For those who don’t wish to read an essay, skip ahead for the short version.
On Saturday I took part in the Warhammer Fest 2023 Underworlds Grand Clash. It was four games of Best of Three with Rivals format which initially gave me visions of everyone bringing the same 5 or 6 top end warbands but fortunately the Underworlds community cares not for Meta and a whole array of warbands were on display. I confess I took the Crimson Court as I perceived they were my best chance of a strong result. Hypocrite, moi? I’ve had a couple of ‘mediocre’ results in my previous two tournaments so I was keen to improve to something approaching ‘half decent’.
Game 1 plonked me down opposite Chloe who was running the very scary Gnarlspirit Pack. Which was even scarier when it became quickly apparent that she was running them with their pre-nerf rules. A gentle enquiry confirmed my suspicion that this was an entirely innocent situation so I decided internally to just get on with it and sweat like hell (I also wasn’t certain beta rules were in effect anyhow). Fortunately (and this was a recurring theme for me), the dice gods blessed me and I had a comfortable win for the first game (13-1) and an extremely uncomfortable win (8-7)in the second. Chloe went on to face her boyfriend later in the tournament and they assured me their relationship survived the absolute beating she gave him – another testament to the true power of Underworlds.
So, a good start. Game 2 started in a similar fashion opposite YouTube content creator Ian who was running something a little different. I believe it was a White Dwarf warband called Mibyllorr Darkfang and her familiars (Doot newt, a cauldron called Stew, tiny stabby chaos warrior etc – you get the picture) using Skittershank’s character stats and Beastbound Assault deck. Not as confusing as it sounds, honest, and perfectly legal. After a comfortable 12-4 win in the first game, he proceeded to pound my vampires into little pieces of dust (14-9 x 2) and provide a stern lesson from the Do Not Underestimate ANY warbands school.
In Game 3 Xandire’s Truthseekers came seeking the truth under the steady control of Jack. In truth, I was seeking to get my tournament back on track. Luckily, the dice gods were benevolent once more and I managed to take it in straight sets (17-8 & 15-7). He was a very considered player and his positioning was immaculate, particularly important when seeking to maximise his warband’s potential.
Game 4 reared it’s ugly head with a mirror match. Mirror matches are generally a tiresome affair, and vampire mirror matches are the height of grim in being devoid of much strategic deviousness. Luckily, Bastian the Swiss scholar was a tremendous opponent and it was actually very enjoyable despite his admitting to being a victim of the Manchester nightlife the previous evening. After the initial pleasantries, we settled down to three games of sweaty, heavy mouth breathing, dice rolling fun. An absolute slug-fest. After being turned over 19-14 in the first, a couple of timely Critical defence rolls swung the next two games back in my favour (16-7 & 12-5) and I emerged sweatily victorious and absolutely farking knackered. I played ten games of Underworlds in around ten hours and will be screaming about Crits in my sleep for a few nights yet.
Thanks to some unseen omnipotent force blessing my dice with some truly disgusting results (surely Nurgle?), I rose to the heady heights of 9th (out of 66) overall and got some fancy tokens and cards (which was nice). I am, unsurprisingly, very satisfied with this result and will probably try a little less hard in the future. Maybe. The vamps are going to hang up their fangs for a while anyway.
Gnarlspirit Pack took the win and the bronze, with Storm of Celestus splitting them, and Hedrakka’s Madmob and the Wraithcreeper’s also going 4-0 for the day.
My brother Dan peaked early with his Looncourt and won the first game 2-0 before succumbing to complete incompetence in dice rolling and losing the next three. Afterwards, we hit the beers with a speed not seen since the halcyon days of £1.80 pints and student life (I’m old). Luckily we are both lightweights and staggered out of the bar at midnight claiming complete sobriety (proven otherwise before bedtime when I spent five minutes clawing at my pupils trying to extract some contact lenses that I hadn’t worn at any point during the day). Dan was last seen striding down Oxford Road muttering something about ‘melting dice’…
Best painted warband went to a very nice diorama of Stormcast surrounded by Nighthaunt. But it begs the question “is a diorama fair in a best warband painting completion?” Who knows/cares, there were some beautiful paint jobs and it was one of numerous potential winners in my opinion.
Overall, it was a tremendous experience not least due to facing four fantastic opponents. Warhammer Fest itself should be experienced by fans at least once, if not merely to bow and scrape before the glory of the Golden Demon entrants or high five a 7 foot Chaos Warrior. Apologies for the poor representation of events captured via my potato phone – they do the scale of proceedings no justice whatsoever.
I’ll hopefully recover and be ready for more Underworlds action on Thursday if Papa Nurgle does not further bless me after my trip to the big smoke.
Short version : I was 9th. Which was nice.