Review: Arena Mortis
Updated: Feb 6, 2021
Well, that's a wrap folks! The final release of the Beastgrave season is upon us with the release of Arena Mortis, a multiplayer expansion that sees players battle to the death while controlling on a single fighter.
In this article I will be going over the rules of Arena Mortis, sharing the boards included, discussing the Sepulchral Guard updates, and reviewing the 40 universal cards included.
As always, thank you to Games Workshop for giving me the opportunity to review this product.
For those of you unfamiliar, Arena Mortis is an alternate game mode for 3-6 players. Each player controls a single fighter and pilots them in single combat against everyone else's chosen fighters. If your fighter is ever taken out of action, don't be too alarmed. Your fighters will always return back to life in the following round - the Curse of the Katophranes is always in effect.
Depending on your wound characteristic, you also have the opportunity to start the game with a few benefits.
Generally, you would think players would gravitate to fighters such as Mollog and Hrothgorn. While that strategy is quite sound, as you can see there is some benefit for taking a fighter with lower wounds. Personally, I have found 3-4 wounds to be the sweet spot. Keep in mind the game mode forbids you from picking both the Brimstone Horror and Blue Horror as your champion of choice.
If you are a fan of the deck building element, don't worry! Arena Mortis does require each player to assemble 2 decks but there is no objective deck. Instead, players build a deck full of gambits and a deck full of upgrades. Each deck must have at least 10 cards and cannot include cards of the same name. If you are looking to add faction cards, they must match your fighters warband symbol.
Additionally, the following cards are Forsaken in Arena Mortis:
As per the standard game, fighters can equip upgrades in the end phase as well as when they return back to the battlefield. An interesting note is that you don't get to choose which upgrade you get to tack on to your fighter. Rather, you draw the top card from your upgrade deck and equip it to the fighter. It is of the utmost importance that your upgrade deck be filled with powerful cards.
Another cool feature is that anytime a player equips an upgrade of the same name that another fighter is already equipped with, the fighter who already had that upgrade discards that upgrade. That is reflected in the Rule of One.
The length of the game depends on how many players are participating. If there are 3 players then there are 9 rounds. If there are 6 players, there are 6 rounds.
When setting up, players also take all the Mortis Lens tokens and shuffle them face down. They then randomly pick one and place the token face up in an empty hex that is as close as possible to the center of the battlefield. Here is an example of two of the Mortis Lens tokens:
When setting up initiative, players put the 'First Place' and 'Last Place' card as well as extra initiative cards based on how many players are taking part in the game. For example, if there are 3 players in the game, you add the 'Second Place' card. If there are 6 players playing, you add all the initiative cards.
Once you shuffle the initiative deck, each player draws a card face down. Players then look at the card but keep it a secret. The players then go in order from 'First Place' to 'Last Place.'
The game is played in the following manner:
The game is won by the player who has the most glory points, both spend and unspent, at the end of the final round. If there is a tie, of those players whoever has a fighter still on the battlefield is the winner. If there is still a tie, the player who is holding the Mortis Lens is the winner.
The expansion also comes with two new boards - both playable in all formats of the game.
The first one is the Shade-Cursed Lair. It's got some solid lethal hexes in interesting areas as well as a nice blocked area in the center of the board. It's probably a great reaction board as you can defend quite nicely on it.
The second board is the Ravaged Hall. The lethal placement isn't too different from what we've seen already but the blocked hexes on the corner spots are super interesting indeed. I think it's a great board overall and can be used offensively and defensively.
A lot of people have been wondering how some of the cards that include the phrase 'Raise counter' work. Well, as some of you may have noticed, there is an updated card for The Warden from the Sepulchral Guard warband as well as an update to one of their factions cards.
This change not only updates the wording on these cards but also means that any card which includes the phrase, 'Raise counter' is playable in the Championship, Alliance, and Relic format when playing the Sepulchral Guard!
It's a pretty cool update and a fantastic way of bringing one of the older warbands back into the limelight in a thematic manner. And honestly, they needed the help.
I do also like how they put the alternate artwork on the backside of The Warden's fighter card. It's some solid fan service there. I do wish they'd have taken the opportunity to update the card in other ways as well. You know, like bump him up to 2 dodge!
The great thing about the cards (which are all fantastic quality) included in this set is that they are fully useable in the Championship, Alliance, and Relic formats. Yes, that means you can build decks with these cards!
