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Total War: Warhammer 2 – What to expect from the Tomb Kings

Total War: Warhammer 2 – What to expect from the Tomb Kings

Time, once again, to get the Warhammer reference material out and examine what a Total War: Warhammer 2 Tomb Kings DLC release roster would contain. I’ve done this before, with Dark Elves and Skaven prior to the game’s release. Have a look at one of those if you want to examine my track record with speculation.

Tomb Kings have not yet been officially announced, but they’re about as confirmed as it’s possible to be without a direct nod from the Total War twitter account. The old Total War: Warhammer datamine (which is not 100% accurate any more, it had Skaven as DLC) puts Tomb Kings up next. In the Southlands of Warhammer 2, where Tomb Kings would be, there’s either empty space or suspiciously place-holder type factions. Not to mention the inclusion of their cities, like Khemri. But perhaps most convincing of all, modders have found direct reference to the Tomb Kings within the Warhammer 2 files themselves.

Like Skaven as the fourth faction, the Tomb Kings DLC is pretty much an open secret at this point. Creative Assembly are busy promoting their new Rome 2 DLC at the moment (due the end of November), but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Tomb Kings emerge around December/January.

“Everybody here is just as dead as you, that’s why we call it The Land of the Dead.”

Brief History of the Tomb Kings

And I do mean brief. If you want the whole lore dump, read a much lengthier source like this one. For this article, it’s just the basics.

Warhammer’s ancient kingdom of Nehekhara is basically ancient Egypt. Its people build pyramids, they worship animal headed gods, there’s desert sand everywhere. You get the idea. The greatest ruler of Nehekhara was Settra the Great (soon to be ‘the Imperishable’). He united the kingdom, built a fancy pyramid, but fretted endlessly that death would rob him of all he’d achieved. Luckily(ish) a ‘Mortuary Cult’ in the kingdom had been experimenting with the Winds of Magic and its priests promised Settra that if he was entombed correctly he will one day rise again.

Settra dies, the kingdom splits into warring Priest King factions once again, and 500 years later Nagash is born. Nagash is a jerk who craves power, and he single-handedly invents necromancy (after learning magic from captured Dark Elves) in order to achieve those goals. He kills his brother, takes the throne, and employs a guy called Arkhan as his chief hench-bro. Then he builds the Black Pyramid in Khemri which, by chance, is larger than Settra’s.

The Priest Kings don’t like the look of this, and team up to defeat Nagash and his undead army (with the help of ‘constructs’, statues with the souls of ancient heroes bound to them). They win, but Nagash escapes. He ‘dies’ in the desert, but rises again thanks to his expertise in necromancy.

Nagash, the only man capable of taking on Chaos Dwarfs at their own hat game.

Then there’s a whole side-plot involving the creating of the first vampires, under the blood-craving queen of Lahmia, Neferata. She’s ultimately beaten in a duel by High Queen Khalida (of nearby Lybaras), who also dies.

The vampires bugger off to the Black Pyramid, where they find a now rather more skeletal Nagash only too happy to embrace them as his new lieutenants. Meanwhile, the Skaven have been watching Nagash and (rather accurately) assess that he’s a threat to all life in the world. They create an incredibly deadly warpstone dagger, give it to a stooge in Nehekhara, and hope he can kill Nagash before just being near the dagger melts his brain.

The Skaven’s proxy succeeds, but not before Nagash manages to pop off a spell killing (but also reanimating) all life in Nehekhara. As a result, Nehekhara is now a kingdom full of animated skeletons, incredibly cool Egyptian-themed ‘constructs’, and entire lineages of warring Kings and Queens (though those have been whittled down quite a bit over the years). That brings us just about up to date with the ‘present day’ in Warhammer.

Legendary Lords

Creative Assembly announced a while back that for their larger Total War: Warhammer 2 expansions, they’d be ditching the mini-campaigns (like the ones which came with Beastmen and Wood Elves) in favour of a total of four Legendary Lords and deeper unit rosters. That may not be set in stone for all subsequent DLC releases, but let’s assume that will at least be the case for Tomb Kings.

There’s been some debate about who may or may not be included as a Legendary Lord in Tomb Kings DLC. While I think Creative Assembly will eventually do something important with Nagash (and probably Neferata too), they are unlikely choices for this expansion. All of the factions released to date for the Warhammer games have been based on their 8th Edition tabletop books. I believe that will be the case for Tomb Kings as well, and, by chance, they have four main Lord choices in that book. Those four seem pretty likely as the Legendary Lords.

