All across the face of the Old World the dead are uneasy in their graves and the winds of Shyish gust wildly. Usirian, lord of the Nehekaran underworld is dead and taking his place is the Demi-god Nagash, first Necromancer, the dread lord of Nagashizzar, the enemy of life itself and potentially the savior of the Warhammer Fantasy world. The world is ending and every single race, every faction, has been called to arms for the last great war. The End Times are upon us.
This review will contain epic spoilers!
The first book in what is believed to be four books detailing the End Times belongs solely to Nagash. These events leading up to the return of the Lord of Undeath follow on from the events of the Sigmars Blood campaign quite smoothly. Before these events are elaborated on in detail, a few pages are spared for each of the races that we know of and the events surrounding them are laid out in summary. In case you haven’t read the spoilers, a brief repetition is as follows:-
– The Old World has been invaded by Archaon, now allied with what has been described as four ascendant greater daemons. The first throng of the invasion is being led by a returning Vardek Crom deep into the heart of the Empire.
– Ulthuan, Athel Loren and Naggaroth are besieged by Daemons. The heart of Athel Loren has been rotted to the core, Ulthuan is burning but holding under the leadership of Tyrion. Valkia the Bloody has led a mighty host of Khorne right to the walls of Naggarond. The individual intrigues at play here are amazing and the story summarised and woven by the authors is superb in its execution. The amount of questions left unanswered just for the elves alone creates an air of suspense for the upcoming books that is almost tangible.
– Lord Mazamundi has issued a single decree that may see a lot less Lizardmen present in the near future of Warhammer. Let the Exodus begin!
– Skavenblight is finally united to a single cause. Estalia and Tilea are suffering the brunt of this unity as the Lizardmen soon shall. There was no explicit mention, of the rumoured return of Grey Seer Thanquol.
– The Walls of the Grand Bastion of Cathay have been split open and a marauder horde comprised of the Hung and the Kurgan are spilling in. It’s doubtful we will see much mention of the plight of Cathay beyond this.
– A brief description of a bitter civil war that has gripped Bretonnia is elaborated on. King Leoncouer is dead, murdered by his bastard son. This state of uncertainty over the Monarchy of Bretonnia is ended when the Green Knight reveals himself to be Giles De Breton returned at last.
– Boss Wurrzag, the Orc shaman searching for the One True Git has the revelation he needs to look for two individuals, one representing Gork and one representing Mork. This currently appears to be Grimgor Ironhide and Skarsnik respectively.
– Greasus Goldtooth and the Ogres have begun a great migration after the volcano they live on erupts.
– The dwarfs, rather oddly do not appear to do a great deal. Their section of the introduction seems to not make much reference to anything beyond the grand deliberations, politics and the schism developing between those who would aid the Old World and those who would hide in the their holds, believing themselves impervious to harm.
There are details of the Empire, Sylvania and the reaction of the Tomb Kings in these opening stages of the End Times, however these are better detailed in the main chapters of the book:-
Chapter 1 – A Accursed Alliance
This section of the book details the alliance formed between Arkhan the Black and Mannfred, wherein they make efforts to retrieve the artefacts of Nagash to finalise the great ritual by which he would return. They move separately to capture Nagashs staff Alakanash, the legendary Fellblade of the Skaven and finally Morikhane, armour of the Lord of Undeath. These items coupled with the Crown of Sorcery and the appropriate divine sacrifices would bring about the return of the Lord of Undeath.
This chapter goes into immense detail about the twelfth battle of La Maisontaal Abbey, where Arkhan the Black fights against the Bretonnians. It is also here that a great treachery is revealed that is both surprising and not entirely unexpected. Definitely something that will have lasting ramifications for the Undead during the course of the End Times. This is actually divided into two smaller battles which tie together an amazing narrative.
