Thursday 10 April 2014

Creating a Brat Gang or "Rogue trader with style and panache"

1990 entry by John James
1992 entry by John James
After exploring the background and available informations on the Venator gangs in confrontation and after seeing some interest about the brat gangers by some other bloggers, I felt like giving some attention to some far more colourful factions. You can find some more info about confrontation and the venators in a previous post.

For the Brat gangers, I will follow a similar way as with the venators, trying to get every bit of info I can from the original confrontation rules published in White Dwarf and trying to see if links can be made with previous and later concepts.

Background :

First mention of Brat gangs in the confrontation rules is found in the characteristics of Hive gangs :

"The word 'gang' describes many different types of armed bands on Necromunda. Gang is a generic term which includes clan warriors, bands of ash nomads, savage gangs and mutant bands from the undercity, scavvies from the shanties, armed bands of techs, bands of fugitive psykers, unruly brat gangs of the upper hab layers, as weil as sanctioned gangs and professional bounty-hunters, guards and retainers such as the Venators and Custodians."

The mention of the upper hab layers is the first information which indicates what makes the brats special. To understand it, you have to look at the maps and cross-sections given to illustrate the hive. 

You can see the hive concept is derived from the medieval castles and the vertical ranking of the time with the most powerful and leaders at the top and the poorest and working masses at the very bottom. The upper hab layers are under the Noble families facilities and under the protection devices but they are above everything else, including main habitation level, factories, and undercities.

Now we get a clearer view of how nobles are organised in Necromunda. It looks like the noble families from the very top penthouse levels control sectors of the upper hive layers thanks to gangs made up of their rebelious youth. Those gangs frequently travel in the deeper areas of the hive to hunt, terrorise population and get weapons, drugs and equipment.

We can also note the emphasis on fashion, elaborate costumes and hairstyles, tattoos and extravagant rather than practical clothing. This and the fact they tend to favor exotic equipment all coming from the fact they have great wealth ressources.
We can also note that Drugs are one of their concerns and you can read in the section about Spook that :
"There has always been a massive demand for drugs in hive-society, mainly to supplement the diet and ward off sickness. Spook became popular among the nobility who revelled in its exotic effects and it has slowly filtered down throughout hive-society."

Rules :

Looking at the Gang determination chart, you can see Brats are quite a rare gang with a chance of getting rolled of 5.5% just like Venators and Tech gangs.
They are the second rarest gang after Psyker gangs and mutant gangs (both having a 2,7% rate of getting rolled), far more rare than Clan gangs who represent a 3rd of rolled gangs :

The gang modifier chart indicates that Brats are not particularly talented fighters with Initiative and weapon skill being lower than average (though the text and chart don't state the same).  They do rely on exotic equipment and drugs though :

With no surprise, the brats start with a lot of credits (the imperial currency) with a starting wealth 2nd to the techs only and with the same amount as the venators.

The modifiers on the trading charts also has some infos on the brats. They get a +5% bonus for guns, missiles, equipment but they get a +10% for drugs. Now we see that's easier to get spook when you're a noble.

From this, we are led to believe that Brats rely on exotic weapons and drugs to fight but I've failed to find any rules for combat drugs in the confrontation rules.

 4 types of combat drugs are available in confrontation but only spook is described in its effect though not in the rules.
  • Spook: Increases the user's psychic potential, but makes their mind more susceptible to mental damage while they do so.

Design :

The brats have had the chance of being designed by Jes Goodwin who tends to make a lot of sketches for all his concepts. In the conforntation rules, we have a first sketch for a sort of "generic" brat. We have some feats which will be the Brat trademarks like :
- tight pants
- padded vests
- big hair (called psychomanes in the sketch)
- fancy decorations like jewels and ribbons
- face decoration

John Blanche also offered his take on the brats, 
You can read notes :
Brats : Rich young middle-class (note : the rich middle-class seems a bit off with the description of nobles in the rules).

About the hair :
High Hair, Shock wigs, Beard wigs, Metalic thread wigs, Shaved foreheads, Multicoloured hair

About materials :
Rich materials, Silks, Velvets.

About clothes :
Doublets, Slashed cloth, Knee-length trousers , Occasional High Heels, Jewelled pouches, Hanging purses.

About decorations :
Jewels, Face paint, Body tatoos, Face paint, Mock eldar armour, Metal face masks, Large earings, Multiple earings, Rainbow shades, Finely wrought weapons, Mock eldar armour, Metal face masks, Riot of colour, Mock Ledar face Icons.

