Necromunday: Houses of the Underhive – Van Saar

Necromunday

Howdy, scummers! Welcome to another week of Necromunday coverage, where this week we’re taking a deep dive into House Van Saar! So jack in, boot up, and tip your hat to the other console cowboys as we discover what lies ahead!

House Van Saar is known for its technology. The master artisans of Van Saar create the most deadly, most beautiful, and most expensive weapons and tech manufactured on Necromunda. For that reason they are the wealthiest of all the Great Houses, but they carry a dark secret: The STC technology they use to  create their technological wonders is flawed, and is slowly poisoning them all with radiation. By the time a Van Saar becomes an adult, they have been exposed to far more radiation than anyone else on Necromunda (on average, at least), and must spend their days in specially-made suits designed to keep them alive.

What that means on the tabletop is that Van Saar gangs are really good at the shooty, but not so much at the punchy. With fantastic models, unique weapons, and the best damn shooting phase in the Underhive, Van Saar were immediately one of the most popular choices for aspiring players. So gather ‘round, scummers, and try not to get too close to the irradiated tech as we take a close look at all things Van Saar!

I dunno, they look perfectly healthy to me. (Insta: @m0nolithpainting)

Strengths

  • The Shooty Gang (Duh): This is what you’re here for, right? Van Saar are the undisputed masters of the gun, starting out with a 2+ Ballistic Skill on both their champions and leaders. Gangers are boosted as well, with a native 3+ BS, also higher than any other equivalent House. Van Saar have access to all manner of long-range sniper implements, nasty close-range pistols, and enough options for mid-range gunfighting as well. Simply put; if they can see you, they can kill you.
  • Unique Weapons: There’s a key for every lock, and the Van Saar armory excels at opening doors. Not just limited to the standard Lasgun and Laspistol, the Van Saar house list contains las-themed versions of all sorts of common and esoteric weaponry. Between these base models and the bevy of special tuning and ammunition that the lasweapons can be modified to fire, the gang can be assured that they have the perfect solution to every conundrum (provided that the solution involves shooting it).
  • Excellent Skills: When you’re starting off with a better Ballistic Skill compared to every other House in the Underhive, access to the Shooting set to improve your ranged abilities even further is just icing on the cake. Van Saar can double their movement and still make a key shot with pinpoint accuracy, select two distinct targets when firing dual pistols, and even shoot twice with the same weapon in lieu of moving. It’s the set to which every gang wishes they had access.

Weaknesses

  • Expensive Bodies and Gear: A Van Saar ganger with a Lasgun is demonstrably more effective than an Escher with the same weapon, but you’ll be paying 20 credits more for the privilege. Even if they are better equipped, these upcharges add up, leading to somewhat elite gangs with lower starting numbers than other houses. A few unlucky injuries early on in a campaign and a Van Saar gang can find itself playing borderline unwinnable scenarios as key members are stuck on the bench in Recovery.
  • Harsh Stat Trade-Offs: Yes, Van Saar have the best Ballistic Skill in the game. Yes, they have access to the Shooting Skillset. In exchange, they also have the same reduced Movement as Goliaths (a plodding 4”), and the worst Initiative in the game. Their low Initiative makes them the most likely to suffer from being Photon Flashed, trip clumsily over a railing when shot at in their little sniper holes on higher levels, and receive some parting blows whenever they attempt to break away from melee. A lower Movement is a heavy disadvantage on many objective-oriented scenarios, as the gang is subject to being outmaneuvered and possibly even flanked as they attempt to advance forward.
  • Somewhat Claustrophobic: Even the deadliest Fast Shot Plasma Gun-toting champion backed up by an Overseer is helpless when faced with his mortal enemy – a Zone Mortalis battlefield where the tunnels zig and zag every ten inches. Many Van Saar players depend (sometimes a bit too) heavily on their long-ranged snipers, sometimes to the exclusion of fighters who can actually be effective with strategies beyond Standing and Shooting. If you’re neglecting your close game, any opponent who knows how to properly set up terrain is going to be poised for a win before the first dice are rolled.
  • Smoke Grenades: The bane of Van Saar’s existence, 15 measly credits that can shut down a vital firing lane at the worst possible time, every time. You can mitigate them with Infra-Sights on some of your guns and Photo-Goggles on the others (no Infras on Rapidfire or Blast weapons, unfortunately), but both are a bit too expensive to buy for every single member of your crew, and are always way more expensive than the 15 damn credits for Smoke.
Members of the Shadowed Fate fear not the smoke, for they shun the light entirely. (Insta: @nvrdedpainting)

Gang Composition

Prime (Leader): The Van Saar leader has 2 Wounds and 2 Attacks, but with WS4+ and BS2+, they are almost always seen built for shooting rather than any close combat. That doesn’t mean a Prime can’t fight, but against dedicated melee fighters, the Prime is quickly outclassed. That being said, feel free to grab a Hyrstar Pattern Energy Shield to keep your prime alive and kicking: it works against shooting, too! Primes get access to Leadership, Shooting, and Savant skills as primaries, and there are few fighters with better skill access. With a big gun and the means to shoot it, a Van Saar Prime is one of the most dangerous characters in the game.

  • Recommended Equipment: Plasma weapons, melta weapons, energy shield, mesh armor, laspistol for when the good weapons run out of ammo.

Augmek (Champion): The standard champion type for Van Saar features 2 Wounds and an upgraded BS2+, but isn’t any better at fighting hand-to-hand than an ordinary ganger. This lends them to straightforward shooting builds – as with any gang, these are your most reliable heavy or special weapon-carriers, and with their upgraded stats and Group Activation abilities, you should always feature them heavily in your roster. Augmeks can pick Savant skills, of which the best are ‘passive’ skills which generate campaign income, or Shooting, which is full of options to make them some of the scariest firepower pieces in the game.

  • Recommended Equipment: Guns, guns, guns! Give your Augmeks the best weapons around and they won’t disappoint! Thing about what skills go best with what weapons: Hip Shooting pairs well with a melta gun, and Fast Shot pairs well with plasma. Buying some suspenders for a heavy weapon-user is always a good idea, but be careful with the cost of such extravagances! Think about bringing along a Munitioneer Augmek to keep the rest of the gang shooting. A Grav gun is a great weapon for a Munitioneer, as their role is more support than damage. Mesh armor is a must for Augmek’s too.

