God Foot: Total War Warhammer’s Wonderfully Weird Units

When I go to watch the Creative Assembly team show off units from their upcoming Total War: Warhammer [official site] game, what really sticks out to me is the sense of humour. I’ve been to Total War previews before and the emphasis is very definitely on serious historical epic battles. This time around I watch a goblin with scrappy-looking wooden wings clamber into a catapult, preparing to fling himself into the ranks of the opposition.

“That’s called the Doomdiver catapult,” grins battle designer Simon Mann. “Goblins volunteer – I don’t know why you would – to have a pair of wooden wings strapped to their backs, get loaded into a catapult and then just get launched. In our game it is kind of silly, and there’s a lot of humour in the Warhammer franchise.”

The demo we’ve just seen didn’t involve a hands-on but it did give a decent peek at a lot of the units from the Empire and Greenskins factions. (Dwarfs and Vampire Counts will come a bit later, with Chaos also very strongly implied in trailers.) The Greenbacks are all manner of weird and wonderful, while the Empire occupies relatively familiar Total War territory – give or take the odd demigryph.

“You’ve got halberdiers, greatswords, swords and shields, but then you’ve also got the newer things,” says Mann. “There’s the steam tank – a war machine – which is a kind of unit we’ve not really done before. It’s got a turret on and the turret can rotate and fire. Then you’ve got the Luminark of Hysh.”

I’m not a Warhammer player but the phrase Luminark of Hysh comes close to convincing me to start. What the hell is a Luminark of Hysh?

“It’s got two Empire wizards on it and something called a bound spell. They’ve locked this spell into this machine that some mages have poured all their power into, called Solheim’s bolt. On command they can wind that up and just fire this ray. It can take down a Giant in one hit. It’s a slow firing beast but pretty powerful, mainly for taking out larger units. If you use it against a group the laser’s so thin it’s not going to take out much, but against a bigger unit…

Mounted units are also well represented with the Empire faction. “You’ve got the Reiksguard, the heavy armoured knights – very medievalesque. Then you’ve got the Demigryph Knights who are riding the wingless griffons. You’ve got lots of variety even in something that’s familiar and loads of the Warhammer lore coming in.”

Facing off against them on the battlefield are the rest of the Greenskins. “They are insane,” says Mann. “There’s nothing in the Greenskin army you’ve ever seen in a Total War game. Let’s start with the goblins – these tiny little goblins, they’re quite weak, their morale is useless. They only join an army when they think they’re going to win. They’re really sore losers. Then you’ve got Orc Boyz which are the rank and file of the Greenskin army and they’re armed with choppers – anything sharp and pointy they call a chopper. Then the Black Orcs – really big and heavy –”

Are they the ones who looked kind of burned and blackened and sicked up bile on things?

“No, they’re the Trolls. This is the start of a thing we haven’t really done before, which is having big units. You get less men in the unit but they’re bigger. The trolls were twice the size of an Orc. You saw them charge in and SWIPE and then they throw up fish over people. They’re hitters. If you’re standing there in a line defending against a charge they’ll crush you. They’re mass.

“Then you saw Grimgor Ironhide who is the leader of all of the greenskins. He’s starting to lay waste to the Old World, which is where we’re setting the game. He’s the biggest and baddest. The leader of the Orcs is generally the one who’s toughest. There’s a dead man’s shoes thing. You become the leader by taking out the leader. He’s the meanest, nastiest of the lot of them.

“Then you’ve got the giant creatures. Did you see the Arachnarok Spider? There’s a platform on top of the Arachnarok with eight Goblin archers. Then the giants – they’re one of the goblin top tier units. They’re a bit like the trolls and can just break defending units. They’re really good at attacking and taking out, but because they’re single entities they can get surrounded and mobbed. They can only attack to the front. In Total War-style everything that has a strength has a weakness as well. We try to make sure things are really balanced.”

Generally, Warhammer seems to lend itself well to the Total War treatment but I ask about points of compromise – any moments where Warhammer and Total War came into conflict.

“Everyone’s desk in the office has all of the rulebooks. We’re constantly reading through. Every decision we make we go, ‘Well, what would Warhammer do?’ Also, we are still trying to make a Total War game too. I think it’s great that we’re trying to straddle two big groups of people.

