Updated: Jan 16
Greetings one and all.
Today's article has been outsourced to our resident Build-Monkey and House Cawdor fanatic. So, burn the witch, purge the heretic, and wish praise upon the mighty God Emperor himself lest you find yourself in the fiery sights of these murderous brethren.
Good day everyone. Today we are going to dive into the fiery bowels of the poorest house of Necromunda; House Cawdor. A house consisting of beggars, scavengers, bonepickers and criminals, they are easily one of the weakest of the hive. However, while the Cawdor lack in the physical prowess of the Goliath, the wealth of the Orlock, or the technological knowhow of the Van Saar, the Cawdor have one thing that makes them more powerful than any other house of Necromunda combined: Faith.
The origins of what has become of House Cawdor in the 41st millennium are disputed, even amongst the members themselves, dutifully obfuscated by the Thanes and the Word-keepers of the house. But one truth is universal amongst them all as to their beginnings; their path of Redemption began with the founding father of the Faith, Encorderius Brayne.
House Cawdor began as a small house on Necromunda with little to no affiliation with the religion it is now so wholly associated with. As a simple clan house, its members were in near constant on-again off-again conflict with House Orlock over the differences between ‘scavenging’ and ‘mining’. And being a house consisting of almost nothing but beggars and criminals, it was weak. So weak in fact, that barely anyone even noticed it. The Guild considered them beneath their consideration, and it was only down to the generosity of a few noble houses that the Cawdor were even granted some territory and contracts. Charismatic leaders amongst the house would rise to power, but soon inevitably fall to the bickering and infighting amongst the people as there was no guiding principle for them to follow or be united behind. But this all changed in the 39th millennium with the rise of power of Encorderius Brayne.
Amongst the faithful of the house, Encorderius Brayne is considered a Saint. Once a member of the drudging classes of the hive city, a devout follower of the Cult of the Ecclesiarchy despairing at the greed and suffering of his fellow citizens and the nobles that ruled above them, who rose to power as the father of the Redemption through an accidental act of falling into the inner workings of the great factorum machinery of Necromunda, only to be saved by a holy light cast by the God Emperor himself, proving without doubt his divine right to lead the people of Necromunda to salvation. Deviating from these beliefs about the founder of their faith is akin to heresy by the faithful, and those who tell such lies as how Brayne, beginning as a Cawdor gang leader, took a bullet to the head and ‘found’ religion as a result, or how he was a con man who was cast out of the spire and used the idea of ‘redemption’ to fuel his gambling habits by taking advantage of the pious will quickly see you killed by any of the faithful followers lest you continue to spread such lies.
By the turn of the 40th millennium, many cults of the Redemption had been ignited and died just as swiftly. The Cawdor were still a house in name only, as groups led by their own separate leaders vied for control without success. That is, until a man by the name of Aornath VI saw the Redemption as a way to finally unite his house, as well as to claim control of it for himself at the same time. Aornath was the first of the house Nobles of the Cawdor, and he used his position as leader to actively encourage the following of the Redemption faith, going so far as to rename himself “Thane of Cawdor”. This gave his name and position religious meaning within the structure of the Redemption, and through his act of appointing himself as the “Head of the Faith” on Necromunda, House Cawdor unified behind him. The following decades saw the house flourish in terms of its popularity and wealth.
Aornath’s position as Thane wasn’t to last however, because while he had become the great unifier of the clan bringing much wealth and many people into the flock, his own teachings and interpretations of the Redemption would become his ultimate downfall as those beneath him usurped his role to claim power for themselves. Workers and lesser members of the house rose up to become “Word-Keepers” (priests and holy men), while the shadow Noble House Ko’iron consumed the upper echelons of House Cawdor, and by the second half of the millennium, House Cawdor had fully evolved to become the House of the Faith.
