The world of Total War: Warhammer 3 can be pretty overwhelming. With a whopping eight factions to choose from, dozens of different unit types and a deep strategy layer, Warhammer 3 clearly has a lot of moving parts.
Fortunately, help is at hand. In this handy guide, you'll find tips and tricks which will help demystify Warhammer 3, and allow you to get the most out of this generous and deeply evocative strategy game.
Know your faction
Total War: Warhammer 3's eight different factions offer varied styles of play as well as their own clear cut strengths and weaknesses. Your choice of faction will wildly affect your campaign experience. Though there are no wrong choices, it's important to know what you're getting into.
Each faction has its own varied and unique unit roster. Kislev boast sturdy, hybrid infantry, capable of laying down a volley of fire or charging into close quarters. Grand Cathay use diverse, specialist units which function best when organised in tight, neat formations. The Ogre Kingdoms use monstrous infantry which, while lacking in discipline, pack one hell of a punch in melee. Khorne loves close combat and eschew ranged attacks and magic, while Nurgle spreads plague and disease with ranks of slow, heavy hitting deamons. Slaanesh offers incredibly fast moving infantry, supported by a wide range of lightening fast cavalry. Tzeench uses hybrid infantry and magic users to keep their enemies off balance and on the defensive. Lastly, the Deamons of Chaos combine the four specialisms of Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh and Tzeench to form some kind of unholy super-group. With so many different options on offer, the choice of faction can be daunting. If in doubt, remember that you can always start a new campaign if you're not gelling with a particular playstyle.
Warhammer 3 recommends that new players start with Kislev or Deamons of Chaos. Personally, I feel that the Deamons of Chaos can be a little busy for a newer player, but I certainly agree that Kislev is a great place to start for any aspiring general.
When selecting your faction, be sure to read all about their approaches to the strategy layer of the campaign, too. Don't skip on reading those faction descriptions on the right hand side of the faction selection screen. A lot of Warhammer 3 is fought at the strategic level, with factions building up economies while armies attempt to outmaneuver one another to gain the upper hand. You don't need to understand all of the mechanics, but do read through the faction descriptions before you make your choice. It will, at least, give you a sense of the sorts of people/monsters/deamons that you'll be ordering around for the next dozen hours or so.
Plan your conquests
No matter your faction in Warhammer 3, you're going to need a strong, sustainable economy to keep your troops happy. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you don't take on more enemies than you can safely dispatch. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but, many an early game has been ruined by an ambitious player biting off more than they can chew in the war department.
Once your campaign starts, you will (almost) always begin at war with at least one nearby enemy faction. Taking their cities will be the first step on your road to absolute victory. Be sure to keep an eye on the diplomacy screen. Forge non-aggression pacts early and pick your battles wisely.
However, figuring out what to do with those cities is just as important as taking them in the first place. When hovering over an empty building slot, you'll see lots of different kinds of options for new buildings. Fortunately, despite differences between factions, the different types of structure available to you are colour coded for your convenience: infrastructure are in green, military recruitment are in red, military support are in purple and ports are in blue. There are a few others, but you don't need to worry about those just yet. Any successful empire will need to have an even spread of different building types. That said, focusing on your infrastructure buildings in the early game can lead to serious benefits down the line. After all: the power of the fireball is nothing compared to the power of compound interest.
You'll also notice that the different buildings have tiers. Tier four and tier five structures can only be built in certain provincial capitals, so be mindful of that when deciding where to start working on your more ambitious construction projects.
Lastly, don't raise more armies than you can support. Running a budget deficit can get you killed in the long run, so only raise an army if you have the income to support another army's worth of upkeep costs, and, even then, make sure you have a bit of extra income on top of that so you can keep investing in infrastructure.
Taking the field
Warhammer 3's battles are tense, hectic affairs and you'd be forgiven for being intimidated. With so many different units and formations to choose from, it can seem overwhelming, and that's before we've even touched siege battles. Fortunately, there are a few rules of thumb that you can apply to almost any engagement in Warhammer 3 which will help you unleash your inner general.
For time immemorial, the Total War franchise has used a rock-paper-scissors formula and, though there is much, much more to the unit interactions than a classic Fire Emblem-alike weapons triangle, it is a great place to start. In general terms, sword infantry beats spears and halberds, which, in turn, are excellent against cavalry which, predictably, can cut through sword infantry like a knife through butter. Keep this triad in mind when considering where you tell your units to charge.
However, there are a few more factors to bear in mind. Ranged units, for instance, are often very strong, unless engaged in melee, where they'll demonstrate all the staying power of a damp sponge. This goes double for siege weapons which can be devastating, but are also often vulnerable to charges from light cavalry or flying units.
Warhammer 3 has also introduced a tier system for its units. Despite their traditional weakness against cavalry, tier three sword infantry will do a much better job at holding off a cavalry unit than its budget, tier one equivalent. Hybrid units are also relatively common in Warhammer 3. For example: Kislev's Ice Guard are just as dangerous with their bows as they are in melee. Be sure to read those unit tooltips so you don't get caught off guard.
In general, tooltips are a great way to stay in the know. If in doubt, pause the battle and read the unit's tooltip a read. The 'Attributes' section will often give you a handy list of a given unit's strengths. An 'Anti-Large' unit, for instance, will be stronger against anything cavalry sized or larger, while an 'Armour-Piercing' unit is a safe bet to use against, you guessed it, armoured enemies. Try to get a sense of the strengths of the units in your army and, once you're feeling more confident, try to maneuver your units into fights against the kinds of enemies they favour.
Morale is also a key factor in Warhammer 3's battles. A well placed charge into an enemy unit's flank or rear can turn the tide of even the most evenly contested battle. Attributes like 'Terror' and 'Fear' have serious repercussions, too, especially against factions whose armies suffer from poor discipline, like the Ogres. A battle in Warhammer 3 will almost always conclude when one of the armies is routed. Your goal isn't necessarily to kill every enemy soldier, but to force them from the battlefield. Stay on top of morale, and your victory is assured.
Go forth and conquer!
Congratulations! You now know all the basics necessary to achieve greatness in Total War: Warhammer 3. Though there's a lot more to learn – we haven't even touched on siege battles or magic – applying these fundamentals will get you most of the way through your first campaign. If you want help with some of the more advanced systems, the in-game guide and the Total War website may well have the answers you're looking for.
In the meantime, keep at it. Songs of your glorious victories will surely be sung across the land in no time.
Cat Bussell is a games journalist and grad student at University College London. She thinks Grand Cathay are underrated.
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