Warhammer Underworlds – 2023 Starter Set

We are currently in the 8th season of Warhammer Underworlds and Games Workshop released an upgrade on the generic starter set, which is not only available through the usual sales channels but book stores and so on.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

On this blog, we covered the majority of the first three season of Warhammer Underworld (Shadespire, Nightvault and Beastgrave) and you will find in-depth coverage on the starter kits and supplements / warbands. But first of all, let's bring you up to speed.

What is Warhammer Underworlds?

Back in 2017 Games Workshop released the Underworlds series as a tactical miniature board game. A product with a lower entry barrier, much smaller in size and number of miniatures as the regular wargames and even their board games, for example Warhammer Quest: Silvertower. Underworlds is played in an ancient and damned city, between the realms of Light and Shadow, in the new post-Old World Warhammer Setting (with the narrative progressing into further areas of the realms), as an "arena game" using two hex field boards with matches taking around 30-45 minutes. Everything you need for your games is included, with the push fit (means no glue needed) pre-coloured plastic models and you only need a cutter to prepare the game.

In the beginning, with Shadespire, it was about a city cursed by Nagash, and trapped in a limbo between the Realm of Shadows (Ulgu) and the Realm of Light (Hysh). The Mirrored City, how Shadespire is called as well, is the destination for many adventurers and their attempts to escape the eternal curse. There were various factions fighting skirmishes in the ruins, each with their own motivation, may it be the treasures, the bloodshed or simply enforcing Nagash's will. In each season the narrative was developed further, adding and replacing warbands, exploring different regions of the new world of Age of Sigmar.

Each of these seasons came with a new starter set and usually 4 to 6 further warbands to add to the season. Dreadfane isn't listed here, as it was a reduced starter set for season 2, fulfilling the role these generic starter sets now do.

Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Nightvault Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Beastgrave

These introduction games are important for Games Workshop. Wargaming is a niche hobby, even for a multi-million Pound company like Games Workshop. Of course, nowadays with social media like Facebook and YouTube, it is easier to get the word out there. But back in the 1990s, games like Heroquest or Space Hulk, that were sold in regular toy stores and not just fantasy or comic book stores, were for many people their first contact with miniature-based games. But in addition to the longer reach of these miniature board games (in comparison with "real" tabletop wargames), they are closed systems. What does closed system mean in this context? If you play a board game, usually everything you need is included in the box it comes with, there is maybe an expansion or two, but that's it. As with wargames, you have starter sets, additional rule books, you need to assemble the miniatures and paint them, you need space and terrain for game and so on. So, the barrier to enter is much lower for a game like Warhammer Underworlds compared to Age of Sigmar.

This is a product / game that gives newcomers as well as veterans a way to get and keep in touch with their wargaming. For a newcomer it is an easy to manage number of miniatures, so you can see if miniature gaming is for you, without a larger invest on miniatures, paint and terrain. For older gamers, or the ones with less time, a game like this still gives you a miniature-based game, without the trouble of needing large space and longer matches. So, if you don't have that much time on your hand, but still want to participate, this is one way to go. Anyhow, over the duration of the releases, Games Workshop made it quite difficult for people to keep up, the waves became bigger, the cards were not only included with the supplements, but additional card decks and the overall FOMO in addition of "legacy" rule sets for older seasons reduced a lot of the casual aspect of this game.

First Impression

It is an Underworlds starter set, so no surprises here. It comes with the rules, quick start booklet, two double-sided boards, a few dice, two decks of cards and two warbands. What is the difference in the new 2023 starter set compared to the others? It stays pretty much on the narrative of the first season Shadespire, but is more or less a repack of the older 2023 generic set, and just swapped the Stormcast warband for another Stormcast warband.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

They almost have the identic cover, which will probably cause some irritation for buyers. (Left the new cover with Ironsoul's Condemnors, right the older cover with Farstriders).