The following decades saw a number of Thanes rise and fall in power. Word spread of the Faith to every corner of Necromunda and the Holy Palace of Bones was constructed over an old Cawdor furnace dome, becoming the very heart of the religion. As time marched on, the Thanes and their advisors continued to gain in power and control over the house. By the early 41st millennium the Noble House Ko’iron and House Cawdor were so intertwined that their fortune and influence were immense. The “Holy Book of Brayne” was refined and translated by the leaders into every language of Necromunda, detailing what it is to be a “Word-Keeper” and stipulating the “Ten Words of the Faith”. But like any clan who rises to power there will always be enemies to temper it.
Many of the Noble houses and other clans on Necromunda saw the power of House Cawdor as a threat. During the middle of the 41st millenium, the Noble houses placed crippling sanctions on the industries of Thane Spriggan. This was then followed by the demand that the Redemption be declared a subversive cult and to ban its practice on Necromunda. These events were nothing short of a disaster for the house as vast sums of wealth were lost and the people contemplated all out rebellion. Thane Spriggan however averted such a response from his flock. The “Pax Redemtos”, a now sacred document of the Redemption, was created and signed as a vow and a law that the Redemption would never bare arms in the name of the faith. Although this saved the House of the Faith from its ultimate destruction, it also divided it. Those who fought for the house would be considered “Warriors of Cawdor”, but those who continued to fight in the name of the Redemption would be declared outlaws of the hive.
House Cawdor is a divided house, led by the Thane and managed by the Word-Keepers in following the wills of the God Emperor. There are as many variations of the Faith as there are hive cities of Necromunda, and while the current Thane silently plays these differing factions of the Faith off against each other to prevent one cult growing more powerful than another there is a certain distinction that divides the House of Cawdor definitively in to two; how fanatical they are in public.
As such, House Cawdor is effectively two gangs in one, divided down the middle by their alignment and meaning there are effectively two versions of each of its members at every level available. The only difference is that one half of the gang is considered on Necromunda as pious, lawful and practising “Cawdor Gangs”, and the other are nothing but fanatical zealots the “Redemptionists”, outlaws who vehemently follow their faith of the Redemption to the nth degree. Though, to all others on the outside of the faith looking in, there is very little, if any, distinction between the two. Even the current Thane Mormaer openly condemns the outlaws in the courts of the nobles, while arming these zealots in private with the necessary arms and armour needed to purge the faithless of Necromunda.
The leaders of the pious gangs of the House of Faith. Word-Keepers have access to some of the most unique weapons of the gang, but with mediocre statlines it means that the Word-Keeper is somewhat stunted compared to his underlings and counterpart Redemptionist (more on that later). Their low ballistic skills also mean leading from the front is a poor option, despite the template weapon availability, and so the Word-Keeper is limited to support roles for the gang. Still, they can take up a meaty melee position with a greatsword or chain glaive, but there are other Cawdor members better suited to this in my opinion.
The righteous right-hand of the Word-Keeper, Cawdor Firebrands are the Champions of the Cawdor gang and have much of the same selection of weapons available as the Word-Keeper himself. However, their statlines and their skills seem to contradict each other trying to push the Firebrand in two directions; is he a shooter, or is he a fighter? Top this off with a poor skill tree that gives very few benefits at all and the Firebrand is one very confused and mixed up gang member (kind of fitting for a Cawdor though). The one redeeming feature of a Champion of Cawdor however, is his access to the Cawdor heavy crossbow. The Word-Keeper does have access to this weapon as well, but it seems wasted on the leader somewhat, and with the Firebrand being as mixed up in it’s statline as it is, playing him with this weapon seems to be the perfect choice as the Firebrand does have a +3 ballistic skill, making this beast of a weapon quite formidable in the hands of a mixed up Firebrand.
Cawdor Brethren are the foot soldiers of your gang. A small army of gangers who dutifully follow their Word-Keeper into battle more than willing to purge the wicked in the Emperor's name… Their state lines however, much like the Firebrand, leave a lot to be desired. Where they make up for this however is in the form of the Cawdor Polearm/Blunderbuss. These are easily some of the best weapons in the game, crafted out of spare parts and scrap and able to deal both ranged melee and ballistic damage utilising the templates available. They’re cheap too, which is another great benefit. Add to this the special rule for the Brethren “Devout Masses”, which gives you the ability to take one extra ganger with them per battle, and you have a low-cost close ranged beast of a ganger that can absolutely devastate enemies on the battlefield.
