AoS Shorts: Your Essential Guide to Age of Sigmar

Nagash – his story, lore and background

Hi everyone, in today’s show I’ve decided to do something a little bit different, mainly thanks to the amazing help of local master of Death, Tim Lind.  As part of the Legions of Nagash release, and before we all get swept away with Daughters of Khaine, I wanted to record a show on Nagash, his lore, background and the Mortal Realms.  

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Nagash: mortal man to God of Death in the Mortal Realms

Nagash is a pillar of Warhammer – so we could easily have hours of in-depth coverage – but I’m going to stick to AoS Shorts form and try to distill the story into a show around 20 minutes long.  The first half of the show is background, it tells the origin of Nagash from the world-that-was through to the End Times.  Given it is ancient history for those living in the Mortal Realms, this part is told as a saga.  The second half of the show is more descriptive and lets you know the main Nagash story from the Age of Myth through to Malign Portents and the Time of Tribulations.

Expanding to cover all of Age of Sigmar – lore, hobby and tactics

This experiment is part of my aim for 2018 to expand into a resource for all of Age of Sigmar, including lore and background summaries, book reviews, articles and hobby tutorials.  It is a lofty goal but I have some great people who have already offered to help.  If you are keen on writing a page or so on your favourite Age of Sigmar topic let me know – it could be a good fit 🙂  The project is a work in progress through the year, please drop by the site and let me know what you think – is the page layout intuitive? Are we covering all the major topics you are interested in? What more would you like to see in order to help new and established players understand the scope and depth of the Mortal Realms?

Upcoming shows and new list archive

In terms of the rest of the podcast, I have plenty of tactics and strategy content lined up as well for the coming months, including the return of Masterclass shows with top UK and US gamers. In the last few weeks I have also added an international Age of Sigmar tournament list archive to the site, where you will find tournament packs, lists and analysis from the biggest events in the US, Australia, and New Zealand so far.  The archive will be a complement to the Bad Dice archive which covers the major UK tournaments and will hopefully be useful for those wanting to gain inspiration or scope out the meta.

Twitter competition – win a set of Realmgates!

I’m also running a competition over on my Twitter feed for a brand new set of Realmgates to run with the new release.  Simply follow me, and quote retweet this tweet with #aosshorts and your best tactics advice, lore snippet or epic battlefield tale that will fit in a tweet.  The competition runs to 3 March.  All the details are in the tweet.


Anyway, let’s start with the saga of Nagash.

The Saga of Nagash

Even the gods have beginnings.

The dread Master of Shyish has origins in a long-destroyed world, in an Age Before Time. And yet, there are those who remember them.

There are the Few – members of an empty pantheon, ancient in their own right, but whose memories of that time are well-guarded. And there are the Many – the souls of those tormented, oppressed and destroyed under the tread of The Great Necromancer’s monstrous ambition, who linger yet in the deepest catacombs of the numberless Underworlds of Shyish.  It is with them that answers can be gleaned, for those with the tenacity and bravery to seek them, and those with the nerve to listen to the tales they have to tell.

It began in Nehekhara

Such tales have but one origin – the land of ancient Nehekhara, where the second son of a 3rd dynasty monarch usurped his kingdom and his gods over a lust for power and a forbidden union. Corrupting the religious and superstitious rites of his own death-obsessed culture, with an ill-gained knowledge of Dark Magic harnessed from the very winds that covered the world, Nagash secured the loyalty of disaffected noblemen and military officials – plying them with an addictive, life-extending elixir that granted them power (at the cost of dependence and obedience). The most loyal of these was a wastrel son of a minor lord, who saw in Nagash a second chance at a life wasted.  Arkhan found new purpose in his service to the Usurper – an unshakeable bond that could survive even the end of the world.  Together, they took the throne of Khemri.


The Black Pyramid rises

As his cult continued to refine their control of the Dark Winds, the tyrannical reign of Nagash soon became decades, and then a century. An enormous Black Pyramid was erected from blocks of black warpstone and the mortar of a thousand-thousand slave corpses – not to honour the glorious dead, like the monuments of his predecessors, but to draw the Winds of Magic to Nehekhara.

Gradually, this colossal arcane locus killed the land around it. For the other Priest Kings of Nehekhara, this was one crime too many. They allied against Nagash, and in a decades long war, managed to kill his black lieutenants and sack the Black Pyramid.

