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THE LOADED DICE TABLE TALKS

Discussion in 'Hive Lore and Background' started by Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015.

  1. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    First announced in White Dwarf magazine in September 1995, with the official release occurring that October, Necromunda is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Twenty years, and the last ten occurring without any major support from Games Workshop, who created the game. Despite having an age older than many retired tabletop games and a significant time spent off shelves, Necromunda thrives in the seedy depths of the internet and gaming clubs; under the radar of the majority of tabletop gaming enthusiasts, and remembered fondly in a past tense frame of perspective by many others, the game is still celebrated and played by many who savour the unique blend of tabletop wargaming and role playing games. Old enough to be a celebrated “has been”, but contrarily the game has grown. Changed. Not into something unrecognizable of its first incarnation – there have been direct efforts to avoid this – but updated and upgraded into a more modern offering of itself. By the players.

    A bit of an anomaly for this reason, Necromunda has outlived its shelf life and has probably done so as a result of some hideous Scavvy-like mutated side affect, caused undoubtedly by the amount of sump chemicals the game's patron players have ingested while in the hobby. Not many other tabletop games see the type of community support that Necromunda has received for all these years, which can perhaps be viewed as a double-edged Chainsword of sorts: orphaned for profiteering business decisions, the game received no official support or tact, but from this a new community ownership and pride rose from the collapsed domes and seedy corners of the underhive. While it's parenting Warhammer 40K universe receives a significant amount of rules and lore concocted by the fan base, these unofficial fan-made supplements often get marginalized and swept under the rug because the game is still thriving and supported by the company that has produced it. In the case of Necromunda however, the community input and fan rules take centre stage: players from every corner of the globe and every House in the spire come together to keep an ever expanding rules set updated, tested, and refined. Twenty years later and here on YakTribe Gaming, Necromunda is played by over 700 registered users and a great many non registered players, the number of which I can't possibly come up with given my lack of any major or minor Wyrd powers. Let's say like 46. That's over 746 Necromunda gamers, collectors, hobbyists and aficionados who have refused to let the game die.

    The entire thought of all this made me quite impressed, and I wondered how things must have been when the game was just being released. The majority of spires were likely mere mole-hills by comparison to their current towering sizes – I can only imagine how much scaffolding would have been required. But I wanted to find out more about the game in its earlier stages, to see where it all started and how it progressed through the years into what it is today. In a discussion I had with @nooker about talking to some of the game's more prominent personalities from yesteryear, I decided I would scrounge the corners of the world wide web to find some people who would know the answers to these sorts of things. To my utmost surprise, not only was I able to get responses from the people I talked to, they were genuinely interested in waxing nostalgia and sharing some of their stories on why they love being hive dwellers like the rest of us. Over the last few months I have been privileged enough to be able to talk to Rick Priestley, Andy Chambers, David Graham, and Anthony Case about Necromunda, and hope you all enjoy their wonderful insights that I am able to share with you here. The Loaded Dice Table Talks. Shit yeah.
     
    #1 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  2. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    As far as searches in the underhive for the grizzled scummers that had been there long before I showed up, it was nothing short of striking Archeotech - hell maybe even throw in a Mung Vase that you just sold for double sixes times ten credits – to be able to talk shop with Rick Priestley about what the game means to him. The mere notion of talking to Necromunda's chief designer and the at-the-time studio manager of Games Workshop had me shaking with excitement; I damned near needed a Skull Chip to sort myself out. I wanted to ask Rick questions about not only what types of approaches he took to game design, but also what he liked about being a gamer. Why he loved rolling dice and moving miniatures around a board just like the rest of us. Of course, with a friendly charm Rick let me know that being a game designer isn't all comfortable leather chairs, dapper smoking jackets, and endless gaming time. Looks like I failed my Initiative re-roll and exhausted that Skull Chip first game of the campaign. “Because all of the creative work and gaming was focused on making new products - of which there were quite a lot and not just Necromunda - playing games beyond the development phase would be rare for me - so I'm afraid most of my experiences will be about the development and presentation of the game rather than playing it post-release. By the time any game was released at GW in the 1990's the games designers and sculptors would be up to our elbows in the next big game and various army book or board game projects. As the studio manager as well as chief designer I'd have to look after everybody as well as head up the development on the key projects. It was an exciting time - but we were always pressing forward on the next new thing!” I appreciated his use of "exciting" as a description of the pace, I would likely have called it chaotic or nightmarish. With conversation beginning to open up well, I got a little more comfortable into the Q&A process with Mr. Priestley, and was able to get some great responses about how Necromunda came to be...

