Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review

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Warhammer Underworlds: Direchasm marks the 4th season for “the ultimate competitive miniatures game.” It caused quite the stir amongst the tabletop gaming community when it first released in 2017 with Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire, with long-absent veterans of the hobby and board game critics alike raving about the game.

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Indeed, my very own Unlucky Frog Gaming Podcast selected Shadespire as our Game of the Year for 2017. I also attended the UKGE 2018 Grand Clash and managed not to embarrass myself. Spoilers, I guess? I have a very high opinion of Warhammer Underworlds.

That being said, I haven’t played any Warhammer Underworlds since just after Nightvault dropped. The metagame reached a point where I was finding it difficult to keep up and so I stopped playing.

So, how does Direchasm play? Is it easy enough for new and absentee players to pick up? Onward!

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Summary

Warhammer Underworlds was quite the surprise when it first came onto the scene. If you had gone back 10 years ago into a Games Workshop store and declared, “Years from now, Gee Dubs will release a game that plays in under an hour, and it will be a mix of a miniatures skirmish game, a board game and a card game,” you would have been laughed out.

Probably because you were making declarations like some doomsday prophet. Actually, now that I think about it the sort of folks that go into those shops would be equal parts enthused and terrified by such a display.

The point is, it was radical shifting of the gears for Games Workshop that has largely been a success for them.

They successfully created a game that casual gamers could enjoy, that also allowed them to tap into the booming board game market, whilst also giving them a system that allowed them to directly compete with Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering and Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: X-Wing. Result.

Following in the fashion of games like Magic, Warhammer Underworlds gets a big refresh every year which is marked by the release of a new Core Set.

The first of these sets saw the poster boys of Age of Sigmar – the Stormcast Eternals – go toe-to-toe with the Khorne-worshipping Garrek’s Reavers, with other warbands following after. Continuing this formula, Direchasm pits the Slaanesh-loving Dread Pageant against the Aelves of Myari’s Purifiers.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Unboxing

The Direchasm box is a modest size one, in comparison to the behemoths many of us are accustomed to seeing from Games Workshop. It follows the exact same dimensions and format as its three predecessors, down to the movie poster-style artwork.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Box Front
The influence of the High Elves of old on the new Lumineth Realmlords is very apparent in the Direchasm art.

Whilst I understand what they were aiming for, a lot of this art looked quite goofy in the past. It feels as the artists have landed closer to their mark with the Beastgrave and Direchasm art. However, it’s still not quite as cool as the Warcry Catacombs or even the new Blood Bowl box art.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Box Back
Box booty.

The card stock for the box feels sturdy and of good quality, the box itself has a gloss finish. These are small things that make you feel that you’re handling a high-quality product. If you wander into a store and pick the Direchasm box off of the shelf, you’re immediately going to feel that this box is worth the £50/$75/65EUR that it’s listed at.

Opening up the box you’ll find that it’s fairly packed. Whilst most other GW boxes have the sprues at the top to protect them, Direchasm only contains 8 miniatures so they are instead packed beneath the game boards.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Box Open
Punchboards!

The contents of Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm are as follows:

  • The Dread Pageant (4 miniatures including leader)
  • Myari’s Purifiers (4 miniatures including leader)
  • 2 x Double-sided Game Boards
  • 1 x Rulebook
  • 1 x “Start Here” Book
  • 48 x Double-sided Glory Point Tokens
  • 30 x Double-sided Wound Counters/Generic Counters
  • 15 x Double-sided Move/Charge Tokens
  • 15 x Guard Tokens
  • 8 x Double-sided Activation Tokens
  • 9 x Double-sided Feature Tokens
  • 2 x Lethal Hex Tokens
  • 1 x Scatter Token
  • 1 x Primacy Token
  • 5 x Attack Dice
  • 3 x Defence Dice
  • 3 x Magic Dice
  • 8 x Fighter Cards (4 for The Dread Pageant, 4 for Myari’s Purifiers)
  • 60 x Power Cards
  • 36 x Objective Cards
  • 1 x Primacy Card

Quite a lot is packed into a box of such modest size, even if the vast majority of it is cardboard.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – The Dread Pageant

Tis the season for Slaanesh and Aelves in the Mortal Realms. With the Shadow and Pain boxed set having released quite recently and Sigvald the Magnificent making his triumphant return with new followers, Slaanesh is everywhere right now. Enter The Dread Pageant.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Dread Pageant Sprue
The Dread Pageant models come in a smoky purple-coloured plastic.

