Necromunday: Initial Impressions of the Corpse Grinder Cults

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Greetings fellow Scummers! Dan and Jules here, coming at you with week two of our Book of Ruin coverage, tackling the Big Bads themselves, the Corpse Grinder Cult! Crazed devotees of the Lord of Skin and Sinew, the Corpse Grinder Cults are the first predominately melee-oriented gang to hit the Underhive. We were a bit worried about their overall viability in this predominately shooty version of Necromunda, but thankfully for them they’ve got enough tricks up their sleeve to hang in there.

If you’re looking to join their ranks, read on! If you’re another house looking for advice on fighting them; run.

 

Meet the Corpse Grinder Cult

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Strengths

  • Combat: Unsurprisingly, the crazed cannibal cults of Khorne are really good at combat. With access to some of the meanest weapons in the underhive and the only native 2+ Weapon Skill (on their leader character, the Butcher) available at gang creation, enemy gangs will want to stay very far away from these brutal fighters. Not a single currently released gang can match them in combat prowess.
  • Speed: Fortunately for Corpse Grinders, and unfortunately for everyone else, getting into combat is less of a problem for them than for any other gangs. With a cult-wide Movement of 5” and the available movement buff from the Corpse Grinder Cult Icon, they’ll be able to get across the table at a blistering pace.
  • Sneakiness: What is a surprise regarding a Khornate cult is just how sneaky these cannibals can be! Every Initiate (the Juve analog) comes with the Infiltrate skill, allowing them to get in close quickly and help screen their heavy hitters as they make their way across the battlefield. Even when Initiates fail to do any significant damage, their mere presence is a distraction that will allow your main force to advance on the opponent.
  • Survivability: There are a whole bunch of reasons that cause Corpse Grinders to be one of the more survivable gangs in the Underhive. Their masks do double duty: improving their saves, and making it harder for them to be attacked. Skinners get the Fearsome Ferocity skill, requiring an enemy fighter to pass a Cool check before charging them, and the Cutters and Butcher get Terrifying, which forces a Willpower check before they can be shot at or fought in combat (sorry, Goliaths!).
  • Fully Directed Advancement: There are zero fighters in this gang who advance in the random way traditional gangers do. The Initiates all count as Juves and the Skinners all count as Specialists. This means that the player can guide their Corpse Grinder Cult through advancements with 100% agency, instead of having to roll randomly on the table.

Weaknesses

  • No Access to the Trading Post: We’re standing our ground and going with the Rules as Written interpretation here. Just like the Enforcers before them, the Corpse Grinders are not allowed to visit the Trading Post or the Black market. They’re limited solely to their own armory, and that’s probably for the best, balance-wise. (Now, this isn’t going to come up in the new Dark Uprising campaign anyway, but if you’re running a Law and Misrule or Dominion feel free to house-rule them to have access. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you when the entire Lodge starts rocking Frenzon Collars and Falsehoods!)

2019.12.23 Update: The 2019 FAQ gave Grinders access to the TP just like any other gang, so feel free to ignore this bullet point and get thee to the Black Market for those Frenzon Collars and Falsehoods!

  • Garbage-Tier Shooting: Initiates are the only fighters in the cult that can take ranged weapons, and their choices are sparse to say the least. Even if you invest in enough flame templates to make a Cawdor gang blush, do not expect to ever have ranged supremacy if you’re playing a Corpse Grinder Cult.
  • Extremely Vulnerable to Pinning: Grinders have no inbuilt way to mitigate being pinned by an enemy shooting attack. If they get hit, they take cover just like anyone else. But since they’re so dependent on melee, it can be a deathblow, as a pinned fighter isn’t charging the next time they activate unless they have help from Tactics Cards. Note: Grinders have access to Ferocity skills as a secondary skill-set, but if you’ve read our articles on Skills and Advancements, you’ll know that that secondary access to a skill means very little.

2019.12.23 Update: It is important to note a clarification from the 2019 FAQ. With sufficient advances, an Initiate can be promoted to a Champion. This however, counts against the gang’s 0-3 limit on Champions, and the promoted Initiate loses the Infiltrate ability and gains the Dervish ability. This is generally a bad thing, but you don’t have to promote them! The uber-Initiate can stay an Initiate. So, that’s cool.

