At long last, the better part of five years after the first Total War: Warhammer released, the trailer for the third and last in the trilogy has finally dropped. And it is metal af, as they say.
It's also packed with details, and tells us an awful lot about the direction developer Creative Assembly is taking with this third game after years of speculation. Are they going to do Cathay? How will they handle the multi-factional Daemons of Chaos? Any sign of the Ogre Kingdoms?
Sadly the answer to that third point is a “no” for now – though check out our guide to the Total War: Warhammer 3 races for the latest developments – and there's also no sign of a Total War: Warhammer 3 release date more specific than some time this year. But we've still learned a lot, and to ensure you don't miss a thing, please enjoy this thorough breakdown of the new trailer. I can't be sure of having spotted everything, but there's a lot here about the game's setting, factions, units, and more.
First of all, if you missed the trailer, you can check it out below, and if you’d like to pre-order the game, you can do that via Humble here.
We open with a cart full of corpses being drawn across a snowy field, a trail of blood following in its wake. We cut to a wider shot, showing a military camp on the horizon as another body is heaved onto the cart. It seems likely its occupants have fallen in a recent battle.
We’re heading to Kislev
0:33: Lots of snow and furry hats: yep, this is definitely Kislev. Warhammer’s analogue of Russia, Kislev borders the Empire to its north and thus is the first place to get reamed whenever the hordes of Chaos in the north pole decide to beat up someone other than themselves. It’s a cold, harsh land full of cold, harsh people, sometimes scorned by the Empire as savages, but as the first line of defence against Chaos the rest of the world owes them a debt. That’s pretty badass, and has made Kislev a favourite faction among fans. As has their polar bear cavalry.
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Kislev was never one of the 15 ‘core’ races to get a fully fledged rulebook in tabletop Warhammer, but it did get some threadbare rules in a mini army book for the game’s sixth edition (back in 2003), and it has plenty of lore. The fact that Creative Assembly made playable factions out of Norsca and the Vampire Coast, both of which have less material than Kislev, always meant it was only a matter of time before the Empire’s grumpy neighbour got its turn.
0:34: In November 2019 I lost absolutely all of my marbles for a short, traumatic spell after Games Workshop confirmed that it would relaunch Warhammer Fantasy – which it blew up and replaced with Age of Sigmar, but upon which Total War: Warhammer is based – as Warhammer: The Old World. Four months later, it confirmed that the Old World would explore Kislev a little more than previous editions, and teased a brand new unit: the Ice Guard. That’s who you can see here.
Games Workshop says they are an elite formation of warrior women, equally skilled with bow and blade, and able to wield Ice Magic – Kislev’s unique, home-grown sorcery. Expect this to be a new lore of magic in Warhammer III, and the Ice Guard to be a high-tier hybrid caster unit.
Legendary Lord ahoy: Tsarina Katarin
0:50: But who are this elite bodyguard bodyguarding? Meet Tsarina Katarin Bokha, ruler of Kislev, one of the most powerful Ice Witches to have ever lived, and a certain bet to be a Legendary Lord when Warhammer III releases. ‘Ice Witch’ isn’t a personal flourish, by the way – they’re in the lore, so expect them to be the generic casters in Kislev’s roster, flinging that sorcerous snow. (Incidentally Warhammer: Dark Omen, the classic ’90s RTT game that first got me into the hobby, also featured an Ice Mage named Vladimir Stormbringer.)
That the letter Katarin is reading is addressed to “my child” suggests it’s from her father and predecessor as Tsar, Boris Bokha. He and Katarin were the named characters in that 2003 army supplement (he rides a polar bear), which probably makes him the most prominent Kislevite character in the game after his daughter. But as you might guess from the fact Katarin is in charge, Boris is dead, having been killed by Kurgan Marauders in 2517IC (two years before the End Times, when GW destroyed the Warhammer world to launch Age of Sigmar).
So it’s unlikely that Boris will appear in Warhammer III, though not wholly impossible, I guess, given the many ways in which Creative Assembly has already played around with the timeline in Warhammer II.
Daemons of Chaos
0:55: Katarin looks into the mirror to see the big four Dark Gods of Chaos, represented by their Greater Daemons. We start with a Great Unclean One representing Nurgle, a Keeper of Secrets for Slaanesh, a Lord of Change for Tzeentch, and finally a Bloodthirster for Khorne. As Boris explains, each god feeds off a different human emotion, and their domain is reflected in their daemonic followers.
The Daemons of Chaos are one of only two core Warhammer armies who are yet to have a playable faction in Total War, and this trailer confirms what everyone suspected: they’re coming to game number three. Daemons always had one of the biggest rosters on the tabletop because they’re really four smaller armies – one for each god and its daemons.
Given this, and previous statements about each game having four armies at launch (which to be fair the series probably evolved beyond some time ago), there’s been some speculation about how exactly Creative Assembly would tackle the Daemons of Chaos. The wording of the announcement accompanying this trailer implies that all four major Chaos gods will be represented, and apparently as their own faction. As on the tabletop, I confidently guess there will be a way to combine them with one another and perhaps with other Chaos factions (Warriors, Beastmen, maybe Norsca) as part of a massive Chaos overhaul.
Kislev army roster hints
1:21: As Katarin leaves her tent we catch a flash of her ice magic and a column of generic warriors. These are most likely Kossars, named as the foot soldiers of Kislev in the 2003 book, in which they can wield bows as well as hand weapons, and indeed some of the troops in the trailer are kitted out in exactly this way. Expect these guys to come with a bunch of different gear options, perhaps including Seaguard-style hybrid infantry.