Warpstone, Nagashizzar and transformation

Vowing vengeance, he fled north through the desert, and passed from the world of the living. But Nagash had transcended death. His magic-infused body refused to untether its final shackles, and he had at last become immortal. He explored the Sour Sea region, discovering a mother-lode of warpstone, and using it to enhance his studies into Dark Magic. Without the limits of a normal lifetime, he pushed the use of magic in ways the mortal races seldom achieved. Experimenting on the local tribes during this time, he became the first and greatest practitioner of Necromancy, and as the centuries passed he transformed the region into a land of death, building the great fortress of Nagashizzar with his new labour-force. As the land changed, so did his body, and Nagash became a towering, monstrous sorcerer-lord.



Ratmen from the under-kingdoms laid siege to Nagash’s new stronghold, eager for the vast warpstone riches within. After decades of warfare, and entire generations of Skaven spawned and slaughtered for this cause, The Great Necromancer struck a bargain with the verminous Council of Thirteen, and an uneasy alliance was forged. Slowly, Nagash’s attentions settled once again upon his former homeland.

Regaining Khemri and Nehekhara

An invasion was launched from along the coast – skeletal ships delivered legions of walking dead to the southeast, where the defences were weakest. Several of the royal lines of Nehekhara were revealed to be under Nagash’s sway, as they had experimented with the dark knowledge they found in the Black Pyramid. A war unlike any other on the face of the world was fought – the dead against the living. As the living died, the army of the dead grew. However, thanks to the charismatic Priest King Alcadizzar, Nehekhara was united, and Nagash’s war of attrition ultimately failed.

Furious, Nagash unleashed a punishment worthy of the most spiteful of tyrants upon his foes. His Skaven allies poisoned the River Vitae, decimating the population of Nehekhara. When he next marched upon Khemri, we was unopposed. Alcadizzar was hauled back to Nagashizzar, and made to watch as the Great Necromancer’s final plan came to sinister fruition – the resurrection of an entire continent; men, women, children, all his to command. An army he would use to conquer the living.

Nagash cut down

Nagash would learn much of betrayal in his long unlife. However, it’s possible that his first was the greatest. His Skaven allies, fearful in the wake of his Resurrection spell, released Alcadizzar and armed him with a blade, mighty and lethal beyond description. Nagash was cut down in his moment of supreme triumph, his remains burned, and his artefacts of power scattered.

But Nagash had transcended death. It took millennia, but his body finally reincorporated within his Black Pyramid. He awoke to a different world. The armies he had risen from the dead refused to obey. Travelling north, he discovered Nagashizzar overrun with Skaven, his massive warpstone reserves depleted. In order to regain his lost power he journeyed further north, in search of his artefacts, and found his crown in the possession of another charismatic warrior king (and oh how he hated charismatic warrior kings…).

The first engagement with Sigmar

This ‘Sigmar’ had united the tribes of men into an Empire, against which Nagash once again made war. He almost succeeded in killing this new rival, but was undone by the potent dwarven weapon wielded by the warrior king, and was once again banished to a millennia of reconstitution.

Arisen in the End Times

This time, Nagash ruled from beyond the grave with the patience of a god. He manipulated world events through his many puppets, until he deemed the time was right. His plans had to be accelerated with the advent of a new Everchosen, a chaos champion with the power and ambition to threaten his own existence. Guided by his unseen hand, Arkhan had gathered his staff, sword, crown and armour, and in a mighty ritual he was reborn. This time, his power was greater than it had been for over 2,000 years, for he had incarnated within a massive portion of the Winds of Magic – the Amethyst wind;  Shyish.

Legions of Nagash

Time, he sensed, had grown short, and even this amount of power was not enough. Nagash made his final return to Nehekhara, and destroyed it. Utterly. He sought what remained of his people’s gods in the underworlds, and devoured them. He sought the god-seed of the Dwarven god, Valaya, and devoured it. Even this was not enough to halt the tide of darkness on the horizon.


Preservation was ever Nagash’s ultimate goal, and this time circumstances dictated an alliance with the living. In what would become the final stand in the survival of his world, Nagash stood alongside gods and kings, enemies old and new, and lent them the last of his power.


But the souls of those tormented, oppressed and destroyed under the tread of The Great Necromancer’s monstrous ambition were many, and betrayal was ever close at hand. The Incarnates failed, and the world at last was lost.

However, Nagash had transcended death… and even the gods have beginnings.


