I’ve been playing Games Workshop games on and off since I was about ten years old, and for the majority of that time I have been an avid fan of the goings on of the 41st millennium. There is something about the 40k universe that has always brought me back time and time again, whether it’s playing the main line 40k game with my beloved Grey Knights or playing one of the many specialised games based in the 40k setting.
However, the far future is not the only world that players battle over in the search for glory and victory, for before Space Marines battled against their heretical brethren in the dim dark future, there was the world that was. There was Warhammer Fantasy Battles.
Evolving from the traditional swords and sorcery tropes of the 80’s into a world where dwarfs, elves, and humans battle the ever-expanding realm of chaos, Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB for short) had a long and successful life span with many fans around the world. However, while many people liked the setting and lore of WFB, I never really found it all that interesting.
It wasn’t because I don’t enjoy fantasy settings, as I grew up loving games like Hero Quest and Talisman. No, the fact is that despite the game’s long history and back story, I just found the game… well, boring.
To me, all the factions were either typical fantasy tropes (such as Wood Elves or Orcs) or very clean-cut references to real-world historical peoples (such as the Germanic inspired Empire or the undead Egyptian Tomb Kings). In the words of one Shania Twain, “That Don’t Impress Me Much”. Indeed, I just felt like WFB didn’t offer me anything new in the fantasy genre and as a result I didn’t really engage with it all that much. Even when I worked for Games Workshop I didn’t play all that much, and only had the one army in order to play in the store.
I didn’t think there was anything that could draw me into the fantasy side of the hobby, and I always thought I would just be one of those players who stuck to 40k. Then, about a year ago, I got into 40k after a long hiatus and discovered that WFB was no more. In fact, Games Workshop had destroyed the entire world in an epic confrontation where (to my utter surprise) the bad guys had won. In its place was a new world (or should I say worlds) with races that seemed familiar, but were also new and exciting.
Gone was the Empire, and in its place rose Free Cities where man, elf, and dwarf all battled as one. Chaos now had a unique feel for each of the four deities, dwarfs were either lava inspired berserkers or airship building mecho-drawfs, and there were half lightning/half human demi-gods that felt like Space Marines on a anti-tech crusade. This was the setting of the Mortal Realm and the Age of Sigmar (AoS), and my interest was definitely piqued.
And so I, a humble 40k fanboy, decided to step into the new world of Games Workshop fantasy and check out the Age of Sigmar. However, I didn’t want to jump into another large army project. I already had my Ghost Imperium army to scratch that itch. No, I decided to explore the Mortal Realms on a much smaller scale with not one, but two specialist games set in the Age of Sigmar universe: Warhammer Underworlds and Warhammer Warcry.
What is Warhammer Underworlds?
“Only the bravest warriors have a chance of escaping the cursed city of Shadespire!”
Warhammer Underworlds is a game for two to four players in which you take control of a warband and pit them against other players in battles beneath the dark city of Shadespire. It combines the fast-paced action of arena miniature combat with deck building and strategy to create a fun and unique experience. The great thing about the game is that each warband is, for lack of a better term, fixed.
In most miniature games you get to customise the models in your force/army, resulting in unique collections that vary from player to player. In Warhammer Underworlds, however, the miniatures in each warband are predetermined, meaning you always use the same three or more miniatures in every game.
Despite this, the game has a ton of customisability in its deck creation. Each player has two decks: a power deck that can be used to buff your warband and give you an advantage, and an objective deck from which players draw their win-conditions. By the simple tweaking of these two decks, a warband and its tactics can be changed dramatically. You could stack your objective deck with cards that reward you for playing aggressively and getting in your opponent’s face, or decide to use your superior numbers to hold objectives and keep your opponent’s miniatures out.
This results in a multi-level game that rewards the careful planning and execution of your battle plan. The game also has a huge following in the competitive scene, and many tournaments are held each session (roughly a year) with an expanding meta and deep library of playable cards. As a lifelong MTG and GW fan, how could I not like this game?
What is Warhammer Warcry?
“What is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.”
Conan the Barbarian
Warhammer Warcry is the latest game to be released by Games Workshop. Like Warhammer Underworlds, it is a fast paced warband-focused game set in the Age of Sigmar universe. However, unlike Warhammer Underworlds it is not about adventures of riches and glory. Instead, it is about releasing your inner Conan and going all-out Barbarian on your opponents in an attempt to impress the everchosen and the gods of chaos.
Based in the realm of Eight Points, Warcry pits chaos warbands (and a few other unfortunate denizens of the Mortal Realm) against one another in bloody and brutal combat as they try to gain the favour of their lord, Archon. Players are given the tools to set up a multitude of different games with a variety different deployments, objectives, and twists to add a further layer of spice to the game.
Where Warhammer Underworlds is about scratching my tactical itch when it comes to wargaming, Warcry is about getting reacquainted with that young gamer in me that just wanted to smash an axe into my opponent’s face. That’s not to say that Warcry is a game devoid of strategy. In fact, games can be won or lost on a simple miscalculation. You could get carried away smashing face and suddenly realise you have failed to complete your objective, gifting your opponent the win.
But the game is such a joy to play, and has an ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ feel to it. Not to mention that the game is all but new at the time of writing, so if all the other games are anything to go by, we have lots of new support coming in the next few years.
Why play both?
So, why am I deciding to start not one but two new games? Well the truth is I am playing them for very different reasons. When it comes to Warhammer Underworlds, I am aiming to use it as an entry point from which I can teach my son and daughter about the hobby. They often want to join in when I am playing and painting, and since Underworlds has more in common with board games than traditional tabletop battle games, I figured it would be a good place to start.
When it comes to Warhammer Warcry, that’s all about me. I adore skirmish games and the idea of battling with chaos barbarians in the blood-soaked fields of Eight Points just makes me all giddy. The games have a fair bit of overlap when it comes miniatures (at least when it comes to the non-chaos warbands of Warcry) so I can cut down on the amount of painting I will have to do, which is always nice.
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop playing 40k, but rather I’ll be trying my hand at something new, and if I can create some content out of it, all the better. But I’m curious. Do you play Underworlds or Warcry? If so, what kind of content would you like to see in the future? Why not let us know about them in the comments below. While you’re there you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.
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