- Drugar OakenhammerCroatia
To do my part for helping every half-decent game on this site getting a review no matter how obscure, I've decided to tackle this rough gem from Games Workshop's ancient past.
Confrontation is the predecessor of Necromunda, a very cool cyberpunk skirmish game.
The game background will be very familiar to players of Necromunda: gang warfare in the (literal and figurative) underworld of a vast city-hive. The descriptions of the hive, its rulers and inhabitants, its constant anarhic violence and survival of the fittest, and the polluted wasteland and huge tracts of abandoned tunnels below the city makes for a very interesting read. Overall, the picture painted is even bleaker and grittier than the one in Necromunda, and also seems to be somewhat more open-ended. Even if you don't ever intend to play Confrontation or Necromunda, the material could be of use in a Warhammer 40000 RPG.
Perhaps the most striking difference between Necromunda and Confrontation is that the latter doesn't class gangs according to the house they belong to, but rather according to broad categories - e.g. Clan gangs, Brat gangs, Tech gangs, Underhive gangs, Mutant gangs etc. Many of these ideas would be revisited in the Outlanders expansion for Necromunda.
The game was intended to be released in parts in the White Dwarf magazine, which would allow the design team to receive feedback from players before putting out an actual rulebook. The articles - very appropriately - warned you that this was a game intended for experienced players who are prepared to make their own rules as they play. The game provided you a setting and a basic rules system, while leaving things like scenarios and character advancement up to the players. A limited range of models was released for the game. Some served as inspiration for Necromunda models later on.
Unfortunately, as one may have already guessed, this approach just didn't make for a profitable game for GW, so all development on the game eventually stopped. Much of the game's background was re-used for Necromunda, but the rules system was completely different...
Rules - generating your gang
Back to Confrontation. The rules were heavily based on Laserburn, the ancestor of Warhammer 40000. Except for having even more grit than Laserburn. For example, in Laserburn, your guys at least wear armour - in Necromunda, it's a rarity. And even if you do get some, you'll find that a) it slows you down and b) it's not all that good anyway.
But let's start with the basics. First of all, you get to roll up your gang. Your gang type determines your starting stats and equipment. Basically, the wealthier gangs tend to get better equipment and more money, but those from the underhive tend to be quicker and far better in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, the gang generation system is way too random - your number of followers AND their experience is determined completely randomly. So you can roll up a gang composed of 4 Raw Recruits, while your opponent gets 7 tough Henchmen.
Supplies are very limited, and ammunition can be even harder to obtain than weapons. You are required to track each and every bullet you fire! This in turn means that some weapons (especially Bolters) may not be as cool as they seem at first glance - ammo for them is rare and expensive. While the game contains rules for everything from Conversion Beamers to Shuriken Cannon, the fact remains that most fighting will be done with laspistols, autoguns, swords, shotguns and other simple weapons.
Combat system - now this is what I call Grit
Then we come to the main part of the game: combat rules. These are much like Laserburn's: very detailed, realistic, complex, but surprisingly intuitive. The game's early 90s origins show in the large number of tables present, and the requirement for players to do basic math. Also, the organization of the rules, while not particularly bad, is dated and will turn off most people these days.
Unlike most GW games, the game uses an Initiative system rather than the classic IGO-UGO. This means that more quick-witted, experienced and less encumbered characters can act sooner than those who are slower or are carrying a lot of stuff. You can choose to "wait for your moment" and wait for others to act before you do if you wish it.
There are only four stats: Weapon Skill (for melee combat), Ballistic Skill, Initiative (how fast you react) and Prestige. The first two range from 10 (hopeless) to 200 or more (close combat monster / crack shot), while the other two go from 1 to 15+. Yes, there is no Toughness, and no Wounds.
Believe me, you do not want to get hit. The damage system is extremely realistic - a bullet will put you out of action unless you've very lucky indeed. And by that I meant your standard rifle bullet - stuff like Bolters and Plasma weapons will blow your head clean off, just like they would in real life. And to make matters worse, if one of your guys gets killed or incapacitated, there's a good chance his buddies will become too scared to advance, or even just tail it off the battlefield altogether. Leaders represent the players themselves, and can choose to ignore this rule - a nice touch in my opinion.