To judge from his lavish armour and sense of authority – swiftly rebuffed by Katarin – the dude at 1:24 is their leader. That means he’s probably a Boyar, a mid-ranking Kislevite nobleman and military leader – expect him to come in generic Hero and Lord flavours when the game releases.
1:32: Next there are a couple of extremely metal shots of iconic Kislevite troops: bear cavalry and winged lancers. Speaking of which, the 2003 army book mentions the Gryphon Legion as an elite regiment of winged lancers comprised of high-ranking nobility. They may appear as high-tier cavalry or as a Regiment of Renown, but they may also have their own mechanics: they’re meant to be a semi-independent military order who serve as mercenaries around the world. Total Warhammer could use some mercenary mechanics, with famed soldiers of fortune such as ogres surely on their way, and maybe Dogs of War further down the line.
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And finally, while they don’t appear in the trailer, the 2003 army book mentions ‘Ungol horse archers’, as does that Ice Guard tease from GW. The Ungols are a tribal people native to Kislev who were forcibly pressed into its armies, so given CA’s thoroughness, I’m sure we’ll see their horse archers and perhaps a range of other Ungol troop types in Kislev’s roster.
Khorne army roster hints
1:37: And now we see who Katarin is up against: it’s a daemon army, but one composed entirely of Khorne’s creatures. The trailer shows three Khornate units one after the other: the chunky red-armoured cavalry at 1:37 are Skullcrushers; the wiry red dudes with flaming swords at 1:55 are Bloodletters; and the very big, very angry chap at the end is a Bloodthirster.
Skullcrushers themselves are both an effective tricep workout and Chaos Knights who got gifted daemonic hellsteeds after slaying thousands in Khorne’s name. Chaos Knights are old hat – it’s the hellsteed that’s new to game three: that’s a Juggernaut, a daemonic fusion of brass and beast. They’re slow by the standards of most other cavalry, but hit very hard.
Bloodletters are Khorne’s basic choppy daemon. They were always pretty nasty in close combat but fragile, with scant armour. On the tabletop, they could also ride Juggernauts, in which case the unit is called Bloodcrushers rather than Skullcrushers, so expect to see them as another monstrous cavalry choice.
As mentioned above, Bloodthirsters are Khorne’s Greater Daemons and most powerful servants. Accordingly they were always absolutely terrifying to face in close combat – as well as being spectacular models – and it gives me all the tingles to see one so impressively rendered in this trailer. If only someone could’ve mentioned to Katarin that it gets magic resistance (2) on top of its ward save, so casting a shower of magic ice at it is as likely to kill it as putting on a hat.
Explanatory tangent: in Warhammer Fantasy lore, daemons are basically made of raw magic, which gave them a 5+ saving throw against all damage that got even stronger if you tried to hurt them with magic (why yes, I am one of many players who felt daemons were busted). Due to their inherent daemonic instability they struggled to materialise in the ‘real’ world – it’ll be interesting to see how CA handles this.
It’s worth pointing out that there are technically two Greater Daemons in the game already – Sarthorael the Everwatcher and Azrik the Maze Keeper are both Lords of Change – so expect the newcomers, including Bloodthirsters, to be similarly powerful in their own ways. We may see other named Greater Daemons – such as the Bloodthirster Skarbrand, for instance – but generic ones will most likely make their debut, either as Lord choices or immensely expensive monsters.
02:46: But here’s the really big news. After the very metal new Warhammer III logo, the trailer wraps with a map of Grand Cathay, the Warhammer analogue of China. Three figurines enfold the map, the first two of which clearly represent Kislev and the Khornate daemons, while the third, of jade, represents Cathay. The wizened adviser from the earlier games – recognisable by his medallion, but oddly looking more youthful than before and no longer blind – leans back with a smirk.
Also, note the letter he pushes aside: it’s from Katarin and addressed to a ‘Yuri’. This is most likely Yuri Kovalenko, an Ungol tribesman mentioned in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game, and who Katarin has apparently sent to investigate a daemonic incursion in the far north. Perhaps Yuri will be another Kislevite Legendary Lord?
The map itself confirms that Cathay will be the sixth launch faction, which is huge. The nation has technically existed in Warhammer lore for ages, but in scant mentions and almost no depictions, so CA is making a massive contribution to the Warhammer world here. But beyond its own merits, Cathay’s appearance implies exciting things about Warhammer III’s map.
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There’s only one part of the Warhammer world not yet covered in Total War – the analogue of Asia, to the east of the World’s Edge Mountains. There was speculation that Warhammer III’s map would extend only to the Mountains of Mourn, where the Ogre Kingdoms (the last remaining core race) are found, eschewing places like Cathay – perhaps they have too little basis in the lore to create, or due to technical limitations. All three games are promised to one day hook into one another, and Mortal Empires, the current combination of Warhammers I and II, is already pushing the limits of turn processing speeds.
But if Cathay is on the map, then Warhammer III could well encompass everything east of the World’s Edge Mountains. That’s not absolutely guaranteed, of course – CA can still chop up the map in other ways – but at this point I’d say it’s more likely than not. Games Workshop is building the Warhammer Fantasy setting once again with the Old World, Total Warhammer has been a huge success for CA, and the fact GW trusts them to work on Cathay at all is proof of the closeness of their collaboration. We can expect Warhammer III and its integration of the first two games to be fleshed out with more content for years and years to come.