Howdy, scummers! Welcome back to another edition of Necromunday! This week, we’re talking about one of our favorite ways to play this wacky game: as part of a weekend-long event – the weekender!
Just about two years ago, we, your beloved authors, put together a weekend-long Necromunda event for our friends in New Jersey. Since it coincided with Mexico’s celebration of beating the French at the Battle of Puebla, we called it Cinco de Necro. We’ve mentioned it a few times in our articles. It was easily one of the most fun times we’ve ever had playing this game, and the next year we did it again.
Before the world got really weird, we had planned to run the event for a third time, tentatively titled Cinco de Necro Dos: El Retorno. Really roll those r’s in Retorno. It sounds cool. Anyways, we’ve unfortunately had to postpone our annual weekender due to the ongoing global pandemic, and since this decision was made in March, we just sorta stopped planning it. So for this article, we’re going to cover what we’ve learned from putting on a Necromunda weekender, and get started on planning our next event, whenever that will be.
The Weekend Campaign
Essentially, a weekender is as simple as an abridged Necromunda campaign condensed into a relatively short amount of time. You can run any sort of campaign style you want with however many players you can wrangle, but we’ve found that it’s best to keep things smaller and more manageable. There’s some official rules for this sort of thing in Gangs of the Underhive, and we’ve incorporated some of them and discarded the rest, as is tradition.
For the two of us, a weekend campaign is an excuse to finally actually get to play together (since we live over 300 miles apart), as well as bring six other friends along for the ride. Some of them are in campaigns of their own, others are too focused on Warhammer 40k to play anything more than the occasional Skirmish, and some pretty much only play once a year at our events.
It’s a solid excuse to throw dice with the guys, but it’s also a great way to get a unique Necromunda experience that often isn’t found, even in a normally-paced long term campaign. Instead of players meeting up in pairs at a time, and only interacting with other gangs when issuing challenges and updating rankings, all battles between all players are taking place simultaneously, often mere feet away from each other. All of the battles and the ad-hoc alliances and inevitable betrayals, the wheelings and the dealings, play out with the whole group as an audience. The campaign can take on a narrative life of its own, as players become even more invested in the fate of their own holdings while watching rival gangs fight for their corner of the Underhive.
You can imagine that this environment is a lot more intense and colorful when compared to a weeks- or months-long campaign. As the event coordinator or Arbitrator, it’s best that the structure of your event is figured out well beforehand, so that your players can arrive and get right into it, instead of spending time figuring out what the rules of this particular event will be. And while it may seem like a lot of extra work, preparing beforehand will allow for more games, more narratives, and most importantly, more fun!
As the Arbitrator of your weekender, it’s up to you to frame the event. Where the event is held and who is invited is going to be a unique case for every gaming group, so we won’t spend any time on those here, but instead we will focus on making a Primer. A primer is a document that is sent out to players before the event starts. It will give your players a detailed explanation of what to expect during the event. If your players can show up to the event knowing what they need to bring and what kind of games they’ll be playing, then you’ll already be way ahead of the game!
The most important part of a weekend event is not wasting any time. Creating a detailed schedule ahead of time will save you a ton of headache at the actual event, especially if you can nail down firm start and end times for each battle. Here’s what ours looked like at last year’s Cinco de Necro:
Our event was a Dominion campaign where we handed out two territories per player before the action began and then played through two Takeover Phases with a Downtime phase in between where we used a couple of our multiplayer scenarios. We also threw in a Juve Pit Fight to cap off the action-packed Saturday because why the hell not? (Have a Juve pit fight in your campaign, Scummers. It won’t take too long, and it is guaranteed to be hilarious!) Our players knew the schedule coming in, and we made a point to emphasize that we would play two games on Friday night, so we told everyone to not get too hammered. We still did, but only after the second game.
With these expectations in place, we were able to then set the times for each game day-of. Our group is pretty laid-back, so we didn’t plan the actual times things would kick off knowing that we could just set it day-of or night-before. This won’t work for everyone, but since we were all staying over at BuffaloChicken’s house, we could pretty much do whatever we wanted.
