Desperate Caution: Do I Go First or Second?

One of the decisions that comes up often during games of Underworlds is the binary choice of going first or second. It’s a decision that you will have to make multiple times in each match. To excel at the game, it’s important to know how and why you’re going to choose first or second. Let’s dig into it.

Game Set-Up

Each game of Underworlds will begins with three decision points. We’ll break them down over the next couple sections.

Boards: The first roll of the game determines board and objective placement. There are plenty of times where you won’t be in control of this decision, but it’s really important to know what the ideals are for you. The choice whether to put down board first (giving yourself three objectives) or second (controlling the layout of the battlefield) is an integral one. In general, there’s a lot of nuance regarding how to lay boards and how to make the best decisions. Honestly, there’s been a lot of content lately about this topic, so I’ll direct you to this article by Wathlab, this video by Tabletop Syndey or this video by Can You Roll a Crit?. Instead of retreading the ground, I’m going to lay this decision point in broad strokes.

If you’re playing Aggro or Control, you pretty much always want to go second to ensure you can set up as you want. Aggro players will want to set up the boards to ensure their key fighters can get into enemy territory. Control players will want to deny the opponent from getting many fighters into their territory.

Objective players have a hard choice. Do you take three tokens (making it easier to score your objectives)? Or, do you make it hard for your opponent to get at your horde fighters? It really depends on what warband and how your are playing. If you’re playing hold three, you probably want the tokens. If you’re playing Grymwatch, you probably want to control the board choice and inspire. If you’re playing hold two, likely just take boards and be happy with your two tokens. If you’re against another horde warband, I’d go first and take the three tokens.

Placing Fighters: Putting models down on the battlefield first or second is usually a pretty easy choice. Most of the time, you’ll want to go second, so that you can take a look as to how your opponent is positioning. However, if both warbands have the same amount of models, whoever places first gets a bonus crit on the roll-off for the first round. So, it’s usually great to go first so that you can be more likely to determine turn order in the first round. But, if you’re unsure about what your opponent’s plan is going to be, there’s a good case to be made to allow your opponent to put their first model down first. An example of this in the current meta are the Crimson Court. Not only are there many four fighter warbands right now, but the Vampires are also able to play in different playstyles. They may be sitting at the back and playing Control or deploying at the front and playing Aggro. Getting a sense as to the strategy based on the first model dropped will allow you to place your fighters better as well.

Round One

Now, in general, you’ll be able to make this choice if you’ve got the smaller warband due to the bonus crit. But overall, there are many reasons to go first or second. Traditional wisdom has usually stated “let your opponent go first” so that you can have the final activation in the round. And I would say that in an absence of a specifically good reason to make the choice to go first, that is a really good option. But first, let’s cover off some reasons you may go first. I’m going to lay these out based on playstyle.

The Aggro player is focused on the alpha strike. If you’ve got a compelling potential kill that can pair with an objective, that’s a really good reason to strike. If positioning is key, let’s say with Bold Conquest, you may want to make that charge before a fighter lands on that objective. One of the other main reasons you may want to charge early is a reason that the Objective or Control play may want to go first. I think about playing into Thorns and their first turn of making five pushes of two hexes each. I would definitely consider charging into a vulnerable Chainrasp early. Especially if you’re a low speed warband, and the fighter you are charging wouldn’t be able to reach them when they get on a token.

The Objective player may want to scoop up easily contested objectives early (in the case of a horde mirror) or move vulnerable fighters back, out of charge range. I think there’s also a good case for throwing your one dodge vulnerable fighters on guard in the case of an Aggro opponent. I do think generally an Objective player will choose to go second, to have the chance to get back on a token in their last activation. Control players may want to go first for a similar reason; moving out of charge range. Or an early guard action is also a good shout.

I do think that the worst thing you can do is choose to go first with a three fighter warband needing to play aggressively, and draw a card. It’s much better to control that last activation of the round with that final charge. If you’re not worried about reaching targets or scoring easy surges, go second and try to draw an important gambit.

Round Two & Three

I think that this is one of the easiest choices to make. In general, you’re going to want to choose to go first in the later rounds. Usually you’ll have fighters in danger, new cards to score and reasons it’ll be important to have priority. Unless, your move was going to be going on guard and you have something like Buried Instinct in hand; I don’t really see many compelling situations you’d choose second. If you’ve really got the opponent far away from you (maybe they got a key fighter in early which you killed), maybe you let them go first. But I still think simply going first to go on Guard is probably still better.

Games Two & Three

In later games, you should use your knowledge gained from the earlier ones to make these decisions. Did your opponent want the three tokens? Deny them in game two. If they moved away in the initial activation, make that early strike. Did they sit and draw cards? Let them go first again. The choices won’t be too different, but you’ll have advance knowledge of the opponent’s strategy to help guide your hand.

The Last Turn

I think that these choices can get very ingrained as you play multiple games. It’s easy to set yourself on auto-pilot and go “I always take tokens” or “I always let the opponent go first in Round One”. But I think challenging those decisions may lead you to some overall better play. And it gives you some insight as to how your opponent may look at the match.

But wait, there’s more! If you want to hear a little bonus content from me, a couple of podcasts dropped this week with me as a guest! First, I was on What The Hex?!, talking about Control play. You can listen to the episode here. Second, I was on the latest episode of Crit Cast! with John Rees, talking tilt! That episode is available here. Thanks to Davy, Phil and John for having me on in the last week. It was a blast to chat with all of you and have some great discussions on this game we adore!

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Magical Mark: Underworlds and Magic: The Gathering

In my University days, I used to play a lot of Magic: the Gathering. I mean too much, honestly. It was my first competitive game that I ever played (and really only one of three including Underworlds). In the end, there were a number of reasons that I did stop playing the game. However, when I was first learning about Warhammer Underworlds, there were a number of similarities (and differences) that got me really excited about the game.

Today, I’d like to go through a bit of this topic. Why does Underworlds scratch a similar itch? Why would a potential Magic player potentially like this game? What analogs can I draw between the two systems? How would one present this game to a Magic player? Let’s take a look.

Deckbuilding

At the core, both MtG (abbreviated as such, henceforth) and Underworlds share a strong deckbuilding component. In Magic, it’s 100% of the prep of the game. Underworlds also brings faction choice and board study into the mix. Personally, the deckbuilding aspect of Underworlds was a major reason I got into the game. Workshopping new deck ideas, building crazy combos and trying new things were aspects of MtG that I enjoyed. I also loved the refinement of a deck idea, switching cards out that weren’t optimized.

While both have a very similar pre-game, it’s actually the overall model of the game that I think is a major selling point. In our game, you’re building two decks (broken in half twice), a 12 card Objective deck (containing 6 surges and 6 end phase cards) and a Power deck containing a 10 card Gambit deck and a 10 card Upgrade deck. There’s the simplicity of having a Universal set of cards and a limited faction card set. And the restriction of no duplicate cards. In the end, your deck is (usually) 32 unique cards and that is it.

Compare this to the Magic deck build. You’ve got a 60 card deck, in which 40% (~22-25 cards) are lands (the basic cards you use to generate mana to pay for the other cards). You’re usually left with about 36 cards you’re making choices on. But with there being a duplicate restriction of maximum four copies of a card, consistency was also key. So, if I was running 24 lands, I would usually take four copies of nine different cards as the rest of my deck. Now, that’s pretty reductive of me, and there’s definitely reasons to run fewer copies of cards, but I am not the expert on this.

One of the main differences is the sourcing of the cards. Finding a “playset” (four copies) of cards is a main focus, since MtG is a CCG (Collectible Card Game), unlike Underworlds which is closer to an LCG model (Living Card Game). MtG cards come in blind booster packs, with a rarity scale. So, if you’re searching for four copies of a single rare card, it’s quite hard to source it out. A booster box of one of the most recent sets, Strixhaven, is $150 Canadian Dollars at a well-priced retailer. That’s 36 packs of 15 cards each (although there are now three different kinds of boosters…). I’ll bring it back to the way I was used to it. A card pack was one rare card, three uncommon cards and eleven common cards. So if you’re buying a box, you only have 36 chances to get the rare card you want. And there might be 80 or more rare cards avaiable in the set. It means that to collect your four cards, you may need to buy them outright (could be $10-$20 per card) or open a ton of packs.

The main selling point to me around Underworlds was that by buying one copy of each expansion, I would get all the cards for the game. No searching for cards, no pay to win, just an easy collection of every card possible. Not only that, at $40-$50 Canadian Dollars per expansion, you get three to nine amazing Games Workshop figures. This makes all the combos available at your fingertips immediately!

Getting back to the building of decks, I love that there is a very streamlined deck process in Underworlds. Generally, you’ve got some auto-includes in deck styles or factions, but then you’re building a tight toolkit of effects you want. It’s also a nice limitation to not allow duplicates. Imagine if you could take four Distraction! It makes the choices a bit less about raw power and more towards player choice and style.