As such, I will be reviewing the cards for the aforementioned formats. While the cards are designed to work with both the Arena Mortis game-mode and the "regular" game, I will be rating them based on their playability in the standard formats.
As always, as per my previous articles, I'll be using the following rating system:
"A" means that the card is very powerful and should almost always be included in your deck builds.
"B" means that the card is strong and will usually be included, but not always.
"C" means that card can be good in certain situations but will usually require extra support.
"D" means the card is on the weaker side of things. It doesn't mean that it is inherently bad but perhaps can be considered hard to use or counter intuitive to your game plan.
There are a total of 20 gambits included in Arena Mortis. Keep in mind that any fighters that say 'Raise counters' will only work with the Sepulchral Guard and as such the ratings I provide for those cards will be incumbent on well they work with that warband.
A Risky Prospect: It's a neat, and aptly named, card that rewards those who like to take risks. If you are feeling lucky you could end up with as a bunch of glory, or you can get 0. It's a bit too random for me but for could possibly win games in a pinch.
At Any Cost: I really like the mechanic this card introduces: spending glory to do things in the game. For 3 glory, you can make a charge action with a friendly fighter who does not have a move or charge token. There's 2 ways in which you could play this. First off, you could charge with a fighter, deal some damage (or miss) and then in your power step, play this card and have a second go with another fighter. Or you can summon a fighter and then immediately charge with them via this card. I think it's pretty exciting and has a lot of tactical applications. I might be rating it higher than it deserves but I think there is some promise here.
Bitter Memories: Rolling 2 dice and hoping to get at least 1 smash to potentially make an out of activation attack action is a pretty interesting card. Keep in mind crits do not count. I actually think it's okay as it's a 33% chance on each die. Still, kind of unreliable despite the apparent power it brings. Out of curiosity, anyone know what we are reacting to?
Cold Fury: So once a fighter comes back, probably The Champion, you react with this card and effectively gain a pseudo Inspired Attack. The +1 damage and single re-roll is very nice. At the moment, I think there is only one way to summon your fighter back in a power step leading into your turn so that you can take full advantage. Most of the time, you'll be painting a very large target on your chosen fighter's back. Your opponent can potentially stop you from using this cards effect if they take that fighter out.
Distracting Wealth: A pretty powerful effect for a hefty price. Essentially you get a similar effect to Twist the Knife but you have to spend 2 glory to do it. Honestly, it's probably worth it more often than not. Keep in mind that players can still react after the damage is dealt to mitigate that damage, if they have a card to do so.
Divine Reward: If one of your fighters takes an enemy out of action with an attack action, they get a free upgrade! Economically it is pretty efficient as you get to spend that newly earned glory on something else - probably another upgrade. Is it worth a slot though, I'm leaning towards no.
Enhanced Blow: Spend up to 2 glory to add up to 2 extra dice to your next attack? If you are starved for accuracy, you could consider this. I'm not a fan.
Fancy Footwork: If you really build into the combo stuff and can make it decently reliable, this card is actually super powerful, especially with To the End. Unfortunately, I think it is hard to make combo reliable in the first place.
Fractured Memories: If you're facing a particularly tanky character, you can potentially take away 1 of their defense dice, to a minimum of 1, when you attack them. It's technically increasing your chances of hitting so it is an accuracy card. I think there are better ones out there in the current pool right now.
Grand Offering: So once you've taken an enemy fighter out of action and collected your glory for doing so, you can react with this card. If you do, you can spend 1 of your glory tokens (probably the one you just earned) and cash in another spent glory token. 2 for the price of 1 indeed! I think this is a win more card and probably not good in the early game, especially for aggro. You want to get glory so you can apply upgrades to your fighters. Rating: C
Invigorating Return: So bring a Sepulchral Guard fighter back to the board and push them 2 hexes. I think this is pretty good! You can use The Warden's ability to bring a fighter back and then push them onto an objective to score cards like Temporary Victory and/or Hidden Purpose. In addition to that, it offers great flexibility if you bring a fighter back in a power step going into your activation. You might be able maneuver your fighter in such a way in which they could make an attack instead of charging.
Last Gasp: Lose a fighter and then spite your opponent by dealing 1 damage to any enemy fighter within 3 hexes. The effect is okay - I guess you could take it in an aggro deck that wants to ping a bunch of stuff. It could help finish fighters off and score you Unexpected Pitfall in the process.
