Warhammer Underworlds Starter Set Review and Unboxing, Essential Cards and Crimson Court
Warhammer Underworlds may be halfway through it’s 4th season, but the miniatures meets card deck construction game combo is going from strength to strength and is further expended today with a host of new pre orders! the Warhammer Underworlds Starter Set gives players their first into into the game, Essential Cards revisits a collection of classic cards and permanently adds them to the card roster, and the Crimson Court give the Soulblight Gravelords their grand entrance into Direchasm! We’ll be checking out and reviewing all of these new products today and sharing our thoughts on if they need to be added to your collection.
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If you would rather watch than read this review we also have you covered with the accompanying video review below!
Warhammer Underworlds Starter Set Review
While Direchasm is most people’s entry point into Warhammer Worlds, Games Workshop refer to it as a “Core set” rather than a Starter Set. And yes, this sounds just like a case of semantics, but I feel there is a distinction to this. While Direchasm does indeed contain all the cards, tiles and full rules needed to play the game, it isn’t really something that takes new players by the hand and gently introduces concepts to allow newcomers to get acclimatised to the game and dip their toe into before committing to embracing the game fully.
This is where the new Two-Player Starter Set comes in! This box is aimed at people brand new to the world of Warhammer Underworlds who want to learn the rules and experience the fun of the fast-paced game without having to worry about building their own deck. I’d also argue that this is a great way of introducing friends to the game without having to go into the ins and outs of deck building – simply grab one of the two included warbands, their premade deck, set up the tiles and away you go!
So what’s inside the box?
You get two warbands (And bespoke decks for each) – The Storm of Celestus and Drepur’s Wrathcreepers. These are not new sculpts, but use some of the easy to build models that came out alongside Warhammer Age of Sigmar Soul Wars. As the models have sculpted bases they fit nicely alongside the existing Underworlds warbands, and their aesthetic fits with the the early season Underworlds (Shadespire and Nightvault) vibe that this box summons up. While I’d have liked 2 entirely new warbands, these are still nice kits and I’ll happily take any excuse for more models to use for the game!
We also get 2 pre-made decks (one for each warband). These are actually in a new style compared to the existing Underworlds Warbands, and I actually really like the layout of these – We get text at the top of each card to tell us what the type is along with a much cleaner layout of character cards that make scanning over the details easier to parse during a game. With the redesign the artwork also gets more room to breath, making the cards more visually striking too. As we also see this style on the Essential Cards pack we will be looking at later, I do wonder if this will be the style as we move towards Season 5.
We have a nice split on the playstyles of the two warbands too, The Storm of Celestus have a great range 3 attack with 2 damage that along with their deck favours sitting on objectives and shooting from afar – their inspire condition is really easy to meet too just requiring a successful attack action with their ranged weapons. Objectives also play off this too with cards such as holding specific objective tokens, having more objectives than the opponent or the entire surviving warband having upgrades – all of which should be really easy to do with this warband. Gambits and upgrades are also no nonsense with plusses to defence, range and ways of reducing opponent dice pools making these quite simple to use without some of the complex synergy maybe seen in more competitive builds, instead focusing on ease of play.
Drepur’s Wraithcreepers however are a much more aggressive warband with a focus on speed and getting into enemy territory. Their inspire conditions are based around being nearby enemy fighters while their objective deck encourages taking our enemies, taking their objectives and having move or charge tokens on the entire warband. Again this playstyle pairs very well against the Stormcast with that player having to adopt a more defensive stance while the Nighthaunt player pushes forward more aggressively with an aim at taking down the enemy heroes. The Creepers gambits and upgrades as you would expect from this are focussed on causing additional damage, increasing movement speed and awarding additional glory for taking out fighters.
As for two intro decks I feel these should be fun to play against each other, and should be interesting to expand upon when the player takes things forward with deck building.
In the box are also 2 double sided tiles that interestingly bring back boards that we have seen from previous seasons, one from Shadespire the other from Nightvault. While I am a little disappointed that these are not two entirely new boards, it is 100% a good thing that these have brought back these new tiles – especially for newcomers only getting into the game now. While I have these boards in the collection anyway, this gives people another opportunity to pick these up. I do wonder if we will see another board expansion with the other 2 tiles from these sets essentially putting all old boards back into circulation again.
We also get 2 sheets of tokens – however you will only have enough parts here for 2 player games, so if you are more interested in larger games of Underworlds then perhaps Direchasm is a better buy. I do wonder why they couldn’t just reuse the card sheets from Direchasm, as it essentially means that you will probably need a core set at some point once you choose to progress from this starter box into the “full” Underworlds experience.
This starter vibe also applies to both the dice and the rulebook. We get no magic dice here and no mention of magic within the rulebook, instead focusing on more a starter experience. This, to be fair, is what the box is aimed at – introducing people to the game of Warhammer Underworlds.
