Why, hello there! It has been a while since we last talked about Total War: Warhammer II's current meta in anticipation of Total War: Warhammer III, but I am happy to see you nonetheless. In case you missed it last time, I am starting a three-part series where I run down the current faction roster in Total War: Warhammer II and speculate what I think Creative Assembly is planning for each in Total War: Warhammer III. Certainly, I am entirely aware Warhammer III's "Mortal Empires" campaign will not be a part of the game at launch and will likely be sold as DLC in 2022. Regardless, some New World and Old World factions are bound to appear in Warhammer III's version of the Vortex Campaign, and that inevitably means changes are in store for many well-established races and figures.
If you missed part 1, wherein I discussed possible changes for the High Elves, Lizardmen, Dark Elves, Skaven, and Vampire Coast, here's a link! Otherwise, you'll notice I oscillate between pie-in-the-sky fantasies and grounded pragmatic predictions. For the most part, the factions we will be looking at this week do not require a mountain of work in prep for Warhammer III. The big recurring theme, in fact, will involve better starting positions and extra Legendary Lords. As you review some of my requests, feel free to share what you hope to see will happen to your favorite factions! Without further ado, let's jump into it!
Current State: PERFECT
To the handful of you who have avoided Warhammer II's DLC, I financially envy you, but at the same time, . Case in point, the Tomb Kings are a ton of fun and justify their high asking price. They play unlike any other race in the game in that they require the player to turtle for upwards of twenty or so turns before making treks outside of their dune-drenched borders. Likewise, their resource-poor economy is bound to throw Empire and Elven players for a loop. They inhabit fun portions of the map and are spread apart enough that Creative Assembly will not have a hard time having them interact with Warhammer III's world. That said, there are a few changes I wouldn't mind seeing when it comes to the Tomb Kings.
Change #1: Completely Rehaul Their Lores Of Magic
First, I want to make something clear; I LOVE how the Tomb King's current economy works in Warhammer II. I know many Warhammer II players loathe how long it takes to buy anything with the Tomb Kings, especially when it comes to Arkhan the Black. However, when you consider the Tomb Kings have virtually no upkeep for the vast majority of their unit roster, I find them one of the more compelling "build tall" factions in the game. There is, however, one significant black mark against the Tomb Kings:. When you stop and compare the Lore of Nehekhara to the rest of the undead lores of magic, it simply does not stack up. To add insult to injury, the current bevy of passive heals for the Lore of Nehekhara are a carbon copy of those found in the Lore of the Vampires.
The big issue with the Lore of Nehekhara is how almost all of its damage-dealing spells are confined to single targets and cannot be overcast to do AOE damage. By the mid-game, single target magic spells are only truly useful in defeating heroes or lords or healing specific units. Worse, some of the best buffs with this lore of magic (i.e., Djaf's Incantation of Cursed Blades) only target single allies rather than areas with multiple units. Sure, the Tomb Kings are great at sniping, but in sieges or battles where enemies have reinforcements, their magic can be more of a liability. The end result is that using magic as the Tomb Kings becomes an absolute afterthought by the late-game. With Chaos likely getting a massive buff, none of this can stand as the Tomb Kings already have a hard enough time treading water in specific scenarios or matchups, especially during a Chaos Invasion.
Change #2: Tons Of Small Fixes To Their Meta And Starting Positions
To further highlight how good a position the Tomb Kings are in, my only other significant suggestion is to give them better armor-piercing units and possibly make the Casket of Souls less expensive. Currently, in Warhammer II, the Tomb Kings spend A LOT of time fucking about with Brettonia and Lizardmen and getting their asses handed to them. There's nothing entirely wrong with this outcome, but given what both rival factions can recruit in the late-game, I think the Tomb Kings need a more diverse late-game unit roster. In particular, their armor-piercing options are paltry, which is a huge problem whenever they go up against Repanse de Lyonesse or Stegosaurs. Finally, I love the Casket of Souls, but HOT DAMN is it downright impossible to have more than two until turn fifty. I think the cost of the Casket of Souls needs to drop or, at the very least, for the Tomb Kings to have other cheaper alternatives.
Regarding their starting positions, I think the easiest solution is the best: put one Tomb King leader on every significant continent or "theater" of war. This, in turn, means the Tomb Kings will warrant lord packs in Warhammer III, and I think that is the case given that their current total of four lords leaves a lot of room for experimentation. Apophas, the Cursed Scarab Lord, is a perfect opportunity for future DLC. If he is added, I look forward to seeing how Creative Assembly animate him, given his entire body is a swarm of locusts. There is something to be said about how FUCKED Arkhan the Black's starting position is compared to the rest of the Tomb King's roster. However, I genuinely enjoy how he has no hope of beating the Knights of the Flame, even if they are his starting target. I know this is a bit of a wild tangent, but I think there should be more variability regarding difficulty within every faction. I think it would benefit Warhammer III if every race had an "easy" and "hard" lord in its version of the Vortex campaign.
