Necromunday: Houses of the Underhive – Escher

An article by and    Gaming Necromunda Tactics        0

Welcome back, Scummers, to another edition of your favorite downhive weekly: Necromunday! Join us as we do a deep dive into the deadly sirens of the Underhive, House Escher!

As one of the first gangs released, Escher are appropriately all over the Necromunda-sphere. It seems like everyone has a set of the Amazonian gangers in their collections! With their fantastic models, stylized weapons, and unique flair, they’ve managed to overcome their somewhat less-impressive ruleset (when compared to Goliaths, at least!) and have continued to be one of the most popular gangs on the market. This week we’re taking a look at what makes these deadly huntresses tick, and how we, as players, can get the most out of House Escher.

Houses of the Underhive – Escher

The Sorrows take the field. (Credit: John Compton, Seattle)

Strengths

  • Long-Range Goddesses: Access to the cheapest Lasguns in the game and a decent BS to shoot them with means that Eschers are capable of focus-firing down almost any target that they choose to concentrate shots into. Even while split up around the battlefield, they’ll often have enough weapons within 24” to at the very least guarantee a pin on any nasty melee fighters who dare to get too close.
  • Counter-Charge Assassins: Although fragile, charging an Escher is no guaranteed kill, as their access to Combat skills allow them to augment their arsenal of parry weapons, or even to dodge the incoming attacks entirely. Reckless enemies charging blindly into an Escher gang’s front lines will quickly find themselves surrounded, hacked to pieces by swords and back-stabbed by fighting knives.
  • The Best Initiative: Initiative is a stat that goes a long way. While other Houses get by with passing their Initiative checks half of the time, Escher succeed on a 2+, allowing them to almost ignore Photon Flash Grenades, waltz away from reaction attacks while retreating, avoid falling into nearby pits every time they’re pinned, and more.
  • Poison Everywhere: Though their monopoly on Toxin weapons has been loosened by the perfidious Delaque, Escher did poison first and Escher do poison best. From toxin rounds to toxin blades, even dabbling with clouds of noxious gasses, no other House is quite as adept at taking a multi-wound fighter Out of Action in a single attack. 
  • Strength in Numbers: An Escher ganger with a lasgun is 55 credits. This is one of the most credits-efficient models in the game, and an Escher gang can easily outnumber their opponents, especially in the early game.

 

Weaknesses

  • Low Cool: An 8+ Cool on your gangers is a handicap Escher need to be constantly mindful of, as it’s far more likely that their fighters will break at the slightest provocation once injuries and nerve tests start flying. This can be mitigated with skills and tactics, but is definitely a weakness to keep in mind to prevent a single injury from causing an avalanche of panic.
  • Limited House Armory: Escher suffer from being an earlier release, with some of their design choices evidencing a rules team that was still figuring out how they wanted to build the new Necromunda. Their armory is largely unimaginative as a result, with frequent instances of trios of weapon types with only nuances for differences (e.g. swords, pistols; mundane, power, toxin). While this is hardly a death-sentence for the House, Escher players will need to carefully eye up the Trading Post as they progress through a campaign to shore up weaknesses in their native armory.
  • Glass Cannons: With poor access to starting armor and an emphasis on speed instead of toughness, Escher gangs can fold like a bad hand if drawn in to a protracted fight. Without significant help from the Trading Post or Advancements, don’t expect House Escher to excel at slugging it out.

They also compensate for their Breakin’ with excellent Graffiti skills. (Credit: Alfons Couldrey)

Key Skills

Primary access to Combat and Agility, with Leadership on leaders (natch), here’s a couple of our favorite skills that we feel really augment the Escher playstyle. If you’re wondering what we think of some of the other options, or why we didn’t include Overseer as the obvious default, head on over to our full Skills Guide!

  • Dodge (Agility):  Slip out of harm’s way whenever you’re successfully wounded, negating damage on a 6+ before you even have to worry about passing an armor save. Useful both in melee and against ranged damage, though you’ll still be pinned by ranged attacks even if you manage to dodge.
  • Spring Up (Agility): In an odd way, this skill provides an almost identical end result to Ferocity’s Nerves of Steel. Escher are exceedingly likely to pass their 2+ Initiative test, allowing them to stand up from the prone for free and use both of their actions.
  • Step Aside (Combat): Amazing for any fighter getting up close and personal; you’ll evade a single hit in each round of close combat on an Initiative check of 2+.
  • Inspirational (Leadership):  Get a second chance at keeping Cool by salvaging a failed nerve test from any fighter within 6” with a roll against your own Leadership instead. Not only do Escher leaders have great Leadership, the 6” bubble conveniently allows them to stay out of the 3” range that would have caused them to take a nerve test of their own! If you do find yourself with an Inspirational leader, consider Gold-Plating one of her weapons at some point to further boost her Leadership.

