Tuesday, April 18, 2017

For The Lady: Total Warhammer Bordelaux Campaign

Confession time: The Bordelaux campaign is the first full total war campaign that I have completed since Napoleon. I have explained before that Total War campaign games have a habit of bogging down into tedium so I usually give up before achieving the final campaign objectives. The fact that I persevered this time reinforces my belief that Warhammer is indeed the best Total War game to date.

The Bordelaux campaign is a free DLC campaign that was only released in February but it is both unusual and interesting so I can highly recommend it. Bordelaux like all Bretonnians are a knighly race who love their horses and put chivalry above everything. Indeed the main victory condition for the Bordelaux campaign is to amass sufficient chivalry. Chivalry governs how you must play a Bordelaux campaign. Several common actions such as raiding, ambushing and pillaging human settlements  actually cause you lose chivalry so they are best avoided. Victory on the battlefield gains chivalry while defeat loses it. Somewhat surprisingly an easy win overwhelming your enemies will grant lots of chivalry while a heroic last stand will lose chivalry unless you pull off the impossible and actually win. Another unusual feature of Bordelaux is that the economy is based on peasants in the fields. You can make money very quickly from farms but if you recruit too many peasants (pretty much any unit that isn't a knight) then your economy takes a hit. This limitation applies to all of your infantry and ranged troops and it is particularly onerous in the beginning of the game when you have very few settlements and cannot afford to recruit knights. 

The beginning of the Bordelaux campaign is quite tightly scripted. You start off at war with the Vampire armies of the Red Duke in Mousilon and almost immediately a triggered event causes public order to drop ensuring a stream of goblin incursions on your lands. These circumstances fill the first twenty turns or so with constant combat. This is a great opportunity to level up your lord and your starting forces but you need to be wary of the particular demands of chivalry and the peasant economy or else you could mess up badly during these early turns bankrupting your economy and losing rather than gaining chivalry. 

Once you survive these first twenty turns things settle down and you can look to your next real objective which is the unification of all the Brettonian provinces under your rule. However Chivalry raises it head again here. There are large chivalry penalties for warring on your Brettonian neighbours so confederation is the only game in town. In order to confederate you need to train a particular set of technologies called "Heraldries" and you need to impress your Brettonian neighbours with your own might and prowess. This is actually harder to do than it looks because you are surrounded by friendly provinces that you should not wage war on and I actually got stuck for a bit around this point (turn 40 or so). Happily there is a quest chain for your main lord which takes you to a nearby province called Estalia. The Estalians are a passive race who never caused any harm to anyone but they are not Brettonian and that makes them fair game for conquest. The conquest of Estalia and their similarly unaligned neighbour Talia gave a significant boost to my ranking and prestige and pretty soon my Bretonian neighbours were queuing up to confederate with me. 

Playing as Bordelaux it is very easy to quickly get on best terms with all of the human faction in the game which results in constant invitations to ally. This is an area where, I think, you need to choose very carefully. Non aggression pacts, trade agreements and military access treaties are almost always a good thing. Defensive and especially military alliances no so much. Defensive and military alliances usually result in your being dragged into pointless wars with factions you would far rather be friendly with. I prefer to choose my own enemies thank you. In my campaign I maintained excellent relations with all human factions and with all dwarven factions while I waged war on goblins and orcs. I stayed away from Vampires and the forces of Chaos so they never troubled me. The Elves did seem predetermined to dislike me (something lore related I suspect because they kept making disparaging remarks about our beloved Lady)  however I played a careful diplomatic game to ensure they never got unhappy enough to actually leave their forests and declare war on me.

Good relations with so many factions led to healthy trading income and the combination of farming, some industry, lots of ports and healthy trade make sit easy to amass wealth as Bordelaux. By the end of the game (turn 120 for me) I had a gross income of 18,000 gold per turn which was more than enough to field four full stack armies. One word of warning: be careful mixing industry and farming in the same settlement because the top tier buildings in each interfere with each other.

What about the forces of chaos you may ask? Well Bordelaux starts on the southern edge of the map and Chaos comes down from the North. There are enough buffer regions in between to ensure that Chaos will not bother you unless you choose to go North to meet it. The final Erranty War quest in the Bordealux campaign gives you a choice of fighting Chaos forces in the far North or Greenskins in the South. Teleportation isn't an option and since I had spent the whole game in the southern section of the map it was an easy decision for me to pick the Green-skins. The fact that the Chaos battle is even an option however makes me wonder if some play the campaign differently and go North for their conquests rather than south as I did. 

One point worth mentioning is that Brettonnians forces can benefit from many buffs and blessings. Chivalry itself gives benefits as do many of the Lord traits and a few legendary buildings. These buffs go some way to making up for the fact that most Bordelaux's forces have low armour and low morale while their peasant based infantry forces are particularly underwhelming. 

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