Note the grotesque mask in the bottom right corner which looks more like a Venator's

You can actually see that most of the ideas given here have been put in the models and the final drawings about the brats. They seem to have been quite inspirationnal to the artists of the studio.

Apart from those generic attributes for the brats, Jes Goodwin's sketches show some variations for a number of different gangs. This helps to show that there is not one Brat style but as many as there are families and bands.

The Dance Macabre : 

I like the name of it, coming from the french "Danse macabre". You can note the bat-shaped pectoral and the exotic crystal gun.

I bet they are slightly less colourful than the rest of the brat bands, here is what the "danse macabre" was in medieval times :

Taken from wikipedia

The fright knights :


Those look a lot like the limited release model (well I guess it's the other way round) and I like the mention "scream a lot" written in the description...

The jaggers :


Described as Duelling Freaks, they display bolts and a rather eccentric look :

Necros :

They display skull tatoos on the forehead and sport  fencing style swords

Rakehellions :


Probably my personnal favourite, they sport white make up with beauty spots and coloured lips. They have exagerated neckties and ribbons everywhere.
I can't help thinking someone gave a little inspiration here :

Strypers :

Apart from having wigs, the strypers distinguish themselves by wearing stripes pattern in clothes, hair, ...well, everything.

Though the Brats do not appear in the rogue trader rulebook, there is picture of punks with big hair and fashionable clothes. They are clearly more on the punk side but the shape of the hairstyle is close to what the brats were going to have.:

Taken form page 228 of the Wharhammer 40k : Rogue trader rulebook
Since the description of the brats indicates they often raid tech facilities just to mess around, it is quite natural that 2 of the drawings depicting them are in fights against the Techs.
Can you spot the famous studio members on this one?

Not excatly sure these are Brat gangers, they look more like regular gangers to me...

For the models, most people know the 3 armless gangers which were quite easily available. They have the shaved foreheads, big hair and decorations described in the design sketchs and they even have shades and communicators to indicate their good equipment. Those sculpts are the work of Jes Goodwin which seems natural since he did many sketches and that as we've seen there are many eldar/brats crossovers.

The limited release Brat seems to have been based on the Fright Knight concept above. The sculpt is Jes Goodwin's so this comes as no surprise. It has the very "flat" pose many models had at the time (for casting issues).
Limited edition Brat (Picture taken from Solegend)
There have aslo been some unreleased models (found in the CCM wiki) which all seem to have been sculpted by Jes Goodwin too.

Painted by Mark Dixon (Picture taken from Solegend)
Now, looking back a little, the confrontation rules were published in 1990/1991 and from what has been said about the game, its developement has been made before in the late 80's which is not remembered as the most sober period in terms of fashion :

I'm sure you all know an inifnity of other references of colourful 80's madness...

But amongst all of these there is a particular trend that really seems to have inspired the design team. I'd like to thank zhu bajiee from The Realm of Zhu for pointing me in this direction (see comments below).
The new romantics movement is full of those young people puting everything they are in their outfit :

For further informations, may I advise you to read the references here for example.

But what happened with the brats? We've seen that the Venators have gone back to square one in  being zealots and fanatics again but what about the noble family members of the imperium today?

Well first, in Necromunda, the sons and daughters of the Noble families who felt like going on a rampage in the lower levels were called "Spyrers" and were pretty much hunters :

You can see that all their power comes from the very specialised equipment they wear and all traces of fashion and style has disappeared. Where the early designs described extravagant over practical clothing, in Necromunda it was the complete opposite. The paintjobs are colourful indeed but it sems to me that in this case it is more due to th epoor taste of the painter than anything else...
It is intersting to note that the design studio abandonned this faction which was clearly bound with its time instead of updating it like they did with so much other races and factions.

The only traces of models that have kept the colourful 80's design are the popular Harlequins (Jes Goodwin, eldars...):

From here :

to here :

You can see how the new Harlequins have nearly all the characteristics of the Brat's design. The very fact that Brats were wearing exotic gear and  somehow copying eldar outfit must have been the cause of their disappearance... both concepts were redundant on too many points.

But after all, who said that all nobles of the imperium want to dress like predators with silly equipment? I have seen some interest in more elegant Brats lately and I am sure that we will some fashionable nobles come out of the hives ...

