Monday, August 25, 2014

The End Times: Nagash rerisen

The End Times are upon us.

Games Workshop is regarded as the premier manufacturer of wargame miniatures in the world for good reason but, as with any entity as prolific as Games Workshop, it is not surprising that some of the models they release are not masterpieces.  This is particularly true when looking at some of their older models, where technology and resources were limiting.  I imagine a few models jump to your mind immediately while contemplating Games Workshop’s worst models, but one that I am sure everyone can agree upon (at least if you have been in the hobby long enough to know of the model) is the old Nagash model.  As a being so powerful that he destroyed the great civilization of Nehekhara and devised the art of necromancy, going so far as creating the first Vampires, you would expect an equally impressive model, one that puts virtually everything else to shame.  But instead Nagash was the opposite, a laughable caricature, with balloon feet and hands and a face reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie.  So you can imagine my excitement, and a bit of reservation, when I heard rumors that Nagash was getting a new model after all these years.  With official pictures being released by Game Workshop last Friday, I figured that I would talk a little about my thoughts on this excellent reinvisioning of a classic Warhammer character.

My Nagash have you come a long way!

It seems like there has been a trend over the past few years with Games Workshop to christen every new army release with a large plastic kit. I remember things starting back in March 2011 with the release of the Arachnarok Spider for the Orcs and Goblins. In most instances the large kits are forced into the army (here’s looking at you Mortis Engine…), Games Workshop coming up with some crazy idea for something that never had a place in the lists before (need something for the Vampire Counts? Why not just have a giant floating chair wrapped in ghostly spectres?).  With Nagash, however, the epic scale of the model is perfect.  He rightfully towers over pretty much anything he might go up against.  

That lowly skeleton certainly puts things in perspective...

Already an impressively tall model, Nagash is even more imposing because he soars above the ground at the head of a cavalcade of swirling spectors, a tattered robe flailing in his wake.  Around him circle all nine of the Books of Nagash, evil grimoires penned by Nagash himself and bound in human flesh, detailing the necromantic arts.  Each book is unique with delicate chains and bones, culminating with the dread Liber Mortis, which can be attached at his side or open in his hand, its pages transfiguring into a spectral being.  Adding further to his height are six vicious columns of vertebrae sprouting from his back, and framing his skeletal visage.  

Having all nine of his books float around him was a stroke of genius, preventing the model from looking cluttered. 

One of the most striking aspects of the new Nagash model is the segmented Morikhane, the Black Armour.  Refreshingly, instead of relying entirely on bone to make up his armour, it is composed of thin overlapping plates that are accented with bone rims.  Although broad and domed in places, primarily with the breastplate and shoulders, it is also surprisingly thin and fragile looking around his arms and legs, giving the model an interesting dichotomy, switching between herculean and frail.  Nowhere is this dual nature of the model more evident than his emaciated stomach, shriveled and thin, and stitched up the center.  Around Nagash’s waist are a series of elongated skulls, serving as canopic jars containing the remaining viscera of the mortal body he possessed to re-enter the physical realm.

Certainly an impressive model, but does his sword look bent from this angle?

All the armour in the world would come to nothing if Nagash did not have suitably impressive weapons to take to battle.  Thankfully, he does not disappoint.  First he has his famous Staff of Power, Alakanash.  Primarily composed of long weathered shafts of bone, it is topped with an impressive winged skull reminiscent to Tomb King imagery.  In addition to his Staff of Power, Nagash carries Zefet-nebtar, the Mortis Blade. This mighty magical weapon dwarfs just about any sword seen on a Warhammer model, sized appropriately to fell an entire unit in a single swing. The blade itself takes many visual cues from the familiar daemon weapons seen on Archaon and the Khorne Bloodletters.  The actual blade is rather simple (although is it just me or does it look slightly bent in many of the painted pictures?), with wispy tendrils of energy radiating from it.  The hilt of the weapon is crafted with the ribcages and skulls of skeletons, befitting of the master of the Undead.  The scabbard is stitched together with skin, with a warpstone gem set near its tip.  In keeping with an excellent attention to detail, they actually modeled a fine leather belt to attach the sheath to his side, and even provide the scabbard as a separate piece, such that it can be empty if you choose to have him wield the blade.

It is great to have the option of him holding either the staff or sword, maintain the scabbard regardless! 

