So… the undead are something of a guilty pleasure for me. There was a time when I was in my 20’s when the Lestat style vampires were entirely my thing. That being a creature of the night like that and feasting on the evildoer didn’t sound bad at all to me. I think I reached peak undead burnout when I lived with a coven of self-proclaimed vampires on the west coast. And since… it’s been something I don’t visit all that much. It’s fallen out of vogue for me. Old hat. Overdone. I did try and watch the Twilight movies. Don’t get me wrong, I was watching these ironically with Rifftrax making fun of them playing in the synched-up background. I cannot imagine trying to watch them straight. I might sprain something in my head. But… BUT. There was a time they were cool for me.
The whole thing about the undead still scares me. I… am a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies. I probably saw a few things that were too scary for me when I was little. Little Danny Glick rising from his coffin and biting someone in the neck in the old Salem’s Lot, for example. And to this day, I can’t do Zombies. Pretty much in any form. I know why and honestly it’s too long to go into here. This is not therapy. Suffice to say, when I finally see the new version of IT, my wife will be there holding my hand.
So now that I’m teaching myself all about Warhammer, and all their factions, I’m aware that undead are in the game. I’m not all that squicked out by it, but I never really thought to look INTO it. So with Halloween upon us, and our Flesh-Eater Courts having come available to rent, I figured I needed to get the hell over it and have a look into them in the game.
Now… I did already have SOMETHING of an impression of the undead in the game. I’d seen Necron armies in game shops. My impression of them has been more of metallic skeletons advancing across the smoking wastes of a grimdark battlefield, with glowing green heavy energy rifles and eyesockets. Pretty much a halloween-ized version of the opening shots from the early Terminator movies. But this is a deep and rich game setting. And as always, there’s a lot more to it than that. And besides that, I keep getting told they’re not TECHNICALLY undead. I figure they’re EXACTLY Technically Undead. But we’ll talk about that.
I’m very obviously looking at Warhammer Wiki’s online about the Undead. But I wanted to kind of liveblog my impressions as I learned about them. I’m not a horror noob. I’m a Warhammer noob. So you don’t have to bear with me TOO much. I wanted to be a horror writer when I was in grade school. Back when my last name was Gore, and was the perfect surname for it. Anyway. Factions…
Now my favorite vampire movie ever is an obscure Hammer horror film. Still, hardly anyone remembers Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. But near the end, when Benedict Cumberbatch’s actual mom (The Motherbatch) is talking about her dark lineage, she namechecks that she’s a Carstein by birth. And holds many dark secrets. (Click the link and look at about 01:15:40.) This is what I immediately go to when I see the VON CARSTEIN crest on the Wiki for the Vampire Counts.
It looks like it has its base in a lot of Egypt-ISH lore, which feels a bit like some of the ancient egypt built into some of those old Anne Rice books. (More on that with the Tomb Kings.) They do even seem to have their own Queen of the Damned in the form of Neferata back in WarHammer Fantasy’s history. Looks like there’s even a bit of Lord of the Rings baked in with Nagash giving the Vampires a ring to control and in the darkness bind them. We’ve even got seven vampire lords after Nagash cursed them to being unable to bear sunlight. It’s not The Nine and the Witch King of Angmar, but I get the point. And it’s excedingly good DNA to crossbreed with.
And wow, was I calling it. It flies straight into the gothic horror of the Hammer-esque remixings of old Bram Stoker’s Dracula from there with the rise of Vlad Von Carstein from Otto von Drak. And into the vampire wars it goes. Rushing through and looking at the kinds of monsters I’m seeing in their kinds of army, I can see wanting to play with these folks. Or at least do some art or miniatures of some of them. The counts themselves don’t so much seem slavering beasts, relatively speaking, but fleshed out characters that would be interesting to RP, if not field in a battle. The gothic hammer horror / romantic period vampire setting isn’t lost on me. And one that I can still appreciate from the vestiges of my youth that remain.
Okay… here’s your real Pirates of the Carabbean salute. And honestly, what we’ve got here is an injection of the Pirate archetype into the warhammer game setting. And while they’re not hugely a faction of their own by the length of their wiki entry, it’s a compelling idea that by way of their piracy and misdeeds, they become an undead people who found a country of their own with zombies and lizardmen. It looks like what we’ve got here is an infusion of the pirate adventure genre along with Voudoun and South American Aztec empires of old. At least from the glance I’m getting. Is this a full on undead faction of their own? Have they just not been developed as much? I have questions. Cos the ‘drink up me hearties YO-HO!’-ness of my Pirate-loving anarchist self sees the idea of undead pirates and may love the idea more than the old Hammer Horror archetypes of the Vampire Counts.
I have never seen The Mummy. Any of them. No classic horror from the early through mid 20th century. None of the Brendan Fraser led adventure films from later on. Not even that much lamented one that had Gazelle as the Mummy queen. The closest I’ve got was the old episode of Amazing Stories about the actor PLAYING the Mummy having to get past the real actual risen mummy of Ra-Amenh-Ka to get to his wife before their daughter is born.