As with all Warhammer Underworlds models, everything in the Direchasm box is push-fit. The plastic is also coloured to allow the more impetuous amongst us – or those who simply aren’t keen on painting – to get started right away without becoming concerned about what fighter belongs to which faction.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Dread Pageant
The glam rock band from hell.

The Dread Pageant models all fitted together very smoothly with minimal cleanup required. The plastic they are made from is a dark, smoky purple which is very evocative of Slaanesh. Couple this with the silhouttes of these fighters and there is absolutely no mistaking which god these killers are aligned to.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Vasillac the Gifted
Stockings are a common feature on Slaaneshi models. Often – horrifngly – clipped into their flesh.

This use of historical influences from our world is something we’ve seen Games Workshop use to great effect of late to further entrentch the individual identities of the varius followers of Chaos beyond simple colour schemes. The Maggotkin of Nurgle look like bloated, leperous crusaders; followers of Slaanesh have a strong Persian influence.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Glisette
Glisette! The best a man can get!

Cleverly, The Dread Pageant features some names that sounds equal parts exotic and vulgar. Glisette, Vasillac, Slakeslash… Suffice to say, The Dread Pageant ably demonstrates that Games Workshop really know what they’re doing with Slaanesh right now. It’s got me quite excited for where the story of the Mortal Realms is heading.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Slakeslash
Slakeslash AKA Sex Cow

Continuing the recent trend with many of the push fit models GW has produced, The Dread Pageant all come with sculpted bases that resemble some sort of ruin partially submerged below sand dune.

Slaanesh isn’t really my cup of tea as far as miniatures go (or gods, for that matter), but the Lord of Unspeakable pleasures has always had a suitably fanatical following. Fans of the Dark Prince will be delighted with these models – especially since we now know that they are a taste of what is to come.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Myari’s Purifiers

The good guys in this box – Myari’s Purifiers – belong to the Lumineth Realmlords faction. This was the new Aelf faction that was revealed at the beginning of the year and had its release schedule blown to smithereens by the lockdown. Our very own Bosshammer even managed to get a hold of one of the fancy boxed sets and wrote about it here.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Realmlords Sprue
The Purifiers are an ivory-white colour to represent their… well, purity.

The Lumineth Realmlords are the darlings of Lord of Light, Teclis. In the World That Was (the Old World) Teclis was not the god he is now, but a regular, all-powerful elven archmage. Because of this, the Realmlords of the Age of Sigmar harken back to the High Elves from Warhammer Fantasy in many respects. The nostalgia is strong with these ones.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Myaris Purifiers
They have strong D&D adventuring party vibes, these guys.

I can recall a few times where GW have revealed a new model and I’ve thought “looks alright”, only to be blown away by how incredible said model actually is when you are able to see it “in person”. The Fyreslayer Battlesmith was a model that came to mind for me when writing this, and Myari’s Purifiers are very firmly in this category, too.

Perfectly balanced – as all things should be.

I remember reading in a White Dwarf some years back that a design philosophy applied throughout the old High Elf range was that symetry is often used to symbolise their spiritual balance. (Conversely, Chaos – and many Dark Elf – miniatures are very asymetrical to convey their spiritual discord.)

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Ailenn
You have my sword.

This design ethos is consistent throughout Myari’s Purifiers but has been taken a step further. They are all delicately balanced in a rocky, mountainous landscape. The motion of the wind is visible through their robes, hair and the rustling grass.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Senaela
And you have my bow.

Myari’s Purifiers are far and away the stars of this show as far as the miniatures go. Each and every one of them is incredible to look at, and pictures just don’t do them justice. I keep taking them out just to look at them.

