Whisper it, but Warcry is perhaps the best game in the Games Workshop lineup. While titles like Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar verge on being household names, the Warcry fantasy skirmish rules let you duke it out between small bands of warriors amidst crazy scenery. That makes it leaner and faster than its bigger siblings while having the same stunning quality of miniatures and leaving the design team more room to add strategy and improve balance.
“It’s one of the most tactically interesting games I’ve worked on,” says Nyle Ajina, Product Developer at Games Workshop. And it’s about to get a whole lot more tactically interesting since he’s been developing a second edition, alongside Game Designer Dave Sanders. They granted IGN an exclusive interview to talk about how it’s improved.
“The biggest change is more narrative play,” Ajina explains. “In the past, we had one linear story we wanted to tell for each warband. This new mode tells an evolving story rather than a specific one.” He offers an example that’s included with the core box for the new edition, Heart of Ghur. “There’s a campaign arc of three games which pit the included warbands, the Horns of Hashot and the Rotmire Creed, against each other. And that’s on top of the standard narrative play which is both freer and more in-depth than previously.”
Sanders chips in with some detail. “You can go on campaign arcs which are quite short, or could encompass a lot of battles,” he continues. “You can also go on quests, which effectively give you a kind of secondary objective for your battles. Then you’ve got your warband’s encampment. You need to constantly be on the lookout for a new place to locate your encampment because you’re not going to be safe for long. Either the Gnarlwood is going to eat it, or a rival warband will come across it and it’ll be compromised.”
While the core rules will largely stay the same, there’s a new mechanic: reactions. “You can do things like counterattack when someone makes a melee attack against you, take cover when someone’s shooting at you,” Sanders explains. “There’s more decision-making than in the last game but it doesn’t slow things down because you’re trading your action for a reaction. And there are bespoke reactions for each faction as well. It means you’re constantly engaged with the game. There’s no sitting back and waiting for your opponent to do anything.”
Veteran players may be disappointed to learn that these new faction-specific rules will mean their existing warbands need new stat lines to be valid for play in the second edition. But Games Workshop is planning to make the new material available for free on the Warhammer Community site. It’ll include stats for almost 800 miniatures from both old Warcry warbands and other factions from across the whole Age of Sigmar range. Those wanting a physical book to reference will get the opportunity later in 2022 with the Warcry Compendium. “I’ve got this dream of the Compendium in every home,” Sanders laughs.
The Compendium also aims to fix a problem with the first edition, which was that warbands from the wider Age of Sigmar universe tended to be more powerful than those for Warcry alone. “Dave did a ton of work creating a very powerful points calculator that even accounts for abilities,” Ajina says. “So now everything should be better balanced.” Sanders explains that this includes new material. “Even if you’re got a classic warband you’ll find you’ve got a bunch of new tricks, based on the information we’ve got from the calculator and testing.”
Previous Warcry boxes have focused on chaos cultists in the Eightpoints, a nexus between the different worlds of Age of Sigmar. As its name suggests, Heart of Ghur moves the action into one of those worlds: Ghur, the realm of beasts. While there’s still lots of interactive scenery that models can hide behind, climb and fight on, the look and feel are very different. “We’ve got these Gnarloaks, these monstrous muscle trees that are going around eating people,” enthuses Ajina. “All this bamboo on the platforms and things.”
Switching to Ghur brings Warcry more in line with the wider Age of Sigmar setting. “We want to align Warcry more with the core game in a way that allows us to tell different stories but also more in-depth stories,” Ajina continues. “So we focus more on a specific place and the stories you’re going to tell are more about individual miniatures. You could even build your Warband from models in your Age of Sigmar army and tell stories about your scouting force.”
Alongside these changes, Games Workshop is switching up a gear with its release schedules. “It’s going to expand really quickly and in an amazing way,” Ajina confides. He also drops a teaser that some of the releases will be going into unexpected new directions for the game. Whatever’s coming, it’ll hopefully be enough to catapult Warycry out of the shadows and into the headline game that it deserves to be.