Monday, February 5, 2018

REVIEW: Legions of Nagash

To say Legions of Nagash is a battletome I have been excited for is a bit of an understatement. Between my Tomb Kings, Nighthaunt, and growing death collection, I have a bit of a love affair with the Death range from Age of Sigmar. As a revamp of the grand alliance and our first real look at the lore behind the faction, Legions had a lot to live up to, and oh man did it hit it out of the park!

By this point you've all seen the cover, and what a cover it is! It just exemplifies everything about the Death faction and Nagash. Nagash is Death, and Death is Nagash. He's a megalomaniac so it's only fitting that the book with his name on it is dominated by his image on the cover. You can just feel the power and control radiating off of him as he reclines on his throne with the countless spirits of the damned whirling around him. The dark colors of Nagash set against the ethereal glowing greens of the ghosts is perfect. It also carries on the new design aesthetic that I gushed over in my Maggotkin review, with the new AoS logo, more elegant title, and overall more refined look. It definitely has a less pulpy look than some of the older AoS stuff.

Once you crack the book open you jump straight into the lore. There are two amazing pictures that kick things off, but I'm going to come back to those in a minute. The first bit of background just talks about Nagash in general. A lot of this is probably already known to most people, but there is some new information in there as well. It gives Nagash some motivations beyond the fact that he must control everything. Well, I guess first off, for people who don't know, Nagash has always wanted complete control over everything. His ideal world is a sterile one, where everything is dead and controlled by him, so in essence, everything is him. This has always been true for him, even in the world-that-was. Here he gets a bit more developed though. In the Mortal Realms he is the god of Death, and rules over all of the underworlds. All living creatures have a debt to him, which can only be paid with their souls upon their deaths. However, he has been cheated of his due on multiple fronts. Slaanesh, the missing Chaos god, has cheated him of all of the aelven souls after the destruction of the world-that-was, consuming all of them, Tyrion and Malerion have furthered that by capturing the glutted Chaos god, and stealing those souls back for themselves, and worst of all to him is Sigmar, who has stolen the souls of the greatest warriors for the Stormcast Eternals. This goes a little way towards explaining how at one point he was part of the Pantheon of gods, and now wants nothing to do with them and actively hates most of them. Though we still don't get an explanation for his betrayal of Sigmar at the Battle of the Burning Skies.

We get the story of how he was found by Sigmar during the Age of Myth under a giant cairn and set free to rule over Shyish. At the very center of the realm he built his capital, Nagashizzar, a city so saturated with Death magic that no one living could set foot inside. After the discovery of the realm stone at the edges of the realm, he began mining the substance to build giant inverted black pyramids, which hover above the city. His dominance couldn't last though, and eventually he was struck down by Archaon in the Age of Chaos, and the great city sacked. He was only saved when his Mortarchs launched a counterattack to recover his remains and take them back to the hidden underworld of Stygxx to recover and reform. This is pretty much where we had left off with his story during all of the Realmgate War stories. How he is back, and has launched his new offensive. Nagashizzar has been reclaimed and returned to close to it's former glory, and Chaos pushed back. Despite his best efforts though Chaos still persists within his realm, though its stranglehold has definitely been broken. After this it goes into more detail on the missing souls, those who are stealing his due I mentioned earlier. One bit that caught my attention is the mention of souls mysteriously vanishing across the realms. Entire cities and fleets are wiped out, with their souls disappearing into nothingness, a mystery that Nagash himself can't figure out either. There is a piece of art here of some creature seemingly devouring the souls, but it doesn't look like anything I know. I'm really intrigued to find out more about this. Theres so much more that's discussed, like how the vampires have infiltrated almost every city of Order, but I don't want to just retype the whole book here.

The exploration of the Realm of Shyish really caught my attention. It's probably the most detailed look at any of the Realms yet. There are countless underworlds that make up Shyish, each reflective of a particular culture's beliefs. Basically whenever a group of people believe in an afterlife strong enough, it manifests in Shyish, and when they die that's where their souls go. We get a few examples of afterlives, like one for thieves that presents them with a near impenetrable labyrinth filled with riches, which they get to rob continuously forever, pushing their skills to the limit. It's all really rather cool. There are also the Prime Innerlands. These are the areas closest to the center of the Realm, and also the most stable and safe. Here are where the living civilizations of Shyish are located. You get mortals living right alongside the dead, like what Shadespire was before it was cursed. It's again, rather cool and presents a bunch of cool story ideas. It also briefly goes over how the various legions of Nagash operate and how they're made up. The Legion of Blood for example focuses on subterfuge and infiltration with it's vampires, while the Legion of Sacrament is obviously much more focused on magical dominance.

