GW: Goes Competitive With Shadespire

Games Workshop’s new Shadespire is “The Ultimate Competitive Miniatures Games” – get ready for battle!

Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire is pushing to be the next competitive miniatures game from Games Workshop. But what does that mean and does Shadespire have a real shot at being a competative game? Let’s chat.

We’ve gotten a couple of demo games in – one at Adepticon and one at GenCon. We’ve been playing it on Twitch Channel and also just around the office for fun. We’ve even gotten a look inside the core box as well as the other warband expansions. JayArr has even written up a quick rundown of the basics, too. We’ve still got a lot to learn but we’ve been enjoying the ride so far – and we think this game might have some legs on it!

Rules Are Tight

When folks talk about a ruleset being “tight” that means they are air-tight with little ways to misinterpret them or read into them. There are little-to-no loopholes or ways to break the game. Shadespire certainly has that going for it – the rules are well written and designed so that they are quick to learn. You’ll be up and playing within minutes and after a round or two it should all click into place. Many of the folks we spoke with at Adepticon/GenCon who got games in pretty much all agreed that on that.

Deck Customization Is Key

One of the big, new things Games Workshop is trying with Shadespire is the idea of custom warband decks. When you first start playing the game you’ll probably want to use the default decks that come with your warband (the starter box has one for both the Stormcasts and the Blood Reavers). However, after a few games with it, you might find that some cards don’t fit your playstyle and other options are more appealing. Maybe you prefer to go all in with attack actions and don’t want to worry about upgrades. Or perhaps you’re gunning for the long game and want to buff your units.

However you decide to play that is what the decks help you do. You might be playing a Stormcast Warband, but overtime that will become YOUR Stormcast Warband. The game will grow and shift as more warbands are released as well – this means there will be a healthy meta game and that’s a boon for the community. A healthy Meta means folks are active and engaged which is exactly what you want for a new game.

Four Warbands…For Now

We know that when the game launches there are two warbands in the box and another two already on the way. We’re pretty sure there will be a Fyreslayers Warband and a Skaven Warband on the way. But that’s not the point – the big take away is that the game is going to be supported. Games Workshop has been showing off this game at some of the biggest tournaments and getting the competative players excited about it. They want this game to be a success and keeping the “new shiny” stuff coming is the best way to do that.

We’re not confirming their existence – but c’mon.

Shadespire also has a lot of room for expansion. More warbands are an obvious option – but don’t forget about the accessories. New boards, custom dice, more decks, card sleeves, custom tokens… you get the idea. A Competative Miniatures Game can have a lot of accessories to go along with it. Look at X-Wing and their accessory model if you don’t believe me…

Low Barrier To Entry

Aside from the rules being simple to learn, the other barriers to entry are also pretty low. You can build these models pretty quickly and they look good and come pre-based! Even the bare plastic is colored so the warbands can be differentiated. The “Pick-up and Play” style of this game at the price-point they are shooting for means that it’s an easy sell for a lot of folks. When you can get two people playing the game for around $30 each people are going to be willing to spend the money on it – and because it also supports multiplayer it’s going to be easy to find people who will give it a shot.

It’s also really easy to transport – I know might not sound like much, but you could toss the entire box, minis and all in your bag and bring it to game night. You could easily keep this with your other bags you bring to game night and if you’re in between games or bust it out and play a couple rounds.

The quick game play is another key reason I think folks are going to dig Shadespire. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to crank a game out in 30 minutes. It has been designed for tournaments in mind when it comes to game speed. Games Workshop wants this game to be something you can play multiple matches in comparatively quickly in a tournament setting. I could easily see 90 minute rounds being the standard for this game.

Tournament Support Will Be Key

I think the biggest hurdle that Shadespire is going to face is convinicing the Tournament players that this game is for them. Don’t get me wrong – the Casual Players are important as they will make up the vast majority of the player base. However, the Tournament Crowd influences the meta of a game much more. No one ever asks what list Bob from accounting was playing last Tuesday at game night – they want to know which list won the GT! A healthy tournament scene grows from fan enthusiasm and support. It’s a feedback loop of players playing and TOs hosting. That’s why the first few months of local groups getting support to play this game in a competative nature will be key.

The Competition Is Fierce

Let’s not ignore the 800 lbs. Gorilla in the room that is X-Wing either. Love it or hate it, X-Wing is pretty dominate in the competative miniatures game space right now. Especially for a lot of the reason I just mentioned above – all things Shadespire is getting correct, X-Wing has also gotten correct. It’s also based on Star Wars and has been around the block for a while now. It’s got some issues, sure – but it’s been a success in the exact space Shadespire is trying to go after: A Competative Skirmish Miniatures Game.

Oh and X-Wing isn’t the only one operating in this space. Privateer Press also has Company of Iron tossing it’s hat in the ring. And let’s not forget the other “non-competative” games out there as well. Games GW is also making like Blood Bowl and Necromunda. Those are arguable also going to attract a lot of the same players. And while I’m sure there will be folks out there that will play all these games, not everyone has the time/money/energy to do that – someone is going to end up in last place.

