The Rat Race: A Total Warhammer 2 "Speedrun"

Author: Shoggy
Published: 2017-12-06
Have you ever asked yourself "What's the fewest number of turns it'd take to beat Total War: Warhammer 2?"

Probably not, because you're a sane, well-adjusted individual who has far better things to do with their time. Not me though, let's see if we can't managed to pull it off in under a 100 turns.

(Hope you folks aren't allergic to cheese, there's going to be a lot of it where we're going)
Have you ever asked yourself "What's the fewest number of turns it'd take to beat Total War: Warhammer 2?"

Probably not, because you're a sane, well-adjusted individual who has far better things to do with their time. Not me though, let's see if we can't managed to pull it off in under a 100 turns.

(Hope you folks aren't allergic to cheese, there's going to be a lot of it where we're going)
For this "speedrun" we'll be playing the Mortal Empires campaign with a goal of complete World Conquest. The reason we're not doing the Eye campaign is mostly the 80-turn fixed timeline the rituals lock you into, and because I felt like doing ME. The reason we're going for WC as opposed to long/short campaign victory is because it seemed more interesting than rushing arbitrary campaign objectives.
So to start with, we're playing on Easy. This is partially because I don't have the patience to play out almost every battle o̶r̶ ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶d̶e̶a̶l̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶P̶u̶b̶l̶i̶c̶ ̶O̶r̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶m̶a̶l̶u̶s̶, but mostly because of the "Supply Lines" cost of extra lords forcing you to limit your number of armies. I hereby turn in my "Super-Pro Total War Player" card and leave the more difficult playthroughs to someone a bit more hardcore than myself.

Race-wise there are a few good candidates for a fast WC. Generally, we're looking for a cost effective roster, decent auto-resolve behavior, and a "quick" economy. Hordes are disqualified if only because of how annoying it is to chase down settlers. Wood Elves are a pretty good candidate for this, as are Orcs (probably), but honestly I'm too lazy to do extensive testing, so we're just going to go with Skaven. It just seems thematically appropriate, and I'd rather not use a DLC race or one of the core ones without the foundation update.

Our starting Lord will be Queek, because I feel like it (and I can fill out a clan-rat army a lot faster than a plaguemonk army).
So we're going to start by filling out Queek's army and getting some more lords. Our goal for early game is to keep recruitment going as fast as possible.
Honestly I prefer the caster lords, which makes my choice of Queek a bit suspect, but damned if I'm going to restart again.

Oh, and got the first province. That's nice.
Time to go south and get in our first real fight, but before we get started let's check how we do on auto-resolve. We'll be using AR a lot this campaign, and by using I mean alternately laughing and screaming at the demented squirrels it puts in charge of both armies.
That went surprisingly well actually, we can replace three clanrats a turn, so that's fine, and the AR seems to really favor my sword-vermin for some reason. (This turns out not to apply to halberd-vermin though)

Oh and see that loot, and the food growth up there? That'll be important later.
Let's take a second to quick-fast talk about rites. For the purposes of this run, the Skaven rites are sort of trash. The two one-use heroes cost more than they're worth for us, and they spawn at our capital instead of somewhere useful.

The Thirteenth Scheme is more useful, but we'll get to that when we can actually use it.

The Dominating Scheme is an okay source of food and growth for early game and the cost is negligible if you're recruiting at all, but it won't be very relevant later. We'll use it now and then promptly forget about it.
Speaking of food, every army we recruit and settlement we hold requires one per turn, and settling efficiently requires large amounts. Some buildings, like our starting landmark give us some per turn, as does one of the province commandments if you don't mind losing some income. Raiding armies generate three food per turn, which is decent, and we get a chunk after every battle, but that's not enough to keep our vermintide going.

By and large, what our world-spanning Skaven empire will be eating is...
Other Skaven!

Rebellion farming isn't a new tactic by any means, but we're going to be taking it to new extremes here. We're going to be raiding almost every province we have, both to generate food and eat/loot a rebellion every turn. This may seem a tad cheesy, but we ARE talking about giant humanoid rats here, and cannibalizing your starving populous is about as Skaven as you can get.
We get around 10 food a rebellion, it varies on the number of "men" killed, so we prefer infantry over monsters and siege weapons. The constant stream of loot and items is nice too.
Anyway, as the spooky bird guy said, we're getting bigger and are about to deal with our first real tactical problem: the dreaded One Province Minor. Dealing with full stacks of AI-subsidized troops sitting in a walled city is a pain. In fact it's such a pain that we're going to save-scum back a few turns so we can get a second full army down here to help.

(There's going to be a lot of save-scumming happening in this campaign, but usually only one or two turns given how long turns will start to take.)
While we're waiting for that second army, we'll quick swing by the ruined city between us and check out the new "treasure hunt" option added for ruins in TW2.

These options always give the same results, so you can save-scum to always pick the best option, but by and large these hunts are completely useless, as it blows an army's whole turn and gives pretty mediocre rewards. Still though, this is early enough that 1000 gold is actually useful enough to take.

We won't bother with this stuff for the rest of the game, even if it's amusing to read the role-playing dialogue and picture your massive cannibalistic rat-man army getting spooked by skellingtons or "giving the dead a proper burial".
This is also a good time to mention one of the things about Skaven that makes them a really good faction for doing this speedrun: multi-level colonization. Skaven can increase level a captured or re-colonized settlement for 20 food per level to 3, and 40 per level to 5. We're going to almost always be doing this up to level 3 at least.

Even though Skaven don't get more income from higher level settlements, we're going to want to unlock and fill every building slot possible as early as possible. With the exception of Gold Mines, Ports, and Landmarks, all Skaven buildings give a small amount of income which stays static from level 1, which means a conquered province is almost immediately generating its full income if you spend some food while capturing it. Also, in addition to saving turns waiting for growth, you're also saving the settlement upgrade costs, which is a LOT of money. The math is a bit fuzzy, but I figure a point of food is generally worth about 200g.

Oh, and all these upgraded settlements start with big-boy garrisons, so that's nice.
Anyway, time to actually play a battle, because the AR thinks that even with two armies we're absolutely screwed here.
For pretty much all of our difficult sieges we'll be employing the tried and true strategy of "cluster on one side for the map so you only have to deal with one tower and depend on the AI not responding".

I find myself really missing Shogun 2 sieges, especially since half the fights I actually play in this campaign are offensive siege battles.
The AI really doesn't know what to do during sieges, so it's actually pretty easy to walk troops over to sneak in other gates, or distract them up on the walls by sending a unit up with ladders. (Skaven are actually really bad at ladders since they have large units but climb at the same man-per-second rate as everyone else. They're still good distractions though).

The heroic last-reserve dwarves (consisting of half the super-important ranged units) sit and do absolutely jack as their comrades get swarmed, preferring to patiently wait until it's their turn.
Of course, the upside of the derpy siege AI is that we can take fights like this with cheap clan-rat armies. Sure the K/D ratio isn't great, but that's why we bring 5k rats to the fight!

It's also worth pointing out that, unlike in auto-resolve, most of our badly damaged units run away and survive (and the sword-vermin don't get huge amounts of kills either). I'm really not sure how morale is factored into AR, maybe it isn't.

In any case, all this effort has been worth it because...
We now have a gold mine!

Gold is the only resource building actually worth having for this campaign, because outside of landmarks and ports, it's the only Skaven building that generates a large amount of cash. A max level Gold Mine gives you 600g a turn, compare that to the 40-80 you get from all other Skaven buildings. With the 50%-100% bonus from the Skaven power building chain, this is going to be our biggest individual cash generator until we reach mid game.

This means it's time to start really expanding.
This is the rough three-phase plan. Now that we're set up we'll be starting with the generic vampires on our sides followed by the cranky dinosaur down south-east, then we'll start rebel-farming in earnest and begin snowballing.

By the end of Phase 1 we should be pretty much unstoppable. From there it'll just be a matter of efficiently spreading our armies and balancing food production.

Oh, and at some point we'll go and get 8-peaks and Skavenblight, but neither are worth putting our armies seriously out of position.
Most of the vampire conquest is fairly easy, especially since we're using Plague-lore caster lords and can throw 6+ summoned clanrats into the grinder each fight. The summons aren't as good as they used to be when they didn't have collision, but they're still very cost efficient vs. non-armored enemies. Not that the AR knows that.
See? The AR would have you believe that the Crypt Horrors would wipe three or four units on their own, but they're actually pretty tame in the AI's hands. Honestly, the only vampire units we're going to ever be worried about are Grave Guard and Knights. Even the lords can be dealt with using only 1 or 2 units of clanrats in most of our fights.
Since the vampires are pushovers (mostly), let's talk about an actual problem: loyalty.

As with a lot of aspects in modern TW games, there's an annoying lack of documentation and useful tooltips. I'm sure a few hours digging through the tables would've help figuring this out, but it was never quite worth the effort.

Basically, if loyalty gets to 0 the lord rebels, which is too inefficient for us to ever allow to happen. There are also some very annoying "Low Loyalty" events designed to help you get a lords loyalty back up at a cost, but for our purposes they're more of a hinderance than a help, since a lot of the time the cost is higher than we want to pay (one will even debuff your lord's army to uselessness for 10-20 turns) and the other option is to lower loyalty even further.

