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    Son of LO strewart's Avatar
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    Sylvania Tactica

    Posted this in the tactics section, but that got deleted as with the post I think, luckily I kept it on my computer and noticed a few others going up in the seperate forums so here it is again. Except without the bit on making grave markers because I edited that in later so I don't think I have it here. Oh well.

    First of all, the usual stuff. This is just my interpretation of Sylvanians and how to use them well, others no doubt have different experiences and ideas so feel free to add them and correct me.

    This tactica assumes you have some knowledge of how Vampire Counts in general work, though I do cover a bit of stuff that normal VC players probably know. If you have played Vampire Counts, have fun, if you are new to the Counts in general I recommend reading the Tactica on Vampire Counts in this forum first, I read through it and its very good. Don't worry about stuff on necromancers if you only want Sylanians though.

    Introduction to Sylvanians:

    Sylvanians are essentially Vampire Counts (obviously!) with a slight twist. Their general tactics and the use of undead is similar if not identical to normal VC and even TK to a certain extent, try to outnumber and flank your opponent. The main difference is in their magic and character selection. The rules for Sylvanians can be found in the Storm of Chaos campaign book, or they can be downloaded here from the GW website.

    Hate necromancers being all soft and always wanted an army that used only Vampires but could never get enough magic for it to work? Well this is the army for you. You do not have to worry about necromancers, and in fact cannot take them, yet your magic will be extremely powerful, magic defence seems to suffer a bit although I haven't had trouble with it.


    -Never has to use necromancers as the general, so your leader is a tough vampire always.
    -Magic is pretty relentless
    -Can use long range stuff and it can be very effective
    -Zombies come with equipment to make them better
    -Don't have to pay for extra equipment on troops
    -Any combonation of weapons may be used when summoning a unit during the game, you don't have to bring them up with only hand weapons you can give them what suits the situation
    -Black coach is cheaper, a special choice and you can take more than one!
    -Wolves are implimented nicely, you can take an army full of them with more pouring in from all table edges and even raise them with magic, but if you don't want any the army can still work
    -Grave markers


    -You must be Von Carstein, cannot use the nice rules with other vampires
    -A lack of necromancers can be a disadvantage, I often wish for one to give me a bit more magic
    -Cannot take Dogs of War
    -Styles of play are slightly limited since the heavy cavalry are rare
    -It can be hard to get your magic resistance up
    -Sylvanians have high and low areas where they work best. At 1k and under unless you use house rules, they are extremely powerful and relentless, at 1500 or so they aren't very good at all, over 2000 they become extremely powerful and hard to beat
    -No ghouls! I haven't used them but I think they would be extremely useful if Sylvanians could have them
    -...Umm.. Well I am writing their tactica, I can't make them look too bad!


    The only place you get magic from is your lord or count, so these guys are very important and it is actually worth considering a lord strongly at 2k to get that extra dispel dice. I have found going TK style and attempting to overwhelm your opponent with the shear amount of spells so he cannot possibly stop them all even as Khorn is the best way. The book of arkhan is great and always use your grave markers even if they are in crappy positions.

    Always take the extra level of magic for lords and counts, you simply cannot afford to miss it. The black periapt is a very good item to take as well. 50% of your grave markers should be in good positions close to the opponents army while the others are as far forward as possible to heal casualties while you are walking over and boosting your units. Try to waste away your opponents dice before getting the important thing off, like perhaps there is a marker in a good position to bring up corssbowmen, save it for last.

    In magic defence I recommend taking earthbind as a mandatory thing for all your vampires, both lord level and thralls. Spectral attendants is also an extremely good upgrade and essential for all armies. The drakenhof banner is a great item too, and most armies (though not all if you don't want many wolves) should take it.

    It may seem crazy to say this, but I never take any dispel scrolls for Sylvanians. Partly because they are one use only things and not great at the best of times and partly because the only models that can take them are lords and counts, and you will want better equipment to fill their quota. In 2k you are likely to have 3-4 dispel dice and usually only 5 in 3k, which really isn't a lot so you need to rely heavily on that magic resistance. Attempting to guess what your opponent is going to do and only stop the worst of it is important too, magic missiles against skeletons and zombies can generally be ignored since you raise plenty of them to make up for it. Spread your vampires out and get magic resistance to as much of your army as possibly, or at least on the main units.

    Grave markers

    Ok, so I've mentioned grave markers a couple of times now. This is what truly makes the Sylvanians unique and you need to rely heavily upon them to do well in a game, so how do you do it?

    Lets look at 3k battles. You will have 4 grave markers, of which 50% may be in your opponents half of the board. So thats how many you want over there. A couple of different ways to do it;

    Keep them close together. Then you can cast the spell twice and build quite a large unit at once, possibly charging on the same turn. This is a bit risky because they are deployed before armies so your opponent can ignore the flank you put them on or spread to either side of the markers.