    “When I briefed Necromunda I took some of the work that had been done for the – by then defunct – Confrontation project and started again. The only things we used as I remember were the overall ‘hive’ concept plus some artwork and specifically some names – which gave the change some sense of continuity and consistency within the 40K background”. Given the flavour from Confrontation and the ingredients from Warhammer: 40K, Rick and his team began cooking up a new skirmish game. Rick created the artistic and conceptual side of the individual gangs and fleshed them out by tailoring rules to their unique style of play, which were then brought to life by the artists and sculptors. “[T]hey were written as background first and models and rules were designed to fit within the central ideas for each gang. Jez [Goodwin] in particular did a lot to give a visual image to the gangs he worked on. .. Of the all the designers Jez was probably the only one who took a serious interest in the development of the imagery and iconography as well as the backgrounds... Jez was very focused on the backgrounds and worlds we were creating - even if he had no interest in the gaming side as such. He did a lot of great work on all the ranges he sculpted and was a genuinely creative partner when it came to the ideas, backgrounds and imagery for all of the games I worked on... The gangs are based on archetypes – Cawdor are the base type, then the others are tough and bit ‘Dwarfy’, fast, elegant and a bit ‘Elfy’ and so on. The idea was that each has a distinct character that is reflected in its style of play and model design. That’s just basic faction design really... I don’t think Necromunda introduced anything new [in terms of introducing game mechanics or play structure] – it just did a lot of good things very well – benefiting from the experience of 40K and various other game systems that went before it. It was a good synthesis of mechanics”.

    Beyond his surgical understanding of tabletop game mechanics, Rick even shined nostalgia and humoured me on how the physical look of Necromunda – and the 40K universe – has evolved in the last two decades. When I asked him if he ever missed lasguns being red and hive-dome floors being green, he was immediate to reply “Mine still are!”. A gamer at heart, even with the ridiculous work schedule of constantly creating new games and working on rules Rick was able to roll the dice, and sometimes even travel to do so: “[As for Necromunda], I don’t recall ever playing it beyond the studio – although we had quite a good set-up and people did play in the evenings and weekends even... I did go to Holland to take part in a tournament for Warmaster – and I’ve played games in the USA and Europe – though I don’t think I went specifically to do that!”. Rick's fire for gaming has been anything but contained to salad days of Necromunda, as he now co-owns Warlord Games. But even before Bolt Action and the other historical miniatures games he made with Warlord, Rick's goal for Necromunda would ultimately be cut short.

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    Rick seen at a gaming store in the earlier days of his gaming career. Phot credit realmofchaos80s.blogspot.ca

    I asked Rick if he ever found that the containment of Necromunda's setting within the lower tiers of a hive structure cramped the marketability of the game, and if the company ever wanted to include Xenos races in the game beyond the drastically mutated/ cybernetically enhanced. “[C]reating a specific undercity in which to set the game was all part of giving it a very specific geography of its own, separate to the hive itself. Similarly, it enabled me to build a specific world, part of the Imperium but with its own character and culture. There was a certain pressure to include rules for Orks, Eldar, Space Marines, etc within the context of Necromunda, and I think that did sneak in later on, but to me that just seemed counterproductive and not at all true to the backstory”. Sidelined by the larger and more profitable Warhammer: 40000, Necromunda had once been sculpted as the jump off for skirmish-level games for a whole host of settings within the 40K universe.

    “It’s worth talking about the fact that Necromunda was part of an intended series of games that would use the same mechanic in different settings to explore the wider 40K universe. This included an Eldar Craft World, A Knight World (Mechanicus and Eldar), A Death World type of affair (Catachan), and so on. The only one we got to do was Gorka Morka – which was a rushed development that was imposed upon the studio very late in the day and hugely mismanaged by the GW sales and manufacturing – after which the rest of the series was scrapped”. With a thriving community support for Rick's creation, Necromunda has had work done on a Commoragh version of Necromunda, and countless other fan rules have been hosted – and made – here on the YakTribe site. “[It's] nice to know that some of my original ambitions have been realised by the fan base :).