Archaeotek (Champion): The specialist champion option for Van Saar gains +1A over the Augmek, but isn’t particularly suited to mix it up in melee compared to leaders & champions from rival gangs. His unique weapon options are the Rad Beamer, a special weapon we consider underwhelming, and the Spider Rig, a pretty good, if expensive, melee weapon. The Archaeotek is in an awkward place because with the stats, skills and gear available to him (he can pick freely from all Trading Post weapons) he’s best suited to carrying powerful ranged weapons, something the Augmek already does perfectly. Archaeoteks do start with one free Cyberteknika upgrade, and can purchase further Cyberteknika at half price. Therefore we’d only choose an Archaeotek over an Augmek if there was some particular bit of Cyberteknika you wanted to incorporate into a build. What seems to be the intended use – a shooting champion with some melee punch to use as a counter-charger – isn’t a bad use of credits, but it’s not that great either. Tech skills are hot garbage, so avoid them, but Savant skills are excellent. Putting Munitioneer on a counter-charging Archaeotek is far from a bad idea, as they’ll be in the thick of it often enough.

  • Recommended Equipment: Plasma pistol, spider-rig, photon flash grenades (unless your local meta is all-Escher), mesh armor.

Neotek (Prospect): Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the rude dudes on Grav-Cutters are here to stay! These Prospects are a counterpoint to the usual build for Primes, Augmeks and Archaeoteks, which are all 4” Movement firepower pieces. Mounted on their Grav-cutters, Neoteks can fly 7” all while ignoring terrain. With Agility as a Primary skill and the ability to pick stat increases, they can easily become insanely fast. You do pay for that, both in credits and drawbacks. While a Neotek can never be Pinned, which alone is quite powerful, they can never enjoy the benefits of being Prone behind cover and thus untargetable – if the enemy gets them in their sights, they’ve got nowhere to hide. On their enormous hoverboards and flying stands, they’ll be visible a lot more than regular fighters, and cover penalties for targeting them are reduced by 1. So Neoteks can get where you need them to be (and do cool fly-by melee attacks on enemies as they go) but they’re expensive and highly vulnerable. Goonhammer’s advice, which is as yet untested in the field due to an ongoing hive plague, is to try and take at least one and look for opportunities to use them. As well as objectives and Coup de Graces (at WS5+, they don’t really want to fight many serious opponents) a Neotek is an ideal grenadier. Swoop up to the enemy and bombs away!

  • Recommended Equipment: Plasma pistol, laspistol, hand flamer, energy shield, mesh armor, photon flash or plasma grenades.

Tek (ganger): With a BS3+ their most notable stat, your standard gangers are ideal for carrying basic weapons and providing supporting fire – or, later on if you’ve got the credits and the callousness, standing in front of your champions carrying Energy Shields, to try and force the enemy to target them instead. These are valuable guys to provide some accurate and fairly cheap lasgun shots – as we’ll see in the weapons section, Van Saar can access a variety of unique las-themed Basic Weapons, but most of them are less efficient than the humble lasgun or some of the solid shot weapons available to other Houses. As of House of Artifice, your Teks can only pick weapons from their own list, so it’s a las-for-all. A Van Saar Specialist, which one of your Teks can be from the Outset, has the same excellent Shooting and Savant skill options as an Augmek, and can take Heavy as well as Special weapons. They’re great, but will generally be a lower priority than the Prime or Augmeks for the really expensive guns.

  • Recommended Equipment: Lasgun, las carbine, smoke grenades, cheap armor. Specialists: Any of the ranged special weapons work really well, here. Consider using a Grav gun to slow down enemy melee fighters and provide some crowd control support.

Subtek (Juve): The Van Saar juves have a more limited weapons list than the Teks, but they can still get lasguns, so they can fill the same role. You’re taking worse stats in several critical areas (WS, BS, Cool etc) in return for a substantial (30 credits) price reduction and an admittedly useful +1” Move & Initiative. Subteks can also pick stat increases, but at time of writing, they can’t take any Skills due to what we believe to be an editing error. Pre-House of Artifice, Subteks had a role in running ahead of your firepower models to take enemy fire, reach objectives, threaten Coup de Graces against injured enemies, etc. The problem is, Neoteks now exist and provide that mobility in spades. So you’re left asking, is a Subtek a better deal than a Tek as a supporting fighter? Conventional wisdom is no, they’re not. While the cheap body is very tempting at gang creation, due to how Advances work and affect your Gang Rating in Necromunda, the Tek is a better deal long-term. That being said, cheap never goes out of style, so you might find that spamming Subteks works for you!

  • Recommended Equipment: Keep ‘em cheap! A lasgun and nothing else is probably the way to go.

Stand-Out Skills

When we’re talking Van Saar, we can’t not focus on some of the invaluable abilities offered in the Shooting set, but be sure to check out Savant and Leadership as well to shore up some gaps in your capabilities. Remember, without access to Nerves of Steel or Spring Up, you’re just as vulnerable to being pinned as everybody else.

Fast Shot: Generally speaking, the only thing better than shooting is shooting twice, and Fast Shot turns a Shoot (Basic) into a Shoot (Simple) allowing a fighter to perform it more than once. While a Fast Shooter probably won’t do a lot of moving, they can unleash a withering hail of death at their opponents and singularly turn the tide of a battle. Combined with a Plasma or Grav Gun, things will quickly get bad for any enemies.

Trick Shot: While Fast Shot is the obvious power build for Van Saar, it is sort of a ‘win more’ thing. In a situation where you can already draw a bead on the enemy from the start of your activation, it gives you more chances to down him. But in that situation, your opponent is already on a losing ticket. Trick Shot helps you make the long range, heavy cover shots you have to move for, when your opponent thought he was safe. It also allows you to shoot into Engaged models without even the negligible -1 BS penalty, which gives you the best possible way to rescue a fighter ‘trapped’ in melee with a powerful opponent. For those reasons, Genghis Cohen and Fowler rate it even above Fast Shot.