Current State: Great for Karl Franz; BIG "Ehhhhhh" for Markus Wulfhart; AND EVERYONE ELSE IS TERRIBLE
Some could say the variability of experiences with the different lords for The Empire suits them perfectly. Karl Franz is many people's first impression of Warhammer II's Mortal Empires campaign, and Markus Wulfhart provides an incredibly unique experience. However, things are decidedly for Volkmar the Grim and Balthasar Gelt. Since Creative Assembly re-tooled the computer's aggression in the Greenskin update, nine times out of ten, I see Mannfred steamroll The Empire and wipe out Balthasar Gelt. In some cases, I have witnessed Mannfred destroy three elector counts and push Gelt to his starting settlement by turn twenty-five. Furthermore, because of how close each of The Empire's Legendary Lords are to one another, it is easy for their rivals to take down multiple factions in a single battle.
Change #1: Nerf The Confederation Penalties For The Empire
The Empire is a hodgepodge of states that refuse to see eye-to-eye on anything other than their love for Sigmar. I don't necessarily want to change that, but it wouldn't hurt if Creative Assembly leaned into The Empire's inspiration being the Holy Roman Empire. Each Legendary Lord in their roster should be vying for influence, and the support of various elector counts through feats and heroics. That's mostly the case in Warhammer II, but then we have the prickly issue of the confederation mechanic. When you confederate a faction or settlement, you have to stomach a significant penalty to your diplomatic relations as well as an additional debuff to your public order. The latter of which is incredibly bothersome in the early game when you are unlikely to have unlocked any lord's public order buffs on their skill tree.
Given that The Empire is a collection of elector counts, it makes sense to skew them into favoring confederation more than any other faction. As a result, I think the penalties for confederating a settlement or minor faction should be outright eliminated for them. Likewise, I believe the Imperial Authority mechanic should be more responsive whenever an Empire faction achieves a heroic or significant victory against a Chaos-aligned faction. To illustrate, when I beat a full-stack army under Sigvald or Archaeon in the campaign, I should have elector counts begging me to confederate them without penalty. The Empire is, of course, the faction that encourages building "wide" more than any other nation or race in the game. Let players go ham and live with the consequences of overextending themselves later. When you stop to think about it, The Empire should be the strongest faction in the campaign from the onset, with their rivals slowly making up the difference as things progress.
Change #2: More Different Starting Positions And Legendary Lords
Let's return to Volkmar the Grim for a bit. Volkmar starts right next to Karl Franz, which is a problem because he is inferior to Franz in almost every regard. More importantly, it leads to every Empire campaign feeling "cramped" as you have all of their lords near one another. This makes completing your mission objectives incredibly annoying as the AI will often take out your targets before you even get started. With Kislev coming into the picture, I think it makes a ton of sense to send Volkmar on a "crusade" to their aid. Conversely, you have to imagine someone is bound to represent The Empire to Grand Cathay in the style of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. The Empire's whole mantra is that they don't just want their hand in one imperial or continental cookie jar; they want their hand in EVERY cookie jar. While I think a full-on crusade mechanic is better suited for Bretonnia, and more on that next episode, I hope Creative Assembly leans more into the religious zealotry of The Empire in Warhammer III.
Finally, I think The Empire needs more Legendary Lords. Given that The Empire is usually most people's first impression of any given Warhammer game, they should have a full roster of six Legendary Lords. Creative Assembly has teased the idea of making Boris Todbringer a fully realized Legendary Lord for ages, and goddamn, they should make it happen at this point. As for the other possible new Legendary Lord, I think it is about time for the Cult of Ulric to make a qualified appearance. With the focus turning to Kislev, I think Norsca is bound to get a massive buff and a more in-depth roster. Having a Norse-themed sub-faction aligned to the forces of Order benefits The Empire AND Norsca. Norsca has a more immediate rival and target, which they so desperately need, and the Empire gets a new starting position far away from Reikland. Let's call it a proverbial "win-win" and move on to the next faction.
Current State: Poor (i.e., I THINK THEY ARE BORING AS FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!)