One of the biggest time-sucks in any event is figuring out who plays who. For Warhammer 40k, there are a slew of apps out there that are designed to help TOs do exactly that. Random matchmaking, however, doesn’t seem right for a Necromunda weekender. At a weekender, you’ll want to foment an environment of vendettas, grudges, and recriminations. Why? Because it’s fun! We suggest letting your players challenge one another.
Challenges can be a really fun way to let the nascent event narrative form, but it’s still an abusable system. The last thing any good Arbitrator wants is one gang running away with the campaign (especially if that gang belongs to SRM), so it’s a good idea to figure out a system that favors the campaign underdogs.
In our events, we use a system where the gang with the lowest rating gets to issue the first challenge in any round. These challenges must be accepted, meaning that the person who’s in “last” place will get to play whomever they want to. If that player wants to challenge the person with the next lowest rating in what would be a more equitable match-up, they’re welcome to. In fact, this system is designed to support that very thing! But if they want to take a swing at the king, like Salty Sirens did in the 7th round of Cinco, even better! There’s no way to gain notoriety quicker in the Underhive than taking out the top dog.
Our method is not the only method of matchmaking out there, and is almost certainly not the most optimized. We suggest that you play around with different methods of matchmaking, and use whatever fits the best for your group!
The Three C’s of Arbitration
Necromunda’s rules are, unfortunately, kind of a mess. We write about this often. You can play Necromunda straight out of the book(s), but we’ve found that it is better for everyone if an event’s Arbitrator outlines some life-improving changes, clarifications, and consolidation. For reference, feel free to check out our article on House Rules.
- Changes: Consider making changes to the rules where you see inequity or an opportunity for more fun. In the above linked article, we mention adding the sidearm trait to Hand Flamers, and even replacing the Tactics Card system itself, with a system of our design. Your mileage may vary, of course, but customizing the rules to your event in the name of fun, accessibility, or equity are definitely a good thing to do.
- Clarifications: Sometimes a weapon will have different profiles in different books. Ditto with Wyrd powers. Some rules are written in an extremely obtuse way. The 2019 Necro FAQ did a lot to help rein some of this in, but you or your players may find problems here and there. Put some language in your primer to clear up any issues! If you can make a ruling beforehand, then no one will waste any time arguing it table-side.
- Consolidation: Scummers, Necromunda has a lot of rules. It’s honestly difficult to keep track of all of them, and we should know: we volunteer to write about them every week! For your event, think about trimming some of the more extraneous rules in the interest of smooth sailing. For instance, Alliances are a whole thing and leaving them out of your weekender might make the entire event a lot easier to run. In another example, consider ignoring the Book of Peril wholesale, since just about every Necromunda player out there already does anyways! *sad trombone*
Tables and Battlefields
The last bit of prep work that you’ll need to do before you get this event going is to figure out where exactly the games will be played. How many tables of Necromunda terrain or game boards do you have access to? Last year at Cinco De Necro, we could only fit 4 tables worth of terrain in BuffaloChicken’s house. That capped our attendance at 8 players. It was no sweat for us to come up with 4 tables between everyone in our gaming group, so we were good to go!
Your gaming group is going to look different than ours. You’ll need to figure out what tables you can get a hold of, where to put them, and what type of table they’ll be all before this event goes off. There’s not a whole lot more to say about this here, other than that finding enough places to play is an integral part of running any event.
Cinco de Necro III
Now that we’ve covered the generalities, let’s see how we’ve chosen to apply it to our own event, tailored to our particular group!
Campaign Style: Uprising
We’ve run Dominion campaigns out of necessity for the past two years, so we’re looking forward to switching it up with a bit of Uprising for a whole slew of reasons! We’ve done a bit of homework on the campaign itself, and aside from having an excuse to actually play it ourselves, we think that it’s a great fit for a fast-paced weekend like Cinco.
- Team-Based instead of Purely Solo: Although all of the official Triumphs are given out to a single gang, the Order versus Chaos nature of the campaign will encourage players to work together within their faction, even if it’s for a selfish end.
- No Trading Post Access: While this admittedly shuts down a lot of the more exotic options available to gangs in a typical campaign, we really like how the dependence on House Armory lists and Scavenging rolls forces players to do their best within a stricter set of gear limitations. Also, this completely cuts out credit calculations and rarity rolls, and really streamlines the post-battle phase after every game.
