Today we’re going to talk about Bladeborn battles which I honestly think is the best way to start playing Warcry and if you’re a Warcry veteran, it’s a fun variant for some super quick games. If you’re not familiar, Underworlds warbands are called Bladeborn Fighters when you play them in Warcry. These are fantastic looking miniatures and have a lot of character. You might already have some if you’re a fan of Warhammer Underworlds and if you aren’t they’re not particularly expensive to pick up and personally I think they’re some of the most flavourful miniatures GW currently makes.
Bladeborn battles are not new, we’ve actually had them since 2022 when they first appeared in the June edition of White Dwarf, but they’re once again in the spot light as we’ve recently heard of an upcoming product called Crypt of Blood. This box has the Crimson Court and Xandire’s Truthseekers facing off in a Warcry battle. Both these warbands are only around 500 points, so it’s half the size of a normal warband. Enough to get a taste. The box comes with some scenery, a paper mat, tokens, and what look like some basic rules. This is a really neat box, and I’m very much looking forward to it, but we don’t have to wait, with just a little prep you can play today.
The first thing we need are the rules. Games Workshop have done a fantastic job in making Warcry accessible by having the rules available on their site in pdf. In addition to the basic rules, you also get the fighter profiles and warband abilities in the faction downloads. There are still a few things missing, so down the line it might be worth your time picking up additional books. The rulebook does not have the full narrative rules, so if you want to play a campaign rather than just a few pick up games then you’ll want to get that. The rules for the fighters are the complete list from the compendium, but do not have rules for any of the more recent warbands or what we’re going to be looking at today, the Underworlds warbands.
Next we need to pick two underworlds warbands. Maybe you have some already or you might be planning to pick some up. Typically these warbands only stay in stock for a while, but on occasion you can also find them in the Age of Sigmar section without the cards. The rules for Underworlds warband rules are pretty scattered, they’re mainly in the Tome of Champions 2021 with a few appearing in White Dwarfs since. A much easier way is to look for one of my videos or on the Optimal Game State website where I talk about those warbands and make your own cards on the Warcry Card Creator linked in the description. You do need to make cards for each of your fighters and also ability cards. There are 3 ability cards I would suggest making, one for the universal abilities which can be found in the rulebook, a second for the abilities your warband belongs to from the compendium, and a last one with the abilities unique to your bladeborn fighters.
So now you should have two warbands, the rules you need, and some cards put together. What else do you need? First you need some dice. Each player will be rolling six d6 during their hero phase and keeping them for the turn to use as abilities. You’ll also be rolling dice when your fighters attack, which can be as many as 6 dice. So a total of 18 d6, each player gets 6 dice for hero dice and the remaining 6 get used for attacks. You will need a measuring device of some sort, a measuring tape is great, but even a simple ruler from school is perfect.
You also need some tokens. The key tokens used here are for damage and activations. When a fighter receives damage, you place a damage token beside them or on their card. These tokens have values on them, 1, 3, 5, and 10. There are lots of different options to track damage, so find one that works for you.
The other main token is the activation token. After a fighter has taken it’s two actions you put a marker beside them, or on their card, so you know they can’t act again. Then at the end of the turn you scoop them all up ready for the next turn. It’s also possible to spend individual actions, either as a reaction or by taking the wait action, for that you’ll need a token indicating that one of the two actions have been taken. It’s handy if you can reverse between the two types. Some battles will also have objectives or treasure tokens to fight over. I play lots of different games so I have tons of tokens, but in case you don’t, I’ve got a pdf linked in the description that you can print and use.
The last thing we need to consider is the battle board, where you’re going to play. If you already have some scenery, then you get to use that. If you have zero scenery, that’s fine too. We don’t have to worry about firing lines and such as much. Terrain certainly makes the game more interesting, but you can have a fun game without it. The warcry board is 22 inches by 30 inches, which is a perfect size for a coffee table. In the Crypt of Blood box you’ll get a paper board. The big boxes of Warcry have cardboard versions which are a little nicer. Don’t worry if you don’t have either.