“The biggest compromise is going to be turn-based. We’re taking what is essentially a turn-based game and putting it into our real-time battle engine. Sometimes stuff doesn’t quite translate directly, but where we can’t translate directly we translate the spirit of the feature. For example, the Doomdiver catapult – in the boardgame you can roll and have it move a little bit after it fires. You can hit there but say it goes off over here, but in our game you’re flying it. If you go into first person mode on the catapult that was being flown.”

You fly that catapult dude?

“We’ve got a guy in the office who loves flight sims so he coded it all up. It flies like a plane so you have roll and pitch. We were playing earlier and trying to do barrel rolls and stuff like that.”

What’s the deal with that giant ghost foot that comes and stamps on things? (Alec would be so ashamed of me right now.)

“That’s Foot of Gork. Gork is the Orc god, basically. He’s quite an angry guy and the Orc shaman can call him down to tread on people. Spells is another whole new thing. Between flying and spells we have two totally new vectors of gameplay on the battlefield. New tactics to deal with. Flying units. Because they’re flying, you can’t get in their way. They can fly over anything you want and then hit down. You can’t stop them easily from hitting you but then if they get caught on the ground that’s their weakness.”

Speaking of flying units, there was what looked like a flying griffon having a barney with a dragon?

“It’s the Orc Wyvern versus Deathclaw, who is Karl Franz, leader of the Empire’s griffon, which he unlocks through the campaign game. The two of them can be fighting in aerial combat. Bringing in the magic as well – it’s powerful. Hundreds of guys were dying with each spell. The Comet of Casandora at the end smashes down – did we win? Did we lose?”

He’s referring to the final bit of the battle footage where a gigantic comet smacked into the battlefield and led into a E3-traditional fade-to-black.

“Those spells are really powerful but they’re a limited resource. If you use them at the right time, brilliant. If you wait too long [the opponent] could kill your shaman, if you go too early it might not do the damage. You have to choose the moment – when the enemy is clumped together just hit the middle and take them out.

And what of the campaign Mann mentioned?

“We’re setting it in the Old World which is – if you imagine the Warhammer universe, the Old World is the centre – the big middle bit. We’re going to have four playable factions. Greenskins, Dwarfs, Empire and the Vampire Counts which I’m really happy about.” (Mann was mostly a 40K player but on his forays into Warhammer the Vampire Counts were his faction of choice.)

“You start with your campaign gameplay. It’s the sandbox style, so you can choose to do what you want, but we’re setting you up with the scenarios like the Empire hate the Orcs, right? That’s just standard. Actually, I think it’s more that the Orcs hate everyone and the Empire have to deal with that. Every faction’s going to play very differently. Previously we had subtle differences between factions – different building trees and [so on] – that’s stuff you’ll see but it’s more pronounced.

“For example, the Greenskins aren’t really that into taxation – they won’t be going round people’s houses, knocking politely and saying ‘Can I have my tithes please?’ They just find someone else’s village and take it. They’re more about warfare and fighting.

“We’re bringing the Warhammer lore back into this. We’ve got something called a Waaaaaagh which comes out and that’s if an orc war boss keeps doing really well and winning battles, once that happens you build up momentum and more Goblins and Orcs start following you on the campaign map. Suddenly you’re charging through enemy lands with a giant force.

“The Empire are much more political and there’s a lot more skullduggery. Karl Franz himself – he wasn’t the first choice to be the Emperor so you’ve got that reticence towards him as the leader of the Empire factions. There’s more politics, there’s a more standard expansion. Then there’s the Dwarfs and Vampire Counts, which we’ll go into more depth later, but they have unique playstyles as well.

Thing is, the units I’ve seen look interesting and varied and the touches of humour might get me to stick with the game in a way I didn’t with previous iterations. But there’s also the Rome 2 question hanging over Total War releases at the moment. That game had a shaky launch, no two ways about it, and it’s a concern echoed in the comments whenever Total War gets a mention on RPS.

“I think the main thing is that Rome 2, yeah, you could say it’s a shaky launch. Since that point we released a lot of content and DLCs and the game has really improved. I liked it on release but now I think it’s in a really amazing state. Then with Total War: Attila coming afterwards we took a very grounded approach and built on all the improvements and fixes and the advancements with the AI. We’re doing the same with Warhammer. We’re taking that solid foundation and taking a big step forward with it and bringing in some new mechanics, but trying to keep the core mechanics correctly functioning.

