Howdy howdy howdy, Scummers! You know what time it is, so we’ll get right into it: this one’s for the Underdogs. All those downtrodden crews shuffling around at the back of the pack; they just need a little boost to shine. Remember, No Juve Left Behind!
As anyone who’s been playing for a while knows, Necromunda’s unpredictability (and overall randomness) is part of its charm. This is inherent in almost all dice-based tabletop games, but unlike in Warhammer 40k where entire armies are restored and re-racked from game to game, a Necromunda battle is frequently fought as a single point of conflict in an ongoing campaign with persistent consequences.
In a game with lasting injuries and permanent deaths of key fighters, it’s inevitable that some gangs will catch an early string of bad luck and struggle substantially more than others. Thankfully, there are a slew of mechanics at an Arbitrator’s disposal to give these players a boost and a glimmer of hope so they’re ready to tackle their next opponent head-on!
Why Help Out the Underdogs?
Most everyone can agree that playing a game with no chance of winning really sucks. In a Necromunda campaign, your gang is usually only one bad game away from being a complete dumpster fire. Having a weak gang is no fun. The job of a campaign’s Arbitrator is (we think, at least) to make sure everyone’s having fun. Creating custom missions, making sure there is plenty of narrative to go around, and organizing schedules are all important, but making sure everyone has at least a chance to win every game they play is of paramount importance.
There are two types of official, GW-sanctioned catch-up mechanics: Pre-Game and Post-Game. Obviously, pre-game mechanics happen during the pre-battle sequence, but post-game mechanics really just happen outside the structure of a game. These rules are all optional, so if you’re an Arbitrator you’ll have to let your players know in advance what tools they have to choose from.
Evening the Odds: Pre-Game Bonuses
These options are available to gangs before the game begins. Important note: we’re going to talk a lot about the differences in gang or crew ratings in this article. When comparing ratings to use pre-game Underdog mechanics, players should be comparing each others’ Crew Ratings, not Gang Ratings. The crew rating is simply the summed value of all the fighters in a gang who are taking part in this battle. Gang rating doesn’t really translate into tabletop effectiveness, because it doesn’t take into account that an entire gang might not be able to take part in the battle.
For instance, Merton has a gang rating of 2000 and Dan has a gang rating of 1500. Merton’s gang is obviously better-off. However, this week they’re playing a game with a Crew Size of 5. Merton has 11 fighters in his gang, but since only 5 can take part in the battle, his crew rating will be a lot less than 2000. Dan has 9 fighters in his gang, and will get to use a greater percentage of them in the game, meaning that the difference in crew ratings might indeed be negligible, instead of the 500-point difference reflected in the two players’ gang ratings.
Extra Tactics Cards
Baked into virtually every scenario to the point that it’s essentially universal, this is going to be the first line of defense for a gang that happens to be outclassed by a mismatched opponent. For all scenarios in the Book of Peril and onward:
- If the total credits value of fighters in one player’s crew is less than their opponents, they may randomly draw an additional Tactics Card for each full 100 credits of difference.
This can be tuned or tailored as needed by an Arbitrator, but Tactics Cards can make a ton of difference in a battle, especially when you’re gaining a couple extra levels of shenanigans compared to the other guy! It’s not going to realistically turn the tables if you’re rocking Autoguns against a tide of Renderizers, but it’s a good first step to overall equality.
One thing to note: The original scenarios in the 2018 Rulebook based these extra cards on overall Gang Rating for an entire gang, rather than just crew. That’s almost certainly guaranteed to net an Underdog more cards than the current method, but you’ll likely be looking at diminishing returns with that many cards.
The Underdog Deck
Released alongside (but not in) the Book of Judgement, the official Underdog deck was ostensibly intended to work alongside the existing Extra Tactics Cards rule to help out players on the low side of a sky-high crew rating difference. Underdog Tactics Cards form a separate deck that players can draw one from instead of their typical tactics for every 200 points of discrepancy, provided they’re at least 400 credits under.
Some of the cards in the pack give an edge to help win the fight, like Hard Training’s extra skills or Welcome Stranger’s free mid-grade Bounty Hunter. Others help mitigate the damage from an impending loss, like Wandering Doc’s free medical escort or Paid in Full, which offers a consolation prize of d6x10 credits for each friendly fighter who was taken out of action in the fight.
