Each, Peach, Pear, Plum, which side are you on?
The races of Total War: Warhammer aren’t just four skins of the same basic faction with a few magicians and monsters thrown in for good measure. Instead, they represent meaningfully different choices that promote radically different play-styles for each of the key areas in the game.
This begs the question of how you choose which to play as and which might best suit your preferred approach to conquering the Old World, Badlands and beyond.
Having spent a decent amount of time tinkering with each race and seeing how their abilities and characteristics affect the long game, here’s a rundown of what you can expect each one to provide and to help factor it into your game plan.
The Empire faction rides into combat
Representing the human contingent and the closest to a traditional Total War faction, the Empire has a good balance of infantry, ranged and cavalry units making up its armies. Its elite cavalry are some of the strongest in the game and while its infantry troops aren’t anything special the option to mix them with decent ranged and magic-wielding units makes for the most flexible fighting force of the four races.
Off the battlefield, the Empire’s tech tree is tied to its building types, while its diplomacy and trade options are the broadest and strongest of any of the races. This informs a core mechanic of confederacy, with the aim of uniting the fractured lands, and leads to a huge, sprawling empire won as much through canny politicking as crushing military victories. However, given the Empire’s geographical position, they’re the first to bear the brunt of the brewing Chaos invasion from the north.
The Empire represents a safe starting point for newcomers that want to get to grips with all of the mechanics of Total War: Warhammer and for veterans who want to explore whether the pen is truly mightier than the sword.
A heaving green mass of tooth and claw, the Greenskins are the most violent, restless and out ‘n’ out fighty of the four races. While Orcs and Goblins make up the bulk of their infantry, ranged and cavalry units, they also have some of the most devastating monster units in the game. A well placed Giant or Arachnarok Spider can mow down huge numbers of infantry units and draw the attention of nearby troops that can then be flanked with fast-moving cavalry.
However, weak leadership means lower-tier troops can be quick to rout if things aren’t going their way, so skirmishes require a watchful eye of all parts of the battlefield and decisive action to plug gaps where necessary.
The Greenskins tech tree is relatively basic and geared towards improve battle prowess, while raiding replaces trading for generating income. The unique “Fightiness” trait makes aggressive expansion necessary to avoid in-fighting and advantages to inspire your neighbours to join you in a “Waaagh!” state.
The Greenskins are a route-one, bash-first-ask-questions-later type of race and so suit players who favour the war of Total War above the diplomacy. They’re a difficult race to get to grips with but having done so they provide the most in-depth understanding of how to successfully manage troops no matter how unfavourable the odds.
The Warhammer dwarves attack
The first thing to note about the Dwarfs is that they have zero cavalry units but if you’ve ever seen a Dwarf try to ride a horse you’ll understand why. The second thing to note about the Dwarfs is that they have the most wonderful war machines of the entire game and are typically heavily armoured. This lends itself to a slower, more deliberate and cautious style of battle in which near impenetrable defensive lines shield their powerful artillery units as they rain down death from above. Just be sure to watch those flanks!
While engineers and rune-smiths work magic into weapons and hamper the magical abilities of other races, their two tech trees cover a wide-range of militaristic and civic bonuses. Dwarfs are entirely resolute and loyal, meaning that they don’t have to contend with the kind of in-fighting that they other races do and they’re excellent at generating income.
Their unique race mechanic is centred on the Book of Grudges, which must be kept in check by completing the quests that arise from affronts caused by other races. They can also create shortcuts by utilising underground tunnels to get from A to B on the campaign map more quickly.
The Dwarfs are probably best suited to players that want to settle in for the long game, both in terms of campaign progress and military engagements. They require skill to effectively manage their expansion and dominance but they can be one of the most satisfying races to master due to the level of strategy involved in decision-making on and off the battlefield.
The Vampire Counts
Probably the most unique race of the four that are initially available, the Vampire Counts favour fear-inducing units of tremendous power and size mixed with cheap, disposable early game infantry to plough through enemies. Being able to raise a company of zombies or skeletons from the dead to throw at enemies while spectral riders bear down from the flanks and winged fell-beasts descend from the skies promotes a slightly manic, near-reckless approach to combat.
The lack of missile units certainly encourages up close and personal melee fighting, where the various undead and monstrous beasts inspire terror while themselves being immune to broken morale. This is bolstered by spell-casters who use a range of magical attacks that mix broad, area of effect attacks with powerful single-target assaults.
Vampire Counts rely on spreading foul corruption into neighbouring provinces before being able to travel through those lands without suffering attrition penalties but on the flipside that same corruption weakens the resolve and defence of non-Vampiric races settled there. Their tech trees are centred on a mix of boosting their income, unit abilities and necromantic powers, while diplomacy is generally limited to trade due to the other races strong aversion to them.
The Vampire Counts offer a very different take on most key mechanics in the game but still represent a reasonable starting point due to their largely insular but powerful nature. Used well, their units are some of the most empowering of the four races and, hey, it’s fun being the bad guys!
So there it is, the four races of Total War: Warhammer are sufficiently different to one another to invite deliberation of where to start with and how to play each one. Their differences to one another also invite repeat play and offer some varied quests and campaign goals. Each has some interesting traits and all have some powerful units, and so the best way to determine which race to lead is to experiment with them all before settling on the one you’ll guide to ultimate glory!