Warhammer Underworlds is more of a board game than a classic tabletop wargame. However, the opportunity to paint up the handful of miniatures that each "team" consists of is a nice idea, and great for when you want a break in a big project.
Greenskins were my first army in any tabletop wargame, as I formed up ranks upon ranks of identical goblin spearmen from the 4th edition starter box for Warhammer Fantasy Battles. So it was hardly a surprise that I picked up the Orc warband of Ironskull's Boyz as my first purchase.
I wanted to paint a pretty classic colour scheme, and went with a mostly red one. The camera is acting up on me so the pictures look slightly more orangey than they are in real life. Reds and greens generally work well together, and I decided to use white to break up the two colours on the henchmen, and black and blue on their leader. That means that they still look uniform while the main honcho still stands out.
Initially I tried using golds and steel colours instead on various henchmen's armour plates to differentiate them, but that looked really bad. It was a reminder for me that you should not be afraid to go back and adjust your paint scheme if you are not satisfied. With so few models as these you can experiment quite a lot before committing to your colours and do the fine details.
I wanted the leader to stand out from the rest, so instead of a plain cape I gave him a ragged flag, taken from some unfortunate victim of his crew. This was a reminder of how little I practice freehand! The phone camera also acted up a lot for me, so I ended up getting a grey sheet of cardboard for a background instead of the black I used before. It helped a lot.
Hakka, Basha and Bonecutta
These three gentlemen got similar painting schemes, but with some different details to keep them interesting.
On Basha here I tried a slightly different skin colour, toning from green to an almost human flesh. It worked OK I guess? Still not sure if I prefer it to an all green look or not.
Even though I haven't been able to get a first game in yet, I picked up a new warband at my local game store this week. This time it will be a hunting ogre and his cat companion, as well as some tiny greenskins that might be assistants, might be bait, or maybe just portable snacks? Who knows! I can totally see these warbands becoming addictive.
Back in the 90's, I mostly played Warhammer Fantasy and 40K. But as an avid White Dwarf reader, I would pour over the battle reports and new releases of the other games, so Space Hulk, Epic, Man O War and Battlefleet Gothic all made their mark even though I didn't play them.
One game that I especially liked the look of, but never got around to, was Necromunda. So when the suggestion came up to try out Games Workshop's re-release of the game, I was very easy to persuade.
If you haven't played it, Necromunda is a game where you play a small gang (about a dozen minis at most) that scrapes by in the deadly underbelly of a huge Spire city in the 40K universe. I really liked the idea of a miniature game that was so close to a roleplaying game, since I was also played a lot of RPGs with my friends back then. So while I never got to play Necromunda in the 90's, let's see how the re-release turned out!
With several boxes available, I went to my local game store and picked up a starter gang for Escher, the all-female gang that specializes in poisons, toxins and similar dirty tricks.
The new Necromunda range is based on gang boxes and a few add-ons in plastic, combined with a bunch of extra minis and weaponry sets released in resin by Forgeworld, a part of Games Workshop.
The good thing is that each plastic box sets you up with a rather affordable start for your gang. The unfortunate part is the box has a certain set of weaponry, while some popular options are only available in the rather expensive resin kits. For example, since I wanted a single plasma gun for my gang, I had to buy a weaponry set which costs as much as the entire gang, which includes a lot of stuff that I don't see myself actually use. The Escher starter box also doesn't include any heavy weapons at all, again sending you off to those weaponry sets. Based on what I've read, some starting boxes are more prone to this than others.
The actual miniatures are nice, with the "new" GW style where they have abandoned the extreme multi-pose options to get more dynamic poses than the old squatting, arms to the sides look. One word of warning: I didn't notice how hard it is to align the heads properly with the necks. The potential gaps turned out to be extremely obvious up close once painted. I'm used to most miniatures allowing quite a lot of lee-way with posing heads, so I'll be sure to be more careful next time.
Another big difference from the 90's is the sheer amount of details on these plastic miniatures. It has some pro's and cons, as the extra details makes the minis take far longer to paint and will also mess up your colour scheme if you planned it based on the older, much more straight forward miniatures.
