It is surely no secret that I am a man who typically prefers his tabletop games to be smaller in scale. Granted, I’ve been eager to dig more time into Warhamemr 40,000 Apocalypse, but nothing scratches the itch better for me than small warbands going toe-to-toe. I’d far sooner play four smaller games in an afternoon than a single large game. Warcry looks to give a Kill Team spin within the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar. Is it a carbon copy and overly-familiar system? Or does it try to do something fresh and, if so, does it do it well?
Setting the Scene
Warcry puts an intense spotlight on the Eightpoints, where Chaos has taken an oppressive grip on the land. Under the shadow of the Varanspire warbands clash and battle to prove their worth to Archaon, the Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse. Here, these warbands collide in order to garner Archaon’s attention and to join him in battle.
Nobody will be surprised by the setting being so grimdark. The game puts a clear emphasis on Chaos as a faction which could segment its appeal to gamers of other factions within Age of Sigmar. However, there is a slither of support for other factions and some of their existing models. This aside, everything else in the Warcry Starter Set is brand new.
Brand new models, brand new rules, brand new scenery, nothing in this box feels like a replica of anything Games Workshop have released before. At best, the terrain is quite similar to the Azyrite Ruins, however, it features more impressive modular options and variety when complemented by the Chaos bits that accompany.
The warband miniatures in Warcry are indisputably stellar. Each sculpt is brand new and exudes personality. The Iron Golems are staunch, hulking masses of armour and muscle where the Untamed Beasts are wild and savage barbarians. The fighters themselves proved a little troublesome to put together in a handful of instances due to some particularly small and fiddly bits. Be sure to deploy some care when assembling them to avoid some accidental damage.
These brutal practitioners of vicious combat are joined by plenty of equally fatal terrain pieces. Reminiscent Azyrite Ruins are lined by dangerous, saw-toothed barricades and ram-shackled walkways. Combining all of these bits together on top of the included board helps to paint a spectacularly evocative picture. It’s one of the best representations of the darker side of Age of Sigmar I’ve ever seen on the tabletop. Once all painted and mid-game, it is an undeniably stunning set-up that brings a strong sense of immersion.
Looking good isn’t enough to justify the price point for everyone, though. Even though it’s very difficult to dispute that value of the box. However, as a game, how does it perform? One of the major concerns I had was that Warcry would be a diluted offering of Age of Sigmar’s core gameplay. I was very worried that there’d be little new in the game when it came to how it would play. After playing the game, I’m happy to say that the game itself features an almost entirely bespoke rule set.
Brutal and Bloody Battles
Playing the game will quickly instil the sense of visceral and fast-paced combat that is promised. You’ll find in most cases that fighters will be getting their heads caved-in before the end of the first turn. It fits the setting and the game leaves little room to find yourself bored . You’ll rarely be sat waiting long for your opponent to finish their actions. The various elements of the game include a strangely-named but crucial Hero Phase. At this point the dice will determine your order of priority as well as the chance to bank powerful abilities. The way dice are chosen and discarded echo faintly of the Destiny Dice from the latest versions of Warhammer Quest.
Combat in Warcry is surprisingly simple. It borrows a watered-down version of Strength versus Toughness disputes from Warhammer 40,000 when fighters go head-to-head. With the warbands in the box and their abilities the violence is incessant and bloody. From what I’ve seen your fighters either hit very hard or hit even harder, there’s nothing less or inbetween. Rolling sixes when trying to damage opponents deals critical damage. This can see even the hardiest fighters brought down in no time at all.
There’s a profoundly robust campaign section in the book, too. Campaigns are a big focus with a throng of options for building a narrative element to your warbands. This gives you a chance to develop a strong sense of personality and attachment to your warband. The rules for developing and evolving your warband feel well-thought-out and refined and would seem to be one of the strongest points of the book.
Runemarked for Glory
The fighter cards for each warband are resplendent in wonderfully-designed runes, markings and artwork. The fighter cards feature no written text on them at all. This adds gravity to the understanding and paying attention of the runemarks on each card. The runemarks designate what abilities fighters can use in place of written explanations.
Unfortunately, the lack of written copy did lead to some initial confusion early-on. Iron Legionaries soon became “little guys with hammers and shields” or the Signifier was dubbed “banner man”. Not having a reference to the fighter types on their cards meant it was a struggle to remember who does what at first. No doubt this would eventually become easier to remember when players become more familiar with their warbands. It’s an interesting approach.
Whilst the combat in the game is simple, remembering everything that takes place in the game is a little difficult to keep up with in your first few games. Thankfully, it does settle in after a handful of games and everything flows quite nicely. Remembering your abilities and ability rolls are crucial. Forgetting these can effectively have you forfeit victory by accident as the available abilities can be immensely powerful. There are a handful of other things that make Warcry feel like a half-step backwards in terms of accessibility.
Where Warhammer Underworlds and the Kill Team Starter Set had coloured plastic for the fighters included, Warcry does not. The lack of coloured plastic for the included warbands feels like an oversight. This is especially true for a game where the focus is getting stuck-in as soon as possible. Should players want to get stuck in sooner than later without wanting to paint everything in the box (and there is an ungodly amount of stuff in the box) then this means players will be playing upon a sea of grey with their models not standing out, blending in together in an indistinguishable cloud of sprue-grey.
Alongside the sometimes needlessly fiddly models and the fact that they are less-than-ideal out of the box, the warbands themselves don’t feel overly distinct. Their characteristics and abilities do differ and the models within each warband certainly warrant mention for their diversity. However, it is difficult to highlight varied play-styles or tactics until the other warbands are released. With only the Iron Golems and Untamed Beasts being currently available, this will hopefully come with time.
Serving Savage Purpose
Regardless, the Warcry box came hurtling out the door, a number of risks being taken in its execution/delivery and the risks have paid off for the most part. An almost entirely new game system and rule set, completely new models and terrain, the box itself is a steal. 29 models across two warbands and wild beasts, a myriad of wonderfully thematic scenery along with all the tokens and rules. It just seems a little odd that they’ve backtracked on things for no discernible reason.
Either way, if you’re looking for rapid and barbarous combat between blood-thirsty warbands in Age of Sigmar, Warcry positively delivers. It might not be the smoothest entry for those new to tabletop games, but what Warcry attempts to do, it succeeds in spades. You can easily spend half a day playing plenty of games of Warcry, each mission different from the last, with spectacular models upon some of the best-looking board and terrain combinations Games Workshop have released to date. You’ll find yourself referring to the rulebook plenty in your first few games, but sooner than later you’ll be spending more time shedding the blood of your enemies than flicking through pages thanks to the simple yet nuanced rules.
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