I bought Total War: Warhammer in a half-price sale and have played it for 16 hours, according to Steam. Time enough to have formed an opinion, although obviously I haven’t seen everything yet. This is from the point of view of somebody who like strategy games, but isn’t a great Total War fan. Again according to Steam the only Total War game I played more than this is Empire: Total War for 65 hours. So don’t expect any deep expertise here.

Given that lack of expertise I started the first game with the one race marked as being easy, the dwarves, and selected easy difficulty level. However that first game was far from easy for a beginner, because the tutorial isn’t great and sometimes even misled me (e.g. the advisor said that it might be advisable to lay siege instead of attacking at the first enemy settlement, which turned out to be a complete waste of time). What ultimately killed me was the fact that you need a lot of provinces to pay the upkeep of even a single large army, so you end up having few armies even if you already have a large territory. And at one point I had both my large armies in the south when I was attacked from two different sides in the north. With dwarves being slow and no fast travel except for some quest battles, I just gave up with a lesson learned and restarted.

Other than being slow, the dwarves were in fact a good choice for starters. They earn the most gold in a game where gold is frequently the scarcest resource. And except for the slayer troops, the dwarven troops are all well armored and frequently have shields. Even the archers. Which in practice hilariously makes the dwarven archers better than the elven ones, as your dwarven archers are still alive and kicking once they got attacked by the light cavalry that ran around your front line.

Compared to other Total War games I have played, I appreciate the larger variety of Total War: Warhammer regarding troops and race-specific features. That also includes race-specific diplomacy, with other dwarf tribes being naturally more favorable to you in diplomacy than humans, elves, vampires, or orcs. At first neighboring dwarf tribes were more of a nuisance, as there is no diplomacy option of trading settlements, and I ended up having a lot of half provinces. But in mid-game I had so much favor with my dwarven neighbors that they joined my "confederation", which is a fancy term of saying that they simply handed over all their settlements and troops to me. The first time that happened I doubled my territory and suddenly had 5 complete provinces instead of 2. I suspect that won’t happen with other races. It took forever to get to any friendly relations with the border princes. That was annoying because enemies ran through their territories to attack me, and I couldn’t cross that same area because that would have been trespassing and gotten me into trouble with them.

I now more or less got the hang of the strategic map and province management. What I find annoying is that defending provinces still is a nuisance. You can’t choose what and how many troops to use as garrison. You can increase the garrison by building defensive buildings, but with most settlements only having at max 3 building slots, you don’t want to use that option very often. And putting an army in for defense is relatively expensive because you need a general. I don’t know how I’ll do with races that earn less gold.

There are some other features that either I haven’t understood or that aren’t all that useful. I can put my army in a tunneling stance, in which they appear to tunnel from A to B instead of walking. I imagine it could work to tunnel under an enemy troop and avoid its zone of control, because that is how the orcs are trying to use it against me. And sometimes that ends with me intercepting them, and there being an underground battle. However the advisor suggested that I could tunnel under mountains, but even if I am in tunnel stance and click on a destination on the other side of a mountain chain, the army moves around it instead of through it. I probably haven’t found the right area yet to tunnel efficiently. I hear it can help against attrition from badlands, which would be nifty, because attrition is probably one of the most annoying features of the game.

The main reason I don’t often play Total War games is that the battles are in real time, and I’ve always been more of a turn-based fan. However with the dwarves at least I am doing fine, because they don’t relay of fast maneuvering anyway. Enemies run circles around me, and then die. While the AI is definitively cheating and the game sometimes throws unexpected new modes of invasions your way, I’m doing pretty well in my second game. And the real time battles are somewhat less repetitive than they were in Empire: Total War, because the troops of different races are more different from each other.

I don’t regret to have bought Total War: Warhammer at half price, but more would have been too much. Which also means that I am not in the market for $20 DLCs to make the elves a playable race, or similar nonsense. Most of the negative comments on Steam are about the DLC policy. The other advantage of waiting for a sale is avoiding the early bugs, which Total War games frequently have. So up to now I haven’t encountered any major bugs. The AI still isn’t the most brilliant (never was in the series), but the game is quite playable as it is.

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