The Loaded Dice Table Talks - Page 4

Oct 10th, 2017 by Riel Richard

Dave "McCragge" Graham

When the release of 3rd Edition for Warhammer 40K came out, many patron gamers felt left out from the new direction of the game. With the momentum of the 40K universe showing great potential, the significant changes to rules structure, as well as the streamlining of certain rules aspects, displayed the game's marketing being shifted towards a younger audience. Dave Graham, a 2nd Edition player who felt marginalized by the new direction of the rules, had been gaming within the 40K universe since it's inception in the late eighties, and took a real shining to the previous rules instalment as well as Necromunda, which shared much of the same game mechanics.

David "McCragge" Graham rockin' out in his Games Room.

"I started playing Necromunda the day it hit shelves. I bought it right up. I had been playing table top wargaming with an actual gaming group during the Rogue Trader era. So I have been with 40K pretty much since the beginning. I never did Fantasy, although I have always wanted to give it a go, but I like the sci-fi elements much better. It pretty much started when I went to my local hobby store one day and I wanted something different then fantasy models and I came across an Ork Battlewagon box. I was like "What the heck is this box of pure awesomeness?" I didn't know what it was or for, but I bought it, and a friend of mine told me about Rogue Trader, Orks and all that. From that day on I was obsessed with getting my hands on all the 40K Orks as I could. During my time playing Necromunda I was also playing a ton of 2nd Edition 40K, and playing tournaments at the local game store. I also started painting professionally for Black Orc Games, specifically their Hundred Kingdoms game. I collected tons and tons of miniatures from other games, but never had the time to play them because 2nd Edition and Necromunda took most of my time".

Dave Graham

Graham's love for 40K gaming caused him to use his web development talents to offer an online home for players wanting to discuss 2nd Edition 40K and all things related to those rules. Of course, this included Necromunda.

The website is Eastern Fringe, and working under the forum moniker McCragge, Dave Graham provided disenfranchised veteran players a place to talk about 2nd Edition. While Necromunda was an instant addition to his collection, McCragge remained more of a 40K gamer, and that was what Eastern Fringe had initially been targeted for. It was because of his hive dwelling friends that the forums became host for what quickly became the nexus of online Necromunda discussion.

"It might be a bit disappointing, but Eastern Fringe was born from the angst of 3rd Edition. It all started (as all stories do) with 2nd Edition and the transition to 3rd. I loved 2nd Edition 40K, it had it's problems to be sure, and we were hoping they would be addressed in 3rd Edition 40k. But sadly they were not and a bunch of other problems came about to our beloved game, making it feel like we were thrown aside and forgotten - all to grab the kiddies and make as dumbed-down a version as possible, or at least that is how it seemed at the time. I came across a forum called Rogue Trader Heresy and I decided that I needed to do something to preserve the game we love, so I created "Heart of the Heresy". The main discussions were everything Rogue Trader and 2nd Edition, including Necromunda which still uses 2nd Edition rules. After a time, Rogue Trader Heresy shut down and most of those people came over to Heart of the Heresy. A close personal friend of mine, Truckler, suggested we move HotH off a free site and on to our own domain. However, at this point he was really into Necromunda, and I was starting to move on to other games. I wanted the new forum to be a place where people can discuss all sorts of miniature gaming and not just GW stuff. So we decided to rename it (I never really liked HotH) and give it an homage to Rogue Trader with the name Eastern Fringe; an area of the galaxy just outside Imperial influence, a reckless, lawless place where people were free to express their miniature enthusiasm of their choice".

The new name seemed quite fitting: still within the universe, but on the outside edge beyond the direct support of the "Imperium". But it certainly did not represent a group of gamers bad-mouthing the work of Games Workshop, as the 'Fringe was more a gathering of players more fond of a no longer supported rules edition, with obvious inclusion of Necromunda.

The 'Fringe became pretty focal to the Necromunda online scene in the mid 2000's after the Specialist Games forums became defunct. This was shortly after the release of the Living Rulebook in 2003, which is often read as a rushed publication - where problems in both the writing and changes to the game's mechanics rose from the very incomplete status of the final product. Left with echoed sentiments of the 2nd Edition 40K fans, Necromunda fans soon found that the Eastern Fringe was the arena the game needed to be adopted by the global player base so that the kinks in the rules could be ironed out.

"There was a significant amount of player driven action in the Necromunda community on the EFF (Eastern Fringe Forums) so it is hard to nail it down to just a few, but number one off the top is hands down Truckler. If it wasn't for him, there would be no EFF or Necromunda section [on the forums]. Other significant contributors are (in no particular order) shiver85, Danger Mouse, Goobahfish, Caelwyn, and of course Ant aka Anthony Case... I am not entirely sure the EFF stepped in to take the helm of Necromunda. At least that was never an intention or goal of the EFF. It just sorta happened and was player/EFF member driven and not something we actively pursued as Admin/Owner of the EFF. Although we certainly didn't discourage it".

Eastern Fringe quickly became a central hub for internet discussion of Necromunda, though it wasn't necessarily the intent of McCragge from the beginning. Although the 'Fringe was of its own domain and sported advertising on the site, it was never a money making endeavour, nor did it spark much legal confrontation from Games Workshop or other intellectual property holders. Which at times can be a bit surprising given the separation of content focus for both 40K and Necromunda, as the site represented a new found independent ownership of the games with fan rules and game developments outside the scope of the proprietary developers. Break-up periods can often get nasty, but in the case of Eastern Fringe and its members there was never any hostile legal action towards the repossession of rules developments - in this specific case for Necromunda - from GW and into the hands of the game's fan base.

