Warhammer: Underworlds – An Introduction & Primer

In a new series of articles, Jordan is here to introduce Warhammer Underworlds, Games Workshop’s competitive skirmish miniatures board game, as well as provide some advice and tips for the game!

Competitive tabletop games with long-lasting support from their developers and designers are a rare breed. Unlike video games, tabletop games have a much harder time being “edited” or “patched” after their release, requiring further releases or announcements from the producers of the games. Trading card juggernauts like Magic: the Gathering, Pokemon, or Yugioh thrive on having regular releases for new sets of cards, with active support from the developing companies for tournaments, events, and player engagement outside of the game. In the realm of board games and miniatures games, long-lasting systems are much rarer, but can be just as enjoyable for fans of the hobby. Warhammer Underworlds bridges aspects from a lot of different types of tabletop games including miniatures, grid-based boards, deckbuilding and card playing. This makes at least some part of it familiar to almost any new player, while the rest of the game naturally blends all of its moving parts together.

Warhammer Underworlds is a standalone board game designed from the ground up by Games Workshop for competitive gameplay. In the game, each player controls a warband of fighters to defeat the opponent and secure objectives on the game board. There is a set number of actions each player can take before the game ends, making for very high-risk, high-reward gameplay, and the huge amounts of options in deckbuilding and warband choice offer endless opportunities for different strategies. A player’s deck of objective cards informs their decisions in what goals they want to accomplish (on top of eliminating enemy fighters), while their power cards can give their fighters in-game bonuses or assistance.

One of the greatest strengths of Warhammer Underworlds is its approachability for new players, as well as those new to miniature painting and building in general. Everything needed to jump into learning and playing Underworlds, including deckbuilding, is included in the core box set. These include tokens, boards, specialized dice, two warbands and their unique cards, as well as a handful of cards to build decks with. This is in contrast to Games Workshop’s core systems for Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar, which require boxes of miniatures, separate rulebooks, and a handful of other accessories to get playing.

 Expansion sets are regularly released every few months to introduce a wider range of warbands and features to the game but are entirely optional. Each expansion set includes a new warband and new cards specifically designed for that warband, as well as a handful of new universal cards that can be included in decks for any existing warband. You can choose to simply pick up any expansions and further releases that interest you, or you can choose to collect them all to maximize your deckbuilding options.

The models for the Underworlds warbands have been designed to be extremely friendly to non-hobbyists or beginners. The warbands only have an average of 4-5 miniatures each, coming unbuilt and in unique coloured plastic, making the barrier to getting models on the table much lower than traditional miniatures games, even for new hobbyists. The models are designed to be push-fit together, so once the parts are snipped out with sprue cutters or similar tools, they can just be squeezed together with no need for glue. This lets players who are less interested in the building and painting spend as little time possible getting their warband onto the table. On the other hand, each miniature is still amazingly detailed and full of character, so avid hobbyists and miniature painters can go buck wild in showing off their skills or trying new paint schemes by focusing their efforts onto a small, specialized warband of models.

Warhammer Underworlds is an excellent game system for those who enjoy competitive, one-on-one tabletop games, and a great gateway to modeling and miniatures games for those overwhelmed by games that need buckets of models painted and built just to play (or a great excuse for a handful of new painting projects). If you love competitive card games like Magic: the Gathering, other skirmish miniatures games like Star Wars: X-Wing, or just like the sound of ‘fantasy chess with dice and cards’, definitely give Underworlds a try. The newest core set, Direchasm, has just released, bringing high elves and worshippers of the Chaos god Slaanesh to the game, making it a perfect time to jump in and get playing. Games Workshop also announced a very fast-paced release schedule for early 2021, so there are plenty of expansions to look forward to soon.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the Direchasm Core Box and run through the basic systems of Warhammer Underworlds! Hope to see you there!

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