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Beginner help needed, cannot win skirmishes

Evox#2849Evox#2849 Registered Users Posts: 4
Hey Guys.

I'm rather new to the Total War games and was never really good at strategy games in the past but always wanted to get the hang of it.
Unfortunately, my Total War Warhammer 1 experience is rather frustrating up to this point which I would love to change.
As I suck at the actual battles (been playing a while by just auto resolve every battle) I tried to get better by doing skirmishes and watch tutorials (mainly on youtube by Zankovich).
So I know about countering certain unit types (spears against cavalry) or tactics like hammer & anvil.
But I fail to get them working in the skirmishes.

Currently I'm trying to win against the vampire counts by playing the empire.
After failing to do so a couple of times I'm now trying to achieve this by setting the skirmish to "small" size and normal difficulty.
But I still keep failing (tried like 20 times right now)
So as a last resort I'm trying to find help here in the forums.

Here is my train of thoughts for this setup:

Unit Composition:
- Vampire lords have a lot of low-level infantry (zombies) and a lot of light cavalry (3-5 depending on size).
- My units are more expensive so by just meeting their numbers I would probably be at a disadvantage
- Building a small but strong frontline like 2-4 shielded spearman that are leveled up should hold against the zombies
- Blocking the cavalry needs additional spearman so I take 2 units that protect the flanks (in other setups 3 to meet the cavalry number)
- Now I only have little money left so I either take a mortar or musketeers, melee fighters like flagellants or a cavalry unit

- Building a rather compact frontline so that the mass advantage from the enemy is countered and they have to stack
- Putting spearman at the flanks to counter cavalry charges
- Hero, melee fighters or ranged units in the middle to either thin out their units or help the frontline
- If cavalry is available put it wide to be able to hammer & anvil

How it plays out:
- The zombies swarm my frontline and engage it completely (like planned)
- Cavalry engages the flanks but manages to beat them quite fast (even if spearman should be quite effective) or get around (as they have 3 units and I only 2 flanks)
- Even when I try to build a cube/triangle formation, cavalry always manages to break through at some point
- Frontline gets their asses kicked at some point, even when not all zombies manage to attack them
- Flagellants don't seem to make a difference if send to help frontline
- Cavalry charges from the back are not doing anything as their masses stack at my frontline
- Mortars and musketeers don't manage to even take down a single zombie before they reach me

I tried it about 20 times with different compositions and trying to adhere to the things I've learned but I get completely crushed every single time. The best I did was taking out 3 zombie units and one cavalry...

Can someone give me some tips, point out where I'm wrong with my approach or did I just select the worst possible matchup?
Or maybe provide me with a good army composition and tactic on how one should be able to beat those damn vampire lords?

Thank you in advance,
Best regards


  • Surge_2#1464Surge_2#1464 Registered Users Posts: 11,960
    Is this Custom Battle against the AI then? If so, can you screenshot the armies in the screen before it loads to the battle map, when its just all the unit cards?

  • Tajl#2208Tajl#2208 Senior Member Registered Users Posts: 332
    Muskets are bad when they would have to shoot through your units. They are still one of the best troops you have. Every rank can fire. So no need for wide formation with them. You can leave little gaps to your frontile and have handgunner little begind that line so they can shoot from that gap. Take skirmish mode off as you want your muskets to shoot instead of running. If enemy melees them then fall back manually.

    Even more important is to leave those gaps for your flanks as muskets are very good against anemy cavalry and you should shoot them first before you concentrate to zombies. Leave zombies last as they have lot of HP and doesn't do that much damage anyway.

    When enemy cavalry is dead you can flank with those muskets and they will decide battle for you.

    Spears are not that good agaisnt enemy infantry. They have good defence, but they dont do much damage agaisnt infantry so they can end up losing which is bad for morale. Against zombies they should be winning though, but if enemy general is healing them or doing damage to your spears then they will lose war or atrition.

    Those muskets are very good agaisnt enemy general too. Just make sure you have clear line of fire.