Mannfred Von Carsteins battle with Clan Mordkin is also described in great detail as the Vampire must defeat an entire Skaven warren to reclaim the legendary weapon which felled Nagash. The precarious unpredictable Skaven nearly prove to be the undoing of the Lord of Sylvania here.
The third and final battle of this chapter details the fall of Heldenhame and the assault undertaken by the combined forces of Arkhan and Mannfred. It is here they reclaim Nagash’s armour from the homeland of Sigmar. These battles are extremely well written with accompanying diagrams and a few pictures of the miniatures themselves to serve as visual aids. This is not overdone though, with the artwork and the storytelling coming first and foremost.
Chapter 2 – The Ritual
The ritual required to resurrect Nagash had to be undertaken on Geheimisnacht, where magic would flow as water throughout the Old World. The forces in this chapter are slowly arrayed to try and stop the ritual; a High Elf host led by Eltharion the Grim, Hans Leitdorf, Chapter Master of the knights of Sigmars Blood and the Dwarf Slayer King, Ungrim, march to stop Mannfred Von Carstein and Arkhan The Blacks work. A final force is also described entering Sylvania at this point led by Malagor, the Dark Omen. Ungrim and Malagor come to blows within Sylvania and this battle removes both forces from the upcoming battle at the Nine Daemons. The deliberate cat and mouse game that takes place between the High Elves/Empire alliance and Mannfred has echoes of the third Vampire War when Mannfred fled in the face of the Empire with the roles now reversed. The Empire force is removed from the equation completely here leaving only Eltharion the Grims host to stop the ritual and save the world from the return of Nagash.
The format of the battles throughout this book are quite pleasing. The sides are presented with the most notable formations and commanders from either side being presented (allowing the lore buffs to recreate the units in exacting detail) and then detailed in the actual battle. Each battle is described in minute detail and each major player receives some well fleshed out detail.
The battle at the Nine Daemons shows the last attempt of the High Elves to save the daughter of the Everqueen from the predations of Mannfred and Arkhan. The scale of the intended deceipt by Mannfred is also played up here, as is the prescience of Arkhan. These details serve to turn this lore from generic to exceptional. The end result of this battle is known information (without the ritual being a success we wouldn’t have Nagash returned).
Chapter 3 – Death at the Worlds Edge
This chapter goes into detail about the events surrounding the Queen of Mysteries, Neferata during the time leading up to the ritual resurrection of Nagash. Within the Worlds Edge Mountains, Neferata has devoted her time and effort to finding the mythical Archway of Valaya with the express purpose of presenting it and its power as a gift to Nagash.
The Queen of Mysteries has long been a personal favourite throughout the Warhammer timeline however no justice is done to her in the opening portion chapter. The political aspects of Neferata would never come out well in a book dedicated solely to battles however the notion of the first vampire being outwitted by Greenskins seems like a plot device implanted to justify the appearance of her ‘saviour’ for this chapter:- Krell. The Battle of Skull Chasm sees Neferata leading her army into a deliberate ambush from a Goblin Warlord named Grulsik Moonclaw. The ensuing battle is a terrible battle of attrition only saved for Neferata by the aforementioned appearance of Krell. The details given in the battle and the accompanying forces of both sides present do make up for this shortcoming by painting a delicious picture of the carnage in Skull Chasm.
The second portion of the book details something which is supposedly covered in one of the other upcoming End Times books, a battle in the Underway. The battle between Neferata/Krell and the Dwarfs of Karak Azul/Thorek Ironbrow. The battle which follows does a great justice to Krell, bringing him from lowly sidekick to Heinrich Kemmler, to a fully fledged fighter and general in his own right. The Undeads strongest positions always seem to be those led by Krell. Neferata on the other hand leads from the rear in a manner more akin to a Skaven. This is quite apt for one with a mind for long games. The greenskins also make a return here seeming to contradict the previous ‘massacre with Grulsik still having what could easily be described as a reasonably sized Waagh at his disposal. The details of the battle are once again described in a grizzly but pleasing fashion. There is no apparent conclusion to the fate of Grulsik, however, in usual fashion for any dwarfs in Warhammer, none survive. The Queen of Mysteries and Krell secure Valayas Gate.