When even undeath won’t prevent you cultivating a majestic beard.

Settra the Imperishable: The man. The legend. The Imperishable. Rides a sweet Chariot of the Gods (which I guess you’ll have to work up to getting in Warhammer 2, like Malekith’s dragon) and should be an absolute beast in melee combat. In tabletop he has a huge armour save (which I guess would translate to high armour in the game), and has the Blade of Ptra, which burns with magical fire and can blind foes (so magic/fire damage and some kind of reduction in chance to hit for his opponents). He has a little bit of magical ability too. Chances are he’ll start in Khemri.

Queen Khalida: Hits fast. Has poison attacks. Really, really hates vampires. Khalida is about the closest thing Warhammer has to a decent ruler (despite her undead nature), so it’s possible she might get some administrative or economy-boosting skills to reflect this. On the battlefield, she’s famous for buffing her skeleton archers (Tomb Kings actually have ranged troops) in various ways. In Total War: Warhammer 2 that’ll probably manifest as a bunch of archer-centric boosts on the red line of her skill tree. Lybaras is off the map in Warhammer 2, so I suppose she’ll have to be moved inland.

Grand Hierophant Khatep: Head of the Mortuary Cult council, and the man responsible for bringing back Settra from his pyramid. Khatep is the big name caster for the Tomb Kings, and would use the Lore of Nehekhara (sometimes called Liche Priest magic). A lot of those spells are used to buff the undead legions, or weaken foes (rather than direct damage) so Warhammer 2’s interpretation will presumably stick to that. He’s the herald of Settra and (in tabletop) can force enemy armies to take fear tests on more dice than usual; that would potentially translate to some kind of fear buff. Not exactly sure where Khatep might start. It could really be anywhere with the justification that Settra has sent him on a mission.

So painfully obvious he just got a big hat to copy Nagash.

Arkhan the Black: Yes, Nagash’s old henchman is one of the Tomb King Lords. He’s basically a mercenary at this point, but everybody knows he’s not-very-secretly working 24/7 to bring Nagash back again like a big idiot. Arkhan is another spellcaster, but one who uses the Lore of Death this time. He’s pretty handy in melee too. Used to have a sweet (albeit not as sweet as Settra’s) chariot, but I’m not sure if he still had that option by the time of 8th Edition. Since his whole deal is that he roams all over the place, he could also start basically anywhere.

Tomb Kings Army Roster

Generic Melee Lord: Tomb King. Will have a chariot as a mount option.
Generic Caster Lord: Liche High Priest. Access to the Lore of Nehekhara at the very least.

Melee Hero: Tomb Herald. Bodyguards of the Tomb Kings.
Caster Hero: Liche Priest. Basically like the High Priest, just not leading an army.
Missile Hero: Tomb Prince, maybe? This choice isn’t clear cut, but they might go with Tomb Princes and limit them to ranged.
Alternative Hero Option: One of the above might be switched out with a Necrotect. They’re the ancient architects of Nehekhara, and act as support characters in the tabletop game. Could have a reasonable skill line buffing constructs. Good candidate for being the guy who undermines siege defenses, too.

Tomb Guard: The flashiest skeletons in all the realm.

Melee Infantry

Tomb Guard: The elite and partially mummified guard of a Tomb King. They can show up with halberds so these guys may well wind up as an anti-large option.

Skeleton Warriors: Mainstays of the Tomb King infantry line. Unlike the Vampire Counts, Tomb Kings won’t (or shouldn’t) be raising the dead all over the campaign map. The warriors in a Tomb Kings army are his former loyal subjects, not just some random zombies from an ancient battlefield. They can be reanimated, but strictly speaking that should happen back in crypts in the home regions. I’m not exactly sure how Creative Assembly will handle this distinction, and it will be interesting to find out.

Missile Infantry

Skeleton Archers: Yes, as mentioned, Tomb Kings are an undead force who actually have ranged troops. In the tabletop game these archers have a crap ‘bow skill’ stat, but benefit from special rules which mean they’re not affected by the usual archery modifiers (having moved that turn, firing at long range, and so on). Basically, it means they can fire into cover and fire on the move without much difficulty (even if their overall aim is fairly poor). Will be improved if Khalida is the Legendary Lord.

Cavalry

Necropolis Knights: The heavy cav. Mummies riding on the back of giant serpent statues. The statues are brought to life by an ancient suicide pact with the rider (at least, I think). And that’s not even close to the wildest thing on this army roster.

