Howdy scummers! It’s just me this week. I gave Merton a much-needed vacation to the Ash Wastes where he is no doubt huddled around a guttering flame while the toxic wind whips at his sealed tent dome. Let’s hope he makes it.
This week I’ll be tackling my personal favorite gang, House Orlock! Besides their absolutely bitchin’ models, Orlocks are a ton of fun on the table as they focus on solid and fundamental gameplay, interesting gear combos, and shooting so many dang bullets they can’t not hit! So grab your sawed-off, don that bandana, and don’t forget to wax your mustache before you join me for a tour of Necromunda’s okayest Underhive House!
- Generalists: Orlocks have the tools to win any match-up, and beat any gang. They’re not going to wow anyone with their combat abilities, or win any sharpshooting competitions, but they can potentially out-shoot a punchy gang and out-punch a shooty gang. With the right weapons, wargear, and careful play, Orlock gangs can deal with it all. The key here is to play against your opponent’s weaknesses, and we’ll dive into this more later in the article.
- Unmatched Short-Range Shooting: Shotguns, combat shotguns, bolters, flamers and meltas are all available to Orlock gangs at inception, making them extremely scary at close range. Goliaths are generally considered to be the kings of the up-close-and-personal, but Orlocks truly rule the 6”-12” range. Get ready to laugh with glee as your enemies are shredded by an endless hail of bolts and projectiles!
- Good Starting Weapons: Discounted combat shotguns, plasma weapons, bolters, and serviceable combat choices make for a very solid armory at gang creation.
- Solid Stats: Orlock Leaders show up to the party with 3 wounds, and are the only character in the game that does so. The leader also comes with a 3+ to hit in shooting AND combat, making them a strong and versatile choice. Champs come with a coveted 3+ to hit in shooting, giving them a clear role and, given their great weapon choices, the tools to do their job well.
- Generalists: Orlocks won’t win a firefight with dedicated shooters like Van Saar, and they won’t win a fistfight against dedicated punchers like Goliaths. If an Orlock player’s opponent can dictate how and where they fight, it can end quickly and viciously for the Orlock player.
- Poor Long-Range Options: The only options in the Orlock armory with a range above 24” are the heavy stubber and the heavy bolter. No long rifles, long las, needler, or lasgun mean they can be out-ranged very easily.
- Terrible Grenades: Orlocks only have the option to purchase frag, krak, blasting charges, and demolitions charges at gang creation which is…less than ideal. No access to smoke or photon flash means that a trip to the Trading Post is an Orlock gang’s highest priority.
- No Flash: The thing that sets the Orlock gang apart in Necromunda is that there is really nothing special about them. Goliath are combat monsters, Van Saar can shoot the hairs off a flea, Delaque’s got all the tricks, Cawdor has numbers and templates, Escher’s got poison and backflips, Enforcers have armor and THE LAW, Genstealer Cults have claws and third arms, and Chaos Cults have magic and spawns. Orlock have…vests? Bandanas? Mustaches? House Orlock may seem like they don’t have a whole lot going for them, but I think you’ll find that you might just be surprised…
Orlocks’ big two skill categories are Ferocity and, interestingly, Savant. Goliath players will be intimately familiar with Ferocity skills. Most of the Ferocity skills revolve around reducing or ignoring damage or debuffs. Unlike some skill categories (cough Brawn cough), most of the Ferocity skills are useful or downright good for an Orlock gang. Let’s highlight my favorites:
- Nerves of Steel: Ignoring pinning on a passed Cool check is super useful. I generally take this on my leader as he usually wants to get up close and personal, but taking it on a Champion with an unwieldy weapon can be the difference between firing and not firing for most of the game. You see Goliath gangs spam this skill for a reason.
- Unstoppable: Unstoppable is a free medicae kit or medicae skill that is always on (50% of the time, it works every time), and it even has the chance to remove Flesh Wounds, which is just hilarious when it works. This skill has the potential to vastly increase a character’s staying power during a game.
- True Grit: Another good tanky skill, True Grit reduces the amount of injury dice that are rolled. It’s useful to keep a fighter alive, and can be truly nasty when combined with Unstoppable. I like the previous two mentions more, but True Grit won’t weigh you down (it’s a really good movie, too!).
Savant skills are a ton of fun, and rarely used. Orlock and Van Saar are the only houses that get access to them as primary skills en masse, but Van Saar players never use them because why not just take Fast Shot on everyone? I love Savant skills for a Champion who hangs back and focuses on crowd control, like a Champ with a grenade launcher. They’re not going to do a ton of damage, so they’re probably not gonna get singled out by enemy snipers, and thus they can take some of the interesting support choices instead of offensive or defensive skills. Let’s take a look at my favorites:
- Fixer: It’s free money. The fixer doesn’t even have to be in the battle to generate the extra credits. This skill is fully ridiculous. Orlock gangs rely heavily on buying important support items and wargear from the Trading Post, and having extra money to do so is critical.
