We got a look at the Irish last time we saw Thrones of Britannia, the Total War Saga spin-off, and this time around the Welsh kingdom of Gwined and the viking realm of Northymbre were in the spotlight. The Welsh are led by King Anararaut, and start with a highly defensible position on the island of Ynis Mon – modern day Anglesey. Anaraut’s father, Rhodri the Great, was a great king who brought the Welsh together, but after his death, his sons have somewhat predictably fallen to infighting. As is often the case in Total War, you’ll have to unify your neck of the woods to establish a stable base for going after enemies further afield. Luckily, the rugged terrain of Wales will make it just a bit easier to hold off outside invaders until the civil war is wrapped up.
As you gain more land, you’ll have to start concerning yourself with the new Estates system. Estates are a resource gained from capturing agricultural settlements like farms and orchards. Your faction leader will take possession of them initially, but characters like governors will grow resentful and rebellious if they aren’t given what they feel is their fair share of the total estates you own. Thus, with each new conquest, you’ll have to decide how to divide up any new estates amongst your followers. On the bright side, handing out estates is one of the easiest and quickest ways to raise a character’s Loyalty – which is crucial if you want to keep them from rebelling against your rule.
The Welsh’s unique cultural mechanic is Heroism, representing an era in the region’s history when legends about larger-than-life figures like King Arthur were starting to gain popularity and shape the identity of the people who saw themselves as the original Britons. Winning battles, having control over Welsh culture provinces, and leveling up your generals will have a positive impact on your Heroism rating, which provides strong bonuses as it builds.
On the battlefield, the Welsh have the best archers and some of the best cavalry around. Their top-tier longbowman can fire further and do more damage than any other bow unit. This comes coupled with changes to how arrows work in Thrones of Britannia – they now have a chance of scoring critical hits that kill instantly, so units being fired upon can now take casualties even on the first volley, whereas in previous Total War games that would only happen when enough damage had been done to a unit’s hitpoints from repeated volleys.
Cavalry have quite a bit of a different role in Thrones of Britannia than in many other Total War games – as they did in this era of British history – since cultures like the Welsh, Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings didn’t really make use of a lot of heavy horsemen as core components of their armies. Rather, cavalry are a lot more about speed, maneuverability, and flanking. Trying to charge directly at the front of a shield wall is going to totally waste all of a cavalry unit’s main advantages. You’ll want to use them for side and rear charges and for chasing down lightly-armored units like archers. They can’t really be trusted to tank it out in a long melee engagement, so it’s all about knowing when to press the attack and when to pull back.
Northymbre, led by Guthfrid, is one of the two Anglo-Norse factions descended from the Great Viking Army that attacked Britain about 15 years before the campaign starts. They have just suffered a defeat at the hands of the English at the Battle of Edington, and are for once on the defensive, trying to consolidate their conquests. The unique mechanic for these factions is called Here King, and represents the balance between pleasing the English subjects they now rule over while still providing opportunities for conflict and plunder their viking warriors crave. Keeping the locals happy will give economic and public order benefits, while making them angry can destabilize your realm. Keeping the army happy will give you bonuses in combat, and penalties if their lust for adventure is not appeased.
Northymbre, specifically, has the unique trait Ragnar’s Legacy, which has them seek to avenge the death of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok, earning bonuses along the way.
In battle, the Great Viking Army is all about making use of their excellent axe units, which are ideally suited for cutting through shields and thick armor alike. Units like the shield-biter and berserker can enter a frenzy that makes them terrifyingly dangerous to nearby friends and foes alike. They also fight well in a shield wall, a formation available to most faction’s shielded infantry that gives some charge defense and provides excellent deflection against missiles. Their cavalry isn’t the greatest around, but great, offense-focused shock infantry can serve to make up for this when well-positioned.
T.J. Hafer loves when video games and history collide. Chat with him about it on Twitter @AsaTJ.