Wednesday, May 13, 2020

REVIEW: Warhammer Underworlds - Dreadfane

Out of all of the boxed games that were being produced for stores like Barnes and Noble in North America, Dreadfane was definitely the one I was most excited about. I love that it will make Underworlds more accessible to non-Warhammer players, and I also really love that the Nighthaunt are getting a new warband that will be usable in regular games of Underworlds.

The games comes in at $50, which I think is pretty reasonable when you consider what you're getting. You have $30 worth of models, then all of the cards and the game itself. This also seems like a great entry cost for a standard board game nowadays. The box is slightly smaller then the standard Underworlds' starter box since the board itself is smaller. As a side note, I really love the cover art. This was probably my favorite piece of cover art from the two smaller versions of the AoS starter set so I'm glad to see it reused here for a potentially larger audience.

Once you crack the box open you get a full rulebook, a learn to play booklet, the game board, all of the tokens you need, a deck of cards for each warband, a deck of Hazard cards, which are unique to Dreadfane, dice, and the models for the warbands themselves. These are the four Mymourn Banshees and the three Stormcast Sequitors. All of these fit easily within the box for storage and transport, though if you decide to paint your models you may want some foam or something in there too to protect them.

I played a quick test game of this with my wife, and for the most part it plays exactly like the current season of Underworlds. This actually preceded Beastgrave by a few months. It's missing lethal hexes, but does mention them in the rules with a little boxout mentioning how they're not in this game. The rulebook is essentially the same. The most major differences are the board, the objectives, and the hazard cards. Instead of having two boards, there is only one double sided board. You still roll off to see who picks which side is used and then the other person picks the orientation, but you're only going to have two options really.

The other major change involving the board are the objectives. Instead of placing these, they are printed on the board, so they can never change. It's not a huge deal with which numbers are where, since you don't have any universal cards in your decks like Control Objective 2 or whatever.

The last change is the addition of the Hazard Cards. These are played at the start of round, before any activations. In the first round you draw one card, in the second two, and in the third three. The rules say to resolve these one after another, but some only take effect in the end phase, so you'll just need to set these aside until they need to be resolved. Most of them involve dealing damage, such as Shyish Realmscape, which has you roll an attack dice for each fighter with one or more wound tokens in the end phase and does 1 damage on a smash. Other can inspire your fighters, swap models' positions around, or even make all attack actions have Innate smash and fury. There are 20 of these cards, but you'll only draw six of these total throughout the game. They're an interesting addition and add another random element into the game. It would be interesting to incorporate these into regular games of Underworlds, or even to use other warbands on the Dreadfane board.

The rulebook is very thorough like I said, and really is very close to the official rulebook. They mention stuff not used in this version of it, like lethal hexes and universal cards, setting people up to expand out into the wider game.

The Learn to Play booklet has the instructions for how to assemble the warbands, a breakdown of all of the dice and tokens, and a more basic overview of how to play the game, giving you only what you need to play. There are also two pages of lore for the Dreadfane setting.

The decks for each warband are the same as what comes in the Champions of Dreadfane box, with no universal cards. Since these decks are meant to be used in the larger game of Underworlds, they even have cards in them that have no effect in this game, like an upgrade card that lets you ignore lethal hexes. I can imagine this would be a little frustrating in games of Dreadfane since it serves no purpose, but it does make it easier to integrate into the larger setting. As an added bonus for people who like swag, the activation counters you get in this have the symbols for the warbands on them, so if you plan on playing either of these two warbands in Underworlds, you can have some cool tokens for them.

At the end of the day this is essentially the same as Warhammer Underworlds, but with a few tweaks to make it more friendly to the board game community. If you aren't sure about committing to Underworlds and want to get a copy of it for $20 less then the Beastgrave starter then this is a good place to start. The one downside is that you'll need some real boards eventually if you want to play Underworlds properly. I think the best thing about Dreadfane is that it puts Warhammer, and more specifically, Warhammer Underworlds front and center in some stores that people not familiar with the game or setting can discover it. This is a gateway for new players, and in that respect it does a wonderful job. If you just want the warbands from this I would actually recommend picking up the whole Dreadfane box instead of just the Champions of Dreadfane box. The actual Dreadfane game is $5 cheaper, and you get the whole game as well as the warbands.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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