“We’re trying to be as grounded as we can with our cores, then with the new mechanics putting in a lot of work to make sure each of them is perfect and polished. That said we’re still in pre-alpha so we’ve got loads to do.”

50 Comments

  1. SomeDuder says:

    So instead of the fantastically insane 40k setting, they went with the boring medieval setting? Talk about missed opportunities…

    • Jorum says:

      If they went 40K it would be moving to being like Dark Crusade games.
      Besides, warhammer is not boring setting…

    • Azhrarn says:

      in my opinion Games Workshops biggest error here in my opinion is that this game is going to come out just after they literally blew up the world this happens in for a reboot of the Warhammer brand.
      The new edition of Warhammer is going to make some ludicrous changes, and none of them will be included in what we see here in Total War: Warhammer (Total Warhammer sounds so much better don’t you think?).
      This game will be based on a game system that has literally become obsolete before it’s even out.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        It may be me being used to the ‘old’ Warhammer Fantasy world, but I would say that’s a net positive.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          That’s not even subjective opinion it’s just plain fact. The Warhammer reboot is all sorts of bad and no sorts of good. It’s been seriously mishandled from start to finish. I am really glad Total Warhammer is sticking with the old old world.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        World building, lore and people’s memories don’t become obsolete. The new Warhammer is a pile of shite. Of course they were going with the long-established setting everyone knows.

        • Azhrarn says:

          Indeed, it doesn’t become obsolete to those who’ve been with the game for a long time. New players however will not know that these changes have occured.

      • Exitalterego says:

        I think that is rather the point. Games Workshop were never going to allow this to happen while the ‘old’ setting still existed. It would lose them sales on mini’s as people got their Warhammer fix from a (mostly) one off purchase to Creative Assembly.

        Now, however, all this stuff is technically obsolete in the eyes of GW. They won’t continue supporting it, or creating the minis for it. They don’t lose sales and instead continue to get a licensing cut from each copy of the game and DLC’s that will get sold.

      • captainparty says:

        Fascinating that you seem to know all about how bad Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is when no one outside the Nottingham office knows a thing about it.

        • Palindrome says:

          The rumours on Age of Sigmar have been coalescing into something reasonably solid recently, none of it good. Given that the release date is less than a month away the lack of official information on AoS is utter stupidity on GW’s part.

          Hopefully the grand campaign will be nice and open, I found that the scripted events in Call of Warhammer seriously damaged the game (oh look 3 giant stacks just teleported next to one of my cities deep inside my territory).

        • Josh W says:

          The rules alone are pretty hilarious; start putting models from your army list in your deployment zone until you decide that you have finished. Whoever sets up first chooses the turn order. There is no other balance.

          That could be an interesting system if they had some kind of handicap system that altered the objectives according to the differences between the armies (ok, there’s loads of you and hardly any of mine, it’s probably a scouting mission that ran into your main force, I probably have to get past you and run away), but there’s not even that, just killing “models”, regardless of their type.

      • Syra says:

        Actually it might align just fine with them re releasing the new edition. They are going to focus on age of Sigmar for a while (the skirmish game everyone’s thinks will replace whfb) then they are going to release a game called battles in the old world which is basically identical to the 9th/end times and it just allows for smaller games more flexible armies and round bases…

    • Chiron says:

      Fantastically boring? Your kidding me right, the Renaissance with Goblins and magic?

      Its awesome and marvellously detailed, at least it used to be before it became about BIG BIG MONSTERS AND GIANT HEROES STRIDING THEE WORLD AIEEES and a Warcraft clone (the irony is not lost on me here)

      • SomeDuder says:

        Yes, to you, a fan of ye olde Warhammer, a Total War version is probably a good thing. But myself, as someone who’s more interested in the crazy over-the-top violence of 40k and who has played more than his plenty of knights, swords, castles, horses and green fields in a medieval European-style setting, this is neither new nor exciting.

        And I admit, I’m not particularly versed in Games Workshop’s stuff and I have no idea which came first, 40K or the traditional Warhammer, all I know is that they both share the same theme of violence, the Emperor, Chaos, Orks and Eldar/Elves with humanity being stuck in between.

