Visitor Q's Vampire Counts Tactica - Warhammer 40K Fantasy

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    LO's unofficial Jester Visitor Q's Avatar
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    Visitor Q's Vampire Counts Tactica

    It was suggested that I put some of my comments on the sticky Vampire tactica thread. Bare in mind that this is mostly copied and pasted so it may at times read a little odd. (I may get round to editing it to read better at some point)

    Any way here they are, my thoughts on Nechrachs, Lahmians, Zombies Skeletons, Bat Swarms, Wight Lords Grave Guard and Black Knights

    Well as someone who has used Nechrachs successfully on a number of occasions allow me to impart some words of Wisdom.

    First although in terms of raw power (magic level) a Necromancer is cheaper for what you get he can't take Bloodline powers. These are very useful and more than make up for the slightly less power dice (remember also that a Necrarch Vampire gets +1 to cast), the Awakening for example allows +d3 Undead troopers to be raised almost guaranteeing that you will raise the minimum 5 when creating a new unit.

    The Necrach Thralls can have arcane magic items (i.e. dispel magic scrolls) without having to actually take the extra magic level so you can go for a defensive game. (Incidentally the thread Why Use Necrachs? has some great comments by Nell2ThaIzzay on how to use Necrach Thralls)

    Necrachs aren't like Blood Dragons or Strigoi neither their Counts nor the Thralls are too useful in close combat.

    However this isn't a problem because a Necrach army plays a very different style to a normal undead army (or any other army). Rather than relying on a hard-hitting character to win the combats you should rely on weight of troops this includes raising new units behind the enemy.
    Although the Vampire Counts and Lords aren't good at fighting by normal character standards (no armour for one thing) thier stat line will keep them alive for a round or two against weaker opponents though. Keep them out of combat at all costs.

    Ideally a Necrach army should have a two or three solid units of Skeletons and Zombies, a very chunky unit (I mean 20-25) of Grave Guard, give them a Wight lord battle standard with the Hell Banner (cause terror) and the Banner of the Barrows (for 3+ to hit against any opponent) (remember the unit can have a standard in its own right). Max out the rest of your character slots on magic users.

    The rest of your army should be supporting units such as Dire Wolves, Ghouls, Ghosts etc.

    The army should advance slowly; your supporting units are trying to herd the enemy into the middle of the board so they get bogged down by your Centre units.
    You should batter your opponent into submission in the magic phase, first raise your core units up to even larger units and use offensive spells like gaze of Nagash to drain the enemy dispel magic scrolls.

    If all goes well the later part of the game should see the main enemy units engaged in a number of battles they can't win against your zombies/skeletons etc, and your Grave Guard should be tearing chunks out of them. At this point your enemy will not have any dispel magic scrolls left so you should have free reign in the magic phase to finish him off by raising some zombie units for a couple of rear attacks (make sure you raise enough to get a couple of ranks) using Vanse Danse Macabre to charge as soon as possible.

    Enemy flankers are dangerous and it is here your supporting units come in useful. They should either be delaying them (remember that bat swarms are unbreakable so should last a turn or two) or march blocking them, dire wolves are perfect for this ( I suggest reading up on manoeuvring fast cavalry).
    I would suggest rarely actually charging with your wolves. Just get behind the enemy, the threat of the charge is enough to make him turn the unit to face you then reposition them again etc. I once tied up a 200+ pts unit of High Elves with 6 dire wolves who were basically just running around them.

    Key advantages then:
    -Magic superiority
    -Numbers, being able to raise dozens more troops means you should always be ahead in the numbers game, remember if in doubt add more skeletons to a regiment.
    -Surprisingly hard unit of Grave Guard is always a shock
    -Supporting units either deceptively agile or very hard to destroy.

