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Conquering Total War: Warhammer 3 as a pirate with a pathological aversion to ever touching grass

Born to plunder. World is an ocean. 410,757,864,530 dead elves.

A necrofex collosus bursts into an elven city in Total War: Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

In the dingy portside taverns that pop up, seemingly unbidden, like roiling blisters along the coastal towns of the Old World, the name Count Noctilus is spoken only in hushed whispers by those blasted enough on grog to forget themselves. They are sure to be swiftly rebuked by their fellows for playing dice with fate, those still of sound mind rightly afeared that the name may echo through the brine and tickle the ears of the dread captain himself. On the seas he calls kingdom, Noctilus is without equal, without mercy, and utterly without hesitation. For what has a dead man left to fear?

He has but one fatal flaw; he is deathly afraid of ever leaving his comfortable ship to touch ‘pon the verdant grass of land. I intend to honour this. Do you hear me, lubbers? I will show my strategy game mastery by conquering Total War: Warhammer 3’s world, and I will never touch grass.

Now, while it’s naturally going to be enough of a challenge for me, an agoraphobic games blogger, to roleplay as a terminal shut-in, I am setting a few ground rules to keep things interesting. My goal here is to hit the short victory condition. I’ll need to raze, sack or capture 30 settlements, and gain 8000 infamy, accrued by doing the usual pirate bits, mostly killing. Here are the rules:

  • No traveling across any landmass on the entire map. Sea only. I can use the fast travel sea lanes, and I can capture ports, but the only way I can leave the ports is via sea again. I can enter and leave my starting capital, the Galleon’s Graveyard, as I please.
  • I’m playing on Very Hard campaign difficulty, but Normal battles. I like the enemy having monetary buffs because you end up fighting more and bigger armies, but I also like stats being tuned to their default values. I’ve also cranked the actual battle AI all the way up, as per the recent-ish new settings.
  • You will likely see screenshots of me fighting on land. This is just what the game does for sea battles. It is not real grass. Ditto for sieges and port battles. Not real. I will never, ever, touch real grass.

Additionally, I’m using the following mods:

Sometimes, because the game is weird, it will plonk Noctilus on nearby land once I’ve finished taking a port settlement. There’s nothing I can do about this, so my rule is as long as I immediately return to sea at the first possible opportunity, then it doesn’t break the run. You might occasionally see a screenshot of Noctilus on some grass. This a liar’s screenshot. Nothing can make me touch real grass, even the game’s literal code. Avast!

Ships at sea in Total War: Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

Upon the ocean west of Ulthuan, Noctilus grows tired of a routine plundering expedition, and sets his sights on the ripe home of the high elves. He despises it, partly because of how many elves live there, but mostly because its covered in grass. At his back are a small crew of loyal but mostly useless zombies, a towering Necrofex, and his first mate; a gunnery wight the game has named Ade McMaggot. Drop me name suggestions in the comments, won’t you? If he’s still alive by the next entry, I’ll pick my favourite and bestow it upon him. No jokes, though. This is a serious feature.

Having long ago lost the ability to produce saliva, Noctilus orders his lip-licking monkey to get to licking in anticipation of elven riches. But what’s this? He’s immediately met on the sea by an elf named Erethond. When I click on him to view his army, he shouts “ridiculous!” at me. It’s actually really simple, thinks Noctilus. The mouse only has two buttons. But no matter, we’ll see how pointy-toity you are when you’re whining to the crabs about how your parents didn’t love you enough to not pick the first entry in the ‘Obvious Names for Elves’ book. I raise some insta-dead, research a movement bonus, then get stuck in.

A tactical formation in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Sega/Creative Assembly

We’ve got a few nice hills on our side of the map, so I layout a loose checkerboard with the rifles on the high ground, and stick my exploding bloater in some trees to hopefully take out a few Dragon Princes later. They’re the only potentially nasty unit the elves have, so well worth sacrificing the bloater for. Before that though, we’ve got some elf luring to do. I attacked them, so they’ll like as not just wait out the timer and win if I leave them to their own devices. Luckily, the Necrofex Colossus has silly range. I take pot shots at their archers until they figure they’ve had enough and advance. The main thing my army is missing so early is either some bats or dogs; something to get into elven backlines sharpish so their arrows don’t decimate me. Luckily, I chew through most of their frontline quickly, including the Dragon Princes, and Erethond is quickly reduced to Ere-dead. Thanks. Been saving that one.

A battle between pirates and elves in Total War: Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega
Some elves get blown up by an exploding corpse in Total War Warhammer 3
Pirates skirmish with elves in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

I end the turn forgetting to build anything on my ship, or recruiting any units. I have apparently forgotten how hybrid horde armies work.

