Today I’m going over the new free multiplayer game mode found in July’s White Dwarf. As a side note I did not get this to review early, I’m just a long-time White Dwarf subscriber! Due to this I won’t go word-for-word into the rules, you’ll need to buy a copy of July’s issue which can be found in a number of stores or online from the Games Workshop website.
Arena Mortis is a new way to play, focusing on having a single game on 1 board with anywhere from 3 to 6 players and designed by the mighty John Bracken. All players control a single fighter from any warbands which could be the mighty Gurzag all the way to the sinister Festering Skaven. Rules for the game mean fighters who could summon fighters (such as Vortemis) cannot do so. Your chosen fighter also starts with a number of upgrades depending on their wound characteristic. For example Bloody Saek starts with 2 upgrades whereas Mollog starts with none! All fighters also start inspired.
Another interesting point is that there is no objective deck. You still have 2 decks however, a single deck comprised of upgrades and a single deck of gambits. Both decks need to be of equal size and you can’t have more upgrades than gambits. Fighters gain upgrades in the end phase and when they return to the battlefield. That’s right, in Arena Mortis the powers of Shadeglass run rampant meaning fighters are continually brought back to life. When your fighter is taken out of action, they are returned to the battlefield at the start of your activation and immediately gain 1 upgrade. Death and rebirth is the quickest way to get those upgrades!
Victory conditions are simple. You need to be alive at the end of the game with the most glory. This means you need to balance the tradeoff of continually dying then trying to stay alive at the end. Fighters like Mollog actually aren’t as great as you’d think. While the Troggoth is tough, he lacks the ability to quickly gain glory and upgrades.
Initiative is determined via dealing out random numbered cards depending on the total players. Yoy deal out initiative cards after board is determined, after fighters are placed and after every player has had an activation. Luckily the article provides copies of the cards you can use to photocopy for use. Personally I find it easier to use objective tokens. Owners of a core set will have objectives numbered 1 to 9 plus they’re easy to shuffle out randomly. Just remember that players get special effects depending on whether they’re first or last!
As mentioned earlier fighters start games with a number of upgrades based upon their wounds characteristic. This is as follows:
Now this offers some interesting fighter combinations. Personally I would go for low wound fighters. While you are fairly weak you start with 3 upgrades. Next you can quickly die to cycle your entire upgrade deck and proceed to go on a killing spree. Mollog may be mighty but he’s useless compared to a Clanrat with 12 upgrades!
Skritch is the Greatest for a reason! He starts off with 2 upgrades and has a base range 2 attack with 3 damage. Strong faction and universal cards turn him into a combat monster that pushes himself around the board.
Festering Skaven! He starts with 3 objectives. Give him Expendable so no one gets glory from you. Festering Blades and Concealed Weapon make him do 5 damage on a crit! Combine with Army of One and Challenge Seeker to make him a 5 attack dice monster.
Stormsire embraces his turret power. While wizards generally suffer in Arena Mortis due to limited gambit access, he can become the turret he’s always dreamed of. 4 damage range 3 from Gloryseeker and Tempest’s Might ensure magic always has a place.
The Harvester sheds durability for multi-attacking power! Once you get him to 4 damage and Grim Cleave, this reaper makes quick work of densely packed foes!
K’Charik is a solid fighter when inspired. Quickly churn through some upgrades and he becomes a reliable missile, pretty much dispatching all those who come within his range.
Top Card Picks
Arena Mortis is fun but still has cards you’ll always want to include for your decks. I’ll go over them here but remember this game mode is primarily designed for fun but is quite easy to abuse.
Army of One is my favourite upgrade for Arena Mortis. You’re the only single friendly surviving fighter so enjoy those +1 attack and defence dice.
Tome of Offerings is just silly good. Allows you to get the glory gain needed for the win.
Crown of Avarice rewards you for being killed by your opponent while they get nothing unless they have glory boosting kill cards like Tome of Offerings and Scavenge.
Spoils of Battle and Ghoulish Pact give you free upgrades, what’s not to love?
Ready for Action needs no introduction. Best used when returning to the battlefield for surprise extra attacks.
Rebound. You love it or you hate it. In Arena Mortis you can use it to Rebound attacks between 2 opposite players as well as to protect yourself! No one is safe.
Arena Mortis is fun but has its own flaws as mentioned earlier. The main problem is certain cards become quite toxic in this environment. I’m not saying you have to enforce these rules but it does help make a more enjoyable experience for all involved.
- Ban 2 of the Katophrane Relics – Having up to 5 is fine but once someone gets all 6 it’s pretty much game over in Arena Mortis.
- Ban Frozen in Time – A rather innocent card at first but can potentially lock a player out of the game for a round. It’s not fun waiting 20 minutes to complete 4 activations between several players while you can do nothing.
- Ban Crown of Avarice and Expendable – Yeah I did mention them as key cards but the game can become almost unwinable to other players once these upgrades are equipped.
Funnily enough Arena Mortis does have its own ban list but adding the 3 above suggestions really improves the game.
Overall Arena Mortis is a fun game mode that can be played at home, gaming nights, or even in-between tournament rounds. It’s a fun game mode that exchanges a lot of Warhammer Underworld’s main mechanics for who can make the toughest, upgrade toting, crit spewing eternal warrior. If you want to play Arena Mortis remember to buy the July White Dwarf etiher at your local store or online. Who will reap the most glory while also still standing at the end of the game? Only crits hold the answer.
6 thoughts on “White Dwarf: Arena Mortis”
Sounds great! Was John Bracken the same guy who did the Gargant game mode? Because that was amazing.
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Yes he is! 2 great game modes from a single guy haha
Very very helpful. Although I’d question the use of ghoulish pact as it says play an upgrade card from your hand and afaik given the writing of the Mortis rules your upgrades are only ever in your deck or on your fighter, not in your hand?
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Glad to be of help! I’d still say it could be played for a free upgrade but that’s more RAI over RAW.
Haha played tonight. Absolutely ridiculous game. As it happens I just can’t read apparently as it clearly says in the Mortis rules that you can use cards to apply upgrades like that so everyone just ignore me.
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