The undead defenders of Shadespire.
Welcome to the long overdue 3rd installment of my retro warband review series. Today brings us a fan favourite of all Warhammer Underworlds’ warbands: the Sepulchral Guard.
The Sepulchral Guard aren’t your average Deathrattle. Unlike the skeletal cousins from other realms, these undead warriors still bear fragments of their memories from when they were still flesh and blood. Due to their eternal torment they have now pledged service to Nagash as some hope of freedom from their eternal curse. Chief amongst them is the Sepulchral Warden who was Shadespire’s Lord Marshall. He inspires his warriors to thwart those who seek to defile their city and the lord of death, hoping one day that their faithful service will be rewarded with the gift of true death.
Warhammer Underworld’s first 7 fighter warband brings more than just numbers to the table. Easily the game’s best warband brimming with detail and character. Each one echoes their dedicated roles as well as subtle hints to their mortal lives. My favourite model has to he the Petitioner rising up from out of the ground, ready to do battle once again.
The sprues come in bone-coloured plastic as befits these skeletal warriors. Despite their varied poses the miniatures go together fairly easily, just beware that they are still quite fragile so go easy on the pressure. Once again they’re fairly straightforward to paint while still packing a lot of detail for those wanting to go the extra mile.
As mentioned earlier the Sepulchral Guard contain 7 fighters and form Underworlds first largest warband. They all start off at movement 2 and can be overwhelming to play at first. This means it takes time to figure out what to do as every activation is incredibly important with this warband. Making the wrong decision can cost you the game. They inspire off of returning to the battlefield after being taken out of action. A costly effect that you need to work around as these fighters gain a lot from inspiring, namely damage and mobility boosts.
Your fearless leader. The Warden brought Underworlds’ first native range 2 attack. Outside of that he’s a pivotal piece of the warband. I like to view the Sepculchral Guard as a chess set and the Warden is your king. He has 2 unique fighter card actions: reviving a fighter that is out of action and choosing 2 friendly fighters to make move actions with. These actions are what keeps you warband alive, inspires and gets around having 7 fighters.
There’s a lot that can be said about the Warden. Returning a fighter to the battlefield is a strong but costly mechanic. Choosing when and where to resurrect a fighter is important as you can only place a fighter on a friendly starting hex. Still it’s great to wear down opponents by bringing back killed fighters to wear down targets that have charged you.
He’s also a reliable combat character being able to strike from afar with 2 smash and 2 damage while being the warband’s only 4 wound fighter. The Warden is tough but still vulnerable. Keep him alive or face losing if he’s taken out early.
After 2 or more fighters have returned to the battlefield the Warden inspires. With this new profile he becomes much better in combat. He gains the movement of 3 from 2 but his attack action also improves to 3 smash and 3 damage which is just amazing. The Warden doesn’t gain any improvement to his other abilities so inspiring isn’t a necessity for him. Although people forget how much of a fearsome combat monster he becomes.
The Prince of Dust. Your second-in-command. Outside of being 3 wounds he doesn’t seem to have much. Ignoring he dodges despite having a shield the Prince packs knockback importantly, albeit only at 2 smash and 1 damage. Knockback is still the key thing as he can mess up your opponent’s positioning.
Inspired Prince gains a pip of movement but becomes much more of threat in combat. His attack goes up to 3 smash and 2 damage making much more reliable in combat. Catches a lot of opponents off-guard.
The Harvester packs more than a snazzy scythe. This allows him to attack all adjacent enemy fighters importantly. While having an inaccurate 2 fury attack the base 2 damage is what’s important.
Inspiring gives the Harvester 3 fury making the Whirling Scythe even more of a threat. With movement 3 he now has the ability to hit more targets at once.
The Champion; Your reliable combat fighter. His attacks start off at 2 smash, 2 damage and have cleave to boot. He slices and dices! This gives you a solid anchor to base your aggro around as the Champion can start dishing out reliable damage early.
Upon inspiring the Champion goes to 3 smash and movement 3. His attack is now even more reliable and he gains the extra mobility all Sepulchral Guard fighters desperately need.
All 3 Petitioners share the same profile so I’ll cover them at once. They’re pretty basic at 2 wounds with a 2 fury 1 damage attack. Just use for objective holding.
When the Petitioners inspire their attacks go up to 3 fury and they get movement 3. Not much to talk about but still better than nothing.
Now I’ll be going through the Sepulchral Guard faction cards starting with objectives, gambit ploys, then upgrades.
