The Direchasm has opened, mind your step.
Greetings brave reader. Even if you’re an experienced Warhammer Underworlds player or fresh to the whole game, welcome to my product review of the Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set. Before getting into the review, thanks go to Games Workshop who gave me this core set to review for free.
For people new to the blog my name is John and I’ve been a veteran of Warhammer Underworlds, starting my journey with the launch of Shadespire all the way back in October 2017. Since then I’ve won multiple Grand Clashes and store tournaments as well as having written a wealth of articles to help players improve their skills with the game and understand it better, such as my Getting Started with Warhammer Underworlds article. I’ll be able to give you the best understanding of the game and its new mechanics.
So with all that out of the way, it’s time for the main review!
The Beastgrave has awoken. The continual violence and endless cycle of rebirth enforced by the infectious Katophrane Curse has stirred the mountain far earlier than it should have been. Thanks to this, the Direchasm has been revealed. This is the heart of the Beastgrave, previously filled with solid amber which has now melted away. In these depths lie ancient treasures and also ancient beasts. This is where the power of the Beastgrave is at its most intense. Primal emotion takes over common sense. Composed warriors turn into savage fighters.
Yet despite all these treasures and fearsome beasts, something else has been revealed in the Direchasm; the Silent People. They live, formerly embraced in hibernation within the amber produced by the Beastgrave. Now prematurely woken, the Silent People hide deeper within the Direchasm until they are fully formed to act again. What will happen when they do so?
Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm is fully compatible with all other previous releases of Underworlds seasons; Shadespire, Nightvault and Beastgrave. The Direchasm cards are designed to work within this season and beyond but older cards still work just as well. For competitive play Shadespire and Nightvault universal cards have been rotated out. This has nothing to do with the core set but it’s worth bringing up.
The Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set contains 2 new and unique warbands: The Dread Pageant of Slaanesh and Myari’s Purifiers of the Lumineth Realm-Lords. This is a complicated and deep topic to cover but they’re basically new great additions to Warhammer Underworlds while being thematic foes to faceoff against each other. If you want to check out my in-depth reviews of each warband including tactics, decklists and cards, I cover each one respectively here (for the Dread Pageant) and here (for Myari’s Purifiers).
In-brief, these 2 warbands are a great compliment to each other. At least from a narrative and modelling standpoint. While Myari’s Purifiers are a bit hit or miss due to their posing, overall both warbands are still highly detailed miniatures and both perform strongly as warbands in their own rite. They both are a bit difficult to use for new players but still are a good basis to get playing Warhammer Underworlds with.
For Direchasm there hasn’t been too many changes mechanics-wise unlike what happened with Beastgrave. Still I’ll go over the main mechanics for Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm as well as expanding on some of the new rules added.
Deckbuilding officially updates to saying you can’t have more than 6 Surge objectives in a deck. Relic players rejoice!
There’s a mention of keywords and the Hunter mechanic. It’s nice to have although I would have liked to have it expanded much more than this.
Playing the Game
For the playing the game segment, the reveal your warband step is now super important thanks to the Primacy card. Board configuration remains the same which is a little shame as I would have liked to see diagonal configuration shift from 3 hexes minimum to 4. Otherwise no real change.
Roll-offs and re-rolls are made clearer along with the core rulebook FINALLY containing what they symbols the dice mean instead of only in the reference booklet. Max points for that. SMASH AND BLOCK WITH ME.
Out of Action and Glory
There’s been a slight change to glory. Fighters with a wounds characteristic of 6 or more give 2 glory when taken out of action. It’s a small change but something you need to remember. It’s a shame this is kind of hidden away and not made more noticeable.
Tokens and Counters
For tokens and counters, not much has changed except we get different coloured generic counters and wound tokens are now wound counters.
Support has changed too! Supports no longer cancel each other out. Meaning now you just count the total number of supports you have, ignoring your opponent’s supporting fighters. Is it less complicated and easier to understand? Yes but I miss the tactical element of nullifying supports. Just something experienced players will need to remember like how when Guard changed.
Sequencing has been updated a bit by being clearer with more examples. Always a great change to see.
Reactions have been clarified a bit more too. They now mention the important “on hold” mechanic where the game pauses until the reaction is resolved. Only reactions can be played in this space and objectives can’t be scored until the game resumes. Confusing still? Well, yes. Reactions are confusing but this problem-solving language and terminology helps a lot.
Nothing really changes here but it’s being posted for completion’s sake.
