Updated: Jan 16
Greetings one and all,
Today we’re going to take a look into the technophiles of Necromunda, House Van Saar. A house so full of secrets, that if they were discovered, it would bring the full weight of Mars down upon them. And maybe even all of Necromunda itself.
So turn off any recording devices and listen very closely as we piece together who, and what, these people actually are.
The most ancient histories of the Van Saar are almost lost to all, save the most learned Archeoteck of that house. What is known though, is that during the Dark Age of Technology, before the Imperium spread itself far from the reaches of Sol, there was a ship called Van Saar on course to Necromunda, then known to its crew of budding colonists and scientists as Araneus Prime. Upon that ship was the chief technical officer, a man whose understanding of Technology was such that he was considered to be no less than a god amongst men. He was also known as Van Saar. On its journey to Araneus Prime, however, the ship was lost in a warp storm for some 10,000 years, and when it finally re-emerged from the warp, it came crashing down into the wastes of what was now known as Necromunda at some point in the 35th millennium. No one within house Van Saar argues this as fact, but what is debated is what happened next.
Two tales are put forward to answer this; either, a group of Ash Scavengers found the ship and the incalculably valuable STC within, taking the name of the ship as their own in honour of their find. Or, that it was Van Saar himself that founded the house, having crawled out of the wreckage of the crashed ship after surviving the 10,000 years lost in the warp in statis.
Most believe the former answer seems more likely to be true, but the Archeoteks of House Van Saar prefer the latter answer as it gives them claim to having been descended from Terra itself; a great boon to anyone's righteous reputation to rule. Regardless of the truth though, the fledgling House Van Saar operated out of the wreckage of the ship, perfecting their understanding and use of the STC within, and growing rich off of the technology they produced as a result.
Unfortunately for the members of the new House of Van Saar, such good fortunes also came with an awful price; the STC sustained heavy damage during the crash and even now continues to bathe all nearby with a form of exotic radiation. This doesn’t just affect anything that is biological though, it even leaks into the more powerful technologies the house produces. It results in a terrible wasting sickness that leads to a vastly shortened, and incredibly painful lifespan for every member of the house. As such, the Van Saar were driven out of necessity to develop their signature armoured bodygloves to keep away the worst of the radiation. And at the same time, they make great use of artificial organs and bio-augments to replace parts of themselves that have failed in order to prolong their lives.
Now in the 41st millennium, House Van Saar are not only the techno savants of Necromunda, overseeing the production and maintenance of many essential infrastructural sites, but they are also integral to the running of the Hive as a whole, aiding in overseeing the maintenance of the ancient power collectors of the thermal shaft that provides energy across the entirety of Necromunda itself. They also trade openly with the likes of Houses Escher, Delaque, Orlock and Goliath, and have a strong alliance with the Mercator’s Lux and Pyros. It is, therefore, no surprise that they maintain a major monopoly over most of the high-tech and energy focused industries of Necromunda, producing energy-based weapons and creating many of the key components necessary to craft melta and plasma based weaponry. The nobility of Necromunda also benefit personally from the technological prowess of House Van Sarr, utilising their skills to purchase many high-tech “toys” from them such as digital weapons and hidden defensive shields, both of which are particular favourites amongst the upper echelons of the Hive.
The relationships House Van Saar has forged between itself and the rest of the Hive is now an almost symbiotic one, because much of Necromunda now simply couldn’t function without them. As such, many of the other houses and even Lord Helmawr himself have at times come to their aid against the enemies of Necromunda, even when those enemies are agents of the Imperium itself. But despite their indispensability to the Hive, they are still a house so full of secrets and obsession, trying even to this day to find the knowledge to repair the damaged STC, and at the same time, fix their own ruined bodies and enable themselves to live more natural and pain-free lives.
Van Saar gangs have the standard six types of members available to the core gangs of Necromunda, and their connection to and understanding of technology only increases with their level of importance. This does however mean that the more important you are, the more ravaged by sickness induced by the radiation you’ve become. So there are plenty of drawbacks indeed to being at the top of the hierarchy in this house.
Van Saar Prime
The Leaders of the gang, Primes are not only masters of their gang, they’re masters of the technology that they wield and that which keeps them alive. As such, they have access to a huge range of high-end equipment both offensive and defensive. With a ballistic skill of +2 you really want to focus on shooting (you’ll see though that this is true of all Van Saar). Giving them heavy weapons isn’t a bad idea either, though it is a costly one as all start at a minimum of 130 credits, and with the Prime being 130 credits himself as well you’ll be racking up a pretty hefty bill very quickly by kitting this one out in this way, so it’s something to really think about whether it is worth the price it’ll cost you. Restraint is a necessity.
Van Saar Augmek
The first of two types of Champion of the Van Sarr, Augmeks serve as their Primes Second in Command and Enforcer. They have very similar stats to the Prime including the same ballistic skill of +2, and they also have access to the shooting skill tree. So again, arm these guys for ranged combat. The Augmek shares a common problem across the entire Van Saar range however, in that they are really easy to spend far too many credits on. You will have to show restraint when equipping them, the same as with your Prime.