 

The Savagery Skill

In addition to all the cool new equipment and rules, Corpse Grinders get their own new set of skills called Savagery. Let’s take a look at what they do and how they rate:

Avatar of Blood: Every time the fighter inflicts and unsaved wound in melee, they may immediately discard one Flesh Wound they have previously suffered.  It will never come into play unless the fighter already has Flesh Wounds, though. We prefer proactive skills to reactive ones here at Necromunday. Rating: C+

Bloodlust: The fighter can Coup de Grace and consolidate after combat instead of choosing one. Mobility is super important for Corpse Grinders, and you can expect that they’ll be performing a lot of Coup de Grace actions during a game. However, is that extra 2” going to make a world of difference, especially after the fighter has already activated? If Necromunda allowed consolidation moves to break the 1″ rule and enter new engagements, or if Grinders had easier access to the Ferocity skill Impetuous (which allows 4” consolidation moves), this would be a lot more enticing. As it is, it’ll reliably cheat out a few inches of moment here and there, but isn’t going to change the flow of the game. Rating: C+

Crimson Haze: Automatically pass Nerve tests when Engaged. The use case on this skill is so incredibly narrow, that it might as well not exist. Avoid. Rating: D-

Frenzy: An additional D3 attacks on the charge is tempting, but the -1 accuracy on all attacks made that turn is a pretty heavy consequence. It synergizes nicely with other skills that thrive on multiple attacks like Avatar of Blood and Slaughterborn, but you’d do well to grab one of those beforehand, and maybe a +WS too before picking up Frenzy.  Rating: B-

Killing Blow: The fighter can substitute all of their attacks for one attack with a non-Sidearm weapon (or unarmed) at 2x Strength and Damage with no armor saves allowed. While this might make sense for a Skinner, with their single attack, Butchers and Cutters will be losing out on a lot of attacks, and placing all their eggs in one basket is extremely risky. Where this skill would truly shine would be on Initiates, but they can only use Savagery skills as a secondary skill-set, so they will functionally never get this skill. Rating: C+

Slaughterborn: The fighter gains 1” of Movement for the rest of the battle for every unsaved wound they cause in combat. A Cutter with a pair of any type of cleavers could feasibly gain 6” of movement in 1 turn with this skill, which is completely buck wild. A Grinder with Movement 11” is utterly terrifying, and note that there is no upper limit on this Movement bonus. For a melee-focused gang whose main limitation is reaching combat, a Slaughterborn Cutter on a roll will likely spend each round bouncing from kill to kill, gaining even more momentum. Rating: A

(Credit: Austin Becht)

Stand-Out Skills

Corpse Grinders are in a weird space with skills. They really don’t need help causing damage in melee, so offensive melee skills are going to be less effective. Additionally, enemy fighters will quickly fold to attacks from Butchers and Cutters, so defensive melee skills aren’t really necessary, either. Many skills in the Combat list are defensive in nature, mitigating damage and staving off reaction attacks, which are less useful when you’re more likely to kill your opponent before he can strike back at all!

By our reckoning, mobility and support skills will be the most useful. Commanding Presence looks like the biggest winner for a Butcher, allowing for a crushing 4-fighter activation for that critically important charge turn, which will probably be turn 2 or 3. For Cutters, Slaughterborn will cause the most havoc as the Movement bonus continues to stack up, making the fighter a threat to anywhere on the board. If you’re planning to bring a Rotary Flensing Saw, think about grabbing Rain of Blows as the Cutter or Butcher will be able to fight twice at 4” out, which is hilarious.

It might be counter-intuitive to think that the melee gang doesn’t need melee skills, but when they’re already so good at close-combat, stacking up melee skills and abilities grants diminishing returns. Think outside of combat with Grinder skills, and we think you’ll be rewarded.

