Being a Necromunda player, and this article will be very much from that perspective I should note, I went in to this release not so much biased, but definitely prepared to be more critical than most. But even given my degree of expectation control, especially with the post-game sequence having been seemingly behind an iron curtain until the day of the release, I am really pleased with what has come out it.
I personally not only have no issues with this, but in fact the move to 40k Factions makes supporting the game long term more viable as there is no need to generate new models to support it. And the game is no longer just a standalone – you can view it as a supplement to standard 40k without detracting from the core system sales, especially now that it is just a book rather than a costly box set.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the Gang setting, but we know that there is an actual new Necromunda coming later this year, so we will still get that, and there is room for both system.
This is also a replacement for Kill Team, and that is also fine with me as Kill Team was okay but a bit janky and didn’t really work for long term play, which Shadow War will.
But I digress – back to the rules, and they have deviated from Necromunda in a few places, but in each instance it is to stream-line and /or keep within the new setting. And each deviation works – I’ve not encountered anything janky or odd as yet. The two prime examples of this are the Ammo Rolls and the new post-game sequence.
The Ammo system is still there, along with other firms favourites like falling, target nearest enemy, hiding, detecting hidden people, breaking, Overwatch and many, many more. As before, weapon malfunctions occur on a Natural To Hit roll of 6, prompting an Ammo Roll. But now, through simply making the Ammo Roll on 2d6 rather than 1d6, you keep the rule’s flavour, but lower the odds of it happening to better represent the better quality and higher level of maintenance for military issue gear. Though that said, some weapons do have Ammo rolls in the 7s, 8s and 9s, so there are still some to be careful with.
But the biggest overhaul is to the post game sequence, and whilst it may seem drastic to Necromunda veterans, having now experienced it first hand, we all found that it worked well and made sense thematically and mechanically
Experience is out. Instead, after every game, you can choose ONE model who took part in the mission you just played and who is not a New Recruit (The new Juves if you will) to make an advancement roll. New Recruits can earn the right to become eligible if they survive 3 games – in some Factions, promoting recruits also upgrades their gear – Eldar Guardians effectively become Dire Avengers upon promotion.
Now at first I thought only being able to advance a single model each time would be dull, but given the many tales, and own personal experiences, of campaigns that have ended up with gangs at either end of the ratings scale spiralling out of control – the winners got all the more powerful and the losers just got trampled harder and harder – this looks a good way to try and limit that from occurring, death of team members aside of course, by making it so most teams will advance at roughly the same pace.
Also makes people think more about their advancements – do you create a Rambo or two who, whilst effective, will be a huge loss if killed, or do you spread them out for a balanced team, building in redundancy so a lost model is not such a serious issue.
Now it is also possible to earn an advancement of the post-game injury roll, and these are separate for you one selected member getting advanced so you could see more, but the other possible outcomes of the Injury Roll off set the possible bonus.
And Death is still an outcome, although the odds of it occurring are reduced by 50% now. Injury rolls are a D6 roll now, and a 1 may mean death. But now, you roll again – 1-3 is still death, but 4-6 is now Captured, so you have a chance to recover making the odds of Death 1 in 12 as opposed to 1 in 6 as it used to be.
Advancements are still randomly generated, but now when there is a choice between two stat advancement options, giving you more control over your team’s growth so you can better tailor to your factions, and your own, playstyle. Generating a skill is also more in your control, as when pick a table to roll on, you roll 2 dice, rerolling doubles/if you already have both skills rolled, and can pick which skill you’d like.
The 2D6 advancement table is not only slightly less random as a result of the above changes, but is also rebalanced towards getting a skill – a roll of 5-8 is not generate a skill – effectively inverting the old advancement table.
Territories are gone too, replaced with a simply Promethium Cache reward system instead – earn enough and you win. This gives a clear goal for people to work towards, something lacking from Necromunda, which would see campaigns just kind of drag on sometimes unless there was clear group agreed objective in place to aim for. But Caches are not simply victory points though – there are a resource to be careful considered before spending.
Victory is achieved by winning a certain amount of these caches – every gets at least 1 for partaking in a mission, but the winner gets D3 instead. You can also earn them through mission specific objectives, and through taking out Special Operatives, who are akin to the Hired Guns from Necromunda.
The income you earned from territories is now replaced with the Resupply System – every Kill Team gets set amount of credits after each game that can be used to either buy new equipment for current team members or buy a single new team member. Any credits not spent are lost – there is no stash.
And this is the first point where you can use your Promethium Cache VPs as a resource – you can sell a single one after each game during the Resupply Step to get an extra boost of credits. But again – anything unspent is lost.
One thing I found about that last aspect is that it encourages you to try out special gear and new equipment combos that you’d not normally risk – if you’re going to lose any remainder money any way so why not try a Clip Harness or Red Dot Sight, or even new ammo types. It makes experimenting with unusual equipment more enjoyable with the minimised risk.
