Wednesday 13 March 2019

Warhammer Underworlds

I’ve recently fallen love with a tabletop miniatures game. Forgive me, for I know not what I do.

Warhammer Underworlds is a competitive tactical miniatures game with a substantial deck-building element. First released in 2017, with the snazzy subtitle Shadespire, it has had a steady flow of new models and cards since launch and a new edition,  Nightvault, released late last year. It’s fast, fun and feels incredibly well balanced. Games typically take 30-45 minutes so you can always move on to the next game, if you get totally thrashed, pretty quickly.

As you might expect with Games Workshop, the models are spectacular to look at,  especially if you’re into the Age of Sigmar aesthetic. The Briar Queen and her warband are particularly lovely. The major downside is, because the models are push fit, there is very limited scope for modification or personalisation beyond how you paint the warband. There is a good amount of choice, with fourteen warbands out already and four more confirmed for later this year.

When you choose a warband, you don’t pick starting gear or customise your fighters, which has put off my gaming group a little. Instead you build two decks, one of objectives and one of Gambits and Upgrades. Gambits are cards that typically affect one action and are then discarded, whereas Upgrades provide permanent benefits. You might be asking why you’d pick Gambits at all, if they’re so ephemeral, but there are two main reasons. Firstly, Upgrades cost resources to play, whereas Gambits are free. Secondly, Gambits allow you to play actions outside of the normal turn sequence, giving you more choice in how you approach the game.

Objectives are one way of scoring Glory, the way you determine the winner of a particular game. Objectives can be as simple as standing on an objective marker on the board at the end of a turn or as complicated as performing four different actions in one turn or casting a set number of spells. The other way to gain Glory is to simply kill off the other player’s warband. Each model taken off the board scores one Glory point. Glory points also double as the resource required to apply Upgrades. You don’t lose a Glory point when you apply an upgrade, so you’re not penalised for upgrading, but you do have to turn the Glory point over to indicate that it has been used.

After three turns, each consisting of four activations for each player, the game is over. The small number of opportunities to act really does give each activation real weight. You can’t waste time manoeuvring aimlessly waiting for an opening, you have to seize the initiative and play bold (or sneaky, or clever) moves to win.

I thought about putting some links to useful pages, but there’s already a great page on the Wigglehammer blog here, so I won’t waste my time repeating it!

I’ve only been able to play a handful of games, so I’m not hugely confident in my abilities yet, but it’s got under my skin. The variety of differing play styles, coupled with the quick playthrough time, means you can really rapidly develop and adapt your warband to suit. Now, I just need to figure out a way to roll more crits…

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