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WARHAMMER UNDERWORLDS: SHADESPIRE is a miniatures arena combat style game from Games Workshop. 
With Games Workshop always being caned publicly for the cost of the majority of their games it is great to be able to say that you get a truly well playable game with miniatures and many other accessories including a large playing board (arena) for just over £30.00, which on today's board or miniatures game market is considered quite inexpensive. Check your local game store and compare prices with Amazon and other online shops to get the best price.


So What Do you get in the box ?
Well to begin with, and to end with, you get enough for a 2-player game.

There are 8 Miniatures:   5 Bloodreaver Miniatures and 3 Stormcast Miniatures with the necessary Character Cards.and Starter decks for each faction. 2 double-sided player boards.  8 game dice - 5 Attack & 3 Defence. A Numerous Variety of Tokens. A Quick-start rules sheet. A Construction sheet. A deck of Faction and Generic cards and of course a booklet of Rules.   


If there are more players than just 2 or if you fancy upping your game and either building your forces differently then Games Workshop give you plenty of options, such as:
Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire – Sepulchral Guard 
Ironskulls Boyz Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire Expansion by Warhammer Underworlds 
Deathrattle Dice Pack -Shadespire Dice Set 
Ironjawz Dice Pack - Shadespire Dice Set 
Ironskull's Boyz Sleeves - Shadespire Sleeves
Warhammer Underworlds: Steelheart's Champions Sleeves 


If, like my son Grant, you have a fine hand and eye coordination you can really make the basic miniatures come to life with a black spray undercoat of paint and then some skilful point-picking and dry-brushing. The miniatures look just superb once painted by an expert but don't come across as too bad even if I am allowed to splodge paint on them. The miniatures are the cruxx of the game so it is helpful that they are posed in fine action positions. To be fair, seeing the plastic pieces painted well it is easy to assume at first glance that they are metal; only picking them up tells the truth.

Playing the game is quite simplified for a grande Games Workshop big boxed set and indeed games can last less than 30 minutes which really is going some. Games Workshop are renown for huge battle games with hundreds of figures and models and you can bring SHADESPIRE up towards the complexity of the larger, more expensive, GW games by building your forces with the expansion and extension sets. 

Each player needs their own warband. In the beginning that's easy as there are only two to choose from in the box  Stormcast and Chaos, and they have cards specific to them as well as generic cards usable by both factions. Once you start adding new units via the deck-building tactics associated with this game then your cards will allow for changes in tactics and strategies causing the game to take on a life of its own.

The game is about arena combat for glory, with each plyer bringing their own warband to the challenge. As well as attempting to defeat your opponent's pieces you are also trying to complete Mission Objectives that you have in your cards your personal decks. Notice I used the plural of Deck, that is because each player actually has 2 decks, a deck for Objectives and a Deck of Powers The Objective deck in Gold in colour while the Power cards are Grey - denoted by the colouring and design on the rear non-game side of each card. There are specific rules for creating each Deck: 12 Objective cards, at least 20 Powers cards and only ever 1 of each card.

To get the game ready to play each player should put out their Hero (Warband) cards in front of them with the associated miniatures on them. Hero cards are either Gold (inspired) or Silver (standard) flip each card to the required side which at the beginning of the game is the Silver side, the gold (Inspired) side is turned up only when certain conditions are met, sucessfully defending an attack for the Stormcast, or when there are 5 dead warriors for Chaos (working a little differently, Chaos Inspire all remaining models when this condition is met, Stormcast need to become Inspired individually).

The arena is made up of two game board sections butted together with 5 objectives and two warbands on their starting hexes. Players draw 5 Power cards and 3 Objective cards for their hand. They are now ready to begin the game. The game only ever plays for three turns, each of which is broken down into four activations per player. Models may be activated more than once each per turn, meaning that potentially you could use all four activations on one guy if he is in a good position to maybe attack and take out multiple enemy models. In between each activation, players each have the opportunity to play ploy cards (for varying effects on play), or to equip upgrade cards (using unspent glory points to do so). Glory points are gained through taking out an enemy fighter, and meeting the requirements on their objective cards.

Shadespire is a great game to kill thirty minutes while waiting for a group member to turn up, but be warned, one game is never enough! It is perfect for league play and tournaments, and with its quick play time, won't take months for a league to finish. My only complaint, and it is in no way down to the game, but rather GW itself, is that after the first two expansions, they have decided to make new additions to the game online purchase only! To me this makes no sense, as the warbands are in relatively (for GW) small boxes, and take up little shelf space in store.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2015