Weapons and Wargear

Close Combat Weapons

Boning Sword (20): For 5 fewer credits than a Chainsword you still get Parry, and then an extra point of both AP and Damage. This is the go-to weapon for Initiates, who are probably the only members of a Corpse Grinder Cult who’ll be engaged long enough for the opponent to strike back. A solid secondary weapon for any fighter, provided they’ve decided to resist the allure of paired cleavers. Rating: A

Butcher’s Chain Cleaver (45): Good Strength, excellent AP and damage make this weapon an easy “yes”. The only knock on it is that it’s hard to justify buying only one, when the paired version gives bonus attacks and costs less together than buying two of the Chain Cleavers separately. Rating: B+

Butcher’s Cleaver (25): A cheaper and lighter version of the Butcher’s Chain Cleaver (we’re getting really tired of all these cleavers), it delivers the same Strength but reduced AP and Damage. Still pretty good, though. Rating: B

Chain Glaive (60): With all of the melee options that Grinders have, the trusty Chain Glaive starts to fall short. It’s -1 accuracy in base to base, and that makes it way worse for up-close work than a Heavy Chain Cleaver, which is only 10 credits more and not Unwieldy. And if Versatile is what you’re after, the Rotary Flensing Saw is 5 credits cheaper for the same Strength and Damage and has twice the Versatile range: 4” instead of 2”. There are better options for Grinders than the Chain Glaive. Rating:  D

Fighting Knife (15): It’s fine in every gang, and fine here. Backstab won’t likely come into play unless you’re anticipating engagements where you can throw multiple knife-wielders at the same target to allow at least one of your Initiates to target their backside. In any other circumstances, knives serve the same purpose – a little bit of armor penetration and an extra close-combat attack out of a cheap fighter who already has a side-arm. Rating: C+

Flensing Knife (15): It’s like the fighting knife, but it sacrifices Backstab for Rending. It’s also fine. The Fighting Knife is probably better. Rating: C

Heavy Chain Cleaver (70): The heaviest-hitting one-hander in the game, the Heavy Chain Cleaver does work. It hits better and harder than the Butcher’s Chain Cleaver, but we’re not sure it’s worth the price tag. However, there is definitely an argument for it. One of these things will turn a Cutter or Skinner into a true monster. Rating: B

Heavy Rock Cutter (135): This thing will completely murder anything it touches, but the price tag is so dang high for a single melee weapon. However, we can see it being extremely useful in a late-stage campaign where armor saves are trending towards ridiculous, or when you absolutely need to wound everything that isn’t an Ambot on a 2+. Rating: C

Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers (80): Probably the best of the Corpse Grinders’ arsenal. They’ll give any fighter the high strength and high volume of attacks that they need to succeed, all while staying under budget. Load your Cultists up with these, and you’ll be Grinding Corpses in no time! Rating: A

Paired Heavy Chain Cleavers (130): These things will absolutely mulch any enemies, but are probably too expensive for a starting gang to have more than one set. However, a Cutter with a pair of these things has 6 S6 AP-2 Damage 2 attacks on the charge that all hit on 2s, which is just terrifying. Rating: B

Rotary Flensing Saw* (55): The thinking cultist’s Versatile weapon, the flensing saw can reach out and touch enemies at 4” making it almost a ranged weapon. The -1 accuracy penalty at range is rough, but if you can get Knockback to trigger, you’ll be able to catapult yourself into base to base with your opponent, Bionic Commando-style. Rating: B+

Two-Handed Axe* (25): It’s cheap, but it sucks. Damage 3 is enticing, but -1 accuracy and zero AP means you’ll rarely get to deal that big damage. A Butcher’s Cleaver is the same amount of credits, and pushes far more reliable damage. Rating: D

(Credit: Alex Jamesson)

Pistols

Autopistol (10): The basic Autopistol gets a little bit of an upgrade with some new ammo types (previously Enforcer-only) in the Book of Ruin, but the Stub Gun is still your best bet for a cheap pistol. Rating: C+

Hand Flamer (75): Unlike other gangs, where the Hand Flamer is over-costed garbage, when every Initiate can Infiltrate and get into template range easily on round one, the Hand Flamer becomes a tool of abject terror! A couple of these will cover your heavy hitters nicely. Rating: B+

Stub Gun (5): It’s cheap, it’s plentiful, and it’s got a solid accuracy bonus. Don’t sleep on it’s utility, especially with Dum Dum rounds! Rating: B

Special & Heavy

Flamer (140): The true strength in flame weaponry is the auto-pinning from templates and the chance of triggering Blaze. Jumping from the S3 of the Hand Flamer to S4 in the full sized model is an improvement, but not one that’s worth paying anywhere close to 65 extra credits to do so. Rating: C

