” and blasting out a 7” flame template at Strength 5 and -2 AP? Now we’re talkin’. Admittedly it’s also 310 credits for the privilege, and that’s before spending an extra 10 credits for an anemic 6+ armor save, but when else are you going to run a Heavy Flamer? (Outside of this specific brute, unless you have far more credits than sense, please do not waste your money on Heavy Flamers.)

All in all, the Stig-Shambler struggles. They’re great fire magnets, as they look terrifying and pack a big gun, but in the end their low armor and Toughness 4 means that they’ll be losing all four of their wounds before they can make much of an impact. Rating: C

Sheen Birds (House Exotic Beast)

Melee-based exotic beasts are typically in an awkward place thanks to the restriction that requires them to end their activation within 3” of their owner, but the Sheen Bird neatly sidesteps this downside. Its Rake Away ability allows it to make a free Move/Retreat action on a successful Willpower check (on an 8+, mind you), letting it swoop back into tether range.  This will come in handy more often than you’d like, as it is also prone to charge off and attack nearby targets, whether you want it to or not.

The Bird’s talons are only Strength 3, but with AP -1, D2, and Rending, if they get a wound in it’s going to hurt. Overall they’re a bit expensive at 90 credits, but more than capable of picking off a weakened enemy ganger. Rating: B-

The Headsman (Bounty Hunter)

The Cawdor-exclusive Bounty Hunter’s rules can be found in his Forgeworld blister as well as online here. As a Bounty Hunter, the Headsman can generate bonus credits for his patron gang whenever they permanently kill or capture an opposing fighter. On the other hand, doing so makes it increasingly likely that he’ll also leave your gang entirely until you hire him back!

On the table, he’s a beast, with a melee profile rivaling a Cawdor leader and some extra Strength and Attacks thrown in for good measure. That extra strength makes his Two-Handed Axe a lot more threatening, as he’ll be wounding everything but Goliaths and some Corpse Grinders on a 2. With better than average armor, Stimm-Slugs, and skills that up both his killing potential and overall utility, the Headsman is absolutely a solid hire. You’ll very likely get your money’s worth before he decides the gig is over. Rating: B+

The Head Honcho Himself (Insta: @Yoritomoslaine)


Founding Gangs

Out-of-the-Box 1000-Credit Cawdor Gang

As we’ve mentioned above, building straight off of the base sprue presents a bit of a challenge for Cawdor. Cut off from some of their more destructive and inventive methods of waging war, we’ve focused on the next best thing – as many warm bodies as we can fit!

Your Crossbow is going to be your main death-dealer and a prime enemy target, so protect him as well as you can while your Leader shouts orders to let him move and shoot, or stand still and shoot twice instead. The rest of your crew should focus on throwing smoke between them and any nasty enemy weapons as they advance into burn and stab range. You’re almost guaranteed to outnumber opponents early on in a campaign, so even if you’re taking as many casualties as you’re inflicting you’ll come out ahead in the end! (And remember to pick up a Suspensor for your Crossbow champ as soon as you can afford one.)

  1. Leader (Overseer): Axe, Mesh Armor [130]
  2. Champion (Hurl): Heavy Crossbow, Mesh Armor [235]
  3. Champion (Bull Charge): Reclaimed Autogun, Mesh Armor [180]
  4. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  5. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  6. Ganger: Autogun Polearm [65]
  7. Ganger: Autogun Polearm, Smoke Grenade [80]
  8. Ganger: Reclaimed Autogun, Smoke Grenade [70]
  9. Ganger: Reclaimed Autogun, Smoke Grenade [70]

Dan’s Balanced Firebase

This gang uses many of the famed Blunderpoles, and can easily be made out of one box of Cawdor gangers and a reasonably well-stocked bitz box. The heavy weapon firebase can be supercharged by the Overseer leader while the template-wielding gangers advance and cause havoc with their blunderpoles. Also, a Juve is there. 

  1. Leader (Overseer): Stub Gun [110]
  2. Champion (Step Aside): Heavy Stubber [225]
  3. Champion (Parry): Heavy Crossbow [220]
  4. Ganger: Long Rifle [75]
  5. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  6. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  7. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  8. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  9. Juve: Stub Gun, Reclaimed Autopistol [30]

“So I Heard You Like Templates”

If you were wondering how exactly how many flame templates you can reliably squeeze into a founding gang, the answer is this many. A word to the wise, if anyone is actually still willing to play against you if you’re strolling in with this many Blunderbuss Polearms, it’s because they’ve realized that Hazard Suits are 10 credits.

  1. Leader (Bull Charge): Blunderbuss Polearm [145]
  2. Champion (Step Aside): Heavy Crossbow [220]
  3. Champion (Parry): Long Rifle [125]
  4. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  5. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  6. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  7. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  8. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]
  9. Ganger: Blunderbuss Polearm [85]

Future recruits for the Order of the Unlaundered Shroud (Insta: @Necromundatom)

Final Thoughts

House Cawdor is easily one of the most fun gangs to play in Necromunda. No one can match them in their ability to field template after template after template, and they have access to some of the coolest and funniest wargear out there. While they might not have the fancy skills or technology like some gangs out there, they more than make up for it in number of bodies and number of candles!

Please let us know what you thought of the article in the comments or at! We hope you enjoyed it, but if there’s anything we missed, we’d love to hear it!

That’s it for this week, scummers! Join us next week as we do a complete 180 and cover the techno-savvy House Van Saar! If you’re a fan of lasers, spiders, crippling radiation, or bodysuits, do yourself a favor and tune in! Until then, happy scavenging!

Merton’s Community Corner

Chances are, you’re already using the Yaktribe gang builder tools for your lists and campaigns (Malo, you’re a saint), but definitely spend some time in the forums too.

There’s a ton of posted lists with critiques and advice, tactics, arbitrator tools, and just general good times with folks united in our love for this weird little skirmish game.

Post, lurk, scroll through pretty pictures and get inspired, whatever you fancy! The Yak has been and still remains the beating heart of the Necromunda community.


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