There’s a Rice novel that hits on the more Egyptian side of the undead mythology that I never read, as I’d fallen out with all creatures unbreathing by then. Doctor Who even plumbed Egyptian folklore for a super-race referred to only as The Osirans, and the recurring villain, Sutekh the Destroyer. The Tomb Kings would seem to be the precursors of all the Carstein vampire types, and the source of a lot of their lore. It’s a nice way to bake the two horror sub-genres of undead monsters together.
Looks like some Ten Commandments and Egyptian religion was baked in here as well, which I won’t go TOO into detail on. I do appreciate how they’ve got this faction sort of associated with the earliest beginnings of organized society, given Egypt’s role in the rise of western societies on the whole; what with the rise of the plow, written language and mathematics. There are so many ALMOST god names here. (Like really, SettRA? PtLa?) There’s a lot of the fall of ancient Egyptian society as it passes into the sand and its cities crumbled, at least from the horror movie standpoint as the Nehekharan society devolves into necropoli and mortuary cults.
Looks like it went from there into the whole thing with Nagash and the creation-of-the-vampires thing, but eventually after much awfulness, Settra the Imperishable is brought back and breaks the back of this vampire infused necromantic foolishness, beginning the Reign of Millions of Years. I’m seeing what looks like an incursion of Viking types from Norsca that got WAY cursed by Settra. A bit of ‘The 13th Warrior’ and ‘Pirates of the Carabbean’ there it’d seem, with a healthy dollop of The Mummy.
Looking at the flavor of the units, typically fielded full of skeleton warriors, priests and insect hordes, it’s hard not to like. It might not be my first choice, as it’s not classically been my genre. But the tragedy of an ancient society of light fallen to darkness, in all its antiquity is an alluring one. One I wouldn’t turn down a play of.
Now if I hadn’t read up on a BUNCH of undead lore, or at least glossed over it to a large degree. (Yeah, I’m not gonna absorb all of this in the space of a shift.) I wouldn’t have known much about the breat betrayer Nagash in all that Vampire Court and Tomb King lore. That said, there seems to be NO societal archetype he couldn’t corrupt and make defiled undead armies of. In this case, more far eastern looking societies in the form of Ossiarch Bone Reapers.
In the photos I’m seeing here, I’m seeing a lot of what feels like undead strains of Indian, Mongolian and Chinese descent. The photos I’m seeing here make me think of the thousands of guardian warrior statues of the Chinese emperors of old. Their whole schtick of being living bone armor almost feels a bit Necron. (More on THEM later.) I’m getting that this is something Nagash literally put together while he’d been cruising the world, amassing knowledge about death magic. Or maybe they’re just the ongoing relics Nagash left behind in other realms after he was put down by Settra. The pages I’m finding on the Bonereapers are unclear, and disturbingly free of backstory. There’s nothing on them in the Fandom Wikis. So, it looks to me and my noobish vantage-point that this is a thing that’s just ABOUT to drop on the whole Warhammer community. The minis look fanTAStic in the searches I’m finding. Especially Orpheon Katakros. Now that said… I just watched a short about these guys on YouTube called ‘The Tithe’. OMG folks, the fellow voicing the video? He sounds like one of the Nemoidians from Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. Honestly, I’m listening to Orpheon, and hearing, “If you do not submit Nagash’s tithe, your bones will serve us for all eternity. As you know, our blockade is perfectly legal and we’d be happy to receive your ambassadors.” Anyway, have a look for these guys soon, if not already!
Okay… now I’ve always been more Sci-Fi than fantasy or horror. So coming to the wiki entry on the Necron being unmatched as a technological race immediately piques my interest. The DNA here from other places is strong here. The Necron as militant, compassionless killing machines that used to be a more intelligent species hits the DALEKS button hard. There’s a few notes of Borg here as well. The reptilian ‘Old Ones’ from so long ago that the Necrontyr seemed to take such umbrage with feels a bit Battlestar Galactica , with the mechanical Cylons overthrowing their reptilian creators.
With the Necrontyr’s betrayal at the hands of the C’Tan in order that they could finally defeat the Old Ones, it seems to bring a new meaning to ‘Be Careful What You Wish For‘. They’re almost NOT undead. But there’s a lot of sci-fi horror happening here. There’s a little bit of HR Giger‘s Biomechanics and a dollop of Zombies from Beyond Space! pulp action and a bit of The Terminator’s rise of the machines happening too. A lot of risen but flayed souls rising to reap what the elder races had sown in their arrogance.
I’m feeling a lot of vibes to do with subservient race with all the breaks against them rising up to be the inexorable doom of the future from ancient times. There’s the Frankenstein complex at play here that informs so much of robot uprising tropes wherein what man has created without compassion in his avarice for power and knowledge coming back to bring about his destruction. Though I’m also told they have an equivalent representation of Don Quixote?? So… the idea of humor injected into Necron, if only to deal with the extreme silliness coming from the Orks is a welcome respite from the grim tragedy the Undead seem to come with. Even though technically they’re NOT undead. Technically… they’re technical. And dead… and yet still alive. (Just like Leonard Cohen! Where my Young Ones fans at??)
-Edward WinterRose is a Warhammer noob, and a 48th level geek steeped in science fiction and fantasy ephemera, and as a result has gotten a bunch of horror lore from both genres despite being too afraid to watch horror movies or videogames by himself. But he still adores Halloween. Go figure.