In case you didn’t notice, an embargo lifted on Thrones of Britannia review coverage. Our sister website – Strategy Gamer – has their article up in all its glory if you want to give it a ready, but we’re going to take a moment to talk more about tactical battles in this newest Total War entry.
The thing is, battles in Total War: Warhammer kind of suck to a veteran like myself. I get the impression they’re a fun spectacle when you get to high-end fantasy units, but I’ve tried getting into the game and the traditional TW tactics just don’t work. With survivability nearly non-existent, it’s harder to take on unfavourable odds or make the enemy pay for the ground they’re trying to take.
Thankfully, being based on the Total War: Attila engine, Thrones of Britannia reverses this, but not the whole way. There are many tiers of units, from your standard levies, to your professional soldiers. Researching the right techs will unlock higher tiered variants of both types of units, but the levies can still die pretty easily if you don’t manage them carefully. Click on a unit and look at the enemy force, and you’ll see a triangle with an exclamation mark in the corer of the unit banner. Depending on the colour, it will give you a rough guide as to how threatening this unit is. If you’ve got a cavalry unit selected, for example, all enemy spearmen will have an angry looking red mark. Axe-based infantry also don’t like spearmen.
Still, survivability is improved enough that you can start employing tactics like pinning and working cavalry around the flanks. Evenly matched forces, with no management WILL still grind each other into dust, but it happens a lot quicker than usual so quick thinking is encouraged still.
The AI can be ruthless as well, I can’t count the number of times my ranged infantry have been slaughtered by cavalry, because I didn’t give them any screening forces. The AI will just out flank your formation and cut up your back lines if you let it. Sieges are also enjoyable again – pathfinding for siege equipment isn’t as wonky as it could be and for the most part defending/assaulting the walls is as tense as it should be. Can still get a little difficult to manoeuvre troops around on the walls, especially when battle is joined, but it all works for the most part. The towns are interestingly laid out as well, and you can throw barricades across key routes, forcing the enemy to go the long way around.
All in all, if you’re going to get Thrones of Britannia for any reason, get it for the tactical battles. It’s not the most interesting age for unit diversity, but the tactics are there and they matter.