Game Play

Magic has five different colours of mana, which are semi-analogous to playstyles or warbands. Effectively, you can play each colour in whatever playstyle you want, as there are common effects that are within the different colours, but each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I’ve taken my standard playstyle chart and overlaid the MtG colours to showcase some similarities to the way we would think about Underworlds.

Aggro lives in the space that would contain Red, Black and Green. Red is the colour that would be exemplified by Garrek’s Reavers or Godsworn Hunt. Quick charges, fast damage, ping cards and smaller wound fighters. Black would be all about instant kills, life-sucking and weakening the opponent’s fighters. I’d liken the style to the Death grand alliance in Age of Sigmar, but there aren’t many cards that focus this way. Maybe Jealous Hex or Abasoth’s Withering. And Green is all about large fighters smashing their way through the opponent. Mollog or Hrothgorn for example.

Objective play is something you won’t really find in Magic, but I think that building a defensible force is very similar to that, which is something that White excels at. Green does to a lesser extent, being very tied to a swarm playstyle. I could see Kainan’s Reapers or Zarbag’s Gitz being warbands that a Green or White player might enjoy.

Control play is definitely a Blue trait. Blue is all about returning monsters to people’s hands, countering their spells and drawing cards. Eyes of the Nine, Cursebreakers and Myari’s Purifiers would be easy choices for a Blue player. White leans into Control with the healing tech (did someone say Spiritcomb?) and Black with enemy card discard (Blind Hunger, I guess).

Honestly, I think no matter which colour (or colour combination) an MtG player enjoys, there’s a warband they can find to satisfy their likes.

Toy Factor

Here’s a big one for you. Instead of just getting a pack of cards, you’re getting amazing Games Workshop quality miniatures. That’s an awesome value proposition with some amazingly great toy factor. Not only that, there’s beautiful boards along with a great dice system. While I understand that the luck factor may turn some players off, I think the rest of the positioning puzzles will definitely intrigue them.

Convert(ed Mana Cost)ing Friends

So, how do you get your MtG friends into Underworlds? Play the game with them. Show them the deck construction. Introduce them to a warband that matches their colour style. Show off your great figures and tournament prizes. I think that the overall puzzle of scoring more glory, as opposed to reducing a life guage, is a really compelling one. It allows for many playstyles and a ton of freedom. Show them your love for the game and the amazing community we have. Who knows, they might win the next Grand Clash…

Thanks for reading today. Was there a game you came from originally? Do you miss it? Are there things that you wish UW had? If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Feast and Famine: What To Do After All The Cards Are Out

All of the Direchasm season has come, unless we happen to get some sort of season ending card pack (which I’m unsure of, since we did get the Silent Menace deck). With the frenetic pace of releases done and gone, there’s always been a summer lull between seasons of Underworlds. Given that we’d expect Season 5 to be launching again in September, back on a normalized schedule, we’ve now got a couple of months with no new cards, models, boards or dice (although I hope get some green Destruction dice…). Here’s some things to keep you busy and engaged while we wait for Eboncairn, or maybe Darkvale, hmmmm…Blackriver? Ooh, Noircastle!…well, the Season 5 starter box.

Explore New Warbands

Here’s a list of warbands that I have never piloted in a single game: Godsworn Hunt, The Wurmspat, Morgok’s Krushas, Khagra’s Ravagers, Kainan’s Reapers, Elathain’s Soulraid and Storm of Celestus. The inter-season break is a perfect way to play warbands you’ve never tried, or barely tried and then gave up. As the card pool and meta is stable, it’s a safe space to start trying different playstyles, figure out new strategies, and learn the rules of a different faction. How does Desecration work? How do I make Spinefin annoying to the opponent? Which Reapers have Nadirite and which Mortek Advance? Is Vellas better Bloodthirsted or Inspired? It’s a great time to study the rules you’re unfamiliar with and add the knowledge to your strategies for the next season.

Study Vanguard Format

I’d say that even before Vanguard was codified into a format, I began limiting my card selection about a month in advance in preparation for rotation. With the previous season heading to the Relic box, there’s some time to play with the remaining card pool and start to understand how to play without the Beastgrave cards. A ton of staple cards are leaving, which will be a massive shakeup. Here’s a list of some of the most impactful in my mind: Distraction, Hidden Purpose, Temporary Victory, Show of Force, Gathered Momentum, Cover Ground, Spectral Wings, Master of Battle, Swift Capture, To The End, Buried Instinct, Team Effort and Deserved Confidence. I’ll be doing a full article on the meta impact once rotation happens, but as of right now it’s a good time to play the Vanguard format (with any warband but just Direchasm universals) to start to understand how to build a deck without these staples that we’ve used for around 2 years now.

Play Variant Games

This break also gives some time outside of the normal formats to just play some fun games with your buddies. Championship and Vanguard are very commonly played, but Relic might be a crazy change of pace! I used to enjoy our three or four player light games we would play at the shop when we weren’t seriously prepping for a tournament. There’s the Gargant variant play that’s a nice way to change up the game. When that format came out, we actually did a mini tournament in that format. Arena Mortis could be a fun way to get some people together for a fun brawl. I actually love the idea of having a theme behind the fighter choice. I’ve heard of “pets” only, which would be cool, but I would also love if all players only brought two wound fighters. And lastly, there’s also the Grand Alliance play that came out last year. Any of these ways to play require different deckbuilding and make a good shakeup when you’re waiting for the Championship format to change. Just remember to make sure everyone is building for the same format!

Paint That Backlog

With so many warbands released in such a small time, it’s a good chance to get paint on your models! I would venture a guess that most people prioritize the warbands they are going to play or factions they are passionate about. It’s much easier to get them painted up than a warband you may never play. Going hand in hand with the previous exploration section, it may spark some interest in playing the warband. Or, if it’s a band you don’t think you’ll play much, experiment with the colour scheme and try something crazy! Below, Alex painted up our Wurmspat in a vivid green and pink scheme as an experiment as it’s not a warband I was really focused on and the models came out great! It’s also a great time to kitbash, source alternate sculpts and try for a cool aesthetic. Planning for an event a couple of years ago, I bought a box of Evocators to make a custom set of Cursebreakers. I also kitbashed our Ravagers with some Necromunda heads to make an all-female warband!

Sort, Organize and Prepare

I’ve also always found the post-season to be a good time to sort out your cards, the remnants of old decks that are thrown back quickly in prep for the week’s gaming session. Rotation usually forces me to reorganize anyway, so getting prepared for it makes things easier. I definitely always rotate my universals early, as per above, but I also take the chance to sort through the other cards and make some decisions. I used to keep all the previous copies of the cards together so that I had multiple copies at the ready. While that makes sense for the 7 copies of Great Strength I own, I’ll probably never run one copy of Annihilation, so I don’t need them all at my fingertips. Also, Hold Objective 1-5 just take up way too much room. I recently got a new card organizer that I’m keeping all the warband and faction cards sorted by season and release date. It’ll make it easier than my old way of “Do I think I’ll play this faction anytime soon?”…

Get a Friend Interested

It’s a great time to teach the game to a friend. Not only is the meta stable, you can also just present the current season to a friend and there are no worries to “collect it all” immediately. I started the game mid-way through Nightvault and I literally went the day before a tournament to pick up the Ironskullz expansion just for Superior Tactician. It’s a good time to show off our amazing game and your lovely models. Walk your friends through a game with open hands, inviting them to ask questions. Chuck some dice, score some glory; who knows, you may have a new player come the fall.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I feel this season has less of a lull than in the past. The meta is fresh again with the recent FAR list and Errata. I’ve had the ability to start playing in person once more. There’s an electricity to a new beginning that I’m just so excited about. And honestly, before we know it, there will be a preview (who knows, it could come out between when I’m writing this article and the day it’s published) of Season 5, with new models, rules and speculations. It’s an exciting time.

What are your post-season rituals? Is there anything I missed? What are you excited about this summer? Thanks as always for taking the time to read. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Meticulous Strategy: The Control Playstyle

As a third piece to my playstyle series, today we’re going to explore the last of the major three playstyles, Control. We’ll look at warband choice, the factors that allow for the style and cards that fit in. I feel that this is the hardest style to both define and play, as it’s really nebulous while also being specific. Dating this article, it’s written just as Kainan’s Reapers are being released.

Control, You Must Have Control…

Is counterplay your bread and butter? Do you laugh maniacally when you play Distraction immediately after your opponent’s Sidestep? Is going on Guard your favourite action? Do you enjoy standing at the back of a board? Does making an attack make you throw up a little in your mouth? If so, the Control style may be for you.

