Here is my second part of my playstyle breakdown series. As a refresh, this series is meant to be a lasting look at the factors that make the Objective playstyle work, how to break it down and how to pick a warband. To date the article, this was written after the Ravagers release, but before the Starblood Stalkers have come out.
Hold Your Ground
Does proper positioning get you excited? Do you like standing still and holding things? Do you not like the pets of Underworlds? Do you want to use 17 push cards in your deck? Do you like big swings of glory, with the potential of easy disruption? Do you like swarms of things? Is two wounds the most you care to have? If so, the Objective playstyle may be for you.
So, I want to briefly touch on the history of Objective play in Underworlds before I dig down into the nuts and bolts of the playstyle. It’s been a very interesting story through the different seasons of the game. In its infancy, during Shadespire, we saw a number of basic cards enter the game. Hold Objective 1-5 and Supremacy are the core ones that would be resonant through the game. The Tactical Supremacy cards as well could be doable, but were sometimes out of your control. With there being very few options and rewards to playing this way, the style wasn’t super popular right out the gate. Sepulchral Guard was the main warband that scored that way, and Chosen Axes only cared about them from an inspiration sense. In Nightvault, Thorns arrived along with Gitz which both took an immediate liking to the playstyle with their sheer amount of models and their action economy. Some very dedicated, good players over that season that managed some success. However, the objective tokens became known as “Faneway Portals”, because most were using them as teleporter panels for Faneway Crystal.
Then we entered Beastgrave and everything changed. With the release of Despoilers we saw the release of a two glory surge for holding three tokens. Suddenly, the landscape changed. Then the Grymwatch came out with their copy of the same card, In the Name of the King. As well as Shifting Madness, Scrum and Swift Capture. Suddenly, holding the tokens and being a horde had viable ways to score glory through surges. It was a magical time. Then Temporary Victory arrived in the next set. It was an oppressive time. By sitting on tokens, warbands playing this style could easily score through their deck without moving (once they were on the tokens). Don’t forget that Distraction hadn’t been reprinted yet either. Also, the glory multipliers like Combination Strike became trivial for these decks. It was a bold statement to bring the game into a completely different meta than what had happened in the previous years. If I characterize Shadespire as the Aggro season, Nightvault as the Control season (thanks Tomes Mollog & Cursebreakers), then Beastgrave was the year of the Objective token.
As the season went on, we saw some restrictions to powerful cards, ways to flip and destroy tokens and more ways to push fighters off tokens than before. But playing this style was still a very consistent way to score high amounts of glory. Direchasm has changed that with the Primacy mechanics, but has really forged a “Hold Two/Hold More” style that is different than the way it was typically played in Beastgrave.
This all being said, Objective play typically has the highest glory ceiling, but also can usually be disrupted easily by ploys or being killed by the enemy (giving up glory in the process). Let’s dig into it.
The Bag of Holding: The Tokens Toolkit
Where I had gone through fighter stats in great detail during my Aggro write up, I think it’s mostly the warband’s attributes (rather than the specific fighters) that make a major factor in your selection of faction. Let’s break it down.
The number of models is a key factor. In general, the more models your warband has, the easier a time you will have playing this way. It’s usually hard to play around with objectives with either 3 or 4 models on the board. It really leaves very little room for error because if you’re trying to hold three tokens, it means you can’t really lose a fighter.
Hordes are normally your best bet. Having six or more models that would have the ability to sit on tokens is a very good idea (if you’re trying to hold three). I’d say a rule of thumb is to have double the models as the tokens you’re trying to hold. Four fighter warbands work well in hold two for example. Remember that the pets of Underworlds (squigs, beasts, kitties, bats) cannot hold the tokens, so they shouldn’t be part of this count. Riptooth is a pet to no one.
The true captains of this playstyle are ones that have abilities that can move multiple fighters at once, meaning you aren’t taking many activations to get on the tokens in the first place. The Warden can move two skeletons at once. Varclav can push five Chainrasps with one action. Gitz can combo off of each other and scurry about. There’s something to be said for any warband that has a faction card that can push multiple fighters around at once too.
Defensive stats aren’t always the most important factor (as a lot of horde warbands start on the worst in the game at one dodge), but the better the stat, the easier it is to stay on the token. Double dodge gives you a good chance to try for a crit and block being pushed off. Innate guard and resistance to pushes are also really good for holding tokens. Glissete, Khamyss and Ghartok all don’t necessarily want to sit on objectives, but when they do they are hard to dislodge.
Speed is a decent thing to have for fighters in an Objective build. It’s not the key (Skeletons will tell you that), but it is very nice to be able to reach the tokens in your opponent’s territory or run away from the enemy to a different token.
