Mordheim…A city torn asunder by destruction and madness. A place full of riches to be gathered, a rare element known only as Wyrdstones the most valuable. A city full of wreckage; broken and shattered buildings, cracked roads, and misleading pathways. A place not for the faint of heart.
It is into this city you prepare yourself. Gathering the lands mightiest warriors under your banner. The riches lying within shall be yours and yours alone. Many will pay handsomely for the treasures to be found, especially those all-powerful Wyrdstones… With your Warband carefully assembled, it is time to claim the fame and fortune you’ve always dreamed of…
At least that’s what I thought was going to happen…
Having been a life long gamer, a tech geek to the core, I scoff at things such as “manuals” or “tutorials”. Things such as these are for the noobs, the uninitiated, surely not something someone of my caliber wastes their time with. There is gaming to be done!
After my first mission deep into Mordheim, I quickly retreated to the tutorial menu asking myself, “What just happened?!?”
At first glance this wonderful adaption of the Warhammer fantasy setting, familiar to many as a Table Top game, is a true to its past turn-based, tactical RPG. A simple plan. Build a warband, engage in adventures throughout Mordheim, collect loot and experience points, grow more powerful, collect better loot, rinse and repeat. Let me assure you, Mordheim is much, much more. Even the most thoughtful tactition will find themselves wondering how they did not see the ambush coming!
Having suffered my embarrassing defeat and reluctantly turning to the tutorial menu, I expected the usual. Introduction to this, advanced that, play a simulation match. Good job, now go play. I was instead greeted by a menu of no less than 12 tutorials, ranging from combat basics to warband management and advanced warband combat maneuvers… Clearly this game was much deeper than I originally thought…
Slowly making my way through the tutorials, I found myself with a deeper understanding of the various combat mechanics and available strategies. It was not long before I desired another shot at fame and glory!
Starting up a new Human Warband (You may choose between 4 factions each with unique characters, abilities and more: Human Mercenaries, Skaven, Sisters of Sigmar, and the Cult of the Possessed). I quickly began hiring my underlings, with a nice balance of melee and ranged, and dove into my first battle.
My warband fought hardily, swinging their swords with all their strength and aiming their bows as sharply as possible. Minutes later I found my warband decimated and “routed”, a term used in Mordheim meaning your warband fails their morale check. A nice way of saying, “Your warband is scared out of their minds and have fled the battlefield just at the thought of the impending obliteration!” Yes, my well trained soldiers simply looked at what remained of their comrades, the over-powering force still remaining and said to each other, “This is not worth it my brother, RUN!”.
One of my favorite things about Mordheim is even though you lose an engagement, it is not the end of your story. The after action results vary from a soldier returning unscathed to a soldier losing a limb (one of mine lost his left hand, so much for his pen-chance for dual-wielding…) and many a concussion. By spending gold pieces, you can pay for treatment of these warriors as well as pay the upkeep of your forces. An unpaid soldier is unlikely to stick around very long. However, failing to treat the ailing could bring about a worsening of their injuries, perhaps even death!
As with any RPG type of game, experience points are awarded post battle to each warrior based on the outcome as well as their individual performance. Upon leveling up, they have Stat Points you allocate to one of three sections: Physical, Mental and Martial. At certain levels your soldiers are also awarded Skill Points which are used to purchase active or passive skills. The sheer number of available skills is overwhelming at first but become clear to even the most casual of RPG players as you play. For example, your archers have no need for increased Charge range. If they are charging, your warband is in very big trouble!
The trick, of course, is keeping them alive and healthy long enough to get those precious stat and skill points. In my play-through, gold was a difficult commodity to keep in the early goings. Many a soldier died to their wounds due to my inability to treat them, and many an encounter was attempted with less than a full warband to make my stand.
How do we make sure to keep a constant supply of gold coming? Simple. As you play each encounter, there are three types of loot-ables. The first being the all so important Wyrdstones. These come in three sizes and are clearly marked on the strategic map. Collecting these is paramount to keeping a steady income as well as boosting your reputation with various factions by fulfilling shipment requests. Secondly, you will encounter scavenge-able areas. These are also marked on your map and are to be sought out, looted and added to your treasury. Keep in mind, while each character has limited inventory space, they can return to your wagon aka “home base” while on a mission to deposit items and head out in search of more. The third type of loot, the most rewarding in my opinion, is that which you take from your fallen foes. Each enemy knocked out of combat will drop a loot pack. What is contained inside will vary but always worth a look. Some missions will include sub-quests to seek out a certain enemy, kill them, and steal their unique item, similar to a bounty of sorts.
As for the campaign itself, it functions in a simple fashion. You are allowed to attempt one mission per day regardless of success or failure. Managing your warband both before and after your chosen mission is key to success. Treat injuries, apply level ups, or perhaps swap a melee for a ranged. (you can keep soldiers in your reserves for this purpose). Pay a visit to the shop to sell unwanted items and purchase new ones. Be sure to always check the black market for those ever so important Wyrdstone requests which are timed missions where a faction gives you X number of days to send Y weight in Wyrdstones. Completion boosts your reputation with the faction granting you bonuses as your reputation levels up. When you are ready, proceed to the next day, tackle another mission, and hope your tactics have improved from the day before.
Certain missions on the map progress the main story line while others are the equivalent of side quests, missions you undertake on your own choosing each with a random map, setup, and sub-quests to complete. The pure randomness of these missions, maps and goals (not to mention which side of the battle scenario you would end up on) make for near endless replay-ability. In my first 10 or so hours of playing, I never touched an actual “story” mission. Instead, I opted to grow my power and wealth through these “side” missions before tackling the story.
I am currently still delving into the City of the Damned and wondering if I will ever feel powerful, rich, or successful. The defeats are as exciting as the victories as you are sure to learn a lesson or two from the loss. Even in defeat your warband grows stronger, so don’t let those defeats get you down. Sort your warband, progress to tomorrow and delve back into Mordheim, for this time, victory shall be ours!
The Veteran system is a unique offering in Mordheim. Your soldiers level up independently, then your warband as a whole, and then you the player levels up. As you accomplish various challenges, your Veteran level increases granting a bonus across all future (or sometimes present) games. This unique offering allows the player to feel like they are the “true” commander, whose knowledge and skills grow as they play and are applied to any allies that rally to their side.
Mordheim offers the player a difficult challenge with a steep learning curve and unforgiving enemies and battles, but it also offers a unique reward as you learn more about the game, unlock new types of heroes and soldiers, find more powerful loot, and become a true “Veteran” of the game. Do not let the somewhat painful start of the learning curve or a few early defeats ruin the wonderful experience this game offers. A true tactical combat RPG set in a world steeped in lore and stories, each map you fight through reminds you that you are delving in and pillaging the City of the Damned.