Necromunda: Hired Gun is probably the best game it could’ve been on the budget that it had. I don’t know anything about its budget or development, but the game shines with love for the setting and everything I’m about to suggest is something that would’ve cost more money.
But just to fantasize about how cool this game could’ve been with gobs of extra cash thrown at it, here’s how I would make a better Necromunda: Hired Gun. Firstly, I’d take the game’s thirteen levels and stitch them together into a single unified underhive. We don’t just want to bolt the different areas directly onto each other in most cases. Thorian’s Dome, the ruined zone surrounding the main hub town of Martyr’s End, is already kind of a transitional area and can be near-directly adjacent to a couple of areas like the giant factory of Kaerus, the train station for the giant train Koloss 44, or the Generatorum power plant and surrounding trash cube skyscrapers under attack from a giant sump beast (there’s lots of giant things in 40k).
The Tempus Dedra map – site of a massive gang war in the main plot – is also pretty useful as a potential connecting area, that can lead directly to things like the shores of the acid lake across which lies the corpse recycling plant of Araneus Ventri, Geister Station at the top of a mineshaft that drills down, down, down into the planet, or the ruined underground train tunnels of the Orlocks called Steel Way. Although Tempus Dedra can connect to most of these locations with basically just a corridor or two, we should add in another station for Koloss 44 here, so that the train can actually connect different locations together.
Other maps are supposed to be at least a little bit remote, which means they’ll need small transitional areas to connect them to the rest of the map. The Hypogean Citadel is the stronghold of an upper hive noble you’re bodyguarding at one point in the plot, and seems like it should be pretty far out of the way, probably down the way from Kaerus. The Escher Lab seems like it’s at least partly secret, and I’d connect it to Araneus Ventri.
Other areas are pretty explicitly hard to get to or far in a certain direction. Avarus is either close to or actually in the lower hive (which is above the underhive), and the only zone it might be attached to is the Generatorum, which generally pushes upwards, although a significant new section would have to be added to transition from the Generatorum to Avarus. The Goliaths’ stronghold Goibniu Pit is definitely out of the way and implicitly very far down, since you get taken there from the bottom of the Geister Station mineshafts, probably accessible only by going through Geister Station. The Cold Black is a recently rediscovered dome, and to be only recently rediscovered means it must be far enough out of the way that no one stumbled across it by accident. I’d put it at the other end of Steel Way.
You would want to rearrange the main plot a bit to account for the layout, but that’s fine. The main plot is very episodic and the order of individual missions can be rearranged with only minimal rewrites. A lot of them are just dead ends – the Koloss-44 mission involves breaking a Goliath out of a prison transport for information, and then he doesn’t give you the information.
The total playable area of the game is probably increasing by at least 10-20% as a result of the new connectors, but I’d like to expand it even more. The three hive gangs that feature in the game as it exists all have strongholds – the Goliaths in Goibniu Pit, the Eschers in their lab, the Orlocks in Steel Way. An obvious place to expand the game is with the other three gangs in core Necromunda, though: Cawdor, van Saar, and Delaque. They would need their own strongholds, which would necessitate a third connector region for them, which would also give Koloss-44 a third stop, which I think would help make it feel like a bit more of a train network and less of a connector between exactly two places.
There’s other, more obscure factions that could be added, and which would need homes, and there’s plenty of room for them in our hypothetical third region. Genestealers are present in the game, but have no cults. Chaos cults and the Palantine Enforcers (i.e. the cops) are referenced, but never appear.
Each of these six gangs would also have dynamic control over different parts of the hive, similar to Sid Meier’s Pirates! or Mount and Blade. Undertaking different missions would affect a gang’s strength and ultimately control over different maps. The game already has a good variety of different missions, so the question is how to use them in an interconnected hive.
Gangs have two main stats, Population and Gear. A gang with high population spawns new members to replace the fallen faster and has a higher population cap for any given part of the map. A gang with high gear has a higher density of lieutenants and special units like ambots, ogryn, and psykers. These stats can vary from zone to zone. The Escher might have lots of Population and Gear in their Escher Lab, but much less in the adjacent Araneus Ventri. To keep things simple, there is no automatic “bleed” between zones. These stats change only in response to missions being completed.
Enemy gangs in the same or adjacent zones will occasionally offer a mission. The missions Meat Harvest and Fresh Meat increase the Population stat of the gang giving the mission, while Destroy the Fans and Poisoning decrease the Population of the target gang.
The missions Ambot Hunt, Psi-slaves, Ghasts, Perturbator, and Decapitation all decrease the targeted gang’s Gear stat, in order from highest Gear to lowest. That is, a gang with a high Gear stat will be targeted by missions like Ambot Hunt and Psi-Slaves, a middling Gear gang will get targeted by Ghasts and Perturbator, while a low Gear gang will be targeted for Decapitation, which also decreases Population.
The missions Save the Witches and the Chosen One involve rescuing captive psykers and genestealers, respectively, and increase the Gear stat of the gang assigning them. New missions for salvaging destroyed ambots and scavenging dead bodies for guns and ammo would also have to be added to help round out the “increase Gear” mission pool with some that make sense for a generic gang (Save the Witches and the Chosen One only make sense for gangs which actually have psykers and genestealers, which in the latter case is actually none of them – only the Genestealer Cult would assign that mission, and they’re neither in the game nor even on the short list for inclusion).
The mission The Purge involves killing a bunch of genestealers, and spawns only when a gang controls the Cold Black other than the Genestealer Cult. Failing to complete it causes a minor loss in both Gear and Population for the gang.
If the mismatch of Gear and Population between two gangs on the same zone or in adjacent zones is high enough, the stronger gang will try to conquer the weaker one. The weaker one will offer a Defend mission for a while. Completing a Defend mission decreases the Population and Gear of the attacking gang. Ignoring it causes the targeted territory to be conquered by the attacking gang.
A player can always attempt to Capture territory for a gang. They do so by walking up to a capture point (of which there would be four or five in every zone) and interacting with it. This causes the target gang to become hostile if they weren’t already and rush to defend the point. Where gangs can spawn in new units is dependent upon which capture points they control, so while capturing a point the gang will spawn in new units at nearby spawn points constantly (though the exact speed and population cap will depend on their Population stat for the map, even a gang at low Population should be able to send in enough units to make capturing territory feel like a big deal – gangs with higher Population should be spawning so many units and so quickly that capturing their territory is basically impossible, necessitating some weakening missions as buildup to the conquest), resulting in a frantic battle to hold the point, but once the point is captured their nearest spawn point will be much farther away, causing their attacks to taper off as they now have to cover a lot of ground between spawning and getting stuck in. Additionally, your chosen gang (you pick which one you’re capturing for when interacting with the point) will start spawning friendly units, though these units won’t wander far from the capture point (so you still have to wade into enemy territory yourself to capture the next one). In the game as it is, enemies keep spawning and rushing you after you’ve successfully captured a point, which makes it feel like you haven’t actually captured the territory at all, and this should fix that.