    Mortar is not that good unit. It can be usefull when used right, but better and easier to use more muskets instead.

    With that setup make sure that you have enough muskets. Spears are not going to kill much and muskets have limited ammo. You need to have enough ammo to kill everything.
  • Evox#2849Evox#2849 Registered Users Posts: 4
    Hey guys, thanks for the answers :)

    With your tips @Tajl#2208 I tried 3 skirmishes again.
    For the first time I also managed to actually win. But first time only with my hero alive and second time with lots of losses (Phyrric victory). But the first time I got annihalated again.
    For the first battle I put crossbowmen into the formation and tried to engage the cavalry with the spearman, this kinda worked but was more luck than anything else.
    Second battle I chose pistolleries for engaging the cavalry which worked ok but long enough so that the flaggelants could bring them down.
    Last battle I tried with the musketeer cavalry... they annoyed their cavalry but not enough so that they could get solid charges in my backline (for some reason the spearman just went flying from the charges.

    I saved the first battles as a replay and created a small picture showing my army composition and formation.

    Picture should be attached here.

    Is there a way to win this more easily and not with that much losses?

  • Rochaid29#5392Rochaid29#5392 Senior Member Austin, TXRegistered Users Posts: 1,444
    lack of ranged puts you at a big disadvantage, I don't recall how good or bad pistoliers where in wh1, but you should skirmish with them until they are out of ammo, ideally before they reach your frontline, not even sure if those units are good enough to snipe the necromancer there.
  • Tajl#2208Tajl#2208 Senior Member Registered Users Posts: 332
    I would add little more ranged too. Zombies have lot of hitpoints so you end up with pyrhic victories because you have to grind them down slowly in melee because you just doesn't have enough ammo to kill them quickly.

    Zombies doesn't have armor so crossbows works just as well as handgunners, but I would use handgunners anyway. They are better agaist cavalry, which does have armor and you want to kill cavalry as soon as possible because they kill your troops lot faster than those zombies. And of course handgunners are better against most other units, especially high tied units you allways want to shoot, so long term it is good to learn to how to use them.

    Empire melee cavalry can be really good. You could take some knights and charge those zombies down, but first you would have to get rid of enemy cavalry and you wouldn't want to do it with cavalry agaisnt cavalry melee.

    I dont really like empire ranged cavalry because they run out of ammo too quickly. Of course they can still work sometimes, but against zombies you most likely run out of ammo long before they are gone.
  • Dar0ganwr#5499Dar0ganwr#5499 Registered Users Posts: 25
    Greatswords are not really needed against those non armoured infantry,swap them out for Halberdiers or more ranged in the back line to deal with the cavalry.

    You will probably have problems using skirmish cavalry effectively here,because their cavalry can screen you out. I would swap them for something better at dealing with their cav.

    your formations look fine,maybe stretch out the units so they are all around 4 models deep rather than squares. squares have their uses,but here your men will get surrounded by zombies,and attacked in the side. a longer line means more men fighting head on.

    Against VC,it is always a good idea to isolate and kill their general,as they rely on him to not crumble. tie up as many zombies as you can with your front line,and don't worry about them. 2-3 units of zombies against each of your swordsmen. Then concentrate on taking out their cavalry and necromancer.
  • Valkaar#2507Valkaar#2507 Junior Member Registered Users Posts: 5,883
    edited October 2022
    In addition to what others are saying, I would strongly suggest to NOT use Pistoliers from Game 1.

    In Game 2 the Grenadier Cavalry was rebalanced to be okay. But outside of competitive MP scenes, Pistoliers just take too long to do meaningful damage and pay for themselves.

    The Empire in general as a Race gets their best value from heavy cavalry, gunpowder, artillery, and magic. Outside of Greatswords, their infantry is really only there to hold the line while SOMETHING ELSE actually kills the enemy.

    In your setups, you're basically only using the Empire's line-holding units. While bringing very few (if any) of the Empire's actual damage dealing units that are meant to get the kills.

