Saturday, April 23, 2022

REVIEW: Warhammer Underworlds - Nethermaze

Nethermaze Review

The next core box (season?) of Warhammer Underworlds is here with Nethermaze! What's different between Harrowdeep and Nethermaze? What's all included in the box? Why didn't they name it Harrowdeeper? Let's find out!

First off, thank you to Games Workshop for sending me an early review copy of Nethermaze to review, alongside the Exiled Dead and the Rivals box of the Harrowdeep starter warbands. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, we delve deeper into Harrowdeep and find what lies below, in this case, Nethermaze. The same happened in Shadespire, with the Nightvault beneath it, and Direchasm laying in wait below Beastgrave. The main difference here is that we got this next installment after only 6 months where the others all got an entire year. This meant in the past we would stay in each location for a 2 year span, but with Harrowdeep getting fully explored within a single year, could we be moving on from Ulgu when the next box comes out, presumably sometime in the fall?

Nethermaze Box Contents

It's a really interesting situation, since the normal season was essentially cut in half. Usually each season gets a minimum of 8 warbands and around 500 cards. Harrowdeep only had 308 cards and 4 warbands. Nethermaze also has 308 cards, and I'm assuming will only get two additional warband expansions as well. This make the two seasons in Ulgu the same as one normal season. As of the time of writing this, there are still a few unanswered questions, the largest of which being how rotation will work. Will Direchasm cards rotate out now that we're two seasons on, or will they stick around through the next 6 months as they normally would? If they rotate out it will give us the smallest pool of cards to play with in the Championship format since the first season. There's something appealing about this as it makes it less sprawling and more compact, but then we'll also lose more unique cards a lot faster. For instance, if Direchasm rotates out, all the additional Hunger cards will be gone, leaving the Crimson Court with a pretty meagre pool of cards to play with. I honestly don't know which side of the fence I'd fall on with this. There are so many cards I never use, so I think a smaller pool would actually make it easier for me to build decks.

Nethermaze Artwork

Let's move onto the box itself. The cover art is once again pretty awesome. It seems to be done by the same artist who did Harrowdeep, but this time we have the Skaven versus the shadowy agents of Morathi. Inside the box you'll find 2 new boards, all the tokens you'll need, the new rulebook, the Skaven warband and it's Rivals deck, the Shadeborn warband and their Rivals deck, a deck of Universal Cards, and a deck of Grand Alliance cards. I really like the warband choices here. They fit the Ulgu aesthetic perfectly. I understand why they did the Stormcast and Orruks for Harrowdeep since it tied into the new edition of AoS, but in my opinion, the two we get here would have been a better fit for launching a game in Ulgu.

Nethermaze Art

When you first crack open the rulebook we delve (pun intended) into the lore of this new setting first. We learn quite a bit about how Harrowdeep came to be, created by the shadow demons of Ulgu's moon. On top of it was founded a city of exiled Khainites and Deepkin by Queen Kia'tan, who didn't know what was beneath her feet. They began launching doomed expeditions into Harrowdeep, and eventually the queen herself made the journey. She heard rumors of something at the center of Harrowdeep called the Waking Gate, which if passed through would make you feel renewed and free of all rage and bitterness. This was understandably very promising to the Deepkin, who live their lives trying to ignore their emotions. Amongst the passages of Harrowdeep were found traces of dark experiments carried out by the shadow demons of the Orb Duplicita. Nethermaze sits at the bottom of Harrowdeep and all paths lead to it. This is where the Waking Gate lies, and it is also the only way out. Unfortunately the shadow demons have been twisting the gate to their own needs and have also been luring the travelers into Harrowdeep towards this gate. If someone managers to actually pass through it, they find themselves in Hysh, but with a hollow feeling in their soul and the mysterious lack of a shadow...

Nethermaze Art 2

Harrowdeep has also been infected with the Katophrane Curse, but it still seems as though the curse has been broken when Nagash was defeated by Teclis. This was mentioned in Harrowdeep, but then the tie in novel still had the curse going strong. It's a little weird since the curse is really the core of the Underworlds lore and what ties all of the settings together. I'm hoping that maybe Nagash will reemerge before the next season and the curse will reassert itself. It's one of the most interesting parts of the lore and really adds a tormented side to all of the warbands' backstories. Speaking of which, the Shadeborn have been dispatched by Morathi to kill Queen Kia'tan if she still lives, as she defied the Shadow Queen, and Skittershank's Clawpack have been dispatched to investigate the raw stuff of Ulgu that powers Harrowdeep.

Nethermaze Art 3

When it comes to the rules, as far as I can tell, nothing has changed from Harrowdeep. All of the core rules are exactly the same. The ONLY change I noticed, is that Universal Cards and Grand Alliance Cards are now collectively called Championship cards. It's similar how Ploys and Magic cards got collectively grouped into Gambit cards. It doesn't really affect the game at all, but it's an interesting sign of how the game might progress. Since Rivals format doesn't use those cards unless they're part of a Rivals deck, it could just be part of separating out those two formats more. Personally, I would love to see Universals removed from warband boxes entirely, and make them sold as only separate Rivals decks. This way a Warband box would only contain the cards specifically for that warband and they wouldn't have to rotate the box out once the universals rotate out.