Bonepickers are plucked from the lowly masses of the Cawdor settlements, made Juves as the Word-Keepers press scavenged weapons into their hands and send them off to fight. As such, their stats are somewhat awful with ballistic and weapon skills of +5. However these Juves aren’t to be sniffed at, because while they don’t have brilliant stats, they do also have access to the “Devout Masses” special rule, and whereas the Brethren can only bring one extra Cawdor with them onto the battlefield, the Bonepickers can bring D3. So what they lack in stats, they can make up for in numbers.
As fanatical as the Word-Keepers are, the Redemptor Priests take things well into the extreme. These are some of the most dangerous members of the Cawdor, able to rouse great armies of followers with an impassioned speech and lead their followers from the front. Redemptor Priests cost the same as Cawdor Word-Keepers, but these guys have better weapons, better armour, and primary access to the unique Cawdor skill Piety (more on that later). Also did I mention fire?
As Champions of the Redemption, Deacons stand right beside their Priest and two steps behind. With better stats than their Firebrand counterparts and access, like their Priest, to the Piety skill tree, these are formidable characters on the field. Better in melee and at range than their pious other-halfs, the only real downside to them is that they don’t have access to the Cawdor Heavy Crossbow. They do, though, have the ability to field the grenade launcher, which is a reasonable substitute. This variation of the model however isn’t currently available, so it will mean a little converting is necessary. But if you’re feeling cheap, they also have access to the long-rifle which is very good if you want to give your gang an edge at long-range, because everywhere else the gang seems to be rather lacking at causing damage at a distance.
To say these Redemptionist Brethren are different from their Cawdor Brethren in name only is in my opinion an insult. Whereas their pious counterparts can field polearms and bring along their friends to pad out the party, Redemtionist Brethren cannot. Their statlines are somewhat the same, being mediocre at best, but the lack of anything to give them a substantial edge on the field means they’re only really worth their own numbers in gang padding at best. Plus they’re 5 credits more expensive than the Cawdor for almost nothing extra in return.
Zealots are the frenzied fanatical followers of the faith, willing to suicidally charge the enemy lines at the word of their Redemptionist Priest. They have a nice little selection of melee weapons and a +4 weapon skill, but at twice the cost of their Bonepicker counterparts at 40 credits a pop, it doesn’t seem entirely worth it. Bonepickers benefit from the “Devout Masses” skill which brings numbers to the party, but Zealots only bring themselves and a slightly better cool. They seem to be more of a ‘style over substance’ class of Juve.
Like all other houses of Necromunda, House Cawdor benefit from a variety of agents, hangers-on and brutes. But just as the Cawdor are divided in their gangs, those who follow through either faith or money have their allegiances as well. Some will only work with those who are pious in their faith, while others will happily charge into battle with the flaming fanatics that have swayed them.
Klovis the Redeemer is an agent of House Cawdor who carries his own legend throughout Necromunda. Considered to be the embodiment of the Faith of the Redemption itself, he can only be hired by gangs pious enough in their faith; if they are successful in petitioning him for his aid in battle. Should a gang be lucky enough that Klovis finds their cause worthy of his time, he will agree to aid them for a price, and arrive dutifully followed by his servo-scribe Deacon Malakev, who carries the Redeemer’s Liber Excruciatus from which Klovis can preach from on the battlefield to unnerve the members of the faithless.
The Hive Preacher is a hanger-on of the house. But other than being a specifically named character, he doesn’t seem to be very special as a character itself. The most beneficial thing about him is his “Sermon” skill, in which you can roll a D6 at the end of any pre-battle sequence to gain that many faith dice to add to your pool. He also counts as three fighters when determining how many of your gang members are left to generate Faith dice (which I'll discuss further later on), but only if he’s not seriously injured. The Flagelator on the other hand revels in injury, and while he does make up an extra body in your crew, his only real benefit is that he enables you to bring any one fighter who is in recovery from a previous campaign game back into play, albeit with one flesh wound as they start. This means he’s only really useful in campaign play, and only if you have lost a particular gang member that you could really do with bringing back for a particular fight. Otherwise he’s next to useless. Both these hangers-on have their perks, but there are a myriad of other options available for the Cawdor as well as other gangs of Necromunda to hire. These two can only be taken by Outlaw Redemptionists however, who might find a use for them (especially for generating Faith dice). But pious, “law-abiding” Cawdor Gangs wouldn’t sully their groups with this riff-raff.