Not to be outdone by his weapons and armour, Nagash also wears an impressively large mitre or some ceremonial head-dress you would expect a bishop to wear. The head-dress is wreathed in bone, fitting for a lord of the undead. At the base of the mitre is Nagash’s Crown of Sorcery, with a simple forked design with a faceted warpstone set into it. Nagash crafted the crown centuries ago and uses it to exert total dominion over the undead.  This all frames a howling skull that makes up Nagash’s face.  He also has a pseudo-beard that looks to be formed from a spinal column, fitting closely with the Tomb King/Egyptian aesthetic.  His exceptionally tall mitre coupled with his beard and thin flowing hair almost double the models height, again emphasizing his cyclopean stature.

Nagash's Crown of Sorcery is an impressive sight, so large in construction that it would crush a lesser being (and drive them insane!?).

Small details like the canopic jars fashioned out of skulls really tie the model together and make it look unique.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of the Nagash release is not Nagash himself, but the fact that he is the first of what looks to be a series of releases revolving around the End Times. In a surprising move, Games Workshop is finally advancing Warhammer’s stagnant timeline (40k has also been stuck in limbo for many years).  It seems Archaon is once again assembling a Chaos host in the Northern Wastes intent on purging the world through bloodshed, but the forces of good have received a surprising ally in the newly revived Nagash, who is raising a legion of undead warriors to counter the Chaos Horde.  Clearly Nagash is not doing this with the Elves, Dwarves, and Humans in mind, as he ultimately intends to turn the world into a place of death more suited to the ancient lich.  But in such dark times, any help is begrudgingly accepted.  Warhammer: Nagash is the first book for the End Times, which provide the rules for Nagash, as well as a host of other famous Warhammer characters, updated for these turbulent days.  It also introduces a new Lore of Magic, the Lore of Undeath, allowing Nagash to summon legions of undead warriors to his cause.  Games taking place in the End Times can also now include more Lord choices, allowing 50% of your army to be composed of heroes.  After all, as the fate of the Warhammer world hangs in the balance, the actions of noble heroes and nefarious villains are certain to define how things will unfold.

Nagash will be released upon this world this Saturday, and I would be lying if I said I was not excited to see such a classic character in the game again.  This is significant for multiple reasons, one because such a powerful character is in Warhammer again, but also because he marks the beginning of the Warhammer timeline advancing again, with the End Times.  Additionally, the model is an impressive amalgamation of themes and style, one that is certain to be used in a host of conversions to create demon princes, and c’tans.  The floodgates appear to have been open, as images from the upcoming Warhammer releases are getting revealed daily.  The End Times indeed.

- Eric Wier


  1. There is a lot of rage for the model on the forums but personally I think he looks brilliant and they have been very clever with how the build is done when you look at the contact points and how the weight is balanced through the model.

    There are lots of brilliant little cues on the model that you have already picked up, but also the 'eavy metal paint job is one of the best of the recent releases - fantastically presented.

    You knew from the off that he was a big mini - but when I finalliy saw that picture with the skeleton stood next to him I was blown away - the price tag makes more sense now (though is still pricey in my opinion).

    The worry about moving the timeline on is how they actually implement it - I can see a 40k-esque result where the hint that the end is nigh is presented, but nothing actually comes from it.

    1. Yeah the pricetag is pretty steep, but the scale and quality of the model partially remedies it. I had not really thought about it, but you are right I think the 'eavy metal team did do a really nice job painting Nagash. I think this is particularly notable, since I feel a lot of their models have suffered from mediocre paint jobs.

      I am cautiously optimistic that the timeline advancement will be significant and not what they have been doing with 40k for years, although I would not be surprised if it was. I guess we just have to wait and see...

  2. I'm really torn when it comes to this release. I can appreciate the details and the dynamics. It is after all an excellent creation. And it shows what they can do with plastics. But on the other hand I can't help but feel that this is yet an other step into action figure territory.

    When it comes to moving the "story" forward I must admit I don't see what the excitment is about. They have done it before and then retconned it. I also don't see why this matter so much. It's a setting we play in, we should be free to explore our own stories in it and not cling to any "official" say so.


    1. I feel your pain about gws steady more towards only making huge setpiece models, and would love to see them focus on the line and file guys who really make armies. But if they are going to make large models I would rather they be of characters I know and love, ones that make sense to be large.

      I think you are right that we should all strive to create our own narratives in games and not rely entirely on gw, but I am still excited to see something happening with the timeline. Sure they could change it all in a few years (ie storm of chaos...), but I am still optimistic. And since this is not tied to a summer campaign, gw can just moved the story along as they want and then maybe be less inclined to back-peddle. Time will tell I guess.