Five Lords to play in Warhammer 3, without the new DLC

Five Lords to play in Warhammer 3, without the new DLC

Total War: Warhammer III — Thrones of Decay is out, and it has arrived with a ton of big changes for the popular Warhammer game. Amongst those new additions are new Legendary Lords for the Dwarfs, Empire, and Nurgle races, as well as a bunch of new units, and mechanics. Each race is purchasable as a separate pack or altogether, marking a change from how Creative Assembly previously sold DLC.

A big part of Thrones of Decay are the reworks to a number of different races, but those changes don't come as part of the DLC. No, instead they're included as part of Patch 5.0, which was released alongside the new DLC, but isn't actually part of it. This huge patch makes a lot of changes to the base game, and while you're obviously going to be missing out on a bunch of new units and Lords from the latest DLC, there have been changes to a number of Lords and races that mean you don't need to buy Thrones of Decay to have a great time revisiting Warhammer III. Here are five Lords to play in Warhammer III, even without the newest DLC.

1. Ku'gath Plaguefather

Why play?

  • Nurgle has been almost completely reworked
  • Now rather playable
  • Worth playing if you didn't before


Ah Ku'gath. Released as part of Warhammer III, Ku'gath, and Nurgle as a whole, has been stuck in a rather odd place. While the theme of Nurgle as a whole trends towards a slow, relentless march that represents the inevitable fall to death, disease, and rot that all life faces, it turned out that slow and steady ethos didn't translate well into actual gameplay. As such, Nurgle was considered one of the worst races to play, being very slow to develop and flourish. Players tended to find themselves stuck on the island they began on, without much ability to expand further.

Nurgle has been entirely reworked. Plagues are now a lot more useful, and building and spreading them is a much more involved process, with much more effective results as well. Ku'gath, being Nurgle's favored son, has access to even stronger and more effective plagues than anyone else, making him a very good starting point for experimenting with the new system.

Nurgle's buildings have also changed. Nurgle's buildings were unique, following a "cyclical" bloom that emulated how plants would grow, culminate, and then die back and rot. While this system was very on theme, the changing income and growth made Nurgle very inconsistent. This effect has been restricted to just the military buildings now, allowing Nurgle a lot more consistency across the game.

Adding to this, a whole bunch of Nurgle's units have been buffed, making them a lot stronger, and giving you a much better army within the game. With all of these changes, and a huge change in how it's played, Ku'gath Plaguefather is absolutely the best place to start back in Warhammer III following Patch 5.0.

2. Balthasar Gelt

Why play?

  • Gelt has gone on holiday
  • A truly different experience for the Empire
  • Chance to be best buds with Zhao Ming


With the introduction of Elspeth von Draken in Nuln, the Empire was starting to feel quite cramped, with three Empire Legendary Lords very close to each other. Balthasar Gelt, Metal Wizard extraordinaire, clearly thought so, because he's disappeared off on holiday to Cathay.

Now starting in the south of that storied land, Gelt's new campaign will revolve around pacifying the region to the south of Cathay, and interacting directly with the Iron Dragon, Zhao Ming. Adding to that, Gelt now has an entirely new mechanic, fittingly centered around his access to wizards, gathering Arcane Essays, and eventually unlocking massive cataclysm spells for specific lores of magic.

Don't worry, Gelt's time in Cathay doesn't have to be permanent too, as eventually, you will get the chance to return to Gelt's homeland, bringing home everything you've learned.

While not as huge a change as those for Nurgle, Gelt's campaign has changed an awful lot as a result of Patch 5.0, and it definitely deserves a look if you're a fan of the Empire's playstyle.

3. Epidemius

Why play?

  • An entirely new Lord, for free!
  • Another chance to try out Nurgle's rework
  • Starts in Chaos Wastes


That's right, a new Lord! No, we've not accidentally included a DLC Lord by mistake, Epidemius is a completely new, completely free Legendary Lord who you should play.

Epidemius is a Nurgle daemon, similar to Ku'gath. Unlike Ku'gath, Epidemius starts in the Chaos Wastes, giving him immediate access to more allies, as well as enemies. He also has his own unique mechanics, centered around spreading as many plagues to enemies as possible.

All of the same rework options apply to Epidemius, so many of the same reasons to play Ku'gath also apply to him. If you're not keen on playing Ku'gath, perhaps because of some previous PTSD, then give Epidemius a go.

4. Emperor Karl Franz

Why play?

  • The "default" Lord is now a viable choice
  • Empire rework makes them much more accessible for everyone
  • Summon the Elector Counts!


Karl Franz has long been recommended by the game as the best beginner campaign, a fact that has been very funny to longtime fans.

Ever since the release of Warhammer III, the Emperor's immediate surroundings have been chock full of aggressive enemies, passive allies, and a whole lot of busywork that makes playing him quite difficult. Add to that the fairly weak troops, and Franz hasn't been a campaign for beginners in quite some time.

Patch 5.0 has changed that. Franz now starts with the fort directly to the south, removing an early stumbling block, and he can now use a number of powerful decrees to give buffs. Buffs have also been applied to a number of Empire units to bring them up to strength with various newer races, making the Empire the bastion of civilization once again.

Summon the Elector Counts!

5. Thorgrim Grudgebearer

Why play?

  • New Grudge system and rework
  • Slayer units being locked behind DLC means Ungrim is less exciting than first thought
  • Why so low? Grudge system is too harsh at the moment


The Dwarfs are another race that has undergone a lot of big new changes. The massive and sprawling technology tree has been split into two trees, making it much more manageable. Units have been tweaked and buffed, and, most notably, the Grudge system has been entirely reworked. Grudges now power a Waaagh!-like system where you must complete Grudges over the course of ten turns to gain powerful unit variants and buffs. Legendary Grudges grant huge new bonuses, like being able to teleport between dwarf holds when enough have been liberated.

The High King of the Dwarfs, Thorgrim Grudgebearer is the best Lord to play to try out these new mechanics. While Ungrim Ironfist would also make sense to play, given the heavy emphasis on Slayers in the new DLC, you don't have access to them unless you play the DLC — so play Thorgrim and save yourself the loss of the theme.

Why isn't Thorgrim higher in this list? Simply put, the Dwarfs new mechanics have proven to be a bit harsh since the release of Patch 5.0, with the downsides of the new Grudge mechanic proving far too overpowering. So while the Dwarfs have had a lot of new additions and reworks, they're a bit on the tough side to play at the moment.