- – Hieroglyphic inscription over the sarcophagi of Settra's Tomb Guard
Royal bodyguards, and somewhat based off the soldier mummies from the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies. Their job was to protect the royal family. They wielded weapons imbued with killing curses and were chosen from the hardiest and most loyal Nehekharan soldiers.
In life, Tomb Guard were called Palace Guard, and were the only opportunity for someone of ignoble birth to likely ever see the beauty of the inner Palace and gaze upon the living gods of the kings and queens for themselves. Each was permitted at least a dozen of the King's slaves to tend to his wargear in life so his complete and undivided attention could be on his scared duty-service to his king. Wordly wealth was not the reward which was their primary concern, for their true duty eternal was to come after death: their's or their king's.
The Tomb Kings, ever since before the Time of Settra, have practiced the art of mummification, though it is only after his reign that the intricate rituals have arose that would potentially allow for them to return in life. It's believed these traditions arose from much more ancient times, descending from the traditions of the Lizardmen of the Southlands, particularly in reverence to the Slann and their stalwart and revered Temple Guards. Although the Royalty and Nobles received the best mummification processes money could buy, their best warriors and guards received as close to the best as it was their duty in the afterlife to protect them. Infused into their blades and Halbreds are powerful incantations of cursing, which allow them to cut through organized ranks of other armies with ease, weakening them.
After Nagash decided to fuck everyone over, these guard showed a new purpose: Elite Heavy Infantry of the Tomb Kings. Their lavish shields decorated in veneration of their Gods, ornate armor, and lavish jewels provide far more protection than the comparatively weaker armor of Skeleton Warriors and even the armor of the barbaric tribes from before Sigmar which make up the Grave Guard. Additionally, outside of their kings, they retain the most cognitive ability of all the units which are not Royalty or nobility.
By default, Tomb Guard rest in large stone sarcophagi in the antechamber next to the royal burial chamber. If an invader enters the tomb, they will immediately awaken to intercept-though given their increased ability to reason or discuss, this doesn't necessarily result in violence as if someone enters to warn the king or to do something that's not robbing someone's grave, they may actually give them audience, as was seen when Khatep went to wake up Settra. Additionally, when their kings wake up, they will immediately arise.
Tomb Guard demonstrate a brutal cunning for which very few other enemies can match, having lived for a hundred lifetimes and retaining more of their personalities than others who can claim similar experience. They have slaughtered and been slaughtered by every enemy the Warhammer World can offer, and so have grown stalwart and fearless, only truly dedicated to their king, and animated by the heroic visions of their past, burning scorn for their king's enemies, and unyielding will towards bloody victories, even if to just rise again after being slain and awaking in the cold stone of their sarcophagus.
It should also be noted that if they go mad due to the constant battle and killing frenzy engraining itself in the psyche of the warrior, they will enact a ritualistic suicide rather than live with the shame of endangering their king in which they will cut open their palm and mark a Necroserpent in front of the mortuary cult ingest the venom of a serpent and be buried under their marked statue after mummification. If Qu'aph judges their souls worthy, they will rise again with their king in the ranks of the Necropolis Knights. It's unknown if this practice continues in their existence of undeath, given it's hard for a skeleton to ingest poison, but the powers of belief and ritual in Warhammer can never be understated.
Despite how much the fluff punches them up, Tomb Guard aren't quite as awesome as they appear in crunch. Partially this is due to their Vampire Counts counterpart being Grave Guard, which are more like that "slight-better-than-average" skeleton archetype.
In 6th edition, Tomb Guard were considered poor. They had a lower maximum unit size than Grave Guard-which hurts an undead units a lot in attrition tests-no weapon options, no heavy armor and no banner of borrows.
In 8th edition, although significantly buffed, they were 11ppm, meaning they were a good chunk of your army's points cost-especially if given Halberds, as they finally have access to them, though it will raise the cost to 13 ppm. Generally the best way to use them was to have them sink in a lot of points including having a decked-out Tomb King, Necrotect and Tomb Herald ride with them to get them into melee as soon as they can while your hierophant or liche priest focuses on buffing them into high heaven. That said, with the sheer points invested into this unit, expect your enemy to focus fire it, especially against armies with lots of magic and/or missile units.
Keep in mind in 8th, Black Orcs, the more heavily armored and elite of the two, was 12ppm, and came with better armor and a similar stat line. Tomb Kings suffer from opportunity cost and needing to strategize buffs and put a lot of effort into units to turn trash into treasure, and this is no exception. Tomb Kings live and die on their characters and this is one such case of that principle in action.
In the legends compendium for AoS, they act as Grave Guard without some of the buffs but with a free shield.
|Forces of the Tomb Kings|
|Leaders & Characters||Tomb Prince • Tomb King • Liche Priest • Liche High Priest • Tomb Herald • Necrotect • Tomb Monarch|
|Troops||Skeleton Archer • Tomb Guard • Skeleton Warrior • Nehekharan Warriors • Tomb Swarm • Dust Goblin • Bone Giant • Skeleton Horsemen -Skeleton Horse Archer • Carrion • Necropolis Knight • Mummies • Scythans • Bastethi|
|Constructs||Sepulchral Stalker • Ushabti • Warsphinx • Necrosphinx • Hierotitan • Tomb Scorpion • Bone Thrower • Screaming Skull Catapult • Casket of Souls • Necrolith Bone Dragon • Khmeric Titan • Sky-Boats|