How to Win as Nurgle in Total War: Warhammer III

By Joshua Waddles

3 Feb. 2022

Grandfather Nurgle is the Lord of Sorrow, and CA wanted players to feel every bit of that despair when they try to play as this faction. Or at least those players who are used to playing aggressively.

The Poxmakers of Nurgle, led by Ku’Gath Plaguefather, are a defensive, tanky faction. They have few missile units and none of those will trade well with ranged units from more missile-focused armies. They do have a ton of hitpoints and defense, as well as various healing abilities allowing them to soak up a lot of damage, but they are also very slow, giving the enemy plenty of time to deal out that damage. Nurgle magic is good, but not excellent. It’s a bit more expensive and a bit less effective than other lores of magic. So while Nurgle is amazing at taking on melee focused armies and just outlasting them, his factions are probably more vulnerable to ranged attacks and magic than any other race in the game. But they make up for this (somewhat) with a very fast recovery time.

Before you do anything else, open your Plague Cauldron menu and give your army a pox. There’s a chance it’ll spread to your cities and give a bonus to growth. After you do that, it’s time for your first battle.

You start out at war with the Fleshgreeders, along with a couple of other factions but you’ll encounter the Fleshgreeders first. The Fleshgreeders are an Ogre faction, which is lucky because Ogre factions focus heavily on melee units. They have few ranged units to speak of and while they do have magic, you’re not going to have to worry about that for your first two battles. You’ll find a Fleshgreeders army ready to fight on turn one. You could make use of Nurgle’s instant recruitment ability and grab yourself a few extra Nurglings to make an easy fight even easier, but the army is likely to run away if you do that. You can still catch them but it’s good to save movement points wherever possible, so just attack right away and woop these dudes. There’s only three units, so you’d have to try pretty hard to lose this battle. Even so, it has to be fought manually, at least on legendary difficulty. The AI’s auto resolve cheats just cause too much damage when the player plays as a demon faction, even when the player’s army overpowers the AI by a ridiculous amount. Hopefully this gets tweaked in the near future but until then, get ready to fight pretty much every battle manually.

After you win the first battle, you get a quest reward in the form of a hero: a Plagueridden with the Lore of Nurgle. This is the same lore of magic that Ku’gath has. With limited Winds of Magic, it doesn’t do any good to level up both of them with the same spells (at least until after you’ve gotten all of Ku’gath’s other good skills), so give your Plagueridden the spells while you work on Ku’gath’s abilities. As always, you put your first point into Campaign Movement Range.

Next recruit yourself some Nurglings and take Glot Port. The Fleshgreeders will have more than three units this time, but there won’t be any magic. Keep your Nurglings close to Ku’gath Plaguefather because he gives passive regeneration for Nurglings. Be careful with your Plague Toads of Nurgle, but other than that the battle shouldn’t give you too much trouble.

Now you get your second skill point for Ku’gath. You’re going to want to put it into Hard to Hit. Ku’gath will never be hard to hit no matter what you put your skill points into, but this skill line has tons of health bonuses and Pestilent Decay at the end, which causes passive area of effect damage whenever Ku’gath is in melee (which, despite his status as a siege unit, he will be quite a bit).  

First get Rout Marcher, then Hard to Hit and work your way down, picking up hit point boosts until you get Pestilent Decay

Although it seems counterintuitive, there’s really not much benefit in ever using your skill points on Ku’gath’s Lore of Nurgle spells. They’re exactly the same as the Plagueridden’s spells. And since your Plagueridden can get on a Rot Fly eventually, he’s actually much more capable as a spellcaster than Ku’gath is. Because he can get to different areas of the map relatively quickly while on the Rot Fly while Ku’gath is eternally glued to his slow-moving palanquin. So it’s much better to pump up Ku’gath’s hit points, buffs and unique abilities and leave the Lore of Nurgle spells to your Plagueridden.

As for the Plagueridden, get Children of Nurgle for the healing. After that, your next goal is to get Blight Boil. As for your first technology, none of the first-level techs are very good so it doesn’t matter overmuch. So just work your way up to the higher-level techs.