    Long since independent of Games Workshop, with Warlord Games Rick has been able to not only focus on his passion of historical miniatures games but also continue his work in the skirmish-level science fiction arena. “I have of course continued with games of similar scope, and my current project with Warlord games – Beyond the Gates of Antares – is also worth a mention in that context.... Necromunda just used the developed version of the WH40K rules – it was part of the family so to speak – and the advantage of familiarity for us and for players was considerable. It was a bit clunky – D6 driven representative systems are going to be clunky - but the system was intuitive and play was potentially tense because of the number of stages. The number of stages in the resolution evens out the odds in the long run – so there are advantages. Antares – being D10 based – has fewer stages to resolution so it looks cleaner – but the D10’s are more ‘chaotic’ (in the sense of probability rather than spikey death daemons) and that can make the results feel more random”.

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    The face that launched a thousand games. Photo credit theshellcase.co.uk

    Beyond the Gates of Antares is based around a D10 mechanic, maintains similar-yet-streamlined characteristic profiles to Necromunda, and features a force size that involves a selection of squads without embellishing up to an army size. “Antares is the same level of play as Bolt Action WW2 from which it derives its Order Dice mechanic – so about 6 or more units a side and a unit being 3-5 models – or bigger. It’s not really a gang skirmish like Necromunda – but the mechanics are being developed to scale – so it could easily adapt to skirmish or even role play – in which case I’d step the dice up to D100’s.... [In regards to transitioning from the D6 system to a D10 system], I’ve written games before that used D100s or D10s – the first thing I ever had published was a D100 based game in fact – so it’s not exactly a departure. Either way, you generally start most mechanics with a 50/50 – 4 to hit on a D6, 7’s on 2D6, and work it from there. Games are largely maths and geometry – even tabletop games – you can get quite a long way on paper, but you have to play at the same time to get a sense of feel”.

    The current Necromunda community has a knack for taking more modernly released gaming systems - like Mantic's Deadzone, Corvus Belli's Infinity, or even Ramshackle's Nuclear Renascence - and reverse engineering them to find new tricks that can be implemented back into Necromunda. With that community adoption of rules from external systems, and the upcoming release of Beyond the Gates of Antares, Rick's days of writing rules for Necromunda might not necessarily be over yet. It was really interesting to get to talk to Rick, and my grasp of Necromunda's formative growth through the late 90's and early 2000's developed significantly from talking with him.
     
    #2 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  3. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    A pair of Goliath Juves hold off a push from a Delaque gang in an alleyway choke point. Photo credit Armeli and Jyry "Loriel" Tuominen.

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    A Pitslave gang drops down from rooftops onto an Escher ganger. Photo credit Armeli and Jyry "Loriel" Tuominen.
     
    #3 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  4. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    With the format developed and the game mechanics defined, Necromunda really leaps out from the pack of other offerings at its release because of its campaign-driven story telling abilities. Not only does the game offer up an intensely vibrant back story and setting that can hold its own among any notable science fiction worlds, it offers a player the chance to truly create the lore of their characters for themselves while playing the game. Necromunda offers a fantastic scope and feel from which players can develop their own story lines and narratives, and that scope and feel is largely responsible to the fine work of game designer and author Andy Chambers. From published background tales in the Black Library, to extensive work in both the Original Rulebook and the Outlanders supplement, Andy has given so much life to the underhive setting that it would overload a Bio-Scanner. A true player of the games he works on, Andy's character creations go far beyond those he pens in written works, and his Goliath Dog Soldiers exemplify this.

    Rooted in the vast Warhammer 40K universe above, Andy explained to me that the microcosm environment of the underhive depths below in Necromunda offers a more intimate backdrop and lore and was much easier in large to write for. “That was part of the point of the project; to drill in to one particular world and see how it works in the context of the wider universe. Creating a universe in broad strokes is relatively straightforward because the devil is in the details, a chance to explore some of those details more intimately in a semi-roleplay setting was a wonderful thing”. The game is ripe with inspired themes, and really thrives as a setting: Wild Western-esque Frontier? Lawless Barbarism in a Cage? Overt Oppression and Class-war? Freedoms of the Fringe in Totalitarian Order? The potential for the environment Chambers engineered for the game seems limitless with tropes worthy of a university wine-and-cheese function, which gives game play a sense of variance and longevity. “I tend to think of focusing on one theme too much in Necromunda is a mistake; I like the wild west elements for example, but get too carried away with that and you start trying to jam in wild west themes that don't fit. Likewise the class war and fringe of freedom undertones reverberate strongly for me and I explored them some in my Necromunda novel Survival Instincts. However I think Necromunda's appeal is partly from embracing all of these themes and not giving one too much weight above the others. It isn't a movie story line about freedom fighters vs the man that can be resolved in 1 hour 45 minutes, it can't be the wild west because a strong element of that is change and transition in a new land whereas Necromunda is locked in eternal medievalism etc etc”. Creating stories in what ever avenue and tone of the game's offerings that a player can choose comes from the rolled out, in-game experiences that make wargaming so fun, and Andy was great to share some of his experiences leading gangs through the rubble and decay of the underhive.