Battle Without End gives you 1 glory for returning 2 fighters back from the dead. Alright but should have been a score immediately objective. Even then it’s not worth the 2 glory loss for 1 in return.
Claim the City is great but almost impossible with the limited moment of the Sepulchral Guard.
Fearless in Death gives you 1 glory for petty much losing a game.
More Able Bodies should have been a score immediately objective.
The Invigorated Dead needs to be worth more glory to be worth using.
Undead Swarm is just very difficult to pull off. Especially for 1 glory.
Objectives – Top Picks
March of the Dead provides reliable 2 glory. Just remember that all surviving fighters have to make move actions.
Peerless General is great for the Sepulchral Guard when ran as control. It’s a nice end game objective for that playstyle.
Skills Unforgotten is great. Catches people by surprise and is a score immediately objective.
Grasping Hands is alright at slowing down your opponent but not great with all the ranged power in the game now.
Clawing Hands shares a similar issue as Grasping Hands as it needs your fighters out of action to be effective.
Swift Evasion would be amazing if it was push in any direction. Having to be further away from enemy fighters causes more problems than it helps.
Spectral Form is nice but the Sepulchral Guard don’t have the movement to benefit from it.
Gambit Ploys – Top Picks
Bone Shrapnel is a nice damage card that works at any range during an opponent’s attack action.
Ceaseless Attacks is a setup card. It requires another friendly fighter to be adjacent to an opponent but allows for quick 1-2 combo attacks that can shred 1 or multiple targets in quick succession.
Danse Macabre is great as it works for any fighter making a move action e.g. more than 1. Helps with swarming.
Restless Dead brings back a fighter for free. Also helps to inspire the Warden.
Terrifying Screams is a faction Distraction. Always great to have.
The Necromancer Commands lets you attack again after a failed attack action. Very good.
Assumed Command is just not that useful as only the Prince can use it.
Focused Attack is fine but just not worth investing in as there are better attack action upgrades out there.
Remembered Shield is a worse version of Ethereal Shield.
Upgrades – Top Picks
Ancient Commander is an amazing upgrade. Once equipped it makes the Warden into an efficient moving machine.
Deathly Charge may seem like a basic +1 damage card for the Champion at first but it stacks for the whole action phase. So if the Champion is killed after charging, bring him back to attack with the bonus damage still in effect.
Fatal Strike is another Champion only upgrade but makes attacking him really undesirable. No cleave but still 2 smash.
Frightening Speed makes either your Prince, Champion or Harvester gain +2 move. Be as fast as a Skaven when inspired!
Grim Cleave gives the Harvester cleave. Always gotta love more cleave.
Lethal Lunge is a solid 3 damage upgrade for the Warden with cleave. I prefer the Warden’s inspired attack but this is still a useful upgrade.
Undying is a faction Great Fortitude. More wounds the better.
Now for all the universals found within the Sepulchral Guard expansion box.
Bloodless was commonly seen in turtle control Steelheart builds but damage is so common now that it’s nearly impossible to score.
Crushing Force is a solid score immediately objective but ideally you want to be killing fighters in a single hit.
Determined Defender is something I’ve never liked. Can’t score during action phase 1.
Flawless Strategy is alright but I’d go with objectives like Opening Gambit and Victory After Victory.
Reaper is tough but doable. Not consistent enough for my tastes though.
Stymied is just something you’ll only score against 100% magic users.
The Harvest Begins is just way too difficult to score.
Objectives – Top Picks
Plant a Standard is something I’ve always liked. Great for advancing leaders with no targets in range.
Swift Advance is a solid choice for elite aggro warbands.
Tactical Supremacy 1-2 and 3-4 are predictable to an extent but still solid objectives which help reinforce the hold objective playstyle.
Fortify is nice but Ephemeral Shield is better as it lacks the holding objective restriction. Although Fortify works against multi-swing attacks.
Stumble is great if you love Get Thee Hence. Combine with Knockback 2 for 3 hexes of pushback.
Triumphant Roar is just too situational for regular use.
Trust to Luck is an interesting draw card but I prefer Duel of Wits and Improvisation.
Gambit Ploys – Top Picks
Mighty Swing is a favourite of mine. Nothing like Ammis inspired or Grimnir smashing through multiple targets at once.
Scavenge is a solid free glory card, just requires your opponent to have an upgrade equipped.
Forceful Denial is a really good 50/50 card for shutting down gambit ploys. When it works. Remember you have to play it before your opponent’s ploy resolves.
Illusory Fighter is so good it’s restricted. Versatile and powerful.
