We go back to the arena
Greetings and welcome to another product review, this time of Arena Mortis 2 for Warhammer Underworlds. Thanks goes to Games Workshop for providing this to review for free. As always, I aim to be honest, impartial and constructively critical. If you’re interested, I have done this review as a video on YouTube which you can watch here:
What is Arena Mortis?
Arena Mortis 2 is the sequel to Arena Mortis released last year. It is basically a multiplayer battle royale version of Warhammer Underworlds comprising of 2 to 6 players on a single game board. There are 2 decks comprising of a gambit and upgrade deck with no objective cards. Outside of that, players fight it out to kill the most and gain the most glory to win. Nothing has really changed gameplay-wise for Arena Mortis and if you want a full gameplay breakdown I suggest reading my original review from last year:
In addition to the card tokens this year you also get another new double sided gameboard for use in Arena Mortis and Normal games of Arena Mortis.
Bonefields is a nice Reaction Board for aggro players. That bottom 4 starting hex placement allows for some early aggro pressure, even with diagonal configuration too. Although it is not good at being placed first and it’s difficult to fully utilise the blocked and lethal hexes.
The Bloodtrap Hive is a good Flex Board. As the name says, it excels at either being placed first as a Foundation Board or second as a Reaction Board but that comes down to your playstyle and whether you are using an elite warband of 3 to 4 fighters. This board still offers some great options for defensive play nonethless.
You also get physical cards for the fighters released for free on Warhammer Community earlier in the year for the previous version of Arena Mortis. They use Age of Sigmar leaders and both have powerful abilities, however, Fulbringer is much better due to being far more broken. Note, you don’t get the models so sadly you will have to buy those models separately.
A Cunning Ruse is only alright in Arena Mortis games. Either way, you reveal 2 of your power cards to your opponent then you pick and reveal 2 of their power cards. Doesn’t seem worth running at all.
A Hard Death is another weirdly situational card. When a friendly fighter dies from an attack, roll a magic dice for each adjacent enemy fighter. On the roll of a channel, deal 1 damage and give them a move token. It’s alright but too situational and unreliable for use.
Abject Grovelling makes you select and opponent and a number from 1 to 3. Your opponent gains that many glory points and you can draw the same number of cards or heal a fighter by that number. It’s pretty fine, as you’d mainly use it for the draw effect. Although the downside is pretty small if you play this when far ahead but by then the card would be moot anyway.
Arcane Apoplexy is an odd gambit spell. It is cast on 2 channel which then gives the benefit of +1 dice and damage to range 1 and 2 attack actions. To whom? Friends? Foes? Everyone on the board? It also persists till the end of the action phase. Maybe really good if we get an FAQ clarifying how it works.
Breaking the Food Chain is +1 dice against enemy fighters with 5 or more wounds and persists until such a fighter is taken out of action. I mean, if Morgok’s Krushas dominate the game, then sure this will see more use.
Courage of the Meek chooses a 3 wound or less fighter, if their next attack kills an enemy with a higher wounds characteristic you gain 1 glory. It’s just…not good, even in Arena Mortis.
Final Gambit is funny but not that good. Roll 3 attack dice, on a crit that fighter makes a charge action but otherwise it dies. A 42.1% to charge or a 57.9% chance to die. You do the odds.
Lights Out! blocks Combo reaction windows to give an enemy fighter a charge token instead. Yeaaaah, just don’t use it.
Never Saw it Coming gives you 1 glory for doing precise damage with a Combo attack. Just not that useful.
Gambits – Top Picks
A Good Death is a good deal broken. Gain 1 glory when an enemy fighter takes out a friendly fighter with a lower wounds characteristic. It’s like Martyred but as a Gambit.
Burning Wrath lets you re-roll any dice for a fighter’s attack action and persists until they are out of action. The cost is you deal 1 damage to that fighter at the start of each of your ACTIVATIONS. Sounds bad but really good throwaway 2 wound fighters that have weapon upgrades.
Dark Sacrifice is good card draw. When a gambit or attack kills a friendly fighter, draw 2 power cards. Costs you losing a fighter but excellent in swarm/horde warbands.
Drawing Power takes setup but is amazing. Choose a friendly fighter holding an objective, deal 1 damage to them and give them a guard and charge token. They then also get +1 dice and +1 damage to range 1 and 2 attack actions until that fighter dies. Move/charge onto an objective, play this in the last activation of round 1 or 2 then go on a murder spree.
Finish It! has a great name and effect. The first attack in the next activation is considered to have been to a successful Combo attack, allowing you to use the “powered up” version attack. It’s nice for Combo decks that are about to lose all their power when rotation hits.
If at First You Don’t Succeed… is more good Combo support. Attack again with an attack that fails after attacking in reaction to an attack with Combo. It’s a good Combo card basically.
Lessons Learned is amazing in swarm/horde warbands with multiple defence dice. Play after a friendly fighter is killed and gain innate dodges and blocks for the next defence roll.
Omega’s Offering is also too good. Put a glory token on a friendly fighter card, when they die you gain 1 glory. Combine with A Good Death for 2 glory from losing 1 of your own fighters. Really good for swarm/horde warbands. Way too good.
Quick Opener is Ready for Action, basically, but for when you play a Combo attack action upgrade. Very strong to attack out of sequence, even if it is locked into Combo.
Scent of Weakness is pretty good. Re-roll 1 dice when attacking against an enemy fighter with 1 or more wound counters. Great for warbands that can’t do 1-hit kills.
Your Blade is Broken is pretty much broken, especially on swarm/horde warbands. When a range 1 or 2 attack action kills a friendly fighter, reduce that attack’s damage by 1 to a minimum of 1 and persists until they are taken out of action. This would be fine in Arena Mortis but is so much more powerful in the main game. You can only play it once, and it becomes even more powerful once we lose/restrict more +1 damage cards.
Crippling Strike is range 1, 2 smash, damage 1 with Combo and Cleave. It’s okay.
Heavy Reminder is range 1, 2 smash, 1 damage and counts both smashes and furies as successes. If made after a successful Combo attack action, it gets +2 damage. It’s okay but not exactly amazing.
Insanely Territorial. Re-roll any defence and attack dice but you cannot make move actions. Er. It is funny. Good in turtle Hunger builds for Gorath who won’t do anything but otherwise not that good. Also pretty funny with the Wraithcreepers.
Puncturing Riposte triggers when the equipped friendly fighter is killed to do 1 damage at the start of each round to the attacker. Just don’t run at all.
Screaming Demise gives a charge token to any enemy fighter after being killed. Like, it’s alright but is actually very situational in terms of using effectively as your opponent can play around it.
Spinning Menace makes you into a Beyblade. +1 dice and Scything to range 1 attack actions at the cost of scattering 3 each time you make a move action. Just…pass.
The Glory Kill is range 1, 2 smash and damage 2. Gain an additional glory when killing an opponent with this as part of a Combo attack action. Yeah, just not that good.
The Last Word does 2 damage on the roll of a channel when this fighter is killed. Just not that good.
The Seal of Retris lets you recycle an upgrade that is discarded upon use. It’s fine I guess.
The Seal of Xerus does 1 damage to an opponent after the driveback step of your attack. They then get 1 glory. Don’t use this.
The Setup is hilarious but only good for Combo builds. Range 1, 2 smash, damage 1 with Combo. The opponent is considered to have rolled 0 success for defence. It’s fun and harmless.
Upgrades – Top Picks
Berserker Rage is pretty good. +1 dice and damage to range 1 attack actions at the cost of always counting as rolling no successes for defence as you skip the defence roll. Great for throwaway fighters or those with a high wounds count.
Blessing of Behemat gives you: +1 wounds, movement, ignoring blocked and occupied hexes as well as immunity to lethal hexes. At the cost of: Discarding a glory point to equip. Like, even with the glory discard cost, this upgrade is too good. Especially if you’re snowballing ahead.
Dying Curse. Dying balance. After a gambit or attack kills this fighter, discard and the attacker gains the modifier of -2 WOUNDS. Good on any warband. Amazing on swarm/horde warbands. Combine A Good Death and Omega’s Offering for extra silliness.
Fortress of Arrogance grants you +2 wounds at the cost of always failing defence rolls and your opponent always succeeding as if they roll a crit. Put on 5+ wound fighters at basically very little downside as getting +2 wounds with no characteristic penalty is a huge boon, even with the downside of basically always taking damage from enemy attacks.
Return Strike triggers when an adjacent enemy fighter kills this friendly fighter. They are at -1 move AND defence, to a minimum of 1, until they are taken out of action. Like, this can almost completely shut down certain fighters. It’s too good. Yeah your opponent has to attack this fighter to trigger it but the de-buff effects are too strong.
Shadowstep Blow is a pretty decent attack action upgrade. Range 2, 3 fury, 2 damage with Combo and Ensnare. Can’t be modified but still a very good attack.
THE SEAL OF ORICALCHOS, oops, Ordolos. +2 defence but take 1 damage and pick an opponent to get 1 glory on the roll of a crit. Pretty fair, right? Sure. If you couldn’t re-roll your defence dice. Stack with an upgrade that lets you re-roll defence dice and laugh your way to the win.
The Seal of Primus. Are we Transformers now? Is Hasbro gonna sue? Range 1 and 2 attack actions have Cleave and Ensnare but your opponent gains 1 additional glory when this fighter dies. If they die. Just put it on something like Mollog and laugh.
The Seal of Ultimus is a Seal of Power that has the following stacking effects: +1 wounds for 2 of more of those upgrades, +1 move for 3 and 4+ is take an opponent’s glory when killed. Stack with the Seal of Ordolos and The Seal of Primus for just more Voltron nonsense.
I’m not going to cover each hazard card as they’re exclusive to Arena Mortis but I will say I LOVE these ever since I saw them in Dreadfane. They add a great element to games of a Arena Mortis and I’d love it if we could get hazards cards for casual Warhammer Underworlds games. Heck, if some were toned down you could use them in normal games. Hazard cards are the best addition to this game mode and I hope we see more of them in the future.