Making My Escher Gang
You have a lot of options when making a gang, including how to equip each member. This can feel a bit daunting when you haven't played any games yet and have no idea what is reasonable or not.
I used the Goonhammer blog's Escher article as a starting point, and also googled for what other people had written about them. I didn't want to just make an optimal list though, so I used that information combined with building some models that I just liked the look of. My starting gang only used 9 of the 10 included minis, so I saved one for future recruitment or alternative load-outs if my gang found some nice weaponry later on.
I went with a rather 90's painting scheme, heavy on yellows and pinks. There's a bunch of turquoise in there as well, though some of it came off as white due to the lighting when taking photographs. They didn't come out exactly as I planned, again due to the huge amount of extra details and stuff that made the scheme look a bit more messy than I hoped. But as my first foray into sci-fi miniatures in ages, I'm pretty happy with them. Especially now that I have a gang that's ready for the tabletop
A Necromunda gang comes with specialist like leaders, champions and juves, and the more generic gangers that back them up. For the first group I decided to vary their hair colours as a simple way to tell them apart, mixing white, striped or turquoise hair colours. Armed with plasma guns, combi-needler, plasma pistols or dual pistols, they will be the focus of the narrative of the gang as they gain skills from experience and find new, deadlier weaponry or useful equipment.
Click for larger pics
The gangers play a secondary role, beefing up the gang but without the same personality. To easily tell them apart I gave them all pink hair, and most of them carry lasguns which the Eschers can buy at a discounted rate. They'll stay back and fire at long range, hopefully making it hard for the more melee oriented gangs to get in close and personal.
With the Escher freshly painted, I've picked up a starter box for the sneaky Delaque gang. But there are more releases for the Escher in the future, and I'm sure I'll add some more later on to allow for new weapon load-outs and equipment.
As a club that mainly play historical game, we'll also need to get some suitable terrain for our gangs. Luckily I backed the Deadzone kickstarter years ago, so I have all that terrain available. Maybe a quick summer project? Games Workshop has also released quite a lot of nice looking terrain that is suitable.
Childhood Nostalgia and Games Workshop
While historical games have been the main focus at our club, and these blogs, I must confess that historical wargames were not my first true tabletop wargaming love. Like many fellow wargamers growing up in the 90's, my hobby journey started by dabbling with roleplaying games and buying the odd Grenadier or Ral Partha miniature at the hobby store. That is, until the day that a young Jonas pooled his savings, went on a pilgrimage to the hallowed Tradition store in Gothenburg, and bought his very own first real tabletop wargame: The Warhammer Fantasy Battles 4th edition starter set.
Filled to the brim with monopose goblins and elves, these minis would go on to battle on floorboards and dining tables for many years. Gradually the cardboard cut-out monsters in the box were replaced by metal wyverns and catapults, poor bastards who kept falling apart due to my sadly completely lacking knowledge about how to even pin the heavy pieces together.
My Warhammer Fantasy minis were soon accompanied by Warhammer 40K and monthly allowances were eagerly converted into cruel Goblins, noble Eldar and slimy Tyranids. I also remember buying an uncanny number of White Dwarfs and army lists, as both me and my friends kept scrambling from army to army, unable to collect a single cohesive force. There was just too much cool stuff to get from all the various ranges! Even if we dipped into other tabletop games like Battletech or Warzone, Warhammer was the looming meltagun-armed titan that overshadowed all other options whenever I stepped into the gaming shop.
Oh How the Mighty Fell
Gradually, me and my friends shifted away from Warhammer as we grew older. Card games, especially Magic, were more accessible and could easily be carried around and played everywhere. At university I ended up with more roleplayers than wargamers in my group of friends, which kept my gaming diet lead-free.
But as years went by, I felt the itch to pick up painting miniatures again. As an adult I had an advantage in both funds and focus compared to my young teenager self which enabled me to actually paint units and not just collect a bunch of poorly half-painted blister packs from various armies. The numerous wargaming forums and websites made the hobby much more accessible than ever before.
The boom in historical miniatures around 2010 or so became my starting point: I'd collect a Warhammer Empire army, but with samurai miniatures! After many months of buying and painting I was ready for my first couple of games at the local club, a bold return to the worlds of Games Worshop.
