“War, huh, yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” said Edwin Starr in 1970. And, in most cases, it rings true. Then again, when Chaos stirs in the Northern Wastes, threatening death and destruction on the living and the (un)dead, we must wage Total War. This is the basic crux of the recent Total War games, Warhammer and its sequel, Warhammer 2. While the first game deals with the direct assault of the Chaos army onto the Old World, its sequel deals with an ancient Vortex that keeps the power of Chaos at bay, the weakening of which is enabling the chaos assault.
First of all, let me just spill some details about the visual fidelity of Total War: Warhammer 2. Otherwise, it would be an insult to the great graphics lords. The visuals of the game are stunning, and it is very well optimised, managing a smooth 60 on the campaign map and the battle map, with a few drops when there’s a large number of units fighting, at 1080p high settings on a GTX 1060 with a Ryzen 5 1600. You might be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Well, let’s clear that up.
Warhammer 2 101
Total War: Warhammer 2 has two distinct campaigns. One set in the New World, based on Warhammer lore, on the Island of Ulthuan, The Jungles of Lustria, The Deserts of the Tomb Kings, The Crag Halls of Naggarond among others. The other campaign is built combining the maps from the first game and its sequel, leading to the largest map to ever grace the face of a total war game, and arguably one of the largest maps in a strategy game to date.
The gameplay can be broken down into two sections. A turn based campaign map, which includes building and managing your empire, diplomacy, agents, recruiting and building armies, and sending them on expeditions. When two opposing armies meet on this campaign map, you can choose to fight it out or auto-resolve the battle. Fighting it out switches out to a real time tactical battle map, where you can command squads of your units to attack head on, fire arrows or flank the enemy units, while reacting to the AI movement. The units in battle have really good animations when fighting the enemy, from shields to block incoming missiles, or whirling huge two handed swords to the same effect. The sounds of units clashing on the field are satisfying as well.
Speaking of units, this game has a LOT of factions to choose from, each of them being very different from one another, and no two factions playing the same. The number of playable factions is… complicated. If you only own Warhammer 2, you’ll only be able to play as the High Elves, Lizardmen, Dark Elves or the Skaven; plus, the DLC factions that you own for this game (i.e. The Vampire Coast and the Tomb Kings as of today). You can only play the Vortex Campaign, which is a nice story based campaign. However, it’s not a domination campaign, unlike the previous total war games. If you also own the first Total War Warhammer, you get access to the Mortal Empires campaign, which is the huge map I was talking about. On this campaign map, you can pick any faction that you own across both games and wage war on the combined map of the Old World and the New world, with the ultimate victory condition being total domination of the whole world.
Now to achieve this, the game gives you another dimension from the usual spear, sword and cavalry tactics; Magic. Magic is a game changer, buffing your units, debuffing your enemies or just outright killing them. You cast spells using spellcaster heroes/lords based on your Mana pool (aka The Winds of Magic). There are a lot of different “Lores” of magic in this game. Here is a list all the lores and a single highlight spell from that lore with it.
- Lore of the Little Waaagh! – Curse of da Bad Moon (damage dealer + debuff)
- Lore of the Big Waaagh! –Foot of Gork (heavy damage dealer)
- Lore of Light – Net of Amyntok (ensnares foes, stopping their movement)
- Lore of the Heavens – Comet of Cassandora (Heavy damage dealing meteor)
- Lore of Fire – Flame Storm (Fire vortex)
- Lore of Death – The Purple Sun of Xereus (Vortex of death, reduces resistance to magic)
- Lore of Vampires – Wind of Death (Powerful breath attack that attacks lines of enemy units)
- Lore of Metal – Transmutation of Lead (Weakens enemy attacks)
- Lore of the Beasts – Transformation of Kadon (Summons Feral Manticore to the battle)
- Lore of the Wild – Savage Dominion (Summons a Cygor artillery into battle)
- Lore of Shadows – The Penumbral Pendulum (Slice attack that cleaves through enemy lines)
- Lore of Life – The Dwellers Below (AOE damaging spell, also slows down units that are hit)
- Skaven Spells of Plague – Pestilent Birth (Summons a unit of plague monks – flanking units)
- Skaven Spells of Ruin – Warp Lightning (Armour Piercing Lightning Storm)
- Lore of High Magic – Fiery Convocation (Summons a flaming phoenix to burn enemy lines)
- Lore of Dark Magic – Chillwind (causes ice damage, while also slowing down units)
- Lore of Nehekhara – Sakhmet’s Incantation of the Skullstorm (Sandstorm, also reduces speed)
- Lore of the Deep – Denizens of the Deep (Summons a unit of Rotting Prometheans)
These different Lores of magic are all fine and dandy, but, as we’ve discussed, each faction plays VERY differently, and not all lores can be used by all factions. I’m also including a condensed faction guide below, for all your warmongering needs.
