Necromunda House of Artifice Review
Even on a planet such as Necromunda, where gangs fight for existence with whatever scarce resources they can scrape together, there are some who have access to technology that far surpasses even the sacred gear of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Those who wield this power have unequalled control over the tech that flows through the hives, while keeping the choice cuts for themselves. But few know the true reasons as to their success and their apparent skill in artifice. Few know the secrets of House Van Saar, the House of Artifice.
House of Artifice, up for pre order today, is the latest in the “House of” series for Necromunda detailing each of the gangs in turn and massively expanding upon their options and background to further enhance the game. This time it is the turn of House Van Saar, who specialise in producing high-tech equipment and guard their secrets regarding this to the death! Massive thanks to Games Workshop who sent us a copy a little early so we could take a look at it and share our thoughts! Below you can see my video covering the new book, or read on for the full written review and low down!
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House of Artifice
So far over the “House of” Series we have had books for Goliath, Escher and Orlock, and this time we have House Van Saar! Van Saar are without a doubt one of the coolest gangs in the game with access to some very powerful gear right off the bat, and the new book not only expands on the options and gangers available to them, but also adds a load of great supplemental content to flesh out the house! Think of this is a “Codex” in 40k terms, you’ll want to pick this up in order to get the most from the gang in your games of Necromunda
It’s not just useable by Van Saar though, for completionists who like to pick up all these books there is also content that can be used by any Necromunda gang such as new hangers on and allegiances, and over this series I think some of the most fun and characterful content has been in these areas!
So strap on your haz-suit and let us dig deep into the secrets of the House of Artifice…
House of Artifice kicks off with a nice meaty 31 pages detailing the lore of the Van Saar and fleshing out what we know about them. From a crashed colony ship called the Van Saar which may have been the inspiration behind the house name, to a rare and highly protected STC that gives them their technological advantage we learn about this history of the gang and how they developed from a tech gang based in the wastelands outside the hives into a real powerhouse of influence on Necromunda with even Lord Helmawr himself assisting in covering up their tech-heresy. Along with a timeline of events regarding the gang, we also get a full breakdown of their command structure, the main players and power struggles and detailed info on what industries the Van Saar run across the hives.
We also get more detail on the radiation sickness that is plaguing the gang and forcing them to wear the haz-suits that they do in order to extend their unfortunately short lives.
I really enjoy the expanded insight into the gangs that we get in these books, and this is further reinforced by more stunning artwork, illustrations and exploded diagrams showing the sights of Van Saar. The illustrations in particular remind me of the classic video game Deus Ex, and it does make me chuckle that this book lands at the same time as the new Cyberpunk 2077 game as both evoke the same vibes of the dangers of advanced technology falling into the wrong hands.
For Arbiters that like to inject a little more roleplaying into their Necromunda campaigns, the contents of the book will spark some inspiration into how your might want to run your games!
House Van Saar Gang List
Next up is the gang list itself, and it is a lot more fleshed out than the two page spread in Gangs of the Underhive with loads of new options available to them! As with other gangs there are rules for the construction of the gang in that you need to have at least as many Gang Fighters as you do models without that rule – this means that you have to have at least some basic gangers rather than going all out on Champions. All the details for equipping your gang, setting multiple equipment sets and replacing leaders are also reprinted here for ease so that you don’t have to flick between multiple books, which is always great from a user friendliness point of view!
Van Saar Prime (Leader)
This is the new name for the Leader, and his base profile is identical with no points changes. What has changed for him though is the equipment list – He can now take a Lascannon when he is purchased, as this has now been added to the equipment list! There’s a couple of new choices in here such as a Servo Harness, Carapace armour and Conversion, Displacer and Refractor fields which gives you some more customisability when building your leader. They also get a new exotic pet option in the form of 0-3 Cyberachnid which is every bit as horrific as it sounds, a combination of cybernetically modified giant spider and a web projector, and while expensive at 75 creds each is undeniably really cool! I assume these will be coming out as a resin kit from Forge World, as the other gangs got their exotic pets on their new plastic frames, which sadly isn’t the case for Van Saar.
Van Saar Augmek (Champion)
The Augmek is the new name for the Champion, and much like the Prime there are no real differences in his stat line or points cost, but he does get access to new personal equipment options such as Medicae kits, Lascannons and Conversion fields. I don’t believe we currently have a Van Saar Lascannon kit – so I assume this will either be a new upgrade kit alongside the existing Forge World upgrades, or a new model much like the recently released Escher leaders. The Augmek can also take 0-2 Cyberachnid.
