Tuesday, December 8, 2020

REVIEW: Warhammer Underworlds - Direchasm

It's that time of year again - time for the newest season of Warhammer Underworlds! This year we are entering the Direchasm, so what new changes does Season 4 of Underworlds bring us? Let's find out!

Whenever a new season of Underworlds drops I always get so excited. Originally this game snuck up on me a bit, I'll admit. When Season 1 came out I was intrigued, but wasn't too sure about it. I played a bit but then it kind of died off for me. Season 2 piqued my interest a bit, but it was actually the release of the Godsworn Hunt that drew me back into the game. I just loved those models so much! After playing in an event at Adepticon that same year I was all on board and ready to be hyped about Season 3. Then came the pandemic and lockdown and that's when I really got the Underworlds bug. It's one of the best games for socially distanced gaming and great for little self contained hobby projects. Now with Season 4 I'm properly pumped again. 

So what do we get? Well, let's take a look at this unboxing video I did when I received my review copy.

As you can see, it's a lot of what we've come to expect as far as that actual box contents go. We get two new boards, two awesome looking warbands, dice, tokens, a rulebook, and a getting started booklet. The noticeably absent items are the little plastic baggies for storage, and any kind of pamphlets promoting other games or even their tie in novel. These may seem minor, and well, they are, but I always appreciated the little plastic baggies. I would use them to store my dice, tokens, and even card decks until I got around putting them into proper card binders.

Let's take a look at the rulebook first. We start out with the lore section, which consists of four pages of lore on the setting itself, and then two for the warbands in this set. We're still within Beastgrave, the giant, sentient mountain in Ghur, but now a new area has been opened - the Direchasm. This area had previously been filled with solidified amber, but has now been emptied. It mentions as well that this area is where the mysterious Silent People mentioned in Beastgrave were hiding. It seems as though they go in cycles, being active, then retreating to their lairs to pupate and renew. The amber was flushed out prematurely though and the Silent People were still in their pupating stages, so had to withdraw to even further in the mountain, however, they were forced to leave their treasure piles behind in their haste. Along with the pages on the Purifiers and the Dread Pageant, we also get little snippets on the upcoming Slaves to Darkness and Seraphon warbands.

The rules themselves are pretty much what Beastgrave was with a few tweaks. Which is fine with me. There's no reason to introduce changes just for the sake of changes. If the core rules work then introduce the shakeups in the warbands and cards. I even had my Beastgrave and Direchasm books next to each other and turned the pages at the same time, and besides a bit of restructuring and changing wording here and there, it's essentially the same. The biggest tweaks are that when you kill a 6 or more wound model now, you gain 2 glory instead of 1, and the way supporting fighters works has been simplified a bit. Besides that, the biggest changes come in the some of the card mechanics and event formats, not within the rulebook itself.

So let's move onto those, starting with the cards. I'm not going to go over the cards in detail for two reasons. There are multiple other sites out there who have a much better grasp on the game then me and do a much better job at analysis than me. I'm really more of a casual player and just don't have the mind for card games at that kind of level. Secondly, you can see all of the cards online already anyway. So instead, I'm going to focus on some of the bigger things that stood out to me. First off, as you may have heard me mention in the unboxing video, the Universal cards in this set are definitely different than what we're used to. There are no Sidesteps or Capture Objective 1, 2, 3 etc in sight. Instead, we get a brand new set of cards. All of those classics are still around for this season since we can still use Beastgrave cards, but it does make me wonder if we'll see those staple cards reprinted when season 5 rolls around. There are A LOT more cards that work off of Hunter and Quarry in this set, and a good amount that can give those keywords to various people, which is nice. That mechanic, though introduced in Beastgrave, didn't have a ton of options to use. 

Hunger counters are another new addition this season. Various cards will give you Hunger counters, and then other cards play off those. For instance, Hungry Advance lets you push a fighter towards an enemy fighter, and then also give them a Hunger Counter. Ferocious Resistance has you roll a magic dice an on a Channel you heal one wound, and if they have a Hunger counter you get to roll an extra magic dice. It's an interesting mechanic that opens up more synergies with new cards and warbands. At the moment it looks like having Hunger counters is only a positive thing, but who know with future releases, there might be fighters or cards that gain an advantage against fighters with Hunger counters.

