I began playing Warhammer in 1997 on the tail end of the 5th Edition. Back then the undead army was a combination of vampires, necromancers, mummies, and all manner of units, in a single army book, simple titled Undead. Nagash was the lord of the undead, and the most powerful character in the army.
When my collection was still in its infancy, the army was fractured into the Vampire Counts and the Tomb Kings armies. Each was fleshed out with new units and characters, but Nagash was not among them. In the lore of the Warhammer world he'd been killed, and his absence from either of the new armies had us wondering if he'd ever return.
I never had the old Nagash model, and never used him in a game. His return is one of the things I've been looking forward to (perhaps dreading) for almost 15 years, so this is a pretty exciting time to be an undead player!
I had mentioned some time ago that the current Vampire Counts book feels closer to the original, 5th Edition Vampire Counts, with the way the army and characters are structured. And now we've come full circle, with the Vampires and Tomb Kings reunited in a single, massive army list under the most feared necromancer of all time.
An Overview of the Nagash Books
I took a quick look through the books. Book I is described as "the first chapter in the story of the End Times." I'm not sure how many books there will be, but together they will likely form the overall story, ushering in the 9th Edition of Warhammer. Since Nagash binds the Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings into a single army, this is likely where the rumor of "one big book for multiple, similarly-themed armies" originated. I imagine there will be a few more combined armies, maybe combined Chaos, Elves and Dwarfs, Bretonnia and Empire. Who knows?
The Undead Legions Army List
Book II contains the rules for fielding an Undead Legion army. It is essentially the combined list of both the Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts army books. It's worth noting that the unit entries are not in the Nagash book (aside from the new characters and Morghasts), so the current hardcover army books are still required. My theory (and I hope it proves to be true) is that the hardcover books will remain the army books for 9th Edition.
One thing I noticed is that not all of the special characters in the Vampire Counts army book are listed in the Undead Legions army list, and are therefore not available. Heinrich Kemmler is absent, as are Konrad and Isabella Von Carstein. So if you want to play with those characters, you'll need to field a "regular" Vampire Counts list. There's a new version of Krell, however, among the other Mortarchs like Vlad and Mannfred.
The full list of special characters available to the Undead Legions include the new character profiles in the Nagash book:
Manfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night
Vlad von Carstein, Mortarch of Shadow
Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament
Neferata, Mortarch of Blood
Krell, Mortarch of Despair
And the existing special characters in the Tomb Kings book:
High Queen Khalida
It's worth noting that the Abyssal Terrors ridden by some of the characters are not counted as a character and a ridden monster. The entire model counts as a monstrous character with a single profile.
The only new units are the the Morghasts. Morghast Harbingers (equipped with two hand weapons) are fielded in units of 2+ models and count as a Special choice in the army. Morghast Archai (equipped with halberds) are fielded in units of 2+ models and count as a Rare choice in the army.
Nehekaran Undead are treated as regular Undead for all intents and purposes. And any spells or rules that affect one or the other apply to both; essentially there is no separation between "wet" or "dry" undead. (Worth mentioning because I've seen some concern about that online.)
The Undead Legions list also does away with the specific army rules for the Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings and reprints a combined list of army rules. It doesn't look like there is any difference for how the undead armies work. One new feature of the Undead Legion is that the army does not begin to crumble if its general is slain!
Every army has its allowance for Lord characters and Hero characters increased up to 50% for each.
The Lore of Undeath
The new Lore of Undeath is pretty solid. It's has rules for a new spell type: Summoning (spells that create new units) and four of the seven spells (6 spells plus a signature spell) allow the caster to summon any of the different categories of undead from anything in the army list. Any wizard in any army can use the Lore of Undeath, so we could see Empire wizards resurrecting Skeleton Chariots! (That's right, puppets, dance! Do our work for us!)
Unlike the other raise the dead spells, which replenished or added a certain number of models, the summoning spells allow you to summon new units up to a certain points total. Each spell has higher and lower levels of difficulty, allowing you to raise whatever you want, with any of its available options within the points value. (Even characters!)
The full list of spells is as follows:
Grave Call (Signature spell, summons infantry or monstrous infantry)
Breath of Darkness (a cross between Invocation of Nehek and Danse Macabre)
Hand of Dust (gives the wizard a single, deadly attack in hand to hand combat)
Soul Stealer (works like a Banshee's Ghostly Howl with a longer range)
The Abyssal Swarm (summons war beasts, swarms, or monstrous beasts)
The Harbinger (summons a character, monster, chariot, or war machine)
The Dark Riders (summons regular or monstrous cavalry, or chariots)
Something else worth noting is that the lore attribute gives the caster a token for each successfully cast spell. He can cash in these tokens later to increase the points value of units when summoning them.
The book also has rules for the characters Valten and Crom the Conquerer and a new set of special terrain rules for fighting underground and in haunted battlefields. It covers things like fighting in darkness, cave-ins, haunted terrain, and rules for haunted forests and the Garden of Morr that could be applied to any graveyard elements. In addition, there are 19 different scenarios that allow you to recreate the battles of the End Times.
The Nagash Model
This is a pretty sweet kit with tons of detail and two (technically four) build options. He can be built with his right hand holding a book or a spirit, and his left hand holding his sword or staff.
After seeing the initial pictures leaked online, I was trying to think of ways to convert the model and put my own unique spin on it. But now that I have it in hand I don't know what I'd do to "improve" it.
I'm certainly going to spice up the base. The ethereal tendrils that hold him aloft appear to be sweeping through the bones littering the ground. I think a graveyard scene or even a mausoleum is in order. Hell, I might even create a swarm of skeletons being animated by his mere presence. Whatever I do, I'll keep an assembly and painting blog on the progress. I definitely can't let this model languish on the Shelf of Shame.