Warhammer 2 agents are not very fun to use. They simply do not feel as impactful to use, even though they arguably are. A bit paradoxial, but what I am referring to is the passive/active skills they posess. I will go through pretty much everything that agents can do and make suggestions for improvement along the way, except for embedding in armies. Some of those needs fixing too, but it's not what I am focusing on here. Also at the end of the post I will go through a big problem with Cult of Pleasure, led by Morathi,(Which relies on agents) that shows the problems with agents on the diplomatic side.
TL:DR: Add more agent actions from Rome 2 and add expensive agent actions with high impact. Make agents a force in diplomacy in both aggressive and friendly actions. Agents should be able to make friends or dismantle enemies.
Let's look at the passive actions first
In Warhammer 1 you deploy agents. They enter a stance and you can see it with an animation. This actually feels impactful from a visual perspective. An agent moves onto your territory and starts waving their weapons around. A subtle "**** you" to the player if you will. In Warhammer 2 there are no stances for agents. It's all passive abilities so the agents do not have any visual impact to them. They just hang around on your territory. The actions are also very weak and should be increased in strength. An agent that reduces happiness in Warhammer 2 doesn't cause rebellions on their own. It takes too long.
In short, please add back deployed stances for Warhammer and try to make them feel impactful. A good visual indication for a stance is a constant reminder. No visual indication and the agent just fades to the back of the mind. Also increase the strength of said abilities. Spreading corruption should be felt in only a couple of turns. Same with happiness.
Another reason for boosting the strength for these passive abilities is the problem of stacking. Using 7 Assassins for economic benefits as Dark Elves becomes silly. Don't let these abilities stack, but rather balance the game's economics. I always shake my head when I see 13 Wizards outside Altdorf because they generate so much gold.
So what about active abilities against armies?
There just isn't much diversity. For the most part it's Assault units(singular or the entire army), Block Army and Hinder Replenishment. I don't like assault units, but Block Army(Total War Classic, why fix something that isn't broken?) and Hinder Replenishment are kinda cool. The problem with Hinder Replenishment though is that every agent that causes that action, has a low success rate. Not only that, but they have a high chance of getting wounded aswell. Why is that?
In Warhammer 1 we could sabotage Ammunition and reduce Leadership as agent actions. I understand why we can't have reduce Leadership since we can stack character traits now, but why remove sabotage Ammunition? It would be wonderful against Wood Elves for example.
New abilities you could add is decreasing ambush defence chance. Certain factions were made to rely on ambushes, but only the lords can increase the chance. Some agent play here could be a nice addition.
Other suggetions could be sabotage artillery. Either destroy a single cannon when the battle starts or debuff the artillery so that it has a chance to explode with every shot. I mention more actions when I list Rome 2 actions later on.
Then the big one when it comes to armies. Loyalty. We cannot interact with this stat at all. Loyalty is in my opinion the most underused campaign mechanic in the game. A lot more factions should have it and we should be able to do a heck of a lot more with it. Things have gotten better with rewards for having high loyalty, but enemy agents should be able to mess with it somehow. Honestly you should be handing out ownership of cities and everything to Lords in Warhammer(to increase the gravitas of Loyalty), but as I wrote earlier the mechanic is underused.
Now we are looking at actions against cities
Again not a lot here. Assault garrison, Damage Walls, Damage Building and Steal Technology. Yes, some factions have some unique actions such as building Vampire ports or Undercities, but for the most part this is it.
Starting with Assault garrison I think this is boring because I simply don't like just killing units. I like tactical things, not just reducing fighting numbers.
Damage Walls is very usefull in a nichê situation. That situation is when you have to replace siege attackers. Without siege attackers you cannot attack a city on the same turn you besiege it. Damage Walls fixes this and let's you attack anyway, no need for siege equipment. Otherwise destroying the walls is not that important. Also in my personal opinion it looks weird that the agent destroys sections of the wall on their own. I would prefer opening the gates and sabotaging towers. The ability needs buffs to make it attractive that's for sure. Otherwise you would never use it outside of that nichê situation were you don't have siege attackers.
Damage Building has to be the most pointless ability in the game. I have only found three uses for it and that is tech denial, increased positive relations for enemy factions of said target and leveling. If you chain-sabotage the main building the AI can never reach the higher tech levels. So here's the issues with it.
