GenCon 50: Shadespire Demo With Phil Kelly

Games Workshop was on hand at GenCon 50 to showcase Shadespire and we grabbed a demo with the legend himself: Phil Kelly!

Shadespire is the new Warhammer Underworlds game from Games Workshop. It revolves around taking a customize smaller warband on models against an opposing Warband in an “arena” type setting. Each warband is further customizable with a deck of cards that players can tweak and change based on their play style. At GenCon 50 Games Workshop had Phil Kelly on hand to show off the game and to help us make sure we got everything right:

We get a full game in during the demo and we get to play around with a few of the cards that we hadn’t seen before. The basics of the game are that each player has a warband. It’s an “I Go, You Go” system where players alternate activations. You only get 4 activations per round, and each games is only 3 rounds (that’s a total of 12 activations). When you start the game, you draw a hand of cards from your warband deck and another set of cards from your objective deck. Now, these cards are supposed to be hidden, but we played with them open so that we could show off our options.

During your turn you flip over a marker to indicate that you are taking an activation. Models can move, attack, go on guard, or charge during their turn. As far as we could tell, you can move with one activation, and then on a following activation attack. However, you cannot move twice or attack twice – and charging counts as both a move and a charge!

Each model has their own card that describes their stats and attack options. As we were playing, the Stormcast also got to flip their cards over and become Inspired. Inspired characters are just better versions of themselves – and in the Stormcast case, much harder to kill! There are two types of dice that players will use – as referenced on their cards: Attack and Defense dice.

Garrek Gorebeard is wielding the Blooddrinker Axe, it has a range of 1 (so melee range) it needs to roll a hammer result, he gets two dice for his attack and on a successful attack he does 2 damage. On the lower bar, you can see his other stats. He has a movement of 4, rolls 1 defense die (which need dodge results) and he has 4 wounds.

Back to the dice for a moment. The Attack dice have Hammers or Crossed swords for successes (depending on which you need). The Defense dice have either Shields or Dodges on their sides for successes(again, it depends on what you need). There are also “assist” options on the dice. These facing only count as successes if you have 1 or 2 friends nearby that can assist. I knew about this going in which was why I tried to have my Khornate warriors work with a buddy or two when attacking. The defender only needs to cancel out your results to avoid damage and no matter how many successes you get, you still only do damage once per attack.

(For example, if I rolled two successes to attack and the defender rolled zero blocks, then I would only do 2 damage and not 4.) On top of that, there are also critical successes which can allow a warrior to completely avoid damage or get an “auto” success – unless the defender also rolls a crit.

There are some other exceptions, but that the basics of the game – however, you might be wondering how do you win a game? Well, you’re trying to gain more glory than the other player. To gain glory, you must complete objectives from the Glory/Objective deck. You start the game by drawing 3 and you can score them or swap them out. They can range from simple objectives like “go stand on objective 2 to claim it” all the way to “survive without any losses” – depending on the difficulty of the objective, they can reward you with more glory. You can also spend your glory to “upgrade” your forces in between rounds. You still count as having scored them – you just get the added benefit of getting to use them also!

This game is really fast and once you get the basics down it should be a quick skirmish. Shadespire also feels a lot like it’s meant for competative play as well – as it was explained to us, if you wanted to play it in a league it would be perfect for that. Each warband gets a deck (there are two warbands in the box with a good indication that more are on the way), and each player can customize their decks overtime. For matched/tournament play, it’s recommended as a best 2-out-of-3 set of games. That should help if one player just get a terrible hand one game – although you’ve still got a chance to win based on how you move your forces!

Shadespire is lated to come out later this year – unfortunately we don’t have a specific release date (GW was very tight lipped about that). But we’re hoping it comes out sooner rather than later because it’s a really quick, fun game and we want to see more of it. I think this game will be great for the casual players as well as the more hardcore fans as it works on both levels of play. The mechanics are solid, the gameplay is engaging, and I haven’t even mentioned how fantastic the miniatures are! Oh and I got to hang out with Phil Kelly which was pretty darn cool, too.


Shadespire – Give it to me now!!

  • silashand

    Those objectives sound exactly like the same “chase the shiny” ones they have in 40K Maelstrom missions. If so, I will likely give this a pass.

  • I_am_Alpharius

    Cool! Looks really interesting. Certainly, seems like a simple enough set of core rules. You can clearly see where the tactical and competitive aspect of the game is going to come in, through the card deck building aspect of the it. A definite departure from the usual thing GW does in terms of games design.

  • DoctorBored

    From what I understand, this is GW’s response to Warmachine. Small forces of 3-5 models. I heard that there WILL be a squad for every faction in Age of Sigmar eventually. One thing they didn’t really show in this is that the boards can be re-positioned in a variety of ways, really changing up the battlefield. You can position them any way you want, so long as the hexes line up. That means you can position them such that there’s only a small bridge between them, and different boards will have different graphics and other features, which can even have effects on your army.

    • Randy Randalman

      It in no way resembles WarmaHordes. WarmaHordes hasn’t been below 2-3 dozen models for years. That system also doesn’t use card buff and activations. It’s more for the X-Wing or Arena Rex field. 40k and AoS are so thoroughly crushing WarmaHordes right now that GW doesn’t have to make a game that functions as direct competition to it.

    • I_am_Alpharius

      Haha – response to Warmachine…oh you’re serious…

  • So, there has been quite a bit of debate of whether the warbands are actually customizable. Other people who demo’d this at Gencon say they are not and I have not seen anything to make me think they are. I am surprised that in no Q&A or demo I have viewed this topic has been addressed.
    This is the first demo I have seen where they actually explain building a custom deck (which still seems to be a random draw from that deck and a very limited amount of draws per game as well so not sure how predictable even a built deck will be).
    Definitely not a killy game, only one charcter in the above demo died and in other demos I have watched, no one died at all.

  • marlowc

    Bit puzzled by Adam’s description of the game as “I go, you go system where players alternate activations” ?
    From following the demo vid it looks to me like a conventional alternating activations system. Which is great, definitely my prefered way to go for skirmish games. Hopefully, the new Necromunda will also be this way?