Bahannar AKA Justice Cow

I was a bit skeptical about push-fit aelves given the rough time I’d had with the Khainte Shadowstalkers in our recent Warcry Catacombs Review, but I have to say that they were surprisingly robust and fairly straight forward to assemble. A bit of filling may be required here and there, but cleanup was fairly minimal, too.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Wargear

As Warhammer Underworlds overlaps into board game territory, it comes with a lot of components for a Warhammer game. Most crucially – and most abundantly – of these being…

Tokens for days.

Tokens!

These haven’t changed very much over the years. Wound counters have been made double-sided so that players can use them to keep track of some of the unique quirks and traits for specific warbands. The Primacy token is also a new addition, and the Feature Tokens all have new art for the new season.

The card stock the tokens are made from is decent, though the Feature Tokens have a matte finish that will probably mean they age much better. The smaller tokens have a tendency to fray a bit after a bit of handling so you may want to consider some token protectors if you intend to play the game a lot.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Board 1
Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review - Board 2

Direchasm comes with 2 folding hex-grid boards, which has been the standard loadout for these boxes since Warhammer Underworld’s inception. The quality of these boards is excellent; they’re hard-wearing, the look great and the fold down to a very practical, compact size. Just more of the same good stuff here.

Bosshammer loves an artsy dice shot.

Eleven chonky dice are also included; 5 Attack Dice, 3 Defence Dice, and (since Warhammer Underworlds Nightvault) 3 Magic Dice. They’re all clearly marked and have different colours so there’s no confusing one type of dice with the other. Most importantly, they’re nice and chonky for better rolling.

Literally everything you need to play the game is inside this box, which is great. The components are all of decent to good quality, too, which is also great. Do you know what’s not great?

THE (Real) DIRECHASM!

Having to chuck all of your stuff into a massive trench when you’re not using it. And then having to store the box containing the massive trench vertically on a Kallax.

I have absolutely no idea why they didn’t chuck a few plastic bags in for at least the smaller tokens and cards to be stored in. They did it for Warcry Catacombs which only came out last month.

My friend (and Unlucky Frog Gaming co-host) Josh – who is in our bubble, by the way! – came over so he could play through a few games with me for the review. We both remarked that it’s a bit strange that GW clearly wants to be a contender in the board game market with a title like this but doesn’t quite seem to be keeping up with the expectation of said market.

It is not uncommon, now that board games have matured considerably as a medium, for a game to be judged – for better or worse – on how well it can be stored. And for good reason! Many games now go to considerable lengths to engineer suitable storage for their components into their boxes. The mighty Wingspan immediately springs to mind.

Though keep an eye on Feldherr’s offerings as it won’t be long before a dedicated foam tray is available specifically for this box and the included warbands.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Cards

I will preface this section of the review by saying that this is very much a product review. Having been absent from the scene since Nightvault, I’m not really in a position to give insight into how to fine-tune your Warband.

Can You Roll A Crit? is an excellent resource for Warhammer Underworlds, however, and the lad that runs the site is also heavy sound. Okay? Okay.

When Plastic Crack and Cardboard Crack combine…

Direchasm comes with 3 decks in total. That’s 105 cards all in if you include the Primacy card. Of these 3 decks packed in the box, 2 are premade decks for each of the 2 warbands. Again, this is something unchanged in these box sests since Underworlds. You don’t need to worry about building a deck – just dive right in and play.

I remember that the quality and colour of the card stock back during the Shadespire season varied wildly in quality, and a lot of comparison images were doing the rounds on social media at the time. There were even a few instances where I saw cards that were slightly different sizes. Rest assured that none of those problems exist here.

Some of my personal favourites. Note the freaky skin mask and the soaring duardin.

Overall, the artwork is far better on all of the cards than I remember it being from my stint in Shadespire. Some new keywords and restrictions of the use and inclusion of certains cards that were introduced in Beastgrave have carried over. There was a lot of nonsense you could previously pull off with certain deck builds that has now been knocked on the head.