Matched Play and Multiplayer
As always, the core set comes with taster rules for matched play and a more expansive look at multiplayer games. These are also mostly changed but it’s nice to see multiplayer still included for people who want to play Warhammer Underworlds with 3 to 4 players.
At the back of the rulebook, after the glossary, you’ll find the trust reference sheet. Never leave home without it! This covers the attack action flowchart, comparing successes and general game-flow overall. An essential piece of rules for new and veteran players alike.
Primacy is one of the 2 new mechanics introduced in Direchasm. Primacy represents the fighter for power, the peak predator, the power of the Beastgrave personified. To use the Primacy mechanic, you need at least one card in your decks which mentions the Primacy token. You then gain access to the Primacy card as shown below:
Once you meet the requisites for Primacy, you reveal the Primacy card at the start of the game at the reveal warband step of the game (so before anything is placed and setup). There is only ever 1 Primacy token per game so players will be constantly fighting for control of it if your opponent is running Primacy, otherwise you will have a free-run for control which your opponent will not want happening.
The Primacy token can be gained via Primacy card effects as well as 3 general ways which are stated on the Primacy card, making it easier to gain the Primacy counter without requiring card effects. You can gain the Primacy card after an activation via either:
- A friendly fighter’s attack action takes an enemy fighter out of action who has no wound counters.
- A friendly fighter’s attack action takes an enemy leader out of action.
- Your warband holds 4 or more objectives.
These 3 ways make getting the Primacy counter very reliable and give options to whether you’re playing aggro or hold objectives.
If you have the Primacy counter, at the end of the round you can discard it to gain 1 spent glory. This is the part which makes Primacy too good in my eyes. Having the Primacy counter is already a good enough reward already due to the cards tied to it, getting extra glory for it your opponent can’t stop (unless they run Primacy too) is just far too beneficial. I would have preferred not to have the glory reward at all or for it to trigger at the start of the round so the Primacy counter only maxes out at 2 glory instead of 3.
So is Primacy bad? No, it’s fun and I like how it offers another bit of in-game management. Primacy is most fun when you’re constantly battling your opponent for control of the Primacy counter. However, the attached free glory gain is what makes Primacy way too good. I can’t see any aggro deck not running Primacy. It just benefits you further than normal plays do. Will it be broken? It depends on what Primacy cards appear in the future.
One note is that the Primacy token is rather small. It’s not much of an issue but I prefer using something larger and more memorable like my metal token from my Dragonshield playmat. You can use anything you like too but I find it helps having a big counter you can use to remind you and your opponent about who controls the Primacy token.
Hunger is a simpler mechanic. It just works around applying Hunger counters to fighter cards and then objective and power cards trigger off of that. Hunger is a bit…boring from what’s been shown so far as it seems to just play around how many Hunger counters you can dump on fighter cards. Doesn’t have as much depth as Primacy but doesn’t feel nearly as overpowered either.
Hunter and Quarry
This mechanic still isn’t covered properly in the core rulebook. How does it work if you’re a new player? Each keyword unlocks access to certain cards that give bonuses for and against fighters with the Hunter and/or Quarry keywords. Hunter cards focus on being aggressive like with aggro whereas Quarry cards focus more on defensive buffs such as with hold objectives and control playstyles.
In a change to previous core sets, the Direchasm core set comes with a set of totally new universal cards! No reprints! This means we get more cards dedicated to Direchasm as well as the Hunter, Quarry, Hunger, and Primacy mechanics which is a great move overall. It opens up design space and makes buying core sets more desirable for returning players.
Absolute Dominance is a Dual objective that you score when you have 2 or more surviving friendly fighters and there’s no more than 1 surviving enemy fighter. For 3 glory it’s alright as an easier to score Annihilation but not a great reward for doing so much killing and only getting 3 glory. Great it you’re only playing against elite warbands but not ideal for general use.
Treasure Hunter is a tougher/easier version of Making a Statement. 2 glory for holding 2 or more objectives in enemy territory. It’s a worthy reward for the effort but scoring it consistently is the issue.
Universal Objectives – Top Picks
Aggressive Display is a Hybrid which scores you 1 glory for either having 2 or more enemy fighters out of action or 1 or more surviving friendly fighters has 2 or more attack action upgrades. It’s small glory but good for aggro builds.
Awesome Predator is a Hybrid objective which grants you 1 glory if you have the Primacy token or a surviving friendly fighter has an attack action characteristic of 4 or more damage. This is only 1 glory but it is very reliable as an end phase objective. It also unlocks Primacy for you too. Fighters like Mollog will mostly be always running this and any other warband where 4 damage is an easy reach.
Dominant Position scores you 2 glory for holding more objectives than any other warband. This is a universal version Nexus of Terror from Lady Harrow’s Mournflight. It’s amazing. Score potentially 2 glory for just holding 1 objective. This will see a lot of play and deservedly so.
Hungry for Victory seems bad in isolation. 1 glory for having 1 or more friendly fighters having 2 or more Hunger counters. This is essential for Hunger decks though. Having a nice reliable way to score 1 glory which your opponent can’t stop is very good as end phase objectives are still very precious. It’s something your opponent deny you scoring for sure unless they’ve wiped you out.
Intimidating Display scores you 1 glory as a Hybrid objective if you have a surviving friendly fighter with the highest wounds characteristic or 3 or more friendly fighters in enemy territory. Once again this is great for aggro players looking for reliable end phase glory. Score if advancing in on the opponent or if you’re using fighters like Hrothgorn and Mollog.
Predatory Spell is another version of Sorcerous Scouring. Take out an enemy fighter with a spell as a Surge for 1 glory. Pretty much essential for people still dedicating themselves to magic builds.
Savage Exemplar is a Surge which is scored when you leader takes an enemy fighter out of action. Can I say how much I love this objective? Essential for all aggro builds. Run it in Spiteclaw’s Swarm to pretend in your mind that you can twice score Skritch is the Greatest, Yes-Yes!
Successful Hunt is a different take on The Beast is Slain from Beastgrave. You lose the leader kill option but score 1 Surge glory when a friendly Hunter takes an enemy Quarry out of action. A reliable pick for aggro Hunter decks when factoring in how easy it is to find or give the Quarry keyword now.
Surge of Aggression is a Surge and Hybrid objective which you score 1 glory for when you gain the Primacy token or have a friendly attack succeed with 4+ damage. Once again another staple for Primacy decks and easy to score as well.
Winged Death is a Surge and Hybrid objective you score for either having a range 3+ attack action take an enemy fighter out of action or end a charge action 6 or more hexes away from the position they started in. Flexible and combines Death from Afar with Cover Ground into a single neat package. Ranged and/or fast warbands will love running this for some easy Surge glory.
EDIT: Ferocious Resistance heals you on the roll of a channel for each wound counter that fighter has and you get to roll an additional magic dice if that fighter has 1 or more Hunger counters. It’s an amazing healing card and may find its way in Hunger deck but it doesn’t really complement the playstyle. It just heals if you can roll well. Mollog and Hrothgorn always take.
Universal Gambits – Top Picks
Dauntless Aspect is a gambit spell which is cast on a channel. Choose a friendly fighter withing 3 hexes and give them a Guard token. The effect isn’t bad but it’s main strength is for magic decks looking to cast spells consistently for objective purposes. Even then Dauntless Aspect is a nice defence play for fighters like Stormsire and Ylthari who have 2 defence.
Ferocious Blow grants +1 damage to range 1 and 2 attack actions in the next activation. If you have 1 or more Hunger counters, you gain Cleave too! Hunger aggro decks get the most usage out of Ferocious Blow but even then the consistent +1 damage is nice.
Ferocious Lunge grants +1 move in the next activation or +2 if you have 1 or more Hunger counters. Once again a really nice card to include in Hunger decks if you want to double-up on cards like Spectral Wings to help score movement based objectives more consistent.
Hungry Advance lets you choose a friendly fighter and push them 1 hex towards the closest enemy fighter, then give that fighter 1 Hunger counter. The push is a bit controlled but even then you can double-up Sidestep with it AND gain a Hunger counter! Hunger decks will always take this but even hold objective players will run Hungry Advance for the push effect as well as eager aggro players.
Hungry Bolt is a gambit spell which is cast on a focus. When cast you Scatter 3 from the caster and deal 1 damage to each enemy fighter in the chain then give the caster and each fighter in the chain 1 Hunger counter. This is really good for Hunger decks. Either sit back out of range to cast for a Hunger token or when surrounded by opponents to spready the counters and damage about. Interestingly it won’t damage friendly fighters in the chain but will give them a Hunger counter.
Hunting Season makes all fighters a Hunter and a Quarry for the entire round. A card that really should have been in Beastgrave. Either way it makes the Hunter and Quarry mechanic much more workable for players. It seemingly will cause problems with upgrades that can only be equipped to a Hunter or Quarry once it goes to another round and the fighter looses those keywords but I suspect it’ll be covered in a future FAQ.
Hypnotic Aspect is another gambit spell cast on a channel. Choose an enemy fighter within 3 hexes and push them 1 hex. Easy to cast with a great disruption effect. Will see lots of use in magic builds.
Slickrock is a Trap gambit. It is a reaction that triggers after an enemy fighter’s move action that ends in an objective token, Scatter 1 then push them in the chosen direction. Absolute devastating to hold objective players. You can even use it defensively too when an opponent charges onto an objective token. Absolute evil but in the best way possible. Maybe a bit too strong but time will tell.
Thrill of the Hunt is a reaction you play after taking an enemy fighter out of action with an attack action. You gain the Primacy token then either Heal 1 that fighter or push them 1 hex. I like it, once again, for giving easy access to the Primacy counter. The other effects are nice but not necessary in my eyes, you run Thrill of the Hunt to get that Primacy counter easily.
Master of Spoils is a Primacy upgrade. Gain the Primacy token each time the equipped fighter takes an enemy fighter out of action with an attack. Then you lose the Primacy token when the equipped fighter is taken out of action. It’s nice but I like getting Primacy quickly and without needing to spend glory. Losing it upon dying isn’t ideal either. Not bad, just not that efficient.
Universal Upgrades – Top Picks
Hungry Armour gives the equipped fighter 1 Hunger counter at the beginning of each round and lets that fighter re-roll 1 defence dice in their defence roll too as long as they have a Hunger counter. An essential Hunger counter engine for Hunger decks. Outside of that, this card is not that great but yeah.
Fearsome Trappings makes you a Hunter. While you have the Primacy counter you get the effect of Awakened Weapon. Unlocks Primacy and gives you a very solid buff if going down the aggro route.
Savage Strength makes the fighter a Hunter and gives them +1 damage to range 1 and 2 attack actions at the cost of -1 defence to a minimum of 1. Considering most fighters are 1 defence, sticking this with Great Strength allows for some amazingly powerful combos. Makes reaching damage 5 quite easy and reaching damage 4 very consistent. Just remember if your fighter has 2 or more defence before equipping.
Savage Speed makes the fighter a Hunter and gives them +2 move at the cost of -1 defence. I would always take this over Great Speed. Yes, the -1 defence is quite annoying but that +2 move is huge. Especially for warbands lacking in the speed department.
Soultooth Spear is the new <insert name here> weapon type of the season. It makes the fighter it’s equipped to a Hunter and is range 2, 2 smash, 2 damage and can re-roll 1 attack dice if the target has move and/or charge tokens. Amazing. The range 2 and 2 damage makes it ideal but the fact it sticks around permanently is great too. May not see a lot of use while we still have the Amberbone weapons in-play but it’ll be even better when they rotate out.
Soultooth Bow makes the equipped fighter a Hunter and is range 4, 2 smash, 1 damage and has the same re-roll effect as Soultooth Spear. While Soultooth Spear faces a lot of competition, Soultooth Bow is a really accurate and long range attack action upgrade that allows you to apply a lot of pressure to the opponent. Stick it into warbands with low movement and low threat range to keep the heat on your opponent.
Preyskin Mask makes your fighter a Quarry. It also inflicts a -1 attack dice modifier but has an interesting reaction to compensate. When the equipped fighter is targeted by a range 1 or 2 attack action, after the deal damage step, give the attacker this upgrade. You basically throw the mask at your opponent and stick them with the negative modifier. You still own the card but I just find this hilarious and interesting to play with. If placed on a 2 smash fighter like Mollog, it means you can basically ignore him for the rest of the game.
Formidable Defence. You are a Quarry and gain +1 defence at -1 attack dice. Probably a little too strong for defensive plays but combines well with Absolute Stillness for fighters like Chainrasps who won’t be doing much attacking anyway. Gives some very interesting options for control players.
Earthing Staff can only be equipped to a Wizard, making them a Quarry and immune to Backlash AND gambit spells can’t damage this fighter. For the magic users but it makes your wizard immune to backlash damage (such as Zarshia Bittersoul from Khagra’s Ravagers – thanks to the Games Workshop trailer for the warband) and being immune to damage from other gambit spells helps in the unlikely magic mirror-match.
Gameboards and Tokens
As always the Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set comes with 3 sheets of double-sided tokens for you to use in your games. You get everything you need and beyond as well as all the stuff needed for multiplayer games too.
We also get 4 gameboards! 2 new and 2 reprints of older gameboards. Now this is fine with me, reusing old boards that have rotated out of competitive play is perfectly acceptable. The issue I have is that they have been renamed. Technically, it means once Games Workshop updates the Forsaken and Restricted list, it will likely mean players can’t use the older named gameboards. We’ll have to wait and see what the result is but I hope it’s not this.
Before going into the brief board coverage, check out my in-depth tactica article on boards for Warhammer Underworlds here.
Ambertrap Nest (Penitent’s Throne – Nightvault)
It’s the Penitent’s Throne so I’ll re-post what I’ve said about that board already:
A very interesting boars choice with an even mix of lethal and blocked hexes. Ideally a reaction board, this is also works well as a starting board for 3 fighter warbands. Generally placed by control players, put an objective token between the 2 lethal hexes for extra fun.
Hive of Sacrifice (Mirror Well – Shadespire)
EDIT: It’s a slightly altered Mirror Well so I’ll repost what I said before about that board and cover it properly when I update my board article:
Reaction board. The Mirror Well is a board I consider to fall under this category. You can place it first but I feel it works best when reacting to your opponent’s board choice (hence the term). This is a Shadespire board from the original core set and is a great board for a multitude of playstyles. Best used either as is for a 3 to 4 fighter control warband or flipped 180 for an amazing aggro board.
Menhirs of Binding
It’s GREEN! The BEST board! The Menhirs of Binding is an excellent reaction board. Elite warbands and defensive players will love using it in diagonal and long configuration to punish slow warbands and delay their ability to charge as much as possible.
Pool of Fangs
The Pool of Fangs is a foundation board. While punishable from your opponent by diagonal configuration, it’s still a safe board to place for fast warbands and those that number with 5 or more fighters. Just beware the lethal hex next to the center starting hex.
Shockingly there are none! No more little plastic bags! Still, I’m actually fine with this. You should always invest in proper card and token storage (see my article on the subject here for some ideas). Plus this helps cut down with plastic waste in general. The Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set has minimal plastic waste which, as a whole, is great to see.
Core Set Overview
The Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set is a confusing beast(grave). It’s amazing for returning players, powerful new universal cards that you’ll need for the new season. New players, however, will find the Dread Pageant and Myari’s Purifiers slightly difficult to play with and then there’s juggling what Hunter, Quarry, Hunger, and Primacy are. There’s…a lot to juggle and I wouldn’t be surprised if new players found this overwhelming. Still, you have 2 really strong warbands with rule refinements for more coherent play. The name is silly but…it is just a name. Doomruin forever!
- 20 brand new universal power cards and 12 brand new universal objective cards which are very strong with no reprinted universal cards from previous Warhammer Underworlds core sets
- 2 unique warbands with strong faction cards
- All the card tokens, dice and rules need to play
- Refined rules to make games smoother, clearer and more competitive
- Enough product to play out of the box with a friend for a quick 2 player game
- High quality card art featuring all current Warhammer Underworlds warbands
- New players may find it difficult to play with the new warbands on top of the additional rules mechanics not mentioned in the core rulebook
- The name is bad
In summary the Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set is a great improvement over previous iterations. New players may find it a bit more difficult to get into but should accumulate after a few games. Experienced players finally have a reason to continue buying core sets outside of just getting the up-to-date rules and new warbands thanks to the change of included universal cards. It adds a lot without feeling as a necessary purchase to stay competitive by purchasing cards you already own.
So would I recommend getting the Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set? Yes. New and old players have multiple reasons to buy and it’s a great hopping in spot to start playing Warhammer Underworlds. The price hasn’t gone up since the last price increase, which is a pleasant surprise. Although if you can’t play with anyone currently due to the global pandemic, I’d totally get not wanting to buy this yet until it’s safe to play with your friends again. Still there would be no harming in buying now, painting what is in the box, then being primed and ready to play in public when it’s safe to do so.
If you want to buy the Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm core set you can do so via the direct link to Games Workshop here or via my affiliate link to Element Games here which will net you a minimum 15% discount (20% during pre-order week) while helping to support my content, all at no additional cost to you.
We’ve reached the end of the review! Remember, if you want an in-depth focus on the included warbands, you can find the links to their reviews here for the Dread Pageant and Myari’s Purifiers respectively. I’m happy to see what has been shown so far with Direchasm so far. Hopefully the cards remain balanced and warband cards remain at the consistent power level as shown with the new warbands. Even then, the miniatures are stunning and I can’t wait to go over the new releases with you all as they drop throughout 2021.
Now we lurk in the Direchasm. The Silent People are awake and the chants of violence echo every louder. There’s only one thing that can keep us sane. The ever eternal and venerable question to all things Warhammer Underworlds related; Can you roll a crit?