Let’s start with some definition as I believe Control in this game has been known at times to carry some negative connotations, which I want to break down. To me, Control play is a style in which you are attempting to disrupt your opponent’s game plan and score glory from that play. I’ve heard it referred to as “Defensive” play as well, which is one style of Control (specifically the anti-Aggro play). Boosting defence stats, going on Guard, adding extra wounds and healing are all ways to stop an Aggro player from getting kills. There’s also the branch of anti-Objective play, including pushing or flipping Objective tokens and enemy pushes. There’s a last subset of Control style effects which are ones that manipulate your cards and deck by allowing you extra draw or searching for a specific card.

All of these together make the term Control one that can be very different depending on who you’re speaking to. But they all share one major goal; edit the board state in such a way that it benefits you, hurts your opponent and denies them scoring. A well timed Restless Prize can deny Supremacy. Going on Guard reduces the enemy’s chance of making a kill or changing your positioning. Having more cards in hand gives you better options and more chances to react than your opponent.

There’s a part of me that is hesistant to discuss the history of the playstyle, as I think there’s been negativity around times that Control has been the dominant playstyle. So, to start, I want to lay out a big thesis statement for this article. Control does not have to mean Passive. When I set up my rating scales, I was very specific about separating out playstyle from interactivity. I strongly believe that there are ways each playstyle can be Passive and Interactive.

Passive cards are ones that don’t involve your opponent or are very hard for them to disrupt. Let’s take a look at a card that I would define as Aggro/Control and Passive, Show of Force. It’s got an Aggro slant as the first condition requires three friendly fighters in enemy territory. Yes, that’s about positioning, but generally those would be charges. Past making an early kill or pushing a fighter out of the territory, it’s really hard to deny. It’s Control side, having three upgrades on one fighter, can be telegraphed, but is also very hard to deny. Usually, you’ll find your opponent will place multiple upgrades on before their activation and then just receive a glory for surviving through their own action.

Interactive Control comes down to strong counterplay. The ubiquitous Interactive Control ploy is Distraction, as it’s not just a passive bonus but forcing you to make a choice as to how to disrupt your opponent. I’ve gone through a lot of skills you need to play this way in my “Proactive Play” article, as you have to understand what your opponent is trying to do. Sometimes you’ll use that card to push someone off a token, other times you’ll push them closer to you so you have range for an attack and in another circumstance you might push them away so they are out of range of a charge. Any of these moves (even the one that fuels an Aggro-style attack action) are Control at its core.

I will say than an anti-Aggro style of Control definitely seems more passive most of the time. Full offset, running away, going on guard and reducing interaction by trying to prevent attacks. But overall, it’s something you have to plan for as an Aggro player. Being caught out because your fighters can’t reach the opponent for two rounds simply means you have to tech into movement cards.

I will skip the history of the playstyle in this article as I have a future article that I believe will cover most of it in greater detail and analysis. The takeaway from the history is that when Control is strong, players are needing to tech heavily into movement, dice or damage to ensure the key kills are happening before the tooled up fighter can score loads of glory for simply staying alive.

Stats to Pay the Rats

The relationships between what makes a warband suitable for the different playstyles is really interesting to me. For Aggro, I’ve said it’s fighter stats. Objective is warband attributes. And Control really comes down to the card pool most of the time. However, fighter stats also make a large effect on the selection of a Control warband.

Wounds

Control builds are focused around keeping fighters alive, so that they can either stack upgrades that allow them to score glory or score trivial cards for just existing. So, more wounds is strictly better. Mollog, Hrothgorn and the Krushas have all been strong warbands for this playstyle simply because the key fighters have high wounds. It’s always harder to justify stacking upgrades (even defensive ones) on a two or three wound fighter as your entire game could sit on a knife’s edge.

Defence

Take as much of this as you can! Most key fighters have been two block in the past, but two dodge and on guard is also a strong defensive characteristic. If your opponent can’t hit you, they can’t kill you! That’s part of this because you’re also ensuring Aggro isn’t scoring their surges for kills, getting seed glory, etc.

Models

Most builds will want to ensure that the opponent cannot easily reach their key fighter or alternatively, their weaker fighters. Gitz can’t play the style effectively, as they have to deploy on every starting hex so there’s no way to hide. In the past, there was never a reason to play Control with any warband that had more than three fighters, but Hrothgorn and Myari specifically have given alternate ways to play around that.

Fighter Abilities

There’s a few specific key abilities that can fuel Control. Myari’s Aetherquartz allowing a reroll that could mean an attack misses. The Wurmspat’s damage reduction which can throw the math off. Ammis and Rastus with their passive way to inspire. Glissete always on Guard.

Objectives

The set of cards that allow scoring have been nebulous depending on the season we’re in. I could spend a ton of time combing through each season, pointing to the cards that were strong at specific points. But I don’t think the Magic cards that made up strong Cursebreakers play in Nightvault matter at this moment in time. So, more than either of my previous articles, I will point to certain key faction specific cards as well as the universal pool.

Surges

Control surges generally reward you for playing within your warband’s strengths. Cards like Harness the Storm allow you to inspire Ammis or take a shot with Stormsire and get a glory for just doing it. Moment of Glory allows you to score off of surviving and inspiring. Abundance of Caution simply wants each of your fighters to have a guard token. Impending Doom is a card all about positioning and can be easily set up using power cards. Effectively, surges for Control play are ones that you’re going to be able to easily set up with cards too. Silver Lining is a card that rewards you for drawing into a bunch of cards as you’re playing your draw gambits.

End Phase

Most of the End Phase cards here are ones that are all about surviving and having a certain board state. There are even ones that don’t need you to survive! Cards like Formidable Prey or Avatar of Famine require you to have a fighter in a certain state, like a certain amount of hunger or a number of upgrades. Utter Isolation needs at least one surviving fighter and for no fighter to be adjacent to any other one. That’s something that you control by your positioning, the way you push and they way you drive back the enemy. It’s also eminently scoreable only with power cards. Promise of Destruction echoes that, where it’s all about simply playing the correct type of card at the right time. Other cards that have been popular are To the End, Avatar of the Ur-Grub and Feed the Beastgrave. Most of them reward the innate playstyle and cards you are taking. It’s something I really like about Control play. For each of these cards, you must take at least 3-5 cards in your to unlock the card and thus they become a core part of your play. Other callouts from Direchasm include Growing Hunger, Intimidating Display, Myriad Incantations, and Silent Sentinel.

Gambits

Ok, this list will be a quick round up on the effects I throw in the Control bucket. Enemy pushes (Hypnotic Buzz/Distraction), effects that put you on Guard (Bountiful Bait/Desperate Caution), healing effects (Spiritcomb/Ferocious Resistance), cards that draw more cards (Untapped Resources) and effects that mess with the board state (Great Tremors/Living Land). Now, there’s the flip of the coin here too which are effects that literally are there to simply screw with your opponent. Cards that reduce your opponent’s movement (Suffocating Heat), wounds (Jealous Hex), defence (Hopesink). Cards that give move or charge tokens (Energy Drain/Silence Descends), cards that destroy upgrades (Acidic Strike/Narrowing Passage), cards that give keywords to fighters (Hunting Season), cards that un-inspire fighters (Souljaws) and cards that prevent activation (Lost in Reflection). One of the most important pieces to discuss around Control gambits are that they are usually not directly tied to scoring. Where Aggro surges make your attacks more accurate and damaging to score your cards, Objective ones push your fighters onto tokens or keep them on, Control ones are powerful in their own right to attempt to deny your opponent’s glory. So, as much as you may load your deck up with these gambits, you’ll still have to ensure your deck can score.

Upgrades

A lot of the Upgrade tech mirror the Gambits. Bonus wounds and guard (Scavenged Armour does both!), bonus defence (Armour of Confidence/Hungry Armour), healing (Awesome Appetite), protection from damage (Inured by Hunger/Armour of Disdain), reducing enemy accuracy (Painful Brilliance), and prevention of enemy effects (Starvation’s Grip). In the Direchasm season, we’ve also seen nets and snares (Soultooth Net/Extruded Snare) which are Control weapons that give move or charge tokens. These can be very powerful ways to lock down important enemy fighters.

Summary

Control decks are those that are primarily going to score their glory by playing their cards right. Also, scoring only a few glory through the game with an alternate goal of denying your opponent’s glory by being on top of their moves, being more defensive and disrupting their plan.

I made a Purifier’s deck that’s focused on going on Guard, locking down the opponent and naturally scoring your glory as you defend and counter attack. Surges are scored by taking Guard actions (along with the ploys that give the same), equipping upgrades and defending. Scoring the end phase will come naturally with how you’re playing your cards. Ploys are all about staying alive, scoring your cards and manipulating the board state. And same with the Upgrades. Truly, this deck is all about staying in Control and denying your opponent kills.

What are your thoughts on Control play? How do you use Control cards to your advantage? Let me know your thoughts at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Thanks so much for reading! Take care and set your own tempo!

