Image: Total War WARHAMMER 2
Need a hand on (literally) rolling the enemy down in Total WARHAMMER 2? Here’s some tips to guide you to the centre of the magical vortex.
As was the case with the original Total WARHAMMER, the fantasy setting will appeal to a lot of fans who haven’t touched a Total War game. So before we jump the new things you need to know, let’s cover some basics to get you started with painting the map in your preferred colour.
Know your basic controls. Total War games come with plenty of tooltips, but there are plenty of hotkeys and shortcuts that are easy to gloss over that can make a massive difference in battle.
Once you’ve got the basic camera movement down, here’s some keys you’ll need to know:
CTRL + I will select all infantry, but this isn’t StarCraft. Generally you’ll only want to move a few groups at a time, so you can keep your army in formation (more on that later). To make life easier, assign units to control groups (CTRL + 1-9) so you can access them quickly. This is especially important for spellcasters or hero units when you need them to intercept an enemy beast, or pin down charging cavalry.
There’s a button at the bottom of the UI that looks like two shields. This is guard mode, and it’s crucially important. Without guard mode toggled, your troops will chase down enemy forces whenever they disengage – often breaking formation, leaving you vulnerable and liable to be cut open in two. You only ever want your faster troops (mounted units, chariots, flying units and so forth) to chase enemies down, so use this liberally. You’ll lose a lot less.
Holding SPACE will show you all scheduled orders for your entire army, like so:
If you’re going to use SPACE a lot, you’ll probably want to disable firing arcs so the screen is less visually cluttered. You can toggle all of this stuff on or off via the toolbar on the right hand side. Image: Kotaku
If you drag-select your entire army, or part of an army, you can move them forward or back in formation by holding ALT and left-click. Very handy for inching your forces forward without everything going to pot, although you’ll want to keep an eye on troops with different move speeds so they don’t wander too far ahead.
Holding ALT and right-click lets you rotate the direction your units are facing, keeping their current formation. ALT + right-click + CTRL lets you rotate your army/units, but fixes the rotation as a single point.
Want units to go on a little adventure behind enemy lines? Hold SHIFT, right-click and drag and you’ll be able to set a custom route for your armies.
You can set group formations by pressing CTRL+G on a selected unit or units. This tells the game to (roughly) maintain their formation and spacing when the group is formed, and they will try and attack targets in relation to their formation positions. Micro-managing units is better, but group formations at least lets you issue an attack order to a bunch of units without everyone trying to clump up at once, which is a recipe for disaster.
If you need time to set all this up, you can pause the action by pressing P or clicking on the pause button in the top right. There’s also a slow motion and fast/faster speed options if you need them.
Oh and it goes without saying, but right-click and drag will allow you to set a formation, and the length of the formation, for a unit or units. You’ll be using this a lot.
The general principle of all Total War games is to maximise your strengths and weaknesses. That is to say, you want your units to be attacking the thing they’re strongest against, while protecting your units from their vulnerabilities.
That means basic things like: don’t let your archers get charged by cavalry. Or dragons. Don’t send swordsmen into battle against giant beasts. Everything has something they’re good against, and something they’re weak against, and the more time you take to carefully manage each unit’s matchup, the better you’ll do.
Of course, it’s all for naught if your armies are attacked from behind, or charged from the side. Armies hit from the back or side will become demoralised real fast, leading to routing and (eventually) fleeing the battlefield altogether. Routed forces will rally once they’ve run far enough away from combat, provided they haven’t been harassed the whole time.
If you stay active on the campaign map and make sure you keep your armies facing the right way, you’ll cause all sorts of problems for the enemy.
With a smaller force that can’t spread out as far as mine, the enemy AI opted to attack me on both flanks at once. Rotating the armies around and having my cavalry at the back allowed me to box the enemy cavalry in, stopping them from making a hasty retreat and consigning them to an early grave.
Remember the basic rock-paper-scissors formula. Flanking is all well and good, and throwing spells down to support will do plenty of damage. But if you keep running the wrong units into their mortal enemies, you’re going to lose every time.
In general, melee units (swords, axes) will beat spears. Swordsmen are good fighters, but they’ve vulnerable to cavalry charges and ranged units can pester them from afar – unless the melee units can close on the archers somehow.