 

Escher Equipment

Basic Weapons

Lasgun: The humble Lasgun is the defining tool of House Escher. It’s cheap, long-ranged, and provides an accuracy bonus at an absurd 18” away. Even past early games the Lasgun can keep pace, with Las-Projectors increasing the short-range bonus and Hot-Shots increasing strength and AP. Even if fighter is already packing a different basic weapon, there’s no reason to not hand these guns out to almost everybody as a backup. To reiterate: Eschers get lasguns for 5 credits, and every fighter that can have one, should have one.  Rating: A+

Autogun: Though a reliable mainstay for almost every other House, in the hands of the Escher an Autogun is a poor substitute for the Lasgun as a stock weapon. Still, it does have its value, in that Autoguns are capable of loading up many varieties of tailor-made special ammunition that’ll help Eschers deal with specific scenarios where the straight damage of Hotshotted Lasguns may fall short.  Rating: C+

Shotgun: Best suited for providing mid-range support to fighters built to deal their damage up close, Shotguns suffer from being a middle of the road weapon that winds up being outclassed by Lasguns and Autoguns, even with the respectable Strength 4 and Damage 2 of the Shotgun’s solid slugs. Acid Rounds seem like a great idea at first glance, but a Blaze trait on a non-template weapon makes ever getting the hits that might trigger the flame considerably less reliable.  Rating: C+

They’ve been in tougher scrapes before. (Credit: JS Goodbar)

Close Combat Weapons

Shock Whip: Versatile weapons are always strong, especially in the hands of a fighter who’d rather stay out of retaliation range. Combine that with a Strength bonus and the Shock trait and you’ve got an amazing weapon that’s perfect for your champions and leader. Rating: A

Swords (Chainsword / Power Sword / Stiletto Sword)
All swords have Parry and at least -1 AP, making them excellent choices to protect your fighters from charging opponents. Narrowing down the best tool for the job from there depends on how much you’re willing to spend, and exactly how you want to deal with your enemies!

  • Chainsword: It’s pretty good! Chainswords have an accuracy bonus, it’s easier to score a hit in the first place. Rending can cause some extra damage on a lucky wound roll, and it’s the cheapest sword at 25 credits.  Rating: B
  • Stiletto Sword: The Toxin Option. If you’re already running a Needle weapon or have had some other reason to equip your fighter with a Chem-Synth, go with this particular sword for maximum poisonous synergy.  Rating: B
  • Power Sword: Extra Strength on the attacks, an AP of -2, and Power round out the final entry in the sword trifecta. Power is a nasty trait, allowing the wielder to parry incoming power weapons, denying save rolls on lucky hits, and boosting damage! It’s also 45 credits, so maybe reserve them for your hard-hitters.  Rating: A

Fighting Knife: It’s got Backstab, but that ability tends to come into play only when you’re able to engage an enemy with a second and third fighter from your crew.  Rating: C

Stiletto Knife: The Toxin option, the Stiletto offers no AP or bonuses (R.I.P. Gangwar-era +1 to hit), but it’s still a solid little weapon. Be it ever so unlikely, even a juve can get a lucky scratch off on occasion, and these poisoned blades are just cheap enough to hand out to fighters who might find themselves in scuffles beyond their own weight class. Rating: B

Power Knife: A Fighting Knife, but glowy! A bit more Strength, AP, and Power, in exchange for the same cost as the Chainsword. With the recent uptick in armor values across the game (thanks, BoJ), weapons with both +Strength and -AP are extremely useful. While it is less defensively useful than a power sword, the 20-credit discount will definitely make up for it.  Rating: A

 

Pistols

Laspistol: Can be fitted with a Hotshot Pack if you really want to make the most out of one of these things, but the fact that it is twice as expensive as a stub gun with marginally better stats means that the Saturday Night Special is still at the top of the heap for cheap pistols.  Rating: C+

