Tabletop Review: Warhammer: The End Times – Nagash Books I & II

Warhammer: Nagash (Warhammer: The End Times)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $85 (Regular)/$165 (Limited Edition)/$79 (iPad)
Page Count: Special (See Below)
Release Date: 08/30/2014
Get it Here: Games-Workshop.com

If you’ve been reading Diehard GameFAN over the past few weeks, you’ve probably already seen a lot of our Warhammer: The End Times coverage – from issues of White Dwarf to a glowing review of The Return of Nagash novel. Now, however, it’s time for the review of the crown jewel of this new phase of WarhammerNagash. For Warhammer fans, Nagash not only changes the entire face of the fantasy side of the game, but it’s the best dead tree release from Games Workshop in years. Even if you haven’t played Warhammer in a long time (or ever), you’ll be impressed by the sheer quality of Nagash and be temped to build your own warband after perusing it.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the price tag. Nagash costs $85, which is a lot. Now longtime Games Workshop fans know that their products are pricey (some might say OVERPRICED), but honestly – when you look at what you actually get with Nagash, it’s kind of a deal. Take a look at the Army Book or codexes for specific armies. The Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angles codexes cost $50 and are only 100 or so pages long. Meanwhile, Nagash consists of two books. The first is 297 pages long and the second is 96 pages. So while Nagash is thirty-five dollars more than an army book, there is also nearly FOUR TIMES as much content. That’s pretty awesome and perhaps the best deal Games Workshop has put out since…man, as long as I can remember and I’ve dabbled in Warhammer since the mid 90s. Even better, both books come in an extremely sturdy (and gorgeous) slipcase to house them in. The case reminds me a lot of the cases Nippon Ichi anime collections come in, which is high praise indeed as they are considered to have the best slip cases in that industry. The Nagash slipcase is simply fantastic, can take a beating and looks very swank on your bookshelf. The only downside is the sheer amount of room Nagash takes up. I have Army Books going back to Fifth Edition and I think Nagash takes up more room than a half dozen of them combined. So Nagash may pack a lot of girth, but oh man, is it ever worth the price tag. Again, this is the best deal Games Workshop has put out in forever in terms of both quality and content so if you’re still on the fence about getting this – you really should. It’s a fantastic time to at least try Warhammer as The End Times has really invigorated the product line AND fans of the game.

The first book in Nagash is simply entitled “Book I.” This 296 page book is completely fluff. That is to say, it is basically a fiction collection. You won’t find stats, mechanics, new rules or miniature information here. No, it is all a collection of snippets, battle reports, stories and information about the world of Warhammer from the Autumn of 2523 through the Autumn of 2525. The fiction aspects read mostly like a history book and the content is padded out with a ton of art and/or scenes from the battles acted out with the miniatures from the game system. The art in this book is by far the best I’ve ever seen in a Games Workshop release and it’s amongst the best out of any gaming book this year, be it tabletop, wargaming, RPG or whatever. I could flip through the book just looking at the pictures as if it was a coffee table book (Cthulhu knows it’s the size of one). I can look back at some of my older GW books and almost scoff at the art quality compared to this. Visually this thing is worth the price tag alone. The photos of the minis are also really well done, with use of lighting, fog (Dry ice) and angles to make these come alive. The miniature photo shoots aren’t as visually stunning as the actual art drawn for Nagash, but then, there’s only so much you can do with unposeable little figures. The photos are still a lot of fun and even though you’ll probably never see battles of this scale actually enacted on a table near you, they are fantastic to look at and read about.

The content of the “Book I” is exactly what you might think. It tells the events that led to return of Nagash and the events that followed thereafter. The first 120 pages or so mirror the events of The Return of Nagash novel. Unlike that novel, which is extremely newcomer friendly and goes into a lot more detail, this part of “Book I” assumes you are already a longtime fan of Warhammer and know specific game terminology, warbands, characters and the like. It doesn’t waste time explaining things or helping you to understand the events. It’s really designed for those who are already invested in the game and are quite familiar with its workings. If you’re new to Warhammer or thinking about starting playing/collecting it due to The End Times, my advice is to get The Return of Nagash novel first. It does a better job of telling the first half of the story and is a LOT cheaper. Of course, if you want to find out what happens AFTER Nagash is resurrected, you’ll still need to purchase Nagash. The novel only covers how he came back, and not the events that follow the liche’s return to the land of the living.