Ferocious Resistance: June 2021 FAR and Errata Review

Well, after a long 7 months since the last one, we have finally received a new forsaken and restricted list (along with an errata that pairs along with it)! This is a shakeup that has been sorely needed and here’s my quick TLDR; it’s a wonderful list that will bring a solid change to the meta. I’m excited to dig into it, so let’s go!

Errata

Players have spent the better part of the season being concerned about the strength of the big troll and now we have an errata that will bring his overall power level down a notch. Mollog now cannot make super actions once he has a charge token. I’ll start by saying that I think this is a really smart change. It doesn’t remove the ability to move and then charge, or charge and then attack, so a lot of common Mollog actions aren’t nerfed. But what it does mean is that he cannot double charge now, meaning that later in the game, he may not be able to kill your remaining fighters in two charges. The other change, which I think is much less used, is that he cannot use his scything attack (with it being a superaction) once he’s charged.

I think the best thing about this change (along with one below) is that it makes certain that there is proper counterplay. The variety of nets and snares available to the upgrade deck in this season become even more effective. Throwing a charge token on the big dude will now effectively make sure he needs a couple actions to make an attack. Giving him a token while he’s out of range of your fighters and with only one activation left in the round is protection against a final attack. You can now actually zone him and ensure that he can be locked down.

Ooh! Now this is a cool change! First of all, remember that this is a beta rule, so please ensure your TO is allowing it in whatever event you are going to. Personally, I would always allow it to be used if I’m running something. This change is targeted specifically for what’s been considered the least viable Direchasm warband. Khagra’s Ravagers can now inspire after Desecrating two objective tokens instead of three. Sit Dour Cragan and Razek on the tokens in your zone and inspire for the next couple rounds. Play Ritual Desecration and charge Khagra at a Skink and inspire quickly in the first round! I think this change really brings a lot of viability to the warband. You can make use of the inspired stats in a very easy way. Getting two of your fighters up to two block, building more accuracy for Cragan and Razek, getting Zarshia’s super accurate attack to two damage and boosting speeds to four will make a big change in the efficiency of the fighters. I’m excited to try them out again!

Forsaken

So, it’s gone. The card that has brought so much fear. The one that made you think “Does my opponent have it? Does this attack matter?”. It’s probably been the defining card in the Direchasm meta for most of the season. I’m very happy to see it leave and will not miss it at all. The way that a heal of 4 or 5 can just completely change a game was crazy. If you’ve been throwing bodies at your opponent in a Reavers or Godsworn way, by the time you’ve dealt 6 damage to something, you might be out of gas (and fighters). The playing of this card could just end the game there, because you no longer can make that necessary kill. For those still looking for healing, it’s not gone from the game, so pick Spiritcomb or Healing Potion instead.

Restricted – Universals

Let’s start off with the three Universal objectives. Cover Ground was reprinted in the gift pack. It became a source of mostly passive glory in speed decks in the Beastgrave season, building popularity in Harrows and Rippa’s. With the effective baseline speed from Direchasm being 4 and the crazy amount of +2 move cards (8 extremely easy universals), I think this card is an easy one to understand the restriction. You were probably already running them, but Gathered Momentum and Winged Death are good options to replace this with (although it might be worth it to cut a Restricted upgrade to keep it in).

Show of Force has been an omnipresent card. Early in the game, run a few fighters forward for an easy glory. Round two or three, you’ll usually just score this after an activation. There isn’t a deck that I can think of that won’t be able to score this decently easy. There aren’t many universal replacements, so I think it will still see some play. Faction cards I could see replacing it are Excess of Vainglory in Dread Pageant (for the upgrades) and cards like Preternatural Speed, Raiders, Formidable Focus, Pride of the Thorac Caste and Speed of the Flood Tide for having three or all your fighters in enemy territory for Crimson Court, Despoilers, Seraphon, Reapers and Idoneth.

I think the real messy part with Surge of Aggression comes down to the fact that there are now a ton of power cards that can score it in the power step. But, that’s also paired with the fact that it realistically states “make a kill” as there has been a pretty strong one-shot meta. I think the second part of hitting a 4 damage attack has always been the rarely scored option. The main replacement I’d expect to see is Everything to Prove, as it’s great for both sides of Primacy. I’d also expect to see that card hit the list down the road…

Unsurprisingly, a high accuracy attack upgrade that gives two glory hits the list alongside one of its Amberbone brethren. There are tons of great attack upgrades right now, so Silent Sword or good old Larval Lance are great replacements.

To take the full set of Mortis Relics, you’ve now got to spend all three of your Restricted slots. I’ll be honest, I never really enjoyed playing with or against these, so I’m happy to see them depart. The card draw from The Crown has been a big reason to take the card, even without the stacking of two of these. And the Sidestep effect from Gauntlet of Command is good, but I think the intention here is to make sure players stop taking them. These two would see play even if only one was Restricted, so I think this was a big reason to shut them both down. Overall, the Silent Relics are the best options to take. Silent Ring is a good replacement for the card draw. And the stacking effects all are available on the package as well.

Deserved Confidence has been a very common part of the Voltron-style play we’ve seen. At first, I don’t think I saw how strong this one would be. But after a couple of games, I think it was obvious that I would always take it instead of Great Fortitude. The lack of drive back paired with the common ability of a bonus wound on your top fighter of the game was a powerful tool. Similar to other cards, I think this one will continue to see play, especially for the larger fighters or Control builds. If you are looking to replace it, Great Fortitude or Scavenged Armour are the choices.

Geomancer’s Gauntlet is a surprise to me. It’s a really powerful flip, but with both Mischevious Spirits (coming up later in the list) and Restless Prize on the R list, I think it does lose effeciency anyway. I guess there’s still Living Land and Shifting Shards to move them around and combo flipping. Great Tremors or Symbiote’s Call are good ones to throw in instead.

A common way to make this list is to reduce damage. Haughty Resistance both allowed for damage reduction as well as a sneaky way to gain Primacy. Bonus wounds can be a good way to replace this one, but the Primacy shenanigans won’t be easy to replace in a Control style upgrade slot.

Speaking of Primacy, Proud Runner shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It’s a passive way to easily (see my notes above on baseline four speed) gain Primacy. I think the intention would be to use it on a charge, but running away or onto an objective while stealing the token is huge. Let’s be honest, you weren’t taking this for the +1 move, so I won’t talk about speed upgrades. If you really want this effect, you’re going to want to take this and dump a different Restricted card.

One of the most powerful and consistent accuracy upgrades in the game has been hit. It’s about time. For Hrothgorn, it has always given both of his attacks a bonus die and a reroll, which is nuts as an upgrade. It’s almost permanent Victimise for him. But with other warbands able to leverage it on their fighters, Crimson Court, Rippa and Madmob specifically, it’s become too prevalent. Consider Augmented Limbs for range one attacks, Eagle-Eye for range three attacks and cry if you’re range two (sorry Gorath).

One of the most disruptive power cards in the game, Michevious Spirits now can’t be just thrown in there to disrupt an opponent’s game plan. Now, you have to take it intentionally and spend a slot. Personally, this card always frustrated me, because it was so slow to actually resolve. And when two of them are played one after the other, it’s just too long. In a 90 minute best of three, five minutes or more could be spent on resolving these power cards. I’m probably exaggerating, but I just couldn’t stand the slow down this card caused. Heading to the R list makes hold three more viable again and gives a big boost to horde warbands. If you really want this effect, you’ll still take this.

Savage Visage is a really powerful accuracy upgrade. It could easily make you have a couple rerolls on each attack, if you built for it. I didn’t see it played a ton, but when it was, it made such an impact. Shadeglass Band, Predatory Instinct and Experienced Eye are all way more limited attack re-rolls but still ways to get partial effect.

I’ve always thought that reaction cards that cancel the opponent’s effect were bad for the game. Slickrock is one such type of card. Not only can it waste your entire activation if your intention was to land on an objective token, but the ability to potentially cancel your charge is oppressive. I honestly think that now that it’s landed on the R list, it won’t see any play. The limitations when the opponent is pushing onto tokens or not moving on them at all, made this an edge case anyway. Hypnotic Buzz will probably fill the slot for you.

I’ll make this one quick. We aren’t really short on bonus damage, so this won’t have much effect on your deck from that stance. What I do enjoy is that there is now a cost for The Avatar Risen. A passive, three glory objective with no cost but a few upgrades and easy card draw needs to have part of the strategy have some deck cost.

Substance Siphon has always been a neat upgrade. I’d honestly say that if it said that you could no longer be on guard at the same time, I wouldn’t really find an issue with the three dodge dice. But, boosting a one block dice to three dodge (or three guard) is a really powerful effect. I’d expect those that were using this could potentially use Armour of Confidence as a replacement.

Restricted – Faction Cards

Harrows have got one of their passive movement surges now on the list too. Fleeting Memories was always an easy card turn one and very easy to combo with Cover Ground and bonus speed. They will have a much harder time finding room for all the easy surges with this on the list. Hopefully, this pushes them into a more interactive space. Take something like Inescapable Hunger and start charging with some ghosts!