Hip Shooting: Van Saar aren’t any quicker than the ‘roided-out brutes of House Goliath, and they definitely need some help if they want to employ any weapons with a range of less than 24”. Hip Shooting allows for a double move and then a shooting action at -1 to hit. It’s perfect for getting a fighter with a Melta Gun into danger range, or getting a couple of Plasma Pistols to the exact right spot to turn an enemy into a rapidly cooling pile of ash.

Gunfighter: Without this Shooting skill, double-pistol models in other gangs are a bit of a rule-of-cool liability. Once you have it, you become a devastating close-quarters fighter, able to target two separate models using that sweet Van Saar BS. Affecting multiple models with one activation is the ultimate power move in Necromunda, so this can make a double Plasma Pistol fighter into a very handy model.

Munitioneer: Let’s face it, the best weapons have the worst ammo checks. Having a Munitioneer nearby will effectively mitigate any bad ammo rolls, and any even keep a scarce weapon in the game for a bit longer.

Iron Will: With all of their expensive personnel, Van Saar are going to be hitting the table with less bodies than most of their opponents, and with that comes a greater vulnerability to untimely Bottle tests. Iron Will isn’t the same sort of immediate power boost as Fast Shot, but you can’t win at all if you flub a Bottle and are forced to run away!

Van Saar Ganger. Credit: Ricardo. @Rick.ars on Instagram

Tech Skills

The new Tech skills were introduced in House of Artifice and are only available to Archaeoteks as primary choices. They are mostly useless. Weaponsmith is pretty good, but it’s not a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination. It shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but never randomly select a skill from the Tech tree. If you do, then we don’t know you.

  1. Cold and Calculating: The fighter can sub in their Intelligence stat instead of Cool or Willpower for stat checks once per turn. In most cases this is a +1 bonus. That’s right. It’s an entire skill to get a +1 on a Cool or Willpower check. Breathtaking.
  2. Gadgeteer: The fighter can modify any Plentiful weapon they carry to lose Plentiful and gain a trait from a prescribed list. That sounds useful! Let’s go see what kind of Plentiful weapons the Archaeotek has access to: a laspistol or a las sub-carbine. That’s it?! An entire skill choice to upgrade laspistols?! Good grief.
  3. Mental Mastery: Immune to the Insane condition, and can Disrupt a Wyrd’s power as if the fighter was themselves a Wyrd. Maybe somewhere there is a meta where the Insane condition impacts more than one or two games per campaign, but we haven’t heard of it. Also, who takes wyrds? Helot cults? GSC players don’t even take wyrds because the Alpha is so much better. Craaaaaaaaap.
  4. Photonic Engineer: +1 Strength for the fighter’s las weapons, but weapons upgraded in this manner gain the Unstable trait. Have you had enough of entire skill choices functionally upgrading a fighter’s laspistols? Of course you have, because that’s a ridiculous idea, but here’s another one anyways. This one’s even worse, because now the laspistol you’ve upgraded can actually kill your fighter! What a world we live in.
  5. Rad-Phaged: Resistance to Gas and Toxin, and can potentially heal themselves with Rad-phage attacks. Also the fighter now glows and is always Revealed in Pitch Black conditions. While we’re fans of Mr. Burns-esque Van Saar champions running around, this skill’s use case is razor thin. Just buy a dang Respirator.
  6. Weaponsmith: The fighter’s Scarce weapons lose Scarce. The fighter’s non-Scarce weapons gain Plentiful. Hey, an actually good skill! By removing Scarce from your weapons and making normal weapons Plentiful, this will make Plasma or Melta far less vulnerable to Ammo Checks (or the ‘Click…’ tactics card). Alternatively, it lets you take great weapons like Grenade Launchers or Heavy Bolters while minimising their troublesome 6+ ammo rolls.

Cyberteknika

Did you ever see the movie Cyborg and think, “Yeah. I want that.” Well, friendo, House of Artifice has introduced exactly that for Van Saar gangs. Cyberteknika is a system of replacing original, meat-based, and inferior parts with superior cybernetic tech: Cyberteknika! Here’s how it works: Leaders and champs can buy cyberteknika at gang creation, and an Archaeotech comes with a piece for free. Otherwise, fighters can opt-in to upgrades when they spend XP to gain an advancement, or purchase it when they suffer a Lasting Injury. Either way, the fighter will go into Recovery as they recover from their operations (though an injured fighter would have gone into Recovery either way).

So what is this stuff? Well, their upgrades to any of the body parts that can get injured in Necromunda: eyes, brain, hands, legs, spine, and organs. The corresponding cyberteknika names are: ocular, cranial, sindextrous, motive, torsonic, and vascular. The first thing they do is remove the effects of any injury to the area in question. They then upgrade said body part, giving an in-game bonus to an area of the game that corresponds with that body part’s function. In addition to enhancing a fighter’s ability, cyberteknika protects the fighter from injuries to that body part. On a d6 roll of 4+ after the Lasting Injury is determined (and it impacts the upgraded body part), the Injury is ignored. On a 1-3, the cyberteknika is damaged and no longer upgrades the character, but the Injury is still ignored. At this point, the cyberteknika can be fixed if the player pays half its cost during the pre-battle sequence.

Cyberteknika can be purchased at three levels: Alpha, Gamma, and Omega, with Alpha being the cheapest, and Omega being the most expensive. Alpha cyberteknika will heal an injury and provide upgrade “a”. Gamma cyberteknika will do what Alpha does, and provide an additional upgrade “b”. And finally, Omega cyberteknika will do what Gamma does, and provide an additional upgrade “c”. Let’s take a look at what they do:

  • Cranial Cyberteknika
    • Alpha: Immunity to Insane.
    • Gamma: Immunity to Insane and Intoxicated.
    • Omega: Immunity to Insane, Intoxicated, and cannot be Broken.
  • Ocular Cyberteknika
    • Alpha: The fighter is always equipped with an infra-sight
    • Gamma: The fighter is always equipped with an infra-sight and a mono-sight.
    • Omega: The fighter is always equipped with an infra-sight, a mono-sight, and photo-goggles.
  • Sindextrous Cyberteknika
    • Alpha: Immunity to Disarm
    • Gamma: Immunity to Disarm, and ignores the -1 to hit in melee if the fighter has to turn and face their opponent.
    • Omega: Immunity to Disarm, ignores the -1 mentioned above, and the fighter’s attacks cannot be parried.
  • Motive Cyberteknika
    • Alpha: Ignores negative movement modifiers for moving through difficult terrain.
    • Gamma: Ignores negative movement modifiers and adds 2” to their movement when moving vertically.
    • Omega: Ignores negative movement modifiers, adds 2” to vertical movement, and can reroll Initiative checks to see if they fall when standing within a half inch of a platform edge.
  • Torsonic Cyberteknika
    • Alpha: Unarmed attacks do 3 Damage instead of 1.
    • Gamma: Damage 3 unarmed attacks and +2 Strength with Melee and Versatile weapons.
    • Omega: Damage 3 unarmed attacks, +2 Strength with Melee and Versatile weapons, and always-on suspensors.
  • Vascular Cyberteknika
    • Alpha: +1 Toughness when considering how many Flesh Wounds it takes to make the fighter go out of action.
    • Gamma: +1 Toughness for Flesh Wounds and can reroll Toughness checks.
    • Omega: +1 Toughness for Flesh Wounds, can reroll Toughness checks, and may discard 1 Flesh Wound in each End Phase.

The upgrade that leaps out at us as “very good” immediately is Ocular cyberteknika. Smoke grenades are the bane of Van Saar gangs, and a player equipped with Ocular cyberteknika just ignores them. The thing is, Ocular cyberteknika is 50 credits, while an infra-sight is only 25. Yes, the Ocular upgrade is used with all of the fighter’s weapons, but most fighters only have one good shooting weapon to begin with. The point we’re trying to make is that Cyberteknika is expensive and will have an outsized effect on your fighters’ costs, inflating your gang’s rating. In most cases, the upgrade isn’t worth the cost.

However, cyberteknika truly shines as an injury mitigation system. Van Saar gangers do not have to find their bionics on the Trading Post, and while expensive, is still cheaper and will totally heal a Lasting Injury. The opportunity cost is nil, too, because the fighter would have gone into Recovery anyways. No other gang can bounce back from Injuries as well as Van Saar can, and that might very well be worth the price of admission.

Weapons and Wargear

All aspiring Gang Leaders should note that the Trading Post is always an option – for Primes, Augmeks and Archaeoteks (Neoteks can access it for pistols and close combat weapons only). Teks (including Specialists) and Subteks can only take weapons from their list in House of Artifice. Remember that grenades are classed as wargear, so they can be freely purchased and distributed from the Trading Post.

Basic Weapons

Lasgun [Prime, Augmek, Neotek, Tek, Subtek]: The humble Lasgun is reliable, accurate, and Van Saar gangs get them at a 5-credit discount! They’re not going to do crazy amounts of damage, but they’ll pin that meat-crazed Butcher just like anything else will. Rating: B

Las Carbine [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: The first of the Van Saar-only laser analogs, the Las Carbine asks, what if Autogun, but laser? It has a slightly longer Short Range than an Autogun, but it costs a whole 5 credits more and is twice the price of the Lasgun. Unfortunately, the Lasgun is better at doing what it does and is half the price. The lasgun is also upgradable, where the las carbine isn’t. Rating: C-

Suppression Laser [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: This unique weapon asks: what if Shotgun, but laser? Like the Las Carbine, the Suppression Laser is a laser version of a different weapon, but in this case it is 15 credits more than the humble Shotgun, but for no perceivable reason! It can’t even use any of the cool ammo that Shotguns can get! Just like the previous entry, if you want a Shotgun, go get one at the Trading Post. Rating: D

Suppression Laser & Laspistols (Insta: @schreckpaintings)

Pistols

Combi-pistol (Laspistol/Meltagun or Laspistol/Plasma gun) [Prime, Augmek]: With the right combination of skills and equipment, a Lasgun/Melta Gun has a place: a well-armored, Hip-Shooting leader or champ. In a vacuum, though, it’s not that great. These are just barely cheaper than the actual special weapon (-5 credits). A back-up laspistol is not worth the punishing Combi rule. You have to roll the ammo check twice and succeed on both in order to pass. So, that just slashed your chance of passing the dreaded check from ½ to ¼ for melta or even worse, ⅓ to 1/9 for plasma. If you have space in your 3 weapon allotment, it would be worth paying 10 points to just take a separate laspistol and avoid that risk! Rating: D

Hand Flamer [Prime, Augmek, Neotek, Tek]: You don’t want a hand flamer on any of your slow-ass fighters on foot, but on a Neotek with a Grav-cutter? Yes please! That super-fast movement will get them into position quickly and easily and let them unleash a little bit of hell on the opposing gang. Rating: B

Las Pistol [Anyone]: Just like the Lasgun, Van Saar fighters get these at a 5-credit discount. That’s great! Las Pistols are reliable, accurate, and cheap. What more could you want from a backup gun? Rating: B

Las Sub-Carbine [Augmek, Archaeotek, Neotek, Tek, Subtek]: It’s a Plentiful Autopistol that, for reasons beyond explanation, costs 5 credits more than the standard Autopistol. Autopistols are okay at 10 credits, and they’re bad at 15. Rating: D

Plasma Pistol [Prime, Augmek, Archaeotek, Neotek, Tek]: Believe it or not, plasma weapons happen to be really good on fighters with native 2+ BS. Get one! Get two! Get three! (If you’re using all three yourself, however, kindly report to the nearest Inquisitor.) Rating: A+


Special Weapons

Flamer [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: The Flamer is the usual choice for “the ganger that gets a special weapon” category. Van Saar gangers have a 3+ BS, though, so why not spend fewer credits to get a plasma gun, which is better anyways? Rating: D

Grav Gun [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: The Grav Gun is great. It’s the only blast special weapon on the Van Saar house list, it bypasses wounds, and it drops the graviton pulse, which will slow down any fighters who try to move through it. Perfect for slowing down those combat monsters, especially now that Corpse Grinders are lurking about! This is the true best choice for a regular ganger with a special weapon. Rating: B+

