Total War: Warhammer - a beginner's guide
Total War: Warhammer is a fantastic strategy game that combines the famous table-top roleplaying game Warhammer with the popular Total War series. For many the combination of Warhammer's Tolkien-like fantasy lore and Total War's in-depth empire building and real time battles is a match made in heaven.
However the depth and complexity of Total War's games mechanics, along with the varied fantasy races of Warhammer, also means that this game can be a little intimidating for new players.
That's why we've put together this collection of tips for people who want to get started conquering the world in Total War: Warhammer.
Pick your faction: The Empire
When you start a new game of Warhammer you'll be given the choice of what faction – or race – you want to play as. Each faction has unique units, special Leaders and play styles, and are all given a difficulty rating, so it is worth paying attention to this to make sure you start off with a faction that suits your experience.
The choices include the Empire, which are a human race who play the most like traditional Total War factions, making them a good choice if you've played previous Total War games, but are new to Warhammer. The Empire's difficulty is listed as 'Normal' so it should be fine more most newcomers, though during the campaign the Empire is surrounded by its enemies, which means you can end up fighting on multiple fronts.
Pick your faction: Dwarfs
Dwarfs are great for defensive players, and while they don't rely on magic, like other races in Total War: Warhammer, they do make use of advanced technology that you can research and develop during the game including Gryobombers, which are flying machines that can drop bombs onto enemy units on the battlefield.
The Dwarfs also have a unique play style thanks to the Grudges mechanic, which means you're often tasked with taking revenge on enemies who have wronged you in the past.
The Dwarfs have a difficulty rating of easy, mainly due to their robustness, allowing you to make mistakes on the battlefield without too much penalty. Their starting position on the map is surrounded by mountains, which lessens the chances of you being outflanked by enemy armies, and they can tunnel underground to avoid dangerous areas of the map.
Pick your faction: Greenskins
The Greenskin faction is made up of orcs, goblins, giant spiders and other nasties – all with a unique Warhammer spin. The Greenskins differ from the other factions as they need to keep up the 'Fightiness' rating of their armies, and they do this through waging war constantly. This means you need to play very aggressively, which makes them a good choice for players who like battles, but not such a good choice for people who also want to expand their empire through diplomacy and trade.
Because of this, the Greenskins are listed as having a hard campaign difficulty, so they may not be the best choice for beginners, however they do offer a unique and enjoyable game.
Pick your faction: Vampire Counts
The Vampire Counts are the undead faction of Total War: Warhammer. While they can't engage in diplomacy to expand their empire, they instead spread corruption within enemy territory where they are stationed. This lowers public order for their enemies, making their territories easier to conquer.
They can also raise the dead to bolster their army, and while much of their army is made up of weaker units (that don't flee the battlefield when the tide of the war turns against them, unlike with other factions), they also have some fearsome heavy units that can cause a lot of damage to your enemies.
Pick your faction: Chaos
Before Total War: Warhammer even launched there was controversy over the Chaos faction due to the decision to tie them to DLC that was exclusive to pre-orders. Thankfully there was a slight change of heart and now Chaos is available to download for free for anyone who bought the game in the first week. If you missed out, you'll need to pay to get this faction.
It would be a shame to miss out as Chaos are a very interesting faction to play as. They can't trade and aren't great at diplomacy. They don't have settlements or towns either, and instead they are designed to sweep across the map, destroying enemy encampments and spreading corruption to bring about public disorder and destroy their enemies from within.
Like the Greenskins, this means you'll be playing a more aggressive style with Chaos, though the Chaos campaign isn't as difficult.
Choose your hero
Each faction has two (or more) unique leader units that you can choose from. Each one comes with their own starting units, weapons and spells (if they are magically-inclined).
Take time to study each leader's strengths before choosing which one you go for – it could make a big difference to your game.
Don't try to capture too much of the map too soon
It might be tempting to expand your empire as quickly as possible, but you don't want to over reach yourself. You'll need a big army (or two) to take over settlements, and this will cost you lots of money and resources, both of which are scarce in the beginning.
Having a large empire will also draw your enemies attentions towards you, and you'll soon find yourself fighting a number of battles on different fronts – not ideal, especially when you're struggling to pay for your armies and keeping people happy in the towns and settlements you've captured.
Know when to capture, and when to sack
When you do expand your empire, think carefully about the settlements you attack. It's a good idea to concentrate on capturing settlements in a province that you already have settlements in, as when you control a whole province you'll be able to issue Commandments to keep public order and acquire other benefits.
When you capture a settlement you'll need to keep the population happy, and pay for the upkeep of the settlement. This means it's sometimes wise to sack it instead – this damages the settlement and you don't control it, but you do get an instant cash bonus. You can then capture the settlement later on.
Also, certain races cannot capture certain types of settlements – but they can sack them.
You don't have to wage war with everyone on the map – you can also use diplomacy (unless you're a Vampire or Chaos) to broker peace, sign non-aggression treaties and set up trade partnerships. These can help take the pressure off you when you're waging wars, and you can ask for help with beating a certain faction.
You can also be crafty with diplomacy. For example, some factions will give you money if you declare war on their enemies. However, once you do, those enemies may offer you money to sign a peace treaty. Play both sides and you'll get paid by each of them without letting a singly arrow fly.
Make use of the battlefield
When it does come to sorting out your problems with violence, take time to set up your units in formations to take advantage of their skills, as well as the lay of the land. Before the battle kicks off you're given time to arrange the units as you see fit.
If you're positioned near high ground make sure your ranged units are placed there to take advantage of the benefits higher ground provides. Make sure infantry units are near the front and in a position to protect your ranged units.
Cavalry (on horses and other beasts) should be positioned where they can outflank the enemy and attack them from the sides. If there are forests on the map you can use these to hide your units for a surprise attack.
Starting the fight
When you're ready to go, click "Start Battle". You should see the enemies' army loom into view. Clicking on units will give you the option to stand their ground so they don't go running off after units. By default ranged units, such as archers, will fire at will. This can be handy if you don't want to micro manage too much, but it does run the risk of them running out of ammo, so you can select them and toggle it off.
Keep an eye on the entire battlefield and make sure your units are doing what they're told. Also keep an eye on enemies and any potential reinforcements they have so you don't get any nasty surprises. If things get too hectic you can press P on the keyboard to pause the action, giving you time to issue orders and adjust your strategy.
Position your cavalry to the sides of the enemy units. When the time is right, attack from both sides, and use the 'Charge' button at the last moment to make them plow through the enemy ranks. When units get too demoralized they will flee the battlefield (unless they are undead – then they just crumble). This can happen to your units as well so use your commander to boost moral - it could turn the tide of the battle.
With these tips you should get a good grasp on the beginning stages of Total War: Warhammer. However the game is huge and complex, so keep on practicing to learn more advanced tactics for taking over the world of Warhammer.
Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.