Making Ends Meet: This cards pretty much lets you use a glory token twice. An interesting option for those players who think they may potentially struggle in the early game. Probably not worth it but I'll admit that it is pretty neat in theory. It'd be funny if you played this card and then your opponent played Daylight Robbery right after...
Outrageous Fortune: Burn an upgrade to potentially save a fighter from kicking the bucket? It might very well be worth it, especially in elite warbands like Rippa's Snarlfangs and The Wurmspat. Not a bad card for control strategies stacking upgrades either - I'd happily burn a tome or a Lost Page if it meant I still get to score off the other upgrades my fighter's got.
Revel in Death: Bring a fighter back and potentially offset the cost of their death in the first place seems like a pretty good idea. Again, my challenge with cards like these is that they are not reliable. Still, you've got a 50% on either dice which does seem like its odds on.
Shattering Howl: Upon your fighter's demise, you can pick an enemy fighter and discard one of their upgrades. While I am happy to see more cards in the game than can remove upgrades, I think this one isn't good enough to make the cut. It is too dependent on a certain board state. Rating: C
Soulsurge: After you take an enemy fighter out of action, roll a magic die. On a 50/50 you get to make an attack with any friendly fighter, regardless of what tokens they have. That is super tempting and potentially game winning in some instances. I imagine aggro warbands might enjoy this one.
Strength from Death: So Cleave and Ensnare are pretty powerful when combined together on the same attack action. It essentially means your opponent can only roll crits (and supports if they are eligible) to successfully defend against you. The challenge is the same as with some of the the other 'Raise counter' cards in that you could play this and then have that fighter be taken out of action by your opponent, before you get to use the effect.
The Old One-Two: This is a great accuracy buff for combo attacks as it buffs not only the first attack but the second attack as well. Unfortunately, combo is a very niche and rarely seen. There are some upgrades in this set that may make people take another stab at combo but I'm not sure its going to be efficient.
Winded: So spend 1 glory to give an enemy fighter a charge token if your fighter who is adjacent to them has 1 or more upgrades with combo. The cost is too steep. Not to mention, you are taking a combo upgrade that is probably subpar as well.
There are a total of 20 upgrades included in Arena Mortis. Keep in mind that any fighters that say 'Raise counters' will only work with the Sepulchral Guard and as such the ratings I provide for those cards will be incumbent on well they work with that warband.
Ambusher: This is very good card for the Sepulchral Guard. Essentially, when a fighter is taken out of action, you can equip it for free. Then when that fighter is brought back to the battlefield, you can discard the upgrade and place them on any hex on the board. That's insane. You can grab last minute objectives, set up your fighter for combat, and/or get to a fighter way out of reach.
Audacious Feint: This is probably the first amazingly accurate combo card I've seen thus far. 4 smash is amazing but the 1 damage is not. Still this is your builder attack and so it serves it's purpose quite well. Getting a guard token is a nice afterthought too. I just don't think combo is good enough to be consistent.
Deserved Confidence: This card is nuts. Being able to stack upgrades and gain not only an additional wound, but also becoming immune to drive back, is nasty. I doubt you'll ever see 9 upgrades on a single fighter. 5 upgrades while more common are probably going to be a rare occurrence. You’re really taking this card as your third upgrade because the compounding effects are are awesome.
Desperate Swing: At face value, a 2 fury 2 damage combo attack isn't good enough, in my opinion, to be included in your deck. If you are behind on glory the attack becomes 4 fury for 2 damage. That's a major upgrade but you can't always rely on being behind. I suppose you could wait for the right timing as the game does tend to ebb and flow but again it seems subpar.
Draining Leech: So for a reasonably accurate range 3 attack, you can deal a damage and burn one of an enemy fighter's upgrades. Seems like a meta call more than anything and even then, it's alright.
Flashy Follow Up: By itself, the attack action is painfully average. Where this card really shines is if you are able to successfully react to a combo attack you made previously. The attack action you made would be 3 damage hitting on 3 smash. That is a pretty good attack profile. Is it worth including to build into combo? I'm still thinking no.
Frenzied Assault: In theory, if you keep hitting then you can keep attacking. Honestly though, you'll miss the first attack 66% of the time. Cool idea though.
