Mini-Review: Clan Moulder

With Warhammer: Total War 3 on the chaos-filled horizon, I am probably going to stop playing the second installment as much as I usually do. I want to wrap up the few DLC factions I’ve yet to play and then take a break so I can head into the sequel with renewed excitement. To that end, today I am looking at Clan Moulder.

Moulder is a bit of an odd case among the Skaven line-up. Its home base is in Hell Pit, nestled between the Chaos Wastes and Kislev. A cozy place from where they practice their hobby of gluing together all manner of horrific monstrosities. However, playing the game in the usual Mortal Empires campaign blocks you from actually experiencing the special storyline attached to the faction’s legendary hero, Throt the Unclean. You need to play the vortex campaign to get his story, even though it has nothing to do with the vortex at all.

Throt is a fattish Skaven scientist, a master mutator, who is afflicted by never-ending hunger. He eats several times his body weight per day and is perpetually irritated even when food is freely available. Deny him his meals and Throt becomes a raving lunatic. In the Vortex campaign he’s tricked by the evil forest spirit Drycha into invading Naggarond under the belief that the flesh of the Demigoddess Ariel will cure his insatiable appetite. He starts all the way north just below the Mung Norscans.

Uniquely for Warhammer: Total War, Throt’s campaign is timed. There are a number of Wood Elf settlements that you must either raze or claim for yourself to force Ariel out into the open. You start with 50 turns and each settlement you raze extends the timer, which I felt was well-balanced. It’s lenient enough that you’re not constantly feeling the timer loom over you, but knowing I was under pressure to keep up the pace motivated me to play the game differently from how I usually would. I’d take detours to avoid getting tangled up into conflicts with the locals or I’d accept bad peace offers because the time it’d take to keep on fighting just wasn’t worth it.

The Wood Elf settlements are nicely sprinkled around to move you all over the place and that makes expanding even trickier than usual for The Skaven. Adding to the challenge of this campaign are the powerful Dark Elf neighbors you’ll be dealing with. While they were content to agree to non-aggression pacts, I found them to be unreceptive to further diplomatic deals. This left me starved for money throughout much of Throt’s quest, devoid of allies, and constantly risking the uneasy peace as I had to trespass all over Malekith’s backyard.

The settlements are also not easy to overcome. Each of them comes with a sturdy Wood Elf garrison, alongside a commander with troops. They aren’t full-stacks of the most powerful units, but a single Skaven army without the time, money, or room to set up higher-tier recruitment facilities will certainly be in for some memorable and difficult battles. With the mandatory settlements defeated, you can choose to trigger the final battle at anytime before the timer runs out, or hunt down a few more Wood Elf hangout spots to make the final battle easier.

Of course, Clan Moulder has their own solutions for recruitment issues. While they might not have the funds or infrastructure for training facilities, they do have their own unique lab. A green meter on your HUD fills up as turns go by or when you win battles, and at set milestones you can choose to cash it in. This provides you with a stack of mutagen and a handful of units that can be instantly recruited for free through a special recruitment tab available when you are garrisoned.

You receive various slaves alongside a horde of Clan Moulder’s finest monsters; the higher the milestone, the better the beasties. Mutagen can then be used in a special interface where you can pick various mutations for your units. There are a lot of options to pick from that let you customize your army in novel ways. You do have a risk that things go awry and debuffs are applied alongside The Mutation, but you can recycle such units for a rebate and simply try again later.

It’s a fun mechanic to play around with, which encourages you to make monster-oriented armies instead of relying on the typical ranged meta builds that Skaven also excel at. Why spend 4 turns waiting on an expensive unit of Rattling Gunners when you can press a button to pull Rat Ogres straight out of your arse? Why not also decide that those Rat Ogres should have vanguard deployment and the ability to call down warp lightning? The sky’s the limit when Skaven science is thrown into the mix!

If I have to raise a complaint, it’d be that Throt’s story isn’t told very well. His quests tend to be somewhat random in their objectives and he only has a single quest battle outside of the big finale. A quest battle that inexplicably teleports him all the way back to Hell Pit for a quick scramble with Norscans, which serves only to unlock the unique hero Ghoritch. The storyline also got a little silly when I managed to wipe out the Heralds of Ariel, but the game had to pretend like they were still there and totally in control of The Witchwood for the plot to work. The final 30 turns of my campaign then just felt like busywork as I mopped up some elf resistances and grinded where I could to put together an end-game army.

Still, I highly recommend giving Clan Moulder a shot. It’s a great way to experience both The Skaven as a faction as well as the Vortex campaign itself. Their political and financial situation were a fun challenge to overcome, and got me to enjoy a faction whose campaigns I typically felt were too easy and kind of boring. The final battle is also suitably challenging and concludes the story on an amazing note.

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