Jonathan here, covering all the details and impact of the new rules, mechanics, and event formats in the Direchasm season box set!
Games Workshop was kind enough to send me a copy of Direchasm to review, so I’ve had a chance to look through the new rules as well as have some time to think about the new Primacy and Hunger mechanics, and am very excited to share my thoughts with you as we enter the next competitive season of Warhammer Underworlds, this time in the Direchasm!
For more information on the contents of the Direchasm box, check out our other articles here:
- Product Review: Direchasm Box Set
- Universal Card Review: Direchasm Universals
- Warband Review: Myari’s Purifiers
- Warband Review: The Dread Pageant
Before we get into the spicy new mechanics, lets cover the core rules changes contained in this season’s rulebook.
The 6 Surge Limit is in the Rulebook – Pg. 12
A very small change, the 6 surge limitation is now in the Rulebook, not just the championship format. This mostly applies to non-format players, but it is a change.
Lethal Hex Placement – Pg. 18
Again, this is just applying the Championship format to the core game, but now the rulebook says you cannot place your lethal hex token adjacent to another lethal hex.
Feature Token Movement – Pg. 18
A slight change that mostly applies to Mischievous Spirits, you can no longer push a Feature Token into the same hex as a Lethal Hex Token. Board Lethal Hexes are fine though, as long as the gambit card doesn’t say otherwise (like Restless Prize does).
Supports Don’t Cancel Each Other Out – Pg. 22
The first change you might notice with the new rulebook is a change to supports.
In previous versions of the game, supports would cancel out each other, meaning that if both players had one supporting fighter, it was the same as neither player having any supporting fighters.
In Direchasm, supports no longer cancel out, so you will always gain the support bonus if you have a supporting fighter. If the other player has a supporting fighter, they get the bonus too!
I think this is mostly a clarity and quality of life change, but it does also generally make supported attacks more accurate since you usually have more attack dice than the opponent has defence dice (and the more dice you throw, the better counting support are for you). I think exactly how impactful this change actually will be is up for debate, as it’s probably only once every few games that supports used to cancel out, but I think it’s a generally positive change and am interested to see if it does have much effect for the warbands that are better or worse at giving their fighters support, and for the cards like Bonded that grant a fighter support.
Wounds Come At A Price! – Pg. 23
Fighters with a Wounds characteristic of 6 or more now give 2 glory when they are taken out of action! This is obviously a bit of a nerf to the very largest of fighters like Mollog and Hrothgorn, but also a downside to stacking too many +Wounds upgrades on your fighters, since if they do die, they are worth double! This makes warbands like Krusha’s (who also happen to seem like they will be the warbands that are good at the Primacy mechanic we talk about later) think twice about taking +Wounds, and makes other upgrades that increase durability in other ways a bit more interesting.
I think this change is a generally good call and a nice quality of life change. Big fighters tend to take quite a bit of work to kill, and the 1 glory for doing so can sometimes feel like it was hardly worth it (though it’s always nice to have less Mollog on the board). Other than the big fighter warbands, I think this change will go mostly unnoticed unless we get another version of Sudden Growth or similar is released, or you are playing a warband like Thundrik’s Profiteers or Lady Harrow’s Mournflight that are particularly fond of stacking +1 Wounds, in which case I like the idea of a upside/downside to being so durable.
Sequencing – Pg. 26
Another slight change, now when you roll for sequencing if two things happen at the same time (not reactions), the winner of the roll off chooses what ability happens first, instead of their ability automatically going first.
New Card Mechanics – Hunger and Primacy
Games Workshop has said there are two new mechanics for the Direchasm season called called Hunger and Primacy, representing the mountain setting’s primal emotions permeating the warbands of this season.
Hunger is fairly straightforward, representing the crazed hunger of the mountain and perhaps the strange mental state that must come from respawning via the Katophrane Curse. Primacy (think, “primary”) is the desire to be the biggest, best, or most dominant warband, which is quite fitting for the realm of Ghur.
The official description of these mechanics can be found here:
So far, the Hunger mechanic is similar to the Hunter/Quarry mechanic, in that it only comes from cards and has no innate effect in and of itself. Unlike the Hunter/Quarry Mechanic, which is fairly black and white (you are one, or you are not), the Hunger mechanic uses Hunger counters to show just how hungry a fighter is.
So far, we have seen seven Hunger cards in the Direchasm box: 1 Objective, 1 Upgrade, and 4 Ploys
So far, these cards are…okay, but the mechanic itself is fairly interesting. From what we’ve seen so far, you apply the Hunger counters in various ways (At the end of each round via Hungry Armour, a gambit spell via Hungry Bolt, via the ploy Hungry advance) and then get various buffs for having those Hunger counters, sometimes from the same card in the case of Hungry Armour, or from other cards in the case of the others (glory for having 2 counters, a larger change to heal, cleave on an attack, or +2 instead of +1 move). Interestingly, Hunger seems to be something that you want your fighters to have in order to give them buffs/abilities, and perhaps something you build a whole deck around in the future.