Once we get to starting a game, we’ll have some battle plan maps. These assume you have a board so they show distances from the edge of the board, that way it’s easy to measure. If you do not have a board and your table doesn’t happen to magically be the perfect size, you can take two approaches. The first is to mark out the board edges with something, maybe masking tape or books in the right place. Alternatively, just mark out the centre and do all your measurements from there, the long edge is 30 inches, so if we knew we were supposed to place a model 6 inches from the edge of the short edge, we know the board edge is 15 inches from the centre so we place the model 9 inches from the centre.
At this stage, we have everything we need to actually play a game. Depending on the warbands you have, you might find one has more points than the other. If you can, see if the larger warband can lose a fighter or two to bring the totals closer, but don’t worry about getting them exactly the same. The focus should be getting your fighters on the table and getting some games in.
Once you have your warbands, set up the table. If you have scenery, have fun and make an interesting looking battlefield. You don’t have to worry about keeping sides fair, because Warcry deployment gets you straight into the fight.
There are two battle plans in the rulebook pdf, a battle plan has a victory condition and the deployment rules. I would suggest not using those battle plans, and instead using one of the three that will appear while I’m chatting. These are the battle plans that appeared in White Dwarf 477
A very fun aspect of Warcry is it starts you into the action straight away. For most wargames, you have a turn or two at the start where everyone just moves into position. In Warcry, you split your warband into 3 groups as even as possible, a Hammer, Shield, and Dagger group. Then the deployment tells you where they start the game. Rather than just being on the board edge, this can mean they start right in the middle of things. The deployments for these battle plans are a little more aggressive than normal, placing enemy fighters much closer than normal so you can skip straight to the action.
As you split your warband into the three groups before deciding on the battle plan, you don’t get to place everything in the perfect position. What you can do, is look at all the possible options, in this case the 3 battle plans we’re looking at, and see if you can find a pattern. Looking over these I would recommend having the Shield as your best warband as they often start near the centre. The Beset battleplan focuses on killing the Shield and Dagger, so I’d suggest having your next toughest group in the Dagger.
Usually battle plans will have some units come in turn 2, or even sometimes turn 3. This is actually pretty smart as reduces the time needed for the first turn. Later on in the game fighters will die and will get removed, so they will be naturally quicker. In bladeborn battles however, we only have a few models, so for these battle plans every model starts the game on the table. Each of these three battleplans have a different victory condition, one is about controlling objectives, another about killing models, and the final is about carrying treasure. So you have a good amount of variety. Games should be fast, so if you end up in a bad position where you don’t think you can win, just play to have fun and soon enough you’ll be on to the next game.
Bladeborn battles in my opinion is the best way to get started with Warcry, but there is another cheap way to get some models onto the table. The Warrior Start set for Age of Sigmar is one of the cheapest entry points into the Age of Sigmar, and that’s also true for Warcry. It’s pretty cheap by Games Workshop standards as it’s a gateway product. For Warcry it gets you two full warbands for the Stormcast Thunderstrike and the Kruleboyz. The stormcast come to 915 points while the Kruleboyz come to 1055 points. If the Stormbringer magazine collection is available in you region, this is another way to get the same fighters.
The reason I don’t recommend this box is because you’re locked into these two warbands. You can use the heroes in other warbands within the same grand alliance, so Order for the Stormcast and Destruction for the Kruleboyz, but you can’t use the normal fighters.
While the bladeborn warbands are also in their own warcry warband, as an example the Crimson Court are part of the Soulblight Gravelords and Xandire’s Truthseekers are part of the Thunderstrike Stormcast. There is a special rule for the bladeborn warbands, and if you take the leader of the bladeborn warband as an ally then you can take any or all of the rest of the bladeborn warband as normal fighters. This means, you can use all your fighters in any warband in the same grand alliance. So you can use all 4 of the Crimson Court in any Death warband and all 4 of Xandire’s Truthseekers in any Order warband. You can also combine Bladeborn warbands, so if you have the Sons of Velmorn you can combine those with the Crimson Court to make a full 1000 point warband.
Warcry is a really fantastic game. It’s quick to play, has a ton of strategic depth, and makes for a great narrative experience. The Underworlds warbands are beautiful models and make for great hobby projects. If you’re a new player, give it a shot, and if you’re an experienced player maybe you can set up a demo to introduce one of your friends.
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