Domain Cards

There are a few new additions to the cards though. The first one, and the one that's most exciting to me are Domain cards. These are cards that effect the battlefield and remain in effect until the end of the round. Creaking Ceiling for example, deals 1 damage to any fighter driven back into an edge hex or any hex adjacent to a blocked hex. It reminds me of the cards they had in Dreadfane that effected the entire game board, but more smoothly implemented into the rest of the cards. There are also cards that play off of Domain cards. It's really thematic, fun, and potentially effective. I also think a mechanic like this has more legs on it then some of the others they've introduced in the past. I can see Domain cards being a permanent addition to the game, and I'm all for that. In Nethermaze we get one Domain card in the Universal deck, one in the Skaven deck, and a Universal Upgrade that plays off of it as well.

Map Cards

The other main addition are the Map cards. We only get one example in this set with the Detailed Map Fragment, but I imagine these are going to be similar to the Katophrane Relics, or Tomes from previous seasons. The one we get is an upgrade and has an action that allows you to gain 1 spent glory point, but your opponent gets to play an upgrade without spending any glory in response, then you break the card. It also has a reaction where if the fighter is holding four Map upgrades, and is holding an objective then they gain 2 glory, then you break the card.

Shadeborn Deck

I'm not going to go into a ton of detail on all of the cards, as other reviewers out there do a much more thorough job of that then I do. I do really like the look of both of the warband decks in here though. The Shadeborn have a bunch of special abilities and cards that essentially allow them to teleport around the board using cover hexes. They also have ways of giving shade counters to their own fighters, which make them count as being in cover. They seem to be a super mobile warband and will be hard to avoid or pin down.

Skaven Deck

The Skaven deck is themed all around taking out the enemy leader, as is fitting for a warband of assassins. In fact, their inspire conditions revolve around an enemy fighter either being out of action, wounded, or attacked, depending on the fighter. Out of the two, I think this one is the stronger deck, but they're both really good. I feel like they both have some pretty high scoring objectives too.

Grand Alliance Cards

We get a healthy amount of Grand Alliance cards too, with each Grand Alliance getting 3 each of Objectives, Upgrades, and Gambits. These are probably one of my favorite additions to Underworlds from Harrowdeep. I just really like the idea of building a deck with cards more customized to my warband outside of the warband specific ones. When I went to Adepticon I put a few Grand Alliance Chaos cards into my Wurmspat deck and they worked great.


The boards are also really interesting. First off, I personally find the artwork on them to be much more interesting than the ones we got in Harrowdeep. From a gameplay standpoint, they also have some really interesting hex placement. One of them has two lethal hexes, each with a cover hex adjacent to it. It's a real risk/reward feeling, especially against the Shadeborn. I can see you either not taking a board with cover at all, or taking this one, kind of daring your opponent to teleport into those hexes and them hoping you don't have a way to push them into the lethal right next to it. All in all, there's more lethal hexes on these than I expected, which I like. After the abundance of lethal hexes in Beastgrave and Direchasm, it really felt like Harrowdeep pulled back on it a bit too much. It's especially nice considering we may lose out on the Direchasm boards if they get cycled out.


As a quick aside, I also really like the artwork for the objectives in this season. In fact, a ton of the artwork in this box is great. The artwork in the rulebook and one the warband cards are the best, with the universal cards artwork being my least favorite, but I think that's more of the style not being my favorite. The artist for the warband cards is pretty amazing.

Skaven Warband Models

Speaking of aesthetics, the sculpts are amazing. The Skaven are definitely my favorite, but I think that's due to the existing Eshin models being some of the oldest models still sold, so it's great to see an update. The Shadeborn are very similar to the Warcry warband that recently came out, so it's not as fresh to me, but they're still amazing sculpts. I put together all of the Skaven models so far, and if you're a perfectionist like me, there are quite a few gaps you'll want to fill. This makes sense with all of the flowing cloth. It's probably much harder to hide gaps in that.

Game in Progress

All in all I really like Nethermaze. I’m personally very pumped about Underworlds again with this release and having just played in it at Adepticon. Nethermaze is a bit odd though considering the history of Underworlds since it feels like a starter set, but nothing fundamental has changed about the game. I feel like it's better to think of it as a warband bundle with more cards and some new boards. I'm actually okay with this, as I think the core rules are pretty solid, and in general they don't need to be tweaked that often, Change in this game should come in the form of warband mechanics and new cards wherever possible, which is what we're getting here. New boards are also essential to keep it feeling fresh, and the two in this box are doing some new and unique things with the hex placement, so I'm happy. My personal speculation is that we'll be done with Ulgu after this season, so I'm really excited to see where we go next in the realms. Ghyran would be awesome, or Aqshy, as both of them could have some really cool looking boards. Also, think of the Domain cards those realms would have. I'd also really love to see a return to Shadespire at some point.

Where do you think we'll go next and what warbands do you think we'll see released with Nethermaze?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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