It’s turn two, and we’ve run into our first problem: there’s a sizable patch of grass between Noctilus and Vaul’s Anvil, which means I’m going to have to leave these elves disgustingly alive. No matter! Lothern, the juiciest elf city, is a port, and also right around the corner. I reason dealing a blow to Tyrion this early is a good shout, too. I park up behind a volcano, do some housekeeping, and its on to turn three. Where’s that monkey got to?

It’s turn three and Noctilus has just been informed that, much like the previous three lip-licking monkeys, Captain Fleas has somehow worked out how to use a pistol, and shot himself. The funeral can wait, however, as there are elves to kill. I’m not ready to take on Lothern in siege battle yet, so we’ll just encircle it and try to wear them down. We won’t fully encircle it obviously, because that would involve land. We’ll just hang around at port looking menacing. Men! Replace the regular skull flag with the ‘Elves r cringe’ flag. This is sure to whip them into a frenzy and make them reckless. We snag a few upgrades and on turn five siege the city, but not before declaring war on a faraway pirate named Gentlemen Jenkins because the game offered us money to do so. He’s miles away, so it’s fine.

Pirate prepare to siege Ulthuan in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

I siege the city for a few turns, and I’m just about to wear the elves down to a manageable level through attrition when disaster strikes. It’s elf boss Tyrion, come to support the garrison. There’s no way this my current band of flaky reprobates can handle this fight - have you ever seen a zombie with scurvy try to lift up a polearm, it’s not pretty - so I retreat. And…

The fighting on Ulthuan continues in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

The game sticks me right on land, or at least that’s what the elves' cowardly magic would have me believe. You and I, reader, know this is actually impossible, because I simply will not touch grass under any circumstances. I immediately dispel the elf magic, and sail back to Galleon’s Graveyard to rally the troops. I research some tech, upgrade my settlement, recruit some artillery and…

The Galleon's Graveyard in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

The elves have fallen for my completely intentional ruse in which I pretended to be a coward. Idiots. As luck would have it, I’m given a dilemma that buffs my gunlines. I’ve got two turns to recruit before Tyrion and Alastar arrive, so I load up on rifle zombies. They’ll also take attrition, so with a little finesse (guns) I should be able to win the day.

I don’t want to brag here, but I’ve got quite a lot of guns. The elves? Zero guns. Not a single solitary sausage. I camp up on a hill, put my bats in reserve to shut down the archers, make sure to focus down their lords when they come close, and we manage to win the day. Now, do I count myself lucky and sensibly hang around until I’m in a better position, or do I press the advantage and immediately sail back to Lothern? This is a rhetorical question, of course. I pump a few skill points into Noctilus’ ‘Invocation of Nehek’, which lets me re-raise fallen zombies, grab a few more troops, and set sail.

Tyrion gets shot to an inch of his life in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega
Bats chew on elven archers in Total War Warhammer 3
Zombie gun lines in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

Did I mention my intense dislike for elves yet? Partly because of the economy buffs the AI receives on higher difficulties, and partly because elves are the worst, they’ve already recuperated most of their losses. I take a smaller port city as an appetizer, hoping to lure out the army, and raze the place to the ground. A bit of clever maneuvering later, which I won’t show you because it was too clever and it would make you feel bad, I’m ready to take the grand prize. Loth-ern? More like Loth-burn! Thanks. I was saving that one especially as treat for anyone who read this far down.

As is my right as the author, and also a lazy person, I kick off the siege with the tried-and-true tack of parking in a single corner of the map, where only a few of the elves' towers can hit me, then systematically take them down with artillery. I pop a couple of brave sacrificial chumps in front of the artillery to soak up shots. I drop the occasional healing spell to keep my meatshields shielded with adequate meat, then pop the game on fast forward, occasionally switching targets. Soon, all the towers are destroyed, and I’m free to unload every single artillery shell, plus more with my wight’s extra powder buff, on the elven capital. Before long, they’re in tatters.

My next step is to send Noctilus in solo and park him behind a wall, casting spells on the already weakened elves with impunity. I burn through my winds of magic, then send in the heavies to finish the job. The city falls, like a precarious peanut balanced atop of a pile of dead elves.

A necrofex collosus bursts into an elven city in Total War: Warhammer 3
Noctilus is not hiding, he is being tactical in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

Holding back every instinct I have to burn Lothern to the ground, I build a pirate cove in its ruins, granting me some juicy passive income from what’s sure to soon be one of the richest cities on the map. I’m just preparing to set back to the Graveyard to give Captain Fleas the goodbye he deserves when, shiver me doubloons, it’s only Gentleman Jenkins, come to seek revenge! What sort of dastardly army does the rogue Empire general have up his Gentlemanly sleevies?

Gentlemen Jenkins is back for revenge in Total War Warhammer 3
Image credit: Creative Assembly/Sega

That, mateys, will have to wait until next time. Until then, be careful out there. Grass, it turns out, is bloody everywhere.

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