Nagash in the Mortal Realms

Nagash in the Age of Myth

After the cataclysm of the world that was, it was Sigmar who first came across Nagash’s shattered essence, buried under a mountain-cairn in Shyish.  The God King, Sigmar freed Nagash.  Nagash joined Sigmar’s pantheon and took responsibility for protecting Shyish from Chaos.  Since that day, Nagash has laid claim to all of Shyish.


Through this Age, civilisations thrived, even in Shyish. Nagash tolerated their existence, and maintained his marriage of convenience with Sigmar, while pursuing all the other gods of death and consuming them.

In his mind, all souls belong to Nagash as the rightful god of Death. Souls are what has granted Nagash his formidable powers and are the resource he uses for his macabre creations and weapons of war.  Aelf-souls are particularly powerful and blaze with potential, but were almost completely consumed by Slaanesh in the End Times.

Nagashizzar is Nagash’s capital, the centre of his power, a foreboding shadow-shrouded necropolis that echoes to the screams of tormented souls.  A fortress city of looming spires and twisting, mist-shrouded alleys populated by the risen dead.  Cathedrals of bone and vast underground mausoleum palaces.  No living creature can approach its walls as it radiates dark magic that would wither flesh in an instant.

Its creation was made possible by the discovery of vast deposits of Shyishan realmstone at the far edge of the Realm of Death – grave-sand, sand-of-time, mortis ash – pure crystalline death (or amethyst) magic.  Nagash directed the construction of colossal inverted pyramids constructed from vitrified grave-sand which float in the skies about Nagashizzar.  These pyramids are beacons for dark energy.

Nagash in the Age of Chaos

Then came the invasion of the Chaos Gods.  Sigmar’s pantheon fractured as its members pursued their own goals – Nagash sought his own power, Gorkamorka revelled in war, Alarielle retreated into the glades of Ghyran, Tyrion treated it with indifference, Malerion sought to subvert it and Grungni retreated into exile believing his people’s hope rested in their own autonomy.  

The Battle of the Burning Skies – Betrayal

Nagash abandoned Sigmar at the Battle of the Burning Skies, where the forces of Chaos won a climactic victory.  The Shyish Arcway is taken by Chaos.

Feeling betrayed, an enraged Sigmar hunted Nagash across Shyish and began the War of Heaven and the Underworlds.  The Great Necromancer proved elusive, however, and the war only served to deplete the strength of both former allies. Sigmar withdrew, his hunt ending in a futile stalemate.

War rages across Shyish

Meanwhile, Archaon had seized the All-Points in Sigmar’s absence. As Sigmar withdrew from Shyish, The Everchosen began pouring his own forces through the All-gate, and so began the War of Bones.

Also known as The Barrow Wars, the conflict fought between Chaos and the Legions of Death raged on for centuries, and the Legions of Nagash were forced back to the deepest underworlds.  

The Everchosen lays low the Great Necromancer

At the gates of Nagashizzar, in the Battle of Black Skies, Archaon the Everchosen cut Nagash down in an eruption of necromantic energy.  His armies collapsed and Nagashizzar was toppled and left a burning ruin.  Only a desperate counter-attack by Nagash’s Mortarchs drove Archaon’s forces back long enough to recover Nagash’s remains.  

The Undead forces retreated to the forgotten underworld of Stygxx.  Nagash’s consciousness was shattered, and it took centuries for him to regenerate his lost powers and physical form.  

Nagash in the Age of Sigmar

When Sigmar’s Tempest swept out from Azyr, Nagash emerged from the Starless Gates and death magic swept across Shyish once more. As his consciousness unfragmented into cogency once more, the Chaos forces in Shyish were dragged down one-by-one by an unending tide of bleached bone and grave-worn steel. In a sense, Nagash is a part of Shyish, and Shyish is part of him, and invading armies like Nurgle’s Knights of the Fly faced a hostile environment that literally haunted their every step. When Nagash’s wandering consciousness, which up to now had been harnessed by his Mortarchs in defence of the land, finally coalesced once more into singular purpose, Shyish fought back in earnest. The eight black-iron keeps around the ruins of Nagashizzar were torn down and the Chaos Lords crucified on the city’s walls to spend eternity in spirit-searing balefire.


Nagash has spurned all requests to join the wider fight against Chaos and instead concentrated on consolidating his plans for Shyish.  He even went so far as to actively sabotage Sigmar’s attempt to regain the All-gate by leaving the Anvils of Heldenhammer to assault it unaided, condemning them to defeat.

Nagash’s agents spread through the Realms

To further his ends, Nagash has dispatched agents across the Mortal Realms searching for clues to the true nature of the Stormcast Eternals, and to investigate reports of other souls disappearing from his grasp.