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    Andy at Ropecon 96. Photo credit belloflostsouls.net

    In a workplace environment, having a game at your disposal that can be played out over a reasonable time frame can make an underhive opportunist out of any lunch break enthusiast. “We played through for the base Necromunda game with the gangs we'd started with to follow the progression over about a year. A big studio league was part of the process so all of the core gangs were well-represented and we figured the variations in skills etc. was pretty slight anyway. A lot of Van Saar gangs seem to get started up and then falter possibly because they spent too much on starting guns and didn't have enough gangers/juves. Personally I used Goliaths (the infamous Dog Soldiers) just because I liked them best visually although its a close-run thing as I like all the Necromunda gangs a lot... I remember the leader of the Dog Soldiers, the Grand Dog, survived through a whole campaign without death or serious injury despite (or maybe because of ) using a plasma gun. He even fought off some leadership challenges along the way... The gaming style I use tends to be an 'in your face' approach so Goliaths fit that ethos pretty well, although it can't be said that their randomly rolled skills necessarily supported it! For Outlanders I personally used Redemptionists because I love a good zealot (with chainsaw or flamethrower)... We kept playing after the release of Outlanders, that much I can recall. Things puttered on with the Studio league for a while longer but by that time we'd been playing Necromunda heavily of a couple of years plus both Gorkamorka and Mordheim were starting development (Mordheim might have come later but I'm pretty sure some WFB skirmish with experience gain was being played around with, Tuomas Pirinen could tell you better than me). My last game I can recall was my Redemptionists vs a Spyrer gang, which was ugly business I can tell you. When I think of Necromunda I always think of it as being one of the best expressions of a miniatures based skirmish campaign I've known, every gang told its own story and I felt like the game supported that well with scenarios and skill / gear rewards for extended campaign play. It was right up there with Bloodbowl in that regard and I put a lot of that down to the guiding influence of Jervis Johnson in both games”.

    Providing an excellent template for a campaign system, Blood Bowl's straightforward game setting - that of a professional sports season – was quite eloquently adopted by the more diverse campaign nature of Necromunda, where the scenarios all function in a cut and dry enough manner to operate without the guidance of a game master/ dungeon master, which is typical of role-playing games. Necromunda offers this kind of self guidance while still being open concept enough that players could insert their campaign story and still have games that drove their narrative beyond a simple one-off match-up. “We'd just come off doing 2nd ed 40K which had a similar transition from Rogue Trader's GM'd scenarios to a more straight up battle game so we had a lot of ideas floating around about how to do it. Necromunda worked on having a campaign and an RPG-like feel so it wasn't even necessary to make the scenarios all fair and balanced in a traditional sense as long as risk equaled reward for the players and the scenario itself had a good strong narrative going. A good example is the gunfight scenario... a really popular scenario with players, it was quick to play and had a really strong narrative so win or lose both players were invested in it right from the start. The rewards were high and it offered an opportunity for even the lowliest of street punks to pull off a victory against well-established gangs. Other scenarios used the scrap-based objective system to keep things interesting by encouraging movement and introduced random events to fill in for not having a GM. Jervis Johnson's experience with Bloodbowl was absolutely key as it gave us the progression and loot rules that rewarded gangs for every game played, doubly so against tough opponents. That progression knitted the games together so nicely that some scenarios virtually wrote themselves - rescuing imprisoned gang members, for example, or fighting out gang leadership challenges. I'm still very proud to have helped create the Necromunda campaign system because I feel we really hit gold with it. Just a few weeks into our first test campaign everybody's gang had their own story with their own winners and losers, rivalries and vendettas, challenges and outrageous claims were starting to go up on the notice board - it was pure awesomesauce”. Awesomesauce indeed. The in-game chronicles in Necromunda can become so very “cinematic” quite quickly, demonstrating the amount of work that went into tailoring the game as a vessel for story telling narratives.

