What’s Gus Playing? Total War: Warhammer I

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Our speed-bump-sized sovereign of steel speaks of swords and spells ~

Lloyd Sabin, 12 February 2018

The Norsca are close to a Viking type faction in real history, they inhabit the freezing cold northern wastes of the Warhammer Old World, they are evil, and they can align with Chaos in the end game, if the player survives. I can dig them.

Those who know me from the forums have a decent idea of my resolve (or lack thereof) in purchasing games. With most releases, I try to hold out as long as I can for a sale. And then there are games whose mere announcement drives me to pre-order…which I frown upon in general, try to minimize most of the time, and occasionally fail at doing. Some pre-orders are still made…I’ve pre-ordered Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Thrones of Britannia (A Total War Saga), and Vampyr….all of which will find their way in to this column eventually. OK…so maybe my pre-order resolve needs some work. But it does lead to more interesting and varied games for me to feature here!

Total War: Warhammer I was a rare case for me. I am only a casual Warhammer fan – I have never painted any of the minis and the books I find depressing in larger doses. I am just about finished with Dan Abnett’s Thunder & Steel omnibus and although I have liked some WH40K books by Abnett, I found Thunder & Steel to be quite the slog most of the time.

So with that in mind I actually held off on buying Total War: Warhammer I. Even after initial glowing professional and user reviews, the game just struck me as too fantastical, too wacky/fruity. That is, until the Norsca were announced.

Here was a faction I could sink my teeth in to (I probably should have saved that cliche for my Vampire faction playthrough…oh well). Yes they have some supernatural units like Ice Trolls and Frost Wyrms…but no gryphons. Or demigryphons for that matter. It’s those kinds of units that truly weird me out. The Norsca are close to a Viking type faction in real history, they inhabit the freezing cold northern wastes of the Warhammer Old World, they are evil, and they can align with Chaos in the end game, if the player survives. I can dig them.

So I finally bought Total War: Warhammer I about a year ago along with some DLC, including the Norsca faction. It took almost another year until I got in to a suitable, Warhammery mood, but 2-3 weeks ago I finally started my Norsca campaign…and was slaughtered in under 10 turns.

Suffering through this ignominy, I started a second Norsca campaign and slowly learned the new systems involved. I began to really enjoy it and especially loved discovering new factions and places in the Old World. 425+ turns in, and I had completed 3 of the 6 victory objectives and had aligned myself with The Crow, one of the dark gods that Norsca have to choose to get to the end game.

I won’t give anything away beyond that since my time with Total War: Warhammer I will span at least 2-3 What’s Gus Playing slots (apologies if you’re just not that in to Warhammer). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and hopefully you will enjoy reading the next few more than going to see an off Broadway production of Cats.

So…you have been sufficiently warned. On to the screenshots and WAAAGH-hammer.

As soon as they were introduced I knew I wanted to play as the Norsca – their mix of pseudo-realistic characteristics and dark magic scratched my itch without any pesky gryphons around to spoil the vibe.


In my first campaign playthrough I did about as well as this ice giant and was dead in less than 10 turns, my shortest Total War campaign ever. Embarrassed, I started again and paid more attention.


Wulfrik the Wanderer was my Lord and I would get to know him very, very well over the next several hundred game turns.


I really didn’t know what I was doing in the first 100 turns (at least) and generally spent my game time getting to know the map and the mechanics of the game. This was a much better idea than attempting to charge out of my starting place only to get mowed down and have my only settlement burned to the ground, as had happened the first time.



Being a Chaos aligned faction, most other factions found me vile. Wintertooth, the other Norsca faction, found me particularly distasteful and would be a thorn in my pseudo-Viking ass the entire game.


The Norsca have some intriguing building choices. For this faction the main activity is burning and looting the rest of the Old World to have enough money to build the best buildings to create the most fierce units and Regiments of Renown. It is a constant balancing act between ransacking and spending money and culling favor with your god of choice as the Norsca. It can get taxing but I found it quite fun.


Some badass ice chariots. They were very mobile and quick but did not pack much of a punch so I didn’t buy more of them when given the opportunity.


If I remember correctly these were called Skin Wolves, basically hopped-up werewolves who tore the armor and flesh off of anything they caught. They were much slower than the ice chariots above, but more formidable with a heavier punch and I came to rely on them as the campaign went on. My army would usually have several units of them.


Exploring the world was a delight, especially not knowing what I would find. Some of the campaign map detail was just fantastic and really got me interested in playing almost every Old World faction. Total War: Warhammer I really is one of the best games in the series in years.


Norsca armies also have more typical spear and axe infantry, marauders, berserkers, and cavalry, which give them a nice mix of the fantastic and standard units. I will definitely be playing as the Norsca again in the future…but not before playing as The Empire, the Vampires, and the Dwarfs.


The Norsca were a great faction for me to get my feet wet in Total War: Warhammer I and although I still find some of the Warhammer books a bit darkly weird, I will definitely be playing more of this game. And then move on, of course, to Total War: Warhammer II and the scary and sassy Dark Elves.

More to come on this playthrough in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading!

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