Monday, September 1, 2014

REVIEW: The End Times - Nagash

You have all heard the whispers and rumblings about the big shake up coming to Warhammer Fantasy and now it's here. Nagash has returned, the End Times are upon us, and the Old World will never be the same again!

This book set is beautiful, pure and simple. Both books come packaged together in a very sturdy and well designed slip case with a simple and elegant cover. This is definitely reminiscent of the 40k 7th edition rulebook set and seems to be the direction GW is heading in for their big book releases. I was very unsure about how this design would transfer to Fantasy. While I like the idea of keeping the rules separate from the bulk of the lore for ease of transporting to games there is just something about a big hulking book that screams Fantasy to me. Despite my reservations I was very pleased with how they pulled it off. My big concern would be that they were going to try and use their new Apple-esque design philosophy that we have been seeing in the non codex releases for 40k with Fantasy and it would lose its Old World feel. While it clearly evokes that same idea they were able to maintain a fantasy feel to it with clever use of textures.

The first book in the set is nothing but lore, and it is massive. It may not look that big in some of the pictures you see online and when you hear that it is 296 pages long you may just shrug, but trust me, it's huge. Every single page is packed with brand new stories detailing the start of the End Times and the return of Nagash. That is 296 pages of pure story. Considering that the book from the 40k rule set that contains the lore for the entirety of that universe is only 128 pages I think that puts it into perspective a little bit. Most of the pages also have some amazing artwork as well. There are a few full page spreads that I know are brand new, and I feel like most of the other artwork is new as well. Since I don't have all the army books though some of the art could be recycled from there, which isn't horrible since it lets you see all of it without buying all the army books out there.

The writing in this is top notch as well. I honestly think this is some of the best writing I have seen from GW in awhile. There are no clunky explanations of events and everything feels like it carries weight since this is literally the biggest event in Fantasy's history. The ability to progress the timeline and kill off characters who before were untouchable probably gave the design team and writers a lot of room to breathe. I feel like this most likely energized them in a way that keeping the status quo doesn't. If this quality of story telling and writing are any indication, then the rest of the End Times books will be great. There are also little chunks of actual narrative scattered throughout with dialogue and such, which are definitely better then GW's standard. I almost wonder if they recruited some of their Black Library authors to contribute, or at the very least consult with since they are so well done. If not, then kudos to the design team for upping their game.

The first 20 or so pages recap where every army in the Fantasy world stand at the start of the End Times and it does not look good for anyone. Without any spoilers there are major characters already dying just in what amounts to the prologue. After this, the story gets split up into five chapters following the story from Arkhan and Manfred gathering the relics they need to resurrect their master all the way to Nagash's invasion of Nehekhara. Although this story focuses mostly on the Lord of Undeath, you also get to see the Empire's struggle against Archaon's horde. A nice little addition that I appreciated was a break down of all the main units involved in the major battles for both sides. In the back of the second book there is even an appendix listing the name of each unit per scenario incase you want to try and recreate them.

This tome is massive and I have yet to even make it all the way through, but every page has me on the edge of my seat for the next. This truly is game changing with the body count still growing. It seems almost certain that there will be a second part to the End Times focusing on Archaon, and with rumors for a further two sets after that, I really have no clue how the Warhammer world will end up once this is all done.

The second book in the set contains all of the rules. Let's start with the biggest shake ups for every army in the Fantasy universe. You are now able to pick up to 50% Lords and 50% Heroes for your force. This is to reflect that this is truly a time of heroics and legendary generals. While it's unclear whether this replaces the normal army selection percentages or is just an alternative, it is still very exciting. Secondly, we have the new Lore of Undeath, a selection of magic for any wizard in Warhammer to use. This is very similar to the Malefic psychic powers in 40k, but instead lets you summon units from the undead armies.

Yes, it will give GW more money in the end since people will need to go out and buy all of these new units they are summoning, but it will also be fun. Just remember, you don't need to use this new Lore, so no one is forcing you to go out and spend more money. After these, we have a new army list, the Undead Legion, which represents Nagash's army. Simply put, it combines every unit from Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings minus several special characters from each side. In return, though, they gain access to Nagash himself, his Mortarchs, and the new monstrous infantry, the Morghasts.

These guys are resurrected warriors of Ptra, the Sun God
There are also some new army wide rules, the biggest two of which are the ability for Tomb King units to march when they're within 12 inches of the general and the fact that neither army crumbles anymore when the general/hierophant dies.

As a Tomb King player this gives me some exciting new options on how to play my army. I don't plan on mixing in any Vampire Count units since I am a Tomb King purist and love their lore, but I will probably give the list with its new special rules a spin every now and then. Heck, I might even include some of the new units and characters. The rules for which are of course included in the book. Besides the new characters and units, Krell and Vlad also get updated rules as Mortarchs of Nagash, and there are two surprise additions with the return of Valten, and my personal favorite, Crom the Conquerer! One of the big changes we see with the characters is a combined profile for the rider and mount. Whether or not this is a sign of what we can expect from 9th edition or merely them trying something out it provides them with a little more survivability and simplicity.

Last but not least, in the rule book we have the scenarios for the campaign which span the whole narrative from book one. These are fun additions, and although most people probably won't play through all of them, they still add some nice flavor. There are even rules near the front of the book for fighting underground and on haunted battlefields, which are meant for the campaign, but can be used in any game you want.

This set of books is gorgeous and the most exciting thing I have seen happen to either universe since the Eye of Terror and Storm of Chaos campaigns. GW has clearly learned their lesson and are no longer leaving the fate of what happens up to players, but instead crafting the narrative themselves and taking us along for the ride. I am perfectly fine with this considering the quality of what they have made with Nagash. This is a very bold move by GW, and I for one think it has already paid off. I can't wait to see where they end up taking us. It may be a little scary to see the status quo changed so drastically and to lose some characters we have had around for several editions, but at least they are doing it in a suitably epic fashion. As T'zeentch would say, embrace the change.

Final Score - 5/5 

This is a must for all Warhammer Fantasy fans and I recommend it to all GW fans in general.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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