PS : Many thanks to Axiom for his aid to decipher Jes Goodwin notes. (If you fancy Brat gangs, check out his blog, you might have a good suprise in little time)


  1. I've been sipping my morning coffee whilst reading this excellent article. In many ways the Brats represent the flair and flavour of the eighties-to-early-nineties that GW has so sadly lost these days. It really was a shame that confrontation was never properly released. I used to play a lot of Necromunda, but it is in truth a rather sanitised version of the original vision. It would be great if a manufacturer would create some miniatures loosely in this style; I'd love to have a go at a Dance Macabre gang.

    1. Thanks a lot !
      I wholeheartedly agree with you, when you see the quantity of work that was put in thi sgame, it really is a pity (shame?) that it diidn't get any more support than this, especially if you consider than not everything was released.
      The different gangs are nice and I think I'll steal some ideas here and there to create my own band.

  2. Great stuff. I'm going to suggest that the main influence on Jes and JB were the New Romantics rather than just a generic 80s thing. This is a pretty good example of a hardcore 1980s New Romantic, easily mistaken for a Harelquin cosplayer, and a lovely shot of Boy George (Boo! indeed) I think you're spot on with the Harlequin / Ganger design redundancy, but i'd argue it's the territory that Jez does best (Echoes of 3rd wave Goth in the Dark Eldar?). JBs comment "rich - young - middle class" is quite telling. Admittedly the "New Romanitc" had disappeared by the time Confrontation was being cooked up, and the world was gripped by the Acid House and emerging Techno scene, it was already slightly nostagic.

    1. Brilliant Zhu, this is excatly the kind of info I was looking for. I will update this post with your leads (with due credits).
      I actually wanted to put BoyGeorge in the first place and forgot for some reason.
      With what you say the JB comment does make sense. I also agree that Jes does have a thing for such designs and apart from the colours, there definitely is something similar with the dark eldars goth.


  3. Great article. Bratts were the most appealing of the Confrontataion gangs to me as a teen and they still are today for some reason. Nostalgia I guess, a fondness for eighties music maybe.

    Jez Goodwin is definitely at his best sculpting high fallutin', dilettantes. His sculpting style and design work are the reason that the skaven had panache rather than just being another unpleasant mutant/beastman types. A box set of JG Bratts of the quality of the Escher gang would have been beautiful. Arguably, a tiny bit of the Bratts flamboyance made it into the Escher in the end.

    Are you certain that the LE and unreleased Bratts are Goodwin sculpts? Although I have never seen them in hand they look like another sculptors work, aping the Goodwin designs and style to me. Considering the much - and sometimes quite unfairly - maligned Gary Morley made some rather nice Necromunda miniatures (the Elvis bounty hunter and Karloth Valois come to mind) I was wondering if they were his work and the era is correct IIRC. The flat posing that you speak about is very much a Morley thing and they look a little like his work to me.

    Im sure that someone will freak out now because I mentioned Goodwin and Morley in the same sentence...

    1. That last line made me laugh out loud!

    2. I think you're right about the escher comparison, The only thing is I realy see it as a cut/paste of fantasy amazons and not much more but they do get the same charm I agree.
      I am not certain about the sculptors, I'm just quoting the solegend and CCM wiki, some of the unreleased definitely bare the Goodwin touch though and Jes did quite his fair share of "flat poses" (see th echaos champions especially in the khorne section, or som eof the eldar rangers or harlequins). I don't quite recognise Gary Morley because I think he is part ofthe sculptors who are able to adapt their style.
      Maybe the collector amongst can answer that ?

    3. :D People get very precious about their hobbies, I certainly take things a bit too seriously from time to time.

      While GM did make a few stinkers, obviously not everything that he sculpted was crap. The truth is a bit more nuanced.

    4. Agreed, he has quite some nice models, especially in the Necromuda range. After that it's all just a matter of taste. ;)

  4. This post is great, JB! Spent too much time sat in the van reading this today instead of working. Really got me in the mood to start collecting Brat gangers now! I sinfully cut up a couple back in the 90's in the name of Golden Demon. Not the cheapest of projects though!

    1. I do remember a fair number of incredible gangers likethe confrontation bounty hunter with shotgun. I'd definitely see more of them from you!

    2. Oh yeah you're right. It WAS a bounty hunter. The brat (the Golden Demon 1990 one at the top of your post) never made it to my gang. I cut the head off but did nothing with it. Sigh! There's one on ebay at the moment that ends tonight but I can't afford to bid on him at the moment. Too much time spent in the van reading blog posts and not doing enough work won't help that either!

    3. Hopefully, those are not that hard to come by !
      Hypothetically, you could even PM me and I could even have a spare to trade... ;)

    4. Ah lovely! I'm sure there are plenty of things of mine that you would like. Could you pm me letting me know what ones you have for trade?