How good is this mechanic? Well, obviously it will depend on the cards that come out. but I think we can speculate on the mechanic based on what we see so far.
I consider any mechanic like this a “Combo” because there are generally two parts to it: Meeting the condition and the trigger. For Hunger, you first have to meet the condition of having the Hunger counters, and then you can trigger the effect. If the two parts of this combo are on different cards, it’s going to be a fairly slow mechanic, and require a lot of card investment in order to pull of reliably (you’ll want a few ways to apply the condition, and a few to trigger it so your cards don’t brick). This means that these trigger cards are going to need to be very powerful in order to be worth working towards, or the Hunger application cards need to do something else along with applying the condition that is useful enough to be worth it while you wait for the trigger card.
There are a few things worth noting so far that give me some hope for this mechanic, though I’m not sure I’d play it right now:
- So far, most of the trigger cards are sort of useful even if you don’t have any Hunger counters yet. Only Hungry for Victory actually bricks if you don’t have Hunger – the other cards are just less powerful.
- All three of the cards that give Hunger counters also do something else that might be worth having while you wait for a way to trigger them.
- Hungry Bolt is interesting because it can apply Hunger counters to enemy fighters as well as friendly.
- Hungry Armour both applies Hunger, and benefits from it, though it does have to wait until the next round to do either.
If this trend continues, I think it’s possible this could be an interesting and promising mechanic involving a lot of cards to apply Hunger counters to your fighters as a sort of side effect during the game, and then gain benefits from having those Hunger counters as well. Because Hunger doesn’t do anything in and of itself outside of the cards, we’ll have to wait and see how easy to use and powerful it ends up on the tabletop.
If anyone was worried about aggro not being playable this season…Primacy is the answer to your prayers, blood offerings, and primal screams into the night.
Unlike most of the mechanics we’ve seen in the past like Magic, Hunter/Quarry, and even Hunger, Primacy is almost a core rule change, in that it is going to have a massive impact on the way Underworlds is played in the Direchasm, because it actually does something on it’s own without needing any cards (other than the one Primacy card needed to trigger it’s rules into the game).
If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the Primacy card:
Although Primacy does not have to be in every Direchasm game you play…it seems likely that it will be, since only one player has to bring a single card in their deck that mentions it in order to trigger the mechanic for both players.
Essentially, Primacy is a possible 3 spent glory up for grabs each game, gained one at a time at the end of each round. The three innate conditions to gain the Primacy token range from fairly easy in some cases (one shot a fighter from full health to out of action) to a bit harder (kill the leader, or hold 4 objectives). Clearly, this is an aggro player’s dream, and a horde warband’s glory bleeding nightmare! Larger warbands like Thorns, Grymwatch, and Gitz will give up Primacy almost every time they lose a fighter. Holding 4 objectives is possible, but difficult, so I’m not sure I see most horde warbands wanting the primacy rules in effect with the current card selections, or being able to accomplish that condition very often. For the warbands in between, they will need to be careful of their smaller fighters giving it up too freely. I do like how killing the enemy leader is a way to gain primacy no matter what you are good at doing otherwise, making leaders move valuable in general, and possibly giving the larger warbands a way to turn the tables for one round.
That said, if you are against a warband that is better at Primacy than yours is, fighting to gain it for one round can actually be a good strategy, since holding on to the primacy counter for one round cancels out the glory the opponent might gain from having primacy on another round. This can be a big difference to end glory score, taking the other player’s Primacy glory down from a possible +3 to +1 if you win 1 round out of 3.
Once you gain the Primacy token, you just have to hold on to it by not letting the other player fulfil one of those conditions, and the spent glory is yours. Of course, there are also cards that interact with primacy as well. So far, we have 5 of these cards from the Direchasm set, and they either make it easier to gain the primacy by letting you gain it on any kill your fighters make, or reward you for gaining/keeping the Primacy token.
Overall, I think this mechanic is very thematic and interesting from a gameplay perspective. The best thing about for aggro players may be that they really only have to take whatever they think is the single best primacy card at a given time to gain access to the mechanic, and in match-ups where one-shotting fighters is common, they should gain 1-2 glory just for showing up. I love that this mechanic does something innately, rather than relying on combos are cards or fighter keywords to function.
As far as the actual Primacy cards go, I think how prevalent they are will mostly depend on how good they are. Currently, I think both of the objective cards we have seen so far are quite solid for warbands like Krushas that are likely to gain Primacy by one shotting enemy fighters, and then hold onto it by being un-likely to be one-shot themselves. The upgrades don’t quite seem good enough to me, but Thrill of the Hunt is probably worth considering in a heavy primacy deck if the match-up is against one that is hard to one-shot (though you can always still go after their leader).