There’s potential for many of these to be just as if not more potent than the two regular Tactics Cards you’d be drawing instead, but it’s again not the strongest thing in the world. Which, really, is almost a good thing, because:
You can’t get these cards anymore. At least, not legitimate physical copies. They’re great to have if you managed to score a deck back when they release, but nowadays the only way to use ‘em is to skulk around the ‘net for a print-out of their rules or spend over 400% of MSRP on eBay. Reprint the damn cards, Games Workshop.
Blood Bowl players will be very familiar with this system (Hi sports fans! Love you! -Dan). In their game, this system is called inducements. This system was originally introduced in the May 2019 issue of White Dwarf. Basically, you take the difference in gang rating and turn that into credits that the player with the lower gang rating can use to help mitigate their disadvantage for this single game. It’s a tried and true method of leveling the playing field, and it makes a ton of sense to include its use in your campaigns.
Here’s the thing: a lot of the language for House Patronage is old and somewhat incomplete in that issue of White Dwarf. Necromunda rules writing is tighter nowadays, so we wanted to include a slightly tweaked version of the House Patronage table in this article that removes some of the ambiguity regarding its use. We’ve also added Underdog cards to the table, because if you have them, why not use them in conjunction with House Patronage?
We’re doing this because we really like the system of House Patronage. It’s an elegant way to give an Underdog gang a step-up, and it lets players have agency when selecting their benefits. This is also currently the best way to include Bounty Hunters, Hive Scum, and Dramatis Personae in your gang.
Note: We suggest that everyone use our method of choosing and selecting tactics cards, which can be found here. In that system players don’t ever choose tactics cards before a mission, but we’re keeping it in the table here, so players that don’t choose to use our tactics card system can reference it.
The House Patronage Table
After the players have selected their crews, obtain the Crew Ratings for each gang by adding up the value of the fighters in each crew. The player with the lower crew value get the difference in crew value as credits to use on the following table:
|House Patronage Benefit||Credit Cost|
|0-5: Draw a random Tactics Card||100 each|
|0-2: Choose a Tactics Card||200 each|
|0-3: Draw a random Underdog Card||150 each|
|0-1: Draw a random House Sub-plot||100|
|0-1: Choose a House Sub-plot||200|
|0-3: Temporarily hire a Ganger (the Ganger is removed from the roster after this game)||Varies (Base cost of Ganger plus any weapons or wargear available to them from their House List or equivalent. May not use items from the stash.)|
|Unlimited: Recruit 1 or more Juves (The Juve is added to the gang roster as a permanent member of the gang. Standard gang composition rules still apply. May not be used to recruit Palanite Rookies.)||Varies (Base cost of Juve plus any weapons or wargear available to them from their House List or equivalent. May use items from the stash, though standard equipment restrictions apply.)|
|0-1: Hire a Dramatis Personae||Varies|
|0-1: Bounty Hunter||Varies (Base cost plus weapons/wargear)|
|0-5: Hire a Hive Scum||Varies (Base cost plus weapons/wargear)|
Playing Catch-Up: Post-Game Bonuses
Post-game mechanics are used after something BAD happens. These are used at the Arbitrator’s discretion, and are ways to help a battered gang get back up on its feet.
Sometimes bad things happen in the Underhive. Some days, your gang is the bad thing happening to someone else, but every now and then, you’ll lose a leader or champion to a memorable death, and your status among your peers will plummet. Fortunately, GW has come up with a way to dodge the effects of an unfortunate memorable death, though the fighter comes back…wrong.
When a player permanently loses a fighter, they may appeal to their Arbitrator for a Resurrection Package. If the Arbitrator grants it, then the player or Arbitrator may choose which package the player gets. However, coming back from the dead is a risky proposition, and the fighter will be changed in some substantial way from this point forward.