Strictly better than Bold Deeds, this card has been a staple in Rippa decks. Rippa will constantly be killing enemy fighters, so realistically this card reads “have a fighter in enemy territory”. I think it’s the right call to be Restricted. I’ve heard some community members say that Loaded With Plunder is the correct one to restrict, but I honestly think this is easier to score in the long run. Trying to ensure your three upgrade fighter survives is harder than most think. Also, you’ve got to generate three glory and have three upgrades in hand to get it. I’ve had that card brick for me and clog my hand more than I’ve ever sat on Cruel Hunters. I’ve kept numerous hands with three end phase cards, because I was pretty confident that I could always score Cruel Hunters in the first round. Bold Deeds might be a replacement for it, if you aren’t already running it.

Another slight hit to the Feed The Beastgrave strategy, Hrothgorn has now got his third faction card on the list. Arm of the Everwinter is the second surge we’ve seen on this FAR that is scored easily in the power step. And in fact, it’s the second Hrothgorn one as Unexpected Cunning is also on the list. Personally, I think this is GW signalling that surge scoring shouldn’t be done in the power step; it needs direct action. If you’re playing Feed The Beastgrave, you’ll probably still take it.

Krushas get hit twice here, which seeing that they’ve lived at the top of the meta most of the season, which is no surprise. Got It, Boss is a trivial surge for holding one objective. Berserk Fortitude goes hand in hand with Ferocious Resistance in the camp of “Why would I bother attacking?”. I’m glad there’s now a base cost to playing Krushas, which should make them less powerful.

And lastly, we’ve got Foul Temper bringing some cost to Mollog’s most powerful upgrade. Accuracy boosts on the big troll make his massive damage attacks easier to hit and much harder to defend.

Final Thoughts

I’m pretty happy with this list. I think that it’s targeted some of the oppressive playstyles we’ve seen become prevalent through this season, which to me is the biggest reason to have a FAR. My favourite part of the list is always just the shakeup that comes with this. Whether or not my specific deck or playstyle is hit, I’m always happy that there’s an ability to change out some old cards and try new things.

Let’s talk about the faction cards. With these additions, the faction restricted cards have now grown from 10 to 16 cards, with these additions. There’s definitely some big targets here. In most of the tier lists that have been coming out, Mollog, Krushas, Hrothgorn, Harrows and Rippa are always in the S or A tier. I love that they specifically got hit and will hopefully bring a levelling of these tiers, making the warbands a bit more even.

Who are the big winners? Objective play will see a big boost with Surge of Aggression, Slickrock and Mischevious Spirits out. I’d expect Thorns, Grymwatch and Seraphon to be stronger because of that. Aggro-wise, I think Wraithcreepers continue to gain momentum, as the range one limitations don’t really touch them. My wild card picks are the warbands that haven’t seen much play because chip damage strategies have been ineffective in the world of Ferocious Resistance. Specifically, I think Reavers, Godsworn, Wild Hunt and Blade Coven all can make some plays now and take down large targets.

Thanks for reading! What did you think of the FAR? If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Savage Soldier: Why the Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock Meta is Beaten by my FLEX! (Featuring Kaptain Murder)

Welcome to a very special episode of Set the Tempo. Today, I’ve got a guest writer from my local scene: Derek AKA Kaptain Murder. I’ve been lucky enough to learn the ins and outs of this game from him and I know playing him has made me a better player. As he says “Mithril sharpens mithril”. Today’s article is all about Flex play and different playstyles. I hope you enjoy!
–Matt

The Disclaimer

The following opinions are those of Kaptain Murder and are not necessarily endorsed by Set The Tempo. Also, we are not sure how many beers were consumed in the writing of this article. No permanent liver damage was achieved during the writing of this post.

The Article

If there was ever a testament to why both the ideas of evolution and intelligent design are true, it is the 4 seasons of Warhammer Underworlds…. but Call it Shadespire, eh?

I came to this realization when watching a Big Bang Theory rerun. Where the boys explain the game of Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock. It purposely creates an evolution of a static game state and through intelligent design shows the mastery of increased avenues of play. For this purpose, a brief history lesson:

In terms of Shadespire, we evolved from objective play, followed by aggro play, followed (again) by control play. At the end of Shadespire seaons 1 and into the Nightvault season, this introduced the intelligent design of 3rd end phase glory – starting with Katophrane Relics, then Tomes, Lost pages, Avatar/To the end, etc – and introduced Magic as a variable. Magic gambits, attacks and associated glory became a viable option on its own until much of their power was rotated out with the start of Direchasm. At this point, Magic was replaced with “VOLTRON” the stacking of upgrades… but strangely enough, when I drew the Venn Diagram of Shadespire… it stayed the same:

  • Voltron/Magic beats 3rd EP and Objective
  • Objective beats Control and 3rd EP
  • Control beats Aggro and Voltron/Magic
  • Aggro beats Objective and Voltron/Magic
  • 3rd EP beats Aggro and Control

Now, this is a pentagram of beauty, and beauty is In the eye of the beholder: So I get that you are immediately going to say “fuck you Kaptain Murder! My (x) beat (y) and you are full of shit!”. Thereby I say unto you, “cool story bro, but you ain’t beat me playing this.” I have often made the statement: “I have lost the most games to Rippas in the world.”

And I have…

I have also had the pleasure to play (and…usually lose) against the 3 best Rippas players in the world….a lot. And if you’re unsure if you are 1/3 then you are definitely not. So with that anecdotal evidence (the best kind of evidence since Covid means I can’t play Grand Clashes) that I utilize to say I know of what I speak.

There are ways around the Rock Paper Lizard Spock… and then there is the FLEX!

And I don’t speak of the super muscles that Victor or Aman or I try to bring to each event in our tankies. I’m talking about hybrid in which each strategy scores a glorious rendition of unexpected gold nuggets into your glory hole. Here are some good examples that have been meta dominant:

  • Aggro Brutes with Voltron Avatar and To The End
  • Control Cursebreaker with Lost Pages and Magic Ping
  • Aggro Magores Hold 2 and Avatar
  • Lost Pages Crimson Court with Objective play and Aggro

These are all relevant today but utilize every aspect of this game. So with that knowledge in your head, and with the new warband you are painting in your hand, and the knowledge that in person and so vewry real touraments are coming up… I want you to ask yourself: Are you a one trick pony? How well can you deal with a team that is advantageous to yours? Do you want to play in the standard? Or do you want to flex? In the End, you people came to Shadespire for it’s Milk and Glory, so pop your Don Cherry and get good bro!

Outro

Thanks again to Derek for contributing today. I think the idea of your flex playstyle being a scoring method that is different to the actions you are taking (for example, a Control Mollog will still be attacking over and over once the enemy is in range) is a really interesting one. What’s your thought? Where do you sit on the Flex spectrum? Please harass Kaptain Murder on the Discords and let him know what you think! If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Maddening Cackle: Online Clash VIII

Our latest event breakdown comes after we’ve got all the Direchasm warbands released. Now, we’ve got three more warbands (along with the Silent Menace Deck) to change the field. However, there still hasn’t been a FAQ or FAR to help with the game balance. Let’s dig into the event.

Meta Thoughts

The game has had many new cards come out along with a few new warbands, but honestly, I’m not sure the meta has shifted too much. Here are my thoughts for the event.

Feed the Beastgrave. There are so many options for playing the flipping strategy now. I’ve seen many warbands doing it, from Hrothgorn, Seraphon and Gitz. Cards like Great Tremors and Symbiote’s Call are big additions to make it more consistent. Since these decks innately counter Objective playstyles, they would just have to watch out for full Aggro.

The last five. I’ve seen a lot of players playing the last five warbands released: Starblood Stalkers, Crimson Court, Madmob, Kainan’s Reapers and the Souldrain. Where do I think they sit? I’d say that players have the most experience with Seraphon and Vampires since they’ve been out so long. Both also offer a good mix of playstyles and variety. Madmob, Reapers and Souldrain all have good potential, so we’ll see if canny players have figured out these factions.

The warbands who haven’t gotten weaker. Krushas, Mollog, Rippa, Wraithcreepers. All of these warbands have had some strong results and can play really strong Aggro, either based on damage, number of attacks or accuracy. Their style of Voltron aggro, combined with strong faction objectives that play into the current pool of cards means that they can all be scary in their own way.

Strong statted warbands. With the end of the season upon us, we have the biggest cardpool which means that warbands with innately good stats (but terrible objective cards) can build a cohesive deck. There’s also a crazy amount of +2 move cards (along with Eternal Chase) so slow warbands aren’t as weak as they once were. I think there are some “dark horses” that could emerge.