The rulebook itself takes us through the lore regarding Shadespire and Nightvault ready for someone new to the game to jump into the Beastgrave and Direchasm era. We also get some really clear rules taking us through the game step by step with easy to follow diagrams in an easily digestible way broken down through each round and action with clear headings and keywords to make looking up rules references very easy. The back of the book also has a full glossary along with reference charts for the combat sequence and a success matrix – these had been added in more recent seasons and makes things much easier to work out for new players!
This is a great set for people who are new to the game, and the only thing stopping me from giving this a glowing recommendation is the price point. If this was around the £30 mark I would advise any newcomers picking this up with no hesitation, but at the £40 price point I do feel people would get a better bang for their buck in picking up Direchasm or Beastgrave for an additional £10. Not only would they then have the full rules, but they also contain extra cards that can be used for crafting your own deck. Both these core sets also come with sealed “starter” decks for the factions, so you can still very much have the straight out of the box experience with these (Though admittedly the warbands in the Starter Set are easier to get to grips with). Both the core sets also have much newer miniatures that people are less likely to already have in their collection. If you can get the Starter Set for cheaper than RRP however it does make a great intro point into the system, I just cant help but think this should have been priced a tad lower to really make it into an accessible intro set.
Essential Cards Review
The next new Warhammer Underworlds set we have for pre order today are the Essential Cards. This is another interesting set for the game adding a collection of 60 cards that are not tied to a specific season, meaning they are valid for play in all settings for the future of the game.
Inside the rather attractive packaging you get 20 Objective cards, 20 Gambit cards and 20 Upgrade cards plus a foldout deckbuilding guide that acts as a “next step” for people who have perhaps entered the game via the Starter Set.
All of these cards are in the new style seen in the Starter Set (As you can see from the above photo) and each and every card here is from the older seasons of Warhammer Underworlds. Upset at the lack of “Hold Objective X” cards in the recent Core set? Well fear no more as these have all been added back with this expansion. This is a really great way of carrying forward cards from previous Underworlds sets without having to keep the entire line in print and I hope this is something that they do going forwards as a way of keeping the best cards from each season in the range.
While they have not added any new cards, they have tweaked the wording of a couple in order to bring them in line with the current game, and it looks like we have new artwork on each card – as mentioned earlier the art is much more striking with the new layout of the cards making them much more visually appealing while also making them quicker to scan on the table top with the card type written at the top of the card and things such as glory gained represented by a number rather than multiple glory icons.
These are minor visual updates in the grand scheme of things, but I do feel that these cards look much better than the previous layout and hope that this is taken forwards into the next season – the only disconnect I can see is when these are mixed with old style cards, but that is just me being fussy and wanting them all in this new layout!
This is an excellent expansion for the Starter Set as a lot of the cards gel well with them with Objectives such as Conquest and Denial working well for the Creepers, while the aforementioned “Hold Objective X” cards pairing with the Stormcast. Likewise there are things that could well find a home in any warband, Making a Statement working really well with the ability to flip objectives now and Supremacy being an old reliable for objective camping warbands.
Likewise we see some old classics return in the gambits and upgrades such as Shifting Sands allowing you to move objective tokens, Daylight Robbery letting you steal unspent Glory points or Glory Seeker upping the damage of attacks targeting fighters with 4 or more wounds.
This is a great little set and thankfully not locked behind a £50 box in order to get hold of them, at £12 these seem like a must have in order to expand your options in your games of Warhammer Underworlds and give some variety to your deckbuilding.
The Crimson Court Review
Finally we come to The Crimson Court, the latest warband for Warhammer Underworlds! So what do we get in the box? Well, as usual we get a premade deck for the vampires, a set of cards that can be used by any warband and the models themselves!
And oh boy are they gorgeous models! With all the excitement of Cursed City and the upcoming Soulblight Gravelords battletome release, I was already fully onboard with the Vampires – but after seeing these models I was firmly sold on the idea. These are possibly some of the most gorgeous single miniatures that Games Workshop have ever produced, absolutely dripping in style and the brutal strength of the Soulblight, any one of these models would make excellent Vampire Lord models and we get 4 of them in this set! What’s more, each of them has their own distinctive style that is sure to make painting them an absolute joy! By the time this article goes out I should have started painting these, so keep your eyes on Twitter and the stream for progress updates!
So what is the warband like? Well, they have an interesting new mechanic in Bloodthirst which is sort of a secondary inspired state – while under Bloodthirst they will gain a host of benefits but also some downsides. This Bloodthirst is based around how many hunger tokens they have, if they have 3 or more they are bloodthirsty but if they can clear all their hunger they become inspired. However if once they are inspired they gain 3 or more Hunger tokens they un-inspire and become bloodthirsty again. This is a really fun little gimmick that captures the essence of the vampire’s struggle with hunger and allows for some cool combos on the battlefield – for example starting hungry to take advantage of extra damage – take out an enemy fighter to clear their hunger and end their turn inspired before popping some more hunger on them next turn to repeat and gain the damage spike!
