Welcome back everyone! Time flies. And today we’re covering Mordheim: City of the Damned, a video game recreation of Warhammer Fantasy’s neat little urban combat sim. It’s the story of a city struck by a comet, and the dozens of odd warbands looting the remains. It was released November 15th, 2015. It took me… several tries to get into, as the difficulty curve is high and there’s a number of little tricks the game never explains. That said, I’ve learned to love it.
It’s not a fun place.
At it’s core, it’s very similar to X-COM: a turn-based strategy game where you slowly build up a force of elite units to take on challenging missions, where you seek to defeat the enemy force through superior positioning and other tactics. Movement and Attacks are granted by Strategy and Offense Points, which your units slowly gain as they rise in level. That said, there’s much more room for customization (at least compared to the first Fireaxis X-COM remake, I’ve admittedly not played the others yet). For example, you can arm your basic henchmen with dual maces that will supplement their damage and hit rate… at the expense of needing more Offense points to attack. Or you could arm them with a dagger that will counteract the enemy’s ability to dodge or block, then give them a shield to better block or leave their hand free to better dodge. Ultimately your henchmen are just support for your Heroes, Leaders, and Impressive units, which get more Offense and Strategy points while also having much better stats.
The devs beautifully captured this horrific fallen city. There’s plenty to exploit in the environment, and traps that you will step in at the worst possible time.
Your units can learn new abilities and spells, but they’re not cheap and the stat requirements are fairly high. Additionally, whenever they’re downed in battle, they run the risk of developing a permanent injury that reduces their abilities or just dying outright. Nothing stings quite like losing one of your favorite warriors to a wound that completely gimps their build. There’s 4 factions available at start, covering the basic strategy staples like “slow moving but powerful” and “weak but fast”, as well as a couple DLC options that offer more nuanced variations. I particularly like the Cult of the Possessed, whose random mutations and ridiculous capacity for damage make them a blast to play with.
Everything is decided by dice rolls. Sometimes the dice hate you.
To get money in any meaningful quantity, you have to bring in Wyrdstone, the precious resource the comet brought to the city of Mordheim. It exists in every battleground, and grabbing it where you can makes the difference between not being able to pay your warriors, and affording the skill trainings and items that let your warband excel. On top of that, your benefactor will insist on regular shipments to keep them appeased, and you don’t want to keep them waiting. As a bonus, you will get small perks such as being able to hire units from other factions, as you send the secondary groups more Wyrdstone.
The Sisters of Sigmar generally don’t do ranged attacks, so keep those archers handy.
The good news is, once you’ve built up a properly good squad through the randomly generated skirmishes, you get to play, in my opinion, the best part of the game: The story missions. Unlike the skirmishes, the enemy’s stats and such are fixed, so you won’t have a force that is always right on par with yours, and the enemy is instead a threat through their steady trickle of reinforcements. As such, you feel like a total badass, your warriors dropping enemies by the dozen as they clamber across massive battlegrounds, completing objectives while your “Dramatis Personae,” a supercharged Leader Unit, shows you what you’re building towards.
Wyrdstone makes the wyrd go round… No I will not apologize.
While I understand brutal difficulty, and the attrition that comes with it is very much a part of the Mordheim experience (in a way that makes it a sort of spiritual parent to Darkest Dungeon), I feel like the devs went just a little too far. The enemy will chase down wounded targets that present no threat, loot your downed warriors even if it means they’ll die the next turn, and otherwise focus on hurting you rather than enriching themselves. Which, they can get away with since their warbands don’t have the same permanence yours do. Between this, and the AI always roughly matching your strength in skirmishes, you -will- fight dirty and you -will- exploit any holes you find in the AI as ruthlessly as possible. I suppose that befits the setting, but it feels needlessly artificial.
Stuns drain enemies of their Offense and Strategy points while leaving them open for yet more punishment. Just pray it doesn’t happen to you.
And while you’re encouraged to treat your warriors as disposable, as only the warband as a whole ultimately matters… I just can’t do it. I get attached to my troops, even the henchmen that I should have let go the second they were injured. The game doesn’t help by letting you customize their appearance and giving them a “Bio” tab for you to fill out if you need it. No joke, I outright cheered when one of my newbies survived a match against level 5 enemies, while managing to land his own kill. So… yeah, if you’re like me, that aspect of the game may be hard to swallow.
Story missions have fun surprises like gates controlled via levers and- OH HAI BLOODLETTER!
Ultimately, it’s a fun game with a impressive array of ways to develop your army and make it feel like yours. If you enjoy Turn-based strategy, or Warhammer Fantasy, I think you’ll enjoy it. The game runs for $40 on Steam, though DLC pushes it closer to $70.