Anyway, the starting loyalty range is the product of some calculation I don't even pretend to understand, which the game will then roll 1d6 against when you recruit the lord. The d6 value is set beforehand (so you can't savescum, unless you're willing to go back to the previous turn), and I believe it's applied globally instead of per lord (meaning the first lord on that will always get, say the second lowest value, regardless of which lord you pick).

There's also some funkiness going on with the order of operations on Queeks +/- loyalty racial and talents that I'm not 100% clear on. What it FEELS like is that I'm rolling 1d6-4 for Grey Seers, as opposed to just having a reduced range...
Which is why we're going to be switching to recruiting Warlords, who aren't as good for hard fights, but at least won't start at the very edge of rebellion.

In addition to the start value, loyalty can change each turn. I believe there's a few different calculations going on as opposed to one big weighted one, but I lack concrete proof on that. In any case, the important part is that loyalty can increase if you recruit more troops, assign wargear (this is instant, spam equip some items and watch the loyalty rise or drop), win battles, and have your Legendary Lord at a higher level than the current lord. Queek's special where he steals xp from ALL other lords makes that last one easy (he'll easily be max level before turn 50), and we're not in the business of losing fights, so loyalty should generally trend upwards.
Generally...
At least it gives us a reason to use one of our rites, right? We'll only get a few uses of this off over the campaign, but it's nice to have now.
One last thing on loyalty: since the ME patch you now get events for high loyalty, some of which have outright amazing results. The 50% research buff for this one was perfect.

There's also some weirdness going on with these events not firing after loading saves. It could just be that they have a super-low chance to trigger, but I suspect there's something in the code to discourage save-scumming. In any case, it's definitely not like agents where the chance is predetermined, if you reload after getting one of these events, you're not going to be getting it again. It's a one chance deal, which can really suck when you get one while feeling out a tricky AI turn.

As a final note, if you can figure out how to manipulate these events, it'd completely trivialize this sort of run. Once again, I leave that to someone more hardcore than myself.
Enough about loyalty. Our conquest of the vampires is going well, and Queek's leveled enough to trigger one of his quests.

Amusingly, unlike in WH1, a lot these quests are scaled off of your current situation. So that first option will want me to increase my treasury to 10k higher than its current level, which definitely ain't happening any time soon. (When I finally get his other quest to fire, it'll tell me to increase my total number of units by 2, from 367 to 369, which is equally silly).

The other option on this one is to raid 500g, which seems a *tad* more reasonable.
The AI decides to try diplomacy, bless their little cotton socks, it's almost like they think they're in a Paradox game where this stuff actually matters.

I give them an A+ in trying, and as a special reward actually stick to these treaties for the time it takes to move my armies around. The Orcs will actually get to stay unmolested for a good 35 more turns, so maybe they can call this a win.
Because I'm being nice, I beat up on some other vampires. You can see they're trying to figure out tomb-king chariot strategies, but aren't quite there yet. Also, the AR once again arbitrary kills off a unit. Thanks.
In a terrible tragedy, I am forced to give up FREAKIN ROCKET BOOTS for the good of the run. This is a black day.
In better news, my first Warlord hits 13 and can take Ravenous Expansion, which (like most other global economy skills) is completely broken. Ignoring the growth, at rank 2 that's between 30 and 40 per settlement, with a bigger bonus for the unique capitals. At 10 settlements, which is about where we're at currently, this skill pays the lord's upkeep, more than that and it's just free money.

Of course this wouldn't work on higher difficulties with the bigger supply-lines modifier, but we're on Easy and recruiting a Warlord almost every turn help generate food. Before long the income from this skill is going to get downright silly.

As a side note, Skaven are not the only race with exploitable broken global income mechanics. High Elf lords have boosts to Trade Resources and Research, and you can get an Influence Trait on their mages that just flat-out increases your income by 3%. Dwarves, Norsca, and Lizardmen also have buildings that increase global Trade, Raiding, and Battle-loot respectively, and Wood Elves' whole economy is based on the global 1% increase from each province taken. And as for Bretonnia...
They don't have that troublesome supply-lines modifier so, all you really need is a province with more than 3.5k base income to make your lords self-sustaining.

But enough stinky French cheese, let's get back to the nice wholesome AI-exploitation kind.
Rly?
That's more like it, making decent progress on these guys.
So might as well go back to killing these ones too.
Oh, look who it is! That'll be a nice change of pace, at least Lizardmen provinces don't cause attrition.
Here we are at turn 26.

Expansion has been a tad slow, with only 14 settlements and 12 armies so far, but we've got four real offensive armies going now and are about to expand our rebel-farming operations. Looking back, with more efficient early game farming I could probably be a province or two ahead right now, but it's still a decent start.
Like I said, very sloppy. This will eventually get streamlined to 2-3 farming lords per province with a handful of clanrats and slaves in one of their armies.

At least the provinces are pulling in decent cash, guess which one has that gold mine.
Tired of all my winning, the obese magic frog down south decides to annoy me by encircling Queek while he replenishes.

This would be a big problem if half his army didn't consist of skirmish infantry that the AI can't properly use.
We employ the highly technical strategy of shooting him with magical rat-lasers while ignoring his ineffective skirmishers until they run out of ammo.
Our blatant cheesing annoys the Kroq-Gar.
Our first Legendary Lord battle!
(This doesn't go well for him)
I just wanted to say that TW2's new Skaven Underway maps are really pretty.
Well, he tried. That's one LL down, 33ish to go.

Honorable mention for the Saurus Warriors and that Feral Stegadon, all of who did way more work than grumpy lizard.
We're still recruiting about a lord a turn right now. Usually it's a Warlord, but I spotted a Grey Seer with the global magic trait, which could be really useful once you stack a few. Surely he'll have at least 2 or 3 loyalty right?

ಠ_ಠ

Nevermind, we'll just get another warlord.
Time to finish off the Necrarchs. We might need to spend some food to win this one.
Yeah... graveguard are fricken MEAN when you don't have any AP damage. Or ranged units. Or magic.

We're almost done with the !Tomb Kings vamps, but we'll be dealing with nasty vamp rebels until their corruption is gone.
And here's the last stronghold. Oddly, the AR thinks I stand a pretty good chance here. Go home AR, you're drunk.
Fortunately the vamps left one lord outside of the city, so instead of a protracted difficult siege battle we can just artillery down half their army as they try to reinforce this lone idiot.
That's our northeast taken care of and ready to switch over to farming.
So let's take care of the last few vamps in the southwest.
And there's the southeast, with a little extra bonus thrown in.
We celebrate by finally taking care of Queek's Armor Quest. Aside from chasing the one doomwheel around it's nothing to write home about, but neither is the armor really. The free food is nice though.

After this we disband everything but the sword-vermin and cannons, it's time for Queek to finally upgrade from clanrats before he goes north into the badlands.
With our eastern flank secure we finally trigger our next chapter, or Imperium level or whatever you want to call it. I should probably be paying a little more attention to that given how it ties into the chaos invasions...

Our armies in the west still have plenty more desert to conquer, but our eastern forces are going to have to redirect up north to find some action. Sadly, Queek's going to be lagging behind a little since he needs to swing by the captital to recruit a full stack of heavies, but hopefully he'll make it up in time to take 8-peaks personally.

In other news I have finally discovered the "ownership" map option, making these empire-status screenshots much more readable. I still miss the old TW1 map modes though.
We'll be getting these high-loyalty events for the rest of the game. The gold is nice, but now that we're really farming and getting multiple Warlords up to level 13 we'll be outpacing it surprisingly soon, so I won't be mentioning them anymore. (The occasional +research speed ones are still nice though)

Also, whoever coded that last one is a jerk.
Our westward expansion has finally reached a port!

The ports themselves are a nice econ boost (their income actually scales with level!), and we can take advantage of the ocean access to start picking up those juicy little random island events. Most of these events give 1.5k gold and some go up to 5 or 10, so even on VH or Legendary it's worth it to have a lord dedicated to nothing but hunting them down. In early game the boost you can get from this is massive.

We can also start trading now, except we can't, because the AI really doesn't like trade deals that drastically favor the player and we've got trade resources coming out the whatsit. It's not a huge deal, since our econ is starting to ramp up on its own, but it's still annoying when even the friendliest of factions won't trade with you. This is like 50% of why we're not playing HE for this playthrough.
Our clan-rat zerg armies quickly wipe out the isolated dwarf-holds to our north. Doing this without the underway stance would be unpleasant to say the least. And I hope whoever came up with that event name is proud of themselves.
In fact we actually have more armies up here than settlements to attack, so might as well branch out west and get started on the Greenskins.
We've also finally run out of vampires, the Bret colonies and last southern dwarf-holds volunteer to go next. You've totally got this guys. Totally.

Also, a beastmen horde spawned and is causing problems by razing Bret cities. Not only does this mean we have to actually *pay* to get new settlements, resettling with an army actually costs a lot more troops than your typical fight would. We kill and eat them before they steal any more of our rightful loot-stuff.
The Brets don't actually put up much of a fight, but their allies get an honorable mention. The AR, and by extension the AI, drastically overestimate the effectiveness of ranged units by the way (seriously, I once saw a slave-slinger with 300 AR kills).
It's a good thing they don't just mass heavy infantry, we really don't have any way to deal with that aside from just throwing bodies at the problem.
Another mention goes out to this cool rogue army that grabbed one of the Bret cities. Luckily they wandered out in force-march stance and I was able to snag an ambush (the Skaven Stalk move stance is a very nice plus to the faction).
Without magic or enough spear-rats this was a tough one. Props to the CA guy designing these armies.
To celebrate the crushing of the last significant armies in Araby we hire our dedicated Island-hunting lord.