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

The boards are the same as in the first season starterset of Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

The markers are the same as in the 2023 starter set, and cover everything you need. The 8 dice (5 Attack dice and 3 Defence dice) come without the 3 Magic dice, that the other starter sets since season 2 - Nightvault included. And to keep it in the reduced content, the card decks only cover the Rival setup, where you have pre-sorted fixed card decks, you only need to shuffle, without the deck building aspect of the Nemesis or Relics game mode. This gives this set a limited replayability compared to the full season sets.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

This set comes with two warbands, made from pre-coloured plastic and designed in a way that they don't need glue to be assembled. Games Workshop calls this push-fit. The models are not new, quite the opposite and the undead warband is a repack from the first season supplement Sepulchral Guard, which we covered in depths in their own review, as well as a Stormcast warband, Ironsoul's Condemnors (initially Easy-to-build Sequitors from the Age of Sigmar range, repurposed for a slimmer Underworlds starter called Dreadfane), which replaced the Farstriders from the former "generic" starter set. This means all of the included miniatures are at least 5 years old.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

As for Ironsoul's Condemnors, these are the usual three miniature Stormcast warband, as we've seen them a couple of times within Underworlds, with Steelheart's Champions from Shadespire, Stormsire's Cursebreakers in the Nightvault Starter, the Farstriders, Xandire's Truthseekers (had a 4th animal companion) from Harrowdeep or Domitan’s Stormcoven from the current season of Wyrdhollow. And as these are just the Age of Sigmar sequitors that got rules, I even build these before back in 2018 to convert them into 40k skirmish miniatures. They just came in golden plastic and with decals back then.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

The warband covers three models, all with pre-designed bases and as mentioned above, are push-fit. They are held together by friction of the pin and groove connections. These models are monopose and are built as they come. Yet for Gwynne Ironsoul you have the option to build her either bare headed or with helmet. All three are armed with maces and shields.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

While you can assemble them using the pins, I recommend at least filing down the connectors and using glue to fully close the gaps between parts. I went a bit further and removed the pins completely and glued the models just like regular multi part plastic models.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

The second warband in this box are the Sepulchral Guard. They are a small horde of undead, with some named characters and were initially released as a supplement to season 1 of Underworlds. We've covered in a review on their own.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

Dynamic poses and quick builds. Just be a bit careful, as some of the bones are not as thick and stable until you assemble the parts for further stability.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

I really like the design, yet due to the fact that the undead factions of Age of Sigmar progressed in design since the release, they are not a 100% fit to the Soulblight Gravelords, yet are a proper set of characters in my opinion.

Warhammer Underworlds - 2023 Starterset

How does Warhammer Underworlds play?

We've covered this in the articles on the first three season. There are multiple how-to play videos online, even directly by Games Workshop along with the aspect that the rules are available for free as a download.

Underworlds is a compact and quick game, where you can easily fit in multiple matches on a game night. Each game of Underworlds is only 3 turns, each with an action and end phase, keeping it fast paced and concentrated. Each turn you have four activations that can be used to either move, attack, go into defending stance or to do a special action from his character or upgrade card. Moving is straight forward, you move the miniature as many fields as you like within the movement stat noted on his character card. An attack is similar, you get to role a number of dice, depending on your weapon / equipment and the attacked character defence using his stats / gear. Comparison of hits, damage is dealt and if the damage is higher than the amount of remaining wounds, the character is out. Those actions benefit from upgrades (cards for example that modify your dice results, deal damage to multiple enemies, etc.), so it is important to keep an eye on your deck and the possible synergies that you can activate by achieving the mission goals and gathering glory points. In addition, characters receive bonuses when they are motivated. Each character has different conditions for being motivated, for example being wounded, or a certain number of enemies were slain.

Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Nightvault Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire

From there you can go more into depth of the game, by using the advanced rules, the addition of magic by certain warbands, more complex strategies and so on. Yet, with this starter set and the rival game mode (meaning pre-sorted card decks, that you only shuffle but not build) keeps it more basic.