With Chaos pushed back, the reconstruction of Nagashizzar occurs at pace – millions work to that end.  Neferata and Mannfred have been dispatched to the Prime Innerlands of Shyish on vengeful crusades against Chaos.  Arkhan raises new inverted pyramids using hordes of undead servants to collect grave-sand from Realm’s Edge.  Trails of endless marching ants carrying the precious resource grain by grain.

Now Nagash seeks to claim his revenge by bringing his war to every corner of the Mortal Realms.  The Mortarchs have been unleashed.  

Neferata’s influence widens

Neferata’s blood cults and vampire covens have infiltrated all of Sigmarite society.  The Azyr-born Gestout dynasty in Anvilgard, the Pale Prince of Hammerhal, the Sanguinary Choir of Excelsis.  These intriguers, assassins and spies pave the ways for the Legions of Blood.

Mannfred leaves no survivors

Mannfred’s Legion of Night descend on mortal armies in bloody ambushes.  Wiping out frontier towns and fortified outposts overnight.  Culchasia burns.  Voltisgrad is a skeleton.  The twin fortresses of Crowfeast Peaks are strewn with corpses.  Mannfred has evaded all pursuing Stormcast forces sent to combat him.

Arkhan seeks knowledge to further the masterplan

Arkhan and his favoured Black Disciples seek forbidden knowledge, looting ancient tombs, hidden library cities and arcane reposities.  Armies pour into Ulgu.

With the pieces in motion, Nagash prepares for his intricate and devilishly cunning plan.  The coming moves will see the result of thousands of years of preparation.  Confident of his impending success, Nagash has dispatched spectral Heralds, the Knights of Shrouds, to the inner sanctums of  nations he deems suitable to serve him.  Those that accept are marked with the Nekrosene Mark – a magical brand that ensures their soul is given to Nagash at the end of their days.  Their fate is set to Nagash.

Malign Portents – The Time of Tribulations

A dark solstice has dawned, a season of discontent that has cast its palour over the realms – referred to as the Long Helsnacht or the Hexensendt in Shyish, the Ash-smother in Aqshy or the Glimmerdun in Chamon, or simply the Time of Tribulations across the free cities.

Death waxes ascendant,  The time is coming for Nagash’s final reckoning, an era of vengeance that will remind all traitors and pretenders who truly commands the spirits of the fallen.

Malign Portents

Further Community Coverage

There has been a lot of great coverage of Nagash in the wider Age of Sigmar community.  Some of the best content is linked below.  If I have missed something get in touch and let me know 🙂

The Mortal Realms podcast

  • Episode six – covers Prisoner of the Black Sun, Sands of Blood, Lords of Helstone and Bridge of Seven Sorrows
  • Episode thirteen – covers All-Gates and the finale of the Realmgate Wars

Fjordhammer podcast

Mengel Miniatures’ reviews

Contact – get in touch!

As always you can contact me through this site, AoS Shorts on Facebook, or for the quickest response, on twitter at @antipodean7.  Love to hear from you.


  • Cavatore, A., Johnson, J., King, W. & Pruinen, T. (2006). Liber Necris: The Book of the Dead in the Old World. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Games Workshop Design Studio. (2014) The End Times – Volume 1: Nagash. Games Workshop, Nottingham.
  • Games Workshop Design Studio. (2014) The End Times – Volume 5: Archaon. Games Workshop, Nottingham.
  • Games Workshop Design Studio. (2016) Grand Alliance: Death. Games Workshop, Nottingham.
  • Games Workshop Design Studio. (2018) Battletome: Legions of Nagash. Games Workshop, Nottingham.
  • Games Workshop Design Studio. (2018) Malign Portents. Games Workshop, Nottingham.
  • Johnson, J. & King, W. (1994). Warhammer Armies: Undead. Games Workshop, Nottingham.
  • Lee, Mike (2008). Nagash the Sorcerer. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Lee, Mike (2010). Nagash the Unbroken. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Lee, Mike (2011). Nagash Immortal. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Reynolds, J. (2014) The Return of Nagash. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Reynolds, J. (2015) The Lord of the End Times. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Reynolds, J. (2016) Nagash: The Undying King. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Reynolds, J. (2016) The Realmgate Wars: Mortarch of Night. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • Werner, C. L. (2016) The Realmgate Wars: Lord of Undeath. Black Library, Nottingham.
  • (2018) Legions of Nagash: Battletome 
  • (2018) Malign Portents


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