Godspeed Admiral Boaty.
With only a bit of mopping up left in the west and the Greenskins failing to offer any real resistance (I think their armies are busy somewhere up north) things are looking pretty-
Oh, well that's a thing. They're all the way at the other end of the map though, so it shouldn't really be a-
Well... shit.

I guess this is what you get for not watching your Imperium level. Good thing we're on Easy so there's only four of them.
And at least the game gives us a decent chunk of cash to deal with our little chaos problem.

Looking at the extra cash there, it occurs to me that I really should've been keeping an eye on the bonus objectives. Well, we must have gotten some of them by accident, and it looks like it won't be much trouble to get the ones for the next chapter either.
Honestly though, we're not going to be worried about money for much longer.

We've passed the magical mark where our warlords start paying for themselves and every settlement captured just amplifies the effect. Our economy has officially started to snowball.
Speaking of economy, they added this neat little event from the Vortex campaign. Let's check and see if anyone is willing to actually trade with us (Hint: they're not).
Hmmm, is this what the animays call sun-dare?

There's actually another neat little diplomacy bugs with the invasions. See, since these invaders declare war on pretty much everyone, they become "known" to all these factions, who then approve of all our actions against them. By the time we're done dealing with these guys pretty much every faction outside of Norsca is going to love us. This isn't particularly useful for this sort of playthrough, since they still won't trade with us and we don't really care whether they declare war or not, but it's still neat.
Anyway, we're not really in a good position to deal with this.

Queek, who's just finished recruiting our first "heavy" stack, isn't anywhere near close enough for us to just use the classic TW1 strategy of Lightning-striking them all down one by one. Instead we're going to have to depend on the one full stack out west, that one rebel farming army up north, and whatever we can recruit before the death-stacks reach us.

Fortunately, we've got a few things going for us here. Firstly, since military buildings give Skaven income we've been leaving them up as we conquer, which means can raise a lord and start recruiting clanrats in every single province in the area.
Secondly, the AI is pants-on-head retarded.

Instead of spreading out and razing the nearby settlements, every single army switches to raiding stance and starts slowly crawling across the desert, not even bothering to divert a single turn and smash the minor settlements on either side of their path.

I have no idea where they're headed, and I'm not sure whether they're in raiding stance because they think it'll inconvenience me or if they're just freaking out over all the attrition areas around them. Maybe teleporting a bunch of vikings into the middle of the planet's biggest desert wasn't the chaos gods' best idea... Or maybe that's just what Tzeentch WANTS us to think [JUST AS PLANNED INTENSIFIES]

Still though, they've got armies full of heavy infantry, heavier cavalry, and chariots, none of which I can easily deal with. It'll take them a few turns to get anywhere, so I've got time to raise forces and maneuver around them, but it'll definitely be a bit tricky and probably require actually playing out most of the battles.
Wait, one of them did decided to divert! But for a solo attack on a fully occupied major settlement.

And by attack I mean grumpily standing outside the walls making rude gestures, because the AI would prefer to sit on their hands for thirteen turns over actually fighting an offensive siege battle.

We should probably put them out of their misery.
In the Campaign AI's defence, they totally should've had this. You can almost hear them screaming at the Battle AI about how they just had to spread out and avoid getting encircled.
Ow.

A lot of these battles are going to be so close that stuff like the +leadership for high food really matters.
We'll bring in our first reinforcements to pursue and attack the damaged army. We get the first attack off no problem, but we can't quite get a second attack off to stack-wipe them and make it back to safety. If we get too greedy one of those other armies will get tired of burning down the sand dunes and-
Yeah, no. We'll settle for just crippling that first army.
With the first army pretty much wrecked, the second one tries doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result. The bell-rat down south that's been following them is finally in range to help, so it goes even worse for them.

(Words cannot describe how tired I get of the Skaven lord sound effects, especially the mounted Warlords. The thumping, dear lord the thumping...)

Anyway, army 3 is still burning sand and army 4 wanders into an unsettled region for some reason beyond our comprehension. That was a tricky few turns, but we've pretty much got the chaos invasion sorted out and can get back to-
HIDDEN YOONITS MAI LORD!! TREACHEROUSLEE MEANT TO AM-BOOSHUS!
Wait, no. They're just going to attack one Bret city and...
Ummm
Guys?
And so ends the great south-sea Chaos Invasion, not with a bang, bit with a complete breakdown of the strategic AI.

I guess I'm glad they didn't all dogpile me like they used to, but I really have no idea what's even going on here. Let's just mop up the stragglers and never speak of this again.
The remnants of army 1 actually attack me as I chase them, triggering an underway battle.

An underway battle with reinforcements.
Oh dear, this is going to be a bit of a mess...
As far as I can tell, what it's doing is taking turns sending one unit from each army in at a time. This would be very bad for me if I hadn't started with an entire army deployed against just a handful of enemies... As it is, we just form this giant rat pile at the reinforcement point while the other half of the army chases down the first army's few units.

There's two or three units of chaos warriors wedged somewhere in there. The collision and pathing gets really weird as it keeps trying to shove more and more units into the pile.
Halp!
Once the first army is wiped out, the incoming reinforcements lose morale faster than new units arrive and the battle ends.

This would win the campaign's "Stupidest Battle" award all on it's own, but it gets better. See, since it was an underway battle...
None of reinforcing army's units survive the retreat, leaving only that one unit of trolls from the first chaos army and yet another replacement lord.

We'll knock him out quick, which'll just leave army number 4 up north and that one from the naval wave that decided to siege some random Bret colonists.
Hey, go find your own city to eat, we totally called dibs on that one.

(We have to manually fight these even at 2v1 odds btw)
"Oh man, I love these new chokepoint battles, they really add some nice new tactical depth to things! Let me carefully set things up to envelope both their forces instead of fighting their superior infantry in the choke!"

...

"Really Battle AI? You're going to jam your whole army through just one of them?"

*sigh*
Well, that's them sorted, now we just need to go seige out the Brets-
Okay, whatever, that works too...
And finally, let's go see what army 4 is up to. Oh look, they're sitting around sieging a walled city, what a surprise.
And we're done here.

That was honestly a bit of a mess. We'll have to try to have things set up better to handle the next invasion, but that won't be for a while... right?

Now let's get back to that whole "speedrun" thing we were doing. And by "get back" I mean, wayyyyy back.
It certainly wouldn't do to slow our pace of expansion just because of some silly little chaos invasion. So while our south-west armies were running around the desert dealing with derpy cultists, our northern armies have been hard at work on the Orcs and Dwarves.

Back on the first turn of the invasion we caught our first glimpse of 8-Peaks. It's defended by the usual extra armies, complete with Fake-Grimgor and Fake-Azhag. I hope they never fix that bug.
We managed to lure the impostors' army out and zerg it. Congratulations to !Azhag for somehow outperforming !Grimgor, even if it was only in an AR battle.
Hmmm, somehow there's even more of them now... but that's not a problem since the new ones are split into half stacks.
And we brought a lord with Lightning Strike!
Instead of using actual strategy, we just dogpile three armies onto 8-peaks and mash the AR button.

I'd have loved to actually play this one out, but turns are taking long enough as it is and managing battles with more than two full armies is incredibly annoying.
On turn 46 we capture Karak Eight Peaks and immediately boost it max level so we can start building all those juicy landmark buildings.

In addition to the massive income we'll be getting from the province (not to mention the food resource building) we're also excited to get that lord-level and loyalty perk. Between this, the +2 loyalty tech, and our massive stockpile of magic items from rebel farming, we no longer have to worry about lord loyalty and can just start recruiting every single one available. We're also no longer worried about Public Order, because we're just going to be rebel farming in every single province we take.
On the subject of Lords and Landmarks, I actually made a fairly bad mistake back when I was conquering the vampires and got myself too food-starved to boost the Black Pyramid province to level 3.

We're only just now starting construction the Pyramid landmark, which is a shame because it's bonuses are fricken amazing. Oh well, add that to the mounting list of minor mistakes I'm too lazy to go back and fix.
And here's Queek, one turn too late to take 8-peaks himself. He reached max level during his walk up thanks to his EXP-stealing trait, he's mostly specced into his Blue and Red trees since that pays far better dividends at a strategic level than making him a melee monster would.
Hmmm, one of these is not like the others...

I find it amusing that the Orcs get higher billing than Men on that list. I guess Grimgor runs a tight ship.
Speaking of the Great Green Groin-Kicker, we finally spot the real one camping out in some random minor settlement.
Queek takes out his frustration at missing the 8-peaks battle on him.

Grimgor is significantly outdone by a unit of gobbo wolf-archers. ಠ_ಠ

That's LL number 2, we should start racking up the rest pretty quickly.
We also snag Black Crag, which is going to be one of our big money-makers between the mine and the 100g-base on the unique settlement.

We're pretty much out of Greenskins to kill at this point, which means it's time to branch out a bit.
DECLARE ALL THE WARS!
Now that we're spreading out and splitting up our armies, some the battles can get a tad tricky.

A few times we're forced to rely on sketchy-ass stealth caps to pull these off without waiting for reinforcements. It's probably time to upgrade this army...
That was a bit too close for comfort. Tackling heavy infantry continues to be a problem for us, whether or not they're armored apparently.
Thanks AR, I really wanted to blow half an hour playing out this curbstomp myself...

