As board game-inspired videogames go, nothing is quite like Games Workshop. From the real time strategy series Dawn of War to the high fantasy world of Blood Bowl football, they’ve been a steady force within the videogame realm for decades now. My own experience dates back to HeroQuest and Space Hulk in the early nineties, and in recent years I’ve also started playing some of the board games that inspired these titles. Not having played a new title in a while, I decided to look back to some of the board games Games Workshop released in 2017 and look forward to what’s coming next. Because of the length of this feature, we decided to split in three parts – here’s part one, which focuses on Necromunda: Underhive.
As is the case for many Games Workshop titles, Necromunda: Underhive is a newly released game which has its roots in a previous version – in this case, Necromunda from 1995. A spin-off from Warhammer 40,000, Necromunda: Underhive feels a little bit like the seedy and dark atmosphere we see in the Vermintide videogames combined with the post-industrial feel and gang based dynamics of the Mad Max universe. It’s very much skirmish/battle-oriented, and the base set comes with two very different gangs to play with: the female warriors from House Escher and the brutes from House Goliath – who look like they would do well in a game of Blood Bowl as well.
There is quite a bit of set up time required for Necromunda, because besides assembly of the miniatures there is also quite a bit of scenery to put together. The miniatures alone have multiple components and can be put together in multiple configurations, so there’s a lot of fun to be had with that. It’s labor and time-intensive though, especially if you’re also keen on painting everything to give it the look you desire. Out of the box, everything’s a grey plastic and it’s easy to see all the meticulous details that are on there – I’ve seen other hobbyists create beautiful work with these already and I wish I had their creative knack.
Playing a game of Necromunda can be a little overwhelming at first. Of course there’s the extensive set up phase, but that’s par for the course with nearly all big box titles from Games Workshop. Being more gang-focused, however, also means that rounds of Necromunda play out on a smaller scale than some of the other Games Workshop titles – which allows for a lot more detail and focus on the skirmish battles you engage in. This translates to plenty of rules and dice rolls, and plenty of referring to the manual as well. You roll the dice to attack and try to hit someone, but then there’s another roll to determine how badly you hit them. Similarly, you’ll roll to discover whether or not your gun has jammed or run out of ammo, so there’s quite a few rolls and rules with no way to simplify things. Don’t worry, it gets easier the more you play and after a while we stopped thinking about it.
That’s probably mostly due to the Gang War expansion set that’s available, which gives you the opportunity to play several games/rounds of Necromunda that all blend together as part of a larger campaign. Damage done and riches gained in one game carry over to the next one, and games get even more interesting if you’ve set up your terrain with multi-storey structures to take advantage of height differences.
It’s the expansion that really brought the game to life for me, creating a role playing game-like sensation that makes the game live on beyond single rounds – thinking about how you’ll get revenge the next time you play, or take out that one particular gang member that’s been particularly nasty to you. It’s time-intensive to play this way and it helps to have people you regularly play with, but Necromunda can be a great role playing experience and thus has a way of making you forget about the otherwise somewhat convoluted dice rolling mechanics.
With its emphasis on world building and role playing, I always though Necromunda would make for a great videogame. Lucky for me, Focus Home Interactive currently has Necromunda: Underhive Wars in development! Very little is known at this time and we haven’t seen the game in action yet, but perhaps this will change during E3 or Gamescom. Either way, the title suggests to me that the base board game (Necromunda: Underhive) might be mixed with the campaign-oriented approach of the Gang War expansion. That would be excellent news and Focus Home has already demonstrated they are quite capable of converting Games Workshop material into videogames with Blood Bowl and Battlefleet Gothic.