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Vampire Coast (Rulebook PDF)
Terrain placement is probably the most commonly modified rule in Warhammer. In the years that I've played I rarely see people go by the actual rules of terrain placement, which is each player placing one piece of terrain at a time (with a minimum of one each) until one person stops, then the other person gets to place one last final piece of terrain. If you do not typically play by the rules it might make your opponent angry if pick up a Vampire Coast army and suddenly insist on doing it by the rulebook, so I don't recommend that. However, as water features give pirates a supreme advantage in mobility while also providing soft cover while they move through them terrain plays a huge role. Lots of places you play won't even have any water hazards, so start modeling and pack at least two of your own along with your army.
Since you are guaranteed to always be able to place at least two pieces of terrain down, a medium or large lake on each side of the table (equidistant from each deployment zone) will narrow the battlefield for your opponent while keeping it the full width for yourself. Against a shooting army you've given yourself cover while you march towards them, and against an enemy charging out on the battlefield you funnel them in to ~56" in the center of the field while you maneuver through the full 72" battlefield width. Your terrain placement can also turn in to a threat. Ever played someone who puts down hills all over the deployment zone because they have to have their missile batteries elevated, or a Wood Elf player with a trunk full of forests? If you have five water features in your hand and a Vampire Coast army they might think twice about deploying excessive amounts of terrain.
Luthor Harkon (General)
Luthor Harkon is a controversial character, as he is a very specific choice that is compulsory for every pirate army. If you don't enjoy his style of play, see if your regular opponents will accept you replacing him with either a regular pirate hero or possibly a vampire lord. If you choose to play with Harkon, mold your playing style around him. You are a completely anti-magic army; six base dispel dice (seven if you take Slann Gold on a hero) with magic resistance 3 on the general's unit (and magic resistance 2 on another unit if you take the Ex-Parrot). By crunching the numbers of how powerful your opponent is in the magic phase and how many spells you need to let through on average to shut down the rest, you can mitigate even the strongest magic phases down to minor threats.
The number one rule of the pirates list: You need to figure out how you are going to protect Harkon. A 260 point general with no saving throws of any kind (except for regeneration on the last wound) is a ripe target, especially since his death means your army will start to crumble and you lose four dispel dice along with magic resistance 3 on a core unit. Due to the way most pirate armies are composed (lots of solo units like bloated corpses, carronades, leviathans), crumble will quickly lead to a crushing defeat. Sticking him in a solid block of core troops is a start, and giving that block some extra fighting power (through another hero) and/or static combat resolution (through a standard, BSB, magic banner, etc) is one option.
It might not be a good idea to put too many eggs in that basket, and another option is keeping the general's unit out of combat entirely. With this route, stay in just enough range to let your other units march as needed, move alongside another core unit and threaten flanks (only picking fights you will certainly win) or hide entirely behind a friendly unit, and milk those dispel dice for all they are worth as the rest of the army does the dirty work. If it doesn't seem feasible to keep him out of combat (such as facing a fast cavalry based Brettonian army), add a support unit like a leviathan to scare off your opponent or swing combat in your favor.
To summarize this, protecting Harkon is mostly a deployment phase decision. Look at what type of army you are up against, what threats are on the table (war machines, magic users, snipers, fast cavalry, monsters, anything), and what the best way to defend against them are (support unit(s), hiding behind another regiment, taking the offensive alongside another core unit, etc). You should be deploying core units and their support units after your opponent force is entirely deployed or almost entirely deployed which will be addressed in the bloated corpse section.