Van Saar Archeotek
A Master of Technologies, Archeoteks are a strange second choice for a Champion. They have access to some equipment others don’t; the Rad Beamer and Spider Rig, but if I’m honest, nearly anything an Archeotek can do an Augmek can do too, and they do it arguably better. They both have a shooting heavy stat line, but with the Archeotek being more expensive by 15 credits, it feels as though the most redeeming thing about them compared to their counterparts is that they can start with a piece of Cyberteknika. This isn’t necessarily worth the price, especially if you’re having to show restraint with how much you’re spending.
Van Saar Neotek
Known amongst the Van Saar gangs as Neotek’s, these Prospects are more or less just Green Goblin wannabes riding around on their Grav-Cutters. This does give them a movement of 7 inches while allowing them to ignore terrain, allowing them access to places where you can deliver shots from adventitious angles, but just remember they are very vulnerable as well, as their big models. And being up high, anyone is going to be able to see and shoot them. Their mobility though would make them great driveby grenadiers, meaning their relatively poor Ballistic Skill of +4 will matter less. And those that do survive have the chance to become an Augmek or an Archeotek once they have accrued 5 or more advancements. But Neoteks also have the hot-headed rule, so when they die the gang just shrugs and isn’t too surprised or bothered.
Van Saar Tek
The more basic foot troops of any Van Saar, these Gangers are (like all van Saar) built for a ranged battle and have access to so. Many. Lasguns… So that's nice, however, like a lot of the Van Saar, they also only have a movement of 4 (however, I understand this, as I too have dodgy knees, which I’m betting is a common issue in the rad-wasted Van Saar). Their weapon list in general is also much bigger than their Prospect counterparts, and they have a Ballistic Skill of +3 making them more flexible in terms of usability rather than just zipping around the Underhive trying to look cooler than they are. And at only 65 credits each, which is 5 credits cheaper than Prospects, if you're feeling a bit flush with credits later on in a campaign you could give them Hystrar pattern energy shields, then just put them up front and let them soak up fire for your more expensive and better armed Prime and Augmeks.
Van Saar Subtek
The second fastest models in your gang are the Subteks. They fulfil the same role as Teks, they’re just 30 credits cheaper and have worse stats. They do enjoy a similar equipment list, although it’s somewhat reduced. I guess you could use them as bare-bone meat-shields, running them in front of your better Gangers to soak up the shots, but in the long run you only really need Teks and maybe a Neotek or two if you really need to get somewhere fast.
The Escher have their cats, the Orlocks have dogs, Goialth has a crocodile thing. So, what do the Van Saar have…? Giant Bloody Spiders… Eww… As is to be expected, this Cyberachnid is one of Necromundas species of giant spiders that has been captured by the house and subjected to a cybernetic upgrade of sorts, making it totally loyal to its master. Its great movement means it can support its master should they ever find themselves in close combat, and that's before the Fearsome special rule is thrown in, meaning a willpower check is needed to even charge it in the first place. It's also armed with a web projector, so it’s perfectly capable of taking fighters out of the battle all on its own. A rather handy, if not unnerving, pet indeed.
House Van Saar has one house specific hanger on in the Cogitator Core Servitor. This member allows the Van Saar gang to have an unprecedented level of control over the battlefield as the defender is able to turn out the lights and place booby traps, as well as make it harder for enemy gangs to access terminals or bypass the locks on loot caskets. They’re not cheap at 100 credits, but if they’re used well they could easily turn the tide of any battle.
Being the techno-wizards that they are, it isn't surprising that the Van Saar have access to heavy-duty machinery. Usually found in places of heavy industry for using specific tools, lifting and moving materials, and operating machinery that is too important or delicate to trust giving the responsibility to an abhuman or servitor, the Van Saar have something called the Arachni-Rig, which is an alternative kind of servo-rig or mechanical exo-skeleton designed to be linked directly into the nervous-system of the Van Saar ‘pilot’, rather than simply being worn as an outer suit that is controlled by the physical movements of the wearer as most servo-rigs usually are. It can be controlled directly by the Van Saar in situ or pre-programmed with movement commands to make hefty duties a breeze. And it is somewhat of a monster, with a strength of 5, toughness 4, 3 wounds and 4 attacks, this thing's stat line is great. Add on the fact it’s got light carapace armour and a twin-linked heavy las carbine (that’s 9 strength 4 shots) and yeah, it's a bit of a beast. This is before we’ve added any upgrades as well. Give it a rad gun or a plasma gun and it can make two shooting actions a turn, with each shot at a different target. That said, it’s definitely a big target, and at a base cost of 240 credits it's a sizable investment, but you certainly do get a lot of bang for your buck in this thing.