While you’re still on the first turn, you’re going to want to build Microbial Bog in The Sunken Sewers (your provincial capital) to unlock more Nurglings. These ugly little dudes are going to be the backbone of Ku’gath’s army because of the buffs he gives them.  

Don’t forget diplomacy! Make friends with Maggoth Kin and (maybe) Tong. They’re your two neighbors to the west and northwest.  The Norscans to thesouth don’t particularly dislike you either, which is lucky, because you’re going to have your hands full rather quickly against The Flaming Scribes, an AI controlled Tzeentch faction to the north. You’re not at war with them yet, but you’re probably going to be. Hypothetically you could become allies with The Flaming Scribes, but that’ll be difficult, costing tons of money which Nurgle factions can’t spare. Plus Kairos Fateweaver is likely to confederate them anyway, taking away your friend and all the units he bought with your bribes.

All of that was just your first turn! Now it’s time to consolidate your province. You’re going to want to go after Stormvrack Mount. Keep recruiting Nurglings and increasing your unit cap. The Fleshgreeders control the other two settlements in your province also, but they shouldn’t give you any more trouble than they did in the previous encounters. Just check the lord’s abilities before every battle and keep your units spread out as best you can if he’s got an area of effect spell.

Those Ogres sure don’t seem worried about it.

But now that you’ve taken Stormvrack Mount, you’re going to encounter Clan Helhein, an NPC dwarf faction. Although you haven’t met them yet, they’re at war with you by default so you’re going to want to deal with them before you go to war with The Flaming Scribes. As a Nurgle faction, Tzeentch is your Kryptonite. So you need as few distractions as possible while you fight The Architect of Fate.

Speaking of which, you also start off at war with a couple of Orc factions and Kraka Drak, the Norscan Dwarf faction. By now they’re probably already sending an army toward Glut Port. You’ll be tempted to send an army down to raze Kraka Drak, since in addition to getting the Dwarfs out of your hair, it’s also worth a ton of loot money. But this is a fatal mistake. If you send an army that far south, you’ll inevitably meet Kislev, which is a lot more dangerous than Kraka Drak. That’ll happen anyway as Kislev starts invading Norsca, but you want to delay this meeting for as long as possible. So you’ll just have to keep beating Kraka Drak back with your garrisons, sometimes recruiting a temporary lord to disband after defending your city. The good news is that province defense plays into Nurgle’s strength. In most cases, your garrison can hold the enemy back while your towers inflict the army losses penalty, even if it’s a minor settlement. Build growth and garrison buildings after you’ve given Ku’gath a full unit stack. Nurgle can’t build walls in minor settlements, which is actually a good thing. Walls suck in Warhammer III for various reasons. And if the invaders look a little too strong for your garrison, no problem. You can recruit a lord and a couple of army units in the same turn. Of course money is an issue, so try to save a bit of that loot money when you burn up Clan Helhein.

At this point, it gets more difficult to predict what the AI is going to do or what the player will be forced to do. Tong starts off friendly with you, but, as a Warriors of Chaos faction, you can take their territory with relative ease. You lose your buffer against the faction behind them, but the faction behind them is Khorne faction. As Nurgle, Khorne is the easiest race for you to defeat. Alternatively, you could rush a war against The Flaming Scribes (or they might declare war on you). This won’t be easy, and you’re going to meet Kairos if you go in this direction, but it also might not be a bad idea to take their cities before they’re able to start producing elite missile units and leveling up their casters.

The Plague Toads don’t perform very well, so disbanding them and getting more Nurglings instead might be a good idea. But you should definitely hold onto your two flying units you start with, particularly your Plague Drones of Nurgle with Death Heads. They’re certainly not the best flying unit, but they’re a flying ranged unit at least and you’re going to need them to lure enemy ranged units away from your main army and take out artillery.