Vampire Fleet Captains
One of the three things in the Vampire Coast army list that isn't braindead (including Syreens and the general half of the time), and a free killing blow ability with every purchase, stocking up on plenty of fleet captains is a must. They are also the only way to get any magic items, and the pirates have a couple items that are probably worth taking. In my opinion Slann Gold is almost a compulsory choice just to get the extra dispel die, as you will need every last drop of anti-magic possible to survive against Lizardmen, Tomb Kings, Vampire Counts, High Elves, etc. Having said that though, I usually don't take the Ex-Parrot as:
* It will do nothing in Luthor's unit as the natural MR3 will make the parrots MR2 useless
* A second string unit of zombies with one or two fleet captains in it is probably not going to be a big target for spells
Taking magic weapons with fleet captains is a bad idea. The wight blade they come with that grants killing blow is treated as a mundane weapon, and if you take an additional hand weapon the captain will have four killing blow attacks, not bad for an additional four points. However if you equip a magic weapon the killing blow ability does not transfer to it, and you cannot take the additional hand weapon in to combat along with the magic weapon, so you actually lose killing blow and the additional attack just to gain whatever ability you are paying for.
Bloody Bill's Buckler is not too shabby for the money, and a 5+ armor save (with light armor and the buckler) with a 5+ ward save is the closest thing pirates will ever see to defense.
Battle Standard Bearer
Since the rules for the Vampire Coast battle standard bearer look apparently botched (allowing break tests to be re-rolled when no undead unit will ever take a break test) many people consider them worthless. However there are a few dirty secrets about the pirate BSB which compels me to bring one to every battle. The most important is that it allows you to take Dead Man's Chest, turning a somewhat mild unit in to a virtually unstoppable force with +1A for every model in the first round. My main regiment consists of Luthor, a fleet captain as the battle standard bearer carrying the chest, and 20+ deckhands (zombies). In combat Luthor will dish out a cruel seven attacks (eight if he is frenzied at the time), four from the BSB, and up to six attacks from zombies in the front rank if they're not killed before striking last.
I saved the best part for last though. The Vampire Coast battle standard bearer cannot be captured! The 7th edition rulebook states:
If the battle standard bearer has joined a unit and is slain in close combat, but his unit does not break in the same turn, the battle standard is simply removed as a casualty and cannot be captured.
A zombie unit cannot be broken, so as long as the BSB is inside a unit of zombies it will be impossible for your opponent to capture those bonus VPs.
The Syreen can be an interesting tactical choice, assuming you interpret the Ethereal rules the same as in the Vampire Counts rulebook. In the rule description of Ethereal included in the Vampire Coast army list, it reads exactly like the Counts description except it cuts off without any mention of not being harmed by magical weapons, and doesn't provide any additional clarification as to whether this is a "lesser ethereal" that doesn't get that advantage or if the full ethereal rles should be used. The stat line for this character is useless as expected, and the shooting call is not great either. "Take a leadership test and if you can't pass it this time, your leadership will be even worse next time!" Yawn.
So lets assume the Syreen is a true ethereal being that can only be harmed by magic weapons. You put her out on the battlefield alone (and be prepared to either stay out of line of sight or spend the dispel dice protecting her in the magic phase) and run at any unit that does not have any magic weapons or static combat resolution (which will crumble the Syreen). Instant tar pit that will last the entire game unless help arrives.
Zombie Pirate Gunnery Mob with Handguns
The gunnery mob is a core troop at 7 points a model, always needing an unmodified 6 to hit and firing at strength 4 with an additional -1 save. Additionally, on a roll of 1 to hit it will shoot itself with a chance to wound. Using these inputs we can do some math on how efficient the unit is at killing. Each turn it fires, there is a 16.7% chance of hitting an enemy an a 16.7% chance of hitting itself. After figuring in the chance of a strength 4 shot wounding the toughness 3 model, each gunnery mob will kill 0.139 gunnery mob models. I'll cut the rest of the math short, what it boils down to is if you fire for one turn the entire game against models with a toughness of 3 and armor save of 5+, you have to be shooting at models worth 75.6 points or greater for the gunnery mob to break even on points. Two turns of shooting in the game means 40 point models, three turns is 28.35 points, four turns is 22.68 points. If we adjust the enemy toughness to four the points required goes 100.8, 53.36, 37.8, 30.24. Important to note that these are required enemy points *per wound*, so a 100 point model with two wounds is not going to cut it if you only fire at it for one turn. Also note that the range is 24" so you won't be firing in the first turn if you start.