After this we get the timeline we are so familiar with. There are a bunch of cool little snippets, my favorite is about the Kharadron Overlords of Barak-Mor though, since this was a Skyport located in Shyish I invented back in April and was completely surprised to find them mentioned in this Battletome! I'm completely honored that GW decided to use that little bit of lore that I made up, even if they do come out on the wrong side of the fight here.

Now we go into all of the individual unit descriptions. A lot of this will be familiar to Death players, but quite a few units get a bit of an AoS facelift, and we also get to find out what some of the named characters have been up to. Neferata and Mannfred have both created mini kingdoms within Shyish that they rule modeled after their ancestral home from the world-that-was, so Nehekhara and Sylvania respectively. Arkhan mostly sticks around Nagash, but he's in charge of the Black Disciples, a group of super Necromancers who are currently tasked with figuring out what's going on in Ulgu. Some other cool bits from here was a group of Vampires in Ghur who see transforming into a Vargheist as the ultimate honor, and encourage this transformation within their ranks to get closer to their bestial side. Wight Kings are fleshed out (ba-dum-tsh!) a bit more. They act a bit more like Tomb Kings in manner, each having their own kingdoms and subservient to no one besides Nagash. They'll only team up with Necromancers and Vampires if it suits their needs and expands their empires. One bit I thought was really cool was about the new Bloodseeker Palanquins. These play host to a Sanguinarch, a vampire who is obsessed with finding the perfect vintage of blood. The ones who go to battle on the Palanquins are sampling all the blood they can find from the enemy's heroes, but the ones who interest me the most are the ones who stay in the shadows. It mentions Sanguinarchs who have hidden their vampiric nature from the world and have positioned themselves in places of power. Here they play politics, marrying off one bloodline to the next, attempting to craft the perfect vintage, even if it takes generations to do. That just sounds so cool and the perfect basis for a story! There's a bunch of other cool bits hidden throughout, so make sure you read all of them.

The section in the middle showing off the models has some of the best model photograhpy I have seen from GW hands down. They're really upping their game with scenic backgrounds and more dramatic lighting.

It almost feels like something we would expect to see in a Forge World campaign book. I'm definitely excited to see this trend continue in future books. They're such inspiring photos. In the 'Eavy Metal section they only focus on the newest Death models that came out during the End Times, showcasing Nagash, the Mortarchs, and the Morghasts.

A lot of the artwork in this book is from older sources like the Realmgate Wars books, the End Times, or even the 8th edition Army Book. There are a few new pieces in here though, including the stellar one above. That perfectly captures the craziness of AoS. There are a ton of little filler images throughout the book as well which I really like.

Along with the model showcase we get a sample army and four pages of painting guides! This covers everything from painting bone, to freehand symbols, ghostly effects, zombies, and more! I think this is the most comprehensive painting section in any of the Battletomes.

