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Grand Cathay – Warhammer the Old World lore and teasers

The mighty kingdom of Grand Cathay, a land ruled by immortal dragons, has always been part of the Warhammer World - here's what you need to know.

Grand Cathay is the largest, most advanced, and yet most isolated human nation in the whole of Warhammer: The Old World. This guide introduces Cathay’s history, and everything that Games Workshop has teased about the faction for the Warhammer: The Old World wargame.

Unlike the other Warhammer: The Old World factions, Grand Cathay has never had a model range and does not have Old World rules. Despite being part of the Warhammer world since the first edition of the game, its first fully realised appearance was in Total War: Warhammer 3, where it was baked into the base game as one of the core Total War: Warhammer 3 factions.

Here’s what you need to know about the history of Grand Cathay, and whether it will ever have rules and models for Warhammer: The Old World:

Warhammer The Old World Grand Cathay map

History of Grand Cathay

Grand Cathay lies far to the east of the Old World, separated from the Empire of Man by the Mountains of Mourn and the great warpstone desert. It is an extremely advanced and civilized nation, its population human but its leaders immortal dragons. It is the largest and most populous human civilization on the planet, and the history of Grand Cathay stretches back further than any other human nation.

Miiao Ying, daughter of the Celestial Dragon of Grand Cathay, the third most powerful dragon in Warhammer The Old World

The Celestial Dragon of Cathay

The Celestial Dragon of Cathay is a truly ancient entity, a survival from the lost era before the Old Ones came to the world and created the Lizardmen and the other young races. While other dragons attempted to challenge the Old Ones, the Celestial Dragon instead chose stealth and prudence. It studied the Old Ones’ ways, and over long aeons it became a master of magic.

When Chaos began to subtly infiltrate the Old World via the Old Ones’ polar portals, the Celestial Dragon judged the threat that the ruinous powers represented. It took it upon itself to rule the tribes of humankind that lived in the East. Together with its mate, the Moon Dragon, it became a guardian and ruler, defending these people against gods and daemons alike.

In the current timeline for the Old World, the Celestial Dragon and the Moon Dragon have been absent for two centuries. The kingdom is governed, with some success, by their nine offspring.

Warhammer the Old World Grand Cathay - a mountain fortress connected to the lower levels by hovering towers and floating balloon vehicles

The Great Bastion

From the sea in the East to the mountains in the West, the Great Bastion stands hundreds of feet tall, seldom breached and never toppled. It is guarded by the armies of the empire, great animated statues, and cunning weapons of human design. It is Cathay’s greatest defence against the forces of Chaos which constantly assail the realm from the north.

This is one of the great works of the Celestial Dragon, built in the time of the earliest Chaos invasions. It combines not only the skill of untold mortal artificers, but the magic and will of the Dragon and its offspring. The Bastion’s foremost defender is Miao Ying, the Storm Dragon, ruler of the northern province of Cathay.

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Armies of Cathay

The armies of Cathay include the trained Jade soldiers, peasant militias, and the elite Celestial Dragon Guard, fighting both as infantry and in cavalry squadrons. Their armory includes traditional hand weapons and bows, and modern blackpowder weapons.

Cathayan warmachines are advanced. Their artillery includes grand cannons and fire-rain rocket batteries, while above the battlefield, Sky Lanterns and Sky Junks provide hovering aerial weapons platforms that rain fire onto the enemy.

Warhammer The Old World Grand Cathay Teracotta Wariror, shown from front and behind, a large statue of an armored warrior illuminated wiht inner fire

Cathay employs many magical creatures. Some of these are tame beasts, like the winged Longma ridden by the elite cavalry of the Celestial Dragon Guard, or the mighty flying Celestial lion. Others are massive constructs animated by magic only in times of war, like the great Terracotta warriors or the colossal Onyx and Jade lions.

The Cathayan mastery of magic is second to none among human nations, for the court of the Celestial Dragon plays host to many Astromancers and Alchemists. Then there are the Imperial Dragons themselves, each one a master of magic who – when they assume their true form – is a colossal monster of unparalleled physical power.

Warhammer The Old World Grand Cathay - Xiao Ming, the Storm Dragon, in human form, a regal woman in black robes and armor

Are there Warhammer The Old World rules for Grand Cathay?

There aren’t any published Warhammer: The Old World rules for Grand Cathay. However, the Games Workshop design studio did make a set of Warhammer Fantasy Battle 8th edition rules for Grand Cathay when it was co-designing the faction with Creative Assembly for Total War: Warhammer 3.

It’s perfectly possible that Games Workshop is sitting on a full set of Old World rules for Cathay, as the 8th edition rules were created by the team developing The Old World. If rules for Grand Cathay exist, we don’t expect them to see the light of day until Games Workshop is ready to release a complete model range.

Warhammer The Old World Grand Cathay infantry - the Celestial Dragon Guard

Games Workshop Cathay models

There aren’t currently any official Games Workshop Cathay models, and there never have been. Very early in its model-making history Games Workshop did produce some models with East-Asian themes, but these predate Warhammer and were intended for use in RPGs.

It is possible that Games Workshop is planning to release models for Grand Cathay, but if they are, it won’t be any time soon. A Warhammer Community post from February 22 2024 notes that there “aren’t any current plans to bring Kislev or Grand Cathay to the tabletop for the foreseeable future“.

Nevertheless, we’re cautiously optimistic that Cathay will get a model range at some point down the line – the Warhammer Community team does not have access to the design studio’s plans, just information that is released to it about impending releases.

All of the Grand Cathay units that appear in Total War: Warhammer 3 were co-designed by Games Workshop and Creative Assembly. The co-design process ensured that Games Workshop had authorship over Cathay, and that may have been the only reason to design the faction that way.

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But it’s equally possible that the concept art from this co-design process was passed on to the model design studio, which is even now hard at work on a range of Cathayan models – but GW isn’t ready to announce it yet.

The firm has been known to push back releases by months or even years, as in the case of Adeptus Titanicus. The game was ready to launch with resin models in winter 2017, but when it became apparent that the release would be extremely popular, GW made the decision to fully retool the line with plastic models. Adeptus Titanicus was pushed back a full year, and Necromunda was rushed out to fill its slot in the release lineup.

Wargamer will always be on the lookout for Warhammer: The Old World news, and as soon as we get word of Grand Cathay models being released, we’ll write about them here. You can follow Wargamer on Google News to make sure you hear about that before everyone else!