Melee units with spears are strong against cavalry, and they do more damage against “large” units. That’s anything bigger than a human – flying beasts, monsters, horses, you get the picture. Spear units generally also have a bonus against charging units: have them in formation, waiting for the horses (rather than charging forward to attack).
Ranged units are good against everything, except cavalry and flying units in melee. If something starts chasing your archers, run. Alternatively, use a spell like Hex to give them time to run or have another unit intercept.
Ranged units are generally slow and can’t outrun cavalry, and they’ll route real fast if they’re caught. If you can tie units up, however, ranged units do plenty of damaged against aerial attackers and anything that’s mounted.
You might need to pay attention to whether they have armour piercing missiles or not, and what targets they’re shooting, but you can always pause the battle to check.
Cavalry are good for chasing any ranged units down. As long as you avoid spears and any unit with anti-large bonuses, they’ll do fine. Often you’ll want to charge, knock down some units, retreat and then charge again, so the enemy can’t pin you down.
But as mentioned before, if a unit gets charged from the break and starts to route, it doesn’t matter what their bonuses are. Units will gain XP and stats the more battles they fight, plus buffs from their recruiting lord.
Don’t be wasteful with magic, either. There are plenty of spells that can completely turn the change of battle. Plenty of heroes and lords have plenty of magic tools at their arsenal, including the ability to bombard artillery from afar, spells to stop units from routing, and hexes to destroy enemy’s movement and accuracy. Check to see what your enemy’s biggest threats are, and use magic at the right time to help take them out of the fight.
Last but not least – check each race to see their general strengths and weaknesses. High Elves, for instance, are a more defensive race with plenty of power across the board, but only a single artillery unit. They also don’t have any ground-based monsters, so lower tier units won’t get frightened and route as easily.
Skaven are cheaper infantry and prefer to win in numbers, meaning that you’ll want units with anti-infantry bonuses rather than armoured piercing attacks or rounds. Survey what’s coming your way, and recruit accordingly.
Dragons are just great for siege battles
The noblest of the four main factions in Warhammer 2, the High Elves star either Prince Tyrion or Teclis. Tyrion starts his campaign in the Elven lands located around the vortex, with plenty of gates and terrain that’s narrow and difficult to pass. That makes it easier to defend – a godsend whenever the Chaos and enemies want to interrupt your rituals – and serves as a good place for newer players to start.
Teclis gets the shorter straw: he starts off in the Turtle Isles, located immediately next to the unfriendly Lizardmen and Dark Elves. Regardless, High Elves have a good early-game mix of units. Their spearmen are some of the best early defenders, allowing you to have classic formations with spearmen in front and elven archers behind.
Phoenixes also have the neat ability to do swoop down and do fire damage in a line, which is great for breaking morale and hitting clumped groups of armies. The Frostheart Phoenix can debuff your enemies and slow them, allowing the Flamespyre Phoenix to do massive damage and break their lines.
Your artillery – and Dark Elves have the same thing – can shoot either single bolts or multiple bolts at once. You’ll want to switch it up depending on what you’re targeting. If you’re aiming at a large beast or a lord, you’ll want the single bolt. Otherwise, you’ll want the multi-shot.
Outside of combat, High Elves have the ability to influence relations between any two factions. This can be crucial in setting up vital trade agreements, which you can use to fuel expansions or pay for rising upkeep costs. Influence can also give you the vision of your trade partners, which can be especially handy for recruiting the right units well before a battle begins.
Skaven are an underground race, so much so that enemies won’t even see their settlements as being occupied until they try to enter the city gates. This is helpful in a multiplayer sense early on, as players will need to use heroes to make sure a settlement is empty before charging in. But for the most part, that won’t influence how you play too much.
Skaven get a third currency to play with, which is food. Food affects the Skaven’s public order rating, their army leadership and how much their cities can grow. The more armies you have alive, the more food you’ll consume, which encourages Skaven armies to continually charge and sack cities.
Like the Vampire Counts and Chaos in Warhammer 1, Skaven armies also corrupt the land they touch. The key difference is that Skaven corruption affects them too: before long, an area becomes too infested with rats (or Skaven). So you’ll want to be pretty aggressive, not just to keep your food count up, but to prevent rebellions at home.