Autopistol: While it may have the ability to put out more shots than a laspistol or stub gun, the autopistol’s hilariously bad short range and relative price make it a middling choice at best. Rating: C

Stub Gun: The cheap and reliable stub gun always has a place in any gang. Grab some Dum-Dums if you want to make it beefier (for a character that can actually hit, mind you!) and enjoy using a revolver in the year 40,000. Rating: B+

Hand Flamer: Oh, the hand flamer. If you’re houseruling these things to have sidearm (like we do! It’s fun, trust us!) they can actually be quite useful, if not extremely dangerous. If not, they’re lackluster, extremely expensive, and really don’t have a place. Rating: B (if houseruled), D (otherwise)

Needle Pistol: The needle pistol seems OK. If you’ve spec’d into chem synths and poison craziness on a character, it’s probably worth it, but otherwise it’s a very expensive stub gun with Dum-Dums. Rating: C

Plasma Pistol: Plasma pistols have a place in any gang. They’re good on both shooting and melee characters, but think about bringing a backup lasgun for when that Scarce trait rears its ugly head. Rating: A

Heavy Weapons

Heavy Stubber: If you already built a model with one of the Heavy Stubbers in the Upgrade Packs, don’t worry, it’s not that bad once you invest in Suspensors. Elsewise, save up a few more credits and shell out for a Heavy Bolter.  Rating: C+

Punks to the core. (Credit: Joshua Overbeck)

Special Weapons

Combi-Bolter/Needler: Boltguns? Good (though they need a backup weapon. A 5-credit Lasgun would work nice…). Needlers? Ehhhh…….If you want a Needler, just get a Needler. And If you want a Boltgun, just go to the Trading Post and get one. Keep this relic on the shelf.  Rating: D+

Flamer: Great for a super-quick ganger or a juve who’s leveled up enough to branch out. Too expensive to be superb, though. Rating: C+

Meltagun: 135 credits is too much for a 12” gun. If you want short range power, go 5 credits more and grab a flamer, which will hit targets automatically, set stuff on fire, and isn’t scarce. The Meltagun gets a slight lift because of the proliferation of good saves these days, but it is still not enough gun for the price tag.  Rating: D+

Needle Rifle: The Needler used to be a mean-as-hell sniper tool back in 90s Necromunda. Now it’s a mid-range threat capable of bypassing wounds. It’s highly accurate at short range, but its single shot and scarce ammo make us question its usefulness. It could be useful for picking out a multi-wound character, but anyone worth their salt will screen their heavy hitters, and Escher Cool is just awful. It makes more sense to go high-Strength and Damage. That being said, 35 credits for a potential leader-sniper is not bad. If you take one, grab a Chem-Synth. Rating: C+

‘Nightshade’ Chem-Thrower: Gas weapons are in a rough place right now. They follow Toxin’s rules for skipping wounds when dealing injuries, but the lack of pinning on their hits is a severe downside, and is especially noticeable when attached to such an expensive template weapon (even more so when you factor in the almost mandatory chem-synth). Even in a world where Gas wasn’t easily shrugged off with cheap Respirators, you’d be better off with a Flamer.  Rating: D

Plasma Gun: Yes. Get one. Get two! They are rapid fire, high-strength, high-damage with a 24” range. Plasma Guns are the bee’s knees when considering special weapons, so make them a part of your plan. Rating: A+

Wargear & Equipment

Chem-Synth: If you’re taking Toxin or Gas weapons, then you need a Chem-Synth. Engaged fighters can use the Chem-Synth in combat, so if you’re spec’d for poisons in shooting or melee, grab one of these post-haste. Their best use is on a Needle Rifle, though, as the Needler will be less likely to have to move to be effective.

Las-Projector: They’re kinda pricey for what they do, but multiple Las-Projectors attached to Lasguns, with their sweet “short” range of 18”, could turn your gangers into crowd control wizards. These things are best used on a weapon with a considerable short range, so think Plasma Guns, Lasguns, or Heavy Bolters.

Smoke Grenades: You’re not going to be throwing Smoke Grenades around as liberally as some of the other Houses, namely since Escher depend on open lanes of fire to point their own six to nine Lasguns down, and Photo-Goggles are five times more expensive than the Lasgun they’d be enabling. Still, if one of those lanes of fire happens to have an enemy Grenade Launcher at the other end, maybe it’s worth it to cut him off for now.

