Luck or Skill? (Part Two)

Welcome back! This is the second in a series of articles on the role of luck and skill in Warhammer Underworlds.

Today, we are going to think about the ‘random’ factors in the game that can be influenced by players to a lesser or greater extent. These are often the things that players will blame when they lose a game. ‘It was my attack dice!’ they will lament. Or they will cry fowl of the ‘Rebound that should not be’. To be honest, I am as guilty as the next person for blaming these ‘random’ factors for my defeats. And, of course, it’s fun to tell the tale about when the dice-gods conspired against you. But on reflection, the dice have seldom been completely to blame for my loses. Often, I made other mistakes in the game which put me in a position where I needed luck to win – and fate did not always smile on me.

As a tournament player, the best you can do is accept the role of chance in the game and do all you can to tip the odds in your favor. You need to find a way to turn that 50/50 roll into into two-thirds chance of success. You need to figure out how to draw your most important cards more frequently. And you need to have a plan for how to recover when the dice turn against you.

So, what are the ‘random’ elements we can influence in Warhammer Underworlds?

First, and most obviously, are attack and defense rolls. These are an important factor in almost every game, as taking fighters out of action typically leads to greater glory. Of course, attack and defense rolls are completely random (unless you are cheating!), but there are still things you can do to boost your luck.

One of the key ways to improve your odds is to maximize support, whether it’s on attack or defense. Every time you miss an opportunity to get support for your combat rolls, you are reducing your chances of success. So, place those fighters with care! Support won’t always be a deciding factor in every game, but in the long-run, it will help you win more matches. Increasing your odds of rolling a success by 16% with a single-support or 33% with a double-support is nothing to shy away from. Plan ahead to maximize your support and you will be rewarded.

Another way to influence those dice rolls is to play power cards that improve your fighters’ chance of rolling a success. Of course, you can’t play these if they are not in your deck in the first place (see Part One), but assuming you have some of these cards, they can help you out significantly. Some of the most sought after cards in the game are those that allow you to manipulate combat dice by adding more dice or making re-rolls. These include ‘Awakened Weapon’, ‘Potion of Rage’ and ‘Light Armor’. The best players make the most of these powerful cards. They time their attacks when they are able to stack buffs, they play their gambits at the critical moment and they equip upgrades on the right fighters. Next time you lose an important combat roll, take a look at your hand, your discard pile and the board-state. Then think about whether you played your cards at the optimal time. Did you waste a gambit too early? Did you equip the wrong fighter with an upgrade? Did you charge into combat too early without the right tools in your arsenal? Timing is everything in Warhammer Underworlds and it’s something at we can all improve with practice.

While combat rolls are the most obvious ‘random’ element that player’s can influence, there are other parts of the game that can be manipulated in beneficial ways. Some of the most important ones take place in the ‘set-up’ phase before fighters have even had a chance to activate. To begin with, players can influence the shape of the game by deploying objectives in advantageous hexes. The location of these objectives will often determine where combat is most likely to take place, because players are likely to fight over these key points or use them as triggers for particular power cards. Although you do not have complete freedom over where objectives are put-down on the battlefield, you can choose to concentrate objectives in certain parts of the battlefield or spread them around more evenly. Through clever objective placement, good players will funnel enemy fighters into tough spots and set-up favorable engagements. Think carefully where you place your objectives – they are an important resource that should not be wasted.

In addition, players can influence both the content of their starting hand and the roll-off for activation priority. One of the most important decisions in the game is whether to keep your starting hand. While you cannot guarantee that you will get your most important cards at the beginning of the game, you have the ability to ‘mulligan’ your initial draw to improve your situation. It might be tempting to keep a seemingly strong hand that contains a restricted card like ‘Ready for Action’, but it’s always important to ask yourself whether this hand really puts you in a good position to win the game. Sometimes it’s necessary to dump a ‘great’ card in order to try and draw an ‘average’ card that is better suited for the situation at hand. For example, when playing against a ‘hold objective’ deck, a simple ‘push’ card can have much more impact on the outcome of the game than a flashy combat card from the restricted list. The best players know when to hold a hand and when to mulligan in order to take them closer to their win condition.

In terms of winning the roll-off for first round initiative, this can be influenced by the size of the warband you decide to play. If you finish your deployment first, then you will get a bonus to your initiative roll, which can allow you to dictate the tempo of the first round. If you think it’s important for you to win the first-turn roll-off, then choose warband with a low model count and improve your odds. There are many advantages to deciding whether to go first or second, as you can force your opponent into a difficult position right from the start of the game. This might seem like a small benefit, but every edge counts in the game.

From this discussion, we can see there are many things that players can influence to some extent in Warhammer Underworlds. While some of these factors might seem inconsequential, all of these seemingly small ‘nudges’ can add up to a significant advantage. Indeed, in many cases they will be the difference between victory and defeat. So, do everything you can to give yourself an edge in the game and try whenever possible to make your own luck. Because if you don’t, your opponent might. And nobody likes to lose – right?

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