Annoyingly, the game uses a lot of cards that feature context-sensitive keywords which are not featured in the Glossary in the rulebook. The only explanation offered is under the entry “Keyword.” It’s a small issue, really, but an index of these context-sensitive keywords would probably be helpful.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Books

Another trend that continues on from Shadespire – and has since been adopted in most other GW boxed sets – is the inclusion of both the Rulebook, and a “Start Here” book.

The rulebook cover is nightmare fuel.

An approach with obvious merit for the neophytes, it is nevertheless useful for players of all levels. First of all, the list of contents allows you to check that everything that should be there is included in your box. (As a note if ever anything is missing from a GW product that you purchase, their customer service is exceptional. Get in touch and they’ll sort you out.)

Turn the page and you’ll find that the approach that we have lauded much praise upon GW for in many of our recent reviews of their boxed sets has been rolled out to the Direchasm, with everything laid out in the sequence that somebody opening the box for the first time would require.

Clear and concise instructions – that’s what we all like to see.

“Start Here” begins, naturally, with the Assembly Guide, even going so far as to ensure that the instructions for The Dread Pageant are listed first. (Tip: they are the easier to build of the two warbands.)

What follows from there is a tutorial that walks players through the basics of the game – moving, taking attacks actions, charging, etc. Some very helpful diagrams are also included.

Curiously, nothing in the tutorial explains the use of the various types of cards (other than Fighter Cards) in the game. Deckbuilding is understandably left for the main Rulebook, but since the cards are so central to the game it seems logical that they would feature a tutorial. Even if it instructed you to use specific cards it would be better than nothing.

Who doesn’t love a good flow chart?

The Rulebook is well laid out with a Glossary of terms and a Reference guide, which includes a very useful Combat Sequence flow chart, at the back.

There is a bit of fluff about the various warbands and the motivations to give the game some context, and there is some of the cool artwork we’ve come to expect, but given the nature of Underworlds there isn’t as much as in other publications.

My one criticism of the Rulebook is that given it’s inevitably going to be handled a lot, taken in and out of backpacks and dragged along to organised play events, it could do with having a more durable cover. Just a bit of lamination would have been good.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Playing the Game

For those uninitiated in what Underworlds is, you are essentially in charge of a band of warriors and your objective is to obtain the most Glory. How you obtain Glory is by completing objectives. kill an enemy, finish a round with a model in X position, use certain power a certain way. These are all determined by your (somewhat faction-specific) card deck and what you draw in any given game.

In the most part, your opponent won’t directly know what your objectives are, though more season players who know the cards could often take a solid guess.

In each game, You have 3 rounds of play. Within which you can perform certain actions like moving, attacking and using powers. As you achieve your goals you win Glory which you can spend on upgrades for your units.

The player with the most glory at the end of the third round wins the game.

I am in the very unusual, and very fortunate, a position that I have 2 people I can still play games with in person during lockdown. As such, I was actually able to play a few games of Direchasm before writing this review.

Death of a Slakeslash

Josh – edgelord that he is – wanted to play as The Dread Pageant. I was okay with this given that I wanted to play as the Realmlords. (I’ll take the chap with the massive hammer, please.)

The Dread Pageant have a really interesting playstyle that centres around essentially sharing their pain. Both Vasillac and Slakeslash have an innate ability that states that at the end of their activation they must either heal 1 of their lost wounds of inflict 1 wound on themselves.

Yikes!

It may seem strange but it also feels very thematic. A lot of their upgrades and ploys make them better when they’ve taken a bit of pain, too, so playing them is this strange balancing act of sharing out the pain without pushing it too far. It’s a really neat mechanic that results in some really nasty combinations. And Slakeslash is just terrifying in general.

Warhammer Underworlds: The Thinking Man’s Game

Myari’s Purifiers are probably the most unusual warband I’ve used so far in Warhammer Underworlds. We both remarked that it almost felt akin to play as a D&D adventuring party as the loadouts and incentives for each fighter are all so very different. Also, they just look like an adventuring party (they even have wee backpacks!).