Plague Drone of Nurgle with Death’s Head

All the while you’re dealing with the Tzeentch factions (and whoever else you get mixed up with in the Chaos Wastes), Order factions are going to keep sending armies across the sea to attack your southern costal settlements. This is going to irritate you so badly you’re going to want to pull your hair out, especially since the AI uses the same irritating tactics in Warhammer III as it used in Warhammer II. Once you see the AI’s ship approaching your settlement and you recruit a lord and a unit or two to deal with it, the AI says “screw that” and swerves off to find a more vulnerable settlement. So your throwaway lords are going to spend a lot of time in ambush stance to try to tempt the AI into attacking.

As for leveling up Ku’Gath, get Champion of Decay as soon as he meets the level requirements. This gives you another Plagueridden hero, and this time you get to choose the lore. Get Lore of Death and rush Purple Sun of Xereus. With the two Plagueriddens in your army, one with Lore of Nurgle and one with Lore of Death, you now have the ability to cast Purple Sun of Xereus on top of Blight Boil. Death from above and below.

More long term, you’re going to want to work toward adding a Plague Beast of Nurgle to your army, in addition to a cultist. It’ll be awhile before you can get Soul Grinders (which are very good), so until you get to that point, first army should consist of:

Ku’Gath Plaguefather

2 Plague Ridden (One with Lore of Nurgle and one with Lore of Death)

1 Cultist of Nurgle (For his horse)

1 Plague Drones with Death’s Heads

1 Plague Beast of Nurgle

3 Plaguebearers of Nurgle

11 Nurglings

Your Plague Riddens deal out a large chunk of your melee damage while your Nurglings keep the enemy bogged down, absorbing damage and regenerating. The Plague Beast has buffs for surrounding units and is also a tanky unit its self, with high hit points and regeneration. You mainly want the cultist for his horse. Once he gets that, he’s got a speed of 78, and his 50 melee attack makes him a decent option for taking out artillery units if the skies are too dangerous for your Plague Drones.

When you have enough money for a second army, you should go heavier on the Plaguebearers, since the Heralds of Nurgle don’t have the Nurgling buffs that Ku’Gath provides.

As for your secondary army, you can get away with a lot of simplicity. An Exalted Great Unclean One (tankier than a Herald of Nurgle) with either Lore of Nurgle or Lore of Death. Give him a Plagueridden sidekick with the other lore, a cultist (for the horsey), Plague Drones with Death’s Heads for another option in dealing with artillery, and Nurgling spam to fill out the rest of the stack. Maybe with a Plague Beast or a few Plaguebearers if finances allow.  

Dealing with Dwarfs

The way you handle Dwarf factions depends mostly on if they have Rune Magic, Gyrobombers or artillery. In some of your early encounters with Kraka Drak and Clan Helein, you may be able to win with a simplistic strategy of just cramming all of your non-flying units around Ku’gath and attacking all together.

How to glob

Make sure Ku’gath is in melee with someone so it activates his Pestilent Decay ability (if you’ve got it), causing additional damage. Bile Boil (Lore of Nurgle) does decent damage if you’ve got it. If not, Ku’gath starts with Stream of Corruption. It doesn’t do huge amounts of damage, but it does poison the enemy, reduce their speed and reduce their damage output. Another starting option is Miasma of Pestilence, which does no damage but it reduces but it reduces the enemy’s melee by 24 points instead of 15 and it reduces the enemy charge bonus by 40 percent.

But if the dwarfs have area of effect spells or even one Grudgethrower, you’re going to want to spread them out somewhat. Still keep your Nurglings close-ish to Ku’gath so he can support them with his regeneration aura (a radius of 35m) and make sure numbers are on your side in every melee engagement.

Hopefully you’ve kept your flying units alive. Your Plague Drones of Nurgle with Death’s Heads can kill a Grudgethrower in melee, but only if it’s somewhere by its self. This is relatively easy in field battles. The AI isn’t very smart and likes to charge ahead with its melee units, leaving its artillery undefended far in the backlines. But in siege battles it gets a little bit trickier and you may have to just eat some damage until you can get your Nurglings at it.

Be very careful with your flying units if the dwarfs have even one Gyrocopter. Your Plague Drones with Death Heads can beat a Gyrocopter in melee one on one (a Gyrobomber is more dangerous), but the Gyros are faster with more ammunition and better range. So there’s nothing to stop them from shooting your Drones, running away when you try to chase it, then turning around and shooting you again.

