Welcome to my review of the Arena Mortis expansion! Better late than never? You decide, lol.
Games Workshop did not send me this product to review, so it took me a bit of time to make my way to my local game store in the midst of the COVID lockdown. I am happy that I was able to finally make the trek to make sure the store was still standing, and I think it's good to support them in this generally difficult time for the hobby.
Since it's a bit late, I will keep the review mostly focused on the product itself, with some talk about the cards included at the end.
Arena Mortis Review
Arena Mortis is an Underworlds expansion that serves a number of purposes: It's a board expansion, a stand alone game mode (as long as you have other cards and minis), and a card expansion.
Personally, I think this is a good way to organize things. In the past we've had a board expansion and a card expansion separately, and the occasional alternate game mode in White Dwarf or Warhammer Community. Arena Mortis combines these in a way that allows for a bit deeper of an alternate game mode with the inclusion of extra tokens and actual rulebook, for about the same total cost of an extra board and card pack. I'm not sure how much I will actually play the Arena Mortis game mode, but it's nice to have the option, and I look at it as a free bonus since I was going to want the board and cards either way.
Arena Mortis Game Mode
I've played one game of Arena Mortis, and found it reasonably fun, but not particularly deep or competitive in the way the standard format is, though I don't think this is a bad thing.
Sometimes you want your gaming experience to be more on the fun "beer and pretzels" side of things, and Arena Mortis delivers on that experience in a way the normal format (which can be a bit cut-throat) does not.
The game mode is also probably also the best way to play with more than 3 players (though the Glass Mad Gargant is still probably my favorite way to play with 3 players), and it is much faster than than the other multi-player modes.
I do think the rules for the game mode are solid, but would encourage a certain amount of pre-game talk about what sort of game your group is looking for as I think there are likely some fighter and card combinations that might break things if you try too hard to make something unkillable while everyone else is trying to make something whacky or fun (like by taking Stikkit).
What I personally want to do with the Arena Mortis rules is to combine the rules from the Glass-Mad Gargant, and Dreadfane (with the weather effect type cards), where the fighters are attempting to kill the giant, respawn upon death, and have random meteor effects dropping in each turn. If I ever do this I will be sure to let you know how it goes, lol.
There are already some great card-by-card reviews on other blogs, and I already did a full initial review of the cards on the Path to Glory podcast, so I will skip the full card review this time and only mention the cards I think players will likely be buying this card pack for in the championship format.
At the time of writing this, a few events have happened with these new cards, so I think we have some solid data now, which is nice.
Vision of Glory - An incredibly powerful upgrade, especially in the late game, when a powerful fighter has a number of upgrades to help make sure their attacks land. On fighters like Mollog, Rippa, or Ghulgoch, the scything/multi attacks can be a real nightmare to deal with. It also blocks a number of reactions if you wait to use the reaction after your opponent's activation (which you should always do). It is somewhat balanced by the fact that it costs two glory, and your opponent does have a chance to activate before you can remove the token and charge/attack again, but these are not enough to stop this card from being a great one.
Gauntlet of Dominance - This is a card that I think I initially underrated, but it is actually very powerful in combination with Gauntlet of Command, to a lesser extend Crown of the Dead, and even just by itself. The ability to turn extra glory into enemy disruption is very powerful, and can help smaller aggressive warbands combat the high glory end phase scoring of objective warbands, as well at push fighters into lethal hexes or other unfavorable positions.
Tight Defence - Since the rules change to Guard at the start of Beastgrave (to no longer allow drive back), cards like this one have been worth taking. Being a reaction and blocking the window for Potion of Rage/Despoiler's re-roll reaction/etc is really just icing on the cake. It is worth noting that you cannot react to range 3+ attacks, but most of the very scary attack in the game right now are still ranged 1-2.
Deserved Confidence - Another card that I think I overlooked a bit, this card is very solid for smaller warbands that plan to stack upgrades on a few fighters. As long as you have 2 other upgrades, the value from +1 wounds and denying drive back in a single upgrade is very efficient, at the cost of doing nothing before then (unless you have other reasons to want upgrades on fighters - hello Rippa!). I do not think the 5+ and 9+ upgrade effects will see much play, but when they do they are a nice bonus to have.
Ambusher - If you are Sepulchral Guard player, you might enjoy this card as well. Allowing the raised fighter to be placed in any empty hex is quite strong. It also scores Shortcut, which is a nice bonus as well (until Nightvault rotates). I am not a big fan of the other raise counter related upgrades/cards in this set, though a few of them might be useful in some situations. I find that when I'm playing the Sepulchral Guard, i really only want to raise 1-2 fighters a game anyway, so having too many cards devoted to this mechanic seems to have diminishing returns for me.
Given the "buy everything!" sales model of Underworlds, I think everyone should and will buy this expansion.
It's value to new players that are still completing their collection probably depends on the warband the player wants to play, and what other sets they already own. The cards contained are much better for elite warbands, and there are no objective cards included, so it is probably in the middle of the pack when it comes to preferred buying order. For some warbands, Vision of Glory is probably worth the buy on it's own, but others might want to prioritize other sets with more cards. The board(s) itself is quite nice as well, but in general I recommend prioritizing warbands you want to play, the cards to make them excel, and then the boards.
That's it for my quick and dirty review! I hope you liked it. If you think I left out any sweet Arena Mortis cards you've been enjoying, or would like to something else in future reviews, let me know!