Chapter 4 – Dark Tides
(This is my personal favourite of all of the chapters)
Dark Tides deals with the Empires dealings with the End Times. The opening portion of this chapter details some of the atrocities committed by both the Empire and the forces of Chaos. It also deals with the forming of the Auric Bastion – a wall of stone and faith designed to keep the Northmen at bay. Most significant is the plight of Aldebrand Ludenhof, Elector Count of Hochland who burns all victims of a new plague to prevent it spreading further. The ensuing conversation with Karl Franz after this event sets off a further dark chain of events surrounding the central figure of this chapter – Balthasar Gelt, Supreme Patriach of the Colleges of Magic.
The defence of Alderfen and the rise of Valten demonstrate the epic nature of using the Empire as the central heroes in any fight against the supernatural and frightening forces of chaos. The men unifying under Valten to fight off Festak Kranns followers of Nurgle and the subsequent coming of Guru’gath of the Endless Rot is warming. The final arrival of the Undead led by Vlad Von Carstein to save the Empire from the Daemons of Nurgle is the sort of moment that sends chills down the hair on the back of your neck. It is following this battle that the decline of Gelt is first seen with his outbursting to the Emperor and assembled political figures about the stresses of the caging Sylvania. Following this, there is extensive detail given to Vlad and the mysterious ‘Nameless’ securing the Eastern portion of the Auric Bastion and Gelts attempts to find the daemon known as the Changeling with the help of Ar-Ulric Valgeir. These stories converge in the pivotal moment of the chapter when Vlad approaches Gelt and offers him a copy of one of the Revelations Necris following Gelts visiting of the portion of the Auric Bastion controlled by Vlad and the Nameless.
Following this meeting, the futility of the war against the North truly dawns on the now insomniac Gelt. This leads to one of the less shocking twists of the book as Gelt turns to Necromancy in his desire to stop the tide of Chaos. The descent is beautifully written and describes the full fall in detail including interesting interactions between Gelt and Vlad Von Carstein. The fall is completed in the ‘Death of a Traitor’ sub chapter along with the thread of an assassin within the ranks of the Empire as the would be assassin is killed by the servants of the Emperor. This leads up to the second battle of Heffengen.
The second battle of Heffengen sees a situation similar to the first however the horde of Chaos is led by Vardek Crom and accompanied once more by Guru’gath, Great Clean One. The highlights of this battle are the ingenious flank attack by Vlad Von Carstein, the humbling of Crom by Valten and the arrival of Khornes newest child – Walach Harkon, leader of the Order of the Blood Knights. The final twist of this chapter is immense in its implications as Harkon lays low the Emperor Karl Franz.
Chapter 5 – The Land of the Dead
The title of this chapter is apt in the sense that it is the dullest of the chapters. There are details contained within about the Undead Legions invasion of Nehekara. Each of the Mortarchs barring Vlad, and the Nameless take different routes into Nehekara with the plan being to reunite at Khemri. Here they will lay siege to the biggest city in the world while Nagash re-enters the Black Pyramid to usurp Usirian, Lord of the Underworld. This chapter is also accompanied by a map to get a better idea of the layout of the invasion.
Krell marches on the broadest front attacking across the Marshes of Madness. He is met at the Battle of Blight Water by King Phar. This situation devolves into a stalemate very quickly with Krell pushing slowly south following several indecisive battles with King Phar and the majority loss of his Necromancers. Dieter Helsnicht and the Doomed Legion are all that stops a sweeping defeat here for Krell. This is elaborated on in intrinsic detail which demonstrates the prowess of King Phar as a leader, fleshing out the current ruler of one of the major provinces in Nehekara.