|Lores of Magic
|Undead ; units don’t rout, cause fear, can be resurrected mid battle, powerful chariots and cavalry
|No ranged missiles or artillery
|Death, Vampires, Shadows
|The Empire of Man
|Resilient Units, pretty decent selection of units, powerful cavalry and artillery
|Lack of monsters, not many AP units
Light, Heavens, Fire,
|Heavily Armoured, strong artillery, high leadership, hard hitting units
|Low speed, lack of cavalry or magic
|Large variety of units for different tasks, powerful infantry, can field large inexpensive armies
|Subpar cavalry and missiles
Savage Orc Big ‘Uns
|Big Waaagh, Little Waaagh, Death
|Warriors of Chaos
|Extremely powerful infantry and artillery, lots of armoured and AP units, tough lords
|Subpar missiles, expensive units, susceptible to flanking
|Shadows, Death, Fire, Metal
|Strong infantry, excellent long-range missile units, varied roster
|Expensive units, majority weak to fire, lack of artillery
|Shadows, Beasts, Life
|Strong chariots, large number of units, lots of monsters that cause terror in enemy lines
|Terrible missile units, lack of value for the price
|Beasts, Wild, Death, Shadows
|Outstanding Cavalry, Capable of maintaining air superiority
|Average infantry and missile units, Cavalry needs micromanaging
The Green Knight
|Heavens, Life, Beasts
|Good variety of infantry units, resilient and armoured, lots of monsters
|Subpar cavalry and missiles, expensive infantry
|Death, Fire, Metal, Shadows
|Excellent Missiles, infantry and cavalry, large variety of units, Martial Prowess
|Very expensive units, slow
|High Magic, Life, Heavens, Light, Shadows
|Strong infantry and cavalry, Murderous Prowess
|Lack of range on missiles, Expensive cavalry and infantry
|Dark Magic, Death, Shadows, Beasts, Fire
|Tough and Resilient infantry and cavalry, Strong Dual role monsters/artillery
|Slow units, terrible missile damage, susceptible to rampage
|Cheap units, useful for swarming enemy, good variety of all kinds of units
|Pretty average infantry and missiles, lack of armour and staying power
Hell pit abomination
|Skaven spells of Ruin and Plague
|Undead; units don’t rout, good variety of infantry, powerful constructs
|Infantry is weak, constructs lack staying power, low leadership causing self-damage
|Light, Death, Shadows, Nehekhara
|Undead, Lots of meatshields and heavy hitting units, lots of monstrous units that cause terror
|Weak to fire damage, melee and ranged stats of most infantry is terrible
|Vampires, Shadows, Deep
But wait, there’s more!
Having this multitude of factions to play around with is great and all…. but without knowing the ins and outs of empire management, you will be swamped. Fast. So, let’s look at how you can survive the campaign and smash your foes left and right. Let’s get one thing out of the way first: DO NOT play multiplayer battles without going through the campaign at least once. You will get rekt. Learn your units before you decide to battle someone else.
With that out of the way, how do you play the campaign? Usually, you will start with one city and an army, with an enemy army not far off. To make the gameplay streamlined, missions are included which will guide you on what to do next. These missions are quite open-ended and generic, like sack 4 settlements, or defeat army belonging to X, and serve as a good milestone to progress to. In this quest to power, there are a few things to look after.
- Public Order: Try to keep it above zero. Buildings that increase public order, or province-wide edicts that do the same should help. Military presence is always a buff to public order.
- Income: Try to obtain as many trade agreements as possible in the first turn, and keep looking for ways to expand trade. It is a good income boost, and will let you raise armies quicker. Don’t forget to complete the missions as they generally lead to a large monetary compensation.
- Edicts/Commandments: When you have control of an entire province, you can issue a commandment that gives a boost to that province. Make sure to make use of it. Switch it around to what you need the most.
- If you’re the Vampires or Chaos, make sure that your preferred corruption (Vampiric/Chaos) is maxed out in the provinces. First, raise the corruption in your adjacent territory before venturing out, or it will lead to attrition damage.
- If you’re the Skaven, corruption will help you on the battlefield by letting you summon hordes of rats from the underground, but high skaven corruption leads to public order penalties.
- For any other races, corruption wreaks havoc on public order. Make sure your provinces are untainted.
- Armies: Armies are made up of lords, heroes and units.
- Lords are effectively generals of the army. Their very presence boosts unit morale. Keep them safe in battle, their death can very well mean the loss of the battle.
- Heroes are sort of like lords in that they boost morale, but they are usually weaker than lords, and are meant to do their own thing, which can be buffing units, or providing support to a lord who can’t fight in melee (like a spellcaster)
- Units are the mainstay of your army. Capped to 20 per army including lords and heroes, in the campaign, a bigger army is usually better unless it’s full of shitty expendable units.