Photon Flash Grenades: As we’ve mentioned before, Flash Grenades are amazing, stunning victims out of an entire turn’s worth of activations. Even on the off-chance that your grenade happens to scatter back onto your fighters, Escher are uniquely suited to shrug it off, resisting Flash’s effects on a measly 2+.

 

Shop ‘Til They Drop 

While we’ve come a long way from the half page of Weapons and Wargear in the original Gang War soft-covers, there’s some serious gaps in the Escher House Armory. Don’t be afraid to lean heavily on the Trading Post as you upgrade your gang and hire on new members – there’s a lot of cool gear out there!

Oh crap, this would make some excellent terrain and it’s totally in the basement somewhere. (Credit: Hasbro)

 

Hot-Shot Las Packs: Once your Lasguns stop passing muster, or you’ve got the pinning down and would like to start dealing damage as you merrily plink away, start off by investing heavily in Hotshots. You’ll have to suddenly care slightly about ammo rolls, but your newly-overclocked Lasguns will be blasting out Strength 4 shots at AP-1, which is absolutely terrifying in the high volume Escher is capable of doling out. This is a great strategy for the late stage of a campaign, especially if you’ve gone heavy on ultra-cheap Lasgun gangers.

Blind Snake Pouches: Gives the Dodge skill to fighters that don’t have it, and doubles the chances that it’ll trigger for those that do. It’s not cheap, but it also provides a hefty dose of survivability in an extremely on-brand manner.

Giant Rats: Sure, they’re pretty much the opposite of the typical Escher kitties, but these (almost as cuddly) oversized vermin are surprisingly great companions for a champion that wants to be in combat, but doesn’t want to be charged. Rats block off base-to-base contact with their owner, provide assists and interference, and nip away at their enemies with backstab attacks that actually have a chance of triggering.

Armor Upgrades: This almost feels like it could go without saying, but Armored Undersuits and Ablative Overlays are really, really good and should be invested (get it?!) in immediately. Your leader and champions will thank you, we promise.

Conversion Fields: “What?!” you might exclaim, “Field armor is stupid, expensive and useless!” Well, you might be right in any other circumstance, but a Conversion Field’s drawback is that it causes a Flash attack on nearby models. And what stat saves against Flash? Initiative! With all of your fighters running around with 2’s and 3’s in that column, the Conversion Field actually starts to look pretty tasty. Remember, field saves are taken on the hit, not the wound, so it acts as an extra barrier of protection!

Everything Else: Get creative. Eschers have a solid statline and can run most weapons and builds reasonably well. The only limit is your cred-wallet and imagination, so get on over to the Trading Post and see what you can find!

Camo is super in-style in the ‘Hive right now.  (Credit: BuffaloChicken)

 

 Top-Tier Tactics

These are just a fraction of your options for Tactics Cards – check out all these and more, as well as some helpful suggestions on building a reasonable deck, in our breakdown of all tactics cards for all gangs.

  • Reaction Fire: Even without the Shooting skills, Escher can take advantage of Overwatch with this Tactic Card. If you lose priority on a crucial turn or wind up briefly outfoxed by an enemy action you weren’t anticipating, regain the initiative by shooting them straight onto their ass.
  • Stealthy Advance: Start the game off with a major advantage, granting a free move to half your gang. Figure out what your opponent is intending based on their deployment and immediately move laterally to disrupt their plan before they can react, or just cover extra ground and advance toward your objective.
  • A Good Day: Another solid tool to offset the House’s poor Cool rating. The 3” bubble is far more restrictive than Inspirational’s 6”, but handy to keep your fighters on the table once the going gets tough.
  • Hard Stop: Escher are fast already, but you can beat a charging opponent to the punch (literally!) by swinging before they even get a chance to attack. Bound to give pause to any opponent who’s depending on hitting you before you can retaliate.