- Munitioneer: I use a lot of boltguns, plasma, grenades, and other high-ammo-roll weapons in my gangs, so having a mobile re-roll provider is key. Orlock don’t have access to las weapons at gang creation, so a slew of bad ammo rolls can hamstring an Orlock gang.
- Savvy Trader: I mentioned earlier how important the Trading Post is for Orlock gangs, and this skill directly impacts the rarity of items found and how much something costs. I like Fixer more, because it is more versatile, but Savvy Trader is a definite boon.
Weapons and Wargear
As mentioned previously, Orlocks have access to some seriously good weapons at gang creation. They also have some big-time duds, so I’m going to go through the weapon choices and give my impressions.
Autogun – Cheap and can use upgraded ammo. A staple. Don’t lean on autoguns for performance, though. They will disappoint you. C+
Sawn-Off Shotgun – There is no situation where taking this weapon is better than a pistol. Avoid it. F
Shotgun – A solid (and scatter! lololololol) choice. Cheap, too. A little more reliable at dealing damage than an autogun, but forsakes some of the range. There are a lot of good special ammo for shotguns, too, making it a very compelling choice. B
Boltgun – An extremely good choice. Comparatively long short range, S4 and 2 damage, the boltgun is a very strong weapon. They’re expensive, but the boltgun is guaranteed to be a workhorse in every Orlock gang. Just take an extra stub gun on whatever fighter uses one, because that 6+ ammo roll is a doozy. Boltguns are so good that one’s also a good choice for a cheap champion. A
Combat Shotgun – Orlocks get these at a discount, and yowie wowie, they’re amazing. I almost always take 2 gangers with one in each gang, and they do work. The dual profile is awesome but I generally run around blasting away with shredder ammo (the template) because it just wrecks opposing gangs. Combat shotguns are the perfect weapon for Zone Mortalis games, as they’re useful at “long” range, but they really shine when they get into shredder range. Watch your opponent recoil in horror when you lay down that template. A+
Close Combat Weapons
A quick note before we begin: Orlock gangs do not belong in combat. They have no access to Combat skills, and most of their combat weapon options are lackluster. However, other gangs will want to get into combat with you, so having a character or two who can counter-charge is an important key to winning a game. I personally like my leaders to be my counter-chargers, as they have a 3+ weapon skill, and there are some pretty good combos for weapons here.
Maul (club or wrench) – Cheap and 2 damage. Fine for a cheap juve, but there are better weapons for characters who are actually going to do work in combat. C+
Fighting Knife – The only reason anyone ever uses these is because they’re on the plastic sprue and they’re under the “20 creds or less” rule for juves. Go with a maul if you want cheap, and a flail if you actually want your juve to hit. D
Flail – The best option for juves, and a fair one for a leader. +1 to hit and +1 strength are nothing to sneeze at, and can make the “combat squad” part of your gang actually pretty spicy. B+
Chainsword – Parry is always useful, and so’s the +1 to hit! It would be way better if juves could use it, but it’s a fine choice for a defense-minded ganger or leader. B
Power Knife – Same price as the chainsword, so a good choice for a more-offensive minded leader or ganger. B
Servo Claw – The best choice for a counter-charging leader. +2 strength means wounding Goliaths easily is on the table, and the 2 damage makes it a real problem for anyone. A
Two-Handed Hammer – The -1 to hit with this weapon means never take it. It really doesn’t matter how much damage it does. Avoid, avoid, avoid. F
Stub Gun – I like the stub gun a lot. For 5 credits, it’s reliable, accurate, and can even be upgraded with dum-dums for a character who can actually hit with it (not a juve). Grab one for your plasma and bolt wielders, too, as they will run out of ammo and will thus need something to shoot with. B
Autopistol – The humble autopistol is fine, but the increased accuracy of the stub gun is better in my book. C+
Bolt Pistol – The bolt pistol is a strong and good weapon, but it has one fatal flaw: the plasma pistol is only 5 credits more and about a million times better. C
Plasma Pistol – Yes. Take one. Give it to your counter-charging leader. He will absolutely smoke fools with this thing. Consider giving him a stub gun, too, as plasma pistols are scarce with a 5+ ammo roll. Champions are also good homes for plasma pistols, as they come with the 3+ BS, too. A
Hand Flamer – I wish I could tell you the hand flamer rules. If your group houserules hand flamers to have sidearm (like mine does! It rules!), they generate 1 S3 auto hit in combat with the Blaze trait and can be fired as part as a Twin Guns Blazing attack. With the houserule they’re actually worth it and you should take them on every ganger that can afford it, especially if you play a lot of Zone Mortalis games. If your group plays them straight up, they just don’t stack up to the 20-credits-cheaper combat shotgun, though. D (if you houserule hand flamers to have sidearm then I’d give them a B+)
