One of the most exciting revelations in the recent Total War: Warhammer 3 announcement trailer was that Grand Cathay, the Warhammer world's analogue of China, would be a launch race in the upcoming strategy game.
This is a big deal. Cathay has existed in Warhammer since at least 1984, when it was mentioned in the lore book for the tabletop game's second edition, and in the almost 30 years since a steady trickle of further details has accumulated to give a decent sense of its armies and its culture, as we'll discover. But despite this, Grand Cathay – canonically the largest human nation in the world – has never had an official army book. Even official depictions of the nation or its troops have been amazingly rare.
This means that Cathay's appearance in Warhammer 3 is, for all intents and purposes, its debut as a fully realised army. It's amazing that that's happening in a third party's game, and speaks to the trust that Warhammer creator Games Workshop has placed in Total War developer Creative Assembly.
Is Cathay in Total War: Warhammer 3?
Yes, Cathay will be a launch race for Total War: Warhammer III. This is confirmed in the announcement accompanying the reveal trailer, which also teases Cathay’s appearance at the very end, when the series’ mysterious adviser leans over a map of the eastern empire.
What do we know about Cathay now?
The Warhammer world is an analogue of our own – in lore, the godlike aliens who created our planet also made Warhammer’s, and had a pattern they favoured. Hence you get archaic names for real places, like Albion for Britain or Nippon for Japan, cropping up from time to time. Grand Cathay, Warhammer’s equivalent of China, has been mentioned in its various books of lore and rules since at least 1984 and fleshed out over the years since.
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Cathay is a populous, wealthy, and powerful nation of humans located in the ‘Far East’ of the world. It’s bordered to the west by the Mountains of Mourn, where the giants once lived and you’ll now find the Ogre Kingdoms. To its north are the eastern steppes and the Hobgoblin Empire of Hobgobla Khan, against whom the Cathayans built the Great Bastion. To the southeast are the Kingdoms of Ind (India), south are the Hinterlands of Khuresh (a scary jungle full of snake-people), and across the sea to the east is the island of Nippon.
Total War: Warhammer 3 Cathay Legendary Lords
While there’s been plenty of speculation fuel over the years for Cathay’s troops and monsters, we’re at a bit of a loss when it comes to special characters who could become its Legendary Lords. A few of the nation’s Dragon Emperors have been named, including one Pu-Yi, who is said to have been in power when Hobgobla Khan attacked.
These events have never been dated, but as Hobgobla Khan and his massive hobgoblin empire are the only occupants of the steppes to the north of Cathay that are ever really mentioned in the lore, he’s sort-of timeless, and contemporary by default. This is all the licence CA really need to put him in the game (he’s one of my predictions for a down-the-line DLC pack), which would make Pu-Yi the most contemporary Dragon Emperor yet named. And if this didn’t already sound like enough of a stretch for you, Pu-Yi’s only mention is in a copy of White Dwarf magazine from over 20 years ago.
So yep, we’re reaching. We don’t know who the current ruler of Cathay is likely to be. We do know what makes them special, though: Cathay’s Dragon Emperors are said to be immortal dragons in human form. If GW intended this to be read literally, perhaps we can expect our first shape-shifting Legendary Lord?
Total War: Warhammer 3 Cathay units and army roster
As Warhammer 3 is yet to release, we’re not sure exactly what Cathay’s army will look like. However, Cathay has been a presence in Warhammer Fantasy lore for many years now, with little mentions here and there of the mysterious land in the east and the mighty armies of its Dragon Emperor, all revealing more than you might suppose at this stage of development about what the eventual roster will look like. Let’s run through them.
Cathay Lords and Heroes
As you might guess from ‘celestial’ being one of Cathay’s favourite adjectives, Astromancy is among its most important schools of magic. Some even suspect an ancient coven of especially powerful astromancers of summoning the massive warpstone asteroid that crashed into the ogres’ homeland, leaving a toothed, living crater known as the Great Maw.
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Cathay will probably have a few more arcane tricks to bring to the party, though. A 2011 Forge World source book (essentially a compendium of art, rules, and lore to support special model releases) named Tamurkhan: Throne of Chaos says Cathayan wizards – also called Shugengan – are said to have dragon blood in their veins, and to be capable of hurling blasts of white fire and blizzards of ice shards at their enemies. Perhaps they’ll share the inevitable new lore of Ice Magic with Kislev? The Skaven Clan Eshin is also said to have learned from Cathayan sorcerers in developing its Lore of Stealth.
The human armies of Grand Cathay are said to be populous and highly disciplined. Occasional mentions of specific troops include the Bannermen who comprise the bulk of Cathay’s armies – expect them to be your core troops and come with the usual range of equipment options, such as long curved swords, polearms, and crossbows (perhaps repeating ones). Elites may include the Dragon Emperor’s bodyguard, the Palace Guard. Expect lots of lovely lacquered armour.
Gunpowder weaponry is also well understood in Cathay, to the point where I’d expect some form of handgun infantry as well as the obvious artillery applications. Tamurkhan also mentions snarling-mouthed bronze cannons that shoot clusters of bronze javelins, and hints at weaponised fireworks – no doubt we can expect a few special gunpowder weapons unique to Cathay.
That’s all we’ve got on Grand Cathay for now – we’ll keep you updated with all the latest announcements ahead of the Total War: Warhammer 3 release date. You can also pre-order Total War: Warhammer 3 at the Humble store.