I've been thinking a lot about TWWH3, the final scope of the trilogy and also how the game could learn from the End Times to do better. Everyone has of course their own opinion on why the end times were a bad designed event. But I was also thinking about how the End Times could have been better.
IMO WFB functions best as a global setting. But it never tried to live up to this. Too much focus layed on the Old World, and many rim factions like Lizardmen, Tomb Kings or Ogres were left starving. Because whilst they were well designed, they lived in a white spot. As all the action was in the Old World these faction had nothing to do. If they had unique neighbors (e.g. amazons/vampire coast for LM, araby for TK, Chaos Dwarfs/Cathay for Ogres) they were just fluff material without any larger impact. The rest were faceless raiders or colonies from playable factions.
This development went to its conclusion with the End Times, in which everything that was not the Old World was quickly destroyed and the survivors sent to the OW, no matter how straining or brain-damaging this was.
Also again Chaos was THE sole threat of the majority of the event. Of course skaven and other participated, but they were quickly reduced to being cannon fodder or unimportant once their small moment to shine was over. And there was not much strategy, because Chaos was just steamrolling everything effortlessly.
IMO the problem with such events is, that it is like cooking. If you use too much of just one spice, the entire meal tastes bad. But if you moderate it and use multiple spices the meal comes out better in most cases.
To better visualize this, let me give you a short reconstruction of an End Time event which could have been better:
First let us define the four major threats, instead of just chaos:
1.Nagash has arisen, his pyramid is not blown up, he is at the height of his power. Now he has two simple goals: Get enough magic to support is kill-everything spell, and crush chaos or stall it long enough to complete his spell. For this he sends an undead armada under Luthor Harkon to siege lothern and take Ulthuans inner sea. At the same time he sends his main forces through the badlands and blackfire pass into the empire, to fight Archaeons main host.
2. Greenskins: A Hobgoblin Khan **** of Grimgor by claiming to be smarter and better and stronger than him. Considering Grimgors supposed past as one of the first breed black orcs, he would have none of this. So he gathers the largest Waagh and heads east. And think of his main promince: If he marches to the end of the world and smash everything, he'll turn around and smash the rest.
3. Chaos: Archaeon still wants the world to blow up. For this he also wants the Vortex, because it siphons magic from the world. But in addition to this he also wants to use Old One relics or the stuff buried under middenheim if Plan A fails. A similar device could also be hidden somewhere in Cathay.
4. Skaven want to do their thing. They are allies of convince with the forces of chaos, but are ready to backstab them any time soon, to get the world for themselves.
Now the forces of order have multiple objectives. They must survive and beat back chaos and the skaven. They must somehow stop or interrupt Nagashs ritual. And they must survive grimgors eventual return.
All these objectives could then be divided on multiple theatres of war across the world.
Theatre 1 Ulthuan: Ulthuan is attacked from three sides. Chaos attacks from the north and east. Dark Elves do not want Chaos to get the vortex, and want to exploit the HE position and attack from the west. At the same time Harkons Armada attacks from the south. The situation is dire. In this onslaught al outer kingdoms except Caledor and Yvresse have fallen, and the inner ones are besieged. However the HE are not alone. As the Lizardmen know of the importance of the Vortex, they have sent reinforcements, or better allies of convince, e.g. Nakai and Kroq'gar.
So the dynamics would be: DE vs HE/LM vs WoC vs Luthors Armada.
Theatre 2 northern Southlands: Nagash holds nehekhara in his paws and prepares his great ritual. However Settra and Khalida escaped him and are holding unto lybaras and are planning a counter attack. At the same time and alliance of each still beating heart is gathering in the west. Araby, the surviving bretonnian crusaders and Sudenburg are forming a desperated union. They were only spared so far, becuase Nagash saw them as unimportant. But now he sends his smaller forces for housecleaning. However Khatep is trying joining this alliance to help Settra whiteout him knowing. The humans accept Khateps help, but are also afraid of Settra, becuase he is a ruthless conquerer too.
So the dynamic here would be: Humans vs Nagash vs Settra
Theatre 3 Badlands and Darklands:
Grimgors Waagh has attracted most greenskins of the badlands. However as soon as they left, Nagashes armies marches through it towards blackfire pass. The dwarfs are in a dilemma. Help the empire against Chaos, or try to fight/stall nagashes forces or try to conquer their old holds as most greenskins left. At the same time in the east Chaos Dwarfs and Ogres feel the first hits of Grimgors Waagh. As Ogres value iron and the chaos dwarfs have lots of it, the Chaos dwarfs hire every Ogre tribe they can to help them fight against Grimgors Waagh. And Grimgor could easily be distracted and decide to turn west, if there is better fightin'. Of course if that happens some Chaos Dwarfs and their ogre mercenaries would probably follow him to ensure such a dangerous orc is killed before he can come back.
So the dynamic would be: Dwarfs vs. Nagash's forces vs Grimgors Waagh vs Chaos dwarfs/Ogres
Theatre 4 Southern/western Old World:
Skaventide is vomiting out ratmen like there is no tomorrow. Tilea, Estalia, Bretonnia, Athel Loren and the grey mountain dwarfs are all under attack. The main plan of the skaven is to break through into the Empire en massé to encircle it. Then defeat it together with chaos. Then encircle the chaos host between the skavenblight skaven from the south and moulders forces from the north and claim victory. The other factions are desperately trying to hold them back. At the same time Kemmler has thrown in his lot with Chaos and tries to path a way for the skaven into the empire, unaware of their plans.