Meltagun [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: The top choice for a Hip-Shooter! The melta gun is great for taking down those hard-to-kill, 3-wound fighters. Bring a back-up weapon in case of ammo failure, but for hard targets, accept no substitute! Rating: A

Plasma Gun [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: We say it every time it’s available in a gang’s starting list, but the Plasma Gun rules, y’all. It especially rules in a gang where the leaders and champs start with a 2+ BS. Go grab one posthaste. Rating A+

Rad Gun [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: Y’all, we want the Rad Gun to be good. Radiation based-weapons are really cool and thematic for a Van Saar gang, but in reality, the Rad Gun is a half-strength Flamer with a special rule that does something only half the time. Back in Gang War III, Rad-Phage was a trait to be feared, but we think that GW went a bit overboard in reeling it in. In its current iteration, the Rad Gun is definitely not rad. Sorry. Rating: D

Rad Beamer [Archaeotek]: Scummers, this is 70 credits for an Autogun with Rad-phage. Please do not buy one of these. Trust us, they’re bad. Rating: F

‘Hystrar’ Energy Shield & Shock Stave (Insta: @schreckpaintings)

Heavy Weapons

Lascannon [Prime, Augmek]: Who brings an anti-tank weapon to a gunfight? Van Saar, that’s who. This is a weapon to dominate the 24-48” range band with. If you play on full size tables, it will terrify the opposition, even given the high cost once you’ve taken Suspensors (always take Suspensors). If you play on smaller, Zone Mortalis type boards, then Plasma or Melta special weapons are just more efficient. There’s no feeling quite like one-shotting an enemy Brute from across the board though. Rating: C

Multi-Melta [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: A Multi-Melta is exceedingly likely to kill any single thing it touches. Multiple things even, if your opponent is foolish enough to not space his crew out accordingly. In the hands of a champion it’ll probably be hitting on 2s, wounding on 2s, blasting through almost all armor, and does enough damage to potentially flesh wound a victim to death. However, and this is a big however, this weapon is a bottomless credits pit. For just the body and the gun you’re already looking at 245-310 credits. Did your targets decide to move out of line of sight? Suspensors are 60 credits. Did they throw a 15 credit Smoke Grenade? Infra-Sights won’t fit on the Blast-weapon Multi-melta, so now you’re grabbing Photo-Goggles for another 35. The Multi-Melta is some serious overkill, yes, but is it probably a better idea to spread those 340-405 credits around to the rest of your gang instead? Absolutely. That being said, we cannot deny that the Multi-melta absolutely smashes anything it touches. In a late campaign, it’s easily the best heavy weapon around.  Rating: C+

Plasma Cannon [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: In its low power, the Plasma Cannon is just a long-range, unwieldy plasma gun with 1 more point of Strength. In max power, it drops a 3” template at Strength 8 and Damage 3, which is extremely gnarly. The catch is that it is Unstable, so if you need to take an ammo check, then there’s a 50% chance that fighter is going out of action! It’s the ultimate “go big or go home weapon”. Either way, it’s not too expensive for a heavy weapon, has excellent range, and good accuracy. We’re not huge fans of expensive unwieldy weapons at Necromunday, but you could definitely do worse. Rating: C+

Rad Cannon [Prime, Augmek, Tek]: Like other Rad weapons, this one’s too expensive for what it does. If you’re going to take a heavy, look elsewhere.  Rating: C


Close Combat Weapons

Every Van Saar player’s biggest nightmare is the enemy getting into combat. No matter how hard you try, eventually, it’s gonna happen. Apart from shields, close combat weapons aren’t going to be high on the priorities list. Think of them more as mid- to late-campaign upgrades instead of starting equipment.

Digi-laser [Archaeotek]: At 25 credit’s a pop, you cannot justify the use of a Strength 1 weapon. These things are at least 15 credits too expensive. Avoid. Rating: F

‘Hystrar’-Pattern Energy Shield [Prime, Augmek, Neotek, Tek]: The energy shield is truly a lackluster combat weapon, but it makes up for that in its defensive abilities. It provides a +2 (+1 vs ranged weapons)  armor bonus in the fighter’s front arc. Additionally, its attacks have knockback, potentially getting your fighter out of a dangerous combat situation. On a gang with fighters this expensive, having a bonus to armor on your more important characters is a huge boon. The only drawback is that this defensive ability comes at a very steep price point, and you probably won’t have more than one of these at start. In fact, you might want to avoid taking any at start to make sure you have enough bodies on the table. In late campaigns, though, give one to every Leader and Champion that can take one! Rating: B

Power Knife / Servo Claw / Shock Stave [Anyone, double check the Archaeotek, though]: We’re grouping these together because they’re all about the same price and are all reasonably good…in a different gang. Van Saar leaders and champions really need to be taking advantage of that native 2+ BS to be effective, and loading them up with moderately expensive combat weapons is not the recipe for success, no matter how good these options are in other gangs. If you want to use these admittedly good weapons, play a different gang. Rating: C-

Shock Baton [Prime, Augmek, Neotek, Tek, Subtek]: Unlike the weapons in the above entry, the Shock Baton sucks. Don’t buy one. Contributor Genghis Cohen wants us to tell you that the Parry trait might make it worthwhile, but the rest of us would argue that that’s only true if the weapon was free. Rating: D-

Spider Rig [Archaeotek]: A unique choice for the Archaeotek, this is a prestige 80-credit option. It’s very good against single-wound opponents. Especially on the charge due to its Paired rule, this will enable them to slice’n’dice almost as well as a Corpse Grinder Cultist! Just be wary of engaging high-Toughness opponents, those with multiple Wounds, or with some way of negating hits (e.g. Parry/Step Aside/Dodge). Probably not as effective as the special shooting weapon you could get for the price, but the punchiest thing Van Saar can take out of the gate. Rating: B-

The Scions of Sant will take one of everything, please. And maybe some of yours. (Insta: @swedishdeathguard)

Grenades

Smoke Grenades: Honestly, Van Saar don’t need smokes. They want firing lines wide open at all times, and smokes are just going to get in the way. If you’ve spec’d heavily into Photo-Goggles or Infra-Sights, though, you might want some as you can see right through the smoke! Smoke Grenades will do more to harm a Van Saar gang than help it, so you should probably avoid them. Rating: F