While the game itself is self-contained within seasons (to a certain degree), it can be played as a board game, but if you want to go for meta or competitive gaming will become more elaborate and difficult to catch up. This was one of the reasons, why I stopped playing the game towards the end of season 3. While the miniatures are well designed and you don't have the blind buying of boosters, you had to buy the entire set each season to have access to all cards and at a certain point that wasn't even enough as you had to get additional decks as well, and beside a cost spiral this moved Underworlds from the compact feel of a board game (which sits neatly in a box on a shelf, while you're not playing) towards a mid-sized wargame, as you had a lot of warbands as well, if you didn't sell them off, in case you just wanted the cards. And this came with all the problematics of stock, as you probably want to keep your game in a single language and not want to mix cards, because the only way to get your hands on set XY was to buy it in Spanish/Italian etc. They changed this in the last two season (Wyrdhollow and Gnarlwood), where the supplement warbands only cover a rival card deck for the warbands itself (reducing the decks from ~60 to around 30 cards, yet raising the prices) and added these cards with individual card decks. With Wyrdhollow there were two of these, Voidcursed Thralls and Paths of Prophecy for 22 EUR each (at 32-33 cards each).

What's next?

It depends a bit where you want to go with this - you can add warbands to this set or go for one of the season starter sets for further boards and the magic dice. The warbands are 34 EURs (they were 22.50 EUR in 2018 - 51% price increase over 5 years) and the starters are 80 EURs (Shadespire was 50 EUR, Beastgrave was 60 EUR, that's a 60% markup since 2017). For some seasons terrain upgrades were available, like the Primal Lair for Beastgrave, but these additions were dropped after a while, and purely cosmetic.

Currently we're waiting for the release of Deathgorge, which was announced on NOVA earlier this year. The current season Wyrdhollow only came with 4 warbands in total (incl. the ones from the starter set), as they reduced these since Harrowdeep.

I highly recommend getting your hands on a Feldherr Inlay, as it provides proper protection for your miniatures. I had these for each of my starter sets, and you can get one for this set as well.

Feldherr - Nightvault Inlay Feldherr - Nightvault Inlay Games Workshop - Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire


If this box makes sense depends a bit on what you're looking for. If you're mostly a board game and want to add this game to your collection or make it a gift for someone you want to introduce to miniature wargaming, this set makes sense. You have two very different warbands, everything you need to play in it, just like in a board game, in the box itself. And with this being a product being mostly distributed by book stores and such, and is likely to be discounted as it was in the past.

Yet, if you want to play Underworlds as a competitive or more invested game, I recommend you skip this set and go for one of the season starter sets. Yes, they are more expensive, but you'll need the magic dice, you want to the different boards and you want to have access to the larger card decks. But be aware, this is far from the other board games, like Blitzbowl, and the buy-in is higher and rapidly moves towards what full size wargames cost. With the exception that painted miniatures and the need for terrain. Depending if you play in a store or at home, this reduces the need for terrain.

I have very mixed feelings about Underworlds. As much as I like the idea of a small sized miniature game, that you can easily play on a casual level and has a very low entry barrier (with Rivals and the push fit miniatures, you could almost get on a Friday Night Magic level of convenience, like showing up, buying a warband and be ready to play within 15 minutes), the product development the game went through is tough. The season starter sets went up from 50 to 80 EURs, that's a 60% increase in 6 years, the warbands went up from 22,50 to 34 EURs, while the included card decks shrunk in size and you had to get additional products in some seasons. Combined with the fact, that they switched from one season per year to a half-year season release. This is simply not skirmish level budget, you would get full sized army projects for that even directly from Games Workshop, and compared to board games this equals a large boxed set.
Yet, the reduction of the card decks meant that since Gnarlwood you wouldn't have to buy all of the warbands to have access to the generic cards, but you would buy certain Rival / game mode decks - and those went up as well from around 12 EUR to 22 EUR. Yet a positive - these are fixed decks, so no blind boosters. You can plan out what you want and what you get. Still a lot of the items from the Underworlds range are subject to very varying availability, with some items being sold out rather quickly, making it difficult for people who join in the seasons later, to catch up on those products, if they don't want to buy scalper prices.

Beyond that, the miniature range for Underworlds is well made and certainly a proper source for warbands for Age of Sigmar Skirmish or the rulesets for smaller conflicts by other companies.

Warhammer Underworlds is a brand by Games Workshop.

The reviewed product item was provided by the manufacturer.

Posted by Dennis B.

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Trackbacks are disabled.