The elements were against Sump Con 3: The Ghast and the Furious, a Necromunda weekender hosted by the brains behind the Sump City Radio podcast. As gang warfare enthusiasts converged on Derbyshire, the central English country was struck by deadly Storm Babet, which caused flash flooding and generally messed up the UK’s pitifully temperamental train network.
Despite the conditions, dozens of gamers showed up at Tabletop Events, in Belper, for a weekend of casual gaming with crunch.
Sump Con, in its third edition, was a fairly simple proposal: put together a 1,500 credit gang with lots of leniency on trading post access and advancements, hang out and just try to get some games in. Games took place over Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd October, with about 30 tables available — ranging from precarious elevated motorways crossing arid wastes to dense urban warfare in the deadliest domes, all on a beautiful selection of pre-made boards.
Before we get into the weeds, a quick word about the hosts. If you’re into Necromunda, the Sump City Radio is an essential listen — Steve ‘Hivescum Steve’ Uden and Chris ‘Underhiver’ Iddon have put together a fantastic blend of narrative, game and hobby content. Episodes are infrequent but chunky, but the occasionally lengthy wait between new instalments is compensated by genuinely funny and well-acted skits, and practical but detailed rule discussion. Indeed, Goonhammer’s very own Dan Boyd once appeared on it. Go give it a listen, if you haven’t already.
Attendees were greeted with goodie bags (including some fun 3D prints of Chris and Steve themselves re-imagined as Necromunda fighters), and given a mission: go find a table and an opponent, and throw some dice. What could be better?
Players had come from around the UK — I’d come from London, others from the south-west, there was a strong contingent from the north and midlands of England and even a contingent from the great northern wasteland of Scotland. This latter group included Danny Bonnar (Macromunda on Instagram), whose wonderful pictures have made this article (and the event) look way more classy than it really should.
Here, apropos of nothing other than their wonderfulness, are some of Danny’s pics:
The gang rules
The rules for regular gangs were generous and permissive — arguably too much so (but nobody, as far as I saw, was taking the piss):
— 1,500 creds for a gang
— 500 creds for vehicles/Ash Waste stuff
— 6 free skills
— 3 free advancements
— broad access to the Trading Post and Black Market
With my travelling companion Rob taking an Orlock Wrecker list, I decided to go with Van Saar — playing, as I currently always do, a bunch of proxy squat models (I have a problem). After some umming and ahhing, Pickfork Short Circuit was born. This was my list (YakTribe link here):
— Isabella Pickfork (Prime): Necrotic Beamer, laspistol, mesh armour. Hipshooting, Iron Will, Overseer. (260 creds)
— Grunhilda Sparks (Archeotek): Hrud Fusil, mesh armour, Ocular Alpha. Weaponsmith. (260 creds)
— Willis Ronstadt (Archeotek): Las sub-carbine (x2), long rifle, warp round, mesh armour, Necromunda giant rat, Ocular Alpha. Gadgeteer. (270 creds)
— L-E (Giant Rat): Willis’s rat (0 creds, priced into Willis).
— Nura Goldhart (Neotek): Web pistol, hazard suit. Dodge. (170 creds)
— Hector Cuillin (Neotek): Lasgun w/hotshot pac. Sprint. (100 creds)
— Petr Schüssel (Neotek): Lasgun w/hotshot pac. Sprint. (100 creds)
— Jaki Atamo (Ragnir Gunnstein): All the Ragnir Gunnstein goodness. (100 creds)
— Shakeout (Arachni-rig): No equipment upgrades. Trick Shot. (240 creds)
My basic philosophy with this list was: shooting good, mobility good, running out of ammo bad. Overall, I was really happy with how it performed (I’m nearly as enthusiastic about Neoteks as I am about Wreckers. Nearly.)
I also brought two vehicles:
— 2 x Wolfquads: Scum Racers and Heavy Bolters (250 each)
My basic philosophy with these choices is that they’re the only vehicles I own (other than a Land Raiser Crusader from 4th ed with some very bad freehand attempts).
More importantly, here’s how they looked:
I will not be providing pictures of the Land Raider Crusader.