- Fighting: When two armies clash, you can see the entire army composition, and you can decide whether you want to fight the battle, autoresolve the battle, or retreat.
- Selecting fight will take you to the battle map based on the army’s location in the campaign. This is usually the best option to minimise your losses and inflict maximum damage on your enemy. However, you need proper tactics and unit management, or you could end up killing most of your own troops through friendly fire.
- Autoresolve lets the computer simulate the fight based on the strength of both armies. A strength bar before the battle will give you an estimated chance of winning, but you will still take more losses than fighting properly. Autoresolve is a great way to save time if you have a full 20 stack army and are attacking a small settlement garrison with peasants.
- Retreating lets you cancel the battle and hightail it out of there. However, you can’t always retreat.
- If your army is in the forced march stance, you are unable to retreat
- If your army is ambushed by an enemy, you are unable to retreat
- If your army is using the Underway/Worldroots (a method used by the Dwarfs, Greenskins, Skaven and Wood Elves to travel quickly) and is intercepted, you are unable to retreat
- If you’ve already retreated once, but the enemy pursues you and attacks again, you are unable to retreat.
Basically, don’t venture out of your own territory without backup.
- Buildings and research
- Most research needs a particular building to begin. Make sure you upgrade your settlement buildings (cities/towns) so you can unlock building slots, and upgrade your buildings to the next tier.
- Depending on the condition of your empire, preference should be given to military, economic or public-order buildings. If you have a stable income every turn, max out all the military chain buildings, so you can recruit the strongest units and quickly replace the inferior units in your armies
- Faction mechanics: Ensure you read up on how your faction plays before the start of the game (there is a nice How They Play card at the beginning of the campaign)
- As the Chaos, don’t keep your armies close to each other, they will suffer from attrition due to infighting.
- Make sure you’re always fighting as the greenskins; sitting idle for a long time causes attrition due to infighting (Orcs need their fightiness fix).
- Don’t let a lord sit in a city with high public order for a long time. This makes them lazy and gives negative traits.
- If you’re playing as the skaven, dark elves or the vampire coast, make sure your lords have a high loyalty. A loyalty of zero means they will rebel and you will lose the entire army stack.
- As the Lizardmen, keep buffing the Geomantic Web, or you will regret it later. It keeps your income high and the corruption low.
- As the high elves, make sure you amass as much influence as you can. You can use this to make or break alliances, and cause wars between factions that are very powerful, that you want to cut down in size.
- Explore: Send your armies out to explore the map. There are unexplored relics in the seas, claiming them will give buffs map-wide to either your armies (in battle), or your empire. They could also lead to a small battle where you can defeat an enemy to claim a hidden treasure.
- Agents: Use your agents freely. Whether it is to replenish your armies, kill/wound enemy agents/lords, damage settlement defences or to buff up your income, use them as much as you can. These can turn the tide of a battle.
- Rituals: In the vortex campaign, don’t undertake the rituals unless you’re sure you can defend your cities. Every faction in the game will try to attack the ritual cities. Make sure you are capable of defending them before starting the ritual, or your efforts will be in vain.
- Rites: Don’t complete the various rites soon as they are available. They have very long cooldown times, and it could mean you don’t have access to them when you really need them.
- Patience is Key: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t try to declare war with every faction you see that transgresses against you. Only declare war when you have an economy to back it up. Make sure you won’t be overrun by the allies of your enemy. Focus on building alliances with your neighbours. Attempt confederations among your species. Fight the common enemy, and take it slow. I’ve had many campaigns snowball because my armies were spread out and I had nothing defending my capital. Before I could return my armies, with my richest cities in enemy hands, supplies ran out pretty quick, and the campaign ended in defeat.
That’s about it….not
“That’s all good, Abhay”, I hear you say, “but what about the battles? How do I ensure I don’t get my ass handed to me by a weak foe?” All in good time, comrade. Here are a few tips to increase your odds of winning in a battle
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you see that the enemy army outnumbers you and has a lot of strong units, don’t go into battle immediately. See if you can lure the enemy into the range of your garrisons or another friendly army. Reinforcement armies are really useful. Attempt to ambush a weak army with your stronger ones by planting a bait. Agents. Use them.
- Before the battle begins, make sure you position your units in a sensible way. Have a front line that is capable of holding (if you’re planning to play defensively) or dishing out damage quickly (if you’re going all out).
- Protect your flanks. Make sure you have a couple of spear infantry, or anything anti cavalry on your flanks. Don’t leave the back of your units vulnerable to cav charges, your units will rout pretty quickly, and take a LOT of damage.
- Look at the enemy army before you begin, and decide on your battle plan. Does the enemy have a lot of artillery? Missiles? Sorcerers? If so, spread your units a bit, and don’t bunch them up. Bunched up units are juicy targets for enemy artillery fire.