The Aelves centre around the use of aetherquartz. Each gets 1 counter at the start of the game which they can expend at any time to reroll one of their dice. However, many of their ploys and items also interact with this so it’s not quite as simple as burning it when you need a reroll.

Their inspire condition (roll all successes on an attack, defence or casting roll) also feels very thematic. It feeds into this idea of aelves being in this incessant pursuit of perfection, which is also what makes them susceptible to the predations of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Direchasm definitely feels far more flavourful than I remember Underworlds being.

Warhammer-Underworlds-Direchasm-Review-WhiffWarhammer-Underworlds-Direchasm-Review-1-Like

Our wee series ended 2-1 to Myari’s Purifiers, despite Josh insisting he “won” the tutorial. In the first game I wasn’t really able to get my warband going at all and Josh played the objectives really well. The next couple of games, however, were devastating for The Dread Pageant.

During the second game, Josh was in a tough spot having lost Slakeslash early on. He had given Hadzu an upgrade called “Cruel Volley” which allows the fighter to essentially make 2 attack actions for the price of one. Taking aim at Seleana, Josh rolled 3 fails for the attack roll.

“Good thing I can attack twice!” he remarked hopefully.

*Rolls 3 fails again.*

It was awful luck but the two of us laughed so hard at it. He did concede that game not long after that, but moments like that really make games memorable. And it’s the joy attached to those memories that keep us coming back to these games. It’s been 2 years, but man was it fun to get back to Underworlds again.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Price and Availability

At £50/$75/65EUR, Direchasm feels fairly priced. It’s not exactly a steal, and as I mentioned a couple of times earlier in this review, it does feel that they maybe cheaped out a wee bit in a couple of places (no plastic bags).

Most independent retailers will probably offer some sort of discount on RRP ranging anywhere between 10-25% off, so remember to check with your local.

Given that the rules for organised play seem to be stating that the most recent 2 years’ worth of expansions are to be used – with older cards cycling out – it’s probably a safe bet that Direchasm is going to be readily available until at least November 2022. This certainly isn’t a “grab it while you can” type release like Indomitus was.

Warhammer Underworlds Direchasm Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
Best Underworlds Warbands so far
Everything you need to play
Is still an excellent game
Fairly easy-to-build models
Provides a gentle way into the hobby
That trench!
Requires a bit of commitment to keep playing
The game can be intense
Tutorial could use fleshing out

Warhammer Underworlds was a masterpiece of game design when it released and the fact that so little has changed with Direchasm is further testament to that.

However, the market has changed quite a bit since 2017 and it feels like GW are falling a little behind the curve with how Direchasm is presented – particularly compared to the wider board game market.

Having your players sling their components – especially with the volume of components a game like Underworlds comes with – feels a bit lazy. And whilst the 2-page tutorial might have been good enough for 2017, tutorials in other games have really stepped it up.

A lot of this has been to do with making games as accessible as possible. So, whilst a bigger outlay is often required by the company, being able to sell your game to more people ultimately yields greater reward. So why wouldn’t you develop a more comprehensive tutorial for your game?

All the being said, Warhammer Underworlds is a brilliant game with real tactical depth and Direchasm offers up a really interesting package with two thematic warbands with some really interesting mechanics to them.

A lot of competition-centric games have come and gone in the last 3 years, but Underworlds maintains a strong following. With games like Magic and X-Wing stalling (pandemic notwithstanding), if GW plays their cards right, things could be promising for Underworlds and its Direchasm season.

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  • FauxHammer's dwarf/duardin enthusiast (every group has one, right?). Benjamin Porter lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife, baby son, a cat that thinks it's a god, and a hyperactive tortoise. He enjoys painting and collects just about every sort of miniature. But mostly Fyreslayers, Stormcast Eternals and Ancient Greeks.

About Oberael 8 Articles
FauxHammer's dwarf/duardin enthusiast (every group has one, right?). Benjamin Porter lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife, baby son, a cat that thinks it's a god, and a hyperactive tortoise. He enjoys painting and collects just about every sort of miniature. But mostly Fyreslayers, Stormcast Eternals and Ancient Greeks.

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