    Spread them out (obviously) put them one on each flank, though do not go too close. Never put them in a position where they could scatter off the table no matter how small the odds are, dice are cruel. With the markers spread you are trying to make zombie units referred to as speed bumps, basically made to die but slow down your opponents and in rare cases prove something if fear tests are failed. Do not underestimate the zombie, especially when they can get 2d6+2 added to them every turn. Make sure you angle your speed bump properly when setting them up so when opponents charge and overrun they are facing off in odd directions, this is especially good for frenzied armies but it works for any as your opponent would rather charge you than wait for another 10 zombies to appear right near him and start being a threat.

    Another good use of forward grave markers is making crossbowmen. They have a low BS but high strength, and when released from these grave markers they are very close so won't suffer from long range shots. The crossbows can fire on the turn they are raised, this is because the unit is not even around in the movement phase therefore it is impossible for them to move on that turn. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. They can also provide the same use as zombie speed bumps if you angle them in the correct manner, when making them have both uses in mind.

    Of course, when you are getting close to your opponents if they have been slower than you the grave markers also give that final boost to the numbers of your main army while you get stuck in and help keep your numbers up during the fighting. Also do not forget that the grave markers work like the invocation of nehek spell, so they can restore wounds to your characters and spirit hosts. An invaluable ability which is often overlooked.

    The two other grave markers which must be placed in your half of the board are a lot less useful IMO. Stick them spread out a bit and as far towards the centre of the board as you can, the big use for them is to absorb dispel dice against your opponents. They should be looking to dispel these at least some of the time or else you will have huge units when combat begins. That is what these ones do, they bolster your numbers as you march across the field. They pretty much shouldn't be making new units if there is one that can be increased close enough, but if not then they may need to. Let them be whatever you see as most useful at the time, they are going to be fighting with your army. Crossbows shouldn't be raised from these unless your opponent is playing very offensively and has reached them, your BS really is too low to be shooting at long range. If he is being extremely defensive and your army has passed these markers then raising combat troops is useless since they won't reach the action so bring forth crossbows and hope the large amount of them makes up for the bad rolls to hit, just take pot shots at what you can.

    This is the kind of setup you should be looking at no matter how many grave markers you have, modify it according to the amount. Keep as many forward as possible.


    The vampires are essential, and could quite possibly form your whole character selection. As any VC player knows, Vampires are very tough creatures. They have a high toughness, they are killing machines and magic can regenerate their lost wounds if needed.

    Take lord level characters ASAP and always max out on them. In 2000 points a lord should be considered, he does take that extra hero slot and is very expensive in comparison to a count but it gives you an extra power and dispel dice which is very useful. In 3000 points I do not think two lords is necessary, and your opponents will probably complain too. A lord and a count work well.

    Some items for him, great weapons are always good. Earthbind is essential, you should strongly consider the crown of the damned for your general to give him protection. Wolf lord is nice if you want a wolf focus, as is summon wolves. I really don't think summon bats is all that good. Spectral attendants should be around somewhere, though possibly not on the general as he has more important stuff to take. In 3k on the count in in 2k on a thrall. Aura of dark majesty is good as usual, if you are going to space your army out then take it but I haven't found it is an essential item.

    Walking death seems too expensive to be worth it and call winds doesn't look particularly useful.

    A sample lord character:
    Vampire Lord, level 3, great weapon, earth bind, wolf lord, black periapt, crown of the damned, summon wolves
    And a count:
    Vampire Count, level 2, second weapon, earth bind, summon wolves, book of arkhan, spectral attendants

    Items can be switched, the main difference is the magic level.

    Thralls are the things that win combat for your skeleton and zombie units, they are tough, very strong and they kill well. Earthbind is always great for them to get magic resistance. Once again great weapons are fantastic, they are still s7 with them and have been known to cut down lord level characters of other races when they get to charge. The two weapons worth considering are great weapon and second hand weapon, which you take depends on who you are facing. Against any form of elves or other low toughness stuff, get the extra attack because you don't need s7, against tougher stuff like ogres and chaos take the great weapons to remove their armour.

    My favourite thrall combo:
    Vampire Thrall, great weapon, heavy armour, shield, summon wolves, earth bind

    Recently though to save points I have been getting rid of summon wolves and focussing less on the aspect of wolves, rather going for more troops. The shield is probably useless as they will be in units against long range stuff so if you find yourself short of points, drop it. It has helped on occasion where I wanted the higher initiative and better armour save though.

    I do not recommend any form of mounts for your vampires unless you have a specific use for them, the big things get shot too easily and black knights don't need a vampire for support anywhere near as much as skeletons and zombies do. I also do not think any of the magic weapons are worth taking on Vampires, a simple great weapon or second hand weapon works fine.

    Wight lords should be considered at 3k and taken in the normal way, that is with mundane stuff and banner of the barrows to help grave guard or black knights. They also have the option to take the drakenhof banner, both are great and the latter should be in all armies but its up to you who takes it.

