Playing Slaanesh lets you engage in some real diplomatic shenanigans in Total War: Warhammer 3
Slaanesh is the god of excess in Warhammer. Sex, sure, but indulgence, vice, and the good stuff taken too far in general—a god of wine, drugs, fashion, decadent art, and throwing the best parties. When you play N’Kari, the greatest demon of Slaanesh in Total War: Warhammer 3, you get a global bonus to diplomacy with all factions. It’s no surprise that everyone loves you. You’re the popular kid whose parents have a pool and don’t lock the liquor cabinet. Of course, everyone wants to be your friend.
Diplomacy was a weak point in the previous two Total War: Warhammer games that was eventually improved through the mechanics brought by Three Kingdoms and Troy. A quick deal button lets you easily find potential trading partners or allies, and a balance offer button allows you to instantly accumulate the cash needed to complete a deal rather than having to guess the amount ( then to guess again when you get it wrong). Allies will build outposts to add to your garrisons and lend their armies directly to you if you ask nicely. There’s also an option to swap settlements, which means you don’t always have to go to war for the one city you need to complete a province. I mean, I always did, but I didn’t to have for.
N’Kari is uniquely positioned to engage in diplomacy through a mechanic called Seductive Influence, which represents your hold over the various human and elven nations likely to receive your offers. Any type of exposure in Slaanesh adds a few influence points, whether that exposure is a diplomatic agreement, a cult in one of their cities, or even a battle. As the corruption spreads through their lands, they suffer leadership penalties when fighting you. With enough influence, you can overpower non-playable factions like the Norse and Warriors of Chaos, turning them into vassals with the click of a button.
Building a network of vassals and allies on the map is useful because another new feature in Warhammer 3 is the ability to recruit directly from allies. N’Kari’s army is all about speed and has no ranged attacks except certain spells, but you can close the gap by recruiting friendly units. I like walking around with a few units of the blue horrors of Tzeentch, which fire balls of lightning, though in retrospect the pink flamethrower horrors would suit my color scheme better.
Another way to fill in the gaps is to trick soldiers into switching sides on the pre-battle screen. It took me way too long to figure this out because I assumed I had to unlock the ability first, but no, you just click on them, spend a favor, and they’re yours, but only for this fight. Being able to pull multiple units straight out of an opponent’s pocket seems like a slap in the face, but the ultimate swipe is to take those units and, since they return after battle, stick them in the front line to s ensure there are as few survivors as possible.
That alone would dissuade me from wanting to face Slaanesh in direct combat, but there are even more misdeeds. Any lord you defeat who escapes receives a Gift of Slaanesh, a party boon that provides various bonuses, including more seductive influence as well as an increase in the number of followers you gain each turn. These worshipers can be spent to create cults or summon an army of followers, which appear instantly but suffer attrition wherever there is not enough corruption. It’s like a cocked booze that kicks in and then dies out when the hangover kicks in.
All of Slaanesh’s mechanics play to the theme. Even your research tree is hedonistic to the point of parody, representing the work of perfume houses that compete to create scents so potent they can somehow reduce spell cooldowns and unit upkeep. . The descriptions of each scent read like the work of a professional wine snob, full of “floral top notes” and “lingering citrus haze.”
Equally ostentatious are the Slaanesh-themed Random Events. One described corpses falling from the sky in a “hail of supple bodies”, suggesting that our god was bored with his toys and was throwing away old toys. To provide new entertainment, I performed an opera for our enemies, earning a diplomatic bonus with them. This event was called “It’s Raining Men, Hallelujah!”
Even if you don’t play as N’Kari, Slaanesh’s role as the god of temptation and excess comes through. When you visit the Realm of the Lord of Pleasure to collect one of the souls needed to win the campaign, you receive rewards in exchange for returning. They get better as you descend this pit of concentric circles, which is shaped like Dante’s version of Inferno, only more sinister and purple. You might be offered a chance to rank up every lord you have by 15 levels, or the Blade of Slaanesh itself, a magic sword that adds +30 attack, deals +500 damage, gives you 20% save and makes you unbreakable. You might even be offered the Lover of the Dark Prince, which increases control of all your provinces by 25, and can either reduce control of an enemy province by 50, or increase growth of a local province by 250 ( !) dots.
Going to the Kingdom of Slaanesh first so you can score something like this to carry you through the rest of the campaign seems like a pretty good deal. That’s how they get you, because in the meantime some of the AI forces are out there getting other souls, putting you behind for the rest of the game.
Playing as Slaanesh is an interesting experience. You’re not the best on the battlefield, though it’s fun to deploy a bunch of whip-wielding marauder daddies as meat shields, tying up opponents so they can be flanked by faster units like daemonettes and tanks that presumably have bumper stickers saying “Slaanesh does it from behind.”
Away from the battlefield is where you really shine. Like Cao Cao in Three Kingdoms, Slaanesh is as much about manipulating factions through diplomacy as eradicating them through force. Warhammer 2’s high elves could do a bit of that, spending influence to change how factions feel about each other like you’re alternately playing matchmaker or some sort of rumor-sowing neighborhood gossip, though. that’s nothing compared to the kind of hijinx N’Kari can get up.
As I expanded through the Wasteland, I realized that the Tong faction controlled a settlement I wanted: The Writhing Fortress in The Blood Marshes, where I could construct a unique faction building called The Pandemournium to earn a little more control and growth. I would have gladly traded another settlement for this, but they weren’t interested in anything I had. So I declared war on the Tong, seduced four of the Writhing Fortress’ garrison units to my side to help me take it, then conquered the rest of the province without slowing down thanks to an army of followers that I called on the spot. As the Tong furiously gathered for retaliation in the nearby region, I used the dominate ability to vassalize them. Now, not only are we at peace, but they are paying me every turn for this privilege.
It’s not something I could have done in any of the previous games or any other faction. I’ll miss that kind of Slaanesh shenanigans when playing someone who worships a more boring god, like “the concept of war” or “a bear, but really big”.