Games Workshop is killing it. They’ve been on a tear the past 12 or so months releasing Blood Bowl, Gorechosen, two Warhammer Quest boxed sets, and now Shadow War: Armageddon. If you were involved in this hobby in 1995 you may just be lucky enough to have experienced the cool-as-hell Necromunda. This was a Games Workshop standalone minis game based on Warhammer 40K 2nd edition (they’re about to release 8th edition for those who are counting). It was sci-fi gang warfare with lasguns and krak grenades. Full of spikey shoulder pads and mohawks as ridiculous as the game was violent, it was beautiful and a formative part of my youth.
Shadow War: Armageddon is a return of sorts for Necromunda. It’s the same ruleset gently tweaked but mostly the same. You have overwatch, rules for falling off the towering industrial structures, and a general sense of fragility as fighters can go down in an instant with some bad luck. In this 2017 reincarnation (reboot?), the turf has been mixed up. Out with the gangers and in with shadow operative strike teams operating in a familiar underhive setting. In this way, the box also replaces the ever popular Kill Team ruleset for Warhammer 40K.
You field a small squad of elite troopers. The rulebook comes with lists for Space Marine Scouts, Orks, and Astra Militarum–that’s Imperial Guard for us old timers. Rules for a whole Rhino-load of additional factions can be downloaded for free.
For some, the switch to elite Kill Teams as opposed to poverty-stricken gangs of misfits is kind of a letdown. The gangs of Necromunda had a ton of character and they’re sorely missed. There is, however, a huge benefit to assimilating the 40K factions: You can dive into the Warhammer universe without committing hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to field an army. Pick up a single box of Cadians or Tau Pathfinders and that’s it. This also means you can dabble in multiple factions and get a greater sense of the setting than you’d likely experience in true 40K.
While you’d likely expect the game to feel creaky and old you’d definitely be wrong. There are moments where it’s distinctly Fresh Prince of Bel Air as you need to track your Kill Team’s roster with a pencil or you roll sustained fire with your heavy bolter. But it never feels antiquated. It feels fresh and revitalized and there’s a true sense of excitement as you melt the enemy’s ugly mug off his skull.
Shadow War: Armageddon is fast-paced and fun. At higher model counts it can break down and feel taxing, but the system really reigns in the numbers and keeps the speed at top gear. The system particularly shines in campaign mode. Yes, it’s much like Necromunda-lite, featuring abbreviated skill tables and a shortened severe injury chart, but it’s still fulfilling and a huge thrill. Your team will alter as members are killed off, new warriors join, and your recruits grow to become seasoned vets. There’s a distinct shift in feel here from its progenitor as you begin your Shadow War life as a group of ballers. A group of Chaos Space Marines will have power armor and heavy weapons from the get go. Orks will be nasty in close assault right out of the gate and a team of Space Marine Snipers can wreak havoc with poisoned ammo. There’s not quite as much scrounging for discarded windshield wipers and used bedpans to offer up for pennies in the settlement. The cash is fast and loose and you never quite feel like you constantly need a side job to supplement your primary income and make rent on your Slag Heap.
Beyond the ruleset, Shadow War: Armageddon is a pretty stellar product. It’s a huge old-school boxed set with a high-quality rulebook, two factions, templates/dice, and some of the best terrain I’ve ever seen. This isn’t your grandpa’s cardstock starter playset. Here we have thick plastic gantries and large industrial holding tanks. It might well be the single best set of terrain ever manufactured. It’s simply beautiful and a pleasure to game with. The one downside is you will want quite a bit more to really fill up the battlefield and reduce sight lines.
While there’s been issues with availability on the Games Workshop’s online store, you can still find the core set at some FLGS’s. Already established 40K players can also get in on the action as it has been announced that the rulebook will be available separately. While not an ideal situation, it is certainly acceptable given the fact that the boxed set is really all about the terrain, which will be manufactured and sold in separate sets as well.
Necromunda was one of my favorite games from a rose-colored yesteryear. I’m trying hard not to set my pants ablaze with excitement and hype, but this game is phenomenal. The touch-ups and shift in setting aren’t completely ideal, but the whole thing works. The game is fantastic and downright fun. You’ll have to take my Shadow War: Armageddon box out of my cold, dead grasp. If we meet on a third story walkway in the darkness of the hive, I won’t hesitate to put you over the edge.
Are you planning on jumping into Shadow War: Armageddon? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credits: Games Workshop
In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on twitter @CharlieTheel