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The Object of Power is Power












The Object of Power is Power

Power Unbound is the latest card-only expansion to Warhammer Underworlds, and it’s fair to say it’s going to make a splash. What shiny trinkets will appeal to the Gitz? Read on!




Power Unbound is an expansion aimed at giving more options to your games of Warhammer Underworlds, Sixty cards in size, it adds a warband specific upgrade, ploy and objective to each of the Nightvault bands and 34 universal cards. Now, before I unpack what the Gitz got for Christmas in July, I need to have a little gripe.

I see Power Unbound as two things: One, a jarring example of power creep, and Two, an opportunity gone begging.  The power creep stuff is obvious. We’ve got score immediately objectives for when you stand on a couple of objective tokens, miss a shot or cast a spell with a critical success; there’s innate hammers; Inspiration objectives and a few others that make you wonder if they were designed by the same team that released Paradox Armour a few short months ago. But that’s pretty much something that every game encounters at some point.

I should also state that I feel that attempting to ‘balance’ the meta through releasing new cards is fraught, and probably should not be the motivating factor influencing design. Obviously, designers need to understand what the interactions and implications will be from the existing game before releasing new cards, but I feel that saying ‘we’ll release Y to answer X’ is a bad road to go down. FAQs and BAR are the more efficient method of balancing the meta. I’m not disappointed that GW didn’t use Power Unbound as a balancing mechanism.

My major beef is that most of the cards included here are just dull utility cards. When I used to play Magic the Gathering, I always ran my eye over any cards that would introduce a new way to win the game, or play differently. Almost invariably, they’d be terrible, but I made a bit of money hording sleeper cards by doing this.  

With Power Unbound, I feel the absence of these type of cards keenly.  The developers have made no attempt to disrupt the standard obective, aggro and defensive archetypes with something new. Given that we've just seen the rapid rise and abrupt fall of Relics 2.0, that's perhaps not a bad thing entirely, but it would have been fun to see some kind of wild jank in there. Instead they printed Upper Hand and a few other cards destined for the restricted list.  

For Gitz I was really hoping for an in-faction Martyred and something to boost aggro-Gitz options. As it happened, I didn’t get my wish for Martyred and I should have been more careful before wishing for Really Pointy Stick (which in my opinion should be titled, “Pointy Stick; Really?” )


Cursebreakers got an innate Hammer, we got....a stick. Thanks. 


Ahem, onto the cards that I do like, or at least I feel warrant attention. Now, you’ll note that I don’t cover off too many of the aggressive options, because I feel that probably needs a separate article.


-Petty Vindication

Goblins getting glory for being petty? Talk about overqualified!

I rate this card quite highly. My current build focuses heavily on tomes, with a few Keys sprinkled in. This means I can (provided I hit Acolyte of The Katophranes, and my avid reader doesn’t die) score quite heavily from ‘outside’ my objectives. Consequently, I place a premium on reliable objectives. I’ll take a sure-fire one glory over a sketchy two every day.  With this in mind, Petty Vindication is a card I like. If I can score any of my score immediately cards, I’m highly likely to score this.

The most obvious comparison to existing cards another favourite of mine, Victory after Victory. The downside of VAV however, is that you need to score at least one objective immediately, as well as the other two objectives in your hand. Consequently, this places a premium on score immediately objectives to make this card work and the Gitz just don’t have enough of these. Petty Vindication drops that threshold considerably.

Another comparison is with Master of War. MoW is probably slightly easier to score, but in reality, they complement each other very well.  I would be looking to play both rather than the question being either/or.

-Chokepoint
Can I get away with saying "Choke Me Daddy"? Let's find out!

I’m 98% sure this card is bad. Definitely high 90’s at least. That said, it intrigues me greatly. If you’re the gambling sort, you’ll look at the upside of being able to score two Glory by placing three fighters on a maximally offset board. (Or two fighters if you deploy longways – Thanks Alex!)
If you’re a gambler who’s prone to introspection, however, you’ll quickly realise that there’s few other warbands that will go for the max offset (or longways) if they win the roll for placing boards, and if they square up, you’ll have basically zero chance to score this objective. Is it worth the risk? Probably not.