Now we move onto the rules, including the six separate sets of Allegiance Abilities! We get abilities for the Grand Host of Nagash, the Legion of Blood, the Legion of Sacrament, the Legion of Night, Soulblight, and the generic Death abilities. The Grand Host and all three Legions are the main show here, and all of them state that you can only include models from this Battletome in them. That means no Tomb Kings, no Mourngul, and no Flesh-eaters, who keep their own Battletome. The Grand Host specifies that if Nagash is included he must be your general, while the Legions do not allow Nagash in them, and if their respective Mortarch is included they must be the general. So, let's start with the Grand Host of Nagash. This is the big one, the overarching Allegiance that represents Nagash's personal legions. We get the Deathless Minions rule, granting the "Death Save" just as before, all wizards also know an additional spell from the new magic lores, while Nagash knows an additional 3 spells from the lores. This makes it so you're definitely making the most of his ability to cast nine different spells each turn. One of the big new additions in this Battletome are the Gravesites. You get four of these, which you set up before deployment. Two of them must go in your territory, while the other two can go anywhere on the table. Any unit with the Summonable keyword can start the game off the board and be brought on to the Gravesite by any Death hero within 9". No roll, they just come on and set up wholly within 9" of the site and 9" away from the enemy. Their other ability, and their main draw for me, is that in your hero phase you can pick one Summonable unit within 9" of the Gravesite and heal D3 wounds, or if they have no wounds missing, bring back D3 wounds worth of models. This gives you four healing sites scattered around the board. I personally think sticking them near or on objectives is a safe bet. In the Grand Host all Morghasts also get one additional attack, making them even meaner, and in your hero phase you roll a dice for every summonable unit on the board and on a 5+ can heal D3 wounds, or if they're 1 wound models, bring back D3 models. So even more opportunities to heal! The last thing is a new command ability your general has in addition to any others they have, which allows them to bring back a Summonable unit previously slain in the battle if they're within 9" of a Gravesite just like mentioned with Summonable units above. This, of course, requires reinforcement points, but is a nice benefit anyway.

To save time, the three other Legions all have the Deathless Minions, Gravesites, and extra command ability. The Legion of Sacrament also grants all of your Death Wizards a +1 to cast, and when an enemy unit is slain near a Gravesite and a Death hero is nearby you have a chance of bringing back a previously slain unit, just like with the command ability. The Legion of Blood makes all enemy units -1 Bravery when they are too close to any of your units, and all of your Vampire Lords and Blood Knights have +1 attack to all of their melee weapons. The Legion of Night adds +1 to the save roll of your Deathrattle units when they are within your territory (they're the bait for the next bit) and you can place up to 3 units off to the side when deploying and ambush them on from any board edge in any of your movement phases. Each of these have similar aspects that unites the Battletome as a whole, but also gives them each a unique play style. They each get their own set of Command Traits and Artifacts as well, which reflect their play styles. The Grand Host has a bunch that benefits Deathrattle, Legion of Blood's mostly help Soulblight, Sacrament helps wizards, etc. They're a bunch of good choices in each of them and I don't think we'll see just one or two dominating people's picks.

Before we move onto the other two allegiances we get the spell lores. This is split up into two lores, one for Deathmages, and one for Vampires. Deathmages can only pick from their lore, and the same for Vampires, while Deathlords can pick from either. The Deathmage lore is my favorite, and focuses on debuffing the enemy with only a few offensive spells. For example, Fading Vigour makes an enemy unit -1 attack from all of their melee weapons and makes it so they only roll 1 dice when charging. There are a bunch of other good ones in there just like that, when if combined together, can leave a particular enemy unit at -1 attack, -1 to hit, -1 to wound, -1 to bravery, and -1 to their damage characteristics. That's a perfect storm situation, but it can be pretty devastating in the right situation. The Vampire lore on the other hand is much more offensive and all about dealing damage. Amaranthine Orb for instance has you draw a straight 12" line from the caster, and each unit under it suffers D6 mortal wounds on a 4+. Coolest of all, is that both lores benefit from the Locus of Shyish rule. Whenever you roll a natural 9+ to cast any of these spells you get to resolve the effects of that spell twice. The second time can either be on a new unit or on the same unit. Meaning in my example before, if you cast each spell on a natural 9+ you could make an enemy unit -2 attacks, -2 to hit, -2 to wound, -2 bravery, and -2 damage. A perfect, perfect storm. It's a nice little touch, and happens more than you would think. It's only for spells from these lores though, so no warscroll spells or Mystic Shield or Aracane Bolt.

The last two allegiance abilities are the Soulblight and Death allegiances reprinted from the General's Handbook with slight tweaks to bring them inline with the new Summonable mechanic. There are no gravesites here, so the Legions are still the best choice. The generic Death allegiance is the only way to include models from outside this battletome though besides through allies, which only Flesh-eater Courts are able to be allied.

We get two narrative battleplans included in here, both of which seem pretty fun. One is more of a last stand, where your entire Death army is made up of heroes, and as you kill enemy units you can raise them back up. The other has you raiding the tombs of your enemy, allowing you to bolster your army with each tomb. They definitely benefit from not worrying to much about points, but look like a lot of fun to play and fit the feel of this army like a glove.