So the dynamic would be: Bretonnia/WE/Southern realms vs Skaven/Kemmler
Last but not least Théâtre 5 northern Old World:
Archaeon is bashing through Kislev and into the empire. His target is middenheim. He is supported by moulders skaven. The empire, Kislev and a few allied dwarfs are trying to beat him back somehow. At the same time they know, that Skavenblights forces and Nagash's army are trying to break through too. And they fear that Grimgor may return before they can rebuild their strenght, if they were to survive.
So it would be: Empire/Kislev/dwarfs vs Chaos/moulder vs Nagash's forces vs Grimgor (if he returns prematurly)
In addition to these things new factions like Araby or the Southern realms could've been redisgned or created for this event in particular and thus the even could've been used to reignite the wfb setting instead of burning it to cinders.
The scenario described above is something that could already be replicated in Mortal Empires, if Nagash were to be included. And it shows how much Warhammer fantasy could have benefitted from using his setting to a greater potential.
TWWH is already making the setting larger then the TT ever was, which is a very good thing in my opinion. And I do hope, that TWWH3 will also not fall into the chaos pit and make it the sole thread.
Currently with four monogod factions it may look like this. But I am still hoping, that other mid to endgame crisis will also appear. This would be needed, as currently chaos stops being significant for southern factions like LM or Tomb Kings as it is already stopped way before. Other events like a Skaventide, Ultimate WAAGH or Rising of Nagash would be useful to give these other regions stuff to do.
Also it would allow for the ultimate sandbox experience, if players could choose their own crisis levels as they can currently do with chaos. On the highest levels these events may fit together to create a dynamics and threats to the player and his allies, akin to the scenario I described above. That way the worst of all of warhammer would be thrown at you at once. Or alternatively if you are undead/skaven/chaos etc. you could bring forth your faction event and fight off the competition.
Utilizing the global strength of the setting of WFB and making other antagonist than chaos significant, would IMO be the ultimate warhammer experience. And I hope that CA will go this route in the end.
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Of course this could have been solved in WHFB, they already tried different things like giving the isolated wood elves teleportation to across the world. But I think it was one of the factors that made them make a new setting. WHFB was also too small in the sense that Nothing of big consequence could happen without the whole setting collapsing. You could not play out a big city falling, because that would ruin the setting and so immersion for the TT battle is broken. This problem is very real in total war, every single campaign will have End Times scale of world ending changes within the first ten turns, which for me at least ruins a lot of immersion.
The end times had a different problem. The world was so big and old, there were so many characters to be killed off and locations to destroy. Numerous theatres would be cool, but the goal was to destroy the setting. So destroying the fringe locations quickly, centralizing the survivors in a smaller area (the old world) so that everyone important was either dead or present for the final battle. Ideally they would have made a lot more books, fleshing out the various conflicts, but with only five books everything was rushed and lots of places were destroyed quickly simply to wrap it up.
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And yes the goal of the End Times was to destroy the setting, not to expand it. So destroying it piece by piece makes sense from their perspective.
However I would argue that the localization of factions and smaller scope is a strength not a weakness.
Reasons to have faction X fight faction Z despite their different locations are easy to justify for a simple tabletop skirmish. You mentioned world roots, but errantry wars, expeditions etc. are all useable to justify this on the tabletop format.
But because the setting is limited, every development is impactful. Take 40k e.g. It does not matter if the Imperium uses a planet or 20. Heck even the great rift did not significantly impact it. Sure half its worlds are cut off, but the other half works mostly as before. Robertues ressurection had a far greater impact on the Imperium than being cut in half. And most conflicts in AoS follow the format A invades B, B sufferd but beats A back eventually, repeat.
These kinds of conflicts use any stakes, despite their size.
However WFB factions are much more vulnerable and thus evrery conflict is more impactful, the stakes are higher IF the conflict is structured in a compelling way. But this was rarley used by GWs, as they tried to hard to not change anything.
So I can see that GWs wanted to have a simpler way to let anyone fight everyone, but thats not the main reason why WFB was not that popular. And indeed if GWs would have worked with the setting instead of against it the narrative events would be better.
Think of all these conflicts that were finally fought in the last 500 years, by factions very far away from each other. Or how localized conflicts spiraled into colonial wars fought from america to asia. And some like the war of spanish sucession rarley changed the status quo.
These things are among why I think WFB would have been better, if it used its global setting better for major events like the End Times
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Mainly that 1. Crisis in TWWH 3 should be a global concern and 2. it needs more than just chaos invasions as mid- to late game threats.
The global part is already well established by CA, because this is a core part of every TW game, as any faction can fight everywhere on the map. And they took their time to avoid dead zones by transplanting various factions into lustria, araby and co. Not to mention the vortex campaign being a good example how to have a global conflict.
However as we have seen with ME, the chaos invasions are problematic if they only come from the north. So the south needs its own fair share of attention. Which is why it would be best to have more then just Chaos as a threat on the immortal empires campaign.
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Ironically, whatever excuses GW may make for swapping the world of Fantasy for AoS, I think the success of Vermintide and the parts of the TWWH trilogy released so far proves that there can be genuine interest and investment in the setting and its lore and characters; you just have to commit to making it enjoyable and accessible and show a willingness to learn from mistakes. Hell, maybe we can get a version of the End Times as another separate campaign with hybrid factions, grand alliances and a narrative of the entire world being caught up in the conflict. At this point nothing would surprise me.
"We threatened to grind their bones up to make bread if they didn't pay. Course that's just a threat - it takes too long to grind 'em and most of this lot are just as 'appy to eat'em raw." -- Olag Skullcracker, Ogre Tyrant
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This was not a discussion about the plot of the End Times, but rather Total War and the End Times.
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It's always a good time reading your posts.
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