Nightvault Warband Review: Eyes of the Nine

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The inevitable preamble

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This review is a rebuttal to the review published by Grand Clash winner and fellow blogger Jamie of Katophrane Relic fame. His deliberately controversial tiering of the warbands was designed to provoke debate within the community; in it he rates the Eyes of the Nine as being in the bottom tier, unable to win an event without a significant element of luck.

His assessment is that the faction has no focus:

“They have low health pools. Do not hit particularly hard. Are not survivable. Have a single, average, caster. Their Inspire conditions are janky. Whilst sold as ‘the magic warband’ they fall far short of the mark, currently.”

I think that Jamie has fallen into the cunning trap laid by my lord and master Tzeentch, and is underestimating the warband. So read on for my take on the Eyes of the Nine.

The review

I think this warband is the biggest departure from the normal template that we are familiar with, so far.

It has the first and, at the time of writing, only model in Warhammer Underworlds that does not start on the board. The only model that cannot be inspired. The only model that, absolutely, cannot be killed in a single hit. Of course, I say model but should I say character, characters or maybe models. The horrors, are very exciting and are the key to how I believe the Eyes of the Nine play. Before I get into that however, a quick introduction to the warband:

The fighters

Vortimis

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Vortimis is the leader and a reasonable all rounder. Speed 4 is respectable. Dodge defence is nothing to write home about, but it increases to two dice on inspiration. His range 2 melee attack for two damage is comparable with other leaders. He is a level two wizard, which allows the warband to make use of the gambit spells, as well as having a range 3 spell attack on his card, which increases to 2 damage on inspiration. He also has the unique action on his card to bring the Blue Horror into play.

The Horrors

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As I rather gushingly stated earlier, the Horrors are the key element of the warband. Unique in a multitude of ways, they allow for you to keep an opponent off balance and reacting to you.

K’charik

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Before inspiration K’charik is almost identical to Bloodied Saek, with the bonus of defending with a block. After inspiration, he loses out on movement, but arguably benefits from being able to re-roll as many attack dice as he likes.

Narvia

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Narvia is not an exciting fighter, but she has a range 3 attack which allows her to help achieve a variety of objectives for the warband.

Turosh

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Turosh is another also ran, but he offers another two damage melee attack and has the range 3 attack too.

Before inspiration the warband is fairly analogous to a buffed version of Garrek’s Reavers:

  • Narvia and Turosh stand in for Arnulf and Targor, they have a better defence (Narvia) and better melee attack (Turosh) and both have a range 3 attack.
  • K’charik is a better defended Bloodied Saek.
  • The Horrors stand in for Karsus (I admit it’s not a perfect analogy).
  • Vortimis is hands down better than Garrek, having a better melee attack, plus a ranged attack and the capacity to cast spells.

I admit that the Eyes of the Nine post inspiration are a markedly different beast to the Blood Reavers of Khorne, but that’s because subtlety is much better than brute force and victory comes through more than just murdering your way to the top.

The tactics

Jamie argues that the Eyes are a poor warband because they cannot perform in a pure manner. I would argue this is in fact a strength. Most tournament winning decks in the current meta are far from pure. Passive objectives abound, and comprise many of the objectives on the restricted list.

The Eyes are excellent for scoring Extreme Flank, Jamie argues that Narvia and Turosh are the natural “flank bros”. Questions of mis-gendering Narvia aside, this is where the Horrors come in. They can almost always be summoned onto an edge hex late in a turn, meaning that only one of the other members of the warband need be on an edge hex, and it doesn’t matter which.

Keep Them Guessing is another natural fit for a warband venerating Tzeentch (who’d have guessed). Guard and Move do not rely on your opponents positioning to score, but quite often warbands struggle to ensure an attack or a charge. With multiple range 3 attacks available it is rare not to be able to make both an attack and a charge. Summoning the Horrors also counts towards this objective, if they are not already on the table. If Keep Them Guessing is in your deck, then Change of Tactics is a complementary, score immediately, objective.

A cursory glance at the warband specific objectives shows that magic and capturing objectives are seen by the designers as the goal of this faction. Here I have to partially agree with my esteemed colleague – the Eyes of the Nine are not the top magic faction and never will be. This is disappointing thematically , given the whole God of Magic shtick but not the end of the world competitively. Agents of Change is a non-starter at the moment, there are not enough single channel spells to fill the gambit portion of a power deck with them, and doing so is probably sub-optimal at best. Master of Magic is worth including though; casting two spells is twice as hard as Harnessing the Storm, but it is still a score immediately and should inspire K’charik.

Playing for holding Objectives is much more this warbands speed, and in my opinion they excel at it. Bind the City combines well with Supremacy and Our Only Way Out. You should be able to capture the two objectives in your board with Narvia and Turosh and with the Horrors/Faneway Crystal/Deceitful Step/Hidden Paths objectives on your opponent’s board are attainable. Harness Knowledge and Determined Defender reward you for camping objectives, so occupy them in round 1 where possible.

Divide and Conquer is a much overlooked objective, that is an almost guaranteed score for the Eyes. Spend three activations on your own board setting up to score defensive objective then drop the Horrors onto your opponents board, which will almost certainly have an available starting hex on a board edge, at the bottom of turn 1.

The boards

The Eyes are one of the few objective focused warbands that can afford to be indifferent to whether or not they win the roll off for board placement. If you lose, then you have the three objectives needed for a quarter of your objective deck.

I agree with Jamie’s assessment of the best board to pick in this instance. The Shyishian Stardial provides rear edge hexes next to each other for Vortimis and K’charik,  and another rear hex for Turosh whichever orientation your opponent opts for (see the As and Bs below). You might lose one of your acolytes (Narvia) to an early charge, but if she survives the attack, or you get first activation then a prudent retreat can make a turn one charge awkward.

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If you win board roll off there is a good chance that your opponent ill place an objective on an edge hex, meaning that an opportunistic Hidden Paths can snag you a third objective, in addition to Deceitful Step, Faneway Crystal and the Horrors. The best defensive board set up currently available in Warhammer Underworlds is the diagonally placed Animus Forge. Placed with the minimum of three completed hexes in the top left of the image connected to your opponents board there is a substantial bottleneck created by the two impassible hexes. Vortimis and K’charick set up next to one another in the conjoined hexes in the centre of the board.

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The conclusion

The Eyes of the Nine are a solid middle tier warband. I am not going to try and argue that they are on a par with the Cursebreakers of the Thorns of the Briar Queen, but I think that they are competitive with Zarbag’s Gitz, Steelheart’s Champions, and Spiteclaw’s Swarm. I would argue that they are more powerful than the Sepulchral Guard, Garrek’s Reavers and Ironskull’s Boyz.

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