THE DWARFS ARE FUCKING BORING #CHANGEMYMIND! Playing a faction with no magic options is not what I signed up for in a Warhammer video game. That's especially when you reach the late-game, and the dwarfs increasingly rely on mono hero units (i.e., Thanes and Master Engineers). Once you get to that stage of the game, you take your stack of hero units and march them to the opposing army and occasionally pop a few buffs so they can tank everything into oblivion. If that's your idea of "fun," more power to you, but for me, I find the dwarfs boring and tedious. What's more, the Dwarfs, more than any other faction besides Warriors of Chaos or Beastmen, feel left behind as all of their rivals and enemies have gotten bonuses and new mechanics. They are a sad, sick little puppy that desperately needs a shot of antibiotics.
Change #1: Add Master Engineer And Master Brewer Legendary Lords
Part of the reason why I find dwarfs so dull is that their bevy of Legendary Lords feels incredibly uninspired. I know many people like their leaders, but to me, so many feel like all they do is hold their own in combat. And if that is all you are getting out of a Legendary Lord, what is the fucking point? More importantly, when you look at every other faction in the game, their lords all provide a different playstyle compared to the alternatives. That's not the case with the dwarfs, and all four of their lords are front-line battle-harden veterans that want to charge into battle. As things stand, they are BEGGING to get at least one new lord who is a Master Engineer. At least that way, you have a lord that lets you play around with the dwarf's magic adjacent buffs and cooldowns.
Then you have Josef Bugman; the most demanded Total War Warhammer Legendary Lord short of Thanquol. Now, the reasons for this are relatively straightforward. Josef Bugman is a Master Brewer who throws kegs of exploding ale at people and increases his troops' morale by making them shotgun beer. I'm not joking; that's what he does, and I want to see that in Warhammer III. For those wondering, Master Brewers are Warhammer Fantasy's equivalent of the Artificer class in Dungeons and Dragons, and Josef Bugman is the most legendary of these Master Brewers. As we will discuss shortly, including brewers in the dwarfs' unit roster in Warhammer III is almost a given as they desperately need better anti-magic options. Finally, in a game where Chaos Dwarfs exist, order-aligned Dwarfs need new and more varying playstyles if they wish to remain a viable pick among players.
Change #2: Better Starting Positions & Victory Conditions
As a point of reference, let me tell you my favorite Dwarf Legendary Lord in Warhammer II: Belegar Ironhammer. I like how he has a communicated mission in the campaign. Additionally, I find the inclusion of debuffs until he accomplishes that mission incredibly clever. For this reason, I think each of the playable Dwarf sub-factions should have something similar to encourage greater exploration of the in-game map. Likewise, the current troupe of Legendary Lords desperately need starting positions that match their variable end-goals. For example, GIVE GROMBRINDAL A UNIQUE START TO FIGHT ELVES! HIS COMBAT BUFFS ARE FOR FIGHTING ELVES, BUT HE'S IN A POSITION WHERE IT TAKES HIM FOREVER TO ENCOUNTER HIS FIRST MAGICAL FOREST! WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE EVEN DOING AT THIS POINT?!
Additionally, the current Runeforge feels like a complete missed opportunity. First, it is a palette swap of the Mortuary Cult, and Creative Assembly isn't even ashamed to admit that point. Second, the Runeforge should be a rallying cry for the Dwarfs to explore different portions of the map so they can acquire new gems and resources that unlock better equipment and weapons. Unfortunately, that's only partially the case, and very often, Dwarfs are forced to turtle their settlements as waves of Greenskins or Skaven swarm their colonies. Finally, which Dwarf Legendary Lord is taking on the Chaos Dwarfs, and how will the Runeforge help that effort? There needs to be at least one immediate matchup between Dwarfs and Chaos Dwarfs, and I think the likely candidate is Thorgrim Grudgebearer. However, how do you change his starting position while allowing him to keep Karaz-a-Karak? Or, how do you bring the Chaos Dwarfs to him?
Change #3: More Anti-Magic Options
I only suggest three fixes when I think a faction is in murky waters, and that's the case with Dwarfs. There are so many matchup nightmares for the Dwarfs it is not even funny. When Mortal Empires first dropped, Dwarfs were a top-tier race due to their magical immunities. However, that came at the cost of their inability to perform magic. As it stands now, they struggle against Skaven as they are susceptible to plague and Greenskins are a complete menace. Furthermore, with the looming threat of Chaos Dwarfs swaying like a Sword of Damocles, the Dwarfs are not a faction Creative Assembly can merely copy and paste into Warhammer III. All of their enemies have strong Lores of Magic which are only bound to get better in a campaign focusing on Chaos.