I'm not salty though. Really, I'm not, because it's turn 50 which I've arbitrarily decided means we've entered the mid-game.
Looking pretty good, just a few minor enclaves in the south to stamp out and our borders will be nice and clean. That one last group of Orcs in the middle of us is going to be there for a while though, since it's not worth turning any of our northern armies around to deal with them.

We're actually right at 50 settlements right now, which is neat, but it's time to accelerate our rate of conquest even more. We've started farming rebels in every single province we control, and are recruiting more real armies all along our borders. Between our five armies up north and the new ones coming online soon, we're just going to start expanding across the whole front.

The south is still a bit messy due to the whole chaos invasion thing. Annoyingly, the one-province-minors all used their time while I was distracted to recruit defense armies and the dwarves have a walled settlement to squat in. We'll be done with them soon though, and then we'll have to decided whether to send our western armies across the sea or keep them down south to handle the next invasion.
Money is no longer tight. Our economy is really taking off, largely thanks to all our warlords with the global +settlement skill, and we're still making an extra 10k or so a turn from eating rebels.

That said, with our 3-lord-per-turn recruitment and all the offensive armies we're raising, the Supply Lines malus is getting noticeable. If we switched even just up to Normal we'd be completely bankrupt.

Of course that's all worth it for the massive food income we get from all those lords. The raiding, buildings, and commandments tend to roughly balance out our upkeep, so the food from the rebel-farming can go right to boosting all of our new conquests to max level. At some point it probably won't be worth boosting settlements anymore, and there's probably some other point where we'll be expanding too fast to keep up with the food demand of doing it, but we haven't hit either of those quite yet.

No where were we...
Right, smashing dwarves.
Oh, and look at that, one of the boat guys finally showed back up. Still got no idea where his buddies went though.
Wait there's one! You show those stinky elves, just another 9 turns and you'll have them.

In other news, Admiral Boaty discovers the New World. In keeping with tradition, he tries to offer the locals some smallpox, but they say they've already got some, thank you very much.

It's good to finally contact clan Pestilens, or any other Skaven faction for that matter. We'll have to see if we can't get them to confederate with us.
And there's Skavenblight!

Man, look at that settlement income... I suddenly find myself deeply regretting how long it took me to send an army up here. With all our Warlords that province has got to be worth at least 5k a turn. Oh well, we'll have it soon enough.

Since Skavenblight has one province and one army, they're actually pretty eager to confederate with us, but we don't actually want to do take them up on that offer for a couple reasons. First of all, we're going to want to Confederate Lord Skrolk as soon as possible, so we don't really want to spend 8 turns locked out of that. Second, the lazy rat-bastards haven't bothered to upgrade their only damn city to level 5! Even with all the global growth buffs we have, it'd take something like 10 turns to upgrade the city, and another 5 to build the unique landmarks buildings.

One way to speed things up would be to confederate, sell all the buildings, and then raid the province until a rebellion forms and recruits a large enough stack to a seige the city. Then we could sally-forth and purposely lose the battle (mostly by stacking our army in a pile and manually firing artillery into them), allowing the rebels to raze the city. Then we could resettle and boost the settlement to max level. This stupid plan would get us a level-5 Skavenblight by turn 59, I checked.

Like I said though, we really want to save our Confederation for Skrolk, so instead we're just going reorganize our forces so we can get a few zerg armies up here conquer the place. Sit tight guys, we'll be with you in a bit.
We also finally getting around to recruiting an agent, if only to get Queek's quest out of our logs. As I pointed out earlier, the quest requirements are based off your current status, so they wanted me to boost my troop count by two, all the way from 357 to 359.

Speaking of agents, I probably could've gotten a lot more use (see: any) out of them before this if I really tried, but the expense and extra work required seemed a bit prohibitive. Looking back, the extra movement range from a warlock-engineer would've been really nice when I was moving Queek all the way from one end of our empire to the other, but unless you plan ahead for that the building level requirements to recruit one are a bit tricky.

Oh well, we'll recruit a few assassins now that we can easily afford them, if only to give our clanrat zerg armies a little extra flavor.
This might be a bit overkill...
Yeah, definitely.

I also think I prefered his old weapon. Sunfang this is not.
Thats LL number 4!

(Wurrzag got offed by some AI army and didn't respawn in time for me to kill him personally, but I'm the one who wiped his faction out, so I'm counting that as mine)
Ooh, and there's number 5.
An entire unit of skavenslaves is crushed under his glorified mobility scooter.

It's admittedly better than any of the Orc lords managed.
We also get around to dealing with the annoyingly fortified dwarf-hold in our west.
Mmmm, those borders are starting to look pretty damn sexy.

With the Arabian Dwarves and the last of those chaos stragglers dealt with, we just need to crush one last little Brettenclave and the continent is all ours. Then, after that's done, we can move our western armies down into ambush positions for the next chaos invasion.

With these armies, and maybe 2 or 3 more to be safe, we can just camp the next wave's spawn point and immediately wipe out the whole invasion the second they arrive. It'll be the pinnacle of strategic planning, I assure you.
Ummm, shit.

Could, uh, could you guys just give me, like, three more turns? No?

Shit, shit, shit, shit...
Okay, okay, okay we can still do this, it's just going to be a bit tricky.

We've got six armies in the general region, which means we're technically even with the invaders. Of course their armies are all completely filled with top-tier units and ours are nothing but clanrats and slave-slingers, so it'll actually take two or three of our armies to take just one of theirs, but I'm sure we'll be able to figure something out.

Fortunately, this invasion's strategic AI is just as incompetent as last one's, so we've got some time to maneuver while the dread armies of chaos putter around trying to get sand to burn.
We're going to use that little strip of green no-attrition land to get ahead of them. We'll also finally get around to recruiting some agents, just to do a little extra harassing.
As a side note, I looked at the LUA files for the invasion after this (a bit late, I admit), and I'm still not exactly sure what's going on with Chaos' strategic AI. The raiding behavior is probably a natural AI reaction which only seems silly because they're in the middle of a massive desert instead of a denser region of the map, but I feel like there must be something in the scripting telling them to split up and focus on major settlements.

Or maybe they're fooled by our tricksy Skaven under-cities.
The sea invasion is out there as well, but we don't quite have line of sight on its spawn location. Also, it seems like the sea-os guys sieging that one high elf island there disappeared when the fleet respawned (or elves sallied out and killed them while I wasn't looking, but I doubt it).

We're going to just ignore these guys and hope they go bother Ulthuan or something.
We also get the old WH1 badlands viking invasion along with all the big boys.

Not only are these guys way less threatening with their low-tier marauder armies, they actually start at peace with everyone else and wind up just sort of wandering around like lost little viking puppies.

In the fifteen turns it takes us to finally get around to attacking them they accomplish nothing more nefarious than briefly raiding Tilea before wandering off again. I hereby award them the golden One Piece Medal for Pirates Suck At Pirating.
INVASION ROUND 2! FIGHT!

We can only bring four armies to a battle, but 4v2 should be just about doable. This'll be a tough one.
Oh, nevermind then. Go Go Skaven Stalk Stance.

Getting an ambush likes this doesn't just give us a (usually) easier battle, it also means their reinforcements don't show up. It's like lightning strike, but infinitely better. We'll let the AR handle this one, it actually makes much better use of 2+ armies than I could.

Thanks to this freebie we can attack another stack this turn without risking too much.
Okay?

Come to think of it, our base ambush chance is actually pretty dang high since these guys are raiding, and this general has a few +ambush skills too, so let's see if we can get any more lucky picks before we pull back.
Well, that's half the invasion down more or less for free. Stalk stance OP, CA nerf pls (don't actually nerf pls).

No reason to even pull our armies back, from here we can just slug it out.
(insert slugging-out sounds here)
Well that went better than expected, only a single lord and about twenty units lost in exchange for finishing the southern invasion off in three turns. I'll take it.

Let's get these lords back to their real jobs: farming rebels and expanding our territory.
Seeing our success with the invasion, Skrolk is actually willing to pay us to confederate with him. We graciously accept.

(Actually just them showing up was enough to push him over)
We instantly gain 6 settlements and 4 armies. Pestilens actually did pretty good for themselves, especially given how lackluster Skaven auto-resolve can be. Skrolk's personal recruitment choices were a bit lacking though.

We've actually got enough forces and recruitment slots here to get Lustria under control without shipping in any additional armies.
Time to bring our other Skaven brethren into the fold too.

It's sad, because they TRUSTED us. In fact, everyone trusts us.
Yeah, remember when I said that the invasions break the diplomacy system just a bit?

Shame that they still won't fricken trade with us. Not that we really need money anymore, but still...
TACTICAL
GENIUS
We could've avoided all this if you'd have just upgraded your only damn settlement.
Oh yeahhhhhh, just look at that income.

If my math's right, just 324 of that is from the small buildings, the rest is from that 750g settlement and all our warlords buffing it. This will be our highest income province for the rest of the game, and we could get it even higher by stacking it with Warlock Engineers with the +income ancillary, but we're honestly a bit beyond that sort of thing.

The landmarks are pretty nice too. The Tower is actually going to prove surprisingly useful when it's time to clear out the chaos and vampire provinces.
Once again, Queek misses all these major plot developments. He's too busy gouging dwarves to even notice.
Oh look there's one!

