Whether you take up the banner of the Empire, Vampire Counts, Dwarfs, Greenskins, or Chaos, we show you how to dominate on the field of battle!

Total War: Warhammer beginner’s guide to conquering the old world

Whether you take up the banner of the Empire, Vampire Counts, Dwarfs, Greenskins, or Chaos, we show you how to dominate on the field of battle!

These two game franchises were such an obvious match for each other, it’s sort of amazing Total War: Warhammer didn’t happen sooner.

Recommended Videos

For those who got tired of playing the Warhammer mods for Mount and Blade and wanted something legit, or have already re-played every single Warhammer console and PC title up ’till now a couple of dozen times, you will want to jump into this crossover game post-haste.

Changes To The Formula

There’s a hurdle quickly coming your way though: the learning curve of Total War, which does not play at all like the previous Warhammer titles or even particularly like the tabletop mini game. This is a difficult and complex system (although if you’re sweating now, don’t worry, this isn’t as frustrating as something like Dark Souls).

On the other side are the Total War players, and you’ve got changes to get used to as well. While there are still large arenas for battling, the maps are slightly less enormous (and feature more interesting terrain), but there’s also changes to the taxation, attrition, and siege systems you might not be expecting.

One major change to keep in mind is that the lords this time around are meant to be in the thick of battle: get them in there earning experience so you upgrade them to the strongest abilities, and focus on taking out the enemy lords when possible.

For either group of people getting used to these changes: save often, especially if you are jumping right in with the base “hard” difficulty. You can lose armies and territory very quickly if you make a mistake.

 Want to take out big monsters quick? This is the lord you want!

Choosing A Starting Faction

While the game does give you suggestions as to which faction is least difficult to get started with, don’t forget you can scale the difficulty and change various options to make any faction viable right from the start.

Don’t let that “normal” or “hard” tag scare you off from going Vampire Counts or Greenskins, especially if you don’t fancy playing a bunch of boring Empire soldiers (after all, you bought a Warhammer edition of Total War for a reason).

There are clear trade offs between the factions that drastically affect their play style and how you will approach battle to keep in mind.

Dwarfs, for instance, have no cavalry of any kind, so charging after enemies with any sort of speed is pretty much off the table, and their units are also quite expensive. On the flip side, they are resistant to magic and have tons of technology options, excellent artillery, and require less micro-managing than the Empire.

If you aren’t sure where to start, the Dwarfs have the easiest time in the beginning of the campaign with their well-rounded options and ability to withstand damage.

Plus, they have flamethrowers…

If you are a long time Total War fan and want something closest to what you are used to, go with the Empire instead. Of course the Vampire Counts, Greenskins, and Chaos flat out have the coolest looking units though. (Read our guide to Warhammer Chaos armies here.)

No matter which group you chose, there is plenty of ability for variation within a faction by changing your starting legendary lord for varying benefits (or choosing which god to worship with Chaos), and by focusing on upgrading different types of units.

Going To War

Need to beef up your treasury? Allies will pay you to attack enemies, and those enemies will also pay you to make peace on the Diplomacy screen. Don’t think you can conquer the Old World by yourself either – stay on someone’s good side at least!

 Or if you are a Greenskin, just demand some teef from subordinates.

When diplomacy breaks down and its time to take to the field, simply having a big army isn’t always enough to ensure victory. You need to carefully consider the deployment of each type of unit and play to the strength of your faction while focusing on the weaknesses of the enemy.

With Dwarfs for instance, you should be taking out the enemy at range with artillery while they are exposed instead of immediately taking your melee units into combat. The exact opposite is true for the Vampire Counts, who should be mobile and using hit and run tactics.

Place your armies strategically – don’t just line them all up in a row in the deployment zone and hope for the best when battle turns to a chaotic mess. It can be very effective to keep an army out of sight in trees away from the battle for instance, and then have them come rushing in to strike an enemy’s flank after they’ve closed with your forces and all the ranged combat is over.

What could possibly take out this giant army? Lots of things, actually.

On the opposite side of that, don’t forget they may also be positioning to outflank you – or even have a flyer who bypasses your army entirely – so its frequently a good practice to keep units around to defend your artillery and archers in the back.

No matter what kind of battle you are in, focus your fire where it’s most effective: for instance when your settlement is being sieged, focus on trying to take down one or two siege towers.

Once the melee units are mobbing your walls, its time to set the ranged units on killing flyers. When performing a siege on a walled settlement, get to the walls as quickly as possible and take control of their towers (especially for the higher tier settlements) so they can’t deal as much damage to your approaching units.

 Vampire counts laying siege to a city

Auto resolve is always an option for any given battle, but once you know what you are doing, actually playing each battle usually leads to better outcomes, fewer losses, and more experience for your troops.

Managing An Empire

With the way that the regional occupation system works, you can only capture settlements in certain areas, typically in the area owned by your own faction and sometimes one other faction (for instance the Dwarfs can also capture territory belonging to the Greenskins).

Avoid overly aggressive expansion, especially as you are getting used to the game, so you don’t end up having to fight on multiple fronts, which is difficult in the early stages of the game.

In most cases, its better to focus on all the settlements in a single province until you’ve completely taken it over rather than to strike out into different provinces.

Always keep on an eye on multiple directions of the map as well. Just because you are attacking the Greenskins to the east doesn’t mean a different army won’t attack you unexpectedly from the southwest. Your enemy is watching for your weak points and will take advantage of them.

When occupying new locations, keep in mind the current and max tier of a settlement when placing buildings. If you can’t get to the highest tiers, you might not want to put buildings there that can’t pump out the best units. You usually don’t want to produce redundant buildings anyway, so having a ton of settlements to manage isn’t always the best idea.

In a lot of cases, simply sacking a location is a better option than occupying. Not only do you not have to worry about rebellion with an unhappy populace, but you’ll get plenty of gold to help out with your war effort.

That’s all you need to know to get started and survive the early areas of the game! Let us know what faction you went with and any other Total War: Warhammer tips and tricks you’ve picked up while playing!

GameSkinny is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Ty Arthur
Ty Arthur
Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.