Then we have the Brute of the house, the aptly named Cawdor Stig-Shambler. Technically this thing is a two-in-one, as the shambling mass acts like somewhat of a mobile mount for a smaller guy, riding it like a backpack and firing a twin-linked heavy stubber from a cradle over its head. But for the purposes of the model's stats itself, it is only one entity (which is somewhat of an oversight I feel). Yes, this loloping mass of mighty meat looks cool, and the sound in theory of a mobile heavy stubber sounds like it could cause a lot of havoc on the battlefield, but this thing is no doubt going to be the biggest thing on the board and therefore one great big bullet-magnet to boot. And with a toughness of only 4, it’s going to go down pretty fast as everything minces through its 4 wounds just to get it clear off the board. Top that off with a measly ballistic skill of +4, or +5 if you decide to move before you even take a shot, and it really seems to live up to its name.
Finally we have the pets of the house. Because, deep down, who doesn’t like to keep a cute little bundle of fluff or fur or some other exo-material around to snuggle and fawn over with love and affection. Just as the Orlocks have their mastiffs, and the Esher have their cats, the Cawdor have… Sheen Birds. And a variety of examples of bewinged baby-meat, otherwise known as Cherub-Servitors. Sheen Birds act as a somewhat cross between an eagle and a vulture, with a violent streak a mile wide. They ignore most terrain as they can fly, and while they benefit from greater flexibility than other houses exotic beasts, not restricted to ending their turns within 3” of their owners, these birds will actively charge enemy fighters whether you want them to or not. This can be avoided by rolling a successful willpower check of +8, but taking into account their special rule of ‘Rake Away’, these birds can make a free action to head back to their owner at the end of their turn, which can be quite useful. However, these birds are fragile. With only 1 wound and a toughness of 2, they might not last too long on the battlefield if they get caught in the crossfire. And at a cost of 90 credits each, they’re also quite expensive for what they are.
Cherub Servitors on the other hand are designed to be bullet-magnets for their owners, so if they go down, then it simply means they’ve done their job. These flying hunks of bewinged baby-meat actively put themselves between attackers and their owners, and each Cawdor can have up to 3 of them at a time. Add to this the fact that these Cherub-Servitors allow for re-rolls when rolling for faith dice, and you have an incredibly profitable bullet-magnet that is well worth its cost of 55 credits.
Birds and baby-meat aside, there are other beasts that actively run with the members of the house, but these tiny little fluff-balls are only available to Cawdor Gangs and technically, count as ‘personal equipment’ for your gang members. Bomb Delivery Rats are, quite literally, rats that carry bombs. These are one of my personal favourite pieces of equipment for this gang. They can be outfitted with any type of explosive and then, with a successful intelligence check, directed anywhere within a 12” radius of their handler, which can be incredibly handy on the battlefield especially when walls and barriers are in the way of your line of sight. (They also have their own models that can be placed onto the battlefield when deployed and they are adorable little mutated monsters, surgically implanted with or quite literally taped to enough explosives to bring down a building.)
When putting together your gang however, one thing is quite evident compared to most others (with the Escher being the exception). They’re all men. House Cawdor openly practices segregation of the sexes, but while most of the gangs of House Cawdor are made up of all male groups, there are a number of groups of female Cawdor who roam the underhive in the name of the Faith, seeking to break away from the patriarchy they find themselves caught within. Therefore it is entirely possible for you to kitbash and custom build your own female Cawdor members, but you will need to bare in mind that these groups will be considered outlaws by all houses, including House Cawdor themselves, and so you will need to place them appropriately and utilise the Redemptionist gang list when creating them.