Quick thoughts on the XP system
SC3 added experience gains and lasting injuries to the mix this time around. In my view, this was the only moderate misstep with the event: as anyone who has played Necromunda in a campaign setting will know, the post-game admin can be heavy, particularly if — without access to a printer (or tablet) — you have to do everything by hand. XP was tripled to celebrate it being the third Sump Con, which only added to the intensity. One person told me by day two he’d got so much XP he couldn’t be bothered to buy more advancements, while Rob ended a game with more than 30XP gained on one fighter. As well as being complicated, this makes some fighters too strong, too quickly, in my view.
As someone who can’t read his own handwriting, I chose to simply ignore both elements — and found all my opponents over the weekend were willing to do the same thing — meaning we just went head-to-head with our vanilla lists in a resurrection format (the list is reset after every game). There’s not really any problem with having XP in place given Necromunda is a social, non-competitive game where players are mutually interested in fun games — but in a crunchy game that can cause so much mental fatigue, the extra layer of complexity and admin isn’t needed in my opinion. But, hey, it was optional.
I played four games over the weekend — three on Saturday, one on Sunday. The reasons for that will become apparent. Here’s how they went down.
Game 1 (vs Goliath): My first match, against a kindly chap called Luke and his Goliath, involved a mission I hadn‘t encountered before — in the centre of the map was a T9, W10 objective that, once destroyed, caused the map to collapse in from the inside out. With us assigning some barrels in a high building as the target, the stage was set for a high-stakes shooting gallery.
Unfortunately, Luke had brought an Infilitrating stimmer with a Whisperbane Knife, which — combined with the some truly awful dice rolls on my end — meant the objective, and my hopes of winning the game, were both long gone by the second or third turn. Possibly another entry for the annals of “Infiltrate ruins a lot of missions”, but there were still some fun moments and Luke’s gang was gorgeous.
Game 2 (vs Delaque): Game 2 was a Murder Cyborg showdown in the wastes, against Dave and his dastardly Delaque. Dave’s gang included a stunning walker made from an Ad Mech Ironstrider, manned by a side-saddle sniper shaded under a parasol. It was awesome. This was a game on two levels. Down below, my quads repeatedly whiffed in their efforts to damage Dave’s medium vehicle (a swanky stretch limo) while my Arachni-rig, turned insane by a well-placed warp round, absolutely shredded my leader.
Up high, things went a bit better. A game of tactics card trumps went my way, when Dave teleported a Nacht-ghul in front of my gunline only to get caught with Reaction Fire from my Hrud Fusil. Seconds later, the fusilier was brought down — only to have the Murder Cyborg jump out of her skin.
This looked like a disaster for my Van Squats, but the Cyborg’s chosen directive was to kill leaders — and mine had already been killed by my own Arachni-rig. As a result, I was able to simple trail the cyborg as it cut a swathe through Dave’s gang, shooting it in the back until I was able to take the kill and the win.
Game 3 (vs Ogryns): My third opponent, Simon, is a veritable connoisseur of Slave Ogryns and a pillar of the abhuman community, so I knew it would be a tough match. Simon’s list was self-admittedly skewed, having found himself unable to resist the opportunity to make an absolute chudd of a leader: the 400, maybe 500-point ‘Hannibal’, replete with T6, endless wounds, a 2+ initial armour save and bunch of other shenanigans. We decided to the play a classic “just kill you opponent with everything you’ve got” free-for-all.
Deploying my Van Saar close across two buildings, with the Neoteks out on the flanks, my gameplan was basically the same as anyone in a zombie movie trying to defend a building. This had mixed results. My Neoteks managed to cause some light damage, but Simon was largely able to ignore them and reach the First Zone of Ogryn Damage Output: incendiary charge range. These flaming packages caught my Arachni-rig and Hrud Fusil Archeotek, temporarily taking out my two key kill threats, while Hannibal edged closer towards my sniper, who used his Giant Rat as a (short-lived) shield.
Things were looking extremely dicey, but the rig and fusilier both managed to sort out their Blaze issues on the second try, and — with a heroic intervention by my leader, whose Necrotic Beamer came in clutch — Hannibal was brought down. This bought me some breathing space to let rip with the Arachni-rig, which took down an Overboss and a Lobo with successive volleys. Things were inches away from disaster, but I had held back the meaty tide.
