Necromunda: Dark Uprising Review18 Nov 2019 0
Necromunda: Dark Uprising Review
Released 16 Nov 2019
In the grim darkness of 1995, there was only Necromunda. It was virtually the lone skirmish game on the scene and it had everything we wanted: looks, immersion, and unrivaled brutality. It played as part Warhammer 40k and part its own thing with rules for territory control, shopping for rare goods, and modifying your gangers with both cybernetics and permanent injuries.
That was a long time ago. After years of silence our screams were answered in 2017 with a return to the subterranean ruins and the release of Necromunda: Underhive. But it's been a bit of a bumpy ride. This new edition was a completely revamped ruleset that was surprisingly contemporary and electric. It featured an alternating activation system that was explicitly not Games Workshop's in-house design style at the time - although we've seen this format now replicated in the fantastic Warcry.
The issues surrounding Underhive stem from a parceled out release schedule. The slow drip of content meant there were only two gangs available at launch, the muscled Goliath and fiery Escher. This meant many fans were missing their favorites and we had to wait many months for the follow-up releases of house Orlock, Cawdor, and Delaque. Combine this stuttered schedule with a smattering of errata and rules issues and it wasn't quite the explosion of a new edition we all hoped for.
But the bones were good. Now the game's been given a new shot to reclaim its past glory, and this one's not holding back. Necromunda: Dark Uprising is a brand new core box that's big enough to cripple a Goliath. It features two all new gangs which clearly sets out expectations that this game is reborn with a fresh direction. The Corpse Grinder Cult is a take on Khorne cultists that don't even realize they're worshiping the Blood God. They have no Chaos icons or symbols, coming across visually as a group of maniacal butchers torn from a horror film. They favor melee and like to get in close and rend their victim's flesh. Lovely.
Perhaps more intriguing - I know, hard to believe - are the Palamite Enforcers. These bring a little bit of Judge Dredd essence to the table, functioning as a local police unit in the hive. They hearken back to the classic Adeptus Arbites many of us fondly remember from Necromunda's original tour, checking off several boxes such as riot shields and batons. Most importantly they tie into this boxed set's narrative of turmoil and the fall of hive Arcos. The included campaign of linked scenarios presents this story as a compelling piece of fiction to form the backdrop of your savage firefights.
But all of that is sort of secondary. The big deal with Dark Uprising is the terrain. This measures up nicely to the fantastic accoutrements provided in the aforementioned Warcry, and actively displays Games Workshop's position as the top producer of configurable 3D terrain.
This set is kind of mind-blowing. It can be used to create walls for the 2D Zone Mortalis style of play, or it can be assembled in a variety of ways to form walkways and gantries for the inhabitants of the hive to spill blood over. The attention to detail is unreal. Standard bases can be wedged ever so slightly into the staircases to grip their position and reduce mishaps. Each story can be stacked and is engineered at the same height as the Sector Mechanicus bulkheads to provide a unified presentation. There's scatter and panels and wiring and all kinds of little quirks to ogle. Finally we have a boxed set with a cluster of terrain that rivals the glory of the cardboard and plastic found in the original.
The joy of assembling these new kits parallels the satisfaction of actually playing. The product is fully aligned to present a big and buff toy for us to rip through and fall in love with all over again. This is clearly a statement for old and new players alike, as this release functions as a huge monolith, an ode to one of Games Workshop's best properties and one that has been fumbled and neglected in recent years.
Dark Uprising completely supersedes the 2017 core set. This has updated rules with errata included and a legit suite of terrain big enough to properly deck out a hive battleground. Some of the most frequent complaints have been a lack of a complete boxed game with a rich terrain offering and Games Workshop has finally provided. The question is whether it's too late?
Coming in at a wild £175 it's a punch to the gut. This pricing structure mimics that of the recent hit Adeptus Titanicus, and make no mistake, this product will sell. But it's a difficult proposition when the market is flooded with skirmish games that seek to capture that same sense of personal drama. This isn't 1995 and we're now at a buffet instead of a breadline.
Games Workshop's own recent wonder Warcry is already a hurdle. This thing plays more rapidly, retains a bold sense of innovation, and comes in at a much lower cost. Overall I do think it's the better design, although it's not Necromunda. It's not gangs studded in leather and spikes, wielding stubbers and scrambling for creds.
The most obvious challenger is Kill Team. This squad-based functions as a smaller scale Warhammer 40k, which is both glorious and concerning. The ruleset is wed to its parent and it feels more stiff and dated as a result. This is a fine game, but it doesn't quite have the iterated and unique mechanisms to measure up to Necromunda.
Core Space is a newcomer from Battlesystems Ltd. that is a stone cold killer. It's a sci-fi skirmisher at a great price, offering a few more RPG-like elements and boasting its own campaign structure. It offers more flexibility as it allows for full cooperative, semi-cooperative, and solitaire play. The terrain here is 3D walls of cardboard and it never extends beyond ground level. This is perhaps the biggest actual threat to Necromunda's success. It's wild and interesting and I'd heartily recommend it. That lack of true 3D elements is a concern though, and for many it's a deal-breaker.
Toss in more hot newcomers such as Hate, Mythic Battles: Pantheon, and Unmatched and it's quite the crowded genre. Necromunda will find a way. It always does. Even when Games Workshop wasn't supporting it and there were 20 years between official releases, people were still playing.
The pull is in the setting. You get a sense of 40k with characters and aesthetic from the Imperium rearing their head, but it also has its own swagger and bold visage. Yes, the cost is bordering on ridiculous but something which needs to be realized is that Games Workshop is interested in presenting their games as the Ferrari of the industry. They're expensive but they look it, and they come with a reputation and personality that you can't easily replicate.
Necromunda: Dark Uprising doubles down on those qualities. It shamelessly presents a huge chunk of plastic to battle atop. The new gangs are not founded solely on nostalgia and they present compelling options for players to engage. This feels like the glorious next chapter we've been waiting for, even if it's going to require a well-planned bank heist to bankroll it.