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Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March

Re-dawn of war

Wait, come back. It's different this time. Giant vomiting trolls. Orc Shamans that attack enemies with ten spectral fists. Flying Dark Elf harpies with hairy bumcracks. Dark Elf riders atop Cold Ones - huge, armoured lizards with flicky tongues. Sounds good, yes?

Fantasy RTS Mark of Chaos didn't do the trick for either the dice-and-tape-measure crew or the mouse-and-minimap brigade (we gave it a mere 69%). So we all slunk back into the holding pattern we've got used to over the last decade. Wait a few more years and maybe another developer will have a go at doing Warhammer right. One day. Well, maybe that day's not too far off.

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Battle March is the first expansion pack for Mark of Chaos. It's also a version 1.5, a chance to make things right. Most obviously, it's got new races - as every RTS expansion has. In this case though, these races change the nature of the game, in the same way growing a beard makes any man behave a little like Ernest Hemingway.

W:MoC aimed for dark and gritty, but came close to drab and characterless. With its new races, the Orcs and Dark Elves, it goes straight for the crazy. They're a bit more colourful, a little brasher and a whole lot giggle-and-clap-your-handsier.

Instantly, Mark of Chaos becomes a more interesting place, and its engine is far better suited to such big 'n' uglies than it was to Just Some Men. It's now sporting more of the Games Workshop character that was lacking in the original.

There's a new campaign, offering spots in the limelight for Orcs, Gobbos and Dark Elves alike, and it's aiming to be a little flashier. These are not noble races, so the humour's turned up higher - the Orcs especially bicker among themselves, make daft claims about their own awesomeness, and generally cause a big mess rather than having some grand plan. That's more like it.

What of the combat? It was a little... insubstantial in W:MoC. Well, there's no major shift, but it has been tweaked. There seems to be more sense of impact when armies collide - previously, it felt like watching Sealed Knot novices trying to raise the courage to stab each other with collapsible swords.

Now, it's more MONSTERS, FIGHTING. Whether this will remain true beyond my initial celebrations at hot goblin-on-elf action, I don't know.

Certainly, the Total War feel is stronger than ever. There's no resource-hunting or base-building. You field a huge army against another huge army, ensuring you've got the tactical advantage even if you don't have the numbers. The twist is magic.

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There's still something hilarious about seeing an enemy advance in meticulous rank and file, then hurling a fireball to scatter the arrayed troops like ninepins.

So, Battle March has got the character it needed. If it can also nail the scale and brutality of Warhammer combat, there's every chance this is yer classic 'victory from the jaws of defeat' story. But with more troll vomit.

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