Future Restricted Cards
So in a change to normal reviews of mine, coupled with my disdain for Arena Mortis, it’s time for a new segment: WHAT CARD WILL GET RESTRICTED! The game is simple, I pick the cards from Arena Mortis 2 that are heavily likely to get restricted and/or forsaken. Why? Because with every end-of-season card pack since Power Unbound, Warhammer Underworlds has repeated the same loop. Release a ton of new cards, a lot of which are far too strong. Let them effectively ruin competitive play then restrict them all a few months later after people have paid for them. I’m bored of it at this point and the cards are just easy to spot now. I’ll select my own now but feel free to do the same at home for yourself!
Here are my own picks:
A Good Death, way too easy glory gain on dying.
Drawing Power, secure an objective for a turn then go on a murder spree.
Omega’s Offering, more glory for *checks notes* have a friendly fighter die. Telegraphed but still, why, lol.
Berserker Rage, +1 dice and damage for auto-failing defence rolls but will likely lead to deadly fighters rolling around as death dealers with stacking damage buffs.
Blessing of Behemat, +1 wounds, movement, ignoring blocked and occupied hexes as well as immunity to lethal hexes for losing a glory to equip. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
Dying Curse, -2 wounds to the enemy fighter that killed you. Needs setup but it has unlimited range. And -2 wounds!
Fortress of Arrogance, +2 wounds at the cost of failing defence rolls. It has a big downside but will probably still be effective in Voltron builds.
Returning Strike, when an adjacent enemy fighter kills this friendly fighter they are at -1 move AND defence, to a minimum of 1, until they are taken out of action. Why not make them -1 damage too?
The Seal of Ordolos, +2 defence but take 1 damage and pick an opponent to get 1 glory on the roll of a crit. Let’s pretend defence re-rolls don’t exist.
The Seal of Primus, Range 1 and 2 attack actions have Cleave and Ensnare but your opponent gains 1 additional glory when this fighter dies. More crazy Voltron power.
The Seal of Ultimus, Voltron stacking power for Seal of Power upgrades. Mortis Relics what now?
Will I be wrong? Will I be right? Find out in 6 months I guess when we get another Forsaken and Restricted list update.
Arena Mortis 2 Overview
I’m not a fan of Arena Mortis 2, I wasn’t a fan of Arena Mortis 1. I’m just burnt out of the endless new releases that Direchasm had in a 6 month period and now have to review a pack that adds a really nice board and hazard cards at the cost of some absurdly broken power cards. Plus we’re still mostly in a pandemic so even gathering 2 to 4 players for this game isn’t easy.
- Hazard cards are fun and awesome to see return
- You get fighter cards for the 2 previously released online Arena Mortis fighters
- You get some Combo support
- You get a nice game board
- The mostly card packaging is very environmentally friendly
- It’s Arena Mortis
- Tons of overpowered cards that will end up restricted
- Arena Mortis is still too easy to break unless you make a lot of house rules
- Combo support for a mechanic that is about to have most of its cards rotate out of use
- Fan-favourite Warhammer Underworlds: Arena Mortis is returning
My Solution to Arena Mortis Card Balance
I’ve thought about it a lot and the most simple thing to do is ban Arena Mortis cards for competitive play. It’s not that big a shock and all we’d be doing is speeding up the process of all the good/problematic cards ending up eventually restricted anyway. The biggest shame is that these cards are completely fine for games of Arena Mortis, it’s just that when used in the main Warhammer Underworlds format, they end up becoming broken.
Should You Buy?
So would I recommend Arena Mortis 2? Well, personally, no but if you’re a competitive player you will have to buy this. Too many good cards not to pass up until they get restricted. Casual players will find this more fun but the game mode quickly gets tiresome after a game or 2. Plus there’s still a pandemic going on so it may not be actually safe or doable to play Arena Mortis where you are in the world, not that I hold that against Games Workshop as there was never going to be a good time to release this product.
If you want, you can buy Arena Mortis directly from Games Workshop here. Alternatively you can also buy it via my affiliate link at Element Games here for 20% off during pre-order week which then reduces to a 15% discount after that, all at no additional cost to yourself!
As you can tell, I’m not really hyped for Arena Mortis. Overall Warhammer Underworlds jadedness coupled with burnout from dropping all of Direchasm in a 6 month time frame has really soured the game for me. Being reminded of Arena Mortis 2 repeating the same mistakes as its predecessor is just depressing to see. As I said, it’s a real shame because the universal cards in this set are completely fine when played exclusively in Arena Mortis itself.
At the end of the day, these are all just my personal thoughts and feelings. If you like Arena Mortis, the Hazard cards add a nice new spin on things to keep games refreshing and fun as long as you have a nice and friendly playgroup. Although expect the main problems Arena Mortis has, of it quickly becoming easy to break and repetitive to play, to crop up again.
So until next time, after you have to play the fan-favourite and high in-demand game Arena Mortis for Warhammer Underworlds, you can still have a lot of fun by just rolling a lot of crits!