So, whilst the post-game sequence is very streamlined, it still has you thinking carefully about what you should do as your choices and credits are still limited, as befits a long drawn out military campaign.
Of course, if you need some extra muscle in the short term, you could call on a Special Operative, but they only fight with your Team for you for a single game, and at the cost of one of your precious Promethium Caches. They come exactly as their listing shows, and cannot gain advancements as they do not hang around after the game ends.
Each faction has very thematic choices for Special Operatives, and certainly are no slouches, bringing sheer might or powerful support combo options to your team. But each usually has a down side to you if they are lost, ranging from extra VPs or Promethium Caches for your opponent or possible your team potentially breaking and losing the game there and then.
The theme of the setting and of the factions has been well translated from what I have seen so far, not just from the 3 Kill teams listed in the book (Ork, Marine Scouts and Astra Mill…. Imperial Guard) but the pdf released with Tau, Grey Knights (but no Deathwath…), Tyranids (only for the hardcore gamer I think), Harlequins and more.
But I will cover them in a separate series of posts as there’s too much to do any justice to here.
Instead I want to quickly mention the Skill Tables – the Techno Table is gone! Some of you will have no idea why that is of importance, but many will. Given the changes to the post game sequence, Inventor (which was potentially game breaking – Van Saar players, I am looking at you!) was pointless anyway really. Armourer and Medic do still exist though, under the new Guerilla table which takes Techno’s place. Instead we have Scavenger, which grants the team a boost in credits during the resupply step. Its wording doesn’t state a limit of how many models can generate this boost, so whilst good, because unspent credits are not kept, it’s not game breaking.
As a result, we see some new skills – the Agility Table now has Catch Grenade which immediately sounds fun – and some reworking of classic ones – the Shooting Table now has Ammo Hound which allows a model to re-roll failed ammo rolls – mixed in with classic like Dodge, Headbutt and Disarm.
I noted one other skill that’s no longer about – there is nothing akin to the old Bulging Muscles skill that allowed you to move and fire with Heavy Weapons, albeit with a negative to hit modifier.
But all the skills look to be useful, with nothing appearing especially niche or situational, which is good.
The scenarios included in the book are also straight out the Hive, though the full roster of classic ones are not here – no Shoot Out for instance, though that doesn’t surprise me. But there is no reason you couldn’t play the Shoot Out if you wanted – the comedy value of a High Noon scenario between Tyranids and Necrons alone would be worth it.
You can string them together if you want to build a narrative, or randomly roll for it each game, whatever you wish, and most would work with more than 2 teams, just as with multi-gang fights in Necromunda.
And the same versatility and mutability is there too – you can create a narrative campaign, use a map, play multi-Kill team fights (all on all or team play) and more. And there is no reason you can’t throw in environmental factors or random beasts to spice things up. Hell – go all out, and use some of the new terrain rules from Gathering Strom to fight on Death Worlds or Eldar Maiden Worlds – the box may say Armageddon, but you can easily set your Shadow Wars on any planet. In fact, I would hope that we possible see supplement books down the line that bring in these very rules.
Final thoughts then - where it could have been a respray shoved out the door, there is palpable sense of love and attention having been lavished on this project. The theme is carried well throughout, the changes accomplish much within the new setting, and the core game experience has been maintained - everything we loved about Necromunda is there, whilst playing down or fixing some of the issues with the game.
And it’s a great way to find an excuse to pick up a box set you like the look of but had no other reason to do so. If you are not worried about Special operatives, most Kill Teams can be built using a box, two for Tyranids and Orks. But that’s it. So accruing different gangs will be an easy thing to do for variety, and I am okay with picking up a new one every 3-4 months – that level of ongoing investment is hard to argue with for any system.
I am really looking forward to some Shadow War games in – we are already planning a full campaign once the books are out so we can get more people on board - and hope that the seemingly unexpected surge of interest in the game that GW have experienced will prove a good sign and we will see continued support with new sub factions, scenarios and more besides.
I was going to make a note about the box set but it seems that we won’t see that ever again. Already confirmed however is a new hardback reworking of the rulebook from the box set, which will include all the teams released on PDF before the release, and will also have two new factions – Sisters of Battle and Inquisition – the latter getting people most excited as fielding a retinue style force in Shadow War could open up the way for a basic version of Warhammer Quest for 40k – something I have wanted to see for DECADES!
The one thing I will say though it is this – support GW or your Friendly Local Gaming Store direct – don’t give in the scalpers, who have been working overtime on this release. The more copies sold directly, the better the sales figures and the more likely we will see solid prolonged support for the game.
This is a standalone / supplement worth picking up as its quick and easy to get into, and scales p with any number of players in your group. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and creativity. And the replay is therefore infinite.