- Once you decide to move up, DO NOT turn back. Your units will not be able to defend themselves from rear attacks. No matter how bad you think the battle is, don’t order your units to turn around. They will get shredded.
- Try to maintain your battle lines. Yes, it will get chaotic when the fighting commences, but do your best to ensure that your front line is a line, not two units with a wide gaping hole in the middle. This is practically asking the enemy to surround your units and overwhelm them
- Make good use of your lords and heroes. They’re usually small targets, and so can avoid friendly missile damage. If they’re armoured, send them into the thick of the fray. They can do a lot of damage. You can also try attacking the enemy lord with your own if you can. Try to defeat the enemy lord asap, and you can turn the tide even If you’re outnumbered and outclassed.
- Don’t use unarmoured units in your front line unless they’re meant to be meatshields. You will lose every day of the week. Make sure your front line has a high melee defence and a bit of staying power, so you can flank around with your own units and surround your foe.
- Use monsters wisely. Don’t charge large units into spears. Don’t charge your cavalry into spears head on. Even low tier spears are immune to charge damage, and your cavalry will take unnecessary damage.
- Face your artillery in the direction you want them to fire in before the battle commences. Turning them wastes valuable time, which could have been used to blow chunks of the enemy lines into smithereens
- Don’t spread your units too thin. Make use of guard mode so your units don’t chase routing enemies to the edges of the map. It makes them tired, and causes their stats to drop.
- Try to get the best possible matchups for your units. It may not be possible across the board, but many small victories will net you the battle.
- Save your Armour Piercing (AP) units for the heavily armoured troops. Unless you don’t have a choice, don’t waste them on low tier units. It ties them up, causes damage and could end up snowballing if they get rear charged.
- On that note, always try to focus your ranged units on the most dangerous targets. It’ll reduce their HP very quickly, and probably cause them to rout.
- Don’t use non-AP missiles on heavily armoured units, and don’t waste AP missiles on non armoured units. Yeah, they’ll do some damage, but it’s a lot of wasted potential
- Speaking of charges, try to micromanage your cavalry. Unless you have a melee cavalry that’s meant to be in prolonged combat, you need to micromanage them. Charge, retreat, cycle. If your using chariots, DO NOT retreat. Simply charge straight through, and then return. This is faster, and you take less damage. Same with high mass monsters. You can charge and continue straight through to prolong the effect of the charge, then move to the next unit.
- If you’re facing a faction with superior ranged or artillery, charge. Don’t wait around for them to come to you, you’ll be sitting ducks.
- Unless you have strong aerial units like a bunch of dragons, don’t attempt air superiority with your flying lord. He will get torn to shreds by superior flying cavalry. Instead, try to lure the enemy into the range of your missiles and watch them get taken down.
- Make efficient use of magic. Don’t throw out spells willy-nilly. Your unit is facing a superior unit, but you don’t have any support? Buff them, or debuff your enemy. Try to reduce their morale. Or, directly damage them. Make sure to avoid friendly fire, however.
- Seriously, protect your flanks. Make sure your artillery isn’t taken out by flying units 30 seconds into battle. They’re very expensive to field.
- In siege battles, on the campaign map, try to starve the enemy and cause damage before attacking. This will make it much easier.
- Don’t leave your cavalry hanging out in the front near enemy walls in sieges. They can’t do anything useful; it will be target practice for the enemy missiles.
- Avoid ladders where possible. This makes your units VERY tired, and can also lead to a couple of them dying by falling off. Try to use siege towers.
- Use siege towers to take enemy missile fire. They’re sturdy, and units behind them will be well protected. BUT, don’t overestimate them. If they’re heavily damaged, get your units out of them and run. If it breaks with units inside, they’re done for.
- On the same vein, when you’re defending against a siege, sally forth and attack when possible. Make good use of all your ranged units, place them effectively on the walls. Use arcing artillery to hit your foes’ siege towers.
- Try to keep your lords and heroes moving so your entire army can get the morale boost.
- Did I mention protecting your flanks? Seriously. Protect your flanks.
That’s it…this time for real
With all that information out of the way, is the game worth it a year and a half after release? Well, it’s complicated. At full price, the game is on the more expensive side, especially with all the DLC that is needed to get the full experience. However, since each DLC adds a whole new playable campaign, it is a worthwhile argument. Now to get the full experience, you need two games worth of content, and while that does seem to be a bit too expensive, it’s only going to get a lot more so when Warhammer 3 comes out. The Mortal Empires is more a fan-service to all the owners of the first game, the people who got the first game when it came out. It might seem a bit shady to a few, and I get how you feel. But I would recommend getting the games, at least on sale. CA and SEGA have made a wonderful sandbox where you write your own awesome stories. Blood for the Blood God, Skulls for the Skull Throne. For the Everqueen. In the name of Magnus. We shall prevail. Waaaaaaaghhhh!