So, after months of hints and titbits we’re finally getting our first real look at the new season of Warhammer Underworlds with a focus on one of the two warbands included in the new starter – the Nighthaunt Thorns of the Briar Queen. Lets have a look at our spooky new friends in a bit more detail…
Aesthetic and Models
I love ghosts, and spooky stuff in general, and the Age of Sigmar Nighthaunt models have been a really great execution of some classic spectral themes. The Thorns of the Briar Queen continue that into Warhammer Underworlds, and while it would have been nice to see a slightly more varied cast of spooks drawing on more of the new range the new warband still looks great. The Sepulchral Guard were my first Shadespire purchase, just because of how nice the sculpts are, and I think the new Death warband definitely gives them a run for their money.
Starting one of your activations next to an enemy fighter is both easy and controllable, and plays well with existing push ploys as well as the new warband-specific ones that have been revealed so far. With clever use of Great Concussion, Quick Advance, and new ploys/spells like Howling Vortex it shouldn’t be too difficult to inspire a good number of your ghosts at once.
7 fighters has proven to be a bit of a liability for the Sepulchral Guard, so it’s worrying to see the second Death warband continue the trend. With their new ploys and spells, as well as Varclav’s unique action (see below) this may be less of an issue. Easily inspiring to 2 defense dice with 4 move and a 3 dice attack is good as well.
I’m not sure how well the Nighthaunt will be able to use magic compared to the new Stormcast warband, though. Only having 1 wizard as opposed to their 3 means that you’ll have to be a lot more careful with close range spells as once you lose the Queen you can’t cast any more.
The Briar Queen
This tiny version of Lady Olynder has pretty good base stats, with 2 defense dice and a range 2 attack with 3 dice (even if they’re only swords, not hammers). Inspiring to 4 move and an extra damage is a nice boost. The only thing I don’t like here is that her range 2 attack doesn’t really synergise with the warband’s inspire condition, but as we’ve seen from Skritch and the Sepulchral Warden having that extra reach is nice if you’re being more aggressive.
Varclav the Cruel
“Action: push all friendly Chainrasps up to 2 hexes” is really all that needs to be said here. This is absolutely fantastic and does a lot to make up for the issues that warbands with a high number of fighters face. Two defense dice and a decent attack are a nice bonus too.
The most interesting thing with this fighter is the introduction of what’s basically a keyword system for Warhammer Underworlds. Outside of that, they have cleave when inspired, making it a dicey proposition for many of the most popular warbands to end their turn too close, and start with 4 move.
Probably better than the petitioners as generic fighters go, but not quite as good as the Skaven clanrats. Their low damage isn’t great, but they’re pretty accurate after they inspire and knockback 1 helps with a more controlling game.
We’ve seen a few of these now across the various reveals for the new season, with today’s article giving a more detailed look at a few more. Some of these are a bit lacklustre – they have their own versions of Musk of Fear (put a fighter on guard, now with new wording!) and Unstoppable Strike (cleave on the next attack).
Others are decidedly not – we’ve seen a ploy that pushes all friendly fighters 2 hexes as long as they end up closer to an enemy, and Maddening Cackle‘s ability to de-inspire an enemy to punish for them on a missed attack is cool (if not necessarily that good). The objective we’ve seen so far, As Nagash Commands, is also pretty nice as a turn 3 passive – especially against aggro and defensive decks – and if spells are good then Curse of Binding offers a nice defense that’s similar to Forceful Denial.
The verdict is still out on spells, although we at least know how they work now. On first glance the gambit spells basically seem to be a fixed version of ploys like Rebound and Forceful Denial that require a dice roll to succeed, combined with the Leader cards, with the new mechanics giving more control over success. The effects we’ve seen are pretty strong though – Rending Scream doing 1 damage to all adjacent enemies and Howling Vortex pushes all enemy fighters.
I think the Thorns have a good potential as a hold objectives deck, and might be able to pull off a disruptive aggro/area denial playstyle like Spiteclaw’s Swarm depending on what other ploys they have access to.
Like the Sepulchral Guard they have a bit of a conflict between some of their ploys/fighter stats/etc pushing an aggressive playstyle and thier general focus on objectives so it will be interesting to see how they end up playing. I’m really looking forward to trying them out after the new starter releases on the 29th, and maybe trying them out at a few local tournaments afterwards.
Edit: the original version of this article was clearly written in an alternative universe where the the current month is October and not, in fact, September. In the real universe the release of Nightvault isn’t actually just in time for Halloween and I have to resign myself to waiting another month for an excuse to be obsessed with spooky things. Sad face.