During what could have easily been times where it seemed like there was an extensive supply of great ideas with no real reign of officiation (lets just call it the potential "Age of Strife"), in the second half of the 2000's Eastern Fringe saw a complete grassroots community overhaul of the Necromunda rules with the Necromunda Rules Review. Problems were addressed, new approaches were pitched, and play testing occurred all across the globe before 'Fringers would log back in and ultimately make their own changes to the rules based on what they'd determined. It all seems rather scientific, and resulted in unified community house rules, where the EFF was the house.

"I don't really know the time table on this, it was sorta like a snowball that just grew and grew. Honestly it sorta surprised even me to be honest... I was never out to make EFF out to be a super giant, just a place where everyone knows your name sorta place... As far as making money off the EFF, it has never been about that, I have always paid out of pocket. It is a hobby and labor of love. I had tried to make up some of the money back with Google ads, but I decided instead I would use the Google Ad money to fund Painting Contest rewards".

The Eastern Fringe was certainly not the only forum on the internet where Necromunda was being discussed and rules fixes were being proposed after the game began losing support from Games Workshop, but it is certainly one of few to have survived. Having personally gotten into Necromunda around the fall of 2010, the internet offered a handful of ghost town forums catered directly to the game, with larger forums like WarSeer and DakkaDakka offering very occasional discussions on the topic within their focus on the larger 40K universe.

Before David Knife created Yakromunda under the user name Malo, the Eastern Fringe was often the sole Necromunda forum with a consistent pulse. Part of the activity keeping the boards alive was the creation of a free online RPG capturing the flavour of Necromunda, Deadlands 3000.

"A member of the EFF "Mortishroom" created this awesome browser game that, for a brief time, blew up the EFF and had the majority of us hooked on it. Sadly Mort took it down for whatever reason. But it got me thinking, maybe I can do something similar, but instead of a space war game, I could make it based off of Necromunda. So I started working on a rudimentary game called "Underhive" and it was quite popular. Popular enough I had to hire a programmer to help me, and is now my partner in both the EFF and Deadlands 3000. He is "Pertyboy" on the EFF. Anyway, the game was getting a fair bit of popularity to it, and while I started it out as a fun little project I was worried that it might cause issues with IP and stuff. So I changed the games name to Deadlands 3000 and changed the premise from being underground, to post apocalyptic. More of a Fallout, Mad Max type game, but still keeping the gang action. The game is a retro style game meant to be played casually...while at work or bored. That too is a labor of love and more of a hobby at this point".

It's hard to imagine that McCragge still managed to find time to paint, collect, and roll dice while managing a web forum and an indie video game, but he was able to be a very active gamer. I asked him a few more questions about his Necromunda gaming, which shamelessly included asking for him to divulge his preferred play tactics and opinions on whether Lasguns should still be red.

"I used to have an extensive collection of miniatures, and like all the cliches, it was lost to the ages. However I am regaining and rebuilding with new games and miniatures. I think my biggest strength in the hobby is mini painting. As I mentioned earlier I was hired as a mini painter for Black Orc Games. I used to sell a lot of my painted minis on Ebay, and I have pics of most of my work on Cool Mini or Not - I was one of the first to find and contribute to that site. My favorite gang has always been the Orlocks. I really don't know why, but I like their look and style. Kind of like an 80's style gang feel I suppose... My Orlock gang colors where Black and Blue, cause that's what you would be if you messed with my boys! As far as lasgun colors LOL, I tried to make them have a Necro feel, something found in the Underhive. However Plasma Pistols, now those have got to be red LOL... My play style was developed based on the mini's that came in the boxed set versus all the advice and articles in White Dwarfs and on the net. Basically, my philosophy was screw heavies, don't need them, and for Juves, I wouldn't take them in my starting gang, however I would only take Juves to replace gangers. My gang was the biggest in my gaming group with a huge 13 total members. My leader would have the special weapon, (plasma gun I believe, or maybe it was a pistol) and Chainsword, followed by 4 Snipers armed with 2 lasguns and 2 Autoguns. Their job was to over watch the battlefield and take shots of opportunities. I had 2 more with shotguns. Their job was to stay near the bottom or access points of my snipers to keep any enemy at bay and protect the snipers. The rest where armed with varying pistols and knives and where the assault forces. With such a large gang, Bottling out was rarely an issue".

A veteren gamer, McCragge still belongs to an active gaming group (they probably just call him "Dave" there).

"I do indeed still play miniature games. However, I don't play any GW games at this time. Right now my obsession is DUST Battlefield. It plays a lot like 2nd Edition 40k (And no wonder: Andy Chambers helped write the rules). I also have a page on Facebook that follows my gaming exploits "Dave's Game Room" I post pics of all the different games we play there. Although answering all these questions has made me want to break out the Necro gangs and give it another go with my current gaming group".

Convincing veteran Necromunda players to return to the game and for new players to pick it up rank pretty darn high on my list of what I like best about rolling dice in the underhive. Let's hope that there are pictures for a couple Gang Fights going up on Dave's Game Room Facebook page sometime soon...