    -Characters vulnerable
    -If your opponent sits back and has good magic defence (dwarfs) then the battle will be tougher (not impossible though)
    -A few unlucky miscasts could mean the game is over in the first turn- keep fighting though for every unlucky game you will have a game where every power is cast with total power
    -And the biggest problem, other players. Magic heavy armies are usually the first to draw criticism (just see the thread cheese or not) players who get trashed by you are more likely to refuse to play you than come up with some new and original tactics.

    Of course if none of this works for you just paint your Necrach red give him a big sword and charge..........

    Not satisfied with my previous answer I decided to take a break from my dissertation and actually think out some good tactics for Lahmians. I have only played with them twice so this could be largely theoretical however I am drawing on my long experience of Necrach and Blood Dragon armies so bare with me.

    We are talking standard 2000pt armies here.

    Ok well for starters I think your choice of Vampire is top notch:

    Originally Posted by DavidVOC4 Innocence lost, quick blood, sword of might, spell familiar, and beguile. For the record, beguile never worked, not once. But that -1 to ld is really nice.
    For 10 pts beguile is fine even if it doesn’t work. I am more impressed with the 4 St6 always strikes first attacks.

    Now I was thinking perhaps if you combine this with a nice unit of grave guard (banner of the barrows of course) you could have a very nasty unit on your hands. Between the Vampire countess probably doing some serious damage to the frontage of the enemy unit (even if the enemy charged) and the grave guards 3+ to hit and killing blow I would feel confident of this unit being able to go toe to toe with anything your opponent could muster.

    As a further boost to this regiment perhaps a Wraith with the Obsidian Amulet that would make a good foil for any challengers cause terror and leave the Vampire Countess to do her damage. This would be quite a points sink however.

    In terms of the magic phase obviously at least one character should have Necromantic magic to secure that all important Invocation of Nehek, but perhaps a Necromancer with Lore of Death could get some spells to further reduce the Ld of the enemy?

    Thralls: I was thinking about Lahmians thralls and I don’t think you should take any. I would go for Wight Lords or necromancers instead. The reasoning behind this is basically a question of positioning. Putting them in a Zombie regiment defeats the point of taking the zombies as a cheap tar regiment in the first place, the equipment and abilities a thrall can contribute to the army are limited compared to those of a Necromancer or Wight Lord.
    A word about the -1Ld is perhaps necessary here, the -1Ld works well with Grave Guard because there is a fair chance you won’t out number your opponent so they will be taking a straight Ld test. If your Vampire is in a unit of Skeletons or Zombies the -1 Ld becomes redundant because if you win the combat you should be outnumbering your opponent (hence auto break) so the -1Ld only makes a difference for thebloodline powers the thralls have.
    That said a thrall with the asp bow might be useful for taking out war machine crewmembers or annoying characters bit pricey for what you get though. And a vampire Thrall with quick blood could make a very nasty surprise in a unit of zombies (though she would be accepting any challenges because zombies can’t have champions)

    Core regiments would need to be Zombies. The main reason for this is that they are the stereotypical tar regiment. A decent enemy should know that he won’t be winning a battle with a unit of 30-40 zombies considering you can always add more and they are unbreakable. This means he will be hesitant to charge them with anything decent, this fine because you want him to go into hand to hand with your uber Grave Guard regiment. Hence a large but relatively cheap regiment of Zombies will be a good incentive to get him into combat with the Grave Guard a regiment that previously he wouldn’t have touched with 10-foot cattle prod.

    Your offensive magic won’t be that strong (compared to say Necrachs) and there will also be characters and certain units that your Vampire countess can’t deal with unbreakable units, Greater Daemons etc. Here I think you need some manoeuvrable and fairly fast tar units to deal with them, while you could rely on raising zombie units I would want something more reliable. I would suggest Spirit Hosts. They are perfect for tying up and even destroying annoying unbreakable units such as slayers. Even against troops with magic attacks there high wounds can delay the enemy for several turns.

    As an overall tactic then I think you need to break through with your Grave Guard as soon as possible don’t be afraid to take a charge. Your zombies are covering your immediate flanks. Out wide have some wolves to do the usual delaying tactics, if your enemy prefers a close massed deployment you should take advantage of sending your wolves out wide to get behind him.

