I had been meaning to try Warcry, Games Workshop’s skirmish game set in the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar universe, for ages. Several of my online wargaming pals are big proponents of the game and it’s only the lack of physical proximity that meant I hadn’t been dragged into a match or five. That meant I was very excited to check out Crypt of Blood, the forthcoming starter set for Warcry.
Warcry is to Age of Sigmar what Kill Team is to Warhammer 40,000, although they both have unique rulesets. Warbands of three to 15 fighters, usually around ten, have a good old scrap across a table densely packed with terrain. Originally themed around various Chaos warbands vying for glory, over the past year GW has focused on opening it up with representation for all the Grand Alliances of the Mortal Realms - plus there’s always the option to use a selection of your existing Age of Sigmar army to form a warband.
Despite the low model count and ability to use models you already own, Warcry isn’t necessarily the easiest game to get started with. Like many skirmish games, the low model count is counterbalanced by the need for lots of terrain. Specifically pieces with platforms and walkways, as vertical movement is a big part of Warcry. Even if you have a sizable collection of fantasy terrain for your AoS games, it may not necessarily translate into a great Warcry experience.
Crypt of Blood is designed to provide a more affordable way to get a taste of Warcry. Unfortunately, the attempt isn’t entirely successful.
This means that dipping a toe in could be pretty tricky. While picking up one of Warcry’s £100+ big boxes was the best way to start playing the game, it’s not exactly cheap. Crypt of Blood is designed to fill that niche, providing a more affordable way to get a taste of Warcry. Unfortunately, the attempt isn’t entirely successful.
Cracking open the box, you’re greeted by some typically lovely miniatures. The warbands themselves aren’t new, having both been recycled from Warhammer Underworlds. The Crimson Court consists of four vampires of various shapes and sizes, while Xandire’s Truthseekers are a band of three Stormcast Eternals and, most importantly, their pet bird. Coming from Underworlds, they’re all push-fit models with no glue required (but since you still need glue for some of the terrain pieces, that’s a bit of a moot point). They can be used in games of AoS, but sadly not in Underworlds, unless you can obtain the required fighter cards separately.
The terrain sprue is completely new and consists of a number of vampire-themed pieces, mostly in the form of walls and fences. The highlights are an elaborate coffin, complete with blood bowl for convenient feeding of the inhabitant, and a bust of iconic vampire queen Neferata. These pieces all look great; I hope they herald the start of a new range of AoS/Warcry terrain, as the Gnarlwood sets from the past year haven’t really tickled my fancy.
Other than the plastic, the box contains a battlemat (the flimsy paper kind, rather than nice, thick cardstock), some dice, instructions for building the miniatures, a sheet of tokens and the Crypt of Blood rulebook itself.
I absolutely love this style of “learn as you play” product, but the execution here is rather substandard.
If you’ve picked up a GW rulebook before, especially one in an introductory product, much of the contents will be familiar to you. There are sections introducing you to the Age of Sigmar setting, the specific factions and models in the box, and the painting and modelling aspects of the hobby. The core rules are included, but the main event is a series of seven battleplans designed to teach you the basics of the game while you play.
I absolutely love this style of “learn as you play” product, but the execution here is rather substandard. Despite being presented as seven distinct battles for two players, the first four battleplans are effectively rules explanations that you read through while moving the minis on the battlefield as instructed. You’re even given the results of dice rolls, rather than being allowed to roll yourself. They’re also overly long and explain-y to the point of condescension, with the first battleplan taking six pages just to tell you how to take move actions. I understand that this is an introduction that doesn’t assume any tabletop gaming knowledge, but it could have been much more concise while still being suitable for complete newbies.
Battleplan six is the first one that lets you have something approaching an actual game, albeit with the previous scenario serving as setup instructions and some hand-holding through the first turn. Finally, battleplan seven is a proper punch-up between the included warbands. Hooray! My strong recommendation is for purchasers to work through the first four battleplans solo to get a grasp on the basics, before inviting a chum over to tackle the rest. Warcry’s basics aren’t complicated at all and you’ll be able to get down to having fun without reading pages of explanatory text out loud.
So, once you’ve got a proper game under your belt, what’s next? Well, according to Crypt of Blood, the next step is to go and buy some more Warcry products. There’s no suggestion of further battles to be fought with the contents of the box, just the core rules and then a whole chapter advertising other Warcry books and miniatures. Sandwiched between the two is a section that explains that, while you can use the minis from Crypt of Blood in Warcry, they don’t constitute warbands on their own and you need more figures, actually.
Crypt of Blood is a rambling and incomplete introduction to Warcry that just isn’t worth the price of entry.
I described Warcry as the AoS equivalent of Kill Team. It’s in this comparison that Crypt of Blood comes off the worst. For the same asking price of £65, the excellent Kill Team starter set comes with 22 minis forming two complete kill teams that you can happily play full games with. Beef up your terrain collection a bit and you’re set. Crypt of Blood’s mere eight minis simply don’t cut it. For an equivalent experience, you’d need to buy two more warbands which retail at around £35 a pop. At that point, you’re spending more than you would for one of the big boxes (the current one being Nightmare Quest), which would get you a lot more terrain and other extra bits for your money.
In what’s becoming a slightly worrying trend from Games Workshop, I can only recommend Warcry: Crypt of Blood if you definitely want all of the plastic in the box. Otherwise, it’s a rambling and incomplete introduction to Warcry that just isn’t worth the price of entry.
Warcry: Crypt of Blood is available to pre-order from the Games Workshop store, ahead of its August 5th release date.