Van Saar Archeotek (Champion)
The new Champion from the new plastic kit is the Archeotek, who represent the inner circle of Van Saar who know the secrets of the STC. Due to their tech skills they gain an Alpha level of Cyberteknika (A new option available to upgrade gangers in this book!) gear for free when created, and any future cyberteknika upgrades are half price. These are essentially cybernetic upgrades and enhancements that can replace their organic organs – we will take a closer look later in this review! Interestingly they can’t issue Group Activations, so you want to take these guys for their cyber-enhanced skills rather than leading gangers – though you do still get a cool check aura! They get some fun weapon options like the spider rig and up to 3 digi lasers making them a pretty good combat option! Just like the Prime they can take 0-3 nightmare fuel Cyberachnids too.
Van Saar Neotek (Prospect)
The Neotek is the other new option from the plastic kit, and is essentially a Juve mounted on a hoverboard! The have the Gang Fighter rule, so if you want to go Grav-Cutter heavy then you are free to, though they are a little expensive at 70 credits. The Grav-Cutters are really handy for navigating dense multi level boards as it increases their movement by 2″(Making them Movement 7″) and allows them to ignore all terrain (Except impassable), move between levels of terrain at will and never fall, however they cannot take cover or voluntarily become prone. They also reduce benefit of cover by 1 due to the fact that it’s hard to hide while shooting around the Underhive on a hoverboard! The Neoteks also get a cool unique basic action “Hit & Run” – this lets them make a single S4 attack with Concussion and Knockback on a single fighter it passes over as part of a move action. They seem really fun and could see them being used to great effect as a first wave to disrupt enemy gangers while your heavy guns get into position.
Van Saar Tek (Ganger)
Our basic Gangers are now Teks, much like the other old options the points cost and profile is the same, however they do get a rather significant buff! Previously you could take a single special weapon armed ganger, and add additional ones during a campaign – how you get a single specialist at creation and spend XP to upgrade additional members to Specialists. This now allows them to take Heavy weapons in addition to Special weapons! If you play Van Saar in order to bring all the cool toys then you can certainly go heavy weapon heavy now, though you might have a tiny gang!
Van Saar Subtek (Juve)
No massive changes for our Juves, but the restriction regarding no items over 20 credits on creation is now gone, so feel free to take whatever upgrades you want! Profile and points costs are exactly the same as Gangs of the Underhive
Hangers on, Brutes and Hired Guns
Much like in the other House Of books we get a full list of Hangers on and Brutes that are available to Van Saar gangs, with a number of them being available to other gangs too! A lot of this has been in other books and is reprinted for completion, but they do get a couple of cool unique options. I’ll take a look at the new options below.
The Cogitator Core Servitor is a Van Saar exclusive hanger on costed at 100 credits, and this is a really interesting defensive unit. This servitor basically controls the defences of the area using its cyber abilities – if the Van Saar gang is the defender it can turn the lights on and off at will, plant D3 additional booby traps on the battlefield and force a -1 intelligence check on enemy fighters when using terminals or trying to access caskets. This seems a really fun option and acts as a nice counter when you are defending.
The Tech-Merchant is another new pick that can be taken by Van Saar gangers for 40 creds and other gangs for 80, and makes rare and illegal items easier to find while also reducing the cost of a trading post item or black market item by D3 x 10 credits to a minimum of 20 credits in every post battle sequence. For Van Saar gangs this guy will pay for himself after 2 games so is well worth taking!
Data-Scrivener is a 20 credit pick for any gang that allows you to roll an additional dice and discard the lowest when doing intelligence checks. Actually acts as a nice counter to the Cogitator Core for non Van Saar gangs!
Van Saar get an awesome looking brute in the form of the Arachni-Rig, think a Dreadnaught combined with Doctor Octopus! Its a big suit with multiple arms that can be outfitted for close combat or ranged weapons, and can make two shoot actions a turn – I really like this brute and can’t wait to see what the model looks like!