Warband Breakdown

For the clash, there ended up being 28 players. There was a strong leaning into Crimson Court, with 21% of the field comprising of them. Past that, Thorns had three players and the rest of the field only saw single or duplicate warbands. 15 of the 28 (54%) were Direchasm warbands, which is remarkable. Notable missing warbands included Krushas, Rippa, Grymwatch and Harrows. Other than the one Hrothgorn, there were no other Beastgrave warbands.

From a meta call perspective, there were a decent amount of the last five warbands, 13 players, which was 46% of the field. Luckily that meant that anyone practicing in the current field had a very good chance to get practice into the general field. I personally didn’t see any Feed the Beastgrave decks, but I didn’t see one of the Stalkers or Gitz play. I am shocked that there were no Krushas or Rippa players. Potentially as I mentioned in my last event breakdown, I think potentially people have been looking for shakeups when we don’t have balance changes from GW.

The Top Eight Four

The cut ended up being to top four, since there were less than 32 players. With the field, there were two 4-0 players moving on and the top two 3-1s made it. Congrats as it was definitely a skilled set of players to get through. I’d also like to point out that given the warband spread, there were no duplicate warbands in the top nine (the Crimson Court’s highest placing was 6th).

In the top four, there were an Eyes of the Nine, Thorns, Hrothgorn and Kainan’s Reapers. Notably, compared to my meta picks, only the Reapers would’ve made that list. But when you look at the set of players making top four, it’s not a major surprise. Eyes are an underdog, until you realize that it’s Erik playing them, who has played the most games with the warband than anyone else in the world (I’m confident in that statement). Tommy returned in the top cut, playing Thorns, which he played to near perfection in the Beastgrave season. Tom (AKA Shoobie) is another great player, who’s played a good amount of Hrothgorn as well. And Derek (AKA Kaptain Murder) playing a big boi warband to the top 4 is no surprise to me. Especially since in practice the last few weeks I didn’t beat him once.

For day 2, all the games were streamed with commentary by the gents at Steel City and should be available soon to watch on the Discord channel. So, if you want to watch the action, you should be able to! Tommy took his set into the Eyes 2-0 in what was super early morning for me, so I only saw part of the second game. Then, Derek took his set against Tom 2-0. My favourite moment from that set was the opening salvos in game one. After Distraction threw Kainan into a lethal and he bounced in and out again, Thrafnir charged into him, dealt two damage, one from a lethal and one from Savage Contest, killing Kainan by the end of activation two. However, due to the passive objective scoring from Derek’s deck, he was up still by the end of the first round. Then, Khenta with some bonus damage hit Hrothgorn twice and killed him early in the second round!

So, the final was between the Thorns and the Reapers. Nagash would either have souls or bones for his tithe today. In game one, Kainan was able to take down the big three fighters from the Thorns and ended up surviving and reading from his Scattered Tome to claim victory. The other two games played out pretty similarly, with the Queen and the Everhanged killing off the bone lord in round one or two and holding their objectives to claim victory. And thus, Tommy Conboy became the first player to have won two Online Clashes. Congratulations! It was a well fought weekend by all players.

Overall, Thorns haven’t really been in mode for a long while, due to the in-faction restricted cards. Tommy’s deck had Temporary Victory, Sudden Appearance and Howling Vortex. I know that Howling Vortex was a massive tool to gain Uncontested and crucial in game two of the finals. My thesis about the state of the game from the last event really holds up. Right now, any warband is viable piloted by a great player. And those players are likely to do very well.

Shared Cards

Since I’m going off of the top four, I’ve concentrated on the shared cards that more than half of the top field had. Note that there were an extra 15 cards that two of these decks shared, but I want to point out a couple of interesting cards from that set. Two of the decks had Everything to Prove, a very strong surge in the vein of Underdog. As well, two of them had Mighty Swing!

Out of these nine shared cards, we see the ubiquitous cards of Show of Force, Dominant Position, Distraction, and Deserved Confidence. My last couple Clash breakdowns also saw these in this section, so it’s unsurprising. For the rest of the shared pool, they are all Essentials pack cards. And I honestly think there’s no major surprises here. Great Strength as a bonus damage card with no qualifiers or drawbacks will likely be in every deck, which Gloryseeker is a great second bonus damage upgrade. There’s a resurgence in this top field for objective play, so it’s also great to see Path to Victory back on the list (and Uncontested was in two of these decks as well!).

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading today. I’m glad to have this event to go through and I really hope we can discuss a FAR with the next tournament 🤞. Also, if you haven’t heard enough about Kaptain Murder, I’ve got a special surprise for all of you next week! 😉 If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Fevered Beat: Underworlds, The Soundtrack

I would define myself as primarly a narrative gamer, honestly. Outside of Underworlds, my partner and I have a board game collection of around 200 games, with probably around 60% of those being fully cooperative titles. Underworlds has been my main competitive gaming outlet, but I still maintain some of my narrative flair. When I’m playing casually at home, whether it be Underworlds or any other game, I literally always have music going to enhance our gaming experience. As much as I’d love that in a tournament setting, I would hate to have a distracting factor going for the other player. Today, I want to run through some of my favourite soundtracks for Underworlds, in two major buckets: The Game Ambience and Music to Roll Crits to.

I’ll be posting links to a lot of YouTube videos with the music I’m referencing, but feel free to listen on your platform of choice and urge you to support these amazing artists.

The Game Ambience

The most common style of music that I game to are fantasy soundtracks. Usually some of my favourite shows and video games. I like light instrumental music, as it still allows the players to discuss and play the game, while sinking into the background.

Hollow Knight is probably my favourite soundtrack of all time. It’s a haunting, beautiful set of tracks. In fact, my morning alarm is Greenpath from this album. One of the reasons I like this music so much is that it’s a mostly ambient set of tracks, fading to the background with its somber mood. But the boss music has a ton of amazing battle themes.

Favourite tracks: Dirtmouth, Greenpath, Hornet, City of Tears, Nosk.

Nox Arcana is a wonderful band that creates atmospheric gothic music. They’re effectively soundtracks without a piece of media to go on top of. Blood of the Dragon is a wonderful set of fantasy music. There are peaceful pieces, dark dirges and mystical musics. Here’s a fun note: the CD version of this album has an amazing set of puzzles strewn about it in the liner notes and if you solve the riddle and find the treasure, you will be added to the Scroll of the Immortals on their website. If you want to see my name on the scroll, click here.

Favourite tracks: The Quest Begins, Treasure of the Four Crowns, The Mystic’s Keep, Rogue’s Hollow.

Pillars of Eternity is a great CRPG in the style of the old Baldur’s Gate type games. The music has great fantasy tones. It paints the picture of sad cities, spooky forests and chilling dungeons. It’s a nice, calm set of tracks that bring you into the game you’re concentrating on.

Favourite Tracks: Title Theme (Eora), Dyrford, Inn (A), Heritage Hill.

The last one I’ll talk about here is the Diablo II soundtrack. It’s got great background tones that build on themselves. It’s a nice ambient track set and I’m mostly just nostalgic about it.

Favourite Tracks: Wilderness, Rogue, Toru, Coda.

Music to Roll Crits to

For me, this second set of music is part of my tournament ritual. Many players follow certain patterns in preparation for an event. Part of my ritual is having a warband song for each tournament. I listen to it at the start of the day and try to between rounds as well. It gets me pumped up and also brings my nerves down to focus back on my upcoming game. Let’s do this.

Night of the Werewolves by Powerwolf is the track that I’ve listened to in this vein the most. It’s been my Rippa song for as long as I can remember. My playstyle has always been that it should be the night of the werewolves, and that my enemy should run for their lives. I have a clear memory of stepping out for some air and listening to this track before the AB Grand Clash final. It centered me, steadied my nerves and allowed me to refocus on playing my game.

At the last Online Clash, I played Skaven. The amazing Swedish band, Ghost, has an excellent album opening track Rats. It’s an energetic track that gets me pumped up, even without a connection to Underworlds!

Music has been a large part of the gaming experience to me and I’m glad to share this with you. What music do you like to game to? Do you have any pre-match rituals like this? Thanks for reading listening today! If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Tale of Victory: Tips to be a Better Opponent

Today I wanted to spend a bit of time talking through some quick tips on how to be a better opponent. Sportspersonship is an important topic in this competitive game. We want to make sure everyone has a fun time, win or lose. Here are some tips that I’ve found work really well to help craft a good experience for your opponent.

Communicate Clearly and Narrate Your Game

A big part of ensuring that you both have a good game is ensuring that your enemy has a clear knowledge of the game state. I’ve always found that it’s important to narrate your actions and declare them confidently. Think about this situation. If I move a model, slap a charge token down and immediately roll dice, do you know what attack I’m making? Do you know which fighter I’m targeting? But if I said “I charge with Slakeslash, three dice, looking for fury and single support, for two damage, attacking Huachi”, you would know exactly what is going on. Narrating your actions by giving the crucial details is a really quick change you can make to your play.