    So yes, I'd cancel the pistoliers entirely. In exchange, bring some ranged infantry or heavy cavalry or an artillery piece like a rocket battery.

    As a side note, until you're more confident in using the magic and abilities from characters, which will come with time, make sure you're canceling all the abilities of your lords to save gold for your builds. You WILL want to eventually bring and make use of spells of abilities, truly! But until you're at that point, don't handicap your gold spend by bringing spells and things that you aren't making use of.

    Like for example, it appears in your screenshot that you brought ALL 6! of Gelt's Metal Spells. I assume? although I can't see for sure, that you brought all of the Empire General abilities too. Even if you are using magic, it's best to only bring the 2-3 spells that you actually plan to use the most. You won't ever be using all 6 in a single fight. Final Transmutation and Searing Doom are good places to start. But if you aren't using any (which can also be a good place to start) then don't bring any. That should save you enough gold to bring 1-2 whole extra units to the fight!

    As one other final side note, don't be afraid to pause the game or issue orders in the slow motion speed setting! This game can have a little bit of a learning curve and battles are more rushed here than in other titles in the series. As you're learning for the first time, it can be a lot less stressful to slow down/pause....issue all your commands....then resume normal speed to see how it all unfolds. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
  • Evox#2849Evox#2849 Registered Users Posts: 4
    Hey guys,

    thanks for the answers :)
    Unfortunately I'm a bit busy currently so I try your suggestions asap.

    The learnings I should try, as far as I can extract them from your posts:
    - 2 units of swordsman are enough to hold the line against their zombies, but I should stretch them out more (like in battle 1 compared to the others)
    - Add more ranged units to bring down the zombies (preferable handgunners)
    - No flaggelants are needed, if melee I should take the halberds

    You mention to take care of cavalry quickly, should I also solve this with more range units?
    If yes, I still need the spearman to avoid a rear charge or can I bring the down before they reach my formation?
    Taking cavalry myself seems difficult as they are kind of expensive...

    Thanks for the info, I paid no mind that the spells and hero skills take money.
    I actually was wondering how I should get more range units when I barely can manage to buy the above constellations

    I'll stay in touch and will get back when I managed to try the suggestions, thanks again :)
  • kyle_usmckyle_usmc Registered Users Posts: 195
    Get some fast units to aggro their fast units, bring them to you limes ahead of their infantry, wipe out said fast units with arrows or guns. When the infantry arrives snipe their lord and any corpse carts, otherwise the vamps will keep regenerating their units. Do this and you will always win vampires are garbage without their healing.
    Can also try magic, burning head will straight murder most low tier infantry.
  • Evox#2849Evox#2849 Registered Users Posts: 4
    Ok, I managed to try it out in 2 battles.
    First one (left side) I managed to win (phyrric) second one I lost.
    The first was only a win because my halberds managed to stop their cavalry from hammer & anvil me. Second time, without the additional melee unit, they managed to get around me...
    Here the formations:

    I tried to add more ranged units this time to kill their cavalry as you guys mentioned. But I encountered the following problems:
    - Enemy army waits till I get close enough that my ranged units are in firing range
    - When I send them to shoot in advance I waste way to much time getting them back behind my frontline, their cavalry can cross half the distance in this time
    - I'm not able to get their cavalry down before they reach my flanks, not even half health for one of their cavalry units ( I distributed 1 gunner unit for 1 cavalry on the one flank and on the other it was 2on1)
    - I noticed that when the cavalry is engaged with the spearman, my ranged units stop firing so I'm not able to get much damage in once the first charge got in, is this normal or just buggy?
    - If normal, what can I do in this time? Bringing the range units outwards will only motivate their cavalry to charge into them...
    - Overall the range units seem very slow, they get like 2-3 volleys in before the flank charge arrives.

    Am I still missing something vital here?

    Maybe if someone has still installed it, could you record a replay so I can see how it should be done?

    Thank you for your help, its much appreciated :)

    Best regards
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