Total War: Warhammer Greenskin guide

Each faction in Total War: Warhammer is unique, but playing as the Greenskins is an especially strange experience. Greenskins can't trade with anyone, have armies that turn on themselves if they go too long without thumping an enemy and an economy that assumes they're constantly raiding and looting. It forces players to get into character: you are the green Genghis Khan. Greenghis Khan.

When you encounter the Greenskins while playing as other factions they're a constant annoyance, showing up when you're busy at war with someone else to raid your lands and drain your bank account and public order. Then, when you finally turn to attack them, they roll up with a Waaagh! that has Grimgor Ironhide at its head and he's somehow three levels higher than your own best legendary lord. But once you play as the Greenskins their strange behaviour starts to make sense and you'll oddly find yourself sympathising with them. Of course they're raiding, it's just their way. Don't take it personal.

Orcs versus Goblins

Like the Vampire Counts with their hordes of Zombies, the Greenskins spend the early game fielding large armies with lots of expendable troops. Almost every Goblin unit is throwaway, only worth hanging onto until you can afford to replace them with the Orc equivalent–Wolf Riders becoming Boar Boyz, and so on. Goblins do make more accurate archers than Orcs, but they're even more likely to take their short-range bows and run away. While Night Goblins can be fielded with surprise ball-and-chain Fanatics hidden in their ranks to burst out when someone charges them, after that initial surprise you're still left with a pack of rubbish Gobboes standing around being useless. In almost every case, Orcs are better.

Leadership, what's that?

Though Orcs have improved morale over Goblins, they still can't hold a line predictably. Even the elite Troll units break and run a shocking amount of the time. However, this isn't as much of a problem as you might think. Greenskins may rout a lot but they also quickly re-form, and can be turned around and dragged back into the fray again and again. Sometimes during a siege attack your fleeing units will run past defenders right into the besieged settlement so you can capture the city from within once they've rallied, which almost feels like cheating. Leadership-boosting spells and abilities can reduce the amount of cowardice on display, but the fact units will be running and returning is something you just need to get used to. Keep an eye on the edges of the battlefield and think of your troops sheepishly lumbering back into battle as waves of reinforcements. 

Stronger, faster, dumber

Leadership will eventually be less of an issue once you replace your standard Orc infantry with sturdy Black Orcs later in the campaign, and Giants will sometimes stick around even at very low health so they can keep bashing a Chaos Lord with a tree trunk for fun. You'll also unlock the exceptions to the general worthlessness of Goblins: the Arachnarok—a giant spider they ride—and Doom Diver Catapults. When it comes to artillery, for once the Gobboes are an improvement over the Orcs, whose Rock Lobbers lack the accuracy, damage potential, and unerring ability to take down flying units the Doom Divers have. Plus, press the insert key while you've got one selected and you can aim that catapult and steer a squealing Doom Diver through the air. I've done badly in battles because I was too busy playing Angry Goblins like this instead of paying attention to my flanks, so be careful not to get too distracted.

What's yours is about to be mine

Raiding serves two purposes for the Greenskins. It's a replacement for trading income, and it's also a way to keep an army's fightiness from deteriorating. When fightiness drops too low animosity kicks in and Greenskins will start suffering from attrition as they beat each other up for want of an actual enemy. Raiding counteracts that, and also allows armies to replenish when they're away from home. It costs half a stack's movement to raid, so keep an eye on that yellow bar showing how much an army has left and you can inch across the Old World making money as you go.

The violence inherent in the system

Keeping fightiness high isn't just a way of avoiding animosity. Once an army tops out its fightiness it attracts a free Waaagh! stack that can either be allowed to follow it around (they take their own turn immediately after yours) or sent off to harass a specified target. Sometimes you'll want to go and have a biff with a neighbour just for the sake of getting a Waaagh! going, so go ahead and pick on the other Orc and Goblin tribes. You'll be swallowing them up eventually and this is a much Orcier way than confederation through diplomacy.

The finky stuff

Just because you'll be fighting a lot doesn't mean you should be expanding continuously. Instead of occupying every hold you take from the Dwarfs or other Greenskins, take those that complete provinces you already hold territory in or that you can afford to defend and build a Boss Tent in as soon as possible. Boss Tents keep public order from deteriorating too much, and later in the campaign will become a useful check on the spread of corruption. You also want to build Piles of Shiny Stuff and upgrade them wherever you can to get extra cash, and when you take holds that have access to resources like gems or gold make sure to construct the relevant mine to take advantage of that. Only bother with the main troop-producing buildings in a province's capital.

The World's Edge Mountains are your friends

After conquering most of the Badlands you'll want to look north. While it's tempting to march through Black Fire Pass and right up the guts of the Empire, there's a better route. Stick to the east and follow the mountains, taking holds as you go. Ignore Zhufbar, which is too close to the Vampire Counts and their spreading corruption, and keep expanding northwards until you can come down out of the mountains at Karak Kadrin. From there the northern Old World will be open to you like a tasty sandwich filling. (The mountains are the bread in this analogy.) Where corruption has spread you can travel in the Underway stance to avoid it entirely, popping above ground to attack and raid. You'll need to defend the mountains against Chaos, but you're well-equipped to do that.

Grimmer than grim

One of the best weapons the Greenskins have against Chaos is their legendary lord, Grimgor Ironhide. Hell, he's one of their best weapons full stop. Save playing as the other lord choice Azhag The Slaughterer for your second campaign–he has to embark on quests before unlocking spells and is very slow, though his diplomatic bonus with the undead could lead to an interesting alliance and at high level becomes a beast. Grimgor on the other hand is fast and tough as nails right out of the gate, and will slap Chaos Lords down hard. His only vulnerability is to hero units with direct-damage abilities, so it's worth giving him any banner or other items you find with magic resistance.   

One final piece of advice: don't click on End Battle until you've run down every foe you can. It earns more experience for your units, prevents enemies from returning too quickly, and it's just the Greenskin way.

For more general advice on how to run your Total War: Warhammer campaigns, check out our Total War: Warhammer beginner's guide. Read our guide to the Old World to find out more about the gods, nations, and strange magic of the Warhammer world, and the Dwarf faction guide to understand the Greenskins' main rival. 

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.