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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Grand Cathay is Warhammer’s dragon-loving powerhouse

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To the far east of the Warhammer world, past the Mountains of Mourn and the Great Maw, lies the Empire of Grand Cathay: a vast, venerable nation possessed of the sort of swagger that can only come from being led by immortal, celestial dragons. 

Compared to Cathay, even the most established human empires in the Warhammer world look like mewling infants. Cathay’s history pre-dates the collapse of the polar warp gates and the arrival of Chaos. When the Ruinous Powers first swept the world, the Celestial Dragon Emperor took mortal form in order to gather human tribes and defend his burgeoning empire. That region became Grand Cathay: a landmass far bigger than the Empire and Bretonnia combined, and an ancient enemy of the dark gods. Given their strength in numbers, advanced artillery, and devastating magic, the Cathayans could have easily dominated the Old World to the west. Instead, they were happy to look inward, defend their borders, and remain fiercely isolationist. 

In order to defend his empire, the Celestial Dragon Emperor ordered the construction of the Great Bastion: a mighty wall, imbued with the magic of the emperor himself, which stands as a timeless edifice against the constant menace of Chaos. Should the bastion ever fall, the Cathayans believe their empire, and indeed the entire world, will inevitably follow. Despite repeated attempts, the Ruinous Powers are yet to properly challenge the Dragon Emperor. So far only Tzeentch, known in Grand Cathay as Chi’an Chi, has any kind of clawhold in Cathay; and even then only in the form of cults and petty rebellions. 

The rule of the Emperor and his consort, the Moon Empress, is absolute. But he’s currently absent, instead leaving the governance of Cathay in the hands of his nine children. That might make him sound like the sort of dad who plays trains in the shed while his children defend the house from burglars, they’re more than capable. Each of his kids is a natural born warrior, whose true form is that of a terrifyingly powerful dragon. 

Of the nine, four have been lost to time and enmity. But Miao Ying, the Storm Dragon, and Zhao Ming, the Iron Dragon, are at the forefront in the fight against Chaos. These are beings who are older and, in their own minds, wiser than most gods, but they neither demand nor require worship. In their natural state, the scions of the Celestial Emperor make normal dragons look like cartoon lizards. And let’s not even get started on wyverns.

Harmony is crucial in Grand Cathay, and this is as true on the battlefield as it is in governance. Their units receive buffs for fighting in unison, and this informs how they deploy. Rows of impenetrable spears hold the line while Cathay’s incredible ranged troops shred enemies from afar. Archers and crossbows are effective enough, but it’s the gunpowder units that sets Cathay apart. 

Crane gunners can snipe enemies from a terrifying distance, outranging anything save artillery, and Iron Hail Gunners are short-ranged specialists that can rip through armoured units like rice paper—essentially the Cathayan equivalent of a shotgun. The Grand Cannon is their most basic form of artillery, but it’s still highly mobile and deadly at range. But the Fire Rain Rocket is the ultimate in Cathayan artillery: a battery of explosive rockets that can annihilate massed troops. Even Cathay’s aerial constructions are deadly at range. As well as revealing hidden units on the battlefield, the Sky Junks can shower distant enemies with rockets and drop bombs on those unfortunate enough to stand beneath them. 

And it’s not just big guns, either. As well as standard horses, Cathay can field Great Longma Riders: armoured, flying cavalry that can trample any units that reach your line without getting shot. And towering Terracotta Sentinels, the ancient protectors of Cathay, provide an elegant and intimidating defence against most monstrous enemies. All this is before we even consider Cathay’s spellcasters: astromancers, alchemists and dragon-blooded lords have spent thousands of years perfecting their arts, and it shows on the battlefield. 

If you want to know what happens if you draw the ire of the Empire of Grand Cathay, just ask the Ogre Kingdoms. Legend has it their incursions into ancient Cathay annoyed the Celestial Dragon Emperor so much his astromancers dropped a literal comet onto the ogres, destroying two-thirds of their population and creating a hole in the planet that the ogres would later come to venerate as the Great Maw. Dragons, cannon, terracotta giants, and weaponised celestial bodies: you rouse the great  Empire of Grand Cathay at your peril.

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