Total War: Warhammer III may have been delayed until next year, but Creative Assembly has just blown the lid wide open on the strategy game’s biggest coup: being the first place to see a fully fleshed-out version of the enigmatic Grand Cathay. Based on Games Workshop's designs, this reveal doubles as the most substantial canonical update to Warhammer Fantasy's roster since the Ogre Kingdoms arrived in 2005.
In the first in what we’re assured will be a series of reveals covering this mighty Eastern Empire, we see Cathay's armies in all their might as they defend their realm from the forces of Chaos. Whereas the Kislev trailers all featured Khorne, the Cathayans fight against another of the Chaos gods – Tzeentch, the changer of ways.
Grand Cathay is described as the biggest and most technologically advanced nation in the world of Warhammer fantasy, and its main trait as a faction is ‘harmony’. Units of different affinities – Yin or Yang – can get some serious power boosts if they work together. For example, ranged units and melee infantry get stronger if they're kept close.
The full unit roster hasn’t been revealed yet, but so far the trailer shows off flying machines, Three Kingdoms-style heavy infantry, and lots of cannons. Also, dragons:
Cathay’s two legendary lords are the children of the Celestial Dragon Emperor and his wife, the Moon Empress. Miao Ying is the focus of today’s video, as she rules Cathay’s northern provinces and the Great Bastion itself, which protects against Chaos incursions from the north.
Her brother, Zhao Ming, will get his turn in the spotlight at a later date. He guards the western provinces and the roads that lead to the Mountains of Mourn – the home of the Ogre Kingdoms. Both are immortal dragons who can take on human form, and neither gets along with the other, suggesting that not everything is as harmonious as it seems in the Celestial Empire.
If you were wondering why the Dragon Emperor or Moon Empress are not themselves in the game, it turns out that their powers are comparable to those of the Chaos gods themselves, and that their presence on the Warhammer world pre-dates even the arrival of the Old Ones.
Given this is the grand reveal of Grand Cathay, there’s actually quite a lot to unpack here – more than we can parse in a single report. The official FAQ on Creative Assembly’s Total War blog goes into more details, and Games Workshop is even getting in on the action from their end with a post looking at some of the new units.
Grand Cathay was first mentioned in the second edition of the old tabletop Warhammer game way back in 1984, but was never developed beyond sporadic background references until now. That’s almost 40 years in which Warhammer fans have only known the game’s most powerful human nation through tantalising yet extremely cool mentions of terracotta soldiers. PCGN editor and resident Warhammer nerd Rich assures me that to see the nation finally realised in such depth and splendour is a very, very big deal.
Finally, anyone wondering where the details on the siege rework have gotten to, they’re coming: “As we go into details on the unique defences of the Great Bastion that Grand Cathay can take part in, we’ll also explain how sieges play in Warhammer III,” the FAQ states. Stay tuned, we guess? In the meantime, we’ll be updating our Grand Cathay faction guide with the details from today’s reveal, as well as any further information as it comes.