And just then, Warhammer turned to shit.
If you are into the game you can probably guess about when this was. If you are not, the short story is that Games Workshop kind of lost the plot as a company for a while and made a string of increasingly bad design and business decisions, culminating in scrapping Warhammer Fantasy entirely without really knowing what to replace it with. But that was just one of many bad turns on GW's part that made me completely discard the idea of caring about their games anymore. I redirected my attention to historical games entirely, and didn't look back.
Until now, that is.
A Return to Gee-Dubs
My reason for giving Games Workshop attention again for the first time in almost six years is not their main games, Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40K. On the contrary, their most interesting output nowadays comes from their side games, or "boxed games" as they call them. The very kind of stuff that their Specialist Games were doing before they were axed in The Dark Age of Bad Workshop. Those days seems to be coming back, and this year I plan to build and paint models for at least two of them.
Necromunda - A Tour to the Underhive
I always loved reading about Necromunda in White Dwarf as a kid. Even though me and my friends never bought the game, the idea of scrappy skirmish fights between dystopian gangs in the sordid underbelly of the Warhammer 40K world really caught my imagination. These were not the stalwart Space Marines, but the struggles of the worst humanity had to offer. Like, really the worst:
Necromunda is a skirmish game with a huge emphasis on campaigns. The main selling point is that it lets you follow a set of low-life thugs struggle at the literal grimy bottom of 40K society, evolving as a gang in the Underhive with both wins and losses, crippled limbs and illicitly bought experimental weapons, and maybe the occasional encounter with riot police or horribly mutated beasts.
Games Workshop re-released Necromunda recently and the miniatures look great. With most gangs fielding 8-10 miniatures, you can really spend some effort on painting them without ending up with a huge project on your hands.
After some discussion at the club I ended up buying a box of Escher, the poison-crazy 80's fashionistas of the game, as well as a box of Delaque, the stealthy mysterious types. I'll post the gangs as soon as I have painted them, and hopefully we'll see some thematic terrain as well. Buying and painting two gangs seems like a great way to both enable variety as a player and allowing for other people to dip into a campaign without being pressured to collect a gang of their own.
In this case, the pure nostalgia of "the game that got away" combined with the nice miniatures and the small model count of a gang made it easy to convince me to jump in.
If Necromunda is a well-known concept, Underworlds might require a bit more of an introduction if you haven't given attention to Games Workshop lately. But there are a few reasons why it might be worth your time.
The game is a mix of a board game, a miniature game and a deck building card game. You play with warbands that are set in stone, consisting of a handful of very specific models. These fight on a board, and you use a deck of card to play things like victory points and special actions. So the customization is in the deck, not an army list, and each warband comes with both their own unique cards and generic cards that can be used by any warband.
The second slightly confusing thing is that the game has "cycles", like many collectible card games. So every now and then they change the name of the game, and older warbands are gradually rotated out of production. So the current set of warbands are sold under the banner of Beastgrave, while the first ones were called Shadespire and Nightvault. But it's the same game.
The main draw for me with Underworlds is the design of the warbands miniatures. Most of them ooze of personality and they have often a lot of variation within the warband too. With each warband being a self-contained project for less than 20 quid, it's something you can pick up and paint in a week if you set your mind to it. This is great for trying out new painting technique and paint schemes, or simply to experience painting a few goblins without signing up to painting their four hundred cousins afterwards. If the game turns out to be fun as well, that's just an added bonus.
Starting out I'm painting the first released Orcs warband, Ironskull's Boyz. I bought the Beastgrave starting set too, and after giving the Beastmen away to incite more players I ended up with the half-faun, half-elf warband in it. I'd be surprised if this doesn't lead to me getting some more warbands too, especially as some of the latest releases have looked interesting.
A New Beginning
Who knows where all this nostalgic resurgence at the club will end. There are dark wispers of dusty armies stirring in their boxes after decades of sleep. Chaotic energies glow darkly as tattered banners rise once more for battle.
With the impact that these worlds had on us in our formative years, I think we simply have to admit that our interest in them never die. They just go to sleep, dreaming of the next time that the stars will align and Games Workshop will crank out good stuff again.