Effective use of cover and concealment is thus the key to victory. Again, the game is realistic in this regard - a guy in the open is easy to spot, while a guy peeking around a wall can only be spotted from a short distance away. Furthermore, just because your characters spot someone, doesn't mean they will react in time to shoot them. Carrying more equipment slows down your reaction time, which can make the differenc between life and death - carrying a heavy bolter, flak armour, 5 grenades and a power sword won't help you one bit if some guy with a laspistol drops you before you turn your weapon on him.
Hand-to-hand combat is fittingly quick and lethal. Ideally you'll want to creep up on your enemy from behind, which pretty much guarantees a kill. The weapon you have readied can make a huge difference. Just like in real life, going unarmed against a guy with a sword is a very bad idea. Of course, you only get the bonus if you actually have the weapon in your hand - again, the game rewards tactical thinking. Oddly, the game gives no WS bonus for a Power Axe - almost certainly an oversight.
Interestingly - though it will rarely/never crop up in a game - the game gives you a substantial close combat bonus for wearing Power Armour, something that makes perfect sense yet is rarely present in other games set in the Warhammer universe.
In sum, it is obvious the game was intended for fighting in claustrophobic, cramped quarters. Fighting on a typical Warhammer battlefield would quickly lead to a massacre. Some characters have skills (e.g. sniper, nerves of steel, fast draw). Unfortunately, most of them aren't too useful, and they mostly seem like a lost opportunity.
After the shootout - more Grit
Finally, after you limp back home after your hard-fought battle, there are some loose ends to tie up. Again, the massive level of grit shows here - there's no holding your hand like Necromunda sometimes does.
Left your guys on the battlefield? Too bad, they're at the enemy's mercy now. Or worse, if the enemy fled too, they may well end up as the lunch of some underhive beast or mutant.
Serious wounds? Much like in Necromunda, these can have some really bad lingering effects. Some can pretty much end the career of a ganger. If you have no Medic or Medi-kit, your character may even die of his wounds.
And then, you finally get a chance to obtain new equipment via trade. And there's more grit - you only get to choose one type of equipment you're looking for (e.g. Guns, Armour, Grenades) and get a random number of rolls on the chart to see what is available. Yep, finding good gear is HARD. Another nice aspect of the charts is that you can find almost anything in the Underhive given luck - even stuff like D-Cannons or Power Armour... and they're just as expensive as you'd imagine (read: way beyond what your typical gang can afford). You get one opportunity to trade before your first battle – trust me, you'll want to use it to get some ammo. One interesting detail is that you can trade with other gangs however much you like - a nice way to encourage larger player groups and more interaction among the players.
Since the game was never finished, some parts of the rules were never published. They include:
-improving stats, gaining new skills
-recruiting new gang members (this is perhaps the biggest issue - you'll NEED to replace your dead)
-equipment other than weapons and armour
Most of these can, however, be adapted from the Warhammer RPGs, Inquisitor, Warhammer 40000 (1st or 2nd edition), Necromunda or Laserburn. Or just go old school and design them yourself
So, in sum, Confrontation can probably be better understood as a "source code" for making your own customized skirmish game. It has a great background, lots of unbalanced but fun tables for generating your starting gang and equipment, and rewards careful, tactical play. The detail level is immense, and most of the rules are actually quite intuitive and feel “real”.
Yet its unfinished state alone will turn away any casual player. The archaic rules layout will account for more, and I feel even determined players may balk at the sheer grittiness of the rules, and the high attrition rate of their gangers. If you persevere, though, you may find a gem in Confrontation. It is a gem you will have to cut and polish yourself to get the most out of, though.
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- Chris TurnerUnited States
We played this as it came out in White Dwarf and I believe it was only twice. You can't really have a campaign game with gang fights, however realistic, with 50% casualties on both sides-- but the games were pretty fun.
If I was going to play this now I would use Legends of the Old West as the base rules and layer in the Sci fi weaponry rather than try to mod Confrontation or even use Necromunda (due to the between game book keeping-- which is substantial compared to Mordheim/Legends of the Old West).
Great job hunting all this stuff down!
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- Drugar OakenhammerCroatia
I actually played this a fair bit back in the day and yeah, the attrition rate is too high for any sort of extended campaign (3-mission mini campaigns work fine though).
The designers mentioned that the ruleset (actually the Laserburn ruleset) was itself originally meant for a World War 2 game, and I think this may be the reason the game is so unforgiving when it comes to casualties.
Thanks for the recommendation, didn't think of trying to mod Legends of the Old West for a Necromunda-style game.
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