I think talking through your actions also gives you a good bonus. You can easily sanity check your actions. When you say “It’s two fury, against two dodge on guard with single support”, you might stop yourself because you realize that the attack is very odds off. Personally, I tend to remember the game better when I’m talking through each action too. “For my third activation, I will move Cragan onto objective 5”.

Being very clear about cards is really important. Whether it be in person or online, you want to ensure your opponent knows what you are playing. Announce clearly which upgrades you are applying. The state of your fighters is always far away from the opponent, so it’s important that they know that you just put Great Fortitude on a fighter as it might change the target of their charge.

It’s also crucial to announce which cards you discard in an end phase or upon mulligan because it’s really important to know what is no longer in play. If your opponent ditches Bold Deeds you know it isn’t as important to deny them access to your territory. Maybe your Distraction is better used a different way now? I always run through every card I discard when I play.

Give Your Opponent Basic Reminders

A competitive game like Underworlds is at its best when you have a game that comes down to skill and play, rather than mis-steps. I think that there are times that you should be reminding your opponent about game state. As per my point above about declaring upgrades, I think it’s really important to be clear about your fighter stats. If your opponent is asking about how many wounds a fighter has left, I think it’s proper ettiquette to also disclose any upgrades you have that may affect the attack math. “How many wounds does Duvalle have?” “He’s got two remaining, and also has Von Marusi Armour, so reduces damage by one.” It always feels the worst when you make an attack without a clear view of your opponent’s upgrades, think you’ve got the kill and then get told that you didn’t have the correct facts.

Other basic reminders include non-optional parts of the game, like when your opponent should have inspired a fighter or their warband. I think it’s important that when the Gitz get to three glory that they inspire. Your next attack should be against double dodge, not single dodge. Don’t use an honest mistake or a rushed activation to take advantage of the other player. Be a good opponent and let them know about obvious misses. Remind them to take their glory for Primacy.

Don’t Blame the Dice

As much as Underworlds is a game that involves a good deal of chance, it’s important to understand that the luck will swing game to game. It’s not appropriate to blame your entire loss on the dice of the game, especially during the game. You may have missed a lot of odds on attacks, you may have rolling nothing but double supports on defence and you may have had your opponent crit out of your most important attack, but it’s inappropriate to diminish your opponent’s victory by insinuating that it was all because of their dice. Along the way, they also would’ve made a number of correct decisions and played their deck well. After the game, feel free to complain to your friends (after all, it can be frustrating), but during the match, be a good sport and keep your frustrations in.

Speed Up When You’re Clearly Winning

There’s been some chatter lately about getting through a best of three in proper time (check out the latest episode of CritCast here on slow play). One of the tips that I’ve got here is that if you’re leading by a large amount or you’ve tabled your opponent, pick up your pace. The game is no longer in reach or no longer playable for the other player, so make your moves as quick and efficient as possible. It’s really demoralizing sitting on the other side of the table, with no fighters remaining, and have your opponent take minutes deciding each move. If the rest of the activations are just a formality, speed through them, score your remaining glory so that you can get to the next game as quick as you can.

The End

I think that being a good opponent is all about communication, being considerate and treating them the same way you’d want to be treated. I’ve met some great friends through this game, through some of the most competitive games I’ve played. Being a courteous player is a strong part of building great communities and friendships and I implore everyone to think about this each time they sit down with their models, tokens, cards and dice.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for being a wonderful opponent. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

Bristling With Weapons: Weapon Upgrades and Their Evolution

Spending time reviewing each set of cards as they come out has really made me consider things differently. When I was rating Soultooth Dagger and Tremendous Maul from the Crimson Court expansion, I drew strong comparisons to older weapons like Shadeglass Dagger and Mutating Maul. It made me really think about thze way that the weapon cards have changed and evolved over the seasons. I’m going to spend time today exploring that topic.

The Forge

What makes a weapon? They are a specific style of upgrade that confers a new attack action to a fighter. This gives them a new attack that may have different range, accuracy and damage (and even may confer more abilities). The main limitation is that certain fighters have a rule where they cannot equip weapon upgrades, we’ll call them pets as they are always the critters and animals of the Mortal Realms. I still maintain that Riptooth could use many of the weapons as I’d be scared to tell him no…

Smashing my way through an army of goblins…
  1. Card Type: All weapons are Upgrades. One may argue that Improvised Blow has an attack profile, but I would say that it’s more like a bonus attack with a specific profile. Plus, no one plays Condemnors.
  2. Card Name: The name of the weapon usually is associated with a specific base attack profile and then depending on the season or effect it has different abilities.
  3. Attack Profile: Range, Dice Characteristic and Damage (along with any keywords). This is what the weapon does.
  4. Abilities: Almost all weapon upgrades have abilities that go with it. There’s a few that don’t like Heroslayer (nutty at one smash, four damage), Dark Darts (one of the few ways to get range three in season one) and Hammer of Scorn (Knockback 2 is pretty nuts).

So, why are we choosing to take weapon upgrades? Looking at fighters from the outside, you might say: But all fighters already have an attack profile, so why don’t they use that? The big reason I generally see them used is for boosted damage or range. Boosting accuracy is definitely part of it, but I’d say overall you accomplish that at the same time as giving the damage boost. Let’s look at some examples from the various seasons.

Oh Hungering Skaven. You may be one of the weirdest fighters in the game because of Black Hunger. That aside (and the weirdness with Combo), he’s an ideal weapon caddy. High speed and one of the worst attack profiles in the game. Seriously, one range, one smash (two when inspired), one damage. There’s really never a reason to make that attack. But there’s the speed to get to any fighter you need to attack. And when you paired with the Shadespire staple of Shadeglass Dagger (which was Restricted when the first FAR lists came out, I may add), he was deadly. There was easy, decently accurate access to three damage (42% chance of 4 damage, bye Magore!). And with him able to be resurrected just to charge again if you did miss, this is a good reason you might invest upgrades onto a two wound fighter.

The running joke about Alensen in our house is that Thundrik and the Profiteers are getting ready for an expedition checking out their guns, and he’s like “I brought my sthword!”. And then Lund and Ironhail look at each other, then fall over laughing. Alensen when inspiring really just becomes as good as any of the other fighters when they’re uninspired… So, in a warband that’s focused so much on range, why would you look at a range one weapon here in Mutating Maul? The main reason this was looked at in Nightvault was the presence of the surges What Armour? (make a successful attack with Cleave) and Get Thee Hence (make a successful attack with Knockback, that doesn’t kill the fighter). Profiteers start with one fighter with Cleave (and Thundrik gains it when inspired) and one fighter with Knockback. But if those fighters go down before you’ve scored the relevant surge, Mutating Maul would give you a backup way to score it.

In the highly Objective based Beastgrave season, glory totals were quite high and there was a good chance you’d be in a fight over the five tokens. Equipping an extremely accurate attack profile with two damage was a very good way to take out your opponent’s Chainrasps, Skeletons, Gitz or mirror Ghouls. Amberbone weapons, as much as they only last until you make a kill, were popular since they made that kill worth two glory. It was a great boost as you needed your glory ceiling as high as possible in season 3.

My last example comes from Direchasm and is even a faction specific one. The Ravagers major weakness comes from their low speed and their range one attacks. With Hellfire Sword they have access to one of the few range three attacks that has two damage, allowing them to make multiple attacks without charging. Throw Razek on an objective in the middle of some Stalkers and watch him quickly desecrate multiple tokens in the same phase by slashing fire at them. I like that this weapon both plays into their weakness and their strengths.

Now that we’ve looked at some specific examples, I want to take a look at each season. Each one has had a “set” of weapons and some unique examples. Within this seasonal look, we’ll also get to see the balance changes that have been made through the years. I am going to focus on solely the universal card pool as that is where we would find weapons that have affected the meta at points in time, where I would normally find that faction specific ones are mostly just another strategy piece for that warband.

Shadespire

The first season of this game has the most basic of the weapons we’ve seen. Generally, this type of card gave fighters a basic new attack, without a lot of fancy abilities. There were sixteen weapons in the season (out of a total 81 universal upgrades) which was around 20% of the overall upgrade pool. That’s a stat we’ll be looking at as we move from season to season.

The seasonal weapon set was Shadeglass. It comprised of six different weapons: Axe, Dagger, Darts, Hammer, Spear, Sword. It was the first shot at these archetypes of weapons. There were two of the set that were on three damage (the Dagger and the Hammer), where the rest on two (other than the Darts on one). The ability of this set was the same as the essential card, Fighter’s Ferocity, +1 damage on a crit. As well, other than the Darts, they all break and must be discarded on hit. The Hammer and Dagger were the most common to see, because with the bonus they could easily achieve four damage, boosting any Petitioner to kill any Fiend or Stormcast.