Another cool thing we have seen in the “House of” books are Strong Alliances – these are optional alliances you can make with other guilds, houses and organisations that give you a benefit along with some potential downside. In House of Artifice we gain access to some really fun looking ones:
Promethium Guild – These guys are in charge of power generation on Necromunda, and so give you benefits for all your fuel or plasma based weapons. Because of this all plasma and flame weapons are no longer scarce and if they didn’t have the scarce rule then they become plentiful! This is an amazing ability, especially with the sheer amount of plasma you can bring packing in a Van Saar gang! You can also request the aid of a Pyromantic Conclave, a unique unit that can be brought along for a battle and control the lighting systems, allowing you to start in darkness and illuminate the battlefield mid game! As with other similar units these will turn up in addition to your regular gang, meaning you could be able to have more fighters on the table than normally allowed.
Imperial Imposters – This is an interesting guild that each campaign week allows you to pick any gang and stop them from changing alignment, potentially allowing you a little control as to how the balance of power falls. They can also take a Master Charlatan for free, a really nasty character who is pretty much an assassin. However if you field him then there is a chance that you become outlawed.
House Catallus – Finally we have the really sinister looking House Catallus who deal in diplomacy and broker agreements. With their ability to alter and falsify records they can stop rival gangs from earning any credits for selling their captured gangers, and can once a week stop their gang from becoming Outlaws. They also get to bring the Carnival of Death to battles, a masked killer with master crafted power sword and long rifle accompanied by a frenzied Mindfrayed (Can’t wait to see the models for these, as imagine we will see something like an Imperial equivalent to a sinister gritty harlequin assassin) The downside however is that occasionally they will take one of your Juves as payment, never to be seen again!
Like with the other books in the series, we get a stack of additional supplemental rules. House favours are back, with the Van Saar able to roll 2D6 adding +1 for each gang with a higher rating than them with some random rewards – some good, some bad! On the bad side this could result in you losing a fighter, but the higher results include getting 2D6x10 credits worth of weapons for free, gaining an additional ganger, receiving a free skill or even a Cyberteknika upgrade.
Speaking of Cyberteknika, this is an awesome new feature that reminds me of games such as Deus Ex. When any Van Saar ganger gets an advance, they can (In addition to taking their advance as usual) choose to replace a body part damaged with a lasting injury or simply upgrade a body part! There is a credit cost and the fighter will have to go into recovery to sleep off the effects of the procedure, but then they will be back in business better than before!
There’s some very cool stuff in these Cyberteknika upgrades, and 3 levels of implant you can pick from – for example with Ocular upgrades Alpha level gives you the ability of an infra-sight with any ranged weapon, Gamma level then adds a mono-sight and Omega level adding photo-goggles too. The cost gradually increases between each level, but you get a discount and just pay the difference in cost if you upgrade from a lower level to a higher one. This is where the Archeoteks really shine, as with their credit discount they can get a ridiculous number of upgrades tricked out to the highest levels. I really like this as adds another level of customisability to you gang, and it just feels right for Van Saar slowly replacing their organic components over the course of the campaign.
For the purposes of WYSIWYG, the book suggests that a lot of these upgrades will be sub-dermal and indistinguishable due to the level of technology used to create them, so players do not need to convert to represent. However, I can see a lot of people building some particularly cyborg looking Van Saar for use in their games!
We also get some rules for Van Saar terrain, to add things wusch as Rad Cannon Emplacements as a defensive turret in games they are defending in. I really hope we see some models for these (And the other house terrain pieces) as think a lot of people would be more likely to use them in their games with an easily purchasable model (Though, it does offer some nice kitbashing opportunities until that is the case!)
We also get a pair of fun Van Saar themed scenarios, Deus Ex Machina, in which the gangs are trying to capture a rogue AI that has possessed a gang member, and Last Rites For The Machine where a fading legend with up to 400 credits of gear wants to go out in a blaze of glory while a rival Bounty Hunter turns up to take him down. Really fun stuff and easily usable for any gang!
The last part of the book collects together all the statlines, profiles and abilities to use as quick reference while also showing a full list of all the gang tactics in case you miss out on the gang tactic cards. This quick reference section is very handy and makes games flow much quicker by giving you all this information in one place.
So what do I think of House of Artifice? It’s no secret that I have been a big fan of this series of books for Necromunda. I feel the game is much stronger by giving each of the gangs in turn much more depth, more options and just more personality that pushes Necromunda harder into the level of detail and interaction available. The Van Saar get some impressive upgrades on the tabletop that captures the level of technology they have available, and the book also expands their lore and background – something that will appeal to non-Van Saar players too.
the “House of” series has been one of the best things to happen to Necromunda, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the last few gangs!
Necromunda: House of Artifice is available to pre order today
Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews with a review copy of House of Artifice.