Rad Grenades: Cheaper, weaker Frags that have the potential to hand out flesh wounds. If you’re taking grenades in a Van Saar gang, take Gunk Bombs (more on that later), but if you’ve still got some creds left over, Rad Grenades are fine. Rating: C+

Frag Grenades: They exist in all gangs, and also here, too. They’re probably less useful in a Van Saar gang, but they’re not the worst choice. Rating: C-

Krak Grenades: Usually we use this space to rag on the terrible, awful Krak Grenade, but in the accurate hands of a 2+ BS champ or leader, they’re somewhat less terrible! What a surprise! Rating: D

Plasma Grenades: Cool but suicidal. Unstable triggers when you need to take an Ammo Check. Grenades trigger an Ammo Check whenever used. Basically you have a 4+ roll to go OOA every time you use this weapon. There are better ways to blow people up in this gang. Hell, Neoteks are the ultimate grenade carriers, but just buy Blasting Charges at the Trading Post. Rating: F


Selected Wargear

Armored Bodyglove: This is the free Van Saar version of the Armored Undersuit. Everyone comes with one and they can be combined with other armor, and you should definitely be buying armor for your champs and leader. It also protects against Rad-Phage which theoretically could come up in a Van Saar mirror match, but realistically this particular trait will never matter.

Mesh Armor: Your Bodygloves will start your fighters off at a stackable 6+ save, meaning investing 15 credits into Mesh Armor will have your gangers strutting around with a very respectable 4+ save. Consider this a priority upgrade for your heavy hitters, as well as the rest of your rad-addled rabble when you have the spare change. The combination of Mesh and the Bodyglove on all Van Saar fighters is a nice efficient way to give everyone in the gang good protection, cheaper than any other gang can do it. Prioritise this for all your fighters – armour is always useful.

Infra-Sights and Photo-Goggles: The best way to beat a Van Saar gang is to take away their ability to shoot. Two of the best tools for that are Smoke Grenades and darkened hallways in a Zone Mortalis game, and both of these items will help you mitigate their effects and keep your gangers shooting. In a mystifying balance decision, House of Artifice slashed Infra-sight costs from 40 credits to a Van Saar discount price of 25 in most fighters’ weapon lists. Apart from the counter to smoke or Pitch Black conditions, Infra-sights are the best weapon sight in the game because they don’t key off the Aim action, they just work naturally. So you can move to take the shot and still gain the benefit of the sight, which will often keep you at that brilliant 2+ to hit. A lot of late-campaign Van Saar gangs will be Infra-Sighted up to the nines like a load of Necromundan Sam Fishers. 

Suspensors: Van Saar are the only gang that can take Suspensors at gang creation. If you’re taking an unwieldy weapon, you might want to think about grabbing some Suspensors. They’re pricey, but they will greatly improve the utility and effectiveness of your heavies. And if you’re already investing 240+ credits in a single fighter, what’s another 60?

Focusing Crystals: These are available to all your basic weapons (and to las-weapon pistol types). You get -2 AP but your weapon becomes Unstable. Now -2AP is great and I’ve met players who were very tempted or impressed by this. Unstable is a flat 1/12 chance to go OOA every time you fire the weapon. This is really, really not a good idea. Also, 20 credits adds up. A Suppression Laser with Focussing Crystal is a formidable weapon, yes, but it’s 60 credits – you could almost get a proper Special Weapon for that, and it doesn’t compare that well with a Boltgun. A fighter who uses an Unstable weapon as his main thing is going to go OOA around every 3 games, even if the enemy doesn’t touch him, which is ultimately going to get him killed. Cool kids don’t do crystal.

Hotshot Las Packs: Boosts the Strength of a Lasgun or Laspistol from 3 to 4, a critical break point that makes wounding everything just a little bit easier.

The TechHeads, modelling the new Fall Swimwear collection. (Insta: @morecambe1971)

Items to Target at the Trading Post

Gunk Bombs: Weapons with the Blaze trait are rare in a Van Saar gang, but slowing down those big and beefy Grinders and Goliaths by covering them in sticky goop will certainly help out. Grab some for your expendable fighters and watch your opponents try to get out of that mess!

Grenade Launcher: The most versatile weapon in the game does indeed have a home in a Van Saar gang. Grab one for a champ from the Trading Post and join the explosion party!

Cameleoline Cloak: This is Van Saar we’re talking here. You’ve got a sniper (House of Artifice update: no one can take a Long Las at gang creation any more, so it’s more likely you’ve got a Prime or Augmek with a Lascannon). If he’s got a decent vantage point he’s not going to be moving around much anyway, so just give him one of these cloaks and he’ll be even tougher to knock out. As an added bonus, minus-to-hit means that there’s an increased chance he won’t even be pinned! Target a Fast Shot Champion or Leader and laugh your way to the bank.

Better Melee Options: With Van Saar’s limited close combat options, it’s worth looking to the Trading Post to make the best of things. One of the best things to combine with an Energy Shield, upgraded armour or other protective gear is a weapon with Parry. Boning Swords, Chain Axes and Power Swords are all great value – while you won’t often be charging – unless the enemy is closing in and your Plasma Gun is out of ammo – you definitely want to be able to survive in close combat.

Booby Traps: Van Saar opponents want to charge, charge, and charge some more. Or they want to get far closer than the aloof and standoffish Van Saar gang would enjoy. So why not invest in some cheap and effective ways to slow down your enemy? Frag and Melta traps are superb for this. When placed in a doorway or important bottleneck, they can be huge deterrent and help shape the battlefield to the Van Saar player’s advantage. Probably avoid Gas Traps, though, as they won’t pin their victims.

Thermal Mines: While a Van Saar-specific terrain piece rather than a strictly Trading Post item, these are bought in the same way. They fill much the same role as Booby Traps, with some key differences. With the Hidden Traps rule, you get to place 6 markers, 5 of which are decoys. One is the actual mine, which is a full on Melta blast 6” in diameter (the Melta special rule applies within 3”). With such a powerful threat and so many decoys which could be it, this is a real pain in the neck for your opponent to have to worry about all game. Any time he spends hesitating at bottlenecks and staying back from decoy markers is time you can spend lighting him up with Plasma!

