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Hands-on with Total War: Warhammer's newest race, the Beastmen

Plus 30 minutes of new gameplay.

I'm more of a Total War guy than I am a Warhammer Fantasy buff and so I didn't have much in the way of expectations for the Beastmen.

Deciding to start with the new 'Eye for an Eye' story campaign rather than the full sandbox offered by the Grand Campaign, I was given a sense for what motivates this particular faction. And, well, they're not hugely complicated creatures.

The opening cinematic explains that your man, Khazrak The One Eye lost his other eye whilst battling an Empire lord by the name of Boris Todbringer. Even post-Brexit, I can't help but enjoy the idea of a hero called Boris. As a result, the campaign tasks you with sacking tens of human cities and eventually injuring Boris to claim your revenge.

That's the Beastmen, essentially. Things they like: living in the woods. Things they don't like: humans.

What have you done, Boris?

Call of the Beastmen was my first introduction to this particular Warhammer race and I'd been hoping for a little more than that, if I'm honest. Thankfully, what they may lack in thematic subtlety, they more than make up for with their approach to combat.

The Beastmen, it turns out, are the absolute masters of surprise. Not only does their default stance on the campaign map give them a chance to ambush their opponents, even after moving, but they have some brilliantly weird deployment tricks to muck around with too.

A good number of the Beastmen units can take advantage of something called vanguard deployment, which allows them to start the battle much, much closer to the enemy force. This isn't unique to this race and you'll likely have seen the Greenskins, in particular, make good use of this tactic, but nobody does it quite like the Beastmen.

Almost every battle I played ended up being defined by the decisions I was making during the deployment phase. The enemy AI was rarely given the chance to hold any kind of typical formation, as they were forced to react to hidden units on their flanks, or were simply encircled from the very start.

The Beastmen units, on paper, may not seem all that competitive. In a battle that saw both sides approach each other in neat, orderly formations, this race may not compete with the likes of the Empire or the Dwarfs. But that's not how you play them.

Commanding the Beastmen is about drawing your enemy in four different directions and exploiting the cracks that inevitably appear. It's about line-of-sight, and speed, and deception. If you've enjoyed Total War: Warhammer, it's a playstyle that's worth returning for.

If you want to see what this looks like in action, the video below has me playing through the opening half an hour of an Eye for an Eye campaign. There's a couple of decent battles that demonstrate what I've been talking about.

Watch on YouTube

Oh! And even if you don't pick up this DLC tomorrow, the Beastmen will still be added to your grand campaign as an AI-controlled faction, alongside a pretty big update that introduces Amber Wizards, a new mount and a host of multiplayer changes.

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