What Total War: Warhammer 3 means for Warhammer: The Old World

From Kislev to Cathay, we ponder what Creative Assembly and Games Workshop have been cooking up together

Total War Warhammer 3 trailer screenshot showing map of Cathay

The first Total War: Warhammer released in May 2016. This was odd timing, because it was roughly a year after Games Workshop (GW) canceled the complex, expensive, unprofitable game upon which it was based – and blew up its setting in the process.

What a difference a few years can make. Lifted by the rising tide of a global nerd renaissance and the runaway success of Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB)’s replacement, Age of Sigmar, a resurgent Geedubs announced Warhammer: The Old World in November 2019 – a new game in the destroyed setting, to be to Age of Sigmar as the Horus Heresy is to Warhammer 40K.

It’s also likely that the runaway success of videogames like Total War: Warhammer (which that announcement names) also helped prod GW to resurrect the so-called ‘world-that-was’. Now the third in that trilogy has been unveiled, will explore factions and territory never before seen in Warhammer, and, as ever, carries GW’s seal of approval. Total War developer Creative Assembly (CA) confirms that the new content is “legit”, co-created with GW directly, while GW’s Old World project lead Andy Hoare hails CA as “very familiar with Warhammer, very respectful of it, they entirely understand it, so we’re all talking the same language”.

The implications should be clear: when Warhammer 3 releases, there’s a good chance its factions and units will bear a strong resemblance to whatever comes later in the Old World. For former players of WFB (such as myself), eager for more hints than GW is giving, here are a few things to look out for in Warhammer 3.

Total War Warhammer 3 trailer screenshot showing Kislev's new winged lancers cavalry unit

Kislev

The Old World will take a much closer look at the northern kingdom of Kislev, according to another teaser article from GW. Warhammer’s not-Russia has long been present in the lore, but never got a fully fledged army book in previous editions of the game (unless you count the 2003 mini book). We now know that Kislev will also be a launch race in Warhammer 3 – truly, the cold and harsh nation is getting its turn in the spotlight.

Total Warhammer’s army lists have always closely mirrored their tabletop forms

That article showed off a concept for a new Kislevite unit: the Ice Guard. Given GW and CA’s continuing collaboration, it came as little surprise to see these brand-new troops in Warhammer 3’s announcement trailer, and the most obvious implication of CA’s new game is that this should work the other way around.

Given that Total Warhammer’s army lists have always closely mirrored their tabletop equivalents, Old World fans should expect their faction to bear a very strong resemblance to whatever appears in Warhammer 3.

Total War Warhammer 3 Cathay map screenshot

Cathay too?

Probably not at first, but maybe later. There’s been little in the Old World teaser articles so far to suggest that the game, at least at launch, will expand beyond the titular Old World – the Warhammer equivalent of Europe, where most, but not all, of its races have a presence (a few Warhammer Community posts have mentioned the wider world-that-was, but only in general terms).

Perhaps I’m being pessimistic and we’ll be pleasantly surprised. But even if I’m right, venturing into the wider world is the obvious next step if the first releases sell well.

The new(est) world: Read our Age of Sigmar armies guide

And I’d expect Cathay to be first in line. After all, GW will want to further monetise all its hard concepting work, and Cathay would be a brand-new army with lots of novelty appeal – not to mention glorious new miniatures of serpentine dragons and whatever else we see in Warhammer 3.

Once enough of the Old World’s core races – Empire, Greenskins, a few elves, probably Vampires, apparently Bretonnia (yay), inevitably Chaos – are released, I wouldn’t be surprised if GW brings in Cathay ahead of old WFB stalwarts like Lizardmen.

Total War Warhammer 2 high elves knights of tor gaval screenshot showing troops in battle

New units

From the start, Total War: Warhammer had the challenge of taking Warhammer’s factions, and fitting them into Total War’s traditional tiered army structure. Some fit quite well; others needed a bit of fiddling, and even the creation of new units.

We saw this most clearly with Bretonnia, which always had one of Warhammer’s most threadbare and specialised rosters.

CA once explained to our sister site PCGamesN how it collaborated with GW to fill the holes, creating new units like Foot Squires and Royal Hippogryph Knights to give the neglected Brets a high-tier infantry or an endgame centrepiece monster. Total War: Warhammer has been creating new, GW-approved units from the start.

The rebirth of Bretonnia

The rebirth of Bretonnia

Part of my adolescent self once hoped my beloved Bretonnia would get the kind of update CA gave it in WFB’s seventh or eighth editions, but I never really expected it - the evidence was too clear that GW had given up on what I still say is Warhammer’s most romantic army. But, for the first time in years, I have legitimate cause for hope: thanks to Total War, Bretonnia has new unit concepts, vocal fans on various Total War forums, has had several DLC updates, and was the focus of another Old World tease revealing new heraldry and fleshed out lore, clearly implying it’ll be part of the Old World when it comes.

    While there’s a lot we don’t know about the Old World in terms of how it’ll play, GW will undoubtedly want to make a ton of gorgeous new models for it, most likely meaning lots of new units.

    And why shouldn’t at least some of those come from Total War? As we’ve said, the concepts all come with GW’s approval, and have great potential as minis – just imagine the Hippogryph Knights!

    But of course, this goes way beyond Bretonnia. There are several other units, similarly co-created by CA and GW from unrealised lore or revived from older editions, which would fit right in to relaunched model line-ups in the Old World. I’m thinking of the High Elves’ Knights of Tor Gaval, the Wood Elves’ Zoats, and almost all of Norsca and the Vampire Coast.

    Total War Warhammer 3 trailer screenshot showing the angry face of Khorne, the Chaos God of Blood, Rage and Murder

    Warhammer 3 is set to bring many more of these concepts. Game director Ian Roxburgh told PC Gamer that CA has “designed some brand new” monstrous units for the upcoming game, and this comes as no surprise.

    Gods of the far future: Our guide to Chaos in Warhammer 40K

    In WFB, the followers of the four Dark Gods of Chaos were distinct but united in the Daemons of Chaos army, whereas in Total Warhammer 3, CA means for each of their factions to stand alone. That explains the need for new units – and the game’s key art has provided an early glimpse of one:

    Total War Warhammer 3 key art showing Kislev queen and Khorne daemons

    I’m pretty sure those winged Khornate daemons are new – or if they’re mentioned in some obscure bit of lore, then I’m pretty sure they didn’t get rules or models in any Daemons of Chaos issue.

    Everyone knows GW loves Chaos, so when the armies of darkness are unleashed on the Old World, expect any or all of Warhammer 3’s new daemonic concepts to make an appearance.

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