Luck or Skill? (Part One)

It’s good to be back after a busy summer project! Keep your eyes posted for some more frequent updates in the future.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the ‘luck’ factor in Warhammer Underworlds and how much it determines the outcome of games. While luck certainly plays a role in most matches, it’s nowhere near the most important variable. Player skill has by far the biggest impact on success or failure.

In a series of articles I am going to look at the things you can control as a player, the things you can partially influence and the factors that are completely random.

First, there are many things in Warhammer Underworld that are under the complete control of the player. Some of the most important controllable factors are: warband selection, deck building and choice of board. Nobody can stop you from choosing your warband, picking your cards and putting down your selected board at the start of the game. This is all entirely up to you.

Many games can be lost before any dice are rolled, if players don’t have good synergy between their warband, deck and board. For example, if someone picks a slow warband, does not include any positioning gambits, and selects a board with many obstacles, then they are probably going to have a difficult time engaging in combat. This isn’t necessarily a problem if the player want’s to avoid fighting, but if they need kills to win, then they will be in a bad spot. In another example, if a player has a high-model count warband with low health, then it is highly likely that they will concede glory to their opponent’s kills. This can be mitigated through clever gambit and board selection, but only if the player has taken the time to craft their deck appropriately. If you want to do well consistently, then you need to spend time prior to a tournament planning out your warband’s strategy and selecting appropriate cards and boards. Skip this step at your peril.

Another thing that players have control over is their knowledge of the meta and their understanding how different warbands operate. Basically, it’s your choice whether you do your research before you show up to the table. The best tournament players will be able to recognize different strategies, anticipate particular plays, and know what their opponent needs to do in order to win. A lot of this understanding comes from playing practice games and messing about with deck-builders. Good preparation increases your chances of winning.

In terms of tactical considerations, players have total control over their initial fighter placement. This has a huge impact on the outcomes of games, but it is often overlooked in post-game analysis. How players decide to place their starting fighters will have a knock-on effect throughout the whole game. Bad warband placement during set-up can mean that a fighter never gets to engage or is out of position for scoring opportunities. Ideally, you should know the best starting position for each of your fighters on at least three different boards, in a range of different board configurations and against different types of opponents. That’s a lot to figure out and remember, but it can give you a massive edge in competitive play.

Also, players are in complete control of how many cards they draw during a game. You are always allowed to use an activation to draw a card during your turn regardless of the board state (unless you have run out of cards). Knowing the optimal time to draw a gambit card, or switch out an objective, is an important consideration. I am going to delve into this more in a future article, but in general players want to avoid drawing objectives during once fighters are locked in combat. Typically, it’s best to draw objectives early in the round to give you a card advantage in future activations. All too often players will rush into combat too early before they are fully prepared for the assault.

From these above factors, it should be clear that players have a considerable amount of agency and freedom of choice in Warhammer Underworlds. Indeed, many of the most crucial things in the game are completely under the control of the player. So, before ‘blaming the dice’ for a loss, it’s always worthwhile to reflect on whether you made the most of the factors that you could control. Did you choose a good warband, deck and board? Did you do your research on the meta? Did you place your fighters well at the start of the game? Did you draw cards at the right time? If the answer is ‘yes’, then well done! But If you look back and find you didn’t do these things effectively, then maybe that’s why you lost, rather than those pesky dice.

In the next installment, we will look at the things that players can partially influence during a game. It might be more than you think…

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