Posted On March 3, 2023
The crew of the Blackraven rides again, and this time they are riding with a classic. We’re stepping back into the ranks of the Oldhammer bros with a few games using the venerable 40k Mk 2 engine. The early 1990s Necromunda was one of the best products G-Dubs ever released, and it has been a breath of fresh air putting it back on the table.
Not just because my terrain is better than ever, but because the game flows so smoothly. It’s an IGOUGO system, but with just four to six figures per side and a turn order that forces you to perform all movement at once, the game just snaps along with a crispness that alternating activation systems lack.
This mirrors my experience with a return to AD&D. Initiative by side gets a bad rap these days, with a reputation for causing long periods of waiting on the part of the non-active player. That may be true for massive table games like 40k Mk IX, but for swift little skirmishes there just aren’t enough figures to cause long delays in participation.
Maybe my brain was just wired this way by cutting my wargame teeth in the 1980s. Whatever the reason, I’m finding this RETVRN a delightful reminder of what first drew me into the hobby.
These guys are the first opposition force, and though they be from PicoArmor, they make wonderful proxies in 15mm for an Orlock gang. At this scale you lose a bit of the visual distinction between juves and leaders and gangers, but you do still have that heavy gunner looking intimidating with his big stubber or autocannon.
This isn’t the first time we’ve revisited this classic in the House of Wargaming. Nine years ago, my two eldest children played in a short three-way campaign with me. That was another example of using what you’ve got to play an OOP game. We called it Pocketmunda, and took inspiration from around the wargame blogosphers for it. This time is a little different, as I am gutting the engine and using only those parts of the system that make sense within the context of the Blackraven. Wound tracking, for example, can be used as-is.
The campaign rules are more Milestone than XP based, and our crew uses the skill lists that make sense for each character. For example, our Magic Space Baby is technically classed wyrd, but as his powers are more psionic nature, he doesn’t face the threat of possession. A blown activation of his powers might still hurt, but I only use the single 1d6 STR hit. As a non-combatant, he rolls on the Stealth list for skills whenever he earns a power-up. And that happens faster than I thought, because the ‘hallucinogen’ power hits hard.
To add some fun and maintain a consistent setting, we’re using the one provided in John Lambshead’s Sci-Fi Skirmish Scenarios. The Sprawl clearly takes a lot of inspiration from Necromunda, but adds in corporate espionage and a heavy security presence in the form of the Proctors. Here are mine:
It’s been a lot of fun to cobble together a hybrid system that incorporates the best of narrative and rules-based campaigning. If you are looking for a simple skirmish system that plays clean you could do a lot worse than this venerable classic.