If you can’t tell your Bestigors from your Al Gores then you … have a few problems, honestly. But I understand. A new faction in Total War: Warhammer can be a confusing thing to get to grips with; especially if you’re not so familiar with the ‘horde’ style mechanics used by the Beastmen.
That’s where this guide comes in. It’ll offer some helpful hints and suggestions for how to get the best start from the Beastmen on both the campaign map and battlefield. This is being written pre-release, so there aren’t any specifics on multiplayer – but you can assume some of the general battlefield principles will apply there too. All advice here is based on the assumption that the AI opposition is not receiving ridiculous buffs from higher difficulty settings (which kind of screws with any ‘who beats who’ hierarchy). Plus, if you’re playing on Very Hard or Legendary, I doubt you need much help.
To get some ultra basics out of the way: Beastmen are a horde faction, which means they cart their one ‘settlement’ around with them. In order to level up buildings or purchase new units, they have to be in the Hidden Camp stance.
As Beastmen, you have two resources to primarily worry about, and a third that will roughly take care of itself. The important ones are Favour (which is effectively cash for purchasing upgrades, new units and so on) and Growth (which is necessary for buying any building improvements and getting access to the higher tiered troops). That third resource is Bestial Rage, which (when high enough) will spawn an AI Bray Herd stack to point at enemies. We’ll get to that later.
If you’re playing the Eye for an Eye mini campaign, you’ll begin the game with a lone army stack. On the main campaign you begin with two. Either way, early on you’re going to need Growth more than Favour. Without it, you won’t be making any building upgrades and you’ll be stuck with low-level units. Your main source of early Growth will be despoiling any settlements you’ve just attacked with Chaos idols. This means forgoing the Favour loot, but unless it’s a particularly bountiful haul (say, over 5k in the early game) the Growth is probably the better option.
When you reach the point where your stack(s) are full of enough troops that it’s causing you Favour upkeep problems, it’s time to switch over to looting pretty much every place you burn. Growth will still tick over, and can be significantly boosted (+6 for several turns) by one of the Morrslieb events that you’ll periodically be offered. The down side to that Morrslieb option is that your troops won’t replenish casualties for the same period – but it is a hell of a Growth boost.
In Eye for an Eye, try to get a second army stack going quite early on. I got mine started around the time I destroyed Carroburg (the very first regional areas you attack). It’ll be smaller than Khazrak’s army by necessity, so try to keep it safe to begin with. Using it to Raid territories can help generate extra income while you nurture it to a point where it can take on settlements on its own. Having a pair of armies is a huge advantage; it prevents the AI from zeroing in on your one and only stack, and (once they’re both powerful enough) gives you the option to be razing and looting two settlements in a single turn.
Which leads me to the next suggestion: always be attacking and looting nearby settlements whenever possible. You’re Beastmen. That’s what you do. It earns you much needed Favour (or Growth, in the earlier game). It also keeps your Bestial Rage meter nicely topped up so you never have to worry about it. And, after a string of lootings, you’ll get a free Bray Herd to command. Guess what? You can send that at any pesky enemy armies, freeing up your own stacks for even more looting. Hurrah. Be aware that if you send the Bray Herd AI at settlements, you won’t be picking up the loot rewards. Also be aware that positive diplomatic actions will lower your Bestial Rage.
Beastmen are undeniably fearsome, but sometimes it’s prudent to have an escape route planned. Your ‘Beast Path’ stance is perfect for this, sometimes (with some awareness of positioning) allowing you to skip away beyond a forest that’s impassible to an AI pursuer. Use the Beast Paths to get away from situational danger, but also make sure to take a look at it every so often for potential short-cuts around the map to your next razing destination.
Inevitably, some of the upgrade decisions are going to come down to personal choice and strategic contexts. That’s as it should be; don’t take my word for everything. There are definitely a few pointers I can share, though.
The Warhound branch is a bit of an up front investment (4 Growth and a chunk of Favour), but it’s a much deeper road to get hold of Centigors (or Razorgors). Ignoring Warhounds leaves you without quick, anti-skirmish and anti-archer units for an awfully long time. Khazrak starts Eye for an Eye with one unit of Centigors, and Malagor gets some poison Warhounds in the main campaign, but you’ll need more than that to see you through the early game.
Warhounds can chew on Pistoliers, ruin the AI’s formation discipline with a few rear passes, harass stranded archers and artillery, and are great at late-fight flanking. They also have Vanguard deployment, are cheap to hire and have low upkeep. Early to mid game, Warhound units were some of my most tactically valuable.