Handgun Summary: If your opponent has models with toughness 3 and armor save of 5+ or worse worth around 30 points or more and you believe you can fire the gunnery mob (uninjured) at that target unit or an equal value one for three turns of the game they are worthwhile to take on the basis of point efficiency alone. In my opinion this is not a common thing to see in an opponent's army, so a unit of these equipped with handguns and acting solely as a missile unit will probably be a waste. However they do have basic combat stats (WS2 still needs 4s to hit against most opponents), so a large enough group of them that is positioned well enough to provide combat support and fire on when they aren't moving could be a very versatile unit. Don't rule them out completely, just understand that they are not a traditional shooting battery.
Zombie Pirate Gunnery Mob with Brace of Pistols
The other option with them is to take the brace of pistols upgrade and use them as a combat unit. Before the pistol rules were changed this would have been a great idea as you get two attacks at strength 4 with an additional -1 to an armor save, sign me up for that! But with pistols counting as hand weapons in combat you are only getting Str 3 attacks, and to make things worse the unit size caps out at 20 models; lose a single model and the third rank bonus is gone. This aside though, statistically they are a better combat unit with braces of pistols than standard deckhands. The extra attack and -1 save modifier means a unit of gunners with pistols is going to do about 22% better than an equal point value number of deckhands against standard troops with light armor. Plus they get to shoot 8" if you find yourself in a situation where that might be worthwhile.
Brace of Pistols Summary: Seems like a worthwhile alternative to a second unit of deckhands. I wouldn't put my general in a unit of only 20 of them as they are still just as vulnerable to missile weapons and war machines, but a great secondary core choice.
We can use the same calculations used for the gunnery mob with handguns to look at the deck gunners, taking in to account the upgraded strength 6 attacks of their guns and more expensive point cost of 10. The hard hit combined with the additional -1 armor save means we can shoot at anything with a 3+ armor save easily, and toughness 4 models become equally easy to hit. Given that, if you fire for one turn at toughness 4 troops with a 3+ armor save (or lesser stats), you'll need to fire at 72 point per wound units. Two turns is 38.69, three is 27.87, four is 22.74. Toughness 5 means 90 points for one turn, then 48.36, 34.84, 28.42.
Compare this to a carronade. Seven deck gunners have a 1 - (5/6)^7 = 72% chance of hitting their target, while a carronade with a perfectly guessed range at -10" to the target has only a (5/6) * (20/30) = 56% chance of hitting. That's a non-misfire roll followed by 20 successful outcomes out of a possible 30 outcomes rolling the artillery dice twice in a row. However the carronade is one extra strength, no armor saves are ever allowed, it can crack chariots apart, cause look out sir rolls, has a further effective range, move and fire, and grapeshot. To make up for it deck gunners have the higher probability of hitting, higher probability of firing through the entire game (misfires with a cannon can end your fun temporarily or permanently while misfires with deck gunners just thin your numbers slightly), and you can increase the unit size up to 10 for another 30 points while still only taking one special slot. The increased unit size will give you an 84% of hitting with at least a single shot which is almost 30% higher than a perfect cannon shot. Final minor differences, you get more "crew members" with a regiment of deck gunners instead of a cannon and they cannot be targeted with spells or items that affect war machines.
Summary: What they lose in versatility, range, and strength vs. a carronade they make up for in reliability. My personal preference is still with the big guns but deck gunners are not a bad choice at all. If you do take them I would recommend going all out and getting 10 to a unit. Also remember not to bother shooting at standard rank and file troops, but go for the high point value dragon/kroxigor/troll/ushabti models that the rest of your army will have difficulty dealing with.
These guys are an absolute staple of any Vampire Coast list. The primary purpose of these units is to control the deployment phase, while also providing a bit of cannon fodder. Each 30 point model counts as a separate unit, and they are placed one at a time in the deployment phase. Four or five of these guys placed on the table before anything else means a large chunk of your opponents army will be on the board before you even start placing deck droppers or war machines. By the time you are putting down core and support units your opponent should be completely deployed giving you a nice tactical advantage before the first turn starts. Make sure you don't impose on your own deployment space with these guys, as you probably don't want to drop anything within 1.5" of them and if they are scattered throughout your deployment zone it can turn in to a self-imposed minefield. One simple solution to this is to scatter them about on one flank only, and use them as a minor threat/annoyance on that flank rather than scattered all over the battlefield.
