Khorne Campaign Mechanics – kill, maim, burn


Total War
October 25 2021

Welco-yes, yes, blood for the blood, skulls for the skull throne, we’ll get to that. It’s time for some more campaign mechanics, this time focused on the hunter of souls, the blood god, lord of murder, and the Chaos god of war, honour, courage, rage, strength, and hate – Khorne. His exiled bloodthirster, Skarbrand, leads the most savage daemons of the Chaos Realms, who bring their wrath down upon all the other peoples of the world. They do not deal, they do not show mercy, they simply produce blood and skulls for their patriarch. Onwards!

Skulls & The Skull Throne

Well, it simply wouldn’t be Khorne without Skulls, would it? Such is the importance to Khorne of his most beloved body part that Skulls form as important a currency for his warriors as favour and gold for other factions. Luckily, in a game with a title like Total War, just about everything you do is going to generate them – battle, sieges, post-battle decisions, dilemmas, buildings, and anything else.

Skull Piles are even spawned by enemy armies doing battle, so you can collect the proceeds from your enemies fighting amongst themselves. Khorne does not care from whence the blood flows or the skulls come.

Skulls are used for a couple of things, but the deadliest is piling on the Skull Throne. Whenever a large stockpile has been collected, it is expected – neigh, demanded – that it be lain at the feet of Khorne such that he may pile the Skull Throne ever higher. Doing so rewards you with a massive set of buffs, including bonuses to post-battle loot and movement range bonuses after razing settlements.

For it is the nature of this beast to continuously fight and destroy, with little regard for the building of civilization. If Khorne must occupy a settlement, it will be at significant cost of Skulls as the place must be properly adorned, the buildings set just right, and the proper rituals enacted to explain exactly why the buildings are not torn down with the people. Sacking or Razing are better options 90% of the time.

Khorne has a unique set of options after destroying a settlement, but that doesn’t have to be the end…

The Blood Calls

When a Khornate force overruns a garrison, the settlement is doomed. If they are lucky, a quick death will follow. But the purpose of that death is varied. Two new options are available to Khorne forces razing a settlement. Skulls for the Skull Throne generates a thousand skulls for your purposes, destroying the settlement and killing the people – predictable, if useful.

Blood for the Blood God greatly replenishes your forces and also spawns a new Blood Host army nearby. This army cannot replenish or recruit but is otherwise unlimited in its capabilities and costs no upkeep. The power of these armies scales with how many you have created, though the number of units they spawn with can be increased through various means.

As you can imagine, this army can then wander off and raze another settlement, spawning another army… Who can then team up with their friends and head off to another settlement – and so on. These armies spawn with their full movement available, so they can get going almost immediately. Obviously, as time goes on and they suffer attrition, losses in battle, and more, they will begin to lose potency. But of course, any skulls generated from a suicidal battle are as valuable to Khorne.

Redoubling the power of these armies is passive colonization. Should a Khornate faction have a settlement in a province it shares with razed settlements, those settlements will eventually be automatically colonised – at no cost – by that faction. Of course, someone else can come along and take it first, but… well, that’s what Bloodletters are for. This means you can spawn armies or harvest skulls and favour all you like, and eventually take the settlement anyway.

Speaking of Bloodletting…


Khornate armies exist for war and slaughter. Fighting sustains them as milk and bread may keep a mortal man ready to serve. Should they stop, they will begin to fade to nothing – lower replenishment and lower growth faction-wide, as well as less lust for battle from the army itself. The opposite is also true.

For every army you have that is rampaging across the land, it will have an impact on your growth rate, replenishments, global recruitment time, and more. As you can imagine, having a number of Blood Host armies all increasing your growth rate along with your main, more powerful armies is extremely powerful. With the amount of death and destruction handed out by a Khorne faction on a regular basis, they can also exist at a negative favour gain if needed, given the constant influx from battles fought.

Unholy Manifestations & Cults

As we mentioned in our previous, Tzeentch-based mechanics blog, there are a few shared areas for each Chaos God: Unholy Manifestations and Cults. They are special powers that can be used based on your corruption total, and developing foreign building slots in other factions, respectively.

The Unholy Manifestations for Khorne are:

  • Eternal War
    • Unlocked from the start.
    • Spawns a small Khornate army to attack your own army (triggering bloodletting, giving you skulls, favour, and XP from the battle.)
  • Call of Battle
    • Requires 1000 global Khorne corruption.
    • Gives an army +50% campaign movement range.
  • Slaughter Incarnate
    • Requires 2000 global Khorne corruption.
    • Doubles an army’s skull gains from battle for several turns.
  • Khorne’s Glare
    • Requires 3000 global Khorne corruption.
    • Disables a friendly army’s movement for several turns. At the end it razes the local settlement automatically and gives a massive number of skulls.

Pretty strong stuff, and remember that if Khorne is ascendent in the Great Game all their effects are increased even further.

As for cults, Khorne’s potential Blood Cult buildings include:

  • Hideout
    • Generates a steady supply of skulls per turn.
  • Fighting Pit
    • Gives bonus skulls with every battle fought in the province.
  • Lodge
    • Generates a large supply of skulls per turn if a lord of any faction is present.
  • Arena
    • Destroys the cult upon completion but teleports your faction leader (and their army) to the settlement. Dunno what they would possibly do to an enemy city once they get there, it is a mystery.

Tech Tree

Khorne’s tech tree surrounds the number eight, with various pillars of techs available with eight techs each. Only three of them are required to move to the next pillar and there are eight pillars in total. This gives you a lot of options as to how quickly you want to move through the tree and what you want to prioritise when.

As you can imagine, much of Khorne’s tree involves the slaughter of his enemies, with one entire pillar dedicated to eight techs just with bonuses for fighting specific factions. The rest are a mix of technologies for making units better, cheaper, faster to recruit, and such forth. You can also buff Blood Hosts and you chance to colonise ruins with Drawn to Destruction.

The majority of techs cost skulls to research, Khorne not giving up his secrets with a donation to the throne. You must prove your might in battle to receive his gifts. Passive gains of skulls are also available, though one comes with a diplomatic penalty with all other factions – but come-now, you weren’t hiring Bloodletters and Skullcrushers to make peace, were you?

Khornate (and daemonic) diplomacy

One element worth noting is that the mortal peoples of the world are… not fans of their daemonic invaders from the North. War is automatically declared between any daemonic faction and any non-daemonic faction it meets, with a couple of exceptions. Skaven are just mad/scheming enough to consider alliances, while Norscans, Beastmen, and the Warriors of Chaos are, of course, mortal servants. Slaanesh… well, we’ll get to them when we get to them, but what mortal can resist the God of Pleasure (and pain)?

Everybody else… not so much. Daemons may ally with daemons, but there’s always rivalries and Khorne in particular has a great hate of Slaanesh, despising the indulgences and eccentricities of his sibling. Also unique to Khorne are a number of diplomacy debuffs from technologies and decisions. Razing every city you come across and massacring the populace really does not make you popular, and nor does cutting the heads off everyone you meet and harvesting their souls for the God of Slaughter. The Exiles of Khorne, Skarbrand’s warband, even has diplomatic penalties with other Khornate factions, his legendary betrayal of their master far too much to forgive.

The note here being: don’t play Khorne to make friends. Play Khorne to make War (Total War, probably).

So long as it flows

Make war, commit slaughter, and engage in massacre and you will make a fine servant of Khorne. Skarbrand and his Exiles may not be the most subtle of factions, but they’re a hell of a lot of fun to play, and you have plenty of options for potential victims – and even some strategic alliances – along the way.

Or you could kill everything.