Mannfred approaches Khemri down the west coast. It is here that he ambushed by King Behedesh in the desert and his force is almost completely depleted. The sands shifting and Tomb Kings unleash a plethora of horrors including Sepulchral Stalkers and Tomb Scorpions. Here he finally resolves to making a supposed last stand near the coastline of Nehekhara when he is rescued by the arriving forces of Luthor Harkon, who has ravaged the fleet of Zandri en route to aiding Nagash forces. It is here that Mannfred lucks out once again. The depiction of Mannfred here has been a poor one. Considering the extensive build up which constructed extra levels of malevolence for Mannfred. A fully realised character has been brought low and put completely out of character throughout this book and this continues in abundance in Chapter 5.
The most interesting front of the war in the land of the dead is opened up in the ruins of Lahmia on the Eastern coast of Nehekhara. The moment the wards around Lahmia are broken, Queen Khalida marches to war taking King Hassep, one of the subordinates of Settra, as her general along with King Tharruk of of Mahrak. There is a great detail placed on the grand skirmish in Lahmia and how it was intended as a grand distraction from the impending siege of Khemri.
The siege of Khemri is the very definition of gruelling with Nagashs amazing plan to get to the Black Pyramid. The undead forces appear deliberately weak so Arkhan can be captured. Nagash outwits Settra magnificently here rightly guessing that upon defeat, Arkhans body would be taken to the Black Pyramid for permanent destruction. Here Nagash emerges and departs across Khemri to reach into the underbelly of the Black Pyramid to usurp Usirian. He fells an immense war construct en route and takes Dieter Helsnicht along for the Necromancer had a great part left to play in the upcoming war with the Chaos Gods. Following the usurping, Nagash enters the battle with the now fully committed armies of Khemri and slowly turns the undead horde to his will. It is here that Settra is humbled and Nagash achieves lasting victory over his great enemies. The opening battles in the war of the End Times are complete and Nagash is now the undisputed ruler of the undead in the Old World.
Settras ultimate fate is an interesting one. Four ‘figures’ likely the Chaos Gods, provide Settra with a second chance at revenge against Nagash.
In conclusion, the book is one of the best written in recent memory. The greats of the battles, the accompanying hosts of battle and the extra details such as the maps serve to supplement the exceptional artwork and gratuitous use of older work as a means of conveying the necessary points. Nothing feels truly misplaced within the book and the smaller details of the battles including the previously unnamed sub commanders of the special characters from various books. The wanton destruction and killing of special characters is refreshing as it sets out and changes the dynamic of Warhammer Fantasy profoundly. Without, for example, the Emperor, or Eltharion, the Empire and High Elves prognosis for the upcoming End Times is considerably more bleak.
This book is definitely worth a look for anyone with a passing interest in the lore. The second book, the actual rules for the End Times only serves to sweeten the deal, particularly as it allows you to recreate the best of the battles in from the first book.
Finally, the TL DR on who died during the book:-
- Finubar the Seafarer (King of High Elves)
- Louen Leoncoeur (King of Bretonnia)
- Seer Lord Kritislik (Skaven Council of 13)
- Heinrich Kemmler, the Lichemaster
- Eltharion the Grim
- Morgiana le Fay, The Fay Enchantress
- Grand Theogonist Volkmar
- Aliathara, The Everchild
- Zacharias the Ever-living
- Thorek Ironbrow
- Wolfram Hertwig, Elector Count of Ostermark
- Aldebrand Ludenhof, Elector Count of Hochland
- Ar-Ulric Emil Valgeir
- Vardek Crom , The Conqueror
- Walach Harkon, Lord of Blood Keep
- Khatep, Grand Hierophant of Khemri
Next time I’ll actually look in more detail at the rules and give an overall impression of where I’d like the End Times to take us!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lee Pratt is a ten year veteran of Games Workshop games and has been playing games of all types even longer. He is also the former editor of the Watchman magazine. Following his hiatus from writing, Lee has delved deeper into the darker recesses of the far future.