Thursday, May 7, 2020

Warhammer Underworlds: The Perfect Quarantine Game

I've dabbled in Warhammer Underworlds since the game first debuted with Shadespire. I've always enjoyed it, but it's unfortunately suffered due to any hobby/game time I did have being focused on Age of Sigmar more. Now with most of the world in isolation and when a return to gaming normalcy will happen being uncertain, Underworlds has gained a new level of appreciation from me.

My tumble back into Underworlds almost happened by accident. I loved the new Wurmspat models and knew I wanted them in my Maggotkin army. By the time I finished painting up all three of them the lock down in my area was in effect and Adepticon was cancelled, meaning I had no immediate hobby deadlines. Having thoroughly enjoyed painting up Fecula and her companions, I decided to finally paint up Rippa's Snarlfangs. I loved the look of those models since they were first revealed, and had owned them since they were released. I even had two of them already put together, so I finished off the last one and primed them. It would be a bit before I would start work on them, but after I finished Epidemius I decided I needed a palette cleanser and figured a small project like them would do the trick. As I mentioned in the tutorial for them, they were meant to be a quick contrast paint job that spiraled into something much more involved.

While taking a break between the first and second model in the unit I knocked out the last of my Thorns of the Briar Queen models as well. I had already painted the Briar Queen herself to be a Banshee and the Dread Warden from the set as a spare Dread Warden for my Nighthaunt, so it was really just five more Chainrasps. Now as I paint my second Snarlfang, I already have Hrothgorn's Mantrappers and the Ironsoul's Condemnors built and primed, ready to go next, with the rest of my Beastgrave warbands sure to follow and several Nightvault warbands as well.

What is it about Underworlds that just suits the current world situation so well? For me it's a couple of reasons. I really like how they're small, self contained, painting projects. You can spend as much or as little time as you want on them, and unless you're tying them into an existing army, which I did with my Wurmspat and Thorns, you can paint them however you want. It really lets you scratch a lot of different itches without feeling like you're starting a new army only to abandon it after a few models. These warbands only have a few models, so you're already done! I really like using them to stretch my painting efforts a bit more too. Since they're so small, I don't feel as a bad spending a lot of time on them.

To paint an entire Chaos army to the standard I painted my Godsworn Hunt would take forever, but on six models it's not as bad. Admittedly, eventually I will run out of warbands to paint, but that will be quite awhile and then if I really wanted to I could convert some up. Make some Seraphon to proxy for one of the Warbands, or Bonereapers or Tomb Kings as Sepulchral Guard. I've seen some really nicely converted proxy warbands out there.

This is also letting me go back and work on some older projects that I haven't done anything for in awhile. I'm quite excited to paint up Thundrik's Profiteers in the color scheme of Barak-Mor, the Skyport I invented for my 500 points of Kharadron I have painted up. I think I've settled on painting all of my Stormcast warbands in the same color scheme as my Steelheart's Champions, which is a scheme I've debated doing an entire army in for awhile. At least now I can play around with the scheme more in the different Chambers like Sancrosanct, and see how it looks.

One of the largest reasons for me though is that it's one of the few games I can still conceivably play while social distancing. It's quite hard to play games of Age of Sigmar or 40k while trying to maintain all the proper social distancing rules. If it's with someone you trust then maybe it won't be too long after lock down is lifted that you might feel comfortable playing a game again, but that will vary by person and how you and they personally feel about it. One thing that I figured would be fairly easy to do though with Underworlds is to play it remotely via Skype, Zoom, Teams, or whatever other service you're using. Due to the fact that it's hex based, and you only ever interact with your own deck of cards and dice, it's really easy to play over video. While there is lots of AoS stuff I want to work on, and I definitely will, this isn't me saying I'll only be painting Underworlds, I don't know when the next time I'll be able to game with them will be. With Underworlds though I know I can paint up a new warband and then play a game with my friends whenever by doing it remotely.

Playing Warhammer Underworlds Remotely

My friend Adam and I actually gave this a shot last weekend and it worked wonderfully! We used Zoom, and both had two cameras set up, but you can easily get away with just using one. I had my computer in front of me, with the camera focused on myself, while my phone was on a tripod to the side, angled down so Adam could easily see the boards and what I was doing. All you need to do is join in to the video call on both devices. I had one of my studio lights nearby just because the lighting in my house in that area can be horrible due to the window, so you don't really need that.

The one thing you need to make sure you both have are the same boards, which shouldn't be a problem. Just check with your friend and ask them which ones they have then restrict yourself to those boards. It does help if you have the same warband as what they're using too, so you can accurately represent them on your end of the game, but you can proxy models as long as you know what's what. We set up the boards as normal, both of us setting up the boards the same way on our ends, and then deployed the warbands as normal too. When your friend deploys a model on their end, just check the video to see where they put it, then put your representation for that model in the same place. We both tried our best to make it very obvious where stuff was and would also verbally describe where on the board in case it got a little confusing, as in, the model is in the hex next to the lethal hex and behind this one, or along those lines.

The only thing we had to tweak was how to place objectives since you're supposed to draw from the same pile. We came up with our own way around that, but afterwards my wife came up with an even easier solution. Have one person shuffle the objective tiles, then they place all of them on their end. When it's you're turn to place an objective just tell them where you want it to go. Once they're all placed, flip them over to see which numbered objective is where, then match it on your end. Otherwise, the game plays exactly the same as in person! It can be hard to see what dice rolls are depending on your camera set up, but if you trust each other to not cheat then it isn't a problem. I would just say what my roll was. My friend Adam had a camera on his dice as well, which is another solution.

We ended up playing two games, which took about three hours total, including just chatting and getting everything set up and problem solving along the way. Once you're more comfortable with what you're doing I think you could easily play games close to the normal amount of time it would take in person. Maybe just give yourself an extra 15 minutes. I now plan on getting games in weekly if I can. The idea of organizing some sort of remote Underworlds tournament amongst my friends has been something I've been toying with as well. In the first game I had the warband he was using, and he had mine, so we didn't have to proxy at all. In the second game we were both using warbands that the other didn't own though, so we were both playing against proxies on our own ends and we had no problem at all.

I'm really excited about Underworlds now and seeing as how this will probably be the only game I can play for awhile I've started to focus in on it more. My various cards are sprawled out on a table (neatly stacked according to season and type) and I've started customizing some more decks. My first game last weekend was with the Wurmspat who I've never used and I just used their basic deck with no customization and didn't do very well. In contrast, the second game was with my Godsworn Hunt who I took to Adepticon in 2019 and have a more honed, and customized deck, and while I still lost, it was very close till the end. Deck building isn't a hobby I'm used to, but I'm slowly learning the ins and outs of it. After my Wurmspat deck is good to go I'll probably start on my Snarlfangs' deck so I can use them as soon as they're done being painted. If you want some good advice on Underworlds I would check out the Can You Roll a Crit website. I've been doing a lot of reading on there lately myself. For 40k fans I've heard that Aeronautica is another good game for remote play since it also uses hexes and boards.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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