Oh no, it's retarded.

Guess the AI got stuck with only one recruitment building again.
DO NOT RUN! WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS!

(That's 6)
This is the exact moment where I decided to put a caster in Queek's army.
Meanwhile, a little farther to the east, one of our forces catches Ungrim outside one of the few remaining Dwarf settlements.

Our warlord personally squishes him and hawks the Slayer Crown on ratBay. That makes 7.
Over in Lustria we've gathered our new armies and are ready to kick things off.
I mean, sure, it's an entire stack inside a walled city with a garrison full of heavy infantry, but we can prrrrrobably take them.
That is a LOT of corpses.

You know you're running things close when you're using slave-slingers for both ranged and melee.
That was a TERRIBLE idea, but at least we've taken out the largest lizardman army in Lustria.
And here we are at turn 60.

The enclaves are still there, and our borders in Lustria are incredibly ugly, but otherwise things are looking pretty good. We've got Skavenblight, handled the local chaos invasion, the Greenskins and Dwarves are all but crushed, and we're ready to push into Sylvania as well as the neighboring human factions.
Heh.

Oh, and we're a tad past the 1 settlement-per-turn mark. Doing some rough napkin-math, we're looking at a possible turn-80 victory. That's still a while off though, because right now it takes about an hour and a half to complete a turn, what with all the rebel farming, army management, and heart-stopping lag whenever the overloaded event-log updates (seriously, the event log was NOT made to handle 100+ notifications a turn, and it makes sure you know that). Sadly, turn time is only going to get worse as this continues.
On the supply-side we're in great shape. Gold is no longer even a minor concern. Admiral Boaty's little treasure-hunting expeditions are more of a hobby (though the occasional 10% income buff is massive now), and we're starting to switch every province over to the +food commandment.

Food's in good shape too; we're farming rebels in every province we have. We're also making sure to immediately expanding our farming operation into our new conquests, because our colonization costs are increasing with our sorta-exponential growth. This has the nice side effect of letting us ignore public order problems.

Really, our biggest limit is recruitment capacity, both for units and lords. We're at full recruitment in almost every single border province we have, pumping out cheap clanrat zerg armies and rebel-farmers, while Skavenblight provides a steady stream of heavier troops. We're using all of our global slots every turn to fill in what gaps we can, but we're still falling well short of our income, so we're funneling the rest of our cash into settlement upgrades and +research buildings for lack of anything better to do with it.
We kick off our 60s in the traditional way: wiping out an ancient civilization of aztec dinosaur people.
And their neighbors too.

This finally puts us in conflict with the dominant High Elf faction. That might be a problem.
Or it would be if Chaos Pirates Round 2 (Tzeentchian Boogaloo), hadn't finally razed their only settlement outside of Ulthuan.

Interestingly, that little island is disproportionately valuable to us, since Occupied Elven Colonies were somehow overlooked when they set all Skaven settlement buildings to a flat 50g. At level 5 that little baby will generate 450 (well, 225 with the climate malus) and give us a global 3% to port income. If we'd been doing a Pestilens run, taking it would've been one of our top priorities.
You are hereby sentenced to death for the high crime of Border Gore. May the internet have mercy on your souls.
We also declare on Vlad for having a map-color too similar to ours.
And Manny too, just because he's a jerk.

(I have no idea how he even knows who Mousillon is, much less got them to Ally him.)
We fight our first Vampire siege in ages.

I didn't remember their cities being so glowy, I honestly thought I had a graphical glitch of some sort until I looked closer.

Same with the projectiles, props to whichever dev decided to just slap a skin on a cube and call it a day. A man after my own heart there.
Oh, look who's sitting all alone in an unfortified minor settlement.

Is that 8? I think that's 8.
Which makes this 9.

It's sort of cute how they both them had their own little settlements to sit in.
And there's 10. At least he had an army with him (albeit a pretty lame one), lucky for us he didn't follow Mommy and Daddy's advice and camp out in a city.

Since CA hasn't added separate start positions for all the other Vamp LLs (cmon guys, I bet Kemmler would just love Lustria) this is our last one from them. Unless we count the Red Duke in Mousillon that is, we'll see how he performs when we finally get around to Bretonnia.

With the two Vamp majors down (mostly), we'll just quick stomp Templehof and then turn our attention toward the- Wait a second.
The heck does he think he's doing here?
Omnomnomnom

11

Now what were we doing?
Oh that's right, ALL THE WARS.
Of the four, only Toc-chicc "The Thicc" actually puts up a fight, popping out of the fog with a full stack and lots of heavies.

We have to scramble redeploy some rebel-farming troops to scare him back to his lillypad or whatever until we can get a real army over there,
"real army"
Ow. At least Slann are really useless generals in AI hands.
Skrolk would've helped with that battle, but he was busy recruiting a heavy army and taking care of his artifact quest.
I just wanted to say that this was a really pretty battlefield.

Also, plague-monks might not be the best choice for tackling lizardmen monstrous units.
I wasn't kidding about almost exponential expansion, we've got almost twenty offensive armies out there now, not counting Boaty. It's a bit of a nightmare keeping everything straight, I really, really miss the old Units map mode.

That top-left army is Queek by the way, he's going to check out Altdorf, it's supposed to be lovely this time of year.
Hmmm, maybe not.

Here's hoping he doesn't manage to burn it down before we can.
Ooh, a piece of candy.
Ooh, a piece of candy.

(I swear, I'm only roleplaying an easily distracted manchild. Definitely.)
12.

Not a particularly good showing from the beastmen this run.
Not that number 13 does much better, we actually manage to snag Skarsnik with a rebel-farmer while our real armies take care of his far-more-threatening settlements.
IT'S MY GAME, I CAN PLAY IT HOW I WANT. GET OFF MY BACK MOOOOOOOM.

geez
Got a point about the whole "sweep all before them" thing though. We're just ripping right through the Empire end-times style, got a real proper Vermintide going here.
Hmm, coulda sworn there was some sort of city here. An Uber-something or other? With, like, this big magic horn and all these random adventures.

Well, nevermind, it looks like Kholek got tired of sieging Altdorf. Nice of him not to actually burn it down.
Oof, now THAT'S a garrison. No wonder Kholek decided to go do something else.
Oh, there he is. Knock that off!
It's been a while since we've had a genuinely interesting battle to play out.

Turns out Kholek is really good at running away, just pushes right through everything in his path when his morale breaks.
14!
We finally remember that we're at war with the High Elves and send a fleet to get to work on Ulthuan. We're trying to send higher quality than usual troops and making sure every army has a replenisment-specced Assassin in it, because the hostile-climate penalty makes replenishment and recruitment slow as hell.

This attack will actually turn out to be one of the bigger strategic blunders of this run, costing us at least three or four turns. What we should've done is sent these fleets up the north-most end of Naggaroth to set up a recruitment beachhead and start conquering back outwards. Instead though, we're going to have a massive traffic jam of armies coming up from Lustria and across from the Old World.

Oh well, add that to the list of things for whoever tries this next to remember.
Anyway, back to crushing minors, and might as well finally get rid of history's most passive-aggressive vikings while we're at it.

War, war, war, war, wa-

Wait a second...
I completely forgot there was still another Skaven faction out there! And if memory serves these guys are going to have another one of those neat unique provinces!
Really guys, still just level 4? I'm not angry, just disappointed.

It's not worth the effort to fix this like we did in Skavenblight. The cash is good enough as is, and while the Landmark is neat and all, it's not actually any real use to us. We'll just settle for the free army and elite recruitment buildings we get from them and move on with our lives.
Speaking of landmarks, we grab this one as we mop up the last lizardmen in Lustria proper.

Between the Black Pyramid, Skavenblight landmarks, and 8-Peaks we're already recruiting level-8 lords. Let's see if we can't get up to level-13 ones before the end, just for maximum cheese.
Also, let's get a round of applause for Warlord Chant, our first non-Queek lord to hit max level.

(God, look at that minimap. This is why I drink you know)
As we're finishing off the Empire provinces our armies in the mountains track down the last VC holdout.

Coincidentally we find a familiar face squatting just next door in the Dwarfs' last settlement.
Oh god it's spreading!
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Hopefully it sticks this time.

We're actually down to only two minor Dwarf factions left. We just need to deal with Kraka Drak up north and Karak Zilfin over by Bretonia and they'll be completely wiped out.
We're almost done with the Orcs too. Aside from these guys there's just Skarsnik, who's down to his last settlement. There might be a minor faction tucked away somewhere up in Naggaroth, though. We'll have to see.
We finally encounter our first "natural" Norscans, led by the meme-lord himself. There seems to have been some sort of bug with his recruitment though.
Without his chariots he's powerless to stop us.
And here we are at the end of turn 70. Our holdings no longer fit in the main window, only the save/load interface can show the true span of our glorious under-empire.

In Lustria we're wrapping up the last minors and moving our forces north towards the Isthmus. Just next door our armies have finally landed in Ulthuan and are ready to get started on our inefficiently-timed conquest of the High Elves. Over in the Old Word we're just about done with the Empire and are moving towards Bretonia, Norsca, and Athel Loren.

Oh, and ignore the fact that Tilea is still there, it's intended. We're going to actually be leaving Miragliano until our very last turn, just to avoid triggering the Victory screen until we're really done. We're also constantly Stealing Technology from it with a whole pile of Warlock Engineer agents to farm research speed. This is largely pointless, since there's no real game-changing techs to get, but we don't really have anything more important to do with them.
This is our public-order map by the way. It's how I track which provinces still have rebels to farm, green typically means there's still a stack there.

We're actually starting to build PO buildings and shift away from rebel farming, at least in our newest acquisitions, since in most cases we'd rather use our new lords to form new offensive armies right on the front lines. We've got something like 10 lords recruiting units right now, I find myself wishing for a recruitment-slots-free map mode.
We're at 147 settlements out of 295 total, which technically puts us at just under halfway done. Of course that reasoning leaves out the fact that we're now taking 6 settlements a turn and are gunning for 10.

Unfortunately, despite the little burst of speed we're going to get as we open up the Ulthuan front, we're going to pay for that decision in the end game when we'll have a dozen armies sitting on their hands while just a few scramble to reach the far end of Naggaroth. A turn-80 victory isn't looking too likely anymore, but we can probably still snag victory before 90 though.

(I promise I'm done whining about that decision. Probably.)
Our amphibious assault lands in striking-distance of the great Fortress-city Lothern, which is completely failing to keep invaders out of inner Ulthuan. We'll still take it anyway, but come on guys... you can walk right past it. There's even a chaos army already inside.

Admittedly said chaos army isn't really causing any problems, it appears to just be chilling until the Strategic AI finds a city it's allowed to attack. Not the sharpest spikes on the armor these guys.
Oops, guess they heard that.

Seriously, this is the first threat we face upon landing on the sacred High Elf homeland...
Here's hoping we don't have to deal with too many more of these leftovers from the Invasion.

(Spoiler: we do)
Speaking of Chaos, we spy another one of their LL's hanging out with some dwarves. At least Sigvald seems to be actually attacking things, he must've gotten the normal horde AI instead of the weird invasion version.
Back on Ulthuan, Teclis decides her best strategic option is to leave her heavily fortified capital city and stand outside the gates instead. She doesn't even move that other army in to replace her...
15, and reported for feeding. Tyrion is probably raging so hard right now.
We boost Lothern up to level 5 and are disappointed to discover that it doesn't give a large amount of income like that Elven Colony down south. The landmark is also pretty lame from our perspective, oh boy more trade goods, just what we always wanted!
Over on the Bretonian coast we're opportunistically snapping up ruined settlements (seriously Bretonia, get your shit together, this place is a mess). We try to grab an unprotected minor too, but discover that level-3 Bretonian minor settlements get fricken walls. I mean, the files say it was that way in WH1, but you'd think I'd remember something like that.

Also, CA forgot to put income on the Skaven wine building, making it doubly useless for us.
Kislev is the last significant "Imperial" stronghold to fall. All that's left are a few little outposts on the northern coast, which is presumably where all the Empire Legendary Lords are hiding.
We're also just about done with Lustria. As we attack the Vampire Coast's final major settlement, they deploy their secret weapon: really annoying fog effects.

In all seriousness, the fog and dust in WH2 gets really over the top, especially on the world map. It can get incredibly annoying, even headache-inducing in some spots, I really have no idea why they decided to put it in. I'd love to try a camera or map mod to fix it, but even though they wouldn't make any changes to the actual gameplay, I'm trying to stay completely vanilla here.
Just Mousillon left for the Undead now.
And with only the Lustrian tribes for the Orcs it's a three-way race to extinction between them, the Undead, and the Dwarves. They're really only competing for the silver medal though, someone else is about to sneak an early win.
Orion can track his prey through the whole of Athel Loren, but can he see why Skaven love the taste of Warpstone Crunch?

Or why six armies just moved into his stupid forest?

Or anything at all in this bloody fog.
We put a fair amount of work into planning this, Athel Loren is just about the toughest nut to crack in the whole game. While the Wood Elves don't go all blitzkrieg and wind up owning half the world anymore, they do build up their cities and tend to keep a full stack in each of them.

This is going to be a meatgrinder, which is why we're bringing six stacks and have two more on the way.
Three armies, with a few elite troops mixed in, is just enough to allow us to use Auto Resolve without completely catastrophic losses, which is great, because I really don't want to play these battles.

Elvish Mel Gibson makes a decent showing, or at least his elite infantry units do. He makes 16.
These provinces are pretty much worthless to us, so we only bother boosting them up the level 3 so we can get an upgraded PO building and just ignore them for the rest of the game.
We also burn Elf-things' big stinky tree.

This is my first time seeing the new "occupied" Oak, I was slightly disappointed that we couldn't boost it any higher, and the econ boost isn't really useful to us, but the attrition immunity is handy. (We're still going to take attrition in the north-most forest though, its got like 60% chaos corruption for reason. Beats me how they managed that one.)
Unfortunately, we're going to have to actually fight this one.
Oh look, this map.

I liked a lot of the stuff they added with the Wood Elves DLC, and I get what they were going for with the lack of walled settlements and all, it's a neat concept. That said, why the hell did they decide to make every single Wood Elf settlement use the EXACT SAME MAP?

And it's not even a particularly good map either. Your choices on defence are really just that one hillside or shoving your entire army in the little valley way at the back, it's silly. This thing is like 25% of why we're not playing WE for this run, I still have flashbacks to doing a legendary campaign with them and fighting on this map something like three times each turn.

Well, whatever, there are mods to fix it in normal play (I think), and we're only actually going to have to do this one battle.
Dear god is this an ugly mess.
Could've been worse, and that's two Wood Elf factions down, two to go.
How many settlements are called Vaul's Anvil? I know there's one in Ulthuan, and I think there's another somewhere in Naggaroth. It's the Springfield of the Elven realms I guess.
Last one.
Legendary Lord number 17 goes down with less than a tenth as many kills as the Treeman in his garrison gets. I really have idea what the AR is doing.

And no, I'm not going to go in and play the battle manually just to save that unit of Stormvermin. They died for a glorious cause: saving me forty minutes of microing clanrats around. Reloading our quicksave would only cheapen their sacrifice.
And with that, the Wood Elves are our first "race" to go extinct. Time to pave this whole place over and build a mini-mall or something. Here's hoping there'll be a frogurt shop.

This also means we now have eight-ish armies ready to storm Bretonia, which is probably a bit overkill given that they've almost completely collapsed to Chaos rebels. I've honestly never seen this before, I think it's because I'm playing on "Easy" and the AI can't handle their public order without the usual bonuses.

Speaking of rebels...
Holy batman is that a rebel stack! ABORT! ABORT!
We scramble to pull together troops to deal with them, but fortunately after another of turn of recruitment they decide to go seige our level-5 Altdorf. It goes about as well for them as you'd expect.

This right here is why we vastly prefer Skaven rebellions over all the other types we can get.
We find one Altdorf's former residents hanging out up north, he appears to have made a friend.
Two of them actually. Queek's got dibs on Big Bird, but Archeon's stack is looking a bit weak...
YOINK!

(love the new fluorescent-pink helmet btw, you rock it girl)
Turns out Archie is Unbreakable, so we get to sit here and watch him stew in the clanrat moshpit for a few minutes.
Alive? Really? I call BS on that, I saw his little horsey run away and everything.
Thar we go. 18
And Queek grabs number 19 as he passes by.
Make that 20.

The Empire really hasn't been having a good time this run, the northern end of the Chaos Invasions did one hell of a number on them. At this point it's more of a mercy-killing.
This is more like it.

MY BODY IS READY.
It's an Underway battle, which means it's a complete fustercluck.

Big Bird is somewhere in that biggest pile, going 1 on 257 with Queek.
Fortunately he doesn't try to pull the same resurrection bullshit as Archeon, not that it would've worked given it was an Underway battle.

We can't really count this as a LL kill, but it does mean we're down to just Sigvald for "real" chaos hordes.
On the note of minor chaos factions, we run into this combined Chaos and Dark Elf Rogue Army that's settled up in Norsca. We'll just quick wipe them out-
SWEET MOTHER OF GARRISONS BATMAN!
I retract what I said about the Rogue Army guy at CA being cool, turns out he's a massive dick. This might actually be the meanest garrison in the entire game, AND THERE'S TWO OF THEM.

Thank god they don't have walls on top of it, and that they didn't manage to expand into any more settlements before they ran out of steam.

Anyway, as nasty as this is we've got a faaaaaaairly solid army here, so it wouldn't hurt to at least try and take one before our reinforcements arrive.
Ow.

WTB armor piercing damage.
Oh, and we knocked out Kislev and that south-west Lizardmen faction, leaving just the Empire and Mazzy respectively, and officially putting both races on the Endangered list.
Mappy map.

(It's a turn out of date, but I'm too lazy to go back and get another one)

As you can see, expansion is quickening even further. Our Athel Loren armies are about to go through Bretonia like a hot knife through stinky french cheese. Up north we're about to move into Norsca, which won't offer much resistance outside of that one Dwarf major settlement, it'll mostly be a matter of hiking through snow. Lustria is almost enclave-free, and we've got something like 8 armies crowding up into the Isthmus. Finally, we're expanding around Ulthuan in three of the four main paths, the far right one will be handled by the guys in Bretonia.

Our big problem here is, as I've already whined about, that we don't have a beachhead up in Naggaroth yet, meaning our final victory is limited by how fast we can walk our current armies up there. It's going to be a race between the armies crossing over from Bretonnia, the ones coming up through Lustria, and Queek who's going to ditch Norsca and leave it to the zerg armies.

