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The NIGHTVAULT Has Opened and WARHAMMER UNDERWORLDS Will Never Be the Same

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My fights in the Mirrored City of Shadespire have been fast, brutal, and some of the most exciting battles we’ve had over the past year. Games Workshop knocked it out of the park with 2017’s Warhammer Underworlds. I’ve talked about it a lot here on Geek & Sundry, from covering each expansion as it was released to talking about why it’s great for new miniature painters. It remains one of my favorite games, and I’m excited to be talking about it again because something great – or terrible, depending on your perspective – has happened. The Nightvault is open!

Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault is a new core set for the Warhammer Underworlds line. I’ve been (incorrectly) calling the game Shadespire all this time, but in reality, that moniker is better reserved for the first year’s worth of products. Like the Shadespire core set, Nightvault includes 2 warbands, boards, tokens and other assorted gaming necessities. It also includes a couple of new twists. The world of Age of Sigmar is full of magic, and Nightvault is introducing a magic system. Both new warbands include wizard units; in fact, Stormsire’s Cursebreakers are all magic casters!

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Before we go further, it’s worth pointing out that all of the new Nightvault content is fully compatible with the first core set and expansions published under the Shadespire name. They can fight each other, share Universal cards, and battles can be fought by any warbands on any of the boards. For experienced players, Nightvault offers two new warbands and new cards that can be used by any of the warbands they already have. For new players, Nightvault is an excellent opportunity to jump in fresh. You get everything need, including the new magic dice, and the original expansions are available to mix things up when you’re comfortable!

Magic is the biggest change to Warhammer Underworlds, but fortunately, it doesn’t add too much in the way of rules overhead. To cast a spell you declare a target if necessary and roll the new magic dice. Some more powerful effects require multiple success symbols, but otherwise, this works the same as combat. Spells may provide ongoing effects – like the spells available to Stormsire’s allies – or immediate effects like movement or damage. One key thing to remember is that only wizards can cast spells; the only caster in the Briar Queen’s spectral squad is the queen herself. If she’s eliminated, you can no longer bring magic to bear.

As I mentioned, Stormsire’s Cursebreakers are all wizards and are designed to encourage you to explore this new mechanism. All three combatants feature a spell right on their character cards; no need to draw one! The leader, Averon Stormsire, has the ability to stand up to 3 hexes away and blast an opponent with an offensive ranged spell. It only does a single point of damage, but against the Chainrasps in this box set that’s still significant. With some clever cardplay and deckbuilding, this damage can be boosted to be truly threatening to any fighter. His two allies can cast Empower, a spell that gives them rerolls in combat for the remainder of the phase. All three inspire upon the successful cast of a spell and gain strong defensive upgrades.

Where the Cursebreakers are a small band of elite warriors, the Thorns of the Briar Queen are all about pushing forward with overwhelming numbers. They match the Sepulchral Guard in numbers; both have 7 models and are the largest warbands (so far). The Briar Queen is the leader; in addition to being the warbands mage she sports a strong ranged attack that is deadly once inspired.

The star of this warband, however, is Varclav the Cruel. In lore, the Nightvault was a prison where the Khatophrane’s stuck the most deadly and dangerous criminals in Shadespire. Varclav was a jailer, and as such can command all the Chainrasps in this warband to move at once. It turns these relatively weak fighters into a roving band of murderous ghouls who can easily overwhelm opponents or take command of the board.

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Varclav himself can take advantage of this. He comes with a powerful upgrade that deals tremendous damage to an enemy with a wound token. Push your Chainrasps forward early, do a smattering of damage with the advantage of numbers, and then send Varclav in to clean up with an attack that can eliminate his opponents with a single blow. Oh, and all these haunts inspire when they begin your activation adjacent to an opponent. Again, push forward with Varclav and watch your opponent’s face crumble when 3 or 4 of your models inspire simultaneously. Because of the fragile nature of the Chainrasps and their positional requirements, this warband is a touch trickier to master (and build, for that matter) than the Stormcast but are no less capable in combat.

The rulebook and included sample chapter for a Shadespire novel also serve to tie Nightvault into the larger going-ons in the Age of Sigmar Universe. One of Games Workshop’s underappreciated strengths is the deep lore and narrative that infuses all of their releases. As someone who loved the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Soul Wars box, it’s exciting to see my favorite tactical skirmish game woven into this broader story and I’m looking forward to reading the novel soon. My adventures in the Mirrored City have been going on for over a year at this point, but with this release it’s clear that my battles aren’t over and there’s still more to explore.

Catch up on all the fun we’ve been having in the Mirrored City!

  • Check out why Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire was one of the Best Games of 2017!
  • Warhammer Underworlds is great for new painters!
  • Continue the story with our coverage on Warhammer: Age of Sigmar’s starter set, Soul Wars!

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Image Credits: Raf Cordero, Games Workshop

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter @captainraffi.

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