Nuclear weapons, or nukes for short, are immensely powerful, late-game area-of-effect weapons in Civilization VI. Each one of them may be used only once. To be able to build and use them, players first need to research Nuclear Fission and complete the Manhattan Project (which unlocks the Build Nuclear Device project). Later, in the Information Era, even stronger nukes become available after researching Nuclear Fusion and completing Operation Ivy (which unlocks the Build Thermonuclear Device project).
Nuclear Device Types
There are two categories of atomic weapons: the Nuclear Device and the Thermonuclear Device. Both can be built as a city project in any city once the requisite projects are unlocked, and both require the Uranium resource to produce (1 Uranium in vanilla Civilization VI and Rise and Fall, more in Gathering Storm). There is no limit on the number that a player can build, as long as they have enough Gold to support them. Second Strike Capability, a Military Policy Card introduced in Rise and Fall, can help with this by cutting nuclear device maintenance costs in half.
Once a Nuclear or Thermonuclear Device is created, it is added to the player's inventory and can then be used by any unit or improvement capable of deploying it on the map. This includes bomber aircraft, Nuclear Submarines, and the Missile Silo. Nukes may be launched at any tile within range of the launch vehicle.
Nuclear Devices have a blast radius of 1 (i.e. the target tile and all adjacent tiles) and apply fallout for 10 turns. When deployed from a Missile Silo or a Nuclear Submarine, they have a Range of 12; when deployed by a Bomber or Jet Bomber, they are dropped on the target from above and have the same Range as the unit that delivers them. They cost 14 Gold per turn to maintain (and 10 Uranium to produce in Gathering Storm).
Thermonuclear Devices have a blast radius of 2 and apply fallout for 20 turns. When deployed from a Missile Silo or a Nuclear Submarine, they have a Range of 15. They cost 16 Gold per turn to maintain (and 20 Uranium to produce in Gathering Storm).
When an atomic weapon is detonated, several things happen to all the hexes within the blast radius:
- Citizens "working" the affected tiles are eliminated.
- Units occupying the affected tiles are destroyed, including Great People. This is the only way in a normal game that Great People can be killed.
- All tiles affected are contaminated with radioactive fallout.
- All tile improvements are pillaged.
- Any Districts and buildings in the affected tiles are also pillaged.
- Any City Centers or Encampments caught in the blast radius will have their Health and Defense Strength reduced to 0. Healing is impossible and Repair Outer Defenses is unusable while the fallout lasts.
In addition, the world reacts with horror to the use of this doomsday device. In vanilla Civilization VI, the user suffers a severe warmonger penalty with the AI leaders; in Rise and Fall and Gathering Storm, their use also triggers a Nuclear Emergency - the longest and most serious of the Emergencies.
After a nuclear attack, radioactive fallout will contaminate every tile affected by the blast. Any units that end their turn in a contaminated tile take 50 damage each turn. Production cannot be applied to anything in tiles containing contamination, such as repairing buildings and districts. Tiles that are contaminated cannot be worked by the city until the contamination timer expires or until the tile is "cleaned."
Any city tiles not directly affected by the nuclear blast will still function normally and contribute to the city's yield.
Nuclear weapons are even more powerful and terrifying than they were in Civilization V. Not only do they kill off some of the Population of the cities they target, they also completely deplete the Health and Defense Strength of any City Centers in the blast radius, making it easy for even the weakest melee attacker to approach and capture a city after a nuclear strike. Just be aware that the Fallout in the tile will damage said unit, if not taken care of!
In addition to preventing affected tiles from being worked, the fallout left behind by nuclear weapons prevents any Gold or Faith purchasing of units or buildings in districts on those tiles. This means that a few well-placed nukes can completely shut down a city, rendering it and its districts inoperable for several turns and leaving its owner with fewer available resources even if the attacker decides not to capture the city.
There are just two major drawbacks to nuclear weapons: using them counts as a declaration of war against any civilization or city-state whose territory or units are in the blast radius, and they are the single greatest source of war weariness. Players should be careful not to make heavy use of nuclear weapons unless they have large numbers of Amenities in their empire, or they may soon find themselves having to put down rebel uprisings.
Certain units can intercept nuclear weapons, depending on their point of origin. Battleships, Missile Cruisers, and Mobile SAMs can protect adjacent tiles from nuclear strikes, and fighter aircraft and all units with Anti-Air Strength will prevent bomber aircraft from delivering nukes if they do at least 50% of the bomber's HP in damage.
I Thought We'd Moved Past This Joke
As Chandragupta, launch a nuclear weapon.
Missed That Day in History Class
Clear nuclear contamination with a Roman Legion
Seven Wonders of the Post-Apocalyptic World
Launch a weapon of mass destruction with a unit and have it pillage seven wonders