    Wraiths are generally seen as not a very useful choice and I do not use them in any armies, they are a nice way to get terror though. Give one the obsidian amulet and they become very hard to kill, plus help with your magic resistant characters as normal.

    On to character selection. In 1000 points take a couple of thralls, maybe a wight lord if you have wights but they shouldprobably be avoided because a unit of wights and a wight lord cost a lot. Thralls are about the only option.

    In 2k your two real choices are lord and 2 thralls, or count, 2 thralls and wight lord. Any combination works though and it depends a bit on the rest of your army.

    At 3k my suggestion is lord, count, 2 thralls, and if you have the points then a wight lord. He is not really essential though. Depending on your army you might take a third thrall too.


    Dire wolves are a nice, fast unit that can hit fairly hard with their special charge. They are useful for flanking and destroying warmachines, basically the same as normal VC armies. Unit size should be 5 or 6 and taking a doom wolf is a waste of points because for the same points you can get anextra wolf, which along with the attack gives another wound and another point of US. Don't forget one unit can scout, that can be helpful.

    Bat swarms are same as normal VC armies, and I generally do not recommend them. Too slow for hunters and as blockers there are many other units for this.

    Fell bats do not count towards your core choices in the Sylvania list, but they don't take that special slot either. Use as in normal VC armies, they are a good unit.

    Sylvania Militia are the skeletons of the army. Even though they come with free spears or halberds, I would usually recommend using just hand weapon and shield in combat anyway to get the better armour save. In some cases extra strength might be helpful or another rank of fighting, try to predict your opponents army as to which might help more, but the basic hand weapon seems to work best. Crossbows should never be taken to begin with, they should only be raised during the game. They are simply too far away to prove anything when you can make them much closer so shooting doesn't suffer. Units of at least 20 are best, standard bearers are essential, lately have been ignoring champions to get more points elsewhere since they foten don't prove a lot. Its just another attack to miss with. I never take musicians and I will take this opportunity for a slight detour to explain why:

    Musicians in undead armies are not worth the points IMO. Since your units cannot flee the ability to reroll rally tests becomes obsolete, so all they can do is turn a draw in your favour. As your opponent is likely to waste points on musicians, it will simply leave it at a draw. Keep the points for other things since they win combat by nothing, nothing will die anyway. Combats should not be that close anyway, either you flank well, outnumber, kill with a vampire or a combination and win by lots or your unit gets beaten into a bloody mess and falls apart usually.

    Back on track now... Sylvania levy are the zombies of the army. Looking over the rules, they can actually get a 4+ save in combat just like the skeletons can! This means for the most part zombies are probably a better choice to take because you will be saving points and not suffering in defence, how often do skeletons kill anyway? The only difference is a point of leadership, so its up to you whether you pay 2 points a model for that. Once again, units of 20 or more with a standard. These ones, as we all know, can't have champions.

    Spirit hosts are just used as normal, good for flanking and holding units up or shielding your stuff.

    Grave guard now have the option to be upgraded to Drakenhof guard. I always take them merely for the fluff aspect, the name is really cool but they can be very useful weilding great weapons that have killing blow. Other than that, same as for normal armies, and a pretty good unit. Its best to have the drakenhof banner in one of these units.

    Black Coaches Get the good end of the stick with Sylvanians. Not only can you take more than one if you desire, they are cheaper than what normal VC pay for them! I always take one because they are very good but not quite good enough to warrant 2 in my armies, you can get 20 skeletons with command for the same points. Usage as normal, watch out for s7 stuff.

    Two can be taken and work very well together as a team, smash two of them into a unit and nothing is going to survive plus you are almost garunteed to catch the unit and destroy them. It is a very expensive option though and still extremely risky since a couple of s7 things will waste all your points on them, only worth considering above 2k and even in 3k it is a fair bit of a point sink.

    Drakenhof Templar are where the Sylvanians suffer a bit. A combination of two small units of black knights has always been great to support each other and flank things, no more for the Sylvanians. Still, they are better than banshees and worth taking as the only other rare choice, once again flanking is their role and they can support your wolves where heavier stuff is required. Look after them though, as the only cavalry they become a target and they are an expensive unit.

    Banshees are as normal, mixed opinions on them. They can be hard to bring down, but the effect of the howl always seems less than its hyped up to be. I usually take one just for the psychological effects, opponents usually hate them.

    Themed armies

    Now you may think hang on a minute, the theme is the Vampire from Sylvania isn't it? Isn't that 'themey' enough? Yes, I think so, so the list should be however you choose and mixed, but there are several ways to theme it further.

    Dire wolves can either play a huge part in your army, or no part at all. And of course any degree in between, all seem to work and it is completely up to you.

    Strong wolf armies:
    Take dire wolves as your core choