Steam, steel, fire and trapped demons. The Chaos Dwarfs are finally here after a long wait and speculation, and they do not disappoint. The demonic industrial revolution comes to the world of Warhammer with the Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs DLC and they bring with them a beautifully designed economy and a truly sinister army.
When I first played with the Chaos Dwarfs, I was immediately pleasantly surprised by their unique economic system. For most factions in Total War Warhammer, the economic system is dead simple: you build an income building to earn money, a growth building for growth and a barracks to recruit new soldiers. With the Chaos Dwarfs, things are different. In fact, they use five different resources: Labor, Raw Materials, Armaments, Treasury and Conclave Influence. That’s already four more than I’m used to. In addition to those raw materials, there are also three types of cities: the Tower, where military and special buildings are made; the Outpost, where Raw Materials are extracted from the ground; and the Factory, where Raw Materials are melted down into Armaments and Treasury.
I quickly noticed how deeply interconnected these various resources are. One missing component in the supply chain and your economy collapses in no time. If there is no Labor to work in the mine, no Raw Materials get to the factories and you no longer get Armaments and Treasury. Then you can no longer maintain the armies, uprisings occur everywhere and in no time it is game over.
The Chaos Dwarf economy is essentially always unhealthy and as long as you don’t destroy the world, it can’t keep running.
My play style changed somewhat as a result. Namely, I had to constantly find manpower to keep my economy running. The Chaos Dwarfs’ mines and factories are not exactly safe, so I quickly ran out of my hard-earned manpower. Once I looted an area empty, I had to move on to the next almost immediately. There wasn’t a moment’s rest. I soon felt like a huge bad guy because I constantly had to capture and use innocent orcs, humans, elves and ogres to stay profitable. I destroyed entire landscapes and completely drained them of all resources. The economy of the Chaos Dwarfs is essentially always unhealthy and until you destroy the world, it can’t keep running. It’s actually genius how Creative Assembly was able to give such a devilish economic edge to a Chaos faction.
Trade and politics
In addition to the deep and unique economic system, the Chaos Dwarfs also have access to Military Convoys. These are special trade routes that work almost exactly the same as Grand Cathay’s caravan system. These convoys allow you to sell various resources for such things as Labor or Raw Materials. In my opinion, this system was mainly there to help players fill in gaps in the complicated economy of the Chaos Dwarfs. I used them almost exclusively to obtain Labor, but sometimes it was useful to earn some money as well. Personally, I don’t find it disturbing that this is almost an exact copy of Grand Cathay’s caravan system. It works well and is a thousand times more interesting than the regular trading system. In my opinion, it would also fit very well with other factions, such as the Dark Elves and High Elves.
Beyond the various resources, Chaos Dwarfs also have access to Conclave Influence and the Tower of Zharr. It is a fairly simple system, but does show well the political side of these factions of Chaos Dwarfs. This system allows the different factions to gain a seat in the Tower of Zharr. Each chair offers bonuses for different systems. Some chairs strengthen the army and others the economy. For me, this was especially useful for the three highest chairs. This is because it allows you to take over another Chaos Dwarf player. If that player then did a little well, you can add dozens of regions, soldiers and leaders in one fell swoop. This also gives you another reason to help the other Chaos Dwarf players. If they do well, you can reap the benefits later.
You probably already notice how deep and complicated all these economic systems are. I love this and in my opinion Total War Warhammer really needed this, but I also think that this faction is not for everyone. For some, the economy in Total War Warhammer is really more of an afterthought and everything is mostly about the battles. For those players, the Chaos Dwarfs can be a lot less fun. In the end, you just spend a lot more time managing your economy. Although these players are also compensated a bit. After all, on the battlefield, the Chaos Dwarfs are equally impressive.
In combat, I would describe the Chaos Dwarfs as a true Swiss army knife. They have access to large monsters, armored soldiers, cavalry, artillery, flying creatures, wizards and, of course, bins of cannon fodder. There is no component that the Chaos Dwarfs lack, though in my opinion there is one obvious component you want to focus on: artillery. While factions such as Grand Cathay, the Empire and the Vampire Coast bring powerful artillery to the battlefield, there is nothing quite like the war machines of the Chaos Dwarfs. Ideally, I would take absurdly and unnecessarily large amounts of artillery to literally rain hellfire on my opponents. Central to this is the infamous Dreadquake Mortar, a giant mortar strapped to a train and manned by two ogres slaves. Watching this diabolical machine do its work is magnificent. With two to three well-placed shots you instantly wipe out most of the elite soldiers.
Nothing beats artillery, but there are other options for different types of armies. For example, an army that targets monsters, demons or cavalry is also quite useful. I especially like this because the constant use of the same type of army can get quite boring. Although I must say that such an extensive and really strong army can also cause problems. Not for the Chaos Dwarfs, but for the opponents. For example, I really would have no idea how to stop such an army that has everything and can be strong in it. The only weak part is actually the price and maintenance of some units.
From Babylon to the factories
In terms of design, I am very pleased with what Creative Assembly has done. After all, the Chaos Dwarfs have had many variations over the years, but there wasn’t really a playable and very accessible army. In Total War Warhammer, the Chaos Dwarfs are a mix between the classic Mesopotamian design, which Games Workshop designed in the 1990s, and the most recent industrial militaristic design by Forge World, a subsidiary of Games Workshop.
This industrial design is central, and many of the Forge World units were adopted directly. I don’t blame them either, those designs are great and have a really evil and sinister look to them. Frankly, I didn’t expect Creative Assembly to include the 90s design, which is not too serious, at all. For example, the large and somewhat exaggerated hats are everywhere. They even brought back the Lamassu, a mythical and rather odd creature from Mesopotamia. I love that the developers didn’t throw away these old designs. They could have easily used just the industrial designs from Forge World, but they took a risk and in my opinion it was totally worth it. It shows that the developers respect the original source material and also want to accommodate fans of the classic Warhammer versions.
Less for more
This DLC is not entirely without controversy. There has been quite a fuss in the Total War Warhammer community surrounding the price of the DLC, which is slightly higher than comparable DLC. In itself, this is not too strange in times of inflation and rising prices throughout the industry. What makes this extra painful, then, is the fact that there are only three playable leaders. In fact, previous DLC that released a new faction came out with four leaders.
I can understand the criticism of three leaders. Currently, almost all leaders start in, or around, the Darklands region of the game. While this region was rather empty before the release of the DLC and certainly needed these new leaders, it is a shame that there is not a leader playable far outside of this region. The current leaders often have to fight the same kind of dangers, which can get quite boring if you want to play them all.
Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs finally brings one of the most interesting and sought-after factions to the game. In addition, they introduce perhaps the most economically interesting factions, the game has ever seen. A component that almost always takes a backseat in many factions. The rock-solid economic system is enhanced by a beautifully designed and expanded army, which combines the original 90s design with modern designs. The depth of the economic system cuts both ways, though, and if you’re not a fan of managing a full economy, you may start to like this faction a lot less.