The last big addition is the Primacy counter. This has its own counter as well as its own card. A player gains the Primacy token after a fighter takes an enemy fighter out of action when they had no wounds at the start of the attack action, when you take an enemy leader out of action, and when you hold four or more objectives. At the end of the round, whichever player holds the primacy token gains one spent glory token, and then you lose the Primacy token. Only one player can have this at a time, so if you have it, but then your opponent meets one of the criteria before the end of the round, they steal the token away from you. I feel like this encourages players to be more aggressive with their models, which is only a good thing in my mind. There is the hold objectives criteria though, so you can gain it while being more defensive. There are cards that give you the Primacy token too, like Master of Spoils. This is an upgrade that says you gain the token whenever this fighter takes an enemy fighter out of action, regardless of if they're wounded or not, but then you also lose the token if that fighter is killed.

The weapon cards this season are Soultooth weapons, and they allow you to re-roll one dice in the attack roll for that weapon if the fighter has a move or charge token on them. Again, this encourages you to be more aggressive, which is fitting for Beastgrave. As an aside, I also really like the artwork style used on the cards in the starter set. I'm excited to see what other art styles are used this season. It's always nice to see some variation amongst the warbands.

The reprinted board on the left & the original on the right

We get two new boards with this set, each double-sided. One of them is actually a reprint of an older board, just with new artwork on it. This is important because this is actually the first season where the boards are getting retired along with the cards! So now the only boards allowed in Championship matches are ones from Beastgrave and Direchasm. Everything from Nightvault and Shadespire is now officially retired.

Which brings us to the other big changes, formats. Championship is still what you knew before, with restricted and forbidden lists. All the Universal cards from Nightvault have been retired, meaning you can only use universals from Beastgrave and Direchasm. This is nice since now everything will have proper keywords on it like Surge outside of warband cards. There are some new forsaken and restricted cards from Beastgrave to start off the season. We also have the returning Relic format, which is basically the anything goes formats of Underworlds. You can use any cards, from any season, besides the few on the Forsaken list. This goes for boards too, use any of them. Alongside both of these we have two new formats, Arena Mortis and Vanguard. Arena Mortis is for the new Arena Mortis game style and also allows you to use any cards outside of Forsaken. Vanguard is what interests me the most though. It's a format that only allows you to use cards, warbands, and boards from the current season, so in this case Direchasm. The idea is to make it easier for new players to join in to events without feeling at a disadvantage since they don't have older cards. It's also just an interesting idea for veteran players too, since it forces you to play within some limitations.

Last, but certainly not least we have the models. Underworlds models are always some of the best that GW makes. It really allows the sculptors to explore either new factions, or even just more interesting poses that wouldn't make sense for a larger unit kit. They're also great for dipping your toes into a faction and either seeing if you like the models before committing to a whole army, or scratching the itch you had to do a few models from some faction. In this case we get Slaanesh and the Lumineth with the Dread Pageant and the Purifiers. I really like the Slaanesh models. They have so much character to them. I like the Lumineth as well, but the Slaanesh models have definitely stolen the show for me. I've already started painting them up, and will hopefully have a tutorial for them next week. At the moment I'm trying to decide on a color scheme for the Lumineth. I might do the orange one. 

I'm also thinking about trying something new this Season by painting each warband as they come out before the next one drops. It's easier to plan that out since we have the roadmap now and we know what months things are coming out. It'll be a bit harder this month since I'll have two warbands to paint, but after that it's just one warband a month. 

If you're a fan of Underworlds you're probably already getting this for the new boards, rules and cards, but it's a great place for new players to jump on too. With them rotating the old boards out and everything having consistent keywords now, it's a much cleaner and more balanced environment to start in. I'll probably start getting some remote games of Direchasm in here in the coming weeks. Until then, it's off to paint more of the Dread Pageant.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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