During the game they will most likely be shot at. [Insert PLIS discussion here]. With a PLIS score of around 15 and causing them to explode before ever reaching enemy lines they are a fairly juicy target, and may never make it halfway across the board. Keep in mind that the deployment advantage of being able to decide on a protection strategy for your general as well as drawing fire away from the general's unit easily pays for their price tag, as long as they aren't taking out your other troops in bloated corpse explosion mishaps.
I'll start this section off by saying that the leviathan is a very good buy at 200 points. If used properly it can be an awesome force, shrugging off hits and wounds left and right while returning fairly serious damage. However the leviathan is probably requires more finesse then any other unit in the pirates list, and it can become a big liability at times. A quick glance at this unit on paper and it seems too good to be true, but keep in mind that it is part of the pirates list, giving it the lovely side effects of always attacking last and crumbling from lost combat resolution.
Scenario: You charge the leviathan in to a core block of enemy troops, thinking their measly WS3 ST3 attacks will be scoffed at while you eat a hole through the regiment. The unit attacks you first and maybe a character in the unit manages to score a wound, maybe nothing happens. You strike back with your matching WS3, hit on two or three of the five attacks and wound on two or three out of five. The unit adds their +1 standard, +3 ranks, and if a character or champion scored a wound or a magic banner or BSB is present you are limping badly after the first round and have maybe one more round of combat before being wiped out. Congratulations, your 200 point leviathan destroyed an average of five base troops before obliteration, and held them up for a whole two rounds (give or take a round). If you had gotten cocky and attacked a slightly more elite unit you probably won't be living to see a second round of combat.
The point is that the leviathan has no static combat resolution bonuses by itself, and with WS3 will only claim a few casualties each round. The best use for it is either a support unit for core troops that do have a nice static combat res bonus, or in certain situations as an assassin for vulnerable high point characters. It also claims the lowest PLIS score in the pirate list, if your enemy is foolish enough to shoot bows at it. Although it can absorb arrows like none other, be warned that a cannon-like war machine will drop a leviathan without hesitation.
Last edited by jhurliman; August 15th, 2007 at 06:32. Reason: Lots of new sections
I think if you include a link to the Zombie Pirate rules in your entry, you'd be okay. GW likes to know that people can find the rules and information on their website; plus, it'd make things easier for any readers whose interest you pique.
Great writeup, J. I finally had time (took time) to read it. Nicely done and enlightening. Do you run Zombies of the Pirate Coast? I've always liked them but have never had the courage to tackle the conversions.
Thanks for the replying. Just bumping my own thread here because it was started quite a while ago but is getting close to "complete", with only a few units and an overall tactics section missing. I was out of wargaming for about eight years (played Skaven back in the day) and just recently got back in to it and started up Vampire Coast. When I used to play Skaven I had a horrible record but looking back it was a combination of poor unit choices and poor tactics, so doing this writeup is helping me take a closer look at unit choices and improve my tactics for this fairly difficult army.
Now I'm tempted to run out and start sculpting up some zombies.
Damn you. .
Can you include any specific hints on how to fight particular armies?
"No one has a monopoly on wisdom."-S.W.G.
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New 40K missions here.
I AM a Zombie Pirate player. Just reading your tactica I have learned several things that I did not think of/know.
Please continue this tactica with your thoughts on Dogs, Cannons, Undead Ogres and the Queen Bess. I would also love to have a battle report ar 5 to read over.
I have not had much luck so far but they are a super fun army to play.
More help svp!!!
I too have been make a Zombie Pirate Army from my bits as my fun army. Since no tournaments will allow them.
Any case I just played a game last week with them.
When I get some time I will post the report. Also hounds in the list are not brain dead, just something to aware of.
And when Queen bess hits, it's nasty.
Liked the article...
Wanna try z pirates, but-i don't have rulebook and i think that link is broken...
Are there any other places to find the rules?