    The main weakness so far that I would see would be your characters being quite vulnerable to a concerted effort by the enemy to kill them and your army lacking enough units with serious punch. Perhaps a small (5-6) unit of Black Knights that would be a reserve unit to throw in once the lines.

    Brains Brains......
    or my take on ZOMBIES

    As has been mentioned previously Zombies are a great tar regiment, move them into combat and given a small amount of magical support the enemy will be tied up in a combat he can't win for the rest of the battle, great for taking out various nasties such as Savage Orc boar boyz Giants and the like.

    Another thing to remember is that it is a whole lot easier to raise Zombies than raise skeletons because you get +1 to the dice roll for Invocation of Nehek. Meaning you will generally raise 9 Zombies a turn, which is of course, is within the minimum needed to create a new unit (the bare minimum being of course 5). This tactic makes Zombies great for covering your flanks against scouts or tunnelling troops.

    (Assuming you use Invocation with 2d6 average 7 +2 (for summoning zombies not skeletons) = nine new zombies easily fulfilling the minimum required)

    On the other hand sometimes you actually need to win a combat not just tie up the enemy, in this case it is generally better to use/summon skeletons.
    Neither will [I}kill [/i] anything (actually not so true a broad unit of skeletons with spears could kill weaker opponents but zombies strike last so literally won't kill anything) but a 4+ save gives the skeletons a far higher chance of survival meaning they could win the combat and break the opposition where as in my experience it takes ages for zombies to actually win a combat if they win at all (the casualties they suffer cancel out the rank bonus and outnumbering).

    So to make it a little clearer Zombies three ranks standard plus outnumbers=5

    Enemy unit we will say has two ranks standard=3 only needs to kill 3 zombies to win

    Against skeletons those three kills get an armour save.

    As a final note be careful to avoid the temptation to give a unit of zombies a character to boost their fighting ability In my opinion Zombies should be used as pure tar units with out any characters to give points away needlessly.


    First lets have a look at some of the pros and cons. On the plus side Skeletons are in their own way unbreakable, you can raise more of them and they have a number of options available to them in terms of spears, light armour etc. Like all undead troops they also cause fear. On the negative side they are fairly expensive considering their stats (which are quite bad) as a result they are stuck in a kind of Limbo of being not good enough as a regular infantry regiment but also too expensive for a regular tar regiment.

    I would argue then that one of their most effective uses is in the expectation of what they could do rather than what they will actually do.
    By this I mean a large units of skeletons can be used to anchor a flank or even the centre of an army with the intention of intimidating the opposition into deploying his main attack elsewhere. Such a tactic works well when combined with low-level characters that make the enemy think twice before engaging a unit of skeletons.

    For example a unit of skeletons with a Strigoi thrall armed with Infinite hatred and iron sinews (+1 St re-roll to hit). Or a Wight Lord with the Hell banner (causes Terror) becomes a tougher prospect for any opponent.

    Alternatively a skeleton unit can become a very defensive anchor unit. Armed with Hand weapon and shield and combined with specifically equipped characters such as a Blood Dragon thrall with the cursed shield of Mousillian and the sword of might (-1 Attacks from enemy +1 St) a Wraith with the Obsidian amulet or a Wight Lord with a battle standard with Banner of doom (5+ save vs. Missiles) then these units can hold their own against most opponents. Indeed in very small games (1000pt) such units become very dangerous. That said in large games (2000 pt or higher) I would probably rather spend the points on a nice large unit of Grave Guard.

    An obvious strategy which is especially open to magic heavy armies is to chose a small unit of skeletons and then boost their numbers in the first couple of turns. If you take as a rule of thumb that a points difference of 250-350pts between two armies will give one army a huge advantage then this tactic will work decisively in your favour. I personally think this tactic works better with Skeletons over Zombies simply because skeletons have a higher chance of actually winning a combat.

