The Slugbait Rumor Mill and Other Stories

Author Nick Baran:

The start of my true love affair with miniature wargaming started with this box.

In 1994 I was part owner of a gaming store with some older, more mature, gaming friends of mine. I was in my early 20’s and playing in a straight edge hardcore punk band called, Halfmast. We were an unlikely group of game store owners: a chemical engineer (our chief investor), a mid-sized retail chain store manager, one of his employees, and myself – an irresponsible punk rocker. We opened the store on the tails of the first big wave of Magic: The Gathering hype. With all of the money we made selling M:TG in our first 6 months we had paid off the chemical engineer’s investment and had a pile of cash `to be invested into another game line. The distributors were pushing a game called Warhammer really hard, and we threw our all of our nested profit into it. Then we did it again with 40K. I started an army for both systems but didn’t fully fall in love with either until a new game dropped called, Necromunda….

Flamers. Bubbling pits of molten slag. We loved setting each other on fire.


“I’m on Fire and They’ve Taken All My Loot!”
One of the guys that rolled with Halfmast walked into the store one night and heard those words and laughed his ass off. Whenever the store got mentioned, or games for that matter, he referenced that line. By that time, I was already madly in love with the game and having my gaming friends exclaim things like that to my non-gaming friends didn’t make me cringe. I am pretty sure I was the player who set him on fire and stole all his loot.

When we stocked Necromunda it looked cool, but I never knew how in love I could fall with a miniature game until I opened that box. The cardstock scenery, the vertical play space, the artwork, they wild west themes meets post-apoc and cyberpunk aesthetic. Hell, the hyper masculine Goliath Ganger on the box cover was so over the top. It was like Lord Humungus was dumped into Escape From New York, and shot even further into the future. I ate it up. I was hooked and went all in.

stole this off the internet because there are no known copies of the Slugbait Rumor Mill, but this will give you an idea of what it was like. Stolen from some blog called Inane Courage.


The Slugbait Rumor Mill
As a store owner who happened to be madly in love with a game, it was upon me to promote it in the store. I can’t remember if it was referenced in the Necromunda books itself, or in one of the White Dwarf Magazines around its release, but the designers suggested creating a newsletter to coincide with your own campaigns. The one for our store was called The Slugbait Rumor Mill, referencing the line “Christ bait, slug bait, rise and make you fall” from Christbait Rising by Godflesh. I retold the tales of both triumph and abject humiliation in equal measure and the regulars loved it. I also freshed out additional details about the territory known as Slugbait, giving the campaign even greater depth. Some of those old regulars are still my friends and still reference it, not because it was The New Yorker, but because it gave their exploits record and context. Though I recreated this concept with other campaigns for other systems, none were as memorable. Necromunda was just “that game” for me, and it brought out the best in all of us.

Blaine and some of his Street Cleaners. No longer in their OG purple and yellow paint scheme. *Ick!*

Blaine’s Street Cleaners
My own gang was called, Blaine’s Street Cleaners. Necromunda and Godflesh went together for me like dark chocolate and peanut butter. I loved the “purge them with fire, followers of the Cult of Redemption” storyline of House Cawdor and I painted them up in a horrific purple and yellow color scheme that I think I got from one of the color pages. The leader was named Blaine after the singer of, The Accused, because I always thought it was a unique first name. I still have never met a Blaine, though I did see The Accused in high school and completely lost my mind for the first time to music for that minute and a half during Psychomania. I’ll never forget it. Here it was, probably 5 years after that, and for some reason I still thought the name, Blaine, was cool enough to be the leader of my gang.

Get shot near a ledge and you’re in for substantial damage. So I found it necessary to put ledges even on the ground level for heightened risk.

The Street Cleaners had modest success. I loved Necromunda, at least during the early stages of the campaign, because I felt like anything could happen. You could be totally rocking your opponents and then one of your key gangers could get shot off of a gantry, sustained serious injuries post-game, and you’d walk away feeling you lost more than you gained. However, Necromunda did have the fault that once a gang started getting ahead of the pack, they became a runaway freight train of success and became completely unfun to play against. The Street Cleaners never reached that status, however. It was one of my co-owners, who was a master at figuring out how to dominate any system, who was the freight train in everything we did. He was a good guy, but god damn it I hated playing against him. I don’t remember the name of his gang, I’m sure I blocked it out of my mind deliberately. I still think about playing him in 2nd Edition 40K and hear the words “Karandras with combat drugs” in my head and want to flip the nearest table.

Regardless, Blaine sustained two chest wounds. He ran around with Toughness 2, leading meekly from the back of the gang for while before we moved onto other games. The Street Cleaners live on, as the basis of my Divine Army inspired Redemptors of Golinar Imperial Guard army. They haven’t hit the table in since 6th Edition 40K I think, but they did get used for something greater for a bit.