Higher damage was definitely a theme with these. Five of the sixteen (31%) were three or four damage. And on the crits with the Shadeglass weapons, it goes to 50% of the weapons at three or four damage. That’s a major chunk of upgrades that can take a fighter from one damage to three. Now, from our current meta thoughts, that seems really high. But, let’s remember that 14 of the fighters in this season had three damage while inspired, which was actually 40% of the field. Based on these points, I really think that the point of the weapons was to boost a secondary fighter to high damage after your Saek or Skritch have gone down.

Here’s one interesting example that I wanted to discuss; Ghostblade. With the ability to only have defence on a Crit, it was the inital trial for The Anguished One’s attack. Now, that attack is much better, being two damage and not having the “can only do one damage” clause. I think it’s neat that this was a testing bed for an attack profile we later saw innately on a fighter. The other one was Unparalleled Strike. This card seems weak (and honestly is), at a one smash, two damage attack. The really awesome thing is that smash rolls count as crits!!! 50% chance on one die to roll a crit is amazing. It’s also able to be boosted with bonus dice… I can just imagine this with Haymaker and Concealed Weapon. Three dice that have a large chance to crit. And on that crit, it’s a four damage attack.

Nightvault

Season two saw some refinement to the model. Stat wise, there were 19 of 85 upgrades that were weapons, which was 22%. Every weapon here had a special ability except for one, which had the extreme Knockback 2. Also technically, the two Seeking weapons had Ensnare before it became a keyword. This was really where weapons started to come into their own.

The weapon set was Nullstone; fitting into the season theme of magic. This weapon set had eight varieties: Arrows, Axe, Dagger, Darts, Hammer, Mace, Spear and Sword. Arrows and Mace being new to the set with the former being one of the first 4 range attacks in the game and the latter having the ability to reroll multiple dice. The Nullstone ability wasn’t very popular when it came out and upon reflection, these were the most limiting of the seasonal weapons. The ability to reroll a dice (two with Mace) against a target wizard was ok in a Cursebreaker dominated meta, but remember that even by the end of the Nightvault season there were only 8 wizards in a pool of 78 fighters total (barely 10%).

The season two weapons were definitely an attempt to bring the overall damage in the game down. The first FAR list for the game hit in Nightvault and saw both Shadeglass Hammer and Shadeglass Dagger restricted, as they were the three damage ones that saw decent play. This season saw weapons of two damage as the new standard, with ranged weapons at one. The couple exceptions that were higher damage were either random (Fated Blade was never good) or limiting (Touch of Death had to go on a wizard and was a one smash attack). This makes sense with the trend that fighter damage took as well. Where Shadespire had 40% of its fighters on three damage, Nightvault only saw 20% of the pool with damage like that. Once again, a mirroring of the weapons with the seasonal attack profiles.

Thinking about this season on retrospect, I don’t think these upgrades were played a ton. Mutating Maul as per my above section saw play. Swordbreaker was a good, accurate attack. But because of where Nightvault fell, players mostly just used the stronger Shadespire weapons. And when Beastgrave arrived, its seasonal weapon set completely overshadowed the thought of taking any of these weapons. I guess it fits into the theme of season 2. Why would a wizard need an axe?

Beastgrave

Season 3 was a season that saw an increase to 35% of the upgrades (29 of 82) being weapon cards. I think this massive spike was in support of the new keyword, with Combo having 10 upgrades referencing it. The special card pack, Arena Mortis, also had 9 of its 20 upgrades as weapons. Weapons continued to be specialized pieces of tech, with only two vanilla attack profiles, which both had Combo (so still specialized tech in my mind).

Seasonally, this was the most influential set. As they are still legal, they are still seeing a ton of play. That would be the lovely Amberbone weapons that come in six varieties; Axe, Dagger, Hammer, Mace, Spear and Sword. The special ability? If you make a kill with one of these, discard the weapon and gain an extra glory. That potential of making a kill worth two glory (pull potential surges) is a major one. With these weapons being universally at two damage, they were perfect counterpoint to the strength and high scoring of the Objective warbands in the season. The Mace ended up being restricted as it allows reroll of all dice in the attack, meaning that with Haymaker, you’d be rolling four smash with the ability to reroll them all. The Sword was the extremely accurate three smash attack and the Spear had the lovely range two. Set wise, the profiles were definitely formed at this point, which is a really neat thing to see. Now we know that a “sword” of any type will be range one, three smash and two damage. And hammers will have knockback one. I like that consistency being built for the player (and the ease for the future of design).

Damage-wise, we’re into the two damage zone in a big way. Honestly, due to the Combo weapons, there are a surprising amount of one damage weapons here too. Other than Cursed Blade (which was just impossible to use), I’m going to discuss the major three (or more) damage weapons. Larval Lance saw play, as with its shifting dice and damage profile, it was a basic spear in round two but in round three it was a two range, three smash, three damage profile. It’s a beast when you pull it out round three and start taking names. Combo didn’t see a ton of play in Beastgrave, as there were very few easy ways to make it happen and half the upgrades didn’t arrive until Arena Mortis. I’ve seen it played more in Direchasm, honestly.

Now this is where I get to talk about Bloody Axe. It’s my favourite weapon that’s ever been printed. It’s got a great risk/reward to it. It’s base profile is one range, three fury and two damage. It seems pretty basic (but not as good as a sword). The strength of this weapon is that if you’ve got two wounds on the fighter, double its damage. Suddenly, by having taken a hit or running through lethals, you’ve now got a four damage attack at the ready. I’ve used it immensely on Rippa, because the base profile is still better than both Mean-Eye and Stabbit’s attacks (both are two fury, one damage). And it gets them over a damage wall, with the ability to one shot important fighters without hitting both attacks. Their speed allows you to run through one or two lethals to switch the damage on and swing for a kill.

There are a couple more important weapons in this season. Prescient Blow could create an infinite loop and was quickly forsaken. Barb-laden Net wasn’t too popular in season 3, but with the ease of making a fighter a Hunter (we’ll get there) and the propensity to Megazord a fighter means that it’s a really good option for shutting down an opponent. Seriously, why would you take any of the Nullstone weapons when this season had way better options…

Direchasm

Caveat: I’m not going to talk about the Essentials here, because they aren’t part of the normal season. With that out of the way, at the moment that I’m writing this article (Madmob just has been released), there are a current 60 upgrades with 16 weapons (27%). We’ve got five of the seasonal style of Soultooth in Bow, Dagger, Javelin, Net and Spear. Soultooth makes you a Hunter, and gives you a reroll on one dice when attacking a fighter with a move or charge token. Giving the Hunter keyword has been a really easy way to unlock certain abilities or objectives for scoring. Codifying the archetypes of javelin and net is a really cool addition to the weapon repetoire. Previously, we’ve only seen javelins on fighters like Jagathra and Skaeth, usually three range, three dice and one damage, getting a boost to two damage on a charge. Nets are two range, three fury, one damage and are discarded but confer a charge token on an enemy fighter. That’s so cool.

I’d say other than the Soultooth, there aren’t any truly relevant weapons that have come out in Direchasm. I would say that the Beastgrave ones were so strong and compelling that they are still the dominant ones. However, there are a couple of viable weapons with a potential three damage. Soultooth Dagger and Biting Axe both are two damage attacks with Fighter’s Ferocity built in. And the recently seen Wicked Lash also has a potential three damage.

One thing that has become clear is that the weapons in season 4 have higher range that normal. Six of the sixteen have three or more range with another four at range two. That’s a lot of weapons to make up for range one attacks and slower fighters. It’s funny that in the season where we’ve had access to the most speed boosting cards (seriously, there’s eight universal +2 move ploys right now) that we also have the most range three weapons. Eagle-eye is definitely your friend.

The Final Cut

I think we’ve levelled out to the point where weapons are kind of standardly in the realm of one or two range, two smash or three fury, and two damage. There are variations on this formula, of course. Here’s my thoughts as to the minimum you should be looking for at each range:

  • Range one, three fury, two damage
  • Range two, two smash, two damage
  • Range three, three fury (or two smash), one damage

Honestly, these values line up with basic attack action values we see over and over again. All of these show up in the Direchasm box, with Slakeslash at range one, Vasillac/Bahannar at range two and Hadzu/Senaela at range three. It’s a larger topic, but I think anything that’s not as good as these attacks is a really inaccurate attack that you shouldn’t count on hitting. So, why do we take weapons? I think at this point, weapons are a great way to add some more accurate attacks to fighters and add some special abilities at the same point. I would say weapons are at their best when they replace you adding two or three upgrades on a fighter to gain the same ability. It’s one thing to put Great Strength on Tok, but when you go from two fury, one damage to three smash and two damage, it takes at least three upgrades to get that same attack. It throws a wrench in your opponent’s expectations of a certain activation which is exactly what you want to do.

Which weapons are your favourites? Which fighters do you like with weapons? Have you used Combo? Thanks for reading today! If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at setthetempoblog@gmail.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!

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