Overall, I think the Primacy mechanic gives a much needed boost to aggro warbands while simultaneously adding a new Primacy mini-game to Warhammer Underworlds that I think is interesting and fresh.
Other Card Mechanics
Besides the big H and P, there are some other card mechanics shown so far in the Direchasm season that seem worth a brief mention.
Presumably similar to Poison cards in Beastgrave, or Potions in Nightvault, we have seen our first Trap keyword power card in the Direchasm set with the card Slickrock. My personal feelings aside for this card (I hate it more than rebound), I am interested to see what other trap mechanics show up this season.
We already have two matching weapons so far in the Direschasm box that may indicate this season’s version of the Shadeglass/Nullstone/Amberbone weapons from previous season, this time giving a re-roll to the attack action if the target has a Move or Charge token, and giving the fighter the Hunter keyword on top of that. Assuming these are the set for the season, these weapons may be a good way to gain the hunger keyword and open up hunter cards to a few more warbands, and if there is a sword, 3 smash with a re-roll sounds quite tasty in general.
Just because the Beastgrave season is over doesn’t mean the Hunter/Quarry mechanic is finished! We’re still in Ghur, and really just deeper into the Beastgrave, so it makes sense we would still be going strong with this mechanic. I counted 9 of the 32 universal cards in the Direchasm set having something to do with the H/Q mechanic, so it seems like we’ve only just begun to see how powerful Hunters (Hrothgorn!) can be.
Other Impactful Cards
Although this isn’t really a mechanic itself, of all the cards to be aware of in the Direchasm box, I think the one that may have the largest initial impact on play this season Dominant Position.
I expect to see a lot of this card, and whether one or both players has it in their deck, both players will need to be aware of the mini-game that is controlling objectives, since 2 glory is a big deal in most games. While it is obviously better for larger warbands that are good at controlling the board, I think it is also quite solid in medium size warbands that can do a sort of “Hold 2/Hold more” playstyle via control play and disruption tech, and this style seems like it will be very good against some of the smaller warbands like Rippa’s or Krushas that may thrive in a Primacy meta. This card’s existence means that you will always wants to be aware of how many objectives your opponent has in order to deny this card, and should be an interesting part of the initial Direchasm meta
New and Updated Formats!
Games Workshop recently updated the different ways to officially play Warhammer Underworlds in this article, expanding the number of event types to 6, and the format types to 4.
The different official events types are now:
- Local Clash – Smaller, more casual, store events
- Grand Clashes – The ultimate test for players with invites to the Grand Masters
- Grand Masters – The biggest and most prestigious event each year, requiring an invitation
- Grand Brawl – A new format using the Arena Mortis game mode
- Grand Battles – Team events using the Alliance Format rules
- Grand Skirmishes – Best of one format events designed to get a lot of games in quickly
The competitive formats have also been updated and clarified. Each format has slightly different rules about what cards, warbands, and boards are allowed:
- Championship Format – The “standard” format, using all warbands, an updated Forsaken (banned) and Restricted (FAR) list, and the boards and cards from the two most recent seasons. It also has a new rule, where diagonal boards must have at least 4 hexes connected!
- Alliance Format – A subcategory of the championship format, with the added rule (that makes this format so fun) no cards may be repeated across the team’s three decks.
- Relic Format – A wild format where all cards, warbands, and boards are allowed, though there is a list of Forsaken cards, and objectives decks must have 15 cards instead of 12.
- Vanguard Format – A new format aimed at making the game more accessible for new players, using only the warbands, cards, and boards from the current season of Underworlds.
- Arena Mortis Format– A fun single fighter game mode with it’s own FAR list.
Overall I think it is very cool the Games Workshop is supporting these different ways to play the game. I think it’s clear that most competitive players will continue to play the Championship format in the majority of their games, but I think the Vanguard format has a lot of potential to help grow the game with new players that might be daunted by the number of warbands and cards in Championship, and the changes to the relic format objective decks (15 total objectives with a limit of 6 surges) may make that format much more appealing to players in the future as well.
Well, that’s all I have for now as far as thoughts on the upcoming season go. I for one am very happy with the improvements made to this season, and am excited to see what else it has in store.
(Now if only the world would go back to normal so we can have events again!!!!!!!!)
If I missed any rules changes, or if you think I missed any big impacts you think are coming to this season feel free to let me know in the comments.
If you would like to pre-order, head on down to your local Warhammer Store or gaming store. If you prefer to shop online, check this out here. I hope you enjoy your experimenting with these cards over the coming weeks. Look out for more content coming out in regards to them over the next couple days.
Direchasm is coming. I hope you’re hungry, because the mountain is!