Shadespire has a tough climb ahead of it – there is no sugar coating it. But, it’s also got a lot of things going for it: It’s fast, fun, and brutal! I think if this game can really get it’s feet under it, then Shadespire could really take off. It’s going to boil down to how the community at large reacts and if they dive in or not.


What do you think about Shadespire? Are you going to give it a shot when it shows up in stores next weekend? What do you think it will take for Shadespire to really take off?

  • Drpx

    Isn’t this what everyone said about 8th ed 40k?

    • Munn


      • ZeeLobby

        Really? They were selling it as this tightly ruled balanced match play system.

        • It’s really not a good comparison, though. Like, 40k is its own thing, it was never trying to appeal to xwing gamers, and it shouldn’t, it should just be 40k. For a fast, low barrier to entry game you need a completely different style of game, something that doesn’t suit 100+ minis per side gaming

          • ZeeLobby

            I mean I agree they’re different niches in the market, for sure. But it doesn’t change the fact that GW also sold the balanced/competitive side of 40K 8th very hard as well (inviting TO’s to participate in rules testing, etc.).

          • AEZ

            They just tried to improve on 7th… general consensus seems to be it succeeded in that.

          • ZeeLobby

            True. IMO 8th isn’t even out yet. The indexes were a stop gap. I think it’s hard to claim anything until codexes are released.

          • AEZ

            And already it’s said to have been improved.. can you imagine.

          • ZeeLobby

            Oh it has. 7th was in a pretty horrid state. When you have long time competitive players leaving 7th to play AoS, there’s really only one way to go from there.

          • Right, but they also announced shadespire the same week they did 8th and have said from the beginning the intention is competitive tournament play almost exclusively (which is why I absolutely hate it, lol)

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah. I def like both competition and narrative. I’ll probably give this a try, but I’m really hoping a little depth is just added back to AoS at some point as well. I’d rather play that.

  • Dennis J. Pechavar

    Hopefully it pans out for them. I have no interest in it but get what you mean when you mention Xwing. That game is big at my store and it is a good deal of fun.

  • disqus_yyglaTdo9o

    I like it! Xwing was great until Scum messed up all games. Now, with the ridiculous powercreep, Shadespire looks very appealing!

    • vlad78

      Do you really think something happening in The mortal realms can be a competition for star wars?

      • Koen Diepen Van

        The brand no the game maybe.

      • ZeeLobby

        No. Not sales wise. Some gamers might find it more interesting though.

      • Depends on the context, if we’re talking about small game stores where local players largely decide what games are popular, it mostly comes down to what everyone else is playing currently, that could easily mean a change to shadespire if people are not happy with Xwing

        Brand is important, but story isn’t important to Xwing or Shadespire, it’s really window dressing, which is why a dog fighting game is even competing with an arena Skirmish game

    • AEZ

      To be fair…(and I’m all in the GW camp and understand the reasons) GW and powercreep go hand-in-hand.

      • ZeeLobby

        Haha, you don’t say?!

        • AEZ

          I do say… just said so didn’t I? I’m surprised you hadn’t noticed yet this about GW yet 😀

  • Kritarion

    Not a Fan of the “putting generic cards into faction expansions”, but not a big issue so far since I like the models

    • Well, it does make sense if you consider that you want all you need to play in a single faction box, apart from the core rules and board. That way somebody with the core set can do a demo game with another friend, who then decides to want his own Orcs or Undead and go out to buy their kit, without needing to buy another copy of the boxed set just because he’s missing cards. I’d wager they’ll be selling the starter set kits individually at some point too.

    • DoctorBored

      Yeah, I’m not a huge fan either, but X-Wing does the same thing. If I want that sweet upgrade for my B-Wing, I need to get the Slave I ship in order to use it properly. If I want to soup up my Advanced Tie, I need to get upgrade cards from the K-Wing.

      At least with this, the models will be neat and the price points reasonable. 2-3 X-Wing ship packs will cost the same as one faction in this game.

  • Sonic tooth

    I’d buy this in a heartbeat if I liked the miniatures/factions but I dont

    • Matthew Pomeroy

      the board is what turns me away

      • Does new Necromunda disappoint you?

        • Matthew Pomeroy

          took me a while to look it up (not really a necromunda fan to begin with) still not my cup of tea, but looks considerably better than shadespire.

  • ZeeLobby

    Should be fun to play. Def see the parallels to X-Wing. I HIGHLY doubt it’ll ever become even close to popular locally, considering I rarely see AoS these days, but it’s an interesting expansion.

  • MMO Builder

    Stop trying to make Shadespire a thing! 😉

  • Fraser1191

    If they do lizardmen models I’ll buy this

  • MightyOrang

    They’re not perfect-painted, are they? If not they’re not going to seriously challenge XWing – no matter how good the rule set.

  • piglette

    Looks cool, I’ll keep an eye on it.

  • Who else honestly doesn’t care about this game? Why did GW needs a miniatures game with cards and Deck-Building in it? It just seems too bland. The fact the starter set comes with Stormstorm Stormternals and Khorne Beserkers {Still bitter about AOS!} probably has a lot to do with this.