So, after reviewing the Empire I figured their arch nemesis, the Warriors of Chaos, would be a fitting next faction to review. In a regular campaign you can optionally enable a chaos invasion which will spawn a bunch of massive armies to wreck the north of the map in the late game. Your job is to kill them before they destroy everything. But actually playing as the Warriors is very different than that.
You spawn on turn one with a single army. As a horde faction you don’t occupy cities, you destroy them and get anywhere from 5000 to 50000 gold for doing so, depending on how wealthy the city was when you got to it. Sounds easy but, when you take into account that losing your starting army means you lose the whole campaign, then it leads to an early game you have to play very cautiously until you’ve got the good units.
Good Chaos units are hard to get though. You have a single ranged unit in the whole roster – an artillery piece called a Hell Cannon, and the rest is slow moving heavy infantry, shock cavalry and monsters. Your horde grows so slowly that it will take you forever to get a truly diverse army, so you’ll have to make sure you play to your strengths when choosing what military buildings you want at the start at the game, as it will likely decide how successful your campaign is. I normally go full infantry – training so many Chosen units, all of whom are shielded and have over 100 armour, and have a couple of hell cannons. I reserve a few army slots for heroes mounted on flying manticores so I can prevent enemy missile units from firing or just draw their fire. That said, the Warriors of Chaos are definetly one of few factions in this game where going for cavalry is actually very beneficial because of how reliant on it you will be to have any manoeuvrability. If you choose not to go with cavalry or flying heroes, you’ll be playing very much like you would with the Dwarfs (in Warhammer it’s Dwarfs, not Dwarves) in great big defensive formations.
So yeah, it feels a lot less like you’re bringing about the end of the world – as was intended – and more like you’re making the most of a bad situation on the battlefield, and it’s pretty much the same on the campaign map. Unlike the game’s other horde faction, the Beastmen, the Warriors of Chaos have no means of preventing other factions from simply recolonising the cities you destroy. This means that playing the faction as they’re meant to be played is a slog of you marching between the same four or five settlements to destroy them over and over, and over again until you have painstakingly wiped out the folks who were rebuilding them, all for diminishing returns in gold as the destruction causes the cities to become poorer and poorer.
In short, it’s not fun.
However, playing the Warriors of Chaos in a way that is entirely unintended can be very fun indeed. Because you aren’t tied to any one part of the map by territory like traditional factions are, there’s nothing to stop you just walking in any direction you want to do whatever the hell you want. And this is where the sandbox really opens up for the faction.
I had a very fun campaign where I decided I was going to march around the map to kill a handful of Legendary Lords who give you powerful traits once they’re defeated. I planned my route from my spawn to Hell Pit, where I defeated Throt the Unclean to get my Lord 10% more hit points. I then marched south to kill all three of the Vampire Count lords in Sylvania. I first got Manfred’s trait for suffering less attrition while being in vampiric territories, and then got Vlad’s -4 turns wound recovery time so that, when I did get a second army, it wouldn’t be long before my main Lord got back into the fight. Next up was Isabella who gave me passive health regeneration. I then headed into the Empire to kill Balthasar Gelt so my entire army got +6 armour, and then to the Fay Enchantress for extra casualty replenishment after battle. I got much more traits than that, but you get the idea. I basically went on a world tour of killing the most famous people in the Warhammer setting and, not only was it a viable way to play that left me floating around 200,000 gold for most of the game, but it was infinitely more fun that how the faction was designed to be used.
The Legendary Lord I used to do this was Archaon. Archaon gets penalties to his relationships with all factions, but gets buffs to Chaos Warriors and Chosen units who are some of the best heavy infantry in the game next to what the Dwarves can field. He has the most developed skill tree of the Chaos lords and can either be a heavy hitting melee fighter or mobile fire wizard depending on how you spec him. Hell, he could be a mix of the two if you like. He is certainly the strongest Legendary Lord the faction has access to.
Then there’s Sigvald the Magnificent who’s a bit hit or miss. He gives buffs to marauder units, all of which are trash and without any reason to ever need recruit them when the Chaos Warriors and Chosen exist. He also makes Norscans – a bunch of angry vikings – like him more which is pretty redundant because one of the faction’s entire mechanics revolves around killing the regular Norscans who won’t like you to replace them with Norscans who will. That said, Sigvald does have some useful skills in his skill tree that are probably the best upgrades a Lord can give to his army within the faction. But then again, he doesn’t get a special mount and nor does he get magic.
Finally there’s Kholek Suneater who is a twenty-foot tall half-minotaur, half centaur… Which is confusing because centaurs are already half man, half horse. It’s weird. He’s a dragon ogre – in the lore – but neither does he resemble a dragon or an ogre. Anyway, he’s neither the best nor worst Legendary Lord… but he is the most fun for this faction. He gives big buffs to dragon ogre units, who are tier 4 and 5, and can be aquired relatively quickly if you steer your horde growth specifically towards unlocking their building. He makes a mean dragon ogre shagoth doomstack, and has many skills to unlock so he can make them even better. He walks around, bonks people and then strikes them with lightening. It’s hard not to enjoy playing as Kholek, even if Archaon is the technically better Lord.
So, since you’re playing as the Warriros of Chaos there isn’t a chaos invasion in their campaign. Instead a big demon bird spawns to challenge your right to be the champion of the Chaos Warriors. Sounds cool, right? Wrong!
The big bird spawns directly next to you at level 40, sure, but without any units in his army. So after some cat and mouse of him trying to escape my full army and my own level 40 lord, I got finally caught him. When I did, I sent Archaon to do a one versus one honourable battle against him without the aid of any of his army. What I found is that level 40 Archaon, with the various traits I’d acquired from doing a tour of all the game’s Legendary Lords, could defeat the bird without taking any damage himself. So yeah, it’s lame. But what’s even lamer is that you can’t recruit the bird for yourself after he’s been defeated, which is a shame. It seems like a waste of a truly unique unit model that could have been a good reward for beating him.
That is unless you play with mods. Normally I only use mods to play custom battles and not campaigns, but there are such a wide variety of Warrior of Chaos mods designed to improve upon their lacklustre mechanics that it’s hard not to use them. Generally speaking, even the worst Warrior of Chaos campaign mod will improve upon the base game experience, based on how the developers intended the faction to be used. Be it by adding unit variety, unique mechanics or new Lords, all are pretty neat. You can even get that angry bird, who have a unique skill tree, either at the start of the game or as a reward for defeating him if you so choose.
I don’t like to give too much praise when community mods achieve higher levels of quality than the actual developers are able to give, so just bare in mind your experience will vary wildly depending on what mods you install, if any, and that the mods are the source of most of this faction’s appeal.
So the Warriors of Chaos are definetly warriors but not very chaotic. Playing them as intended is one of the most boring total war campaigns, accross all of their games, I’ve ever suffered. But equally, the fact they’re not tied down to anything can make for some fun custom campaigns if you set your own goals like I did.
But hey, at least they’re extremely fun to use in custom battles, and have a unique unit roster to messa round with.