Necromunda: Corpse Grinder Cults
Updated: Jan 16
Greetings, one and all.
From hidden and blasphemous fanes across the Underhive emerge gore-soaked souls that sweep all aside. With the word uprising on their lips, the offer made to those encountered by them are simple: join them and partake in the forbidden flesh of man, or become the next meal upon the festing table. This is the nightmare scenario of a Corpse Grinder Cult uprising.
But let's roll the clock back a bit, shall we and ask; what turns your normal hiver into a meat-lusting cannibal? Well, let us take a look at where these cults tend to start - in the entirely necessary, and honestly grim tasks, of corpse collection and processing.
On Necromunda, and indeed on every hiveworld, there are the corpse guilds. These guilds deal with the process of collecting the dead and processing them into corpse starch. This actually serves a few vital purposes; firstly, it prevents the spread of disease though unburied corpses, secondly, it reclaims useful elements and raw materials which can be used in a huge number of industries. Lastly, it provides one of the staple food sources of the hive (soylent green anyone?). This is a thankless and quite frankly harrowing task for anyone, and so it's little wonder that having spent a lifetime of seeing their fellow hivers being torn apart by the meat-saws and bone crushers, these individuals become hollow to the horror to which they are exposed to, and therefore become the perfect vessels for the powers of chaos to creep in. As a result, Necromunda has been plagued by the cannibalistic nature of the Corpse Grinders for centuries, which the past Lord Helmawr went to great lengths to try and keep secret, scrubbing their existence from record and having his enforcers attempt to remove all trace. But wherever there are corpses there are bound to be the curious and the desperate, hungry enough to taste the flesh and bring rise to a Corpse Grinder Cult.
But as truly grim as these cults are on the surface, there may be more to them than a lot of people would like to admit, which gives cause for concern of an even greater magnitude that could, if left to fester, could doom the whole hive to chaos. Each cult is ruled over by a Harvest Lord; an insane demagogue that feeds his followers the meat of their fellow man alongside promises of freedom and power. But far from being the leader of just another subversive cult, these Harvest Lords and their followers are rumoured to worship a powerful Daemon known as the Lord of Skin and Sinew. Having only recently been known to have emerged in Hive Arcos, this entity may have already walked the surface of Necromunda in the past, as ancient texts and icons speak of its existence. Though, to this day, no one is sure if it's truly the God of Blood’s gaze that causes the cannibalistic cravings of these people, or if it’s the craving call for the flesh that calls the gaze of the Blood God to them. But what is known, is that once they start, it signals the beginning of a nightmare.
In time, through either coercion, desperation, or a need to fill the emptiness with something of substance, thousands are brought into the fold of the Corpse Grinder Cults and in the darkness they practice their forbidden rituals, gather weapons, and prepare for the day of their uprising. The end goal of these cults, at least for the Harvest Lord, is to cannibalise the entire hive. At which point he will become a vessel for one of the Blood Gods daemons and a living embodiment of the Lord of Skin and Sinew, giving him either the chance of escape he seeks, or to turn the whole of Necromunda into his personal realm of hunger and blood.
Corpse Grinder Cult gangs are led by a Butcher who is bound to the Harvest Lord by profane ritual. Under him are a group of insane murders and cannibals, but one thing to note is that while other gangs can have an infinite number of Champions as campaigns go on (as long as they can be afforded that is), Corpse Grinder Cults can only ever have a maximum of 3 at any time. Like other gangs though they do have to have an equal to or greater number of lower ranking models per gang, and in this case it is the Initiates. These models must always be in equal to or greater numbers than Skinners.
The Leader of the gang, Butchers are as tough as they come with a strength and toughness of 4 and a weapon skill of +2. They really are scary in melee, but since they can only be armed with close combat weapons it makes sense. They also come pre-equipped with their own Butcher Mask and Platemail Armour. Top this with a movement of 5” and their special rule “First into the Fray”, which lets you add a D6 to their charge range instead of a D3 and they can reach much further then you might expect, and if armed with a pair Heavy Chain Cleavers your looking at 6 attacks at strength 6 ap -2 that automatically put other models out of action if they are reduced to 0 wounds. Truly this is a nasty set up.
These are the Butcher's inner circle. His chosen lieutenants, Champions, and another model that is designed for melee (in case you're curious, you’re going to see a theme here as all Corpse Grinders are built for melee). The Cutter has a slightly worse weapon skill than the Butcher at +3, but it also has a slightly lower toughness at +3. Like the Butcher though they also come equipped with their own Cutter Mask and Platemail Armour. They also have the special rule “Dervish”, meaning that their vision arc is 360 degrees when using a weapon with the Versatile trait. Though considering the only weapon that has that trait in their armoury is the Rotary Flensing Saw with a long range of 4” that also causes knockback and shred, these guys can just be dropped into the middle of a horde of other gangers and they’ll easily tear them apart.