Grenade Launcher – Think of a grenade launcher character like a “caster” archetype in an RTS. They might not do a ton of damage, but they’re critical for crowd control and shaping the battlefield. Depending on what grenades you have access to, a GL character can do just about anything. Orlocks lack the tricks of Delaque or Escher, but in taking a grenade launcher, suddenly things start to look a lot more even. Take one. Pro tip: grab smoke grenades for the GL ASAP. They’re amazing for shutting down firing lanes and protecting your fighters as they advance to make use of their short-ranged weaponry. A
Plasma Gun – If you want to do reliable damage in the early game, take a plasma gun on a champion. If you want to struggle to cause injury rolls, then don’t take a plasma gun and good luck, I guess. Real talk, plasmas are an extremely good investment for a champion. Just make sure you give your champ a back-up stub gun as a scarce weapon with a 5+ ammo roll means that they’ll need it. A
Melta Gun – With the proliferation of high armor values in a post-Book of Judgement world, the melta gun has a definite place. However, the sky-high price tag attached does a lot to bring it back down to earth. I’d grab it later in a campaign as an optional weapon set for a champion if I was going to grab one at all. C
Flamer – The flamer is a legitimately good weapon in ZM games, and arming a regular ganger with one is not a bad idea at all. However, the 140 credit price tag is far too high when compared to the other special weapon options and the combat shotgun. If you’re flush with cash late in a campaign, go for it, but otherwise, a ganger with a combat shotgun will do more for less. C
Bolter/Melta – Bolters are legitimately great basic weapons. Meltas are so-so special weapons. It’s, once again, an option I’d consider for a late-campaign wealthy gang, but the bolter/melta is just too expensive in the early game. A champion with a bolter/melta is 5 credits fewer than a plasma gun champ AND an autogun ganger, and I don’t need to tell you which of the two is better. D+
Harpoon Launcher – The harpoon launcher is a truly fun weapon that is capable of some serious damage and even, dare I say, shenanigans?! It has a relatively short range, but it’s not unwieldy, so getting it into range isn’t as bad as it seems. The big problems with it are its pitifulyl short range and its scarce classification. While it is definitely the most fun of the heavy weapons, it pales in comparison to a plasma gun or grenade launcher. C+
Heavy Stubber – The old mainstay. Babby’s first heavy weapon. The nostalgia thrower. The heavy stubber has been a Necromunda staple since the 90s, but its time is, unfortunately, nearly over. In Sector Mechanicus games it can pull its weight, but if you’re going to spend credits on a stationary heavy weapon, why not spend only 30 more for the vastly superior heavy bolter? That being said, if you find yourself playing a lot of SM games, the heavy stubber could very well do work. C
Heavy Bolter – If you’re going to play a lot of games on the old 4’x4’, then this is the gun for you. It wounds Goliaths on a 3+ and each hit does 2 damage, making it a very scary gun. It also has a short and long range situation that is actually good. The bad ammo roll might come back to bite you, but if you want to field a heckin’ chonker, then go grab yourself a heavy bolter. B
Heavy Flamer – The single worst weapon in Necromunda. It’s an unwieldy template weapon. It is crazy expensive and functionally useless. Especially because there’s special ammo that turns a combat shotgun into a heavy flamer without all the baggage. Avoid, please. F
A quick note: Orlock grenade selection blows. I’m grading these choices against each other in this section, as they’re all available to buy at gang creation. If you really want to use grenades well in a battle, go to the Trading Post and buy your combat shotgun gangers smoke grenades.
Blasting Charges – These things are terrific damage dealers. The 5” blast makes using them a little scary because of the paltry Sx2” range, but I think the trade-off is worth it when compared to frags, as they both cost the same. I wouldn’t buy them at gang creation, but arming a few gangers with these down the road is definitely going to cause some eyes to pop, especially in ZM games. B
Frag Grenades – They’re fine. They’ll pin people, but they won’t wow you with their damage output. Way better on a grenade launcher, but whatever. C
Krak Grenades – You will never use these. F
Demolitions Charges – It’s blasting charges, but slightly more powerful and only one shot for a 50% increase in price. Instead of throwing them at the enemy, throw them into the garbage where they belong. F
Finally, a short section! Orlocks only get 8 gang-specific Tactics Cards, and 7 of them really aren’t worth mentioning. Bond of Brotherhood allows you to make an extra offensive action when you end a fighter’s turn near a seriously injured friendly. It’s very useful. We’ve done a whole article on tactics cards, and the general takeaway is that cards that allow you to take extra actions or perform actions out-of-phase are super useful and should be the ones you focus on. Lucky Find has increased value to Orlocks, though, as you’ll probably have a bunch of bad-ammo-roll weapons in your roster.
