It’s been more than a year, but I’ve not only finished building up the 2019 starter set of Warcry, but also I’ve had my first trial game of it at the bank holiday weekend! I’ve become really quite obsessed with this game of late, hence my push to build up the terrain etc, so I’m pleased to report that the game is actually quite a tactical one – brutal, swift, but really enjoyable!
It’s quite straightforward to play, once the warbands have been built according to the 1000-point limit and any campaigns decided upon, etc. There are four decks of cards from which players choose the battle they’re about to play – these cards give you the map you deploy the terrain to, show where each warband is going to be deployed, what the victory condition of the game will be, and then any twist that will provide additional rules. The players the roll six dice, and count up any singles rolled – these determine who has the initiative for the battle round.
Any multiples rolled then count as the ability dice that you can use during the round – the warband card will show these abilities and their cost, either doubles, triples or quads. In order to improve your chances, you get one wild die, which you can use either to seize the initiative or to add to make your singles into doubles, etc. So in the above example for the Unmade, there was a triple (the 2s), a double (5s) and a single rolled; the red wild die then made that single into another double, giving greater scope for the round to come. Wild dice are extremely useful, and can be kept from round to round if you decide not to use them.
The battle itself is quite brutal, with almost all of the “genuine” Chaos warbands having predominantly melee attacks, meaning that a lot of the first battle round is about moving and positioning. However, there are quite a few warbands ported-over from Age of Sigmar who have more ranged attacks that can mix things up. At any rate, once things get down to it, the combination of attacks and abilities that the warbands can bring to bear mean that models can be taken out almost in one hit.
Of course, there are tiers of fighters, with the regular grunts, along with champions and the leader. The basic principle follows that of Games Workshop’s other games, with a strength vs toughness mechanic, albeit adding in critical hits that deal bonus damage. It keeps the game moving at quite the pace, to the point where I was able to play my first game, with all of the false-starts and rules-checking that entails, in the time it took my 11-month old to have her morning nap. Really good going, there, I have to say!
Where the game really comes alive is through the campaign system, however. Warcry is primarily a narrative game, with each of the Chaos warbands striving to earn the attention of Archaon, and thus the honour of joining his army. The campaign system formulates this as a series of games that are organised around three “convergences”, with victory in these allowing you to level-up your warband, of sorts. Each warband, including those non-Chaos ones, has specific campaigns that they can play through, which allows you to personalise your own narrative through the game.
I’m only one game in, but I’m hooked already!
There is still a lot of tactical play involved here, though. I think it’s a classic example of those games that are simple to learn, but difficult to master. The flexible set up afforded by the terrain cards, victory conditions and twists means that it is the sort of game that will never really get old, as well, despite the core rules being fairly straightforward. It’s also interesting that fighters basically all have hand-to-hand combat and that’s it. The abilities mechanic is intriguing, and Jervis Johnson recently wrote a column in White Dwarf talking about how that all came to be that is well worth a read. I suppose it lends that streamlined approach to the whole thing, where you aren’t cluttering up the game with tons of different abilities depending on the fighters you bring in your warband.
In terms of expansion, the game has already seen seven Chaos-themed warbands, each having their own set of rules, as well as different environments that you can play in, much like the Kill Team model. There have also been card packs that have given the various Age of Sigmar armies their own deck of cards that you can use to play with your Nighthaunt, Stormcast or Flesh Eater Courts, etc. At the most recent reveal, it has also been shown that a new “starter set” is coming, which will feature two new warbands and a dungeon-style of fighting, which is a curious way to expand the game, but I’m all for it, all the same!
I do find myself wondering, though, what the future could hold for the game, long-term. All of the different warbands and environments etc are just basically more of the same, which is fine, but there will undoubtedly come a point where the game will have to find some new ground.
We’ve had some new ways to play come from the Monsters and Mercenaries book – something that, again, seemed to be following the Kill Team model, whereby we could add other, pre-existing units to our warbands, albeit we had to first fight the monster we wanted to add in, to best it in combat. That’s a neat idea, and super thematic for the game as a whole. The Tome of Champions, which seems to be very much a Chapter Approved-style book for the game, brought us new quests to play, and gave the rules for all of those armies where the card packs that were published had sold out within moments.
But what could be next? What should be next? I’m always happy with more of the same, although I think I would like them to create more new content for the game, rather than just giving us the rules to add a Terrorgheist into our warbands, and calling it a day. The way that fighters work, with the system of runemarks and so on, makes me think that they can go down the route of Necromunda, and give us a new box of fighters for existing warbands like the Cypher Lords or the Unmade, and increase the options there. I don’t really know what else could be done, but I’m finding myself hoping that they don’t let the game lapse into a sort of forgotten cousin, much like Kill Team seems to have become. I don’t want them to turn it into something competitive like Kill Team saw with the Arena expansion, because I think the immense emphasis on the narrative is one of this game’s strongest selling points, but I do hope they find a way to provide more exciting content for Warcry for years to come, because it has fast become one of the most exciting games I’ve played in a long time!