You know those shops you walk past on every high street? The one with the cool painted models and battle landscapes in the window? You know, Games Workshops! Well, if you are anything like me, you have probably always wondered what was in there and what it was all about. If you are already thinking, “come on noob, get on with the review,” then I assume you know what this review is all about and just want to know if it's any good. Well, yes, it’s excellent. Welcome to Warhammer Underworlds: Direchasm!
If you liked the previous three seasons, you will like this too! For the rest of you, let me take a few steps back first and gently welcome you to the world of Warhammer because this is a brilliant starter set that has enough in the box to be a great stand-alone game in itself. But it is also perhaps a gateway into a bigger universe too, so let’s first quickly explore that!
A whole new world!
OK! So it may look a little intimidating, but from my layman’s perspective, Warhammer is simply a miniatures skirmish war game. That’s it. It just feels so much bigger because it has been around since 1982, has literally hundreds of different versions, and is, of course, famous for the beautiful landscapes to play on and the elegantly painted mini’s. It may be intimidating to us noobs who are rubbish at crafts, limited in funds, and feel somewhat out of the loop considering we are several decades behind.
I think the team behind Warhammer realised this and decided to try and address the issue. In 2017 they released Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire which delivered all the amazing story and folklore of the Warhammer world but also provided boards to play on. No need to build your own. You can play as you would a normal fighting board game. There are miniatures, cards, boards and tiles to modify the set-up for each game.
It was marketed as being quick and easy to learn with 30-minute battles once you are familiar with the rules. This was hugely popular with new players and long-established fans alike. As such, since then, the Warhammer Underworlds series has seen multiple expansions and sequels.
Each different release of Warhammer Underworlds brings new warbands, a group of fighters. The most recent release is Direchasm, which introduces Myari's Purifiers and the Dread Pageant. Warhammer Underworlds: Direchasm promises to tighten the rules to be sharper and tighter than ever before and introduce new mechanics such as primacy. Primacy offers new cards and a point of acquiring options. As a new player to this world, I found it to be relatively welcoming and all quite simple to grasp.
Two rule books!
Before you begin playing you need to set up your miniatures. The game promises no glueing. You just push them out of the frame they come packaged in and snap them together. Now it may be because I am a bit heavy-handed and new to this, but I broke four bits as I popped them out. They are very fragile and I found it very difficult to get them out without damaging the pieces. I used tiny pliers to make it easier but it was still very difficult for me.
Nothing was broken beyond repair, but I thought it worth noting. Also, I did need to use glue. Not just for my repairs, but also for parts that didn’t seem to fit together, probably as I had not taken them out at the right part. Nonetheless, glue was used. Not a lot, and it wasn’t difficult, but again I felt it worth stating here.
After setting them up, you'll have 8 miniatures. They are pretty cool, very detailed and in two different colours of plastic so they are clearly identifiable if you don’t get round to painting them. The little rule book which shows you how to make these then takes you through a very simple tutorial game that you will learn and play within 45 minutes. It is very straightforward but does not really introduce many features other than moving, guarding, charging and fighting.
Still, I suppose it’s a good idea to get you into the game quickly. It just wasn’t much fun. In fact, I would go as far as to say it's pretty poor! But this is only about 10% of the game.
40 more pages!
So, after the tutorial and nice 8-page introduction rulebook, you turn to the monster 40-page rule book! Now, in truth, a lot of this is backstory, glossary, and rule variants. In total, you need to read through 22 of these 40 pages to learn the entire game, but they are very well laid out with a lot of pictures, examples and notes. At first, it will feel intimidating if you are new to Warhammer. It contains lots of words and terminology that may not be familiar with the casual board gamer. However, they'll quickly become part of your new gaming vocabulary and are all very intuitive and have good explanations.
After the tutorial, I would say there are about another 45 minutes of reading and set-up before you can play the full game, but it feels a lot different than you may expect. Added to the move, guard, charge and attack you learnt in the tutorial, there are now magic spells, gambit and upgrade cards to play that completely change the flow and feel of the game.
After each turn, players can then use one of these cards, as many as they want, sequentially until they both pass. Each round, you can also draw back up to five power cards from your deck of cards so there are a lot of opportunities to play quite a few cards! There is an incredible amount of variety here, from cards that add movement to ones that will force your opponent to discard cards, breakthrough your opposition's defences or even offer you new and more powerful attack options.
It's not all about fighting!
But for a miniature skirmish game, this is not just about fighting. Killing all the opposition fighters will probably guarantee you victory if you manage it early enough, and you do get glory points for each kill, but that is not the only way to score. Points can also be achieved through objective cards. As well as the five power cards, each player also has three objective cards which reward you for achieving certain goals, such as entering your opponent’s territory, adding movement or charge tokens to all your characters, or many other things around attacks and movement.
You can also score points for holding certain parts of the board. During the setup, certain hexes are placed offering a varied landscape of tiles to try and hold. If you do, you score glory points equal to the hex's value. These glory points count as your final score, but also can be spent on using upgrade cards throughout the game.
As the scores on these hexes vary from one to five (higher for multi-player games) this can swing the scores each round by quite a lot. But turns are limited. Each round you have just four actions to take and there are only three rounds. At the end of the final round, the player with the most glory points wins the game. So, you need to move quickly and act efficiently.
To War Direchasm!
If all this has left you wanting to give Warhammer Underworlds: Direchasm a try, I hope you do. It is a very exciting game and an exciting world to enter. The Underworlds system seems a good way to organise the different releases and makes the whole universe more accessible. Direchasm is season four in the Underworlds universe. Season one and two are all but gone now. However, you can still get hold of season three if you pay close attention to restocks. Season three is called Beastgrave, but I don’t want to encourage you to look back.
There will be regular expansions for this season, with a new warband being released at regular intervals this year. Each one will introduce new miniatures and cards to the table. This box brings everything you need for a two-player game, but if you want to try different fighters and powers or up the player count, expansions are a great way to do that. There are six warband releases planned for the coming months so there is plenty to look forward to.
On its own, this is a very good two-player fighting game with all you need to play in the box. There are a lot of cards and variation in set-up to keep this fresh for a long while. But if you don’t want to get into the wider world of Warhammer, there may be better options such as Unmatched, Undaunted or other such two-player battle games that don’t start with “un!” But if you do want to dip your toe into the rich and wonderful world of Warhammer than I can strongly recommend Direchasm as a great way to do just that.
The water is warm, calm and very welcoming. But do be mindful of swimming off beyond the deep end. You may never come back!