The Objective cards in this playstyle are very straightforward. Score glory for standing on tokens. There’s definitely some nuance there, with different requirements to fulfill, but if you can master staying on some tokens, you will be rewarded. I’ll also state that I would never expect to score my whole deck when playing the Objective style. There are times where you’ve got to know you aren’t going to make a major score (Dug In, for example) and ditch the card so that you can pull surges.
In my previous article about Aggro, I was touching on the Interactivity scale of the cards. I’ll be touching a bit on this, but due to the nature of token play, most cards are Neutral. They are Interactive when you have to run at your enemy, they are Passive when you sit in the back of your board. As well, the surges are quite Passive when you just score them after an activation (especially an opponent’s one). I’ll touch on the specifically Interactive ones as we go through.
The advent of the Objective surge was a major shake up in the way this style was played. The most basic of these just ask for a certain number of tokens to be held (Hidden Purpose, Temporary Victory, Now Wot?). Others ask for certain numbers (One Will, Shifting Madness) or positioning (Swift Capture, Focal Formation). I’ll point out that Wrested Dominance is a super interesting Interactive card, as you need to take a token that an opponent held at the start of the round (I’m just realizing that Restless Prize/Mischevious Spirits are cool ways to score this). Or you could steal Primacy by holding four tokens (which is pretty unlikely, but possible).
The end phase cards offer a similar set of requirements for scoring. Holding a certain number (Supremacy), holding some with specific positioning (Reclaim the Lamentiri, Treasure Hunter), hold ones of a certain number (Tactical Supremacy, Hold Objective 1-5) or a combination of effects. I’ll touch on a couple of really interesting cards from the last couple seasons. Path to Victory was a very interesting change to the game. Holding two tokens is pretty easy but it does require you to play in the combat space of the game. Uncontested is a very interesting mini-game. It makes Aggro warbands think about trying to charge onto tokens and makes Distraction and the like very important. Lastly, Dominant Position is exemplary of the “Hold More” style that is sweeping the game.
The power deck within this style is also very much in tune with the main goal. If you want to prevent getting pushed off the objectives, having enough of your push to get back on them is quite important. Look to cards as Sidestep, Vile Invaders and Confusion for some ways to get on to tokens (or back on to) easily. The enemy push is also important, especially when you’re looking to hold more than your opponent. Distraction is a good friend to you. For how few there are anymore, teleport cards are a really good way to get to distant objective tokens, hopefully dodging the opponent’s aggro fighters to jump into their back field. Sudden Appearance, Beast Trail, Ambusher are a few ways to do this. Another good strategy is to move the tokens themselves with Restless Prize or Mischevious Spirits. Lastly, there are some other cards that can support the play, like Glorious Triumph or Jealous Defence.
Upgrades are a different story. There are definitely some that do directly touch Objective play. We’ve seen a number of glory boosts in this deck for being on tokens, Cryptic Companion, Cursed Keys, Silver Tether for example. These are good ways to counteract the glory bleed from your horde slowing dying. There’s a good number of cards that are good for this play, however I’d normally classify guard, anti-push and defence boosts as Control cards. Grim Tenacity is a good example of how to try to keep a fighter on a token. I really like Dominant Defender too (with warbands that end on 2+ defence dice) as you can counteract Primacy by gaining it when they try to dislodge you. A couple of warbands have cards that will boost your action economy (Ancient Commander, Aura of Command).
Overall, the upgrades are really where Objective decks flex into another style. There aren’t enough cards in the pure Objective style to make a compelling list. Even with five keys, it’d be hard to find five more cards. Usually a player will spec into Aggro with strength upgrades, dice upgrades, etc. or into Control with bonus wounds, defence or guard.
Objective decks are all about getting a lot of glory but with a risk of disruption. Most of the time they score big early and that glory train peters out as they start losing models. That arc is all about scoring enough over the first couple rounds (hopefully) so that you don’t need to worry if you get wiped in round three. In that vein, here is a deck I call, Greedy Greedy Ghoulies:
So, I just wanted to build this deck with the most glory I could conceivably hope to score (I could’ve had one more if I put in Path to Victory instead of Conquering Heroes but I wanted something consistent). This deck would score you 34 glory if you had every objective at the end of the game, even with no kills!! Is it good? Not really. It’s not very good at killing models, or doing anything else but controlling tokens. But if you have great defence dice, you’ll score a lot! Spawn your Crypt Ghouls in enemy territory to get Treasure Hunter and Conquering Heroes. And stay on tokens!
I hoped you enjoyed the article! Who’s your favourite Objective warband? Why is it Eyes of the Nine? Let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Thanks so much for reading! Take care and set your own tempo!