    5. Only just seen this. I wondered if you had. I actually sent you one too but I'm guessing you didn't get it. I'll use your email. Cheers for that!

  5. Wow, what an amazing work of recopilation and setup of good ideas! I'm impressed, all this is truly inspirational, you even made me think about making some bands, and I'm currently working on totally different projects! You are a bad influence!

    1. Oh c'mon! Having too much to do is better than having nothing to do right?

  6. What a fantastic article!
    Pulled me away from the miniature painting I was supposed to be doing...

    The Brats have a lot of the character that I loved and miss about 40k. That 80's retro-futurism that brings to mind lots of awesome goodness like 2000AD, Mad Max, Blade Runner and Cyber-Punk RPG.

    It's something I would still love to capture in my miniatures. And something I end up at logger-heads with several of my gaming group members over. There have been lots of discussions with my friends (this is speciffically about RPG's) about our different tastes in either the retro-futurist look from the 80's/early 90's, compared to the (neo-futurist?) look of some RPG's that have come out that are basically Cyber-Punk in all but name.

    There is a firm divide in those tastes and I'm firmly in the Retro. I've already warned them that when I get around to running the 40k RPG's (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, etc) that they'll be heavily coloured by my particular tastes.

    1. I do agree. As I'm reading the Judge Dredd complete cases, I have this taste of Cyberpunk RPG coming back to me. This is the flavor I want for my 40k and it is the flavor I read every line of confrontation and rogue trader. I believe there are a lot of us out there! ;)

  7. Superb blog post! I loved the Brats at the time, and even now they stand out as interesting and unique figure design - different from the much more common punk look for youth gangs. My only regret is that the released figures aren't from the same gang, but a selection. It makes actually modelling a coherent gang more tricky.

    Oh, and no problems for the small bit of assistance!

    1. the 3 armless brats can be put to whatever use I think but it's true the other ones are more oriented. That said I really think the interest of Bratts is to go an original way like you did. I presented all the factions to show the numerous designs are just here to show there are multiple possibilities.

      Thanks a lot, looking forward to more brats from you !

  8. super post, très instructif avec beaucoup d'illustrations que je ne connaissais pas :)

    pour le coup, ça me donne beaucoup d'idées... très très chouette, mille merci ;)

    1. AH ben chouette !
      L'avantage c'est que comme on le voit, on puet faire plein de choses avec les brats donc tu peux te lâcher !
      De faore un peu le tour ca m'a permis de me faire une meilleure idée de ce que je veux faire pour les miens. Je plongerai aux racines néo-romantiques je pense. Je sais pas si tu as vu mais un post avant j'ai montré une conversion de oble qui ressemble beaucoup à ton brat, heureuse coincidence !

    2. oui tout à fait, c'est excellent!

      l'idée de la tête avec les lunettes est top en plus... je n'y avais pas pensé... va falloir que je refasse le plein de bits ;)

  9. Thanks for a fantastic read. I wasn't lucky enough to be involved with warhammer or wargaming in general until 95 so I appreciate these kinds of articles written by those who were around at the time; it's so much better than the typical: manufactured in blank year, sculpted by blank, part of blank series.
    What issues of white dwarf were the confrontation rules featured?
    I really like the look of these figs, they remind me so much of the wyrd pyromaniac from the necromunda line so I had a look on eBay and Whoa! Good luck!!

    1. The rules were published in issues 130 to 142. I wrote a little more about the confrontation rules in a previous post here :

      I have to say I only discovered those rules in 96/97 when I bought some old WD in a hobby store (meaning I wasn't really around at the time...). One thing is for sure, they had a huge impact on what I wanted to with my hobby and how I wanted my 40k to be, definitely more on the cyberpunk side than the gothic grim dark side we see now.

      Thanks a lot !

  10. So had a little time to get some reading in and I have to say reading this compilation of bratish behaviour and gathering of thoughts and impressions sets me right in the mood for beginning to paint my own brats - oh wait I have already begun muhahaha!!! Thanks for writing this up JB!


    1. Well, very glad it proves of use to some !
      I really like squeezing the confrontation rules to get as much as I can from them and the brats proved to be perfect for that.
      I'm looing forward to sseing pics of your brats, are they based on the original models or on some conversions?

      Thanks a lot

  11. late to the party but--do you know if there's a color version of that Brat vs Tech gang picture--I could swear i saw one at some point

    1. oh never mind--found it. It's in Ratspike

    2. Damn, Misse dyour comment during the WE, looks like you got your answer !

      Cheers !


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