        But come on, given the choices:

        A: Medieval Warhammer with classic swords and shining armor, elves and magic missile of holyshiticantdothis +3
        B: Warhammer 40k with its insane units and weapons

        I really think Creative Assembly could have made something amazing, where instead of regions/provinces on a world map, you conquer planets or sectors on a star map. Can you imagine fighting defensive battles a lá Shogun 2, but with space marines?

        Well, it’s probably something to do with how amazing it would be and noone would be buying the horribly overpriced boardgames anymore…

        • Herbal Space Program says:

          What about those naked dark elf ladies who bath into blood before charging into battle? They seem less boring than Space Marines to me.

        • Daemoroth says:

          Yay… Space Marines and guns and chainsaws… So exciting, so unique, haven’t seen small squads with guns in so long… The craziness of having your units point a gun and shoot at someone, while they’re shooting right back… With some armored support… Hooray…

          40k wouldn’t work with Total War, go bother Relic for one of those, and tell them it should be more like DoW, and less like DoW 2 (Oh, AND to include Tau/Necron :P)

          Besides, when was the last time you saw a Warhammer Fantasy game?

        • bill says:

          Crazy units? Did you not see the bit about the catapult that fires goblin-hangliders or the Luminark of Hshehdshdf?
          link to miniaturepainters.com

          I think Warhammer can pretty much match 40k in terms of weird units. (though I was always more of a 40k player myself… but that was when i was young and I thought space marines were the coolest thing evar!)

        • ScubaMonster says:

          I think you really need to just stop talking now as you clearly have no clue. Classic Warhammer has all sorts of insane units. Your posts convey your clear lack of understanding and knowledge about this franchise.

    • Rich says:

      There’s already a good series of 40K game in Dawn of War. Also, I don’t think Total War’s typical battle lines-based gameplay would work in 40K; it doesn’t really work beyond 19th century combat.

      • Beanbee says:

        Nonsense.

        Day 513 of your tactical battle is where the actions is at. You cease the otherwise constant pounding of your royal artillery and click the ‘Over the top’ button. And watch your men rise from the trenches!.. and get mowed down. It’s okay, reinforcements are trickling in for each and every loss you take. Only thirty more battle like this and you can end your turn!

    • PancakeWizard says:

      For Total War devs it’s not a missed opportunity at all, it is absolutely the right call. This plays to their strengths entirely while adding one a few things they’ve not had to deal with before (flying units, magic, large monsters).

    • AllixX says:

      Talk about your misunderstanding of what total war devs do… Real fan here…

    • Freud says:

      The Total War games work best with mostly melee fighting, with the archer/pikemen/infantry/cavalry units trumping each other.

      Warhammer 40k wouldn’t really work that well for the same reason the Total War: Empire didn’t really work. It’s not that fun if your armies don’t crash into each other.

      I think 40k is a stronger franchise, but it works better in other types of games. An big turn based 40k game would be amazing, but I’ve stopped hoping for one.

      • Bastimoo says:

        Speak for yourself, I’m still having a blast with my linebattles and sea fights.

        I just hope that the base game itself is better this time (please, let me dream..), so there is no need to mod it that heavily

      • patrickpeppers says:

        Doesn’t really work? I’m fervently hoping the next Total War game is Empire 2. Loved the scale of that game. Would sacrifice a baby to see a new one with the South China Sea included.

    • wengart says:

      40k would be much better suited to a Necromunda esque Jagged Alliance 2 game rather than a Total War game to be quite honest.

      Or even a Silent Storm style frontline combat game. Part of the fun of 40k is the absurd setting where our space elves are fighting 8 foot tall genetially engineered space marines that can use their bare fist to punch through a wall.

      You just cant get that when you are dealing with super high level/abstract units like the total war games are.

    • anHorse says:

      Oh come now

      Both Warhammer settings are “fantastically insane”, it’s fine to prefer 40k over fantasy but quite frankly 40K has been getting the much better deal in terms of getting games; it’s about time the one I like got some attention too

      And as others have said a 40k total war game doesn’t make sense since TW games tend to get less fun as more and more ranged units are added

    • SaintAn says:

      You’re delusional. Fantasy is great and nowhere near boring unless you are a stupid. I’ve been reading the books the last few months and they’re fucking excellent.

