I feel like I'm constantly reinstalling Total War: Warhammer 2. It's quite big and my SSD is very small, but whenever I uninstall it to make room for other games, Creative Assembly just has to go and announce that it's overhauled a race, released a new faction or finally reduced the wait between turns. Then it's back onto the SSD it goes. This time it's a big Greenskin update, a very large goblin and the promise of gastronomic experiments that have tempted me back.
The Warden and the Paunch DLC chucks two more factions into the war over the New and Old Worlds. In the campaign, Eltharion the Grim and Grom the Paunch don't participate in the race to control the Vortex, instead focusing on their old grudge. Nobody really gets along in Warhammer, but these guys really hate each other, so their main objective is to get some revenge.
At first glance, Eltharion and his faction, Yvresse, have the most elaborate unique mechanics. To protect the high elves from invading orcs, Eltharion has to rebuild a fallen fortress and construct new buildings that unlock special units, defensive bonuses and new abilities, like the ability to capture and interrogate characters. Yvresse also has some magical protection thanks to an enchanted mist that grows in strength and can empower armies. At the peak of its power, it spreads all over Ulthuan, benefiting every high elf faction.
Grom the goblin, meanwhile, gets a big cauldron for cooking gross grub. Not quite as flashy, really. His whole deal is that he's the biggest goblin, and he maintains his enviable girth by consuming vast quantities of disgusting food. He also gets advice from the decapitated head of his old shaman, who eggs him on, telling him to eat more and more until he's strong enough to crush the elves.
But there's a lot more to his cauldron than meets the eye. It produces enough food to feed the whole faction, for one, giving everyone the benefit of these super foods. Ingredients have to be sourced by going out and exploring the world, getting into fights or making a deal with a new character, a troll hag food merchant. She can tweak what you're cooking, sell you more ingredients or give you challenges. Ingredients all come with unique bonuses, and you can create new bonuses by combining different ingredients, discovering new recipes.
It's actually pretty involved, and the bonuses are wide-ranging and substantial. Once you start learning recipes, you can adapt to all sorts of situations, buffing up your boyz and gobbos to react to specific threats. After a lot of experimentation, however, I started sticking with a few recipes that I'd ended up building my armies around. With the bonuses lasting for 15 turns, after which you can immediately make a new batch, you can weave cooking into your long-term plans for world domination.
So I've really been gravitating towards Grom and his Broken Axe tribe, slaughtering my way through mountains, desert and ocean so I can kill this guy I don't like. Greenskins, and goblins in particular, are always a good laugh to conquer the world with, especially when compared to the stuffy high elves, and Grom's obsession with his size and his quest to eat everything leads to some of the game's most entertaining writing.
Greenskins have also been given a big overhaul in a free update accompanying the DLC, making my time with the Broken Axe tribe even more novel. The WAAAGH! update, as you might have guessed, reworks the goblin and orc factions' shared WAAAGH! system, but Creative Assembly has also fiddled around with units, lords and even introduced a new resource.
WAAAGH! is now something that affects your entire faction, attaching a new army to all of your existing armies. Not only are the AI-controlled armies that used to spawn gone, the event is now under your control. Once you earn enough reputation by fighting, you'll be able to start a WAAAGH! when you're ready, targeting a specific faction and dedicating it to one of the gods, Gork and Mork, to get deity-specific bonuses.
It's wild. The new orcs don't all arrive at once, so it takes a few turns for them to finish mustering, but by the end you've just doubled the number of units directly under your control. If you manage to capture or raze the enemy capital, you'll get a reward based on who you were fighting, but the WAAAGH! doesn't need to end there. It lasts for a set number of turns, so you can keep stomping around the map with your greatly inflated army. It's probably a bit overpowered, maybe more than a bit, but I can't find it in myself to care. To hell with balance. I reserve the right to change my mind when I'm on the receiving end.
Winning battles and sieges also fills your pockets with scrap. It's a new resource that handy troops can use to upgrade their gear. When you've got enough scrap for an upgrade, you can pick between two of them, but you'll need to have unlocked the tech first. A few items in the tech tree can be unlocked outright with scrap, too. All Greenskin factions can use scrap in the Mortal Empires campaign, but Grom has an additional use for it: funding his cooking experiments.
I never found myself short of the stuff, though my big armies and bigger appetite did mean I had expenses that could only be maintained by lots and lots of fighting. But what else would I be doing with orcs?
There's more to keep track of, but it's worth the extra control you get over the WAAAGH! and your troops' development. The changes also really captures the character of the Greenskin factions. It turns them into this huge, terrifying green tide that can just tear through lands, raiding, scavenging and getting spikier.
Warhammer has become the source of Creative Assembly's most unusual faction designs, and as much as I'm eager to find out what's going on with the sequel, the ongoing experiments in Warhammer 2 are keeping me pretty content. I might have to start another Mortal Empires campaign, which should keep me going through the summer.
If you don't fancy splashing out on The Warden & The Paunch, you'll still be able to check out all the Greenskin changes in Mortal Empires, which you'll have if you own Warhammer 2 and its predecessor. Grom and Eltharion will also show up in campaigns even if you don't own them. But if you do, you'll be able to become a goblin chef, and that's easily worth £7/$9.