Tech Skills and Cyberteknika
As with all other houses, House Van Saar have access to their own unique skill group. As expected they’re all tech based, and called Tech Skills accordingly, but these are rather, well how to put this… They’re bad. These skills are titled as follows; Cold and Calculating, Gadgeteer, Mental Mastery, Photonic Engineer, Rad-Phaged, and the only one I feel is actually any good, Weaponsmith. Weaponsmith gets rid of the scarce trait on a weapon and weapons without scarce gain plentiful, which is really good for fighters armed with plasma weapons for example. But that’s probably the best thing going amongst these skills. Compared to such skills as “Shotgun Savant” which is available to members of House Orlock and enables you to use your short-range bonus at long range instead, the rest of these skills available to the Van Saar seem a little lacklustre, or even just confusing and paltry in comparison. For example, Photonic Engineering enables the fighter to apply a +1 modifier to the strength of all their las weapons, but at the cost of giving all those las weapons the ‘Unstable’ trait. And although this skill does give the fighter re-rolls on failed ammo checks for las weapons, this is only as long as those las weapons don’t have the ‘Unstable’ trait… Which you’ve just given your las weapons to gain a +1 modifier… It almost seems like you have to pick one half of this skill or the other, which is massively limiting. It almost feels like it should be two separate skills. It’s just so disappointing that this gang hasn’t been given skills that are more coherent and streamlined befitting their level of (arguable) intelligence.
On top of this however, the Van Saar gains access to Cyberteknika. Remember when I said back at the beginning that “ they make great use of artificial organs and bio-augments”? Yeah, this is the part in the rule that represents that. Each cyberteknika comes in three levels, with each level giving more benefits. However, be aware that these are expensive, more so than just giving your fighter equipment that does something similar. Where it does shine though, is in reducing the effects of lasting injuries, Van Saar gangs won't need to go to the trading post to get bionics and repair themselves as they can build their own augments and body-part replacements, and that's a big deal in fixing up your gang.
Cyberteknika are as follows:
Alpha: Immunity to Insane.
Gamma: Immunity to Insane and Intoxicated.
Omega: Immunity to Insane, Intoxicated, and cannot be Broken.
Alpha: The fighter is always equipped with an infra-sight
Gamma: The fighter is always equipped with an infra-sight and a mono-sight.
Omega: The fighter is always equipped with an infra-sight, a mono-sight, and photo-goggles.
Alpha: Immunity to Disarm
Gamma: Immunity to Disarm, and ignores the -1 to hit in melee if the fighter has to turn and face their opponent.
Omega: Immunity to Disarm, ignores the -1 mentioned above, and the fighter’s attacks cannot be parried.
Alpha: Ignores negative movement modifiers for moving through difficult terrain.
Gamma: Ignores negative movement modifiers and adds 2” to their movement when moving vertically.
Omega: Ignores negative movement modifiers, adds 2” to vertical movement, and can reroll Initiative checks to see if they fall when standing within a half inch of a platform edge.
Alpha: Unarmed attacks do 3 Damage instead of 1.
Gamma: Damage 3 unarmed attacks and +2 Strength with Melee and Versatile weapons.
Omega: Damage 3 unarmed attacks, +2 Strength with Melee and Versatile weapons, and always-on suspensors.
Alpha: +1 Toughness when considering how many Flesh Wounds it takes to make the fighter go out of action.
Gamma: +1 Toughness for Flesh Wounds and can reroll Toughness checks.
Omega: +1 Toughness for Flesh Wounds, can reroll Toughness checks, and may discard 1 Flesh Wound in each End Phase.
Some of these pieces of Cyberteknika could be incredibly useful for any fighter in any gang, so the hefty price they cost may be worth it in the end. But each Cyberteknika augment can only be taken once per part of the body, and only the Leader and Champions are able to take Cyberteknika at creation. It’s also something to bear in mind that these augments are again, not cheap, and just as gang members can receive lasting injuries to limbs and body-parts, Cyberteknika can be damaged as well, rendering the augment useless until repaired at half the cost of its original purchase price. So it’s up to the player if these are worth it to take early on and in campaign play especially, as the cheapest piece of Cyberteknika is 30 credits which is almost as much as an unarmed Juve.
The Van Saar has a full range of models across the Gameworkshop and Forgeworld sites. Gamesworkshop itself has three boxes; the Van Saar Gang, the Van Saar Archheotek’s & Grav-cutters, and the Van Saar Weapons and Upgrades kit. With the Van Saar Gang you can build the Prime, Augmek, Tek, and Subtek models, and with the Van Sarr Archroteks & Grav-cutters you can build the remaining models to fill out your gang. The Weapons and Upgrade kit allows you to arm your fighters with a large number of different weapons that aren’t available in their standard boxes, and it also gives you ten extra heads to further personalise your gang members. Forgeworld further augment the Van Saar with the Van Saar Arachni-Rig, Van Saar Champions in Mesh and Flak Armour, Van Saar Champions in Carapace Armour with Cyberachnids, and the Van Saar Energy Shield Set. When it comes to equipping your Van Saar gang you really are spoilt for choice.
The Van Saar are almost pigeonholed into one role: that of long-range fighters. On a board with little terrain they will rip apart almost any enemy, but on a Zone Mortis board they will likely really struggle with the close confines they’re put in. It‘s also really easy to overspend credits when making any gang, but the Van Saar, to me, make it almost too easy and before you know it, your gang is vastly outnumbered by far far more numerous gangs. That said, I can't help but love their style and I know full well now what my next gang is going to be.
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