Clearly no strangers to the concept of shopping around. (Insta: @necromundatom)

The Friend Zone: Brutes, Pets, and Hangers-on

House Van Saar has access to three Brutes: the Ambot, the Jotunn, and the Van Saar-only Arachni-Rig. As Goonhammer has documented before, the Ambot is a significantly better deal than an Ogryn, and in our opinion, it fills a tactical gap in Van Saar gangs really well. It wants to mix it up in melee, it Infiltrates to start close to central objectives and it gives your opponent a reason to keep their distance. While an Arachni-Rig is mostly more shooting power, the Ambot will give you something to shore up your gang’s vulnerabilities.

Arachni-Rig (House Brute)

Right off the bat, you’re looking at a baseline behemoth with more Toughness and Movement than your regular champion, three wounds, and Light Carapace armor for a 4+ save (with the option to upgrade to Heavy for a 3+ in the front arc). This thing is tough as nails. It doesn’t have any way of mitigating pinning, but it’ll stand up after blows that would have reduced anything else to cinders, time and time again.

We were a bit down on the man-sized Las Carbine earlier, but it turns out that what it really needed was to be beefed up, doubled, and strapped to the back of one of these surprisingly-nimble suits. Twin-Linking allows the Rig to pump up its potential rate of fire (and provides a defense against permanent Rapid Fire jams) as it blasts away with up to nine Strength 4 shots. If you do decide to also toss on a Rad Gun and/or Plasma Gun, you’ll be able to shoot with one of these or twice with the same while stationary, thanks to a built-in version of Fast Shot that the Arachni-Rig also employs. Both of these weapons are considerably cheaper while Rig-mounted, but Plasma is not particularly recommended thanks to a far lower BS.

With all that, we would also like to offer an alternate usage for your Van Saar brute: just run him straight at the enemy! We’re serious here. Maybe you wait until your guns run dry, and maybe not just straight sprint (you can move and then shoot after all), but the Arachni-Rig is an incredibly tough weapons platform that’ll attract all sorts of enemy firepower and can weather the storm. With one of these babies inbound, the rest of your crew will be free to advance and reposition while the opponent is distracted by a far more pressing threat. It may seem like the comedy option, but being charged from up to 11” away by a Rig with 5 attacks at Strength 5 is no joke.

The brute so nice, he built it twice. Friends, this man is insane. (Insta: @underhiver)

Cyberachnid (House Exotic Beast)

On the flip side credit-wise is the humble Cyberachnid, the least expensive of all the House Pets. It’s not a monster, but it’s a lot more combat-capable than, say, a Cephalopod Spektor. The Cyberachnid grants Fearsome to both itself and its owner, making it a tempting acquisition for a more forward-oriented champion as an anti-charge tool. The ranged attack, a Strength 2 template, isn’t particularly likely to cause any actually webbing, but the guaranteed pinning will definitely cause trouble for your opponent. Melee is much the same, with a single Toxin attack making close combat while one of these things is lurking around a risky proposition.

Overall, the Cyberachnid isn’t too bad! They’re not going to be of much use to snipers, but any of your mid-field champions or leader can definitely benefit from the potential threat that these things present, and they’re priced reasonably enough that they’ll be affordable by mid–campaign, rather than far later on.

Just like anyone else, Van Saar has access to the Dome Runner, Slopper, Gang Lookout, Rogue Doc, and Ammo Jack. Rogue Docs and Ammo Jacks are always useful, and the rest are nice-to-haves if you’ve got the money. Van Saar also has access to three new hangers-on: Cogitator Core Servitor, Tech merchant, and Data Scrivener.

Cogitator Core Servitor (Hanger-On – 100 credits to hire)

Van Saar Exclusive. The hacked CPU of a security system, downloaded into a poor servitor and used to shore up Van Saar turf’s defenses.

The core servitor is crazy expensive for a hanger-on, but when combined with the right equipment, can make the Van Saar gang completely unbeatable on the defensive. You’re looking at d3 free booby traps (frag, krak, or melta), -1 to enemy LD checks for accessing Terminals or opening Loot Caskets, and the big one: the controlling gang can turn on and off the lights over the battlefield in any End phase. If you’ve purchased plenty of photo-goggles, infra sights, or ocular cyberteknika, then this advantage may truly be insurmountable. We wouldn’t recommend grabbing a core servitor early in a campaign, but if you’ve got the right equipment to exploit its use, then it will pay humongous dividends.

Tech-Merchant (Hanger-On – 40 credits to hire)

Other gangs can hire this hanger-on at double the price. Reduces the Rare or Illegal value of items at the Trading Post and Black Market. Also reduces the cost of one item purchased therein.

We come back to earth with our next hanger-on, who will greatly assist the Van Saar player in finding and paying for cool stuff from the shops. Generally, a Tech-Merchant will pay for themselves after two trips to the TP/BM. Very useful, and almost necessary for any sort of long campaign play.

Data-Scrivener (Hanger-On – 20 Credits to hire)

Available to any gang. Allows the player to roll 3 dice when taking Intelligence checks and discard the lowest.

Finally, we have the Data-scrivener, who’s 20-credit cost should inform you on how useful they’ll be. If you tend to play with a ton of locked doors and loot crates, then maybe this one will work out for you, but otherwise, it’s a pretty marginal benefit.

Another gorgeous Arachni-Rig, because apparently nobody runs Cyberachnids. (Credit: Fredrik Permo)

 

Mallak’s Marauders don’t need nothin’ but moxie. (Insta: @40khamslam)

Out-of-the-Box 1000-Credit Van Saar Gang

This gang gets right at what Van Saar are good at: launching highly accurate and/or powerful ranged attacks from far away. It’s not super inventive or surprising, but we’re working with what the box gives us, and it will be easy for a newer player to get to terms with only having three weapon profiles to worry about. It’s tempting to load up a Van Saar leader with a Combi-Weapon, a shield, armor and a combat weapon, but then you’re looking at a starting leader worth more than 300 credits. And when your individual gangers each weigh in at 65 credits, it might be best to keep things cheap and effective.