    You can use the same tactic but slightly later on in the game for even more impressive results. Although riskier it can be more rewarding. A unit of 16-20 Skeletons with a thrall will be a prime unit for a large powerful enemy unit who may well deploy accordingly. Suddenly raising this unit to 25 or 30 skeletons should give you the edge and allow you to ‘trap’ an enemy unit.

    In summery then I would argue that at first glance skeletons are simply a poor but numerous infantry choice designed to overwhelm the enemy by sheer weight of numbers. However on closer inspection and with good integration into the rest of the army skeletons can quickly become a sophisticated infantry unit that can be used to devastating effect.

    The fact that the skeletons cause fear and are unbreakable easily makes them worth 10pts with sufficient magic backing to raise more the enemy simply will not be able to destroy the regiment. Something I forgot to mention was that a large unit of skeletons is a good way of detracting enemy attention away from either your grave guard or more vulnerable units like dire wolves. If say you only took zombies the enemy will realise that the zombies are all but impossible to destroy (normally coming in units of 30+ and with more coming each turn) and won't do to much damage other than disrupting his lines as a normal tar regiment is wont to do.
    Therefore he will concentrate his efforts on destroying your best regiments (Grave Guard Black Knights) or your weakest regiments (i.e. the ones with no armour save).

    By fielding skeletons on the other hand you are presenting him with a target that can hold its own (armour save, unbreakable ability to raise more troops) but is also a viable target for his efforts (i.e. represents a real threat). This then leaves or at least lessens the pressure put on your other regiments.

    Creatures of the Night:
    Or how I learned to love the bat.

    I love bat swarms if I can I always take a unit of bat swarms and spirit hosts (because as DavidVCO4 says spirit hosts are better). The great thing about bat swarms is their high number of wounds and attacks, thus they are great for holding up large impressive creatures like dragons which could wreak havoc in your army plus they are unbreakable and alive so they won't lose extra casualties to the enemy through CR. A Dragon and Lord will be killing only about one base per turn hence a bat swarm can hold him up for the entire game. Their movement and charge arc makes them more flexible at fulfilling this role than for example zombies.

    They make excellent march blockers again because of their flexibility and if it actually comes down to a fight they will hold up the enemy for a long time.

    They also make good screens against enemy missile fire and their ability to change direction quickly means they can be repositioned to allow your units to charge.

    Against weaker lightly armed enemy units they can be devastating their sheer number of attacks will make short work of unarmoured troops.

    The biggest liability they have in my opinion is their cost. A large unit can be a real pints sink. Thus you can’t afford to waste them, they must be used correctly and if sacrificed must directly serve to gain victory.

    Wights are some of the deadliest creatures in the Old World armed with blades that are able to cut down the strongest heroes, they grip the hearts of even the hardest of warriors with fear. Worse they are clad in heavy armour that is proof against the blows of many a foe. The good news is they are on our side.
    You may have guessed that I am bored again so have decided to give another of my rants about Vampire Count tactics, today its about Wight Lords Black Knights and Grave Guard.

    Wight Lords.
    There is much to recommend Wight Lords as a useful part of your army regardless of the bloodline you follow. As with almost all the troops you can choose from in the Vampire Counts army they are unbreakable and cause fear. In addition they automatically cause killing blow a very useful attribute of which more will be discussed later. With a considerable number of attacks and two wounds their stat line is typical hero fair, and while their combat abilities are no where near as good as vampire thralls they are cheaper and have a superior Ld as well.

    There are essentially two ways of using a Wight lord. The first is as a regular hero. Here the Wight Lord fills in for a more expensive Vampire Thrall or even count, he is there to either kill powerful enemy characters or hack down the rank and file. In the case of the former you will be up against it but remember that your killing blow ability will be invaluable. The Sword of kings and the Cursed Shield of Mousillon is I believe a very potent combination able to put your Wight Lord on par with most enemy heroes and the ability to kill the hero outright with a single blow makes the Wight Lord particularly scary.