Each Resurrection Package has a Benefit, a Price, and an End Game. The Benefit is, other than the return of the deceased fighter, the new abilities granted to the fighter through their brush with death. This stuff doesn’t come free, though, and the Price reflects that in a unique way for each Resurrection Package. The End Game is the ultimate disposition of the resurrected fighter: their True Death. Once the circumstances are met for the End Game, that’s it, the fighter is gone for good this time.
Every single one of these Packages are fantastic, and there’s enough thematic variety that a savvy Arbitrator can choose to bestow a resurrection that’s in keeping with with the fighter restored, both in life and in death. Renevants come back laser-focused on destroying their would-be assassin, rerolling hits, wounds, and injuries when targeting them. Once they’ve meted out their revenge, though, their grim task is finished and the resurrected fighter is immediately retired. If your life was saved by the Guilders through A Debt of Blood, your gang immediately enters into an Alliance with a chosen faction, whose allied fighters count as members of the gang, gaining XP and skill advances! This one buries the lede just a tad, since your new allies will steal away one of your own fighters after every single battle. Bit of a trade-off, there.
The rules for these packages can be found in the April 2020 edition of White Dwarf and we strongly suggest any Arbitrators out there go and pick this one up. This mechanic is absolutely awesome for keeping a player in the game, and will add some truly fun spice to the campaign.
Gang Favors are gained from rolling on the Favors table for their particular faction, a weighted list on a 2d6 that can grant some heavily impressive power-ups towards the top. The main twist here is that a player will add a bonus to their roll for each other player with a higher overall Gang Rating than they do in the campaign (with a maximum of 3+), meaning the further behind a player is, the better chance they have of grabbing a really-good to really-great favor on the table.
While most factions have their own bespoke Favors table (with more undoubtedly on the way if House of Chains is any indication), the favors tables typically follow a similar pattern. The lowest result is a critical failure, and the player loses a fighter of some form as punishment. All other rolls are substantially more positive, granting extra manpower or gear or XP to be doled out to their crews.
The faction-specific lists play with the numbers and theming of these boons, as well as offering some truly unique rewards on the high end. Genestealer Cultists, on a modified roll of a 13+, even gain (extremely) temporary access to a Purestrain for their next battle. It doesn’t stick around for long, but it’ll devour at least one enemy before it slinks away! Goliaths can gain a Gene-smithing upgrade on their 13+, because clearly they weren’t big and strong enough before.
All rolls on the Favor tables, like pretty much everything else in this article, are dictated by Arbitrator discretion, to give a focused hand to a struggling gang. We’ve used them as a case-by-case tool in our long-form campaigns, but in our weekend events we’ve kept things flowing by automating them to trigger for any player after a losing battle. The Top Dogs aren’t going to be able to get the really good boons with their bonus-less rolls anyway, and they’ve got the risk of rolling snake-eyes and coming out behind. It’s not the most nuanced approach, but it saves a ton of time and aggravation when you’re trying to stick to a schedule.
When all is said and done, are any of these Underdog mechanics going to allow a motley crew of goofuses with Autopistols slam out a convincing rout against a lodge full of Corpse Grinders 800 points ahead on gang rating? No, probably not. That gang is nasty, and chances are they’re on top of the Campaign ladder for a reason.
What it will do, however, is provide an edge, a chance for the game to be a little less one-sided than it would have been without, and maybe even cause the Grinders to take a few more casualties on their side than they’d expected. None of these mechanics are going to be a single-serving solution to reshuffle a campaign’s rankings in one fell swoop, but over time they’ll do wonders to elevate struggling players and motivate them to keep on striving for the top.
In bringing gangs who’ve suffered crippling losses back up to par, you’ll create more challenging battles for players on both sides of the credit divide, and keep those Underdogs thirsty for more games and the promise of victory. It’s win-win!
That’s it for us this week, Scummers! If any of you out there have made up your own catch-up mechanics, we want to hear about them! Email us at email@example.com and tell us about all the ingenious ways you’ve been keeping your Campaigns close, all tooth-and-nail style.
Merton and Dan are collaborators not just on Goonhammer, but in real life, too! They’ve run Necromunda weekenders together for their friends in the past, and next week they’ll start planning their next event (whenever that will be) right here on Necromunday! Make sure to tune in as your erstwhile authors part the kimono for the first time! Until then, Scummers!