Saturday wrap-up: After three excellent games, we decamped to the various drinking holes of Hive Belper (to watch England get knocked out of the Rugby World Cup), but not before Chris ‘Underhiver’ Iddon proposed a truly evil scheme for the second day.
Game 4 (vs Van Saar, Van Saar and, uh, Van Saar): Chris, myself, my friend Tom (who introduced me to Necromunda) and a nice young chap called Ben kicked off on Sunday with that most thrilling of shoot0outs: a four-way Van Saar game. Thankfully, visual distinction wasn’t a problem: Chris’s action-posed Van Saar are sleek and dynamic, Ben’s had cyberpunk flare with flashes of neon, Tom’s are a lovingly-converted and painted, Tzeentch-y, spider-y batch, while mine were, well, squats.
Again, we went for killiness over silliness to keep things simple (and discourage camping): 3 points for killing a leader, 2 for a champion or brute, 1 for anything else, whoever has te most points at the end wins. Our map was the same cityscape I’d initial played Luke on, albeit expanded slightly and with extra cover added to stop it being a pure shoot-out.
Four-way games are always an interesting strategic challenge. Chris and I were diagonal to on another, meaning we had little contact, while Tom was ahead of me and Ben to my left. After Tom and my early shots against each other created a stalemate, we both ended up pushing in the other direction — him going for Chris, and me for Ben. This left Ben and Chris fighting on two fronts, giving Tom and I a narrow edge in closely-balanced clashes on opposite sides.
Some truly abysmal shooting on my part meant one of Ben’s Neoteks set a reasonable chunk of my gang on fire, but he wasn’t able to follow through, and some good fortune on my part with priority rolls allowed me to take out his plasma gunner and win my flank. On Tom’s side, Chris exhausted his firepower taking down Tom’s minotaur (a Mutated Ogryn), leaving the rest of the Tzeentch-y Van Saars to come up trumps in the shooting contest. After four or five turns (about three hours of play), only Tom and I were left — him narrowly ahead on points, but me without any casualties. We decided to draw a extra random tactics card each, and play it out to the death.
My hopes of quickly dislodging Tom’s key ranged threat — a grenade launcher-wielding Archeotek — were quickly extinguished when, after using the Longshot tactics card (unmodifiable 2+ shot, followed by automatic out of ammo) on my Arachni-rig, only to roll a 1. Tom’s Archeotek and Prime then both survived max-powered Hrud Fusil shots with some tasty armour saves. Other than that, though, his luck was not much better — I think his grenade launcher went out of ammo four times (fortunately for Tom, it was Plentiful via Weaponsmith).
Range and numbers gave me a narrow advantage, however — my Long Rifle was able to knock targets out of cover, while the rig could fire at max range with near-impunity and my Neoteks could take clear shots from the high ground. Some vengeful Hrud Fusil fire took down a lasgunner but produced snake eyes on the wound roll against Tom’s Grav-gunner, who thankfully ran away. Eventually, the rifle and rig were able to lay Tom’s Prime low, and I could sweep in with a Neotek for the Coup de Grace. Tom conceded, after a five-hour-long epic that had left both of us happy but exhausted. Looking at the train timetables (very bad), Rob and I decided it was time to head back to London.
This was the first time I’d done a Necromunda weekender, and I had a fantastic time. Everyone I met was friendly and open, and the attitude in my games and the others I watched was hugely positive: players seemed to be universally helpful, generous and more interested in fun than getting swamped down in rules (although I must admit, as something of a rules lawyer, an opportunity to explain how Neural Flayers [don’t] work was my heroic “Is anyone on this plane a doctor?” moment). The event was also completely flush with wonderfully converted and painted models — you could really see how much love people had put into their gangs.
Minor XP gripes aside, it’s hard to see how this format can be improved: make a fun gang, throw some dice, play some wacky scenarios and have a lot of fun. Here’s to the next Sump City Radio event — an Ironman weekend, branded ‘Sump Wars’, next May. Time to make some more models.
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