Developed by Creative Assembly
Published by SEGA
Available on PC through Steam
Rated T for Teen
If you’ve been following my coverage of Total War: Warhammer (which of course you have, I’m delightful), then you’ll remember that I really enjoyed The Grim and the Grave. More reasonably priced than Call of the Beastmen, it added a significant amount of game-changing content for just $8. New units, new lords, and just as importantly updates to the UI that were sorely needed. My only criticism was that it made the game feel a little imbalanced, since the changes only applied to the Empire and Vampire Counts. It was hard to get amped for a Dwarf or Greenskin when all the shiny new stuff was in the ‘umies land. I knew that the Dwarf/Greenskin stuff wasn’t far behind, and here it is in the DLC pack The King and the Warlord.
With how much I liked The Grim and the Grave, I was more excited for the new DLC than I generally let myself be. It’s a bit weird to think minor alterations and a few new units can get me more excited than an entire new team, but that’s where I’m at. I thought I knew what to expect with The King and the Warlord. A few new lords, some new units, and some gameplay tweaks. When you’ve put the hundreds of hours into it that I have, any tweak to the core mechanics feels massive. Let me tell you, I was not prepared for what I found in The King and the Warlord.
Loading up the campaign selection screen, I was surprised to find that there were not one, not two, but three new teams to pick from. Previously, your choice of Legendary Lord only affected your starting Lord and units. No matter who you picked (with the exclusion of The Beastmen), you’d start in the same place with the same chapter goals and same victory conditions. Completing various challenges would unlock the remaining Legendary Lords, so your initial choice had little effect outside of the first 100 turns.
While the teams added in The King and the Warlord are still “Dwarves” and “Greenskins,” they appear now in their own tab on the selection screen. It’s fitting, because the three new teams (including the Bloody Handz from the Wurrzag free DLC) play radically different from their base-game counterparts. First up is Clan Angrund, an ancient Dwarven empire helmed by the legendary Belegar Ironhammer. Embarking on a quest to right his clan’s most ancient Grudge, he sets his sites on the distant and legendary Karak Eight Peaks. His rival, the Goblin Warlord Skarsnik, has similar aims. Once the ruler of Eight Peaks, he seeks to lead his army of Crooked Moon Tribe gobbo’z to kick out da nasty gitz dat took his throne.
Though their objective is similar, playing the two teams is wildly different. The Crooked Moon Tribe is easily the most unique of the special factions, with the total inability to recruit any Orc units until Karak Eight Peaks is reclaimed. This means you have to rely entirely on an army of sneaky, cowardly goblins to serve as your army. This would previously have been a tall order, but the new units fill some holes left by the bigger Greenskin brethren. Squig herds are a more chaotic and destructive warhound, allowing you to soften up your enemy with disposable teeth-waves before engaging with your squishier goblins. But squigs ain’t just for herdin’, as the new Night Goblin Squig Hoppers use the adorable little balls of teeth as mounts. These powerful melee cavalry are fast and nasty, more durable in a fight than the Greenskins other shock cavalry. Lastly, we have the Nasty Skulkers, a melee unit with armor piercing that makes up for the lack of Goblin Great Weapons. Sneaky and totally unarmored, they aren’t much good in a stand up fight, but work as great flanking units to ambush more heavily armored adversaries. Mix this all in with the 40% recruitment/upkeep reduction for the Crooked Moon Tribe, and you have yourself a formidable and relentless force.
On the flip side, Clan Angrund has an uphill battle. We all know Dwarves to be a grumbly bunch, and they are none too happy about their beloved Karak Eight Peaks being under the boot of foul goblins. While Skarsnik enjoys a 40% cost reduction for his little green cannon fodder, Belegar Ironhammer has to deal with a 50% cost increase until Eight Peaks is recaptured. Yes, 50%. So while Skarsnik is running around, Waaagh!-ing it up with a bunch of cheap little assholes, Belegar is trying to scrape together enough gold to just recruit another Quarreller without going bankrupt. All is not lost, however, as Belegar starts with four level 6 ancestors so savage that even Wurrzag would blush. These ancestors are hero units (2 Thanes, a Runelord, and a Master Engineer) with the boost of being Ethereal and completely un-assassinateable. Feel free to run around the map and perform actions with impunity. In battle, these Heroes are devastating. I’m normally cautious with my Heroes, but after the first time one of my thanes took out three Orc Boyz squads by himself, I got a little more liberal with their deployment.