Time Trap. I love Time Trap. You all know I do. I DON’T CARE THAT IT’S BANNED. TIME TRAP FOREVER. VIVE LA TIME TR-
Shattering Terrain is a good card to make your opponent think about charging or use during your own activation for potentially extra damage.
Sixth Sense. For when you’re really weird about double supports.
Coordinated Attack. It’s just not good.
Katophrane’s Plate is 2 glory and hopefully never sees play again.
Blessed Armour may revolve around crits but it’s only useful on fighters like inspired Steelheart’s Champions.
Upgrades – Top Picks
Army of One is solid for elite warbands although relies on your own fighters dying.
Soultrap. Another restricted card. Just very strong in general but useless against gambit spells and lethal hex damage.
Cunning Duellist is a tech card that I like taking in hold objective decks. Punishes opponents trying to block off objectives from you.
Helpful Whispers is restricted but helps make your attacks more reliable, especially for 3 fury attacks. Kinda overshadowed by Spiritbond now though.
The Dazzling Key forms part of Shadespire’s precious keys. It’s what helps to make hold objectives a surprisingly high glory gaining playstyle.
Now it’s time for the fan favourite. Like usual I’ll go over a deck containing only Shadespire cards then one with all currently available cards.
Playstyle: Hold Objectives
Despite my picks for favourite faction cards I rarely use them. This is because during the end of the Shadespire era the Sepulchral Guard had to heavily invest into the hold objective playstyle. As a result I have every tactical supremacy, Supremacy and Our Only Way Out. With this I have Defensive Strike to punish fighters coming near you while the Warden can get cheeky kills with Skills Unforgotten. Escalation and Change of Tactics provide reliable glory alongside March of the Dead.
The gambits are all about movement and staying on objectives. Inspiration Strikes is a solid card for the Guard which aids in distant objective grabbing along with Spectral Wings. Hidden Paths helps in this regard too. Confusion deals with opponents using their fighters to block objectives.
Upgrades give you the offensive push to deal with opponents that come too close once you’ve gotten the glory from holding objectives. Keys help double down on the objective holding while Concealed Weapon goes on any of the 3 wound fighters as it becomes quite reliable when they’re inspired (42% chance to crit on 3 dice).
All Available Cards
Playstyle: Flex (Aggro and Hold Objectives)
With Nightvault cards the Sepulchral Guard gain the ability to branch out out hold objectives. This flex deck is based off of what I used to win a Shadeglass trophy with. Keep Them Guessing is an important change as the Guard can score it in 3 activations (guard, charge, then the Warden’s ability which also makes to fighters make move actions). Martyred is just oddly reliable. What Armour? and Get Thee Hence are both scored consistently by the Champion and the Prince of Dust. Defensive Strike is swapped for Precise Use of Force as you’ll be doing more attacking now.
Gambits remain mostly unchanged. Confusion was swapped for The Necromancer Commands as you’re more aggro focused now.
Upgrades feature a lot of changes too. Keys are out. Crown of Avarice is useful as you can keep resurrecting the bearer. Faneway Crystal provides superb movement coverage. Quickening Grieves gives you extra pushes while Blazing Soul is another Inspiration Strikes. Gloryseeker gives you more damage as well.
The Sepulchral Guard show just how large warbands are possible in Warhammer Underworlds. Difficult to use but incredibly strong when mastered. They even won the World’s first Grand Clash. Seriously though they take a lot of effort to use effectively.
During Shadespire’s lifetime the warband could only really do hold objectives in a world dominated by Great Concussion. Factoring in that fighters kept their tokens upon resurrecting in the same action phase, it made them quite unwieldy. Their low movement and lack of tools really set them back.
With Nightvault things drastically changed. Firstly tokens were lost when a fighter is taken out of action meaning you could repeatedly charge with fighters that were returned to battle. Next was the addition of new objectives, namely Keep Them Guessing and Martyred. These allowed the Guard to reliably gain glory without the reliance of hold objective cards. It’s what allows the warband to do flex effectively now.
Overall the Sepulchral Guard are a difficult warband to use at first but very effective when mastered. They have a high skill ceiling but they’re really enjoyable to use and not to be underestimated. They’re also still the best looking warband in the game. If you want to buy the Sepulchral Guard you can do so direct from Games Workshop here.
That’s it for this installment of Warband Review. I’ve always liked the Sepulchral Guard and it’s great to see a warband evolve and improve over the course of 2 different seasons. Tune in next time for Ironskull’s Boyz. Can even crits save their future?