    While it is not completely unique compared to other tabletop games that Games Workshop makes in regards to being able to produce memorable campaign events and unfurl captivating tales as played out on the table, the composition of Necromunda as a game really allows players to invest themselves with the gangs they create and bond with these little 28mm miniatures. From the painting and modeling, to even creating unique one-off scenarios for a campaign, Necromunda has a knack for producing fun times around the table with friends and fellow gamers. “We ran a number of different campaigns at the Studio to test things out or just have fun, including multiple Bloodbowl leagues and Ichar IV for 40K. I always remember Bloodbowl and Necromunda (and later still Mordheim)as being the most heavily subscribed and plain old busy campaigns. I think the shorter time frame of the games helped with that as it was possible to squeeze in a game at lunch or just after work, but I think it was also the roleplay side of the game that helped appeal to artists, miniatures designers and painters - there were some really lovely painted and converted gangs around. The most memorable event game we did was a six player (I think, maybe more) treasure hunt with stacks of playing cards at various points on the table, searching a stack flipped a card producing either treasure (for red cards - hearts and diamonds) or a trap/monster (black cards Spades were traps and clubs were monsters). As you might imagine hilarity ensued as nothing but monsters and traps ravaged all comers, I'm pretty sure someone eventually pulled a red card but it was a long, long way into the game”. Compared to many other offerings, Necromunda has a very pub-style, beers-and-laughs kind of presentation with its smaller playing surface and more manageable miniatures count. The game itself seems like a more mature offering when compared to Warhammer 40K and the amount of disposable income required to field an army or two.

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    Andy at the Dropzone Grand Opening. Photo credit dropzone-games.com

    This more mature feel is not only created by the price point of Necromunda being "manageable during a self-sustained and/or post-secondary-student life", but even the content suggests perhaps a slightly older audience. When Andy wrote the Outlanders supplement, including the options for using drugs in-game like 'Slaught, Spook, and Spur merely echoed the punk-rock flag that the game seemed to be flying in many of its elements: “I think there were some vague rumblings from some quarters - it was considered particularly edgy in the US in particular to admit that a future dystopian hell might also include an unhealthy amount of illegal drugs. Ultimately though none of the fictional drugs presented had direct links to actual ones and they all had nasty side-effects (see? Educational!), plus they'd been in the background since Necromunda was called Confrontation and censoring them felt cowardly. From a UK perspective drugs were a reality of any urban setting and clearly a source of gang tensions so we kept them in. As with all things edgy that appealed to a certain age range and combined with a low price of entry (ie. because you only needed a few miniatures to play) helped the game really take off. One of my fondest personal memories from that period is attending a store event in San Francisco - it was a hellish gig of five days in total with (for me) a 3000 mile flight on four out of those five days. However when I was there playing Necromunda some of the local kids told me that getting into Necromunda had stopped them getting into real gangs and 'turned their lives around'. I've no idea how much of their story was bullshit and if it was true whether everything worked out for them in the long run, but I sure as shit like to believe it did”. Rules for drugs, denim vests and Mohawk hair styles on characters, it all seems pretty subcultural/ rock and roll, especially in the 90's during right-wing British politics. But even the company's marketing seemed to promote the D.I.Y. approach; in an age before prefabricated terrain kits like the Cities of Death stuff there always seemed to be a push in the White Dwarf articles for Necromunda to make your own table out of free stuff, without a hint of up-selling. Maybe it was the time period in the evolution of realistic looking terrain, but the whole game felt, well, a little gritty.

    “Necromunda sprang more from roots in the 80's and Thatcher's hard right Britain than Blair's 90's. The destruction of British industry meant that urban decay was very real in the UK and reflected in its culture of punks, skinheads, rockers, mods, new romantics, goths, ska, reggae, football hooligans and a new kind of tribalism all round. Comics like 2000AD had carried forward that theme of crumbling urban societies ruled over by an amoral elite and of course sci-fi movies from that period fed into that as well. The movies are what stays with me the most, and they were a common language that writers and designers could share. Alien had shown us a 'used future' (that's term they use at Blizzard for it, a time when great strides have been made yet everything is still rusty and crappy looking) back in 1979, then movies like Blade Runner, Terminator, Running Man, Total Recall, Predator and Aliens all carried the same themes, Mad Max was naturally a touchstone for crazy half-feral gangs, but Escape from New York and Assault on Precinct 13 had an influence too. The western angle came almost entirely from Spaghetti westerns like a Fistful of Dollars and the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We knew having a lot of terrain made the game much better so we were keen to offer some in the box, the open gantry created by using card with plastic supports proved to be absolutely perfect for giving that much needed three dimensional aspect - that came late in the process for us of course, we'd been mostly playing on hand-built boards put together by Nigel Stillman and others so we thought of that DIY aspect as a fun part of the hobby”.