The Path to Glory section is the same as in other Battletomes, with charts for you to pick from for each of the Legions and the Grand Host.

Now, onto the Warscrolls. The Warscroll Battalions in here all seem fairly good for the most part. I know some people were concerned that they wouldn't be viable for matched play, but outside of the one for the Legions of Blood and Sacrament, I think they all work. Even those two could work, they're just very hero heavy. Each Legion and the Grand Host gets a battalion to represent their style of play, with the First Cohort being my favorite. This has you take Nagash, a unit of Morghasts, and 3 units of Deathrattle. The Morghasts let you soak up wounds from Nagash if they're nearby, while Nagash is able to heal units from the Battalion even better with his Deathly Invocation ability (more on that later). You also get a cool one for Prince Vhordrai, with ambushing Blood Knights, and the Deathrattle one from the Grand Alliance book, renamed the Deathmarch.

The warscrolls themselves more or less stayed the same, with a few notable changes. First off, summoning is gone, instead replaced with the Summonable keyword. Units that have this are ones like Skeletons, Grave Guard, Zombies, Spirit Hosts, Hexwraiths, etc. This also ties into the other change, Deathly Invocation. Most heroes now have an ability called Deathly Invocation that ranges in effectiveness. The basic gist of it is that it allows you to heal summonable units in the same manner as Gravesites above. Nagash can pick any five units on the battlefield to heal and can re-roll his D3 to heal, while heroes like a Necromancer can only pick up to two units that are within 6" of him. Couple this with the Gravesites and the healing ability from the Grand Host, and you can have any army that regenerates each turn pretty quickly. For example, you can have a unit of Grave Guard healed by a Gravesite they're near, the Grand Host's ability, and a Deathly Invocation ability, for a total of 9 possible models returning to the unit. If there are more heroes nearby they can use their Deathly Invocation on the same units as well. This also means that any unit that used to have a banner that healed them in the hero phase has now had that ability removed. Units can no longer heal themselves, and instead have banners that make the enemy -1 Bravery when within a certain distance. This feels a lot more natural, with graves and heroes doing most of the healing. There are a few other tweaks here and there, like the Vanhel's spell now affecting Summonable units (hello double pile in and attack Spirit Hosts!) and Black Knights having one additional attack. For the most part though, these warscrolls will seem familiar, with any changes generally increasing their effectiveness. We do get two new units with Prince Vhordrai and the Bloodseeker Palanquin. Vhordrai seems like a cool alternative to a Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, but I haven't quite figured out how to best use the Palanquin myself. The points for everything have pretty much stayed the same as well, so no worries about a points hike. Morghasts and Grave Guard are now battleline in a Grand Host of Nagash, while Vargheists and Black Knights have lost their "battleline if" abilities. You can still do a full Nighthaunt or Soulblight army though with Blood Knights, Spirit Hosts, and Hexwraiths retaining their battleline if statuses. If you want to include Mournguls in your Nighthaunt army though you will have to use their GHB allegiance abilities, which means no healing or spells, but you still get to use their updated warscrolls (Wraiths, Banshees, and Hexwraiths all now have the ability to do mortal wounds just like Spirit Hosts).

I really, really like this book. The lore is fantastic and the rules really reflect how I envisioned an army like this fighting. All of the allegiance abilities are strong, and the spell lores are great. This is the book Death players have been waiting for. It has everything you could want and I think it will really compete on the tabletop as well as being a ton of fun to play. I'll probably be taking Nighthaunt myself to Adepticon, but if I can get enough painted (hopefully Nagash himself) I'll be rocking the Grand Host of Nagash instead. I'm excited to see all of the different army lists that come out of this too, since the various allegiances really do lend themselves to a bunch of different army builds. If you're a fan of the AoS lore I think this would be a must buy. It updates you on where Death is at and helps support the Malign Portents book. This is the timeline and story of AoS ticking forward, and the future is looking grim for the Mortal Realms. 

I should have my Malign Portents review up either later this week or first thing next week, so keep an eye out for it! For those asking, yes you can take the Knight of Shrouds in a Legions of Nagash army, and I'll go over how in the Malign Portents review.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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