A couple of things to consider if you’re crazy enough to shuffle this into your twelve:
  • 1.      Squigs can score this!  In fact, if you can set the board to maximum offset/length-ways, you can score this in a single activation by using Drizgit’s ability.
  • 2.      Blocked hexes reduce the number of fighters you need. Obviously, no board contains half a blocked hex, so this won’t come up organically, but Shardfall exists, and probably should be in your deck if you are playing Chokepoint
  • 3.      Centre of Attention
  • 4.      Shadowed Step
  • 5.      Hidden Paths
-Shortcut 
There are exactly 10 shortcuts to success.

Score immediately cards that require no dice to be rolled are usually at the top of my list, but I’m always wary of an objective that requires a ploy or objective to score. Invariably you’ll take bad hands that include the ‘combo’, or the ploy or objective sit in your hand while you look for the missing piece. Worst of all, there will be times when you choose not to use the ploy at the optimal time because you’re waiting on the objective card. 

Illusory Fighter, Confusion, Hidden Paths, Shadowed Step, Tethered Spirit, Shifting Reflection, Noble Sacrifice, Arcane Transposition, Cunning Duellist and Quick Maneuver can all score you this card, but that’s it.  Where this begins to sting is that two of these ten cards (unsurprisingly, two of the best) are restricted. Confusion is a strong card for Gitz, and Hidden Paths is a staple for basically very warband. But you really need at least Shadowed Step and possibly Illusory Fighter as well. The others are quite weak or are unreliable; and I can’t endorse those cards (Tethered Spirit’s value being dependent on who you’re equipping it to).  Usually, I like my ploy selection to be informed by my objectives or my warbands’ fighter cards.  Unusually then, Shortcut becomes a card that you’ll take based on your ploys. So, before taking it, I would ask myself two questions: 
  • 1   Is it worth diluting your power deck (or spending a restricted slot) for one score immediately glory?
  • 2    Can you use ploys that proc this card to advance your overall strategy by using the ploy, or will you simply use it as a means to an end to score Shortcut?

In my case I feel I can answer those questions in the affirmative. I’m inclined to think the payoff is worth it in this case, provided you make allowances for it in deck-construction:  


-Warning Shot
Can't make it out from the glare? Don't worry, you'll soon see it EVERYWHERE


Now, this one I can be unambiguous on. If you don’t include this in your objective deck, we can’t be friends.  Dibbz, Redcap and Stikkit just got a substantial stock boost. I won’t dwell on this too much, suffice to say that a 2 Sword attack against a 1 Dodge model has a 56% chance to fail, and a 60% chance to fail against a 1 Shield model. These figures shift to 65% and 70% respectively when the enemy has two dice.


Second activation of the game – Living the dream.


Be warned however, I’ve played well over a dozen game with Warning Shot now, and I feel my archers are definitely increasing their accuracy (probably with all the added practice). Having your archer penetrate Thundrik’s defences has never been so frustrating!

For more of an in-depth look at Warning Shot please check out Stephen Vann's Call It Shadespire article http://www.callitshadespire.com/2019/07/cardiology-warning-shot.html
-Two Steps Forward

I really can't think of a funny caption for this one. Answers on a postcard...

I’m always glad to see more push cards in the game, especially one that pushes more than one fighter. Quick Advance is a card that I usually include, and Two Steps Forward is very similar. Obviously, giving your opponent a free Sidestep is bad, and that push occurring after you’ve pushed two fighters is worse, but it is considerably less restrictive then Quick Advance, as you’re able to push Zarbag or use the card if he’s out of action.  A coin-flip between the two.

Hilariously, Two Steps Forward will trigger Mirror Move if you have it.  It's a Push Party!

-Eldritch Ward
Better than Mat Ward

Potion of Constitution is good. Being a wizard is good. Eldritch Ward is good.  The most obvious place for placing Eldritch Ward is on Averon Stormsire’s craggy brow, but I would argue it’s just as important, if not more important, on Zarbag.  Having three health is a bad deal in Underworlds. I’m not going to count how many three damage attacks there are, but there’s A LOT more than there are four damage attacks. Being able to reduce that damage to two is very, very useful.  

The question that must be asked, however, is Eldritch Ward better than Potion of Constitution? As we’ve just discussed, there is tremendous value in reducing damage from 3 to 2 for Zarbag. Once that occurs, however, Zarbag will be on one health, meaning without intervention, he won’t get a second or subsequent benefit from the card.  Unlike Potion of Constitution, Zarbag is the only target for Eldritch Ward, and if he is taken out of action, the card will sit in your hand for the remainder of the round. So, is Zarbag crucial enough to your plans to make Eldritch Ward worth including in your 20? I would argue no; Eldritch Ward.  If you have capacity in your upgrade slots, you could do worse than include both.