    Having put in time as a game designer with Blizzard Entertainment, with notable work on Starcraft 2, Andy Chambers has certainly not hung up his boots with his tabletop gaming experiences. “I'd like to think that everything from Necromunda is still with me, it taught me a lot about skirmish gaming and campaigns in general”. At present, Andy does freelance game development work for tabletop games, and is currently down in the lab hashing out work for Bolt Action from Warlord Games, Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames, and All Quiet on the Martian Front for Robot Peanut Studios. Terms such as “used future” exemplify the look and feel of the underhive quite accurately, and it is this very look and feel that Andy's creative works were so fundamental in sculpting – not only in background lore and character development but in the very creation of the rules. Because if you roll a 54-56 on the Outlaw Rare Trade table, the shady scummer in the trenchcoat sliding you viles in exchange for a few creds is doing so as a detail of game realism. Just don't act heretical under the influence, there's Redemptionists afoot...
     
    #4 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  5. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

    Map
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    An Orlock gang defends a vault entrance from an attacking Ash Waste Nomad gang. Photo credit Armeli and Jyry "Loriel" Tuominen.

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    A blind standoff occurs at the corner of the local Hive Guys. Photo credit Armeli and Jyry "Loriel" Tuominen.
     
    #5 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  6. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    A used future ripe with strife and feuding set within the realm of an enormous space opera. Seems like fans could be nothing but happy with the offerings and potential for wonderful gaming in the forty-first millennium...

    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. “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”. 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.

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

    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.

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    Some of McCragge's fine painting skills.

    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...
     
    #6 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  7. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    A street fight between the Eschers and Pitslaves sees shooting from the cover of buildings on either side. Photo credit Armeli and Jyry "Loriel" Tuominen.

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    A Van Saar gang targets an advancing Cawdor gang from an elevated vantage point. Photo credit Armeli and Jyry "Loriel" Tuominen.
     
    #7 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  8. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    Those grassroots community rules that churned their way out of the 'Fringe? There's a very well known man here on YakTribe that has his fingerprints all over that constantly evolving document. Our very own Anthony Case – @Anthony here on the forums – has not always been “our very own”, and has in fact earned the experience points of a Mighty Ganger across a wide range of Necromunda forums over a lengthy gaming career. Having written an extensive list of house rules - including personal takes on various gangs, creating additional equipment and weapons, extra scenarios, and expanding the playable setting of the underhive into the sump with rules for using boats (and that list is certainly incomplete) - Anthony has been along for the ride ever since Necromunda was released and has involved himself in every aspect of the hobby along the way. As the creator and editor of the Necromunda Community Edition (NCE), the rules set for which Anthony has kicked off and maintained open community discussion on - and development work for - has become the modern standard for Necromunda rules. And they're free!

    Alongside Priestley, Chambers, and Graham, Anthony Case has been playing Necromunda right since its release. “Christ was that really 20 years ago?... My big brother and his mates were Fantasy players which was how I got into GW. I got pretty excited when GW started releasing the boxed games though, Space Hulk, Warhammer Quest, etc, primarily because it meant I could play games without having to paint up 100+ minis”. Throughout playing Necromunda, Anthony was like many gamers in that testing out and developing house rules and changes to how the original game played was all part of the adventure of being an underhive scummer. While many of the desired changes to the rules occurred while he was playing with his local gaming group, it was on the online forums where Anthony started to tackle the idea of improving the rules set. “The old black & red official forum in particular had a lot of active users that had great ideas for improving and expanding the game. Once Specialist Games began to shut down, the various forums soon started to die off, but it's great to see Necromunda has had a resurgence in recent years thanks to Yakromunda... The black and red forum was the first proper official Necromunda forum back when Specialist Games was called Fanatic. Once Fanatic was downsized and rebranded into Specialist Games, everyone moved over to the Eastern Fringe since the new official forums were a bit naff. Incidentally, all of the discussions about the official Necromunda Rules Review was done on the Eastern Fringe, which as far as I know you can still nosy through, and was a really useful resource when putting together the NCE”.

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    Mr. Case, looking deep inside his bucket of inspiration for some rules improvements.