  1. Leader (Trick Shot): Plasma Gun, Laspistol, Mesh Armor, Bodyglove [250]
  2. Champion (Fast Shot): Plasma Gun, Mesh Armor, Bodyglove [225]
  3. Champion (Hip Shooting): Plasma Pistol (2x), Mesh Armor, Bodyglove [225]
  4. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  5. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  6. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  7. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]

Merton’s Midrange Pistoleers

Flipping the script, my offering for the week gets right at a tactic that Van Saar are less known for: launching highly accurate ranged attacks from very close up. I’m normally loathe to triple down on skills, but Hip Shooting is vital to this particular game-plan, allowing my typically lethargic rad-heads a modicum of speed as they try their damndest to get into their optimal distances. In theory, the close-range accuracy bonuses of the Meltagun and Pistols should mitigate the penalties from Hip Shooting, keeping your heavy hitters in the front firing true.

Same as Dan, a quartet of Lasgunners bring up the rear, with enough range to plink away at any enemies smart enough to avoid the danger zone. I’m not expecting my juve to do much beyond help stave off Bottling for an extra minute, but if a Seriously Injured enemy presents themself, she’ll know what to do.

  1. Leader (Hip Shooting): Meltagun, Laspistol (2x), Mesh Armor, Bodyglove [290]
  2. Champion (Hip Shooting): Plasma Pistol, Laspistol, Mesh Armor, Bodyglove [180]
  3. Champion (Hip Shooting): Plasma Pistol, Laspistol, Mesh Armor, Bodyglove [180]
  4. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  5. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  6. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  7. Ganger: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  8. Juve: Laspistol (2x), Bodyglove [45]
Some real Rad OGs. (Insta: @40khamslam)

Genghis Cohen’s Grav Cavalry

As a bit of an experiment, with House of Artifice newly released, this is what a gang could do using as many Neoteks as possible to support the elite firepower of the Prime & Augmeks. This kind of proves that Van Saar’s best models, built to take use of their strengths, are expensive. So much so that you need to have some discipline in spending your initial 1,000 credits – this is not a good starting list.

  1. Prime (Trick Shot): Plasma Gun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [245]
  2. Augmek (Fixer OR Savvy Trader): Grav Gun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [245]
  3. Augmek (Hip Shooting): Melta Gun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [260]
  4. Neotek: Laspistol, Photon Flash Grenades, Bodyglove [90]
  5. Neotek: 2x Laspistol, Bodyglove [80]
  6. Neotek: 2x Laspistol, Bodyglove [80]

Genghis Cohen’s Serious Business

Applying the more sensible principles for founding a gang, which I’ve written about here, how about something more conventional, specialising in the gang’s strengths? Van Saar do not lend themselves to my Orlock-trained approach of budget fighters covering a variety of roles. Powerful special weapons are one of the best uses for credits in the game – but it’s damn hard to squeeze them into a starting roster and still have enough bodies. Additionally, with their starting weapons list, there aren’t many options for cheap, efficient close-combat fighters. They really are the one-trick shooting gang. In this example, the Prime & Augmek would prioritise Energy Shields as well as a 2nd Plasma Pistol; the Specialist and actual special weapon, which could be a Rad Gun or Plasma Gun to taste; the Teks Mesh Armour & Hotshot Packs; the Neotek some Blasting Charges. As with all gangs, they would want to get up to 10 fighters as quickly as possible.

  1. Prime (Trick Shot): Plasma Gun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [245]
  2. Augmek (Gunfighter): Plasma Pistol, Laspistol, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [180]
  3. Augmek (Hip Shooting): Grav Gun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [245]
  4. Tek (Specialist): Lasgun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [90]
  5. Tek: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  6. Tek: Lasgun, Bodyglove [75]
  7. Neotek: Laspistol, Photon Flash Grenades, Bodyglove [90]

Fowler’s Sewer Surfin’ Gunslingers

I fully understand that this list is patently absurd, but I’m throwing out a fun one that leans on a little bit of what Van Saar do best to support a fast and in-your-face playstyle. A heavy backline of plasma is led by 5 bodies, guns akimbo. You are legally required to play this song while running this list.

  1. Prime (Trick Shot): Plasma Gun, Mesh Armour, Bodyglove [245]
  2. Augmek (Fast Shot): Plasma Gun, Bodyglove [210]
  3. Augmek (Gunfighter): Plasma Pistol x2, Mesh Armor [225]
  4. Neotek: 2x Laspistol, Bodyglove [80]
  5. Neotek: 2x Laspistol, Bodyglove [80]
  6. Neotek: 2x Laspistol, Bodyglove [80]
  7. Neotek: 2x Laspistol, Bodyglove [80]

Final Thoughts

Van Saar are unique, stylish, and present an interesting and singular take on Necromunda. They may seem like they’re overpowered with their access to excellent shooting options and 2+ BS, but in reality they require a lot of finesse to succeed. Yes, they will destroy anyone in a “Shoot ‘Em Up” scenario with very little LoS-blocking terrain, and this has caused the gang to pick up an unfavorable stigma. In truth, they’re slow, clumsy, at a severe disadvantage in certain scenarios, and fold like a paper fan to any sort of melee.

As a Van Saar player, you’ll have to work to shape the battlefield, deploy cleverly, and keep those firing lanes open if you want to win games. You’ll also have to get out of your deployment zone at some point, so maybe try Hip Shooting, okay? Take out enemy gangers with Smoke Grenades as soon as possible, and play every dirty trick you can to keep your crew out of combat!

Thanks for reading, scummers! If you have any comments or questions feel free to sound off in the comments below or reach out to us at contact@goonhammer.com! In particular, if you’ve converted up your own Cyberachnid, we’d love to see it. See you next week!


Merton’s Community Corner

Hey, that Arachni-Rig you saw a minute ago? The Blue one, not the Two one! The fellow who put that beauty together has got a blog too, and you can find it over at NOT A COLLECTOR.

The rest of his gang is just as impressive, and he’s been documenting both his painting progress (with steps!) and conversion work as he goes. If you’re curious as to all of what goes into the start to finish of a gang like that, check it out!