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This series of three articles examines the armies of the Warhammer Old World. The articles are intended to give players of Warhammer: Total War some insight into how the existing armies could be expanded, what extended maps might contain, and what other armies could appear in the game over the next few years.
I played Warhammer from late third edition to early seventh edition. The computer game is based around seventh and eighth edition, eighth being the final edition of the game.
In this first part we’ll look at the armies released with the game, and how those might be expanded.
The factions we have are based around a small area of the total Warhammer world, but it’s important to note that this area remained the focus of the game. Vast areas of the full map were never explored or explored only lightly. It’s unlikely the Total War games will expand that far.
Also worth noting is that Games Workshop were in the habit of changing their maps somewhat over time, so there’s more than one interpretation out there.
Where we find outselves now is the Old World
This human faction is based on the historical Holy Roman Empire. It has a series of states each ruled by an Elector Count. Some of these are more independently-minded than others. The central region, based around Altdorf, is ruled by the Emperor.
Their armies are based how you might expect given their historical analogue, with a few differences. The engines of battle have some Da Vinci inspired additions, while griffon imagery looms strong, and is reflected in the advanced mounts available. The Empire has some multicultural elements with Halflings, dwarfs, and ogres all making their home – each of these appeared in the 4th edition Empire Army book.
Kislev is not part of the Empire but is an important northern bulwark against Chaos. Kislev has never had an official army book, however Kislev Horse Archers (Light cavalry archers)and Winged Lancer (based on the Polish Winged Hussars of history) were available in the 4th edition book to represent the frequency with which these forces fought together. A Tsarina Katarin figure and rules were released, the Tsarina using a special Ice Magic spell lore.
We could see these special units as an upgrade, or as part of a playable Kislev faction.
The Vampire Counts are a classic ‘European Undead’ army, and most tropes from European undead horror can be found in the list, from banshees to ghouls, to spooky scary skeletons. Their army book further divided the Vampire Counts into four houses, and only one of these, the Von Carsteins, are reflected in the game so far. The others are:
Necrarchs. Think the vampire from the film Nosferatu and you have a picture of a Necrarch. Less combat oriented and more magicially powerful than the Von Carsteins. Necrarch tend to be solitary wizards but on occasion raise large armies.
Lahmian. These are similar to the Von Carsteins, but with a tendency to prefer skeletal troops over zombies. One of Nagash’s (more on him later) original followers founded this line and they are found north of Miragliano (though not in the game).
Blood Dragons. This is a martial order of vampires but one with structure that contrasts with the feral Strigoi. Blood Dragons are often found fully armoured, using lance and sword atop a barded skeletal steed. They too are not represented in the game thought their mountain fortress lies in the southern reaches of the Empire.
Strigoi. These bestial vampires (think Dracula’s beast form from the Francis Ford Coppola movie) ride no mounts and care little for magical prowess. Raw, bloody combat is their love, and the ghouls that cluster around them share this thirst for the rending of claws on flesh.
There’s not much to add to the Dwarfs as their in game interpretation covers everything the last iteration offered. A Dwarf hold lies off the current game map, far to the south. The dwarfs there have been cut off from their northern kin of many centuries, and tend to fight with the lizardmen against the undead.
Orcs & Goblins
Orcs and Goblins are a varied list, and have leaders from both races. Skarsnik is the most important Goblin leader and it’s likely we’ll see him and his squig sidekick Gobbla at some point. Goblin squig riders are the most notable omission from the list in the game. Imagine a goblin riding a large, angry, sapient space hopper, and you’re about there. In ages past a goblin king named Grom the Paunch raised a massive army of goblins and took them west to invade Ulthuan, home of the High Elves.
Warriors of Chaos
In editions past Chaos was a single factions composed of warriors, beasts, and daemons. But no more. Chaos Warriors the army books gives players the ability to play as Chaos Undivided (essentially the army in the game) or else to specialize as followers of one of the four chaos gods.
Units of warriors or marauders can be ‘marked’ to one of the four chaos gods, gaining an ability representative of that god. Sorcerers marked to Tzeentch, Slaanesh, or Nurgle can draw from their own set of spells. The fourth chaos god, Khorne, hates sorcerers and his followers focus on combat alone. Expanding the faction to included marked units and sorcerers seems obvious.
Arthurian legend meets the grimdark in this faction. In the tabletop game only Knights of Bretonnian could charge in a wedge formation for extra hitting power. We’ll see if this translates into the game. Bretonnia is all about its knights, of which there are five types.
Knights Errant are the junior branch, not considered full knights but full of youthful enthusiasm all the same.
Knights of the Realm make up the bulk of Bretonnian armies. This is a knight armoured with lance and sword riding a steed with quilted barding. Knights of the Realm proudly display their personal heraldry. No knight looks the same and each unit is an array of colours.
Questing Knights are those most likely to leave Bretonnia for one reason or another – usually a quest. They fight with great skill and great weapons.
Grail Knights are the ultimate in Bretonnian knighthood. They too fight with lance and sword and are essentially elite versions of Knights of the Realm.
Pegasus Knights cause a shudder in anyone who played the tabletop game against them, so horribly overpowered were they. Lance armed knights riding pegasi? Yes please for this game!
Bretonnia also contains peasants and these form the infantry as there are no foot knights in Bretonnia. Knights regard peasants the same way orcs regard goblins – as a lesser form of life, and so don’t care if the peasants rout during battle. Peasants are armed with either polearm or bow. Some peasant crew the trebuchet, which provides ranged impact by hurling pieces of old churches at the foe. Strangest of all are those peasants who follow the Grail Knights around, taking pieces of cast off armour for their own. Should a Grail Knight fall in battle these followers will reverently strip the flesh from their bones, and carry the skeletal remains around as a reliquary. These peasants are like chaos spawn – by which I mean they are unbreakable, so they can be trusted to stand their ground at least.
Wizards in Bretonnia are all women of noble birth, called Damsels. They tend to ride in the company of knights, and the morale of the army will be affected should they die.
Seeing the trees
In the next part we will look at factions that aren’t yet in the game, but could be using the existing map.