Gauntlet of Command: Spend a glory to push a friendly fighter a single hex after every activation. Seems like an expensive price tag. If you happen to stack both this upgrade and another Mortis Relic, this card will give you an additional wound.
Gauntlet of Dominance: This gauntlet's ability is slightly better in that you can spend a glory point to push an enemy fighter a single hex. That's pretty powerful in of itself despite the heavy cost and can help you in a pinch if you have the glory to spare. If you happen to have this upgrade on and another Mortis Relic, you gain +1 damage to all range 1 and range 2 attacks.
Gravesiren: Lose a fighter, put this upgrade on for free, eventually bring them back, and push any enemy fighter 1 hex. Seems like it's decently okay. Probably not worth an upgrade slot though since we already have plenty of better disruption tools in the meta already.
Head Bash: Another combo follow up attack action that is decently accurate. The cool part is that if this does hit your opponent, you can give their fighter a charge token as well. Lots of ifs and buts for my liking. Maybe combo can work? I still don't think it is optimal.
Heart Thief: A range 4, 2 fury attack for 1 damage doesn't seem too appealing. The ability to deal an extra point of damage if the opponent has more wounds than your shooting fighter seems neat. It won't matter though if you are hitting at the same level of accuracy as a git.
Hungry for Vengeance: An accuracy buff for fighters who are coming back to life. Again, they can equip this upgrade for free as long as the reaction window isn't blocked. It's essentially Strength of Terror for "free" as your your opponent gaining the glory in order for you to gain the raise counter is payment enough.
Ignoble Blow: Upperhand is back! No, not quite but the influence of that card is clearly seen here. If you rolled the same number of crits AND successes as your opponent, and you rolled at least 1 success, you pretty much win the attack. Cool to see a balanced version of that silly card in a way. Probably not good enough to take in your deck outside of some combo deck.
Invigor Mortis: Every time this fighter comes back to life, and they had this upgrade on already, they can ping an adjacent enemy fighter. The challenge is that with the Guard, you have to place a fighter on a starting hex in your territory. It might be hard to reliably get that ping damage off. Furthermore, there are gambits that are more efficient than this.
Spiteful Lunge: So this is going to be a very divisive card. On a 16% percent chance, you can take one of your opponent's fighters with one of your own, as long as they are within 3 hexes. That's insane. Again, this effect won't go down often but when it does - it's just silly. The good thing is that it is telegraphed because it is an upgrade after all. Smart players will find creative ways to deal with it or just bank on the 84% it won't work. Again, it seems really strong but it's actually not. It's a trap card in that you probably shouldn't take it. I am just worried about the NPE aspect of it.
The Crown of the Dead: Spend a glory, draw 2 card and discard 1 from your hand. On its own, it is alright, certainly very synergistic with To The End strategies outside of Hrothgorn. I think it's alright and out of thee 3 Mortis Relics, probably the one we shall see the most. When combined with any of the others, it becomes pretty solid. You probably pair this one up with the Gauntlet of Dominance if buy into the strategy. +1 damage and a re-roll seem super juicy.
Tight Defense: So if this fighter is targeted by a range 1 or range 2 attack, before dice are rolled they gain a guard token. Essentially, it's a functional copy of Survival Instincts. Well that card is restricted so this is clearly a very good card.
Vision of Glory: This is probably the best card in the entire set. You can charge, spend a glory, and charge again in the next activation. It's a very powerful card and brings back some major Ready for Action vibes. Probably an auto-include in every deck moving forward.
Weirding Staff: So range 2, 2 fury, and 2 damage are okay for an attack action. Adding your wizard's wizard level to the damage of the attack is great. Spending 2 glory for it is not. Again, cool idea but not good enough to take into a deck.
Overall the Arena Mortis expansion is a great set that includes a ton of awesome stuff that will make an Underworlder a happy camper.
a new game mode and assorted tokens
40 universal cards playable in all formats
2 new boards
a mini update to Sepulchral Guard
Personally, I recommend you buy it. Not only is Arena Mortis a ton of fun but the cards in this set are great as well. Some of the are quite powerful indeed! Also if you are a fan of the Sepulchral Guard, this is a must buy.
If you would like to pre-order Arena Mortis, head on down to your local Warhammer Store or gaming store. If you prefer to shop online, check this out here.
I hope you enjoy your experimenting with these cards over the coming weeks. Look out for more content coming out in regards to them over the next couple days.