With the release of Total War: Warhammer, the tenth installment in a series going back almost twenty years, a veritable flood of new players have joined the scene. This isn’t a bad thing. In order for a series to be better, you need players, and until recently (especially after the $12 Humble Bundle deal for the main game), Total War has been a narrowly focused property for people interested in realistic battles and historical settings. TW:WH changed that. So before you dive into Warhammer, or really any other installment in the series, check out this post on the basics of battle and campaign management. This will be the first installment in a series on the franchise that I love so much. Once we get through the basics I’ll move to the specifics of the games themselves in later articles.
War is Politics
This is the most misunderstood thing about Total War–it’s not merely a RTS, where you are managing resources to drive your war machine. TW, at it’s most basic level, is about civilization management. In order for your armies to march gloriously on the field, you have to be able to arm and supply them. I’ll go more into food management in another installment (food management has been an important metric since the beginnings of the series, but Warhammer has eschewed it in order to make the campaign less complicated), but for now I’ll be taking this to the least common denominator, which is Warhammer. Once again, not a knock, and after Attila there’s a beautiful simplicity to Warhammer.
Basically, if you focus too much on your military capabilities as the campaign progresses, you’ll be overwhelmed by your enemies’ war machines, as the war machine is powered by money and public order. It doesn’t matter if you can train the most powerful units your faction can muster if you can’t pay for them.
Economy is Key
One thing that holds true in every installment: you have to maximize your economy in order to fuel your armies with better troops and equipment. The best way to do this is to designate provinces as economic or military, with more economic provinces than military. I tend to maintain a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio depending on the game, faction, and map. This is key, especially in Warhammer, as both your best troop buildings and best cultural/economic buildings can only be fully upgraded in your provincial capitol. As you develop these economic centers, you should make sure of two things: 1) if it’s close to the front lines make sure you build structures that provide extra garrison units, and 2) focus on growth based edicts first, then transition to higher tax/trade tariff income edits later. This holds true in every game: the faster your province grows to more money you will make in tax revenues, and allows for better buildings.
Trade Agreements are also super important. In the most recent games (Empire through Warhammer), the factions you have trade agreements with influence their opinion of you, so choose wisely. If you are needing to gain an ally, be sure you pay attention to who their enemies are. Nevertheless, trade is critical to expanding your total economic potential. The longer you maintain a trade route, the more valuable it becomes and the greater your standing with that faction will become.
Battles are Shallow and Deep
There are layers upon layers of things that can be said about the battle system of Total War that I’ll touch on in due time, but the chief objective is to win. However, killing your enemies is not necessarily the way to win. You goal should always be to cause the enemy army to rout first–you have to do things that lower their morale and cause them to break. Once a unit breaks, send fast cavalry to run them down, as routing enemies won’t defend themselves and you’ll cause massive casualties. This strategy doesn’t work against enemies that won’t break, however (looking at you Vampire Counts). The surest way to cause a enemies to break is to hit them with plenty of missiles on their approach, kill their general, and attack their units from behind once their engaged (a maneuver called “flanking”). Otherwise, here’s the basics of units:
1) Sword units are best against spears.
2) Spears are best against cavalry.
3) Cavalry are best against swords, ranged units, and some cavalry, but as a general rule avoid spears UNLESS you are attacking them directly from the rear. After the initial hit, IMMEDIATELY pull them back. Once in melee, spears will then work effectively against your cavalry.
4) Gunpowder units ignore armor, but generally are either weaker than the equivalent archer/crossbow unit, and/or reload much faster. So, lets say you’re playing as the Empire or Dwarfs: your gunpowder units will work best against your own kind, which rely heavily on armored soldiers, whereas your crossbow units work best on Greenskins/chaos/ an lightly armored foe.
5) In Warhammer, and in some other TW installments, you have dog-like units, or war hounds. These are great to send after a routing enemy, but in Warhammer they are mainly there to take out light cavalry, as they’re the only thing in game that can outrun them. This allows you to knock out flanking ranged units that can decimate your line from behind.
6) Seige Units are great for taking out walls, and in Warhammer you have ones that are anti-large and anti-infantry. It’s pretty self explanatory; use the right one against the right units. But always have artillery when possible.
There is a ton more to the battles than this, but it should suffice against most opponents. I will be talking more in depth about army composition and battle formations later, but basically think about this as a really complex game of rock, paper, scissors. Pay attention to the units your enemy deploys and try to plan accordingly.
Agents, Agents, Agents
Since Rome 2, Agents have become important to play, but they’ve become essential to Warhammer. They are your eyes and ears on the ground, scouting out enemy positions, ascertaining their unit types and strength, and can be used to kill enemy generals, assault garrisons, burn enemy infrastructure, and halt advancing armies. They do this all while boosting public order, lowering construction cost, and keeping the forces of corruption at bay (or heralding the coming corruption).
Before sending your agents to a near certain death by throwing them at an enemy army, level them first. This can be done by embedding them with your forces and sending them into battle, or turning on their active ability. Both ways will level the character. That’s all I say about those now.
The next edition will be delving into battle tactics, army composition, and campaign movement strategies. Stay tuned!