  2. vorador says:

    There has been plenty of 40k games. It’s about time a Warhammer Fantasy video game is released in this decade.

  3. Jorum says:

    If I remember rightly the reason goblins volunteer for kamikaze-catapult duty is (a) they are fond of eating “exciting” types of mushrooms and get strange ideas (b) Goblins are pretty low in the warhammer food chain. So the chance to be, for a few glorious minutes, a frightening and powerful agent of death and destruction appeals to some of them.

  4. Zenicetus says:

    It’s a good sign that the number of factions is small. CA has always done better when the scope of TW games on the strategy layer isn’t too huge.

    I’m wondering how they’ll handle diplomacy? It’s traditionally a part of TW games (although usually not all that well-developed). I’m not that familiar with the 40K lore, but is there actually any room for diplomacy in a game with these factions? Aren’t they just always at war?

    • Horg says:

      The obvious answer (and I think what was hinted at) is a focus on intra-faction diplomacy instead of inter-faction diplomacy. That would be a fairly large deviation from the Total War formula, but probably a positive one.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I’m sure they’ll add more in expansions. Skaven, Lizardmen and Dark Elves would be great to see. We could have a whole New World expansion/sequel.

  5. Tatourmi says:

    So far total war games have proven to me that only one thing is important for them to be exciting games. It is not unit variety, it is not graphics, or setting, or number of factions, it is not realism, it is just a fairly aggressive campaign battle AI. That is all I ask of a Total War game. That is the reason Shogun 2 was so good, that is the reason I never bothered to finish a campaign in any of the other total war games. There needs to be a challenge or your army has no adversaries worth fighting, your empire has no threat other than itself, and the world feels lifeless.

  6. Firkragg says:

    I can’t take it anymore, i’m reinstalling Call of Warhammer (mod) for medieval 2 again. Just hope the installation process has been improved.

  7. Rumpelstilskin says:

    Shouldn’t it be just “Total Warhammer”? Or “Total War: Hammer”? The way it is it sounds like “Total War: War of the Warring Warriors and Warlords” or something

    • blastaz says:

      Total War: Hammer is the new greatest thing!

    • P.Funk says:

      The brand people for both parties concerned no doubt refused to partake in such poetry lest their well respected brand names not be each individually represented.

  8. Rizlar says:

    That’s Foot of Gork.

    Sold!

  9. hpstg says:

    I would trust them more if they ever fixed the framerate drop in the Rome 2 campaign map. When you select a unit, the frame rate drops almost 50%.

    After pre-ordering Rome 2 and being burned so badly (the above issue is STILL not fixed), I don’t trust them at all. They released Attila instead of really fixing Rome 2, like they released Napoleon instead of really fixing Empire.

    Fuck those guys.

    • drinniol says:

      That’s because a) it might not be fixable, or b) the campaign map is the one place framerate is not important.

  10. Ufofighter says:

    The Warhammer setting is a wet dream for Creative Assembly: I can see 14,95€ per new race, 4.95€ for the heros of that race, 4,95€ more for the great monsters, 4,95€ for changing the colors… like printing money…. and still cheaper than the actual Warhammer.

  11. bill says:

    It sounds fun, but I wonder how they’re going to make it properly tactical when you can one-hit-kill giants and decimate half an army with a giant foot / meteor.

    Those kind of things can be great fun, or really really frustrating in a game. Of course, the same thing could have been said about tabletop warhammer/40k.
    I remember being so proud of my newly painted really awesome squad of Terminators. Then in the first turn the opponent used some weird Ork teleporter gun, got a lucky role, managed to teleport squigs inside their armour, and took out the entire squad in one shot. I don’t think I talked to my mate for a week after that.

    It can get even more annoying in a real time battle where you’re managing large numbers of units. Have a great plan, spend 10 minutes positioning your troops for the best tactical advantage, whoops half of them just got crushed by a giant foot! Better luck next time!

    • SanguineAngel says:

      That somewhat the joy of it! :)

    • drinniol says:

      That’s what you get for spending all your points on terminators instead of Imperial Guard. Why have one man when you can have 20?

  12. Ferno says:

    I was really hoping for Skaven or Lizardmen, one of the interesting races. Greenskins have fun stuff at least but are still orcs and goblins which we see often. The others or just people variants.