Warcry: Heart of Ghur – Review

Lately, it certainly feels like I’ve been hopping from one end of the spectrum to another. After playing a metric tonne of the latest edition of Horus Heresy, I find myself diving into my beloved Warcry. I’m swapping 50+ miniatures of super soldiers from the far future for a mere handful from the Mortal Realms. With Warcry: Heart of Ghur, we’re in for more of the same wild and wonderful skirmish-based combat. Does the Realm of Beasts roar into action? Or does it pitter-patter in quietly more of a sad purr?

Landing 3 years ago as a skirmish game set within the Mortal Realms of Age of Sigmar, Warcry pits warbands of fighters against each other in fast and frenetic brutal combat. With rules that focus on quick, almost throw-away game setup, it promotes everything I enjoy in skirmish games. Being able to play three games in an hour means that, even if you do get a crappy mission for your warband, there’s every chance that the next one will swing far more in your favour.

Admittedly, the few and far between grievances begin here. Whereas in the first edition box you got your Victory, Twist, Deployment and Battle Map cards in sleeves/boxes to keep them together, no such sleeves/boxes exist in the Heart of Ghur box. This is a minor issue, but feels like a very blatant misstep in a game where the cards are crucial and so keeping them together and in good condition should have been at the forefront when considering how these were packaged/prepared.

Roaring Into battle

Warcry: Heart of Ghur is peddled as the second edition of Warcry. The major changes introduced enrich the Warcry experience, though there are not a great many changes at all. The first of these updates comes in the form of Reactions.

In Warcry, each fighter has two actions they can use when activated. Reactions come as a half-way action that can be used during your opponent’s turn. Counter, for instance, is a Reaction that means each time an enemy attempts to attack your fighter in melee, any misses could potentially inflict damage back onto them. There is a price to this, however. A fighter that uses a Reaction must spend an action from their own activation to do so. Thus, if your fighter was previously activated this battle round, then they cannot use Reactions.

Strike Them Down is another great Reaction. When a visible enemy fighter within 1″ of one of your fighters attempts to Disengage, you roll a dice. On a 4+ the disengaging fighter suffers D6 damage. This is a great way to make your opponent second guess whether it’s worth trying to dart out of combat for an objective mid-way through the game.

In what I’ve played, I thought Reactions would speed gameplay up even more, which would be impressive unto itself. However, it actually seemed to slow the game down a little, but not as a detriment to the overall experience. It meant that opponents of the active player needed to pay attention to enemy activations, with the active player considering what reactions could prove bothersome if they didn’t put more caution into their plans.

Setting Up Camp

Another big change takes place in the campaigns. In the previous edition, you’d have to play around 10 games and play through certain missions to enact narrative progression for your warband. These were fun but soon became stale in the community as they would all eventually be played to death.

The new campaign system in Warcry: Heart of Ghur is a more free-form affair. However, what’s very cool is the matter of Encampments! As your warband explores deeper into the brutal Gnarlwood, they can find new areas to setup Encampments from which they can store their treasures and attain bonuses for their campaign battles.

For instance, if you manage to set up camp in the Stranglegrove Swamp, then you get a higher point allowance for your army in battles but can also send fighters out to look for artefacts. Naturally, the swamp is a dangerous place and so they might end up returning with injuries instead. However, you don’t simply plonk yourself into an Encampment and spend the rest of the campaign there, it’s nowhere near that static.

Once you have your Encampment set up in a new area, it is secure and you get all bonuses that provided. However, after each bqttle you must roll two dice. Each result of a 1 will shift your Encampment status from Secured to Threatened or from Threatened to Compromised. This means that if you just get a new Encampment and roll double 1, then it is Compromised! A Compromised Encampent reduces your points limits for battles staged whilst based there but also offers no bonus. Thus, it’s in your interest to relocate as swiftly as possible.

Stay Out Of The Long Grass

I’m happy to see these new elements introduced to the campaign system as it provides plenty of chances for player-driven narrative shenanigans. Your warband frantically hopping from one Encampment to the next in the hopes you get the bonus you seek, whilst also hoping you’re not forced out of it too quickly.

Now feels like a good time to move onto the talent of the show – the warbands! Within Warcry: Heart of Ghur you receive two warbands. The iron-clad and destructive Horns of Hashut versus the swampy, plague-encrusted Rotmire Creed. Both warbands are visually distinct and contrast nicely. The armoured and imposing Horns of Hashut with grand, bull-motif helmets must try to keep up with the ragged, stilt-walking Rotmire Creed.

