Nagash 101: History of Warhammer’s Great Necromancer

September 19, 2014 by dracs

The Great Necromancer has returned to the Warhammer world, bringing death and destruction in his wake. Nagash has been a major character in Warhammer lore for years, but strangely this is only the second time Nagash has appeared in the rotted flesh. Given how huge his reappearance is for Warhammer, we decided to delve into his history to find out just who this Great Necromancer is.

Nagash the Sorcerer

To say Nagash has had more of an impact upon the Warhammer background than any other character is by no means an understatement, as he is single handedly responsible for the presence of the undead in the world.

Nagash started out as the High Priest of the Nehekharan Mortuary Cult, priests whose knowledge and use of magic to preserve the body after death gave them a lot of power in the old kingdoms of Khemri, and would later become the Liche Priests of the Tomb Kings.

Liche Priest

However, Nagash sought to gain power over death itself. By learning dark magic from dark elf prisoners and mixing this twisted art with the Mortuary Cult’s magic, Nagash created the magic known as Necromancy. Using this, he sought to take over the kingdom of Khemri, and was only over thrown by the combined efforts of the kings of Nehekhara. Swearing revenge, Nagash retreated into the mountains, where he established a mighty kingdom of undeath. There his power grew as he experimented and consumed warpstone, eventually becoming a monstrous avatar of the living dead.

From his mountain fortress Nagash then began planning with the help of Skaven influence. He would mine the mountain out to it’s very depths in search of warpstone both green and black to forge into his armour and augment his spells. His eventual downfall came at the hands of King Alcadizaar who was bought to Nagash in chains. Set free by the Skaven and armed with the Fellblade he would strike down Nagash even though he was driven mad in the process. Nagash then returned and was yet beaten once again by Sigmar on the battlefield and despite losses managed to wound the Man God so badly that he would never be quite the same again.

Nagash wasn’t to be stopped however and he would return one more time in the annuls of history during the Night of the Restless Dead but he pulled a bit of a Sauron the Necromancer with this one and instead had been working behind the scenes through his many deathly servants across The Old World.

Model wise however, it wouldn’t be until 1994 that Nagash would appear on the battle fields of Warhammer as one of the ugliest models ever.

Nagash Mini

Yikes that thing is horrifying, and not in a good way. Nonetheless, it does still have a bit of nostalgic charm to it, coming from when the game followed a very different artistic style.

While the model might not rate among your favourites, Nagash was nonetheless one of the most powerful characters in the game. Dangerous in close combat, it was spell casting that he really shone as his magic item the Book of Nagash gave him an extra magic level, making him the game’s only level 5 wizard!

Warhammer Armies Undead

This was the first dedicated army book for the undead faction, and afterwards the undead of Warhammer would split off into two distinct armies: Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts. Of these two, the vampires are perhaps the closest in spirit to what the unified undead army was like, but given that Nagash could happily have fitted into either category (the Tomb Kings hate him, but then they don’t like each other much), it’s not surprising that he disappeared from the game for a while.

Yet Nagash continued to have an impact upon the game as magic items attributed to him appeared as part of characters’ dedicated equipment. The Book of Nagash, for example, passed into the hands of Arkhan the Black, another hero from the original army book who wound up in the Tomb Kings faction.

Tomb Kings

His legacy continues in the magic of the Vampire Counts force, with one spell in The Black Art, now called the Lore of the Vampires, was named the Gaze of Nagash. This spell was a magic missile where bolts of black magic shoot from the casters eyes to whither the very flesh of their enemy, causing 2D6 Strength 4 hits.

In the ten years since Nagash stalked the tabletops, there have been rumours of his return and a number of rather cool fan-made conversion models have appeared.

Nagash Conversion

Nagash Conversions

Images from

Now the Great Necromancer has risen once again as part of Games Workshop’s attempt to move the timeline of the Fantasy world forward in the new Warhammer: The End Times supplement.

Warhammer the End Times Nagash

Chaos is rising in the Warhammer world and the Slann have declared this to be the end of days. Arkhan the Black and Mannfred von Carstein have decided to resurrect the ancient liche lord, returning his dark power once again to the realm, with a miniature that makes him bigger and more terrifying than ever.


Despite that massive hat, this model is far cooler than his last incarnation. However, the most interesting thing is the changes to his rules. This guy is a true monster! He is once again a level 5 wizard, but no longer due to carrying a magic item, he’s just that good. And now he doesn’t have just the one Book of Nagash, he’s carrying all nine, allowing him to know a total of nine spells!

The return of Nagash helps to make the events of the new supplement epic in scale,, as Nagash has been a menacing presence in Warhammer since time immemorial. Of course, his appearance makes me hopeful that we’ll start seeing other god-like characters appearing in the game. It’s great to see this major figure of the background once again appear, accompanied by rules for combined undead forces and even a new magic lore. I’m looking forward to seeing how his story will develop.

How do you think Nagash has come along since his first appearance?