Fortunately, the AI doesn’t seem to realize that. As long as you keep your Drones far enough away, the Gyrocopter will usually empty its ammo on Nurglings, which can’t shoot back.

Focus your magic on the units that are hardest for your melee units to deal with. This is a bit of a judgement call, but casting on the enemy ranged units is usually a pretty safe bet. As slow as the dwarfs are, they’re still faster than most of the units you’ll have in a Nurgle army. So no sense wasting a Nurgling unit on a useless chase when you can just cast Bile Boil and Purple Sun to send those Thunderers to Grimnir.

Dealing with Tzeentch

Oh, crud, here we go.

Avoid field battles wherever you can when you’re fighting Tzeentch. Nurgle isn’t the best at siege battles in general, but AI behaves in ways that give a few advantages when it’s defending a settlement. For starters, the enemy will be spread out more defending capture points, making it easier to isolate enemy units away from the rest of the army and overwhelm them with numbers.

Don’t charge in all at once, for obvious reasons. Tzeentch has some punishing area of effect spells. It’s also not necessary. Tzeentch is weak in melee and while completely surrounding his melee units will take them down faster, it’s not necessary. Tzeentch poses a very small threat in melee and anything other than a lord probably can’t handle two Nurgling units, especially if Ku’gath is nearby. Focus the majority of your army on one chokepoint with about half of those units in reserve. Once your units take some damage, trade them in for your healthy reserve units.

Don’t let them get too close together and beware constantly of that magic. One way of dealing with this is to tempt the AI into wasting a spell. Take one Nurgling unit and get it a little too close to the enemy spellcaster. If he goes for it, he’ll waste winds of magic and he’ll have to wait for the cooldown period before he can cast the spell again. A lot of times you can also dodge the spell, although this is iffy since, as has been stated, Nurgle units are very slow. But Nurglings are a very inexpensive unit (meaning they’re not worth much in the Balance of Power meter) and they regenerate.

As for field battles, don’t ever let that happen unless you’ve got a clear advantage in numbers, preferable two armies against one. And never, under any circumstances, let yourself get caught in an ambush. Tzeentch armies have a teleport stance, which can be a nightmare if you’re playing against them. Basically, it’s like the underway stance, except they can use it to attack you and the battle is automatically an ambush, so no reinforcements even if you’re standing right next to another army. So how in the world do you guard against that?

You’ve got to have excellent enemy intel. Use heroes to scout and check the “military presence” public order buff in nearby cities. Basically, if a city is off screen, you can still see their public order and what affects it. If the city has a “military presence” buff, that means there is an army in at least one of the cities in that province. You can’t know which one, and you also can’t know for sure that he doesn’t have an army in that province outside of the city. The AI armies tend to end their turns inside their settlements if they have the option, but it’s a bit of a gamble. So be cautious to the point of paranoia, don’t over extend and end your turns in ambush stance as often as possible so Tzeentch will (hopefully) not see you.

Oh yeah. Tzeentch also has a campaign mechanic called Changing of the Ways that lets him just take one of your settlements without even having to fight a battle. He doesn’t even have to be at war with you and if he is at war with you, he’s going to give your settlement away, for free, to a faction which you are not at war with.

There’s not a whole lot you can do about that, other than try to destroy the faction before the seven-turn cooldown on that ability ends.

Dealing with Warriors of Chaos

So you’ve decided to stab Tong in the back. Tzeentch would approve.

The Warriors of Chaos are no threat to Nurgle. At least not until Mortal Empires gets released, and probably not even then. In most cases you can probably glob all of your units together around Ku’gath and just wear them; let your Nurglings soak up the damage while your Plaguebearers and spells dish out the damage. If they’ve got Hellcannons or magic, you do the same, just spread out a little more so the fire mage can’t roast your entire army with one Burning Head.

Dealing with Khorne

Finally, the fun begins! Khorne factions have no artillery and no magic, so killing these dudes is the easiest thing in the world for Nurgle. Especially since, by the time you encounter a Khorne faction, you’ve probably got both Blight Boil and Purple Sun. So just glob up, let them do the same and destroy them with your bombardment and vortex spells, maybe saving a little winds of magic for healing.