Army-wise, Skaven win their battles early on by flooding enemies with waves of garbage units. Slaves and Clanrats have some of the worst stats, so you’ll want to focus on overwhelming your opponent and tying them down while your Plagueclaw Catapults and Rat Ogres wail on them.
A good trick is to have Slaves and Clanrats jam up enemy infantry to allow Plague Monks and Warpfire Throwers to come in behind; the latter are two of your main damage dealers.
But until you can get a good mix of those tier three units, Skaven can be especially squishy. Don’t take on Lizardmen until you have Stormvermin, since they’re your only real armoured unit and the only proper answer you have in the early game to Saurus Warriors (the Lizardmen’s bread and butter). The same applies for fighting the Chaos: a lot of their bread and butter units are armoured, and you’ll need to plan accordingly before you start summoning them to your doorstep via the rituals.
Diplomacy isn’t complicated, but violating agreements can tank your reputation and make it impossible to set up trade agreements for 15-20 turns
The children of the Old Ones, Lizardmen are the oldest of the races in the Warhammer lore. In Total Warhammer 2, they’re incredibly sturdy and difficult to break – although their troops also have a tendency to fly into a frenzy, which is a nightmare for any commander trying to maintain a battle formation.
The Saurus Warriors are one of the best mid-tier units in the game, with plenty of health and high weapon damage. They don’t have the armour piercing trait, however, which makes them less effective once the higher tier High and Dark Elf units start marching onto the battlefield. It does mean you’ll have a strong advantage against Skaven, however, provided you don’t get completely surrounded.
Lizardmen’s downfall is that their artillery isn’t particularly great compared to their other factions. But the Skink javelins get a lot better once you hit tier three, unlocking the Chameleon Skinks upgrade. This variation turns them into guerrilla artillery, allowing you to scurry them around the map. It requires more micromanagement than most other artillery units, but the damage output over the course of a battle is definitely worth it.
As far as the top tier goes, the Ancient Stegadon is fantastic for frightening foes and stomping waves of infantry. They can go berzerk though and will start stomping your units in a rampage if they come under too much pressure, so space your forces out accordingly.
The last of the four main factions, Dark Elves have a fun ability in the form of a Black Ark. It’s basically a floating settlement that, if in range, can offer artillery bombardments on the battlefield. Black Arks can only be summoned through Rites, which some of the races have, and provided your armies are nearby they have an incredible amount of utility.
Beyond that, Dark Elves can also get a bonus of 25% melee attack, +15 leadership, 25% bonus to charging and 30% vigour once a certain number of units are killed in battle. It’s called murderous prowess, and basically represents Dark Elves’ penchant for enjoying the act of murder just a fraction too much.
Once the purple bar at the top of the screen is filled, you can pop the ability at the time of your choice. Done right, you can wipe out a flank of units in a heartbeat.
From the unit side of things, Dark Elves have a good mix of cavalry, monsters and fighters from the mid-tier onwards. Shades are a unit that does an absurd amount of damage at range, while being equipped with greatswords or dual weapons. That lets them hold their own in a fight against most infantry, although they’re vulnerable to cavalry like all other ranged units, and the dual weapon variants have armoured piercing missiles.
War hydras are interesting. They can volley three sets of fireballs over the course of a battle, which is useful for harassing archers from afar. But while they have regeneration, they’re not armoured (unlike other faction monsters), and they’re slow as all buggery, making it possible for enemies to pin them down. Fortunately, they do pair well with a dragon and act as a tank for your infantry to move forward.
Dark Elves have a good mix of cavalry and flying units, ranged from weak harpies (good for swooping on artillery), cold one chariots (good for hit and run, as well as the occasional charge) and cold one knights, your go-to shock cavalry. Most of these aren’t available until the third or fourth tier, however, and their upkeep is quite high. As a result, it helps to avoiding lots of High Elf battles early on, because your early cavalry options aren’t great especially compared to the High Elves early spearmen/archer combo.
That’s a primer for Total War: WARHAMMER 2. All in all, a lot of the same principles will apply from the first game – and once the two games are merged, that’ll apply even more. But until the combined campaign is patched in, this should help you on your way to dominating (or disrupting) the vortex.