Heavy Flamer (195): The Heavy Flamer is always a terrible over-costed choice, but somehow even more so for the Grinders. It’s an Unwieldy ranged weapon, in the armory of a gang that has no access to Suspensors. Rating: F-

Harpoon Launcher (110): It’s an interesting choice, as this is essentially the longest ranged option in the Corpse Grinder arsenal. A bit too expensive to run in numbers, a sneaky Initiate could get good mileage out of this weapon, dragging impaled targets off of high ledges, or into closer range of nearby Flamers or his other choppy friends. Rating: C+

 

Grenades

Frag Grenades (30): They’ll explode and might pin a few enemies, but the 3” blast and S3 make them merely okay. Grenades can be thrown by any Corpse Grinder, not just Initiates, but more of the time you’re likely better off using that second action to move forward or to find cover, rather than attempt to pin a nearby enemy or two. Rating: C+

Incendiary Charges (40): On the other hand, once you improve the blast radius and add in some Blaze to sweeten the pot, grenades suddenly start to seem a lot more viable. They’re still not the sort of item you’re investing in at founding, but mid-campaign these Charges can provide your Skinners and Cutters with something to do if they’re caught out in the open, and they’re a cheaper alternative to the Hand Flamer for the budget-conscious Initiate. Rating: B

Krak Grenades (45): A high Strength grenade with the Demolition trait does have use on certain scenarios, especially in the hands of an Infiltrating Initiate, but it’s not as useful as a weapon compared to the other varieties. A lack of Blast means it doesn’t scatter, and that’s not great for a gang with a decidedly lackluster Ballistic Skill.  Rating: D

Smoke Grenades (15): Yes. Immediately. Have at least one character armed with smokes at gang creation, ideally an Initiate or two. Corpse Grinders rely on mitigating the enemy’s shooting, so closing down firing lanes is a must. Rating: A

(Credit: Alex Jamesson)

Wargear

Armored Undersuit (25): While it’s not particularly common, occasionally your enemy will live long enough to strike back in combat. Or, more frequently common, they’ll shoot at you. Regardless of the scenario, adding +1 to your armor for an absurd 3+ save for your Skinners and Cutters will understandably boost your survivability.

Corpse Grinder Cult Icon (40): An absolute must-have. The Grinder Icon gives its bearer the ability to make an Enrage action. This action is not qualified, meaning it is not double, standard or simple, though we think this is might be a typo. We’re left to infer how it works, so we’re treating it like a Chem-Synth: a free action made in addition to the fighter’s regular allowance. This action allows friendlies that begin their turn within 6” to add d3” to their movement and Charges this turn. This is wildly important for a gang that has to close with their enemies, and should be a top priority when creating your gang.

(Regular) Cult Icon (40): Same as Cawdor and other Cult gangs have access to, the Cult Icon allows group activations with one additional member. If you’re running your main body in two groups, this allows your second Cutter’s group a bit more manpower and autonomy, as he’ll be able to activate and bring two Skinners with him.

Stimm-slug Stash (30): Drugs that supercharge a fighter’s combat abilities are, checks notes…yeah they’re super good for Corpse Grinders. Grab some for your heavy hitters and if they’re within 6” of a Grinder Icon, watch them make 9”-13” charges all day!

Booby Traps (Varies): Booby traps are placed after you’ve set up the board and chosen deployment, but before any fighters are deployed. While it seems counter-intuitive to invest in land mines as a gang that’s going to be charging headlong across the field, it may be wise to place a few Frag or Melta Traps in higher overlooks to dissuade enemy snipers from setting up shop.

 

Tactics Cards

While you’re currently only able to obtain the eight Corpse Grinder tactic cards in the Dark Uprising box, that’s also the only place you’re able to get the models themselves so chances are you’re good on that front. We’ll be folding all of them into our Big Review of Cards soon enough, but here are some gang-specific ones that stood out to us immediately!