 -Quickening Greaves

If that's the worst thing you see under a goblin's robes, you're very lucky indeed

I must confess I haven’t tested this card enough to fully evaluate its potential, but there seems to be something there. Being able to push a fighter before the first activation, or after the last, is a solid ability. There’s no other card, if I recall correctly, that can change the board state between rounds, and a good way to tell a potentially explosive card, to paraphrase Magic:The Gathering Guru Jamie Wakefield, is look for those cards that change the way the game is played. In a subtle way, Quickening Greaves does this. 

On the flip side, this card suffers greatly from diminishing returns. If you can’t get this out til the third action phase, it’s unlikely to affect the game enough to justify its slot. That said, in that worst case scenario, it’s still a free sidestep.

 -Spectral Armour
Acrobatic for everyone but Drizgit. As if his job didn't suck already

It’s Acrobatic, but without the fringe benefit for Drizgit that you were never going to use anyway. Adding another dodge to our already slippery fighters is fantastic, but again, we need to consider how much value other upgrades can provide. Let’s break down the maths with a Steph Vann-style table (a Vann Diagram if you will…)

Odds of successful hit
(Spectral Armour) Dodges
Hammers
1
2
3
4
1
0.36
0.26
0.20
0.15
2
0.59
0.47
0.37
0.29
3
0.74
0.61
0.51
0.42

As you can see the chance to hit decreases by about 7-13% for each defence die after the first.  For most basic 2 hammer attacks, Spectral Armour improves the survivability of an inspired Git by 20% over its two-die chances. Which is substantial, but again, we should consider that in the context of other competing upgrades. The most obvious alternative is to eschew increasing defence for gaining more wounds, eg Great Fortitude or Tome of Vitality. This is the classic dichotomy of High vs Low Variance, with your option being investing in more dice (high variance), or sandbagging so as to survive more hits with sheer durability. At this point I’d like to throw to X-Wing Blogger David Sutcliffe, who has written a brilliant article about variance. If you don’t know anything much about X-Wing, don’t fret, if you get the broad picture idea you’ll be fine 

*Brief musical interlude*

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the variance conversation, perhaps you’ve begun thinking about what your preference is. If you already had a solid understanding of the concept, perhaps you just enjoyed reading that article. Overall, your decision one way or the other will depend on both play style and your local meta. As far as which I would suggest, I’m going to have to give this one to Great Fortitude/Tome. The reason is as follows, yes, +1 wound won’t save you from a rampaging Mollog or an Ammis Scorned, but we’re now in a world with Sorcerous Flourish. Magic damage is going to happen, and gambit spells don’t care how many defence dice you have. Similarly, Great Fortitude/Tome can protect against damaging ploys like Shardgale or Encroaching Shadow. 
For mine, Spectral Armour will find a niche in those decks with dodge statistics, but only one die each. Take a look at those numbers again; adding a second dice to protect against a 2 hammer attack drops the likelihood of dying from nearly two in three to almost one in two, which is not to be sneezed at. Godsworn, Speculchral Guard and Reavers may all find it interesting.

But wait! Another challenger has emerged!


 -Spiritbond
The name's Bond, Spirit Bond. No relation to James.

What a card. What potential. Helpful Whispers eat your heart out. Helpful Whispers not only doesn’t help on defence, it doesn’t work at all if there’s actually someone supporting the upgraded fighter. Spiritbond has neither of those weaknesses, and is (for the moment at least) unrestricted. Spiritbond’s supports are cumulative, so if you have another fighter adjacent, you’ll be in the sweet, rarefied air of the double support, without disrupting your warband’s positioning overly. Delicious.

Odds of successful hit
Dodges with Spiritbond support only
Hammers
1
2
3
4
1
0.31
0.20
0.14
0.10
2
0.54
0.39
0.28
0.21
3
0.70
0.54
0.42
0.33

Wonky tables are wonky. I blame Dibbz. 


Odds of successful hit
(Spectral Armour) Dodges
Hammers
2
3
4

1
0.26
0.20
0.15

2
0.47
0.37
0.29

3
0.61
0.51
0.42


To save you scrolling up, I’ve reproduced the table for Spectral Armour. The distribution is really interesting. For single dodge Gitz, Spectral Armour is substantially better, but once those Gitz inspire, Spiritbond becomes practically as good, but with significant upside on Offense. If you feel so motivated to include two of these upgrades your deck and equip them to the same fighter, Spiritbond becomes appreciably better than stacking Spectral Armour and Acrobatic, even before we discuss the attacking bonuses.