So I’ve said a lot about this Karak Eight Peaks, but what exactly is it? Well, it’s always been there, as a massive 4 town province in the northern Greenskin territory. It was already a high value target due to its rich mines and natural barriers. Once you hold Karak Eight Peaks, it’s very hard to lose it. Capturing it for either the Crooked Moon Tribe or Clan Angrund is a massive deal, and not just because of how valuable the land is. Each team can build a special building in the capitol, which gives massive local and global buffs. This is even more important for Belegar, as both removes his 50% cost increase and confers a massive global bonus: 100 unit experience a turn, +5 to recruited lord levels, +5 happiness, and +10 leadership vs Greenskins. Coupled with the fact that the final version of the special capitol building gives magical weapons and all kinds of other stuff, it’s a big step toward making your empire the dominant in the land.
To give you some perspective, neither team starts even close to Karak Eight Peaks. Skarsnik and Belegar start on the complete opposite side of the map, with Belegar being only slightly closer. You’ll have to make your way through Border Princes, Dwarf clans, Greenskin outposts, and finally the heart of the Greenskin and Dwarf empire to get there. It’s a long, hard battle, and very different from the typical “expand slowly outwards” style of the typical Total War: Warhammer team. This specific distant objective is worth extending for. You’ll often pass up decent juicy local targets because you just can’t waste the time. This is a race to the finish, and whoever gets there first reaps massive reward. It’s a huge change of pace and focus, and is worthy of their categorization as different teams.
“Ted, this all sounds amazing, and you described it so well with so much entertaining verbiage. But who is this Wurrzag guy you seem to be ignoring?” Well, just like The Grim and the Grave, The King and the Warlord comes bundled with a pack of free DLC titled Wurrzag. The previous package gave us Vlad von Carstein, an unrepentant slaughter machine that made Manfred look like a pansy. Well, keeping with the new trend of separate teams, this time we get Wurrzag and his savage orcs. Wurrzag is da wierdest of da boyz, and some say he speakz fo’ mork and gork ‘imself. He’s probably also the most adorable orc of all time, as he simply refuses to stop dancing no matter the situation.
Wurrzag and his Bloody Handz start out in the Western Badlands, an area of orcish territory far to the south. This is an area that normally is completely dominated by the Top Knotz by the time you get there, but now Wurrzag is here to give dem a run fo’ der teef. It’s a hard start that immediately puts them at odds with not only the local Greenskin tribes, but also the Border Princes and (of course) the Dwarves. Wurrzag is no pushover, serving as a capable melee unit and incredibly powerful caster. Backing him up are his Savage Orcs, which he can recruit from anywhere and receive a powerful charge and defensive bonus.
As much as I enjoy playing as a mad savage, the Wurrzag DLC falls a few steps short. Sure, I start in a new place and get better Savage Orcs, but for some reason he’s not listed as a “Savage Orc” tribe. This is important for confederations, as the Greenskins and Savage Orcs are two different teams. I wanted to try to make alliances with my fellow savages against the Greenskin tribes, but alas this would not be so. It allows you to still confederate with the Greenskins, but I would have much prefered a wildly different experience like those offered by Clan Agrund and the Crooked Moon Tribe. Also, as cool as Savage Orcs are, they just don’t constitute a big of enough alteration to really feel meaningful. It’s four units in total, none of which are more interesting than “big guy with axe.”
It’s also really easy to miss the new Chaos units, as they are hidden in italicized text at the very bottom of the Wurrzag DLC description. Chaos gets the Marauder Horsemasters, Feral Manticores, and Aspiring Champions. The Marauder Horsemasters are a new tier of skirmish cavalry, giving a bit more range and punch to the Chaos roster. Feral Manticore are monstrous flying units, granting a unique mobile juggernaut to the already terrifying melee line. The Aspiring Champions are the most interesting new unit, as the individual members of the paltry 12 man squad are more individually powerful than Chosen. A high risk, high reward unit, they can just as easily turn the tide of a battle as be overrun.
The criticisms I have for the new stuff is scant and minor. The new Dwarf units are kind of lame, with the Rangers and Bolt Throwers being outcasts in the roster. Rangers are a skirmish/flanker—which the Dwarves were previously lacking—in an army with almost zero mobility. Sure, the option is nice, but it goes against the Dwarf battle plan of making an impenetrable line. Bolt Throwers are okay, providing a cheap and early alternative to cannons for single target damage. They can take down Giants, but by the time you need them you should already have the more efficient Cannons.
Overall, the amount of content being delivered in The King and the Warlord is insane. It’s hard to put a value on free DLC, so I’m just going to consider all of this one package. You have new ways to play Dwarves, Greenskins, and Chaos. Even if the new units can be mediocre, the new ways to play offer dozens of hours of content. This is not just a pack of units, but a fundamental shift in how they are designing content. As a pack of toys for me to play with, it’s impossible to put down. As a herald of things to come, this is incredibly promising. As $8, it’s simply unmissable.