- Dynamic Out-of-Game Choices: From Insurrection to Damnation, an Uprising campaign builds to a terrible crescendo of misery and starvation. With each phase condensed into three or so games each, decisions taken outside of battles are constantly evolving with the abysmal circumstances.
- The Rulebooks were Ten Bucks: We got lucky on eBay and found a pile of rulebooks for cheap, so we grabbed enough to ensure that we’d be able to have a full copy of the game and campaign rules on every one of our tables! If we see an opportunity to reduce our players’ necessary load to just the single book they personally need to run their gang, we’re takin’ it.
Games and Tables
We’ll be upfront here – we’re not the terrain guys. We’ve each got a set of Deathray Designs’ 2D-style Zone Mortalis walls, and they do the trick, dammit. We’ve been known to cram a 6’x4’ table’s worth of Warhammer 40k terrain into a Necromunda 3’x3’ for a makeshift Sector Mechanicus board, but thankfully our players’ve got us covered here. We’ve got some heavy hitters in our group!
We like to stick to the 3’x3’ as a general default, outside of specific scenarios that call for a more intimate battlefield or a special configuration. Since our Challengers are typically afforded the opportunity to choose their table as well, having a varied set to accommodate different gang styles can allow players to dictate their own tactical advantages.
House Rules and Modifications
While we’re still going back and forth on exactly which tweaks and changes we’re going to be implementing for the event, we’re in the fortunate spot of having spent most of the past year hashing out the particulars on each system in our various ramblings. Most of our House Rules and Catch-Up Mechanics will be in, as well as our replacement for the Uprising Campaign Table:
|2-5||Disruption||Meat Harvest / Blood Rites / Search & Destroy|
|6-7||Disruption||Takeover / Sabotage / Border Dispute|
|8-9||Death Match||Stand-off / The Trap / Ambush|
|10-12||Underdog||Lower-Ranked player picks Scenario and Attack/Defend|
Naturally, the rewards for all of these scenarios will need to be tweaked; once Damnation hits it’ll be a rough sell signing on for a Sabotage unless the objective is chock-full of sweet sweet Meat!
Speaking of, we also have no idea how to translate our system for issuing Bounties into a, ah, meat-based economy. It’ll be in there somehow, provided we can figure out how to convince Yar Umbra to offer his services in exchange for a femur and a couple of ribs.
As much as we’ve extolled the virtues of the Trading Post-less Uprising Campaign, there are a couple of gangs that really suffer from lack of firepower and utility when limited exclusively to their House Armory. (We’re looking at you, pre-House of Blades Escher.) To combat that, and offer players a little bit of extra oomph at first founding:
- At creation, gangs may spend up to 1200 credits on fighters and equipment. Weapons and Wargear may be sourced from a gang’s House Armory as well as the Trading Post and Black Market, provided the items have a Rarity/Illegality of no more than 10.
At the end of the day, the real trick here is going to be to condense all of these systems into a clear and concise set of rules, baked into the primer in a format that our players can easily access and understand. Turns out, it’s a lot easier to explain these things when you’re allowed to show your reasoning every step of the way, each week!
This isn’t the last you’ll hear from us about Cinco de Necro, though ideally we’ll be able to actually run it before we have to consider re-titling it Feliz Necro-dad. We’ll check back in once we’ve got our Primer finalized, and at least one more time once we finally hold the event. Can’t give too much away just yet – there’s a slim chance that one of our players might read our articles!
Weekenders are a unique experience and a great time for any group, regardless of whether you’re a bunch of perpetual campaign old-hats or a couple of Skirmishers looking for a taste of the real thing. We can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone try to set one up right now, but keep this article in your back pocket and remember to give them a shot one day!
Nine months ago, our mutual friend Rob asked us to “do a quick write-up” on Cinco de Necro for his weird 40k blog. We agreed, on the condition that we could cobble together a few more articles first to actually explain Necromunda to his audience. Well, this is the Cinco article, and nine months later we’re still not done talking about this game!
So swing on through next week as we begin our murky descent into the world of Alliances, their Retinues, and some ways to implement them that isn’t just another temporary burst of Free Stuff. In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions, corrections, or suggestions on topics you’d like to see us cover eventually, feel free to hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook!