Attila the Hun never got to burn Rome – but he did get close. His armies, ravaged by famine and lack of resource, got to her doorstep before turning around and retreating – much to the relief of Rome, suffering under those same conditions. Still, in his bloody sweep across the continent, Attila the Hun has pillaged and plundered his way to the history books as one of the great conquerors. Now, you have to deal with him in Total War: Attila, the upcoming entry in the franchise.

Total War: Attila picks up where Rome 2 left off. The glory days of the Roman Empire are all but over, with enemies both without and within circling like a pack of wolves, just waiting for a chance to attack the once-mighty giant. Countless small factions have turned into nomadic tribes – bands of desperate men and women, all scrambling to get as far away from the Huns as possible. And of course, there are the Huns themselves – they would make great neighbors if not for their propensity to set fire to everything in their path.


For that authentic tribal existence, Attila introduces the “Nomadic Tribes” mechanic for the first time in the series. For those nations, there’s really no place to call home. No cities, no towns, no settlements, nowhere to hang the bloody ax after a long day of pillaging. Life is a journey and every province is an all-you-can-eat buffet as you try to pillage as much as possible before either legionnaires or Huns show up. It’s really a lot like dine-and-dash, only the waiters are barbarians on horseback.

I played as one such tribe during the limited 40-turns preview we got, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how fun this new mechanic is. It’s a complete change from how Total War games have played out for me since my first time with the franchise, all the way back in the first Shogun game. What it boils down to is this: you travel and pillage as far away from Attila and his hordes as you can. When you managed to get some distance, you can set up camp – a sort of easy-bake city – to do what needs to be done for your tribe to survive. You reinforce your armies, you develop better pointy sticks for your men and then, when the horizon fills up with the telltale smoke the Huns leave behind, you pack it all up and away you go.


Depending on how well you play out your battles and plan out your expenses, this cycle can go on for quite a while. In the end, though, you will need to start thinking about settling down once more – an actual city to call your new home. The change from nomads to settler is hard, especially when settling on someone else’s land that might still have a couple heads on pikes from one of your earlier visits. A lot of the nomadic gameplay bonuses are lost when you settle down, and newly-captured cities aren’t exactly the best at providing for your people. This is the point where the already-difficult game gets even harder.

Unfortunately for my little tribe, by then I reached turn 40. I would like to believe that they prospered, becoming peaceful farmers that almost never decapitate a neighbor, weathered out the Hun invasion and got the happy ending they deserved. Or they all perished in famine. In Total War: Attila, it’s really a coin-toss between the two.

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