    If on the other hand you are looking to kill the rank and file a great weapon and talon of death combination will cause considerable damage.

    The question you may be asking of course is why take a Wight lord at all when a Vampire Thrall or a Count can do the job so much better. I would argue there are three reasons. The first is expense a Wight Lord is pretty cheap compared to both a thrall and a count and in smaller games you may not have the points to splash out on the more powerful characters. Secondly there are circumstances when other characters simply aren't appropriate, for example Necrach thralls and counts are vulnerable in combat and Wight Lords are the best alternative. On the other extreme Blood dragons will be eager to rush into combat and accept challenges which may not suit your style of play a Wight lord gives you more choice as to who your character will engage. Thirdly a Wight lord is not as conspicuous to enemy attacks as a full blown Vampire count is and so is more likely to reach the enemy lines unharmed and hopefully unnoticed.

    Finally you can add a Wight Lord equipped to do maximum damage to a unit that already has a character this can be a bit of a points sink but will increase the combat potential of said unit by a huge amount.

    The second way (and my personal favourite) of using a Wight lord is as the Battle standard bearer. Io like this way because unlike most battle Standards the Wight Lord effectively gets a free magic weapon in the form of his killing blow ability in addition to the Magic Standard he can have. Which standard to pick is always a hard choice but I think it comes down to three contenders the first is the banner of the Barrows if you are leading a unit of Black Knights or Grave guard this should be your first choice without a doubt. The ability to always hit with killing blow on a three plus is just to good to miss of course the unit may take this in which case a different banner may be suitable. The second and priciest banner is the Hell banner, Terror is a very nasty ability and one that few armies can deal with (even Ogres will run) and as such I would well recommend it. Finally the Banner of doom gives you that extra bit of protection that could be useful against certain armies such as Wood elves or dwarfs. On the other hand a 5+ ward save is a bit weak considering that you can raise most of your units up again and the ones you can't will be heavily armoured. Useful if you are particularly paranoid of your Black Knights being destroyed by a cannon salvo in the first turn.

    As a note I don't even consider the other two banners. The Screaming banner means fear tests are rolled using three dice, nice but hardly worth the points especially when you consider that the real bonus of fear is the auto break. As for The Banner of the Dead Legion (+d6 to unit St) it is hardly worth dignifying with a response for why this is the worse magic banner, but because this is an informative thread I will give you three good reasons. Number one you should outnumber the enemy by a large amount already especially if the Wight lord is with Skeletons. Even Grave Guard or Black Knights should be fielded in sufficient numbers and directed towards appropriate foes so an auto break is inevitable. Number Two If you don't outnumber the enemy but are still charging them you should NEVER rely on a single dice roll to decide whether the combat would be won or not, you should at least be able to win the combat through CR even if you can't auto break them. Third the chances of getting into a combat which you can probably win but don't out number the enemy but might be able to on a roll of a dice (i.e. a margin of six) is fairly unlikely and definitely not worth the points.

    In summery then Wight lords are deceptively dangerous, they are also fairly direct in their job, they are there to add some much needed beef to your regiments and can make even skeletons seem scary. My main bit of advice would be to try out various combinations to see what works best for you.

    Grave Guard
    Grave Guard are in my opinion one of the greatest infantry regiments in the game of Warhammer. Fear and unbreakable as always are two exceedingly useful traits. They come with a choice of weaponry and armour, while it is tempting to give them halberds and make them ST5 combat monsters, the cost is high and the sacrifice you make to your armour save just isn't worth it in my opinion. I would much rather be safe behind my Sword and Shield combination and a nice 3+ save. Killing Blow more than makes up for the loss in St and means you always have a chance of dealing with any troublesome heavy cavalry/characters/insert nasty.

    The downside of course is that Grave Guard can't be resurrected and are very expensive if you start losing them through CR. However follow this advice and you will be winning all your combats so that shouldn't be a problem.

