Welcome to the depths of Warhammer Underworlds season 5!
Greetings and welcome to my review of Warhammer Underworlds Harrowdeep! This is now season 5 of the game. Before we get into things, thanks goes to Games Workshop for providing this to review for free. As always, I aim to be honest, impartial and constructively critical. With that out of the way, back to the review!
I’ve also done this as an in-depth YouTube video:
Harrowdeep is situated beneath the watery depths of Ulgu, via a humongous whirlpool that sucks foes deep into the dark depths of this shadowy catacomb. Most interestingly, the Katophrane Curse is now gone.
As shown above, because Teclis basically killed Nagash, the Necroquake is gone and now so is the Curse. I’m not a fan of this, the twisted Groundhog Day effect and the fact that the Curse was bleeding into other realms and infecting them was great. Now that’s gone…the setting feels blander. Just dudes fighting. If you die, you die. The only good thing is that now I can do a batrep with me killing Mollog and deleting him forever from the game.
What’s in the Box?
Warhammer Underworlds Harrowdeep is basically your standard core set. You get: 2 double-sided game boards, a rulebook, tokens, (new) dice (no more Nightvault/Shadespire dice!) and 2 new warbands. It’s pretty tightly packed. Unfortunately, so packed that my cards were slightly damaged due to the sprues being pressed against them (which you can see in the YouTube video). The rulebook is also quite THICC at 52 pages.
Now let’s talk about rules changes. I’m not going to go over current mechanics that haven’t changed. If you want to know those, either check out my previous core set reviews or Games Workshop’s how to play videos for Warhammer Underworlds.
We have new traits as shown above. Beast and Flying basically free up space for fighter cards. I like this. Nice change that will make things easier to understand for fighter cards.
If you weren’t aware, we have Grand Alliances like in Age of Sigmar now. Basically showing what Grand Alliance cards you can use. It’s fine. Also you can now include more than 12 objectives if you want to for some reason.
Those dashed hexes we saw on the game boards? Yeah they’re cover hexes. Even though they radiate light. Anyway, they grant rolls of double supports as successes for dice rolls. Alright. Gloom hexes are the same thing and now replace lethal hexes on the reverse side of objectives tokens.
Placing Lethal Hexes is gone. Instead you place Gloom Hexes. This…is unfortunate as I liked lethal placement in general and it helped punish over-aggressive and defensive play. Now we have hexes that can buff people sitting back. Hello control. Also objectives start face down with the Gloom hex side facing up. More on that later.
Do Over Change
Look, I don’t like this. Do Overs have changed. Instead of being discarded, they go back in the deck. Okay, I’m getting angry again. I hate this. Listen to the full rant in the video but this is a REALLY BAD change. It makes the game easier, sure, but it allows more skilled players to abuse and break the game to ensure they have deadly starting hands. Hello control again. Like, I hate changes that allow the game to be exploited more.
You also now HAVE to run draw tech to draw out the power deck. I liked being able to discard a starting hand knowing I now had the ability to draw out the rest of my deck completely, rewarding deck knowledge.
This is just such a bad change. You now ALWAYS do a do over, there is no downside outside of your opponent seeing some of your cards. ALWAYS do over to fish for more Surge objectives in your starting hand. Too many upgrades? Lol do over. Because decks are so small and you draw before shuffling the cards back in, you can reliably draw cards you want. Just so broken. Please change this back to how it was pre-Harrowdeep Games Workshop, otherwise you might as well change Warhammer Underworlds’ tagline to “baby’s first Ultimate Competitive Miniatures Game”.
Oh and speaking of broken, discarded upgrades are now called broken.
Reactions and other important timing steps have been clarified. This is an amazingly good change. While I hate the silly do over change, this is much better. More clarity is always good.
Like Bounty? Well it’s now what’s called when you kill a fighter. Kill someone with 6 or more wounds to get 2 glory. Also Vulnerable is when you have 1 wound left.
Now on the reverse-side of guard tokens. Stagger, staggers. Re-roll 1 attack dice against staggered opponents and remove their guard tokens. Odd this doesn’t do much against fighters with the Guard keyword but maybe that will be answered in an FAQ?
Power Step Change
BIG CHANGE ALERT. The player who’s turn is next gets to play a power card first instead of the person who just had their activation. Will this change much? Who knows. Will this be easily missed. Oh baby yes. Please remember.
You can now Delve in the power step to flip a feature token once if you are on it. Instead of playing a power card. Not only does this kill hold objective play, use it to stall out your card plays if you’re trying to see what power cards an opponent will play. I’m not a fan of this change as it seems too open to abuse. Flipping feature tokens is needed but not as easily as this. Should have been an action.
This thing is amazing. Always have this to-hand. Another piece of excellent work by Games Workshop. It is essential to your games.
The back of the rulebook has a handy referrence sheet. I find the old combat flowchart better from Direchasm and Beastgrave but the steps of a turn thing is welcomed.
The game comes with 3 new game boards and a re-print. Ultimatum Engines is a re-print of the Arcane Nexus board and that’s good. Otherwise, the boards are fine.