Both warbands look fantastic and play very differently. The Rotmire Creed feel more like a specialist/utility warband whereas the Hashut fighters are there to punch things and blow stuff up. The Horns of Hashut universal Double ability allows them to achieve a critical hit with a 5+ on any enemy already suffering five wounds or more. Whereas the Rotmire Creed have Gruesome Harvest, a Double ability used after an enemy is killed in melee. The Rotmire fighter using this ability acquires a “Potent Vial” which allows them to treat any ability dice values used by them as a six!

These and the other abilities help the warbands to feel different in how they play. The Rotmire Creed can make use of barbed nets and blowdarts. Whereas the Horns of Hashut can make use of ash bombs and devastating charges.

“The Jungle, It Came Alive and Took Him!”

However, the headliner of this box isn’t the warbands for me, it is the absolutely stellar terrain! The Warcry: Heart of Ghur terrain is as harrowing as it is inspiring. Trees with branches ending in curved claws, bamboo walkways hooked onto skulls of mighty beasts long-slain and consumed by the land. It all just looks so perfect on the art sleeve of a heavy metal/progressive rock album – and I couldn’t be happier.

The Watchtower features a gigantic beast skull, hosting a horn that can be used via an ability to bring fighters from reserves right onto the battlefield. The Rope Bridges are possibly my favourite for their simplicity. They simply hook onto the other main bits of terrain. However, using abilities, the rope bridges can be cut – spelling bad news for any fighter still striding across them when this happens.

Between the giant bestial trees housing rickety platforms, rib-cages turned barricades and ancient debris of Talaxis, a crashed Seraphon void ship that is pivotal to power and glory within the Gnarlwood – I cannot get over the splendour of this terrain. Setup on the table in full, it looks nothing short of spectacular.

However, a word of warning. The terrain in the box is aptly quite monstrous to build. Where the original Warcry terrain can be built (and painted) in barely any time at all due to the simple but effective design, the Gnarlwood is an entirely different beast. Between the mould lines running the branches of each tree, or trying to get parts of the bestial skulls to fit together properly, this box requires appropriate attention when building. I would strongly advise against this box being picked up by a fresh-faced, younger hobbyist as I fear it would prove quite overwhelming.

The Beating Heart of Ghur

In addition, whilst you could (just about) fit all the original terrain in the original box for Warcry – there’s no such hope for Heart of Ghur. The Gnarloaks provided as the terrain are fairly troublesome where storage is concerned. The branches are quite sturdy so breakage shouldn’t be an issue if you’re careful – I’d hope.

The two warbands and terrain all get their rules via an additional book in the Warcry: Heart of Ghur box aptly named – Rot and Ruin. This Warband Tome feels very reminiscent of the books provided in the recent Kill Team releases. It makes sense to see Warcry receive a similar style of release schedule, with each quarter getting a new box with new warbands, terrain and rules. Where Kill Team for one reason or another hasn’t scratched the itch for me as of late, I find myself blissfully daydreaming about what the next Warcry release could bring.

Where Warcry: Heart of Ghur doesn’t reinvent the wheel of the system, it does simply tweak and adjust what we had to provide a better experience. I, for one, couldn’t be happier about this. Warcry is a magnificent system that takes up minimal table space. I recently went travelling and brought Warcry with me, with my opponent and I able to enjoy a myriad of games on a modest coffee table.

Heart of Ghur maintains the above, even if the verticality of the terrain presents an issue with storage. The new terrain is bursting with thematic character and looks nothing short of stellar when all painted and set up. The Rotmire Creed and Horns of Hashut warbands also look fantastic sprinting over the rope bridges and jumping from the Gnarloak platforms as you play. Rules for all existing warbands are not available in the box but are coming via a Compendium – more on that to come.

Changes in Warcry: Heart of Ghur feel very safe and in no way strip the game of its identity – which is very important to me as a big fan of the system. Whilst the rules updates make it feel more like a 1.5 rather than a 2.0, I’m thrilled to see what else is yet to come. Between these quarterly releases of new warbands and terrain, as well as rules releasing for existing warbands, Warcry: Heart of Ghur lands with a deafening bellow and instigates a petrifying call to arms – one that I am happy to answer!

This article was originally published on The Unrelenting Brush.

Note – Warcry: Heart of Ghur was supplied by Games Workshop for the purposes of this content.

A Farewell to Arms…

Finally, this will be my final written piece for Tabletop Games UK. Thank you very much to the team for the opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy and utilise. Thanks to the readers for your patience in reading my mad ramblings. Thanks to you particularly, fair reader, for getting this far in a near-2000-word piece!

May your rolls be forever in your favour and your bristles ever at a fine point.

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