These are the Gangers, or to give a better term the berserkers of the Corpse Grinders (though to be fair, everyone in the cult is a berserker more or less). Again, they can only be armed with close combat weapons and like everyone else, come equipped with a Skinners Mask and Platemail Armour. They also have the Berserk Charge rule, which means when they make a close combat attack as part of a charge they gain one additional attack. 4 attacks on the charge anyone?
The majority of Corpse Grinder Gangs are made of these poor fools. Initiates aren’t fully inducted members of the cult yet though, and therefore these Juves still blend in with the rest of society more or less. As such, they have a special rule to reflect this; “Infiltration”. This allows, before the start of the first round, for these models to be placed anywhere on the battlefield not visible to an enemy model and not within 6”. On top of this they also come equipped with an Initiate Mask and Flak Armour and no restrictions on weapons so, these guys can have guns! And their ballistic skill is +4, so you have a 50/50 chance of hitting, all things being equal.
Due to their nature, Corpse Grinder Cults are always outlaws, so if you are seeking to build a gang of these butcherers for campaign play this might limit you in some respects. But sometimes the pro’s of this outweigh the cons as the Black Market is freely open to gangs of such alignments and they have some really snacky melee weapons available.
Also as a minor gang group though, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the Corpse Grinder Cults to have any hanger-ons or dramatic personnel available to them specifically as hardly any of the other “minor” gangs of Necromunda do, but this is another area where the Corpse Grinder Cults are unique. The Eightfold Harvest Lord is a Bounty Hunter available for hire by the Corpse Grinder Cults. He is also available to the Chaos Cults or Chaos Corrupted Gangs, but considering that Harvest Lords are named specifically within the Corpse Grinder Cult Gangs as the leaders of their domains, this aligns the Eightfold Harvest Lord perfectly as a member of these gangs. And with a weapon skill of +2, and coming with Paired Heavy Chain Cleavers and Fighting Knives, topped off with a movement of 5” and a toughness of 4, this bounty hunter is a speedy beast who could easily cleave a way through the Underhive for his minions to follow gleefully behind.
Corpse grinders play a little differently to normal Necromunda gangs, and their makeup is also somewhat unique. As mentioned previously, gangs of Corpse Grinders can only ever have a maximum of 3 Cutters, their Champion model, per gang at one time. You will have also noticed that each rank within the cult has a mask associated with it; Butcher Mask, Cutter Mask, Skinner's Mask and Initiate Mask. Each of these bestows an extra rule upon the model, mostly to do with increasing your saving throws and reducing head injuries. But in the case of the Butcher and Cutter masks, these carry the “Terrifying” skill, meaning that any opponent wishing to make a basic fight or shoot action against them must first pass a willpower check. If they fail, then their turn ends immediately. Similarly, the Skinner mask also carries the “Fearsome” skill, preventing Skinners from being charged unless opponents, again, pass a willpower check.
Furthermore, Corpse Grinders get a unique skill set called Savagery, which kind of says it all in one word about these people. To be expected, these skills are all to do with buffing the Corpse Grinder in close combat and carry names such as Avatar of Blood, Bloodlust, Crimson Haze, Frenzy, Killing Blow, and Slaughterborn. Of these, Killing Blow strikes me as particularly nasty. If you were aiming to make a character killer, with this skill you only need to make a single attack. If you hit, the attack's strength and damage are doubled and there is NO armour save at all. Looking back, that pair of Heavy Chain Cleavers the Leader can be equipped looks quite beastly, strength 12 dam 4 no save? Owch!
There is only one box for the Corpse Grinders which contains 10 models, but it has everything you need to start your first gang with 6 Skinners and 4 Initiates, and options to swap out two of the Skinners to build a Butcher and a Cutter as well (also, they look like they’d make great cultists for your 40K chaos army). Forgeworld also offers you the chance to buy the Eightfold Harvest Lord to further pad out your cult, which would be a perfect addition to some gangs seeking to charge into battle with the big boss who gives their cause meaning. On top of this a few weeks before this article was scheduled Forgeworld released a weapon set for the Corpse Grinders. this gives a huge array of weapons with a very industrial abattoir feel to them.
The Corpse Grinders are a heavily close combat focused gang with traits and skills that improve their chances of getting into close combat to make mincemeat (quite literally} of their enemies. If they have one weakness though, it would be gangs with loads of ranged firepower. They’re next-to-useless unless they’re able to get up close and personal, so tight spaces are their domain to truly utilise their ability to rush the enemy.
Just remember though to beware those in the Underhive that look like they're too well fed; you might not like what they’ve been eating.
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