It costs money to fix the damage, but the AI swims in gold so it will not notice any damage you inflict. In fact I suspect you are losing a higher % of income for carrying out the action than the AI does for fixing it.
I know that touching AI income is very difficult to balance. However should a Barracks that is damaged still be able to train units? Perhaps that's the solution necessary.
As for diplomacy the benefits you get are way too low. Better to just give the factions affected the money it costs to peform Damage Building.
Steal Technology is awesome and is one of the few things that are amazing to use with agents. You want to use this and it effects your game in a positive direction. More Factions needs access to this ability.
So what is wrong with actions against cities? Well again it's lack of diversity in both offensive and diplomatic aspects. We need impactful abilities such as massive corruption increases(not just passive abilities). Some actions should be high risk in regards to gold cost, but should also benefit with high rewards. However we should also be able to peform diplomatic actions. Why can't I ask a different faction for missions to complete for an increase in friendliness? Vampire Coast is amazing when they can make Vampire Ports, but why can't Vampire Counts offer to turn a faction Leader into a Vampire? Make a vassal faction out of them that way. Perhaps form a confederation through the blood kiss.
Please take more inspiration from Rome 2 for agent actions in Warhammer
The Rome 2 options were a lot more fun and diverse and took the strategy part of the game in a healthy direction. They had problems for sure(looking at poison units), but overall were more fun. To list a few:
- Intercept Orders(gives vision on enemy armies on the map, extremely usefull for scouting. Seriously please add this)
- Demoralize(Reduces leadership, was in Warhammer 1, and reduce charge bonus)
- Reduce Melee attack and defence(Did something against ranged, but cannot remember what)
- Rally Slaves to incite a rebellion(Looking at Skaven and Dark Elves)
- Reduce happiness in a province by agent action based on culture(Can only be used if corruption is present in Warhammer 2, if added)
- Increase religion(Translates to corruption in Warhammer) in region by agent action
Again the importance here is the strength of these actions. Reduce happiness is in the game, but it is so weak. If the player could pay 3k gold to reduce happiness by 40 for 3 turns perhaps we could use that strategically. Conjuring Vampire rebellions in provinces with high corruption incentivites spreading corruption.
I don't know why agent actions have been streamlined to the extent that they have in Warhammer 2. What I can say is pretty much what's in the title. Assault units is not that fun. Sabotage ammo(which used to be in Warhammer 1) is a much more fun ability to use. It's more impactful in a tactical manner.
So for the Cult of Pleasure
This is an issue that has happened over recent patches. I believe it was the Eltharion Patch that shoved it over the edge. You see, when you start as Morathi you're fighting a High Elf faction,Tiranoc, by default. The fun thing is that before the Eltharion patch, Lothern did not make trade relations at the start every time.
So why is this important? Well, you could send out your assassin early on and make contact and start giving them some gold. You could also start a war with other High Elf Factions that Lothern did not like, and invite them into it. Then you could start sabotaging buildings against the factions you were both at war with and gain positive relations with Lothern. So all of that early warring over Lothern as Morathi because the High Elves refuse to make peace? Lothern is now your millitary ally instead.
I did this on Legendary campaign difficulty. It was fun. These days this is not possible because Lothern starts trading with almost everybody on turn one. Giving them money is futile because they will hate you from the start and hate you even more because you attack Tiranoc. Which is funny because Tiranoc refuses to make peace and will not stop attacking you. You must wipe them out. Causing Lothern to hate you.
Making Lothern your millitary ally is everything that is fun with Total War. It's a sandbox. High Elves are not chaos, they are supposed to be diplomatic. However I can only use my Agents as a diplomatic force if we both have the same enemy. This is why I want agents to have diplomatic powers. I want to make friends with different factions I want more possibilities in my campaigns. The thing about alliances is that you can usually only make one friend. Make too many and they will start fighting eachother, so in my opinion it will balance itself out in the long term.
Morathi used to be fun and diverse, but now you are forced to fight High Elves no matter what. That means the only use you have for the Assassin is to level his Assault Units. And that is boring. It's boring to use it successfully and it is boring to use it unsuccessfully. You rely on it too much and you are simply playing wack a mole with it.
Please add the possibility for positive diplomatic actions for agents and higher impact aggresive actions. Agents should be able to destroy cities just as armies can. Adding an action to ask for missions could be an easy way to make already existing systems more relevant. Not to mention more fun. We need more diplomacy in Warhammer. Thanks for reading.