Piety Skills and Articles of Faith
Members of House Cawdor have access to a unique set of skills that not only reflect the level of their Faith, but they show how having Faith can enable you to overcome weakness too. They’re available to all Redemptionist members in some form, but only the Cawdor Word-Keeper or Firebrand have access to Lord of Rats, Scavenger’s Eye, Blazing Faith, Unshakable Conviction, Devotional Frenzy, and Restless Faith. Each of these skills are unique in their implementation, with some being incredibly situational, such as Restless Faith, which enables you to bring a fighter back out of recovery during campaign play but at the cost of a single flesh wound from the start. My personal favourite however is Unshakable Conviction. You know how in some multiplayer video games where you go down, but you can still manage to shoot a little and crawl away to safety while you wait for your buddies to help you? This is basically that. It prevents your fighter being Coup De Grace’d, you can make reaction attacks when targeted while downed, and you can perform the “Flock Together” action which lets them crawl movement +1d3 towards another friendly gang member. Pretty useful.
On the other side of the Piety skills are a series of special rules called the Articles of Faith. These are unique to the Cawdor, but they’re also unique in their price tag: they’re free. Other gangs have to purchase special skills, which can be quite expensive, but the Cawdor gangs can just use their Articles of Faith. Although there is a catch: you need to generate Faith dice to activate them. How this works, is that at the end of each round in a battle, however many members of your gang that are still standing you roll that number of dice. Each dice rolled at +5 gets put into a “Faith Dice Pool”. Then, when you want to activate one of your Articles of Faith, you take a number of dice out of this pool and if successful in your roll, that Article of Faith is activated. There are four “Paths of Faith” to choose from, each named to reflect the particular abilities they give you such as the “Path of the Faithful”, the “Path of the Fanatic”, the “Path of the Doomed”, and the “Path of the Redeemer”. You can’t pick and choose which Articles you want from each Path during play, as each of these Paths will be based on the specific set of beliefs that your leader will preach. You can, though, if you want to, design your own Path of Faith by selecting four of your favourites from each of the Paths. If you do this though then you lose any benefits you might otherwise gain from taking one of the pre-set Paths, such as giving you a chance to accumulate extra Faith Dice depending on certain conditions of the pre-set Path of Faith (which is always welcomed). There are perks to each of these Paths of Faith that can cause a lot of havoc during battle whether you choose a pre-set Path or you make a Path of your own, but really, who doesn't want to be able to stop enemy fighters in their tracks through fear when the crazed fanatical gang members march towards them preaching how “the heart of the Heretic was easily cowed!”.
Games Workshop has two boxes of models available to easily make a full Cawdor or Redemptionist Gang, but getting both is a great option if you want to run a combination of the two. Both boxes come with a leader, a champion, and a selection of models that make up your gangers and juves, but there are enough models between the two to make up three or four champions or even up to three leaders right off the bat (just in case you need to swap out one priest for another, or simply want more variety). There’s also an upgrade box that has a number of extra heads and weaponry to really spice things up and give you the chance to fully customise your gang. However if you want some of the more specialist characters or beasts you will need to seek out Forgeworld, which is currently the only place you can find the models for characters such as Klovis and his Deacon Malakev, or the adorable little fluff-balls that are the bomb delivery rats. As a side note however, I do recommend the head upgrade available from Forgeworld as in my opinion, it has some of the nicest looking heads available for the Cawdor.
House Cawdor are a gang that really like to get up close, and not just so they can scream their sermons at you before purging you for the sake of your soul. As fanatical fiery murder-hobos templates are definitely their friends, and any weapons that can have the blaze effect is going to fare well in their hands. They may not be the strongest and they may not the fastest, but they certainly make up for it with numbers, and although most, if not all, of their arsenal is made up of scavenged and jury-rigged pieces of scrap cobbled together from the waste left behind by other gangs, they make damned good use of it all to get their message of damnation and Redemption across. They’re also effectively two gangs in one, having the most variety of fighter types of any other gang in Necromunda, so your options for putting a viable gang together are immense.
Also, again, did I mention fire?
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