    Building a unit of Grave Guard in my opinion is best done with over engineering in mind. By this I mean that the unit should be constructed so that not only does it take its rightful place at the centre of the army it can also deal with anything that gets thrown its way, this means taking the banner of barrows as a must 3+ to hit any opponent NO MATTER WHAT is to good to miss (pun not intended). Next the unit should be big if you can take the full 30 though this is quite a points sink the intimidation factor alone is almost worth it. If 30 is too much consider at least 20. These units of 16 (or even less) you some times see roaming around are just begging for a good round of shooting followed by a cavalry charge to decimate them. Finally carefully consider the characters you will be putting in the unit, while it may seem tempting to put your vulnerable Necrach count or a necromancer in the uber unit, think about it for a moment these guys are going into the thick of battle best leave the weaker characters near but OUTSIDE the regiment. Instead I would recommend a Character built to fight either, a Wight Lord as discussed above or a Vampire Thrall or count of a suitable Bloodline.

    So you have this amazing regiment how to use it? Well here is the trick because any self respecting enemy isn't going to go anywhere near it, they are going to pick it off with missile fire and or delay it with magic and march blockers. Here some good magic support of your own is necessary first for defence and second if you have Vanhels Danse to speed the unit along their way.

    It is also important where and when you deploy your unit, putting the unit in the centre of the board forces the enemy to make a choice, he can either build a strong defensive line against it putting his best units to oppose your Grave Guard (what you want because you can beat his units) or he can attack your flanks leaving the centre weak Hannibal style (also what you want because you can break through his centre easily while you r zombies hold up his flank attacks). This overall tactic involves placing your grave Guard on the board very quickly forcing your enemy to react to it, the other way of fighting is leave your Grave Guard to last placing it only when you know what kind of army your opponent has and placing it opposite a target of choice, be careful though putting your Grave Guard on a flank may put it away from the main of the battle and be a waste of points. Personally I prefer a compact line with the Grave Guard in the centre closely protected by two units of Zombies covering its flanks.

    Remember also that using grave Guard in such a direct way can be a gamble the unit you have created is quite a pint sink and though effective a canny opponent will find various tactics to delay disable and even destroy it. It is useful then to vary your tactics once in a while and occasionally consider dropping the Grave Guard altogether.

    Black Knights
    Black Knights are formidable and in many ways act in a similar manner to Grave Guard. They are even stronger on the charge and are faster, but remember that they are a lot more expensive so you will have few of them and losing a round of combat can quickly decimate you unit.

    Another thing to note is that just because they are faster doesn't mean you have to use their speed charging headlong into the enemy army will rarely work and is a sure way of being surrounded and destroyed. I would use Black Knights as flankers with barding for maximum armour, A good tactic is to combine the Black Knights with a unit of dire wolves the Black Knights go in for the flank charge while the dire wolves whip around and in subsequent turns come in for a killing rear charge.

    The other tactic is to hold a unit of six or so in reserve at the rear of your army for an end game decisive charge in the opponent’s weakest area.

    My final word of advice is kind of tangential and applies to all units but especially Black knights because they are so expensive, know where you are going and how you are going to get there, it sounds obvious but the number of times I have seen players bold manoeuvres come to nothing because they end up marching through a heavy wood or a steep hill that delays them is astonishing. This happened to me a while back I was playing against friend’s high elves, it was a campaign battle and the main objective was a bridge and a river dissected the board. Now we had decided while placing the river that even the banks of the river counted as rough terrain (the banks were about an inch and half wide on either side) all fine but I wasn't paying much attention and my Black Knights wheeled onto the banks and rather than leading them to glorious charge in turn three they were left slogging along until turn five when they were finally charged themselves by a large unit of Phoenix Guard.
    I had my revenge the next day though because we played on exactly the same board and my opponent made the same error with his dragon Princes which goes to show that good generals learn from their mistakes great generals learn from other peoples. I hope you learn from mine.

    Last edited by DavidWC09; December 10th, 2006 at 06:49.
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