    Going all the way back to Fanatic Magazine, a large part of the hobby has always been writing homemade, fan-concocted rules. The YakTribe Gaming forums have always been marked with a friendly and encouraging environment for examining game mechanics and developing alternative or independent rules, but a lot of members know the democratic realities of finding general widespread acceptance of proposed rules changes. One of the true telling powers of the NCE is the ability Anthony had to keep focus in the drive of making changes before the NCE developed enough of its own momentum to find a sense of credibility within play circles. “Initially it was just written for my gaming group to use so there were a lot of changes based simply on our personal preferences rather than for any specific rule problem. Once other people started showing an interest in using it I went back over everything trying to remove personal bias. It's a tricky tightrope though, since what you have an issue with others might not, and you have to weigh up resolving issues with maintaining clean rules”. Dedicated work on the NCE has followed suit with the Outlanders Community Edition rules supplement, the OCE, and both maintain the constant open-to-discussion review policy that helps them progress and avoid being pigeon-holed by flaws. One of Anthony's greater focal points of the NCE and OCE rules is to keep any changes being made to those that are minor and necessary, avoiding to change the structure and flow of the documents as much as possible to keep them recognizably approachable to players whom might not have played the game since the Original Rulebook or the Living Rulebook era. “I actually think the core Necro rules are pretty solid really so any big changes I'd love to make are more to do with expanding them. For example I'd really like to see the House gangs feel more unique to play. Not to the same extent as the Outlanders, but just some general rules unique to each House and with their own special fighter type. I'd like to see the territory system expanded too, such as being able to upgrade territories and attack rival territories in differing ways”.

    With Anthony being an active member of YakTribe, his insights and approaches towards keeping Necromunda updated and supported are peppered throughout these very forums. Any inclined reader could search through the backlogs and gain as good a sense as I myself could of what type of tabletop rules maestro Anthony is. As such, I wanted to focus my interview with Anthony more on what type of gamer he is and what parts of playing Necromunda he likes best. It's always entertaining to hear about the play testing experiences from the person who sat down and put a lot of work into creating the rules after all: “I do remember one time when I started writing a Sump rules expansion. One of my boats careered into the side of an enemy's which caused their plasma engine to explode and damaged a nearby bulkhead (we were using rules for destroying buildings). The building then collapsed, flattened both boats, killed most of the crew and so we had to restart the campaign. We haven't used those destroyed building rules since”. When I asked Anthony what his favourite gang was thematically speaking, as well as what his preferred style of play is, he responded “I'm rather fond of all the Outlanders. If pushed I'd probably say those ever-lovable rag bag Scavvies since they encapsulate a lot of the b-movie horror film vibes which I really like about Necro's setting. Plus they are just ridiculously fun to play... I do enjoy outmaneuvering an opponent, but I play for fun so don't mind darting forward to bait overwatchers and push the game forward. After all nobody likes to play against a parade of lasgunners camping inside their deployment zone”. Providing the response I liked the most to the question I asked all four gamers that I interviewed, Anthony's take on whether or not lasguns should be red was that “anything else would be heresy”. Heresy indeed.

    From beyond the reach of the Imperium's tendrils of administrative dominion within the Eastern Fringe, Anthony Case took the efforts that the community had put into the Necromunda Rules Review and led work on maintaining an updated set of rules for Necromunda. Throughout the years of an upkept passion for Necromunda, Anthony has done great deals of work beyond the periodic revisions of the NCE rule set, including a wide range of additional supplement rules for the game and even developing indie video games available on Steam. A mere glance through the YakTribe Vault demonstrates Anthony's work within the Necromunda community, which certainly would not be the same without him.
     
    #8 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  9. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    This website has really done a great deal for the Necromunda scene. It was the fall of 2010, during the slow motion crawl of a vacant shoulder season in a tourism-driven Canadian ski-town, when I started getting interested in Necromunda. My good friend and at the time roommate had been a Warhammer 40K player when he was younger, and I myself had collected a squad of Catachans as a kid since my next door neighbour had been a Blood Angels player. We talked about how getting back into the hobby might help curb our drinking habits while we waited for snowflakes to fall, but I didn't like the suggested scale of collecting vast 40K armies. His suggestion of Necromunda had me searching all over the internet for more information, as I had not really heard of the game much before that, and I quickly became a believer. The internet was definitely a source of many more grave stones than operating websites, and a brief stint on the Eastern Fringe led to me following @Malo over to Yakromunda. The very man behind YakTribe, who also operates under the alias David Knife, Malo added an entirely new level to Necromunda by creating an online gang registry and maintenance tool, where a player could be freed from their stacks of scribbled stat line changes and equipment upgrades by simply mouse clicking their way through Malo's program.

    “The very first inception of Yakromunda as the base tools was around March 2010 but there was no forums at that stage. The forums weren't added until February of 2011. Before that I promoted the site on the active Necromunda discussion areas on Eastern Fringe, Warseer, Dakka Dakka and wargamerau. They were about the only places I found online that had a somewhat active Necromunda community still and was also how I found Anthony Case as the NCE was still in a somewhat infancy... There are many Yakkers from those forums who transitioned here for Necromunda, but of course are still active in those forums for other games”. Certainly a monster in its current state when compared to the early Yakromunda site, YakTribe Gaming respectfully houses the most in-depth Necromunda scene on the web. The campaign and gang management tools make playing the science fiction skirmish game even easier, and the overall awesome online community we have here makes getting into the game a very simple process. From the honoured efforts of Rick and Andy with the game's inception and development with Games Workshop, to McCragge's housing of the online community during the game's ran-away-from-home style adolescent stage, through Anthony's development of the Community Edition rules sets, and finally here on YakTribe Gaming with Malo and all the amazing tools and tricks that the website has, Necromunda has certainly grown. And changed. Not too much, but enough to make it easier to get into and easier to play. I can't help but thank everyone I was able to talk to in this article for everything they have done for the game. Happy birthday, Necromunda. Next year you can get drunk in the U.S.





    @Blood Donor, also known by his real-life human name Riel Richard, is a Necromunda hobbyist in his late twenties living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and feels compelled to refer to himself in the third person within the closing about the author blurb based on the expectations of the status quo...
     
    #9 Blood Donor, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  10. spafe

    spafe Executive Officer in charge of Hats
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Tribe Council Yak Comp 2nd Place Yak Philanthropist

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    A stunning write up man, proper epic read! Great to hear opinions from such key players in the development of the game we all love. Major kudos for putting this together Reil, how long did it take you?!


    And too right, lasguns are red!!!

    [​IMG]
     
    #10 spafe, Apr 24, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2017
  11. hreikin

    hreikin Gang Hero

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    a very interesting read, kept me occupied all morning and at work ;)
     
    Blood Donor likes this.
  12. ClockworkOrange

    ClockworkOrange Executive Officer in charge of Trolling
    Staff Member Yak Comp 1st Place Yak Supporter

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    Great stuff!
     
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  13. capitan

    capitan The Necronomicon
    Yak Comp 3rd Place Yak Supporter

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    "Awesomesauce". Thanks for sharing and indeed taking the time to research and write the piece. The same to malo as well, not yet said thanks for building this awesome little community that keeps me out of other mischiefs - now seems a good time - cheers fellas!
     
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  14. Anthony

    Anthony Community Edition Editor
    Necromunda Custodian

    Really great write up Blood Donor! :)
     
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  15. jmw23

    jmw23 Juve

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    What an interesting series of interviews. Thanks for sharing! I was particularly interested to read about Necromunda as a series of games. I remember hearing that way back when, and being gutted when Gorkamorka arrived...it just wasn't as much fun. Internal studio pressure sounds like it could be the topic for a whole different set of interviews...
     
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  16. deathwing

    deathwing Juve

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    Wow. That was a great read.
     
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  17. Blood Donor

    Blood Donor Executive Officer in Charge of the 2014 Bake Sale
    Staff Member Necromunda Custodian Yak Philanthropist

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    Glad folks are enjoying it! It was a lot of fun to put together (I had been an English student in University, so it was the first writing I've done since writing essays for midterms or finals around 7 or 8 years ago...), but was certainly a challenge and a lot of work. @spafe, I started work on things in around the second week of January, and finished the write up on this past Wednesday. The interview process was over 75 emails by the end! :confused:
     
  18. Kon-rad

    Kon-rad Gang Champion

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    Nice stuff. Appreciate the hard work it must have taken to write it all up. Obviously a labor of love, much like Necromunda itself.
     
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  19. Krenie

    Krenie Ganger
    Yak Supporter

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    Man - Such a great read. As I read I was filled with nostalgia and happy thoughts of Necro gaming, but also a bit of sadness to read about just how quick GW moved on from this game. Clearly as displayed on this forum, this game still has legs and will have for years to come. Excellent job pulling this together Blood Donor - it was well written and very interesting. Thanks Mate and thanks to all the Yaks keeping this game going.
     
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  20. Warburton

    Warburton Ganger

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    This an excellent read; thanks for going to all of the effort :)
     
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