All 4 members of the warband have 4 wounds, movement 4 and a damage of 2 on their attacks making them pretty tough straight of the bat before you even factor in their inspire or Bloodthirst abilities!
They are very, very tasty and should give your opponent something to think about!
All of the vampires are also hunters, so check your decks for cards that will key off that keyword!
Onto the bespoke cards for the warband, and as you would expect they all key off their vampiric abilities.
For objectives we get the following:
Blood Curse: A nice hybrid card that scores you 3 if there is only 1 enemy fighter left OR if you have a total of 10 or more hunger counters across your warband – I feel this is pretty easy to get working for either of those options.
Courtly Hunt: Grants you 1 glory if the first casualty is an enemy, again you should be pretty well equipped to focus down a poor victim to take advantage of this.
Crimson Hounds: This one actually works pretty well in line with the above objective – you just need to attack a target that is already adjacent to one of your fighters for an easy glory point.
Death’s Domain: You score 2 glory if you hold all objectives in a player’s territory, as this can be your own you may well be able to position for this in turn 1
Gravelords: Another easy to get objective – just two or more surviving fighters need to be inspired, or slightly harder all friendlies have at least 2 upgrades. The first condition is deffo the easier one to get, however if you are focsing on accruing hunger then you might need to be more inventive.
On the Chase: Another easy point of glory, you just need a hunger token on each of your fighters! Alternatively get a single fighter up to movement 6
Preternatural Speed: Once again another easy objective, you just need your entire warband in enemy territory – which as an aggressive warband you will most likely be doing anyway!
Recovered Poise: 1 glory if a single vampire is inspired in an end phase – considering you can essentially inspire just by killing someone or using cards to clear hunger stacks you have quite a lot of control over this.
Red Ruin: 2 glory for taking 3 enemy fighters out of action – depends on the warband but against squishy warbands this is easily done!
Spirited Attempt: This gains you glory if someone deals damage to one of your vampires but fails to take them out of action – Quite a nice one that forces your opponent to have to commit to trying to kill your vamps or fear giving away glory.
Superlative Skill: This is another hybrid one based around killing a target while you either have no wounds suffered or hunger tokens, or if your roll consists of only successes.
Worthy Opponent: Another nice freebie, if your opponent has the same or more glory that you do you gain a point of Glory! Nice way of building some momentum if your opponent starts to pull ahead in the first end phase.
We get some really nice gambits in the set too, Blood Vial can clear 2 hunger counters and heal a wound which is great for trying to meet some of the above objectives, Dark Glamour is another nice spell that gives an enemy target within 3 hexes a move token, which can really scupper their plans. Dark hunger is a nice hunger management spell that gives a fighter within 4 hexes 2 hunger tokens while allowing you to remove one of the caster’s tokens. Deathly Apotheosis is an amazing card that causes vampires to gain hunger and heal while bloodthirsty and also reroll attack dice while inspired. As it persists until they are taken out of action this will benefit both states and allow them to shift between them. As for upgrades we see more ways of speeding up hunger management with Glutton for Gore as it allows you to add or remove additional tokens when required. and Enforcer’s Cloak allows you to teleport next to anyone who shoots you with a ranged attack, setting you up to tear them a new one in your turn!
As usual, you also get a deck of cards that can be used for any warband – these have actually all been shown off on Warhammer Community, so head over there to see the full list, but I’ll detail a few of my favourites here!
Blood Soaked Ground is a cool card that can flip a feature token when a fighter is taken out of action making objectives that revolve around getting all points in a territory easier to handle. Claim to Supremacy is a nice card for defensive objective holding warbands as it gives the primacy token to the player holding the most. More primacy manipulation is seen with Invincible Aspect which is also a 2 point heal! Magnificent Aspect is a great spell for any warbands with difficult inspire conditions as if it goes off it simply inspires a fighter within a range of 2. Taste for Power is a nice bit of hunger generation, giving a token to each member of a warband holding the Primacy token. In upgrades Awesome Appetite not only heals the fighter each time they take out an enemy fighter, but it also gives them a hunger token. The Silent Helm is part of the Silent Relic set and makes it so that one (!) roll against you in each fight only counts as a success, and while you have 3 or more Silent Relics you get to re-roll one deference dice. And finally for objectives we get some cool stuff like Disastrous Hunt that rewards you for taking out enemy hunters, Season of Famine which grants you glory for having 10 or more hunger tokens or Supreme Confidence which rewards you for discarding the Primacy token.
Both visually and from a gameplay perspective these have to be my favourite warband so far, and I cant wait to be able to hunt down their enemies on the tabletop again!
The Warhammer Underworlds Starter Set, Essential Cards and Crimson Court are all up for pre order today and are released next Saturday.
Games Workshop provided these items to Sprues & Brews for review purposes