Blight Boil going off in the middle of a Bloodletters unit

Dealing with Kislev

Kislev, Like Tzeentch, is strong where you’re weak. But unlike Tzeentch, Kislev will be striking at your soft spots. Coming in from the south while you’re trying to deal with Tzeentch at the North, that Ice Court just loves to sail across the Frozen Sea with stacks spamming gunpowder and cavalry. Aside from that, Ice Magic is nothing to sneeze at either and their lords and heroes usually have nasty area of effect spells.

The bad news is your main army is going to be busy fighting other factions in The Chaos Wastes. You just can’t leave Tzeentch free to build up his forces to deal with Kislev. The good news is your settlement garrisons are very good. In order to help matters, you should probably recruit a Herald of Nurgle (lord) with Lore of Nurgle and have a single Plagueridden, with Lore of Death, in his army. Once they’re leveled up, this will give you the Bile Boil/Purple Sun double-attack, plus some much-needed healing in the form of Fleshly Abundance. Focus these magical attacks on their ranged units, especially the Ice Guard, since their missiles ignore your defenses.

If you have any flying units in your garrisons, it would be a good idea to try and tempt the enemy ranged units into chasing them. Assuming, of course, that those ranged units cannot catch them. Before starting the battle, check to see if Kislev has any missile cavalry and if they’re faster than whatever flying unit you’ve got in your garrison. If they are, don’t let your flyer get too close to them and keep them close enough to your main army to retreat if the missile cav locks in on them.

Make good use of checkpoints if there are any while being very wary of area of effect spells. Keep some units in reserve (if utilizing checkpoints) and try your best to hold their cavalry off until your spellcasters have done enough damage to turn the battle in your favor.

Dealing with Slaanesh

Slaanesh is the farthest away from your starting location. If you’ve played your cards right, you’ll already have defeated Tzeentch before you decide what you want to do with them. If you go to war with Slaanesh, there’ll be a lot of fast units to deal with and their lords and heroes have area of effect spells, but no artillery nor missiles to speak of. Wait until their melee units lock into combat before unleashing your own spells (so they can’t just move out of the way) and just beat the snot out of them until they suffer the army losses penalty.

Dealing with Cathay

After you defeat Tzeentch, it might be a good idea to make friends with Khazag, if at all possible. This Norscan faction can provide a buffer between you and Cathay, preventing your meeting for a little longer. At least until Cathay starts taking their cities.

The good news is Cathay is very far away from you, giving you all the time you need to prepare before you meet them. The bad news is that Cathay has strong magic, ranged units, flying units and artillery. Their Sky Lanterns and Sky Junks never land, so they just constantly pepper missiles down on your units from the safety of the skies. Their melee attack and defense are only 8, if you have any flying units you can tear them apart like paper. Unless there are Great Longma Riders in the army. This flying cavalry has a speed of 105. Their melee attack is only a little bit more than that of your Plague Drones, but they also get a charge bonus, along with the cheats the AI gets on very hard battle difficulty. So keep your flying units far away.

The AI is pretty dumb, and this is an advantage. They tend to charge ahead with their faster units, leaving their missile units, infantry and especially their artillery behind. So keep a relative distance away from their main force: close enough to tempt their cavalry to charge ahead but not too close for the rest of the army to get at you before you’ve killed them. Hopefully the Great Longma Riders will land to try and kill some of your units in melee. If they make that mistake, pin them down with nurglings and do your very best to kill them before they take off again. But don’t glob up if Cathay has lords or casters with area of effect spells, or artillery in range.

Deal with their missile units with your magic: Bile Boil and Purple Sun combo, same as with the other factions. As for the artillery, your flying units can kill a Fire Rain Rocket in melee one on one without too much trouble, but they’ll struggle more against the Wu Xing War Compass, which has 30 melee attack and 20 melee defense. Plague Drones will still win but might take a lot of damage in the exchange, expect them to need a little help.   

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