Odds of successful hit (with support figure in brackets)
Dodges
Shields
Hammers
1
2
1
2





2
0.59 (0.72)
0.47
(0.57)
0.54 (0.66)
0.39 (0.48)
3
0.74 (0.84)
0.61
(0.71)
0.70 (0.81)
0.54 (0.65)
Swords










2
0.44 (0.59)
0.35 (0.47)
0.40 (0.54)
0.30 (0.39)
3
0.58 (0.74)
0.48 (0.61)
0.55 (0.70)
0.43 (0.54)

Speaking of these bonuses, adding a support is a big deal. Not quite ADDING AN INNATE HAMMER big deal, Cursebreakers we’re looking at you, but something that’s worthy of  consideration. Helpful Whispers is a playable card after all.  Generally speaking, though Gitz won’t be making many attacks throughout a typical game, but that’s not to say they won’t be making any. A timely bludgeon from Drizgit, or a sickle-slice from Zarbag can turn a game, and Spiritbond would help considerably.

Taking both offensive and defensive capabilities into consideration, you should definitely think about including Spiritbond; but we need to talk about the downside. Spiritbond requires a second fighter to survive for the bonuses to remain. If that fighter dies, the bonuses are lost. Gitz, because of their large warband, can actually find this easy to do. Snirk is the obvious candidate to carry the burden of living, but I like using Drizgit for this purpose, as if he dies, you’ll receive the consolation prize of inspired Squigs. Obviously, there’s no single right answer and oftentimes the right target will be determined by a range of factors including opponent, board state and your objectives (There is also obvious synergy with Martyred).

At minimum, test this card.

-Wall of Force

More fun than an evening spent with Sneaky Step, Martyed, Dibbz and a Lethal Hex

As with Chokepoint, I’m very much sure that this card is bad, but Wall of Force really interests me. There’s a load of little synergies here that I’m currently having a lot of trouble getting out of my head.
The first interesting thing about Wall of Force is that it’s an upgrade that grants a magical ranged attack. These are as rare as all get out. At time of writing there are exactly two in the game; and any time a card has a rare or unique property, you should give it some consideration.

The second interesting thing about WoF, if it hits it will push back as normal, so the number of potential hexes pushed ranges between 2 and 3. That’s considerable, and may be enough to ruin your opponent’s plans for the next activation.  If you want to really lean into this, you could add Well of Power, or if you want to make your opponent’s jaw hit the floor, Potion of Rage. I wouldn’t recommend either of those options, but it’s funny all the same.

Finally there’s something I hesitate to mention. Currently, the FAQ states that any attack that deals 0 damage fails. WoF never deals damage, but I am utterly, 101% certain was intended not to auto-fail. Anyone with a skerrick of common sense should see this, but I guarantee there will be people out there who are going to query this, because, technically they’re correct. So, until an FAQ comes out to say otherwise, be aware that some people will attempt to use this to automatically score Warning Shot. It might be worth practicing a few choice insults to have ready to go at this point.

Other Cards that combo with Wall of Force:
  1. ·        Overpower
  2. ·        Well of Power
  3. ·        Blessing of Vytrix and Mad Cap Mushroom (Now we’re getting really silly, as neither is really playable on their own)
  4. ·        Upper Hand
  5. ·        Ready for Action – Push two fighters across the map! Great Concussion 2.0!
  6. ·        Get Thee Hence (Fairly obvious, but without a secondary source of knockback, I’m unsure it’s reliable enough)


So there you have it, as I mentioned in the intro, I’m really disappointed with the direction that the Developers took Power Unbound in, but there’s just about enough to spawn a few more wrinkles in the metagame and shake things up a bit. Unfortunately, I feel that the pack benefited those warbands who were already in the ascendancy, and did little to bring up those who weren’t (Godsworn seem to be the exception here). Hopefully somewhere down the track I’ll get an opportunity to discuss both the options for Aggro-Gitz and what other warbands got out of Power Unbound and how that will affect the Gitz (especially the new Godsworn invasion!) But that is for another day.

As ever, hit me up on Facebook if you want to discuss further, or leave a comment below.

Cheers

Rowan

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