Brutes and Exotic Pets
Aside from the generally available pets and brutes, Orlocks come in with one of each of their own: the “Lugger” Cargo Servitor and the Cyber-Mastiff. First, we’ll tackle the Lugger.
The Lugger is an interesting brute. Instead of being a combat monster, the Lugger provides a stable ranged weapons platform. When purchased it comes with a harpoon launcher but that should be immediately scrapped and replaced with an Unwieldy weapon, as the Lugger can fire an Unwieldy weapon as a Basic action rather than a Double action. This is a huge boon, as Orlocks lack reliable long-range firepower. My suggestion is to spring for the good gun if you’re taking one of these things, and pay for that heavy bolter. The Lugger will pay ridiculous dividends if you play a lot of Sector Mechanicus games, so definitely consider converting one!
The Cyber-Mastiff might look lackluster at first glance, but it is actually a powerful defensive tool. When it is Standing and Active or Engaged and within 3” of its master, Coup de Grace actions cannot be taken against its master, which is potentially very important for a melee character, especially one who has Unstoppable and has a good chance of shrugging off a serious injury. The pupper isn’t very good in combat, though, so it is best kept nearby its master and not actually in combat along with them. If you don’t have a counter-charging leader in your gang, I’d probably avoid taking one of these.
Suggested Leader and Champion Loadouts
- The Counter-Charging Leader – This leader comes with a servo-claw or flail, plasma pistol, and either Nerves of Steel or Unstoppable. They sit back taking pot shots with their pistol and waiting for an enemy fighter to come within punishment range. When the counter-charger does get a charge off, it’s going to be devastating against just about anyone but the toughest fighter around. Against shooty gangs, this guy can move up with your combat shotguns and juves and take the fight to the heart of the enemy gang. Suggested upgrades: Toughness, Weapon skill, Strength and augmented armor.
- The Overseer Leader – Personally, I find Overseer leaders boring and unfun, but they’re legit good, so I feel obligated to mention them. Keep this fighter by your damage dealers and fuel some double actions. Keep them cheap, though, as they probably won’t do much in the game. You might want to give this fighter a close combat weapon, though, as they can be a budget counter-charger if you need it. Suggested upgrades: Mentor, Toughness.
- The Plasma Gun Champion – Like the header says, this one’s a champ with a plasma gun and Unstoppable or True Grit. You want this character alive, so give them some tanky skills to keep them in the fight and shooting! Suggested upgrades: Ballistic Skill, Toughness, Munitioneer, Photo-goggles.
- The Grenade Launcher Champion – Here we have a champ with a GL, and either Fixer or Munitioneer. This character rules, as they need almost no upgrades to be incredibly and sustainably useful. Sit ‘em back and launch those grenades wherever they’ll be the most useful. Suggested upgrades: SMOKE GRENADES, Toughness, Ballistic Skill.
Out-Of-The-Box 1,000-credit Gang
- Leader w/ stub gun, dum dums, servo claw (Nerves of Steel or Overseer) – 160
- Champion w/ harpoon launcher (Unstoppable or True Grit) – 205
- Champion w/ heavy stubber (Nerves of Steel) – 225
- Ganger w/ combat shotgun – 110
- Ganger w/ combat shotgun – 110
- Ganger w/ autogun – 70
- Ganger w/ autogun – 70
- Juve w/ stub gun, fighting knife – 50
Dan’s “Standard” 1,000-credit Gang
- Leader w/ plasma pistol, flail (Nerves of Steel) – 190
- Champion w/ plasma gun (Unstoppable) – 195
- Champion w/ grenade launcher (Fixer) – 160
- Ganger w/ combat shotgun – 110
- Ganger w/ combat shotgun – 110
- Ganger w/ boltgun – 110
- Ganger w/ Autogun – 70
- Juve w/ stub gun, flail – 55
Orlocks present an interesting challenge in Necromunda: you build a gang with solid equipment and then try to grind down your enemies with solid and adaptive play to go along with your good gear choices. It’s super rewarding when you can take down a group of tooled-up Goliath face-punchers or sneaky Matrix cosplayers (thanks, RagnarokAngel!) with nothing but grit, determination and a hail of bullets. If you agree, disagree, or feel the need to defend the noble heavy flamer, please feel free to let me know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before we go, some parting tips: buy smoke grenades, armored undersuits, photo-goggles on your shooters, and an Ambot with the grav-fist. You’ll thank me, I promise.