You get Xandire’s Truthseekers and Da Kunnin’ Krew. If you want an in-depth look at them, click on the warband names for their respective articles. To cut it short, both are okay on the medium to low spectrum of warband power. Maybe better than the Beastgrave core set warbands? I’d argue the Shadespire core set warbands are more powerful. Just a shame really, not worth running in Rival format either. As I say, they’re fine but just a tad too weak. Need a lot of universal card support to function well.
Speaking of universal cards, here they are! Now as I basically only have 4 hours to write this (wish I got this a week earlier) I don’t have time to go through ALL 84 CARDS because I’d go mad. Instead have them as grouped pictures and enjoy.
Grand Alliance Cards
Grand Alliance cards are universal cards that are locked into what Grand Alliance you are playing.
Cost and Warbands
Now let’s talk about some important subjects. First up is price. Harrowdeep is now £65 whereas Direchasm and Beastgrave were £50 and Nightvault was £45 with Shadespire at £40. £15 in less than a year is huge, I would have been fine with £5. Sure, you get a lot more universal cards but Warhammer Underworlds has now lost its cheap factor. If you only play Warhammer Underworlds, the cost isn’t too bad. Yet if you want to play it with other games, it becomes highly un-viable. Not only that but the price point will heavily deter new players.
Next with 308 cards and the Warhammer Underworlds roadmap, each season is now only: 1 core set with 2 warbands then 2 warband expansions. After 6 months you get another core set with the start of a new season and then 2 more new warband expansions. 2 core sets every 12 months is unsustainable and also another big turnoff for new players. I’m not happy with any of these changes and I’ll probably cover them in-depth with their own articles. Just a shame to see happen.
Note I would have loved having double of each universal card in the core set. This would make the price change fine, allow splitting the box with another person and allowing to build multiple decks from a single core set with card repeats.
Card Back Change
Card backs have changed, annoyingly. If you’re a Harrowdeep only player, you won’t care but sadly older players will. You will now have to use opaque sleeves. Clear sleeves are out of the window. While I don’t really mind as everyone should be using opaque sleeves, I do feel for people who don’t sleeve or only use clear sleeves as, well, you’re going to have to buy a bunch of new sleeves. Personally, I just would have left card backs alone but it is what it is.
I’m torn on Harrowdeep. I like the rules clarifications, clear timings of reaction windows and better formatting of rules. Yet I also dislike the addition of too many new rules, loss of lethal hex placement, Delve on top of the ridiculous do over change. Not to mention the changing of seasons to 6 months and the increase in costs. The game I loved is buried deep down under here but it’s submerged with rules bloat and worries of rotation. It really saddens me as Warhammer Underworlds was Games Workshop’s best game system for a time, but clearly not any more.
- Really nice card art
- Blue/green theme is nice
- Da Kunnin’ Krew look great
- Lots of cards
- Clarifications of reaction windows and timings
- Lots of cards, almost too much and certainly overwhelming for most new players
- New rules that are seemingly added for the sake of being new
- Hold Objective playstyle is now in a super rough spot while control leaps ahead in power
- Both warbands have weak faction decks
- Changing do over is broken and silly at the same time, giving the mechanic no downsides
- Seasons are now 6 months along with an increased cost, making the barrier for entry higher
- Even more instances of new and old keywords on cards that are not explained in the rulebook
- I dislike the change in the narrative of removing the Katophrane Curse from the setting
If you want my full thoughts, I advise to watch the video. I just go into more depth there. As I said, I’m just really sad with the direction Warhammer Underworlds is going. The game that once neatly balanced cards and positional play of miniatures now heavily favours card play to the point that fighters are almost not needed. It’s also a lot harder to get into and recommend, especially when there is so much competition out there from Games Workshop themselves and other game companies like with Marvel Crisis Protocol.
So would I recommend Harrowdeep? Well, this is a bit complicated. If you are a new player, no. There’s just too much here coupled with the increased cost. If you want to get into Warhammer Underworlds, I’d recommend getting the Starter Set instead. It’s cheaper and simpler with straightforwards and fairly powerful warbands. You can even couple it with the Essential Cards Pack for a nice boost of variety and power. For current players, sure, go ahead. You’re already in too deep and have to buy this anyway to stay competitive. You won’t be disappointed with Harrowdeep and as a core competitive player, I can’t see much that would sway you from the box itself.
As for myself, I would have not bought Harrowdeep if given the choice. I don’t care for the warbands included and the general direction the game is going in right now. It’s just beginning to get too bloaty. Personally, I’d love to see a full reboot like what happened with X-wing 2.0. Basically reboot the game and start from the core basics again. Revamp/get rid of rotation. Anything. Rivals is a step in the right direction but the faction decks for Xandire’s Truthseekers and Da Kunnin’ Krew don’t work well on their own, making me worry about the actual viability of faction decks and Rivals format going forwards.
If you want to buy Harrowdeep you can do so directly from Games Workshop or via my affiliate link at Element Games which will net you a 20% discount while at no additional cost to yourself and helping support my work.
That’s pretty much it from me. I hope you enjoyed this look at the new 5th season for Warhammer Underworlds. It may not be the box for me anymore but maybe it will suit your needs. Either way, even in the depths of Harrowdeep, you can still try to roll crits in the gloomy shadows!