  • Blood Surge: Normally, when an enemy shoots you, they’re expecting you to fall down. With this card, you’ll bypass the pinning entirely and instead take a free move action. We’ll say that again: instead of losing momentum you get to move even closer to your victim. This card is insane.
  • Visions of Slaughter: One full round of Charge as a basic action opens up so many options. You can stand up after being pinned and charge. You can move once and then charge for an insane boost in range. Nowhere is unreachable, and nobody is safe. While a penalty of -1 to Weapon Skill for the round is considerable, you’re going to be much more comfortable in melee than your opponent even with the temporary inconvenience!
  • Whirlwind of Blows: A bit more situational, as this card can only be triggered when you’re activating a fighter that is already engaged. It’s handy in that it “increases your attack characteristic” by one for each enemy that’s engaging you, which would certainly discourage an opponent from piling on in an attempt to stack interference bonuses. The beauty of this card, however, is that unlike other similar abilities that add additional attacks, Whirlwind instead increases your base attack characteristic, which is then doubled if you’re using a Paired weapon. That’s a lot of attacks.

 

Suggested Builds

Dan’s Out-of-the-Box Gang

Butcher – 130
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80
Commanding Presence

Cutter – 90
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80
Corpse Grinder Cult Icon – 40
Slaughterborn

Cutter – 90
Rotary Flensing Saw – 55
Rain of Blows

Skinner – 40
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80

Skinner – 40
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80

Initiate – 25
Stub gun – 5
Boning Sword – 20
Smoke Grenades – 15

Initiate – 25
Stub gun – 5
Boning Sword – 20
Smoke Grenades – 15

Initiate – 25
Stub gun – 5
Boning Sword – 20
Smoke Grenades – 15

TOTAL: 1000

Merton’s Hand Flamer and Cleaver Party

There’s folks that’ll call me crazy for only bringing one smoke grenade, or more likely for only bringing one Skinner. In this build (which I’ve been running in skirmishes and have zero campaign experience with, mind you), I’m banking heavily on my Initiates to cause chaos in the back line. In theory, a pair of Flamers threatening the enemy deployment zone on round one tends to cause enough havoc that the four cannibals barreling down the front seem like the ‘lesser threat’ until it’s far too late. I haven’t had a game yet where even a win isn’t accompanied by heavy casualties on the Grinder side so this may be a losing strategy for long-term play, but in a vacuum these guys are a blast!

Butcher – 130
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80
Stimm-Slug Stash – 30
Bull Charge

Cutter – 90
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80
Corpse Grinder Cult Icon – 40
Stimm-Slug Stash – 30
Slaughterborn

Cutter – 90
Paired Butcher’s Chain Cleavers – 80
Corpse Grinder Cult Icon – 40
Stimm-Slug Stash – 30
Slaughterborn

Skinner – 40
Butcher’s Cleaver – 25

Initiate – 25
Flensing Knife – 15
Smoke Grenades – 15

Initiate – 25
Hand Flamer – 75

Initiate – 25
Hand Flamer – 75

TOTAL: 1000

(Credit: Games Workshop)

Final Thoughts

We’ll admit, we were pretty skeptical when the Corpse Grinders were announced! This version of Necromunda is heavily shooting-oriented, and we were unsure that an exclusively melee gang would be able to compete. Thankfully, the final design of the Grinders is a much more balanced approach: hulking brutes barrelling down the field, while their smaller and sneakier counterparts plink away and cause disruption in the back-line and flanks. The two of us at Necromunday are still trying to convince the other of Proper Initiate Application, but we suspect that we’re just building out two very distinct but equally viable play-styles. We may be completely off-base, and that’s fine too! We’ve changed our mind about how to use these guys dozens of times in the past week alone.

Overall, we’re feeling good about the Corpse Grinder Cults so far. Even in games on larger 3D boards they’ve managed to (somewhat) close in, and when things do come to a decisive end it hasn’t been skewed enough to prevent both players from having a fun time in the process. Both of us are going to be running these dudes as our secondary gangs, so expect an update to this article in a few months once we’ve been able to get a bit more real-life lessons learned under our belts!

 

If you’ve been playing the Grinders and have your own strategy for optimal meat collection, let us know! There’s so much about this gang that we haven’t even begun to figure out, and we’d love your input. Hit us up in the comments, on Facebook, or shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com.

Either way, check back next week when we’ll be cracking into the Dark Uprising box itself, and going through the new Uprising campaign!

 

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