The rest of “Book I” is written in a similar format, but tells of what happens after Nagash rises, the battles and alliances that occur, the many, many big name character deaths and also how the new Undead Legions (unification of the Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts armies) warband came to be. You get to see how Nagash becomes a literal god and retakes Nehekhara. Most of all you get to see how the landscape has greatly changed with the return of Nagash. As someone that plays Tomb Kings, Lizardmen and Bretonnia, all three of my armies have really been put through the ringer by the end of this book. Now if only we’d actually get an updated Bretonnia army book to showcase the many changes that has happened to that army in this book (and over the past ten years). By the time you are done with “Book I,” you’ll be shocked at what has happened to Warhammer and many of the big name characters than inhabit this product line’s world. I don’t want to give spoilers, but so many major leaders are out of action in this one with the Empire, Tomb Kings, Bretonnia and others are now in need of some major name characters to not only help them out, but even lead their nations in this grave time. Of course I was happy to see that on the last page of the book, my favorite name character from Warhammer not only survived, but is restored while also rejected an offer from the evil vile Chaos Gods. Or he may become a new Chaos Champion (but unlikely). Who knows?

“Book 1” of Nagash is simply awesome. Entire nations are destroyed, armies are changed forever, bizarre alliances are formed and it has made Warhammer the most interesting and exciting the game has been in YEARS. The fiction, the art, the photos, the high quality production values and the sheer magnitude of the events make Nagash a must own for any Warhammer fan. It may be 100% fluff, but it’s arguably the best book Games Workshop has ever put out and it’s one of my favorite releases of 2014.

BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE. We still have to look at “Book II” after all. Where “Book I” is all fluff or fiction, “Book II” is all crunch, or things you can actually play out and use in your game. “Book II” is a lot smaller, coming it at only 96 pages, which puts it at about the same size as a Codex or Army Book. There is a lot less art in “Book II,” but a lot more pictures of miniatures and scenes from large scale battles. This makes sense because “Book II” is all about playing Warhammer: The End Times and what do you play it with? Miniatures!

Within “Book II,” you will find new scenario rules for Warhammer, new terrain rules for pieces like my just finished Garden of Morr and the new Lord of the Undeath spellset which wizards from ANY army can cast. The Lore of Undeath is primarily focused on letting you summon undead allies to support your core army, which is pretty neat. You can get anything from a platoon of Skeleton Archers to a Dragon Zombie. The Lore of Undeath is a real gamer changer and a wonderful school of magic selection for any army – especially those who win through sheer numbers.

The second chapter of “Book II” gives you the official army list for the new Undead Legions warband. It also gives you the new points allocation for “End Times battles. Now up to 50% of your army’s points can be spent on Lords. This makes Warhammer cheaper to get into, and allows you to field an army with a much smaller force. For example, a single skeleton archer costs 7 points and so my regiment of 50 archers costs 350. A single Vampire Lord can cost more than that point-wise. It’s also a lot less dollar-wise. So The End Times can feel more like a skirmish game at low point values, which is kind of nice if you don’t have the time or money to invest in hundreds of figures.

Chapter 2 is also where you get the stats for the new Nagash, Mortarch and Morghast miniatures, along with redone stat blocks for Krell, Vlad Von Carstein, Crom and Valten. For those looking to field any of those figures, Chapter 2 is going to be your main go-to place. Of course, all of Nagash’s stats are published in an older issue of White Dwarf, so if you can’t afford this two book set, just drop the four bucks on White Dwarf if all you want is to field Nagash.

Chapter 3 is “Narrative Scenarios” and here you are given nineteen different battles from “Book I” than you can re-enact with your Warhammer miniatures. Of course, since most people only have one or two armies, they won’t be able to do all of these scenarios. Even then, they might not have the right figures so they’ll have to buy some more ($$$$$!) or not make use of the scenarios. Another problem is that all of the scenarios are specific to warbands, so if you only play Lizardmen, Dark Elves or Ogre Kingdoms, all of this section is worthless to you save for a fun read. As I have Tomb Kings, a few Vampire Counts pieces and Bretonnia, there were several of these I could cobble together, but like most gamers, I’d only be able to actually play out a few of these, leaving the experience of these scenarios best left to the imagination. You might think that is disappointing, but not really. These are all optional scenarios that with unique events and conditions, but even the most naïve Warhammer player wouldn’t go into this book assuming they can play out ALL of these scenarios or that the book would cater to EVERY warband. Basically if you play undead, you can play through nearly all of these scenarios – providing you have friends that play a lot of different armies themselves. Even if you can’t play out a lot of the scenarios, they are a lot of fun to read about. If you can play them out, you can see if you can stem the tide of history and cause a different outcome from “Book I” to occur. Many of these battles feature very even armies and one even features a fun three way dance. So whether you just read about or actually get to play out some of these nineteen scenarios, “Book II” still has some great stuff in it.

Generally I buy my Games Workshop books on the second hand market for a fraction of the cost. I usually balk at $45-50 for an updated army list. Heck, a lot of my books have been free because they’ve been for previous editions of the game. So it should tell you something that I willingly paid full price for Nagash AND I feel I got my money’s worth and then some. The two book set is that terrific. I haven’t been this excited or inspired by Warhammer since Fifth Edition. It really is something you need to experience for yourself.

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