Our current goal is turn 85, let's see if I screw up.
Honestly there's not much point recording our conquest of each individual HE faction. It's hard enough telling elf-things apart to begin with, why bother trying to keep track of their silly little clubs?
Especially when they only last for a single turn after we meet them.
We'll mention these ones, since they at least have fancier hats than the others, and you can *usually* figure out their gender if you really try. Like this one, if you look at her hard enough (our dwarf-slaves have informed us that both elf genders use "her" and "she"), we can be something like 76% certain she's female.
Total crap-shoot with these guys though.

(We'll add her to the list of unique-but-not-legendary lords we've killed)
Confusing Elf gender identities aside, we spot Morathi hanging out on Ulthuan for some inadiqueatley-explained reason.
And she makes 21. Our Legendary Lord Kill Counter can now buy booze and smokes without a fake ID, but it still uses one anyway, because it's the Skaven thing to do.
Instead of doing something productive like, say, recruiting a full army, Tyrion decides to pre-emptively attack our inside-right flank. She (or at least the AR) seems to think a bit to highly of her combat abilities.
Number 22 goes down in the usual writhing mass of fluid-spattered clanrats. (I have no idea what happened to chuck that one into the air like that.)
Back over in the Isthmus of Lustria Orcs become the second race to go extinct.
Well, except for this really inappropriately named rebel. Seriously I can imagine a bunch of the Dev's brainstorming generic Greenskin warboss names,
"Okay, we've got Bloodstompah, Grogbagg, Shazak, Hellgash, Nikspitt, and let's get one more."
>"Hmmm, how about... Jenkins."
"Jenkins? Like the guy down in Accounting?"
>"Yeah, the one with the weird laugh."
"BRILLIANT! Let's break for lunch."

Anyway, no more Orcs. Probably. It's sort of hard to tell with them, what with the random hordes and all. There also *might* be some holdouts somewhere up in the northeast. We'll just sort of pencil them in for the number 2 spot, and if we run into any later we'll just declare them a sampling error or something and sweep them under the rug before anyone from the EPA notices.
The "Southern" variety of Human is also threatened as we declare on the last nation outside of captivity. The ones we're keeping in Tilea are still nice and safe though.
A last alliance of cheese-eaters and Dwarves is briefly formed, providing a surprisingly difficult battle before the second-to-last Dwarfhold falls, and Alberic is TECHNICALLY a legendary lord (even if he doesn't even have a unique model), so that's 23.

I'm not sure why the Bretonnians decided THIS was the fight they wanted to go all-in on, but that was their last serious army. They've got nothing left.
Like I said, the place is a fricken mess. The Brets do NOT handle public order well on Easy.
We snag Couronne for ourselves before Chaos can grab it. The Bretonnians are pretty much down to just a single little holdout up in Norsca (right next to an Empire holdout, oddly enough). All we really have left to deal with in the Old World proper is this ugly pile of Chaos armies and Mousillon.
Up north we're spreading out along the peninsula, slightly hampered by all the attrition and ruined settlements. Aside from the usual Norsca factions, we've got little colonies from Bretonnia and Empire hiding up there in the suspiciously blue area, and the last dwarf-hold on the map trying to disguise itself as a particularly blue ice-sheet.
Norsca is pretty tame without the Foundation update.

We've taken long enough that Sutha Ek respawns, but he once again forgets to bring more than one chariot. We are disappoint.
And Dwarves are the third race to go extinct. That just leaves two types of elves, four-ish types of humans, Chaos, and the Lizardmen left to go.
Oh and some French Vampires, but we'd never wipe THEM out. They are our bestest friends, for ever and ever.

Or at least until those two fleets are out of his attack range. Naval AR can go suck my massive mutated rat, er, tail.
As we move six armies into Mousillon for totally non-nefarious reasons, Siggy decides to stop sieging harmless Brets and lightning-strikes one of them.

He might've misjudged things just a tad.
24

As a side note, I think dismounted LLs need something to keep them from getting stunned. Between the Priest's plague furnace and the Warlord's mount Siggy got bounced around like a ping-pong ball. This is Sigvald we're talking about though, so he probably enjoyed it.
Aww, our new friend decided he'd finish off Siggy's army for us. Isn't that sweet of him.
"Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!" - The Red Duke, probably
Sorry buddy, this doesn't rate an LL point.
And Vamps are the fourth. With this the entire Old World south of Norsca is under our control.

All these armies are immediately packed into boats and shipped towards the far end of Naggaroth, unfortunately we're looking at something like six turns before they'll be able to land, which makes our turn-85 goal look a little tight.
Our Lustrian armies are still steamrolling north. We declare on the Fattest of Frogs as we pass.
Mazzy responds by attacking an isolated army that's gotten a bit overextended. Unfortunately he forgot to actually bring an actual viable army of his own to the battle and the humans don't seem willing to help him, so he settles for just grumpily encircling the offending army.

I'm not 100% sure he's following the great plan anymore.
OH MY GOD THAT POOR DINOSAUR
We experience a moment of déjà vu as number 25's poor overloaded mobility stegadon falls over on a unit of clanrats, squishing them to the last skaven.
The Lizards officially come in 5th in the extinction race, and a handful of minors go out with them.

Also, since Siggy's army was wiped by the Red Duke we get the message saying Chaos has been vanquished, which seems a bit premature given that there's at least two of those generic invasion armies still wandering around Norsca.
More landmarks. It'd be really nice to have race-by-race map of all these and their effects. I hereby nominate someone else to make it.

With the Pyramid and the +lord-level tech we're working towards, we're almost to the point where we can get level-13 lords off the bat. This has no real practical use anymore, but I still think it's neat.

Oh, and the +winds buff would be nice too, but we actually have more magic than we can get through thanks to our other landmarks and all the lords with the +winds trait. I'm not exactly sure what the formula is for the magic recharge rate in vanilla, but boy does it feel slow compared to how big your reserve pool can get.

These are the last landmarks we'll bother with. There are some really nice ones up in Ulthuan and Naggaroth though, we just won't have time to build them. Hopefully.
At turn 80 we're done with all of Lustria, down to just a handful of elves left on Ulthuan, and have an entire fleet sailing north-west from Bretonnia at top speed. The timing of our victory rests entirely on how fast the rats running in those ships' giant hamster-wheels can go.

As a side note, when you transition from Lustria to Naggaroth the climate abruptly goes from blistering savannah to freezing tundra. Between that, the chaos corruption, and the various ocean hazards, every step we take is going to inflict some sort of attrition on us. This isn't a problem since we're bringing a ludicrous number of armies with us, but it does get a bit annoying.
And we're done here. The High Elves take 6th place, winning the coveted Balsa Wood Medal.

EVERYONE INTO THE BOATS.
Pictured: The last bastion of humanity in the Old World. Also the last chaos invasion army, just chillin on their boats watchin the world burn.

This is just mop-up we're already redirecting our west-most armies on the peninsula toward Naggaroth, Queek himself is about to make landfall somewhere just to the left of the screen.
Leonn and the Fay Enchantress see the writing on the wall and try to make a break for it.
They don't get far. Leonn is caught first, giving us our 26th LL kill and putting an end to crass french jokes for the rest of the run.
The Enchantress keeps trying to hide behind her porthole's border for some reason.

We still manage to find her somehow, and claim our 27th lord.
The Bretonnian sub-race (Homo Equestrius) is the seventh to go extinct.
Karl bailed as well, but thanks to the secret Imperial technology of BOATS, he's managed to do a little better at it than the Brets, even going so far as to burn his his only settlement down behind him. (Okay, maybe that was rebels, but still...)
He even stops to smash that one last Chaos invasion army on his way, just because he feels like it. That's how badass The Franz is.

Not counting the occasional rebel stack, this makes Chaos the eighth "race" to be knocked out.
Having sailed ALL THE WAY TO THE NEW WORLD, Karl sets up a new Empire, with blackjack and hookers.

So badass.

We'll let him live for another turn our two, he earned it. Also, our nearest army isn't in any shape to pursue him anyway, it got intercepted by *someone* before it could get in the water.
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
"Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn. Forth, Chariot Guys!" - Sutha Ek
Glorious.

I forgot why these armies were considered such a menace. He even got enough away for a credible round two.
The last battle for the Old World.
Not counting our little "human preserve" in Tilea, we are now the only faction from Norsca to Araby.
Well, except all the rebels and a brief outbreak of these guys. They must've been hiding down some hole somewhere, we shoo them away before anyone notices.

(The suicide-squigs were a nice little touch, shame the AR didn't give them any kills.)
The Naggaroth blitzkrieg has begun. I wasn't kidding about it being a massive traffic jam.

We've stopped recruiting new armies, they'd never reach the front line soon enough to be useful, and we're even disbanding the stragglers just to clear up the screen. We're also downsizing our rebel-farming a little bit. We still need some income though, since even with every province on the Food commandment we're not quite keeping up with our upkeep, but we only have 40ish settlements left to take, so our colonisation cost is minimal.

Anyway, the limiting factor here is how fast we can get Queek and those 3 north-eastest armies up past Naggarond. Looking at the distances there's no way we'll manage it by turn 85 like we were planning, but we've almost certainly got this before turn 90 unless we encounter any nasty surprises.
Nasty surprise number one is that Malekith here can reach both those armies trying to paddle past him, and since they can only use auto-resolve he'd completely crush them.
Luckily he's just as gullible as the Red Duke was.
Theoretically, we could've used this truce to move our armies up unimpeded and then take every settlement left all in one strike a few turns from now, but Malekith decided to move himself into Queek's attack range. It was just too much of a temptation to let pass.
Oh boy, a siege battle. It's not quite the last one of the game either, we'll probably have to fight one or two more if we don't want our north-eastest armies to wait for reinforcements.

Also, Darkshards on walls are surprisingly mean and Malekith get's downright beastly with all four of his items.
Queek takes number 28 down personally, wiping out the only Dark Elf army worth mentioning with him.

Time for the final sprint.
MASSIVE frickin traffic jam. Why did I stop to conquer Ulthuan first? WHY?
Well, here we are at turn 85, still stuck in traffic. Amazingly it looks like some of our overland forces are going to tie with our fleets in the race to Naggarond.

It turns out that all these wastelands and mountains that start with minor Orc factions are completely empty, which is good news since it means we won't run into any little fortified OPMs. Also, a beastman horde as also appeared up north, so we'll have to divert a little extra attention up there to make sure they don't get away.

Looking at movement range, we should be able to reach the two farthest settlements (Ironfrost and The Altar of Ultimate Darkness) in three turns if we keep moving the maximum possible distance each turn. So our new goal is firmly set at turn 88.
273/295 just 22 settlements left to go.

We can do that in three turns. Definitely
Oh, and we can finally recruit level 13 warlords, each of which would earn us over 10k a turn (minus upkeep, but that's only 4ish).

Not that the economy even remotely matters anymore. Hell, the only reason we're still farming rebels is out of a vague sense of completionism on my part. (I swear to god, I am NEVER doing another run that requires rebel-farming.)
Anyway, up north our armies tunneling/boating over from Norsca finally catch up with our little fugitive and the secret to all his success is revealed. The Regiments of Renown are actually a really strong boost for AI lords, since it lets them get around the AI's problems with recruitment and at least partially fill out an army even when they're down to a single settlement. I feel like the AI would really benefit from having this sort of recruitment mechanic for all LLs, not with unique units necessarily, just with a little pool of unique ones to keep them competitive when their recruitment options aren't good.
Not that "competitive" is going to cut it here.

The last uncollected LL, Karl "The" Franz goes down, making a grand total of 29 (-ish, we did sort of cheat with Wurrzag).

Queek would mount his head on the trophy rack with the rest, but he's busy sprinting like mad across the northern border of the map.
The Imperial Humans are the ninth to go extinct. Leaving just the Dark elves, a few Norscans, a single horde of beastmen, and their cousins down in Tilea alive.
Said cousins are getting really tired of being used as a source of Research Rate by the way.
So they decide to Declare Suicide.
We're saving them for last though. Don't want that Victory screen to trigger early after all!

We do remove their little army and put them under containment though.
As turn 86 starts the beastmen take out the last Norscan army for us, putting the vikings in 10th place in the extinction race.
While the beastmen themselves come in 11th.

Just two to go.
Naggarond falls to four zerg armies, the ones with move left continue pushing past it, putting three armies in striking range of the final province. Queek is desperately sprinting across the top of the map, desperately trying to reach one of the two north-most settlements hidden in the fog.
So close, just 7 left (plus Tilea). Everyone's targets are assigned, we've just got one little risk factor left:
Malekith has respawned and managed to retreat behind a city after we attacked him.

We don't quite have the range to chase and catch him if he decides to run for it, so we have to fight a really unfavorable city battle (at like 2am) or just hope really hard he sticks around for a turn.

(Well, I say hope, we really just reload the autosave six or so times until he does what we want. Our cheesiness knows no bounds)
In preparation for our final turn, we finally stand down all our rebel farmers. It wouldn't do to have one stack escape across a river or something, prolonging our final victory on a technicality.

(The predicted-PO map is how I've been tracking our farming operations btw. If a province that should be red isn't, that means there's a stack I missed. We're stack-free currently, so all these red provinces are where we were farming. This is AFTER downsizing.)
You hear that?

The silence?

Absolutely glorious.

Now let's finish this.
All seven cities fall, and Malekith (FINALLY) behaves.
The last Dark Elf in existence attempts to flee over the oddly defined border into Warhammer Canada or whatever.

He claims we don't have jurisdiction to follow him, but as you can clearly see, one of his dragon's claws is still over the line.
Book him boys.

Or eat him. That works too.
And with that, Dark Elves are the twelf (hehe) race to go extinct. God I hope I've been counting these correctly.
Naggaroth is ours! Mmmmmm, just look at them borders.

(IGNORE THE ALBION BEHIND THE CURTAIN, YOU SEE NOTHING!)
Just one last thing little thing to take care of.

(keep an eye on that diplomacy button folks)
Ah, the fabled Este Abatangelo, Last Defender of Humanity. So, at last we meet for the first time for the last time.

Truly, this will be an epic battle that will be sung of for ages to come.
AND WE'RE DONE HERE. 295/295

Southern Humans, and Humanity as a whole, are (oddly appropriately) the 13th, and final, race to be wiped out by our vermintide.
295 settlements taken, 112 provinces own, 13 races extinct, 29 legendary lords killed, and who knows how many unique factions destroyed.

And all in just 88 turns.

Now lets see that victory screen and some sweet, sweet stats...

Umm, is there a button I need to press or something? Maybe if I advance the turn?
Ohhhh yeahhh, reading comprehension. That's a thing.

Well this requirement is silly, good thing I have absolutely no emotional commitment to having EVERYTHING end on the same turn, and didn't babysit a valuable human city for something like 40 turns just to do so. No siree...
There we go. Finally.

(As a fun side note, I cannot actually load any saves after Tilea was destroyed. The game still runs without any other factions left, but it crashes if you try to load into that state.)
Giffy GIF!

So, before we look at the stats, In the immortal words of pretty much every speedrunner out there: This Run Was Garbage.

Looking back of the three and a half weeks this took, there are a lot of mistakes I could've avoided. Like inefficient early farming and loyalty management, some really bad troop distribution as we got into late-game, and a whole truckload of other minor time losses. This was mostly because this run was almost all done on the fly instead of being properly researched and planned out ahead of time, and I also didn't have enough patience to lose multiple turns and correct mistakes I'd made. With just the cheesey strats we used here, I'm absolutely certain it'd be possible to clinch things by turn 75 at least. Who knows how much better you could do with other tricks or races though.

And, of course, this was all on Easy, which'll completely invalidate the whole thing in some folks' eyes, but oh well, let's just call this Any%. I've got no real basis for how long a VH run would take (my personal experience puts it at the 125+ range), needless to say it'd be massively different from this one though, since abusing lord mechanics like we did only works on either low difficulty, or if you're playing Bretonnia. I may take a shot at it if there's enough interest.

Anyway, enough complaining. STATS!
No huge surprises here. The building count is higher than it really needed to be, since most of our income was from settlements, but it's so cheap and easy to fill out the slots as Skaven that it was worth doing just to satisfy my sense of completionism.

This does answer our question about the Faction Destroyed count though, and I find the War Declaration count amusing.

Oh, and we could've grabbed a few more techs if we really tried, but honestly we didn't really need them after the first few.
The income numbers get so big they lose all meaning, well except that trade one... If I was willing to waste a day on it we could keep recruiting warlords and see just how high it's possible to get it. I wonder if it'd eventually overflow like in the good ol' days of Rome 1.

The force count could've been higher if I'd just kept recruiting three lords a turn, but I had four crashes from the overloaded event-log and didn't want to push things any further. Every turn started with a minute of mashing ESC until all the popups about raiders, rebels, and traits were done, and anything that generated another event gave the game a small heart attack.

The lord and unit kill-count is 90% rebels. (More than half my playtime on this run was tediously grinding through them and trying to keep my attention from wandering.)
Once again, mostly rebels. More of them would be ambushes, but we never took our farmers out of Raiding stance.

I'd say just over half the personal battles were siege attacks, but I'm really not sure. Some of them were definitely rebels, because sometimes we'd just randomly roll a really nasty stack, especially in the Undead and Chaos tainted areas.

That one defeat was during the second chaos invasion. It was that or replay 2 battles and a bunch of rebel farming. It probably didn't cost us anything, but it was definitely galling.

99% of the captives "taken on" is from when we looted settlements. Otherwise we were always going for the extra food. We, of course, never ransomed anyone, because we didn't need the money late-game and the replenishment malus can be downright crippling in early game.
Not sure who died. We didn't really pay attention to heroes this game. Looking back, having a warlock in a few different armies to boost campaign move-speed would've been nice, it just takes to long to get more than one of them... The replenishment on the assassins was nice though, and the plague priests did some real work once we started recruiting offensive warlords.

Oh, and something like 99% of those actions were stealing technology from Tilea. They got down to -400 opinion before they finally attacked.
I'm out of stuff to talk about.

I hope this inspires someone else to do a far better run.

Let me know (by the email in the link below, or on reddit, or whatever) if there's any details you'd like filled in. Or if you want one of the 200+ save files for some reason.

If you'd like to read some entirely unrelated content from me, I do a bit of writing on the side, mostly about a an All Guardsmen Wh40k Dark Heresy campaign. You can find it and a bunch of shorter stories here:

http://www.theallguardsmenparty.com/

Check out another AAR:

Game: Europa Universalis IV

The Fleeing Phoenix Part 1

Images: 23, author: Mattekillert, published: 2017-02-01