Old tubes, wires, water bottles. If it could add to the industrial landscape, it got used.

Necromunda’s inspiration dominated all of my hobby time for that stretch of time. The art and the photos of the studio’s scratch built terrain had my brain churning constantly. I started collecting gobs of trash to be repurposed as Necromunda scenery. I remember peanut butter jar lids, the little table like supports used in large pizza boxes, random wires, and tubes. If I looked at it and saw some sort of industrial element to it, it ended up in our Necromunda collection. I honestly think we had the best scenery of any game store in Buffalo, New York at the time.

Beautiful, rusty, Buffalo, New York. The perfect place for Necromunda inspiration.

Buffalo is part of the United States’ “Rust Belt”, an area spanning several states that were once the heart of industry here, spanning from the start of the industrial revolution and reaching the beginning of their decline in the 1950’s when factories no longer needed to be near the Great Lakes to get to market hubs like Chicago and New York City. As you drive the highways and roads of Buffalo, closer to the lake, there are the relics of industry everywhere, and it just so happened my gaming store was fairly close to the lake. I remember driving along the highway and my girlfriend at the time would ask me what I was thinking, and the answer was almost always the same: Necromunda scenery. I suddenly saw beauty and interest in all of the rust and decay around me.

When this surface was originally built, it was Shadow Grey with the gravel in Chaos Black dry brushed with greys, just like all of the photos in the Necromunda books and White Dwarf.

Necromunda started a love of scenery construction, but one of the pinnacle moments for me has to be a table I still own. Built in conjunction with my buddy Dave who now does Dark Spot Photography, taking pics of urban exploration and punk and metal bands that pass through Buffalo, we built the base of a table for a convention that was probably in 1996, and it is still sitting in a room 10 feet away from me. We used it for a multi-player scenario called, Lord of the Spire which is essentially the violent children’s game, King of the Mountain. It’s been repainted a couple of times since then, but here is what made it so special. I had the crazy idea to put a wood frame around an iron heating grate from an old house my dad had done some handyman work in. We layered plasticard across the top. We cut and melted some of it to make holes we could use to see into the innards of the underhive. Inside the wood frame, like a shadow box, we strategically placed tubes and wires, even a platform. It is a work of art and it weighs a ton. It has inconveniently traveled with me from city to city for years. It has gone to conventions, and even did time as demo table at the Games Workshop store in Buffalo when I worked there. It’s not much to look at until you get up close, but then it gives the table a depth that few others do.

I loved Necromunda so much I created my own dystopian sci-fi game to fill the void, because that’s the kind of impact it left on me.


My Greatest Inspiration
The closest I ever came to being as enraptured with Necromunda was when they introduced, City Fight and Cities of Death, to 40K. I built loads of scratch built city terrain. I can look up above my computer and I have some out that I was using to shoot photos for the upcoming, Tooth Chipper Fanzine, a gaming product I’m working on for Chris Kohler’s, Wild in the Streets.

In August of 2013 I tore my ACL while working for a moving company. I had just quit helping out with Hyacinth Games on their game, Wreck-Age, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, but I knew I really had the bug to design games and tap into my creativity. I had ACL surgery in October of that year and my brother encouraged me to pursue creating my own game when I saw him a few weeks beforehand. Post-surgery I wrote a block of text, detailing a dystopian sci-fi setting set hundreds of years in the future, and then started crafting a modern ruleset that gave me all of the “feels” that Necromunda did, while giving me all of the things that I had wished at the time that it could do, but didn’t. In November the first draft of the rules were completed, and in December and January Blaine’s Street Cleaners got brought out as proxies to test the rules to my new game. Broken Contract would not exist without Necromunda, and it was created in the hope that it would fill a hole in the market that has now been filled by a pile of other games, including the new, re-envisioned, Necromunda itself.

I am in love with most of the new models and think the new mechanics look really interesting. If I had the money I would have bought in when it was released, but it will probably be my one big purchase at AdeptiCon this year. It won’t replace what Broken Contract has become for me, but I’m looking forward to crawling through the Sump once more, with some brand new House Cawdor models when they get released. Gaming has changed a lot in the last 23 years, and only a handful of the cyberpunk visions from that era have become reality, but a mix of nostalgia and the bleak politics of the times we live in now I think have made them relevant and interesting again to many. For me, Necromunda was as big of an inspiration for me as when I first got exposed to Dungeons and Dragons in elementary school. It captured my imagination in a way that left me obsessing over it, and I loved that about it.

Nick Baran
Breaker Press Games

Yeah, I love Streetcleaner that much.