 

Brutes and Exotic Pets

Phyrr Cat (Exotic Pet): If you’ve got credits to spare and a close-combat champion or leader, the Phyrr Cat (or two) can be your best friend. They won’t always push wounds through on their own thanks to their lackluster Strength 3 attacks, but each talon that sneaks past your opponent’s armor is Damage 2, with a chance to pulverize injuries into something nastier. Their 9” leash range is the longest out of any Exotic Pet, allowing them to charge first when activated and then provide assists and interference to their owner’s charge afterwards, rather than the other way around. That’s a powerful trick in melee unseen anywhere else so far, but it’s attached to an expensive single wound Toughness 3 pet that has zero armor. Rating: C+

That’s a big kitty! (Credit: Johnathan Dale)

Khimerix (Brute):  This brute is a beast. Skip the gas breath weapon upgrade, fire off the chemical blast when you can, but don’t let that distract you from the Khimerix’s goal and sole desire: absolutely eviscerating anything it touches in melee.  It’s lightly armored, even if you opt for the scaly hide, but the Khimerix is tough enough that it’ll probably be able to regenerate a few wounds before your opponent can chop through it. Remember that fighting is a basic action, so if this monster activates while engaged it’ll be able to both swing and attempt to heal in the same round! Sure, it’s around 45 credits more expensive than the bog-standard Ambot, but if you’ve got the cash, splurge on this bad baby. Rating: A-

 

Champion & Leader Load-outs

  • The Toxicologist: Combi-Bolter (Needler), Chem-Synth, Stiletto Sword, Lasgun (Dodge)
    Wound-heavy champions and leaders are no problem for this beauty, providing covering fire for her teammates with her bolter until she’s in range of a harder target. Inflicting injuries on a wound roll that equals or beats her victim’s Toughness, she’ll blast and slash her way through even an Orlock leader in no time. This character benefits majorly from having a backup weapon as the combi bolter is likely to run out of ammo quickly.
  • The Lion Tamer: 2x Shock Whips, Plasma Pistol (Rain of Blows)
    A beast in close-combat, but close is on her terms. A pair of Versatile Shock Whips will flay anyone she can charge from the safety of 3” away, and Rain of Blows allows her to fight twice against any poor bastard already in range when she activates.
  • The Face-Melter: Plasma Gun, Lasgun (Dodge)
    Any gang that can take Plasma Guns should take at least one. They’re incredibly good. We gave her Dodge so she’s just that much harder to put down. Combine with a Blind Snake Pouch to make her even tougher!
  • The Counter-Charger: Plasma Pistol, Power Knife or Power Sword, Lasgun (Combat Master)
    She can support fire with her Plasma Pistol or Lasgun, but when the big meanie from the other gang gets in close, she’ll be able to run in and carve off a slice! This is an excellent and versatile character that will help deter those Goliaths from pulverizing your whole gang in one go.

Admittedly, not even we would run that many Lasguns. (Credit: Groetgaffel)

Out-of-the-Box 1,000-Credit Escher Gang

Going straight off of the sprue does present some challenges, as without conversion work or FW weapon packs you’ll be cut off from Needle Rifles and Plasma Guns and all sorts of fun tricks. Our offering here takes advantage of the ever-efficient Lasgun ganger to boost our founding crew’s numbers to help stave off Bottle tests, with champions and leaders closing towards the enemy as the gangers provide supporting fire. Escher juves are surprisingly not terrible, so don’t be afraid to use yours to sneak in some poison stabbing if the opportunity presents itself!

  1. Leader: Power Sword, Plasma Pistol, Lasgun, Mesh, (Inspirational) – 235
  2. Champion: Combi-Bolter (Needler), Stiletto Sword, Mesh, Chem-Synth (Spring Up)  – 235
  3. Champion: Shotgun (Acid Rounds), Chainsword, Mesh, (Dodge) – 180
  4. Ganger: Lasgun – 55
  5. Ganger: Lasgun – 55
  6. Ganger: Lasgun – 55
  7. Ganger: Lasgun – 55
  8. Ganger: Lasgun – 55
  9. Juve: 2x Stiletto Knives, Chem-Synth – 75

 

Final Thoughts

House Escher provides a fun and interesting dynamic in Necromunda: what if good at shooting, but also fast?! They can be one of the nastiest long-ranged shooting gangs out there, but have the weapons and skills to take on just about anyone. Keep your ladies at range, and do your best to stick to Sector Mechanicus games, and you’ll be reaping trophies in no time!

Thanks for reading, friend! If you have something you want to share with us, feel free to drop a comment for us below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com!

 

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