You’ll naturally be moving up through the Horde Encampment upgrades in order to unlock new options, and your next unit target should probably be the Ungor units with shields. Basic spear/shield Ungors have fragile leadership and won’t hold the line against obviously superior troops, but (especially with Legendary Lord buffs, which we’ll get to later), they can bog down Empire sword and spear units fairly well. At least long enough for you to get around the sides or rear with other units. Beastmen don’t have too many armoured options and can suffer under sustained missile fire, but the shields will help a bit.
After that, my advice would be to rush towards Minotaurs. They’re large, have a hell of a charge, cause fear, and are yet to disappoint me in a battle. Thanks to the newly patched rules around sieges, having a unit of door-bashing Minotaurs in your stack will allow you to launch an immediate siege assault without having to build poxy towers or battering rams. The ones with shields or great-weapons are a bit more of a luxury, but you can grab the basic unit type at the third level of Horde Encampment. They’re costly in time and Favour to recruit, but absolutely worth it.
As alluded to earlier, Khazrak (and other non-Shaman Beastmen Generals) have some tasty bonuses that can really raise the quality of Ungor units. The first is basically the Beastmen version of Honest Steel, called Leader of the Raucous Host. At level three, this gives all Ungor Herd and Ungor Spearmen +12 melee attack and a +10 charge bonus. You can combine this with Beastlord’s Lash to add even more of a charge bonus, making your Ungor units pretty formidable on the offensive. Fury of the Herd, a later skill, provides an equivalent boost to Gor units as well.
Blessed By Evil is another very helpful skill to take, giving an overall -15% to army upkeep costs at the highest level. This isn’t as impressive as the -25% upkeep available on the Beastmen support building tree, but the investment of a couple of Lord skill points is easier to bear than a whole bunch of Growth and Favour.
Slug-Skin (available at level 10 and beyond) is another easy one to overlook for Khazrak and Generals, but at the top level it gives +20% weapon strength to the Lord’s army. Not bad at all.
Lightning Strike is a strong choice for skill investment too, since Beastmen so often find themselves involved in Ambush tactics. May as well make them even more powerful.
The rank-and-file Beastmen troops have somewhat fragile leadership and (besides shields) no armour. They can just about tie up some basic Empire swordsmen, or equivalent Greenskin units, but they won’t do at all well against, say, Dwarf troops. Beastmen are vulnerable to getting bogged down in melee against superior forces, but also need to engage with enemy lines before they’re whittled down by missile or artillery fire.
You need to hit hard, but also hit sneaky. Remember that a lot of your units can use Vanguard deployment to set up in forests or even behind the enemy, ready for a timely charge. Use your Warhounds (and Centigors if you have them) to peck at enemy formations, distract them from your primary assault, and, ideally, pull foes out of position just as your main charge is steaming in. This will take some micro-management to keep them safe from too much missile fire or getting accidentally snagged in combat.
Your own Ungor bowmen are a bit rubbish, so while they’re fine for seeing off skirmishing cavalry (especially if you double up on them) and offering a bit of support, you’ll never really win a trade-off of arrow fire. Except against goblins, I suppose. They do have Vanguard deployment though, so the element of surprise can give them a brief edge.
When your lines of Ungor spearmen and Gors hit the enemy head on, you want to be in a position to bring in some flanking or rear attacks as soon as possible. Either from Ungor/Gor/Warhound troops deployed by Vanguard, some stuff you’ve snuck around the sides, or units (like Minotaurs) that have quickly outmatched and routed their opposition. Getting into a prolonged fight is usually bad news (except for some of the top tier, hardier troops). Your spearmen and basic infantry are a paper anvil, so bring the hammers down as quickly as possible. Keep your Lord or General in a position where his ‘aura’ is providing Leadership boosts to as many units as possible, and be ready to use any Leadership pumping abilities.
The lowest tier troops with armour piercing capabilities are Minotaurs and Razorgores (both unlockable when the Horde Encampment is level 3), so heavily armoured enemies will present an early problem. Do your best to hit them with any armour-piercing units you may have available (possibly from a Legendary Lord’s starting units), and weaken them with any spell debuffs you have access to. This becomes less of a problem as you acquire more higher-tier forces, but at that stage you’re also likely to run into more units with armour.
If you find yourself in a situation where you absolutely must charge headlong towards an enemy with a lot of missile units (particularly guns), then try to keep the units with shields towards the front. They’ll provide some semblance of protection to any unarmoured units behind by soaking up some fire.
With all of the above in mind, you should be able to make a confident start to any Beastmen campaign. Happy raiding and razing!
If you missed it previously, here’s the Total War: Warhammer Formation Control Guide – full of some of the less obvious control methods and shortcuts.