The solution here, at least in my mind, returns us to Josef Bugman. Not only do I think Master Brewers would be a perfect fit for Dwarfs in Warhammer III, but I think more Dwarf guilds should be represented in the game in general. Previous Warhammer games spent most of their energy surfacing engineers. Still, if the bearded ones have any hope of remaining a viable pick, they need weird and wacky shit like brewers, runesmiths, and artisans. And yes, I know runesmiths already exist in Warhammer II, but I want them to do more than nullify magic, and there should be more variety to them than the one or two units they represent in the game. The driving motivation here is that vanilla Dwarfs are bound to be a target for Chaos Dwarfs, and they need more tools to avoid getting wrecked.
Current State: Very Good
Before The Warden and The Paunch DLC, my opinion of the Greenskins was negative. However, everything changed when Grom the Paunch came into the picture, his recipe mechanic included. Grom's Cauldron is one of my all-time favorite faction-specific mechanics in Warhammer II, short of Ikit Claw's Forbidden Workshop. However, this has led to the unintended consequence of making their non-DLC Legendary Lords feel forgotten. Azhag and Grimgor are no fun to play, and I struggle to consider them when Grom or Wurrzag are right next to them. That aside, . Waaagh units can be two to three levels better than the units of your neighbors, and you can stack Waaagh in-battle buffs to the goddamn sky. The Raidin' Camp ability allows the Greenskins to raid with reckless abandon, which is a nice thing to have, considering they cannot establish trade routes. All in all, they are one of the best Old World factions in the entire game. Which is an accomplishment in and of itself considering how bad things were for them at launch.
Change #1: Give The Non-DLC Lords Some Love
One of Warhammer II's recurring criticisms is that its DLC has put several of its "vanilla" factions and leaders at a severe disadvantage. That criticism is especially pointed when you look at the current state of the Greenskins after their most recent update. As suggested earlier, Wurrzag and Grom are simply on a whole different level when you compare them to Grimgor or Azhag. The most significant point of contention being Grom the Paunch, whose cauldron introduces a completely new tech tree that makes him more powerful than his peers and more fun to play. The unfortunate "truth" here is that Creative Assembly makes more money on their DLC packs if their DLC lords are objectively better than the base-game lords. As a result, it is HIGHLY unlikely that someone like Grimgor will ever get a mechanic as in-depth as Grom's Cauldron.
But this is my blog, and goddamn it, I think the non-DLC Legendary Lords are worth making relevant. Grimgor, to me at least, is an "easy fix" in that his Waaagh bonus should be made far more potent in the campaign. If truth be told, Creative Assembly could harken back to the Crusade/Jihad mechanic in Medieval II. Why not have every unit under Grimgor's control have zero upkeep if participating in a Waaagh? Skarsnik, on the other hand, is a bit of a different case. Prior to the Greenskin update, he was one of the more useful Legendary Lords because of his public order buffs. Now that public order is less of an issue, he doesn't have the niche you'd expect him to have in a regular campaign. His hate boner for Dwarves leads to exciting matchups, but his Lore of Magic is just "okay." Fixing that issue shouldn't be that big of a problem. Simply put, Skarsnik needs a little more spice in his stew, and the same could be said for Azhag. I like playing Azhag as much as I enjoy playing Throgg for Norsca, which is to say I hate Azhag. There's nothing wrong with him in theory, but his buffs and starting position are just dull. Besides, if you are playing Orcs and Big 'Uns in the late campaign, you have fucked up.
Change #2: Give Them A Reason To Interact With The New Parts Of The Map
Let's talk about one of my big pet peeves with the Greenskins in Warhammer II! In the Vortex Campaign, Grom starts on the Southlands, but in Mortal Empires, he joins the rest of the Greenskins on the Old World. This, in my humble opinion, fucking sucks. The issue here is that Greenskins always end up in the same early-game matchups, regardless of who you play, in Mortal Empires. Likewise, it takes FOREVER for the Greenskins to get their first real opportunity to explore and interact with the New World. With the world of Total Warhammer only getting bigger, this needs to change. Luckily, physically moving the Greenskins should not prove too complicated, and the reformed Waaagh mechanic is bound to make things even easier. The only issue is providing campaign alternatives to the Greenskins' usual targets on the Old World when setting up Waaaghs.
Speaking of which, let's return to Warhammer III's initial campaign map. When you look at the map of where Warhammer III is bound to occur, the Greenskins are going to need at least one starting position on the Southlands and another in proximity to the Ogre Kingdoms. Warhammer Fantasy places a special Greenskin faction near the Chaos Dwarfs called the "Black Orcs." They are former slaves of the Chaos Dwarfs that rebelled before the events of the main-canon and are constantly fighting back their former masters. Now, before you ask, these Orcs and Goblins are still aligned towards Chaos even if they hate the Chaos Dwarfs. However, I hope Warhammer III plays up the prospect of showing animosity and conflict between the Chaos-aligned factions. To highlight, if the Chaos Gods start with alliances with each other and do not have objectives to shit on each other's cake, then Creative Assembly
Current Status: Great
I love the Vampire Counts, but two very obvious pitfalls hamper them. First, they are not a ton of fun to play in the early game unless you like throwing blobs of skeleton or zombie spam at every problem the game sends at you. Personally, things don't get exciting with the Vampire Counts until you can start casting Wind of Death like it is on tap. Their second issue is one due to their current geography: their starting positions suck shit. All of their Legendary Lords are too close to each other, and you end up in the same Old World matchups for eons regardless of who you play. That said, and I cannot emphasize this point any harder, their hero units are AMAZING, and their unique Lore of Magic is an absolute blast to use! In fact, when people tell me they are "not good" at using spells in Warhammer II, I usually direct them to check out the Vampire Counts as they are one of the more "forgiving" magic-based factions. However, let's return to those two "problems" I mentioned earlier.
Change #1: Teardown And Purge The Legendary Lord Roster
I'm going to shoot my shot because this will likely get me a ton of flack. For the Vampire Counts, Creative Assembly should keep Mannfred and Vlad and then shitcan everyone else. Helman Ghorst is trash, and I don't care if he is really good in multiplayer. His starting position is shit, and his playstyle is even worse. The fact the generic necromancers are better than him at summoning zombies and skeletons is the primary reason why I think Creative Assembly should set him on fire and forget he exists. Now, I don't have nearly as much venom for Heinrich Kemmler and the Barrow Legion as I do for Ghorst. Nonetheless, I still stand by my belief Kemmler does not have a place on the Vampire Counts' roster. Kemmler makes more sense as a Legendary Lord for an eventual Nagash-led faction. People have been asking for Nagash to be added to the game for ages, and it makes way more sense in Warhammer III now that there are mono Chaos God factions. My best guess is that Nagash is a likely year two DLC Lord rather than one at the top of Creative Assembly's priority list.
Then we have Isabella. Now, I know there are many people who like Isabella and feel like there are not enough female faction leaders in Warhammer Fantasy. I emphatically agree with that last point, but I also think Isabella should be made a minor lord alongside Vlad. Her starting position when leading the Von Carstein faction doesn't feel distinct enough as it stands. Shit, nine times out of ten, even the A.I. confederates her with Mannfred by turn twenty. Don't get me wrong; if Isabella is made a minor lord, she should be one of the best in the game. If Creative Assembly instead continues to have her be a Legendary Lord in Warhammer III's Mortal Empires campaign, which I predict they will, she needs a unique starting position. Likewise, she desperately needs an early target that is not a mirror of whoever Vlad is going for in the first five turns.
Change #2: Add The Red Duke And Mousillon (And Maybe Konrad)
So, if I got my way and cut the Vampire Counts' roster in half, what would I do to fill up that void? Well, for one thing, I would stop fucking around and make the Red Duke a full-fledged Legendary Lord. Yes, he does exist in the current campaign as a unique minor-faction you can confederate as the Vampire Counts. However, much like Sarthorael the Everwatcher, I find Creative Assembly's refusal to make him an actual in-game option utterly baffling. His position at Mousillon is an interesting alternative to Slyvannia, and his cavalry-based unit focus makes playing him a refreshing formula break. Additionally, adding Mousillon as a playable faction gives Brettonia an undead enemy and early threat before the Chaos Gods start landing on their shores. Also, adding the Red Duke would allow Creative Assembly to re-introduce the chivalry/dread mechanic from Medieval II. Obviously, Brettonian Lords would build up chivalry, whereas the Red Duke would use dread.
On the other hand, adding Konrad von Carstein is a bit more of a stretch. I think he's bound to show up in Warhammer III eventually, but he's undoubtedly low on the priority list. But HOT DAMN would I love seeing Konrad in Warhammer III! For those unaware, while Vlad and Mannfred are "cultured" vampire lords and The Red Duke is the antithesis of Brettonia, Konrad is just a big stupid vampire that likes killing people. Konrad is basically if an Orc and a Vampire made a baby. He is incapable of using magic and instead prefers charging into battle on foot, much like Grimgor Ironhide or Sigvald. The worry here is that every dualling-based lord in the game (i.e., Legendary Lords that specialize in killing other Legendary Lords) is bad. Regardless, I want there to be a "mindless" faction leader for the Vampire Counts where players are actively discouraged from engaging in the game's diplomacy system. Again, there are a ton of pitfalls for Creative Assembly to consider, but fuck it, I think adding Konrad would be fun!