Without a shadow of a doubt, my defining game of the past 12 months has been Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. I’ve played it far more than any other. I love Shadespire and that’s why I awarded it GeekDad Approved status when I reviewed it last year. But things move on. The first season is complete and a second one has arrived. Available to buy now is Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault.
The aim of this piece is to list out the major changes (there aren’t that many) that have happened to the game between seasons, so you can hopefully work out whether you want to buy the new core set. After that, I’ll recap on why I think the game is great, and perhaps nudge you into playing.
Here’s what you need to know about the Nightvault. I’m assuming you know how to play Shadespire. If not, or if you need a reminder, check out how to play here.
Can I Still Use All My Shadespire Stuff?
Yes, absolutely. Both games are Warhammer Underworlds. They’re fully compatible. I have loads of games that I couldn’t resist buying that parenting hasn’t allowed time for. If that’s the case for your Shadespire box, or maybe your kids bought a couple of warbands but were then lured away to play Fortnite all summer, don’t worry when you get back to it; you can play old and new together. At this point in time, it doesn’t look as though there’s going to be much power creep either. For the moment, your old warbands will be competitive against the newer ones.
What’s in the Box?
The box has pretty much everything that Shadespire had in it. It has everything you need to play a two player game. Game boards, two warbands, two starter decks, and extra cards to improve those decks once you’re comfortable with how to play. There are also all the counters required to play a game.
For a full look at the game, check out the unboxing below.
What’s New to Nightvault?
Nightvault sees the arrival of two new warbands. The Thorns of the Briar Queen, a seven-figure warband, (the joint most to date) has ghostly leanings. They can sweep across the board in a way few other warbands can match. Stormsire’s Cursebreakers are Stormcast Eternals, the poster boys of Age of Sigmar. These guys are solid and dependable. They bring with them a host of Nightvault’s main new addition, spells.
It’s a Kind of Magic
The original Warhammer Underworlds incarnation was a magic-free affair, but its inclusion in the game was inevitable. Nightvault introduces wizards, and wizards mean spells (and maybe fireworks). Magic-wielding characters have a wizard level, which corresponds to how many spell dice they roll (there are new blue spell dice too.)
Whilst there a variety of spells in the game, they fall into two categories: Lightning Spells or Swirl Spells. These aren’t the technical terms, it’s just what their symbols look like. A given spell will have a number of symbols that corresponds to a success (currently only 1 or 2). If you roll that number of the correct spell symbol on your spell dice, the spell is successfully cast. That means if the spell requires two symbols, fighters who are level one wizards can’t cast them without extra help from other means (such as cards).
In this core box, the Cursbreakers have three wizards and the Thorns only one.
There are three flavors of spells in the game.
- Fighter Actions: Some wizards can cast spells as an action. This might be directly from their fighter card, or maybe as a result of an upgrade (upgrades are like pieces of equipment that give fighters extra abilities).
- Attack Actions: Some wizards have attack actions. In this case, they roll the number of spell dice equal to their spell level then roll to hit, as usual, requiring the symbol given on their fighter card. Again, spell attacks could be given as a result of upgrade cards.
- Spell Gambits: These are cards played from your hand and require a roll of the spell dice to succeed.
Wait a Minute, What Are Gambits?
Gambits are the other main change in the game. In Shadespire, your power deck was made up of Upgrades and Ploys, with no more than half being Ploys. Now no more than half your deck can be Gambits, with Gambits being both Spells and Ploys. Yes, if you want to take spells, that’s going to squeeze your already difficult to pare down Ploy quota.
This is a small change but there is a new concept of “scatter” in the game. In the Nightvault box, only one thing can utilize a scatter token: the Chain Lightning spell. This is more fun than it is powerful, but it can send lightning zig-zagging across the board.
Not completely new, as the new extra board set that came out over the summer had lethal hexes on them, but these new damaging hexes are new to the core set, as they were absent in the Shadespire box. Lethal hexes do damage to fighters when they walk across them, and can bring your plans to a sticky end. Note: The new Nighthaunts completely ignore them, giving them a small advantage on a treacherous board.
There are new cards in the set. Inevitable, because there are new warbands. In Warhammer Underworlds, some cards may only be used particular warband and some cards that can be used universally, by any warband. The arrival of new warbands normally means new cards of both types. Here, though, there are few new universal cards, if you already own the Shadespire core set. In fact, there are only five new universal cards (with 2 copies, one for each warband). All the other universal cards from Nightvault are duplicates of cards found in the Shadespire core set.
A Few Rules Changes
There are some small rules changes too, that if you haven’t played seriously, you probably won’t even notice. For a full breakdown of the changes, check out the video below.
Will I Still Be Able to Buy Shadespire?
No. Well, there are copies still around, no doubt, but Nightvault is the new core set and Shadespire will be retired. GW is even releasing the original Shadespire core set warbands in their own boxes, with the old cards and a host of new ones. Don’t worry if you have the old core set. Any new cards are going to be additionally available in a card-only box, Echoes of Glory.
Will There Be More Warbands?
Absolutely! Games Workshop has already teased the identities of the new bands, which will include some elves, more dwarfs, and even a troll. On top of that, they’re pushing out the next two Nightvault warbands almost immediately.
This release schedule might put off casual players, but don’t worry unless you want to play competitively, there’s no need to buy everything. Just pick up the bands you like the look of and go from there. Even if you do play competitively, there are soon going to be so many cards (over 1,000) there are going to be some good alternatives out there that don’t force you into buying every box. Remember, you only need 32 cards to make a deck!
The promised new warbands look fascinating. One will include goblins (or Grots, as they’re known in Warhammer Town), and the possibility fielding a massive 9 figures on the board. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out. The other warband, “Eyes of the Nine,” a warband devoted to a capricious chaos god, looks likely to cause some random mayhem to an already shifting meta. (“Meta” being the current perceived strongest way to play by the competitive community.)
I think we can expect lots of new spells across these new releases as GW attempt to move people from talking about Shadespire to raving about Nightvault. It will be interesting to see if the new can keep up.
Do I Need Nightvault?
If you don’t have a core set already and you want to play, then yes, you will need to buy one of the core sets. Does it matter which one? Well if you’re buying in, it probably makes sense to purchase Nightvault. You get everything you need to play and the dice and tokens for the most up to date ruleset. If you have Shadespire already and aren’t bothered by either of the two new warbands, then you could possibly pass and go directly onto the new warbands coming out (if you wanted to). You won’t get any spell dice or a scatter token, but the former are purchasable separately and the latter easy to mock up.
So there it is—Nightvault is here and change in on the horizon. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new warbands. I feel like Shadespire became a little fixated on winning, making for many very similar warband builds. Nightvault looks to be adding some additional fun elements, that, whilst keeping Warhammer Underworlds a competitive game, means that there’s room for some fun, light-hearted action too.
Nightvault is an excellent evolution of the Warhammer Underworlds game. It’s more fun, adds a new host of excellent models, and even more card combinations to muse over. The short play time of WU makes the most accessible of Games Workshop games for family life, and its comparatively tight ruleset makes it the best to play too.
If you want to stay tuned to the latest Warhammer Underworlds developments, please consider subscribing to Agents of Sigmar on YouTube. If you have any questions or would like to see specific Warhammer Underworlds content here on GeekDad, please comment below and I’ll do my best to help out. Until then, have fun in the Nightvault! Don’t forget you can always check out the official Warhammer Underworlds website too.
In the meantime, do check out this battle report from the Nightvault release.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.