Tobold's Blog
Monday, March 20, 2017
Total War: Warhammer

I bought Total War: Warhammer in a half-price sale and have played it for 16 hours, according to Steam. Time enough to have formed an opinion, although obviously I haven't seen everything yet. This is from the point of view of somebody who like strategy games, but isn't a great Total War fan. Again according to Steam the only Total War game I played more than this is Empire: Total War for 65 hours. So don't expect any deep expertise here.

Given that lack of expertise I started the first game with the one race marked as being easy, the dwarves, and selected easy difficulty level. However that first game was far from easy for a beginner, because the tutorial isn't great and sometimes even misled me (e.g. the advisor said that it might be advisable to lay siege instead of attacking at the first enemy settlement, which turned out to be a complete waste of time). What ultimately killed me was the fact that you need a lot of provinces to pay the upkeep of even a single large army, so you end up having few armies even if you already have a large territory. And at one point I had both my large armies in the south when I was attacked from two different sides in the north. With dwarves being slow and no fast travel except for some quest battles, I just gave up with a lesson learned and restarted.

Other than being slow, the dwarves were in fact a good choice for starters. They earn the most gold in a game where gold is frequently the scarcest resource. And except for the slayer troops, the dwarven troops are all well armored and frequently have shields. Even the archers. Which in practice hilariously makes the dwarven archers better than the elven ones, as your dwarven archers are still alive and kicking once they got attacked by the light cavalry that ran around your front line.

Compared to other Total War games I have played, I appreciate the larger variety of Total War: Warhammer regarding troops and race-specific features. That also includes race-specific diplomacy, with other dwarf tribes being naturally more favorable to you in diplomacy than humans, elves, vampires, or orcs. At first neighboring dwarf tribes were more of a nuisance, as there is no diplomacy option of trading settlements, and I ended up having a lot of half provinces. But in mid-game I had so much favor with my dwarven neighbors that they joined my "confederation", which is a fancy term of saying that they simply handed over all their settlements and troops to me. The first time that happened I doubled my territory and suddenly had 5 complete provinces instead of 2. I suspect that won't happen with other races. It took forever to get to any friendly relations with the border princes. That was annoying because enemies ran through their territories to attack me, and I couldn't cross that same area because that would have been trespassing and gotten me into trouble with them.

I now more or less got the hang of the strategic map and province management. What I find annoying is that defending provinces still is a nuisance. You can't choose what and how many troops to use as garrison. You can increase the garrison by building defensive buildings, but with most settlements only having at max 3 building slots, you don't want to use that option very often. And putting an army in for defense is relatively expensive because you need a general. I don't know how I'll do with races that earn less gold.

There are some other features that either I haven't understood or that aren't all that useful. I can put my army in a tunneling stance, in which they appear to tunnel from A to B instead of walking. I imagine it could work to tunnel under an enemy troop and avoid its zone of control, because that is how the orcs are trying to use it against me. And sometimes that ends with me intercepting them, and there being an underground battle. However the advisor suggested that I could tunnel under mountains, but even if I am in tunnel stance and click on a destination on the other side of a mountain chain, the army moves around it instead of through it. I probably haven't found the right area yet to tunnel efficiently. I hear it can help against attrition from badlands, which would be nifty, because attrition is probably one of the most annoying features of the game.

The main reason I don't often play Total War games is that the battles are in real time, and I've always been more of a turn-based fan. However with the dwarves at least I am doing fine, because they don't relay of fast maneuvering anyway. Enemies run circles around me, and then die. While the AI is definitively cheating and the game sometimes throws unexpected new modes of invasions your way, I'm doing pretty well in my second game. And the real time battles are somewhat less repetitive than they were in Empire: Total War, because the troops of different races are more different from each other.

I don't regret to have bought Total War: Warhammer at half price, but more would have been too much. Which also means that I am not in the market for $20 DLCs to make the elves a playable race, or similar nonsense. Most of the negative comments on Steam are about the DLC policy. The other advantage of waiting for a sale is avoiding the early bugs, which Total War games frequently have. So up to now I haven't encountered any major bugs. The AI still isn't the most brilliant (never was in the series), but the game is quite playable as it is.

Defensive buildings are actually a must in major cities, and generally a good option in most border cities as well (they basically force the enemy to siege you instead of instantly attacking, letting you move an army to save the city). Mid-late game once you have expanded, cities that are no longer on a boarder can have their defensive building converted into something else. The big exception to this are cities with unique buildings/units; generally those you want to focus around the unique aspect.

Tunneling lets you cross impassible mountains only if you have enough movement to reach the other side. Early game this is less helpful as your movement is lower, but gets more helpful late game. Also tunnel mode is generally faster over rough terrain.
I am also playing TW Warhammer. Liking it a lot. I love how different the various faction campaigns feel. This is partly because combat styles are different but also because the aims and objectives are different.

Despite being a long time Total War player I am still only mediocre at combat. There are a few simple tricks I find very useful: To form a line of spearmen or anything else just select all your spearmen then move the cursor where you want then drag and hold right click to set their layout. Another great trick for moving units in formation is to select the units you want to move hold left alt then left click and drag to the position you want . Just be careful when moving groups to make sure they are walking and not running. They have a habit of switching to run mode but unless they are actually under fire I think it is better to save their energy for combat.Also I find the slow motion mode is often better for analysing the position and issuing orders than stop mode. At least in slow motion you can see what troops are doing. Also holding shift allows you to set waypoints. This is useful for directing a troop around to flank an enemy.
That sounds like a game that does something to reduce micro-management... if only it was turn-based!

I grabbed the whole Bioshock trilogy for $15 myself this weekend - never got around to them at the time!
I've only tried Total War: Rome II, but my biggest problem was the ridiculously massive penalty to auto-completing any battle. Even if you outnumbered the enemy 5 to 1, you would probably lose with auto-complete. This means you have to waste hours and hours manually playing out trivial battles where the outcome in never in doubt.

I am curious if you have ever tried any of the Paradox grand strategy games like Crusader Kings 2 or Europa Universalis 4?
Paradox games are a running gag between me and a friend. He loves them, but I find them far too complicated to be enjoyable. I haven't played the latest generation, but from all I hear they haven't changed in that aspect. I find Total War: Warhammer complex enough.
I tried EU3 but found it far too opaque. At least in Civ you have some idea whether you are doing well or poorly.
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