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Total War: Warhammer III's faction roster raises some juicy design questions

For you, the war is Ogre

There’s not a lot about Total War: Warhammer 3 that couldn’t have been worked out by reasonable deduction, in the three-and-a-bit years since its predecessor launched in 2017. Given the Twarhammer trilogy’s long-stated aim of reproducing pretty much every faction and scrap of land in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting, there were only so many places it could go.

True to expectations, then, after Twarhammer 2 spread the map westwards to the lizards-’n’-elves carnage of pretend South America, this time we’re going to be headed East, to the region of Warhammer’s Old World setting centred around pretend China, aka Cathay, and pretend Russia, aka Kislev.

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I think the initial faction lineup is interesting, though not without disappointments. Of the six present on launch, four are the great powers of Chaos - Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch, and Khorne - and they’re no real surprise. Twarhammer 3 was always going to be a great big apocalyptic punch-up focused on Chaos, after all. Nevertheless, whether it goes all the way and brings about the End Times that concluded the setting in 2015, remains to be seen.

I’m curious as to how the Naughty Men will play in practice. It seems these will be very daemon-heavy factions, rather than the manky hordes of human cultists that currently represent Chaos in the series. And while that’s cool and all, because it means big monsters, it raises practical questions. Daemons in Warhammer lore pretty much just… trash places, you know? It’s hard to imagine them having cities, per se.

I suppose they might be handled a bit like the Beastmen were in Twarhammer 1: that is to say, a nomadic, honking deathball of goat geezers who bounce between cities like an angry pinball, training fresh beastmen on the road. If that is the case, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Beastmen are largely considered the series’ most hopeless faction, largely because of their nomadic mechanic not quite working. I guess one would hope lessons had been learned.

A Kislev ice witch faces a Chaos monster in the Total War: Warhammer 3 cinematic trailer.
Matt Daemon!

I suppose the other possibility hinges on the “nightmarish Chaos realm” teased as a location in the game by today's announcement. Perhaps the Matt Daemons have their horrid citadels tucked away in there, leaving the “normal” world purely as a place for them to bork. I think that would be cool.

But besides all the maggots and fireballs, what I reckon is really intriguing from a design standpoint are the two human “goodie” factions: Kislev and Cathay themselves.

The bear-riding boys and girls of Kislev have been in the Twarhammer melting pot for a good while now, but only as a subfaction of the Empire, without much personality of their own. Fleshing them out as a full faction with their own set of units is a smart move, as they’ve punched considerably above their weight as a consistent fan favourite.

Cathay, however, is a bit of an unknown quantity. The “Dragon Kingdom” which rules over Cathay has been mentioned loads in Warhammer Old World background material, but to my knowledge has never had miniatures released for any tabletop game. It’s hard to know what to expect from them.

A Kislev ice witch charges her magic in the Total War: Warhammer 3 cinematic trailer.
This witch is pretty sick, tbqh.

According to Andy Hoare, Warhammer Studio’s Old World project lead (who worked with TCA in developing the new factions), Cathay will be “Warhammer as you’ve never seen it before”, which is technically a completely accurate statement, 'cos there haven't been any miniatures for them. Mark Bedford, the studio man behind a lot of the faction concept designs, elaborated a bit further, saying the hierarchy of the Cathayans, in particular, would be “unlike anything you’ve seen before”. It’ll be interesting to see if any design elements bleed in from TW: Three Kingdoms, too, given the rich seam of period-appropriate Chinese military assets which TCA cooked up for that game.

The reason Kislev and Cathay are fascinating, to me at least, is that designing them has finally taken The Creative Assembly off the map of the original Old World source material. After all, as mentioned at the top of the post, that entire setting was binned by Games Workshop via a huge in-lore apocalypse in 2015, to be replaced by the Age Of Sigmar system.

Over the course of the last two games and their DLC, then, pretty much the entire Old World miniature range has been represented in some form or another, meaning Cathay and Kislev are in the unique position of being - essentially - new miniatures designed for an extinct game. That's well cool. And given that the factions have been developed in direct conjunction with Games Workshop’s studio team, I’m confident that the results will feel authentic.


But while all this is very good, I did mention a disappointment, and this is a good point to raise it. It is this: where the crikey are my wonderful ogres? Warhammer’s Ogre Kingdoms, after all, had their stomping grounds in exactly the part of the world Twarhammer 3 is focusing on, and had an incredible range of miniatures, which are as yet unrepresented in any of the Twarhammer games.

And yes, I know, this is a fool’s question, as it has an obvious answer. The original big men will, almost certainly, feature in Twarhammer 3’s first big DLC pack (along with Chaos Dwarves, if you want my guess). And that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I just love ogres, is all, and it would have been good to have had a whiff of them in the initial launch. Still, I can be patient - 'cos baby, it ain't ogre til it's ogre.

If you're after full details of the Twarhammer 3 announcement, you shouldcheck out Alice O's post here.

Disclosure: Site co-founder Alec Meer (RPS in peace) has been writing for Total Warhammer 3. I also write for Games Workshop's publishing arm Black Library, but about Warhammer 40K stuff.

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