Skeleton Horsemen: Medium to light cavalry. Not much to add to that, other than seeing more skeleton horsemen will be cool. Shielded, with spears.

I guess you don’t need armour when half the arrows will go straight through you.

Skeleton Horse Archers: Like the above, but with bows instead. They’ll be your skirmishing cavalry.

Skeleton Chariots: Surtha Ek may be getting a rival in the race to be ultimate Warhammer charioteer, because Tomb Kings armies are (lore-wise, anyway) absolutely full of these wheeled menaces. Ranged and melee options will probably be included.

Monsters/Constructs

I’ve lumped these in together as they generally have ‘large scary thing’ in common. I’m unsure whether Creative Assembly will include every single one of these, but since they’ve promised to focus harder on rosters at the expense of a mini-campaign most of them may make it in.

Scarab Swarms: Several of the Tomb King units, including this pack of beetles, have a special rule called ‘Entombed Beneath the Sands’ (EBtS). That means they can pop up pretty much anywhere on the battlefield and act as ambushers. The simplest way for Creative Assembly to mirror that would be to adapt the Skaven’s ‘Menace from Below’ ability. If that’s what they end up doing, then scarabs would be the lowest level summon.

So that’s what happened to the guys from Dark Crystal.

Carrion: Pretty basic flying unit and essentially large undead vultures. If included, they’ll be the default, cheap ‘send behind enemy lines to hunt war machines’ option for this faction.

Tomb Scorpion: Another EBtS unit. If this really is turned into another Menace from Below thing, it’s going to need to be balanced rather carefully. It’s one thing to get a swarm of clanrats anywhere on the battlefield, but quite another to be able to summon a huge, magic-resistant scorpion construct with a skull for a face.

Ushabti: Guardian statues with the heads of Nehekhara’s animal deities (often a Jackal because, again, ancient Egypt). They’re coming up on twice as tall as a regular human, and carry either huge two-handed blade weapons (will definitely count as great weapons), or a large bow (think the greatbows from Dark Souls). Monstrous infantry that will look terrific if Creative Assembly get the models right.

A fine alternative to a guard dog.

Sepulchral Stalkers: The third EBtS option. These guys have the bodies of serpents, and the torso-and-above of an (undead) human. They have an odd ranged attack in tabletop where they can accidentally hurt themselves. However, the shots which do go through ignore armour (so that’s a dead cert for armour-piercing, then). Basically skirmishers, but they can mix it up in close combat if the unit is weak enough.

Khemrian Warsphinx: Another unit that feels like the perfect encapsulation of Warhammer’s delicate cool-to-very-silly ratio. It’s a sphinx construct with some skeletons riding on the back in a little basket. The Tomb Kings answer to mammoths or arachnarok spiders, pretty much. In-keeping with Warhammer 2’s trend towards more monsters too. It even has an optional breath attack.

Necrosphinx: Rather like the above, except instead of a skeleton basket the Necrosphinx has huge pincer claw blades and, er, wings. Yes, it can fly. It’s a warsphinx variant for hunting down rival monster types. If Creative Assembly model this one, it’ll have to be Hellpit Abomination tier quality.

If you don’t love everything about this, Warhammer may not be for you.

Necrolith Colossus/Hierotitan: A Bone Giant, effectively (in fact that’s what they used to be called). Creative Assembly have shown themselves pretty willing to make lots of different versions of giants (the recent Norsca one, for example). A Necrolith Colossus is quite a bit more exotic than that, but I can see it getting the nod for inclusion. The Hierotitan is a variation with magical ranged attacks. Not sure whether that will make the cut (or whether the two will just be sort of amalgamated).

Casket of Souls: A magical sarcophagi that contains the souls of anybody who has tried to defile the land of Nehekhara. It’s presided over by a Liche Priest, and whenever he cracks the lid a bunch of angry and confused souls will escape and descend upon the enemy. That basically causes damage to foes by making them take fear tests on multiple dice. I could see this being cut. It’s a rare inclusion for Tomb Kings, it’s static, and there will be a few other ranged magical attack options in the army. Such as the next, rather iconic piece …

Artillery

Screaming Skull Catapult: A catapult that fires cursed, flaming skulls at the enemy. What an amazingly Warhammer war machine. Being struck by one of these causes fear, terror, and any other psychological effect you can come up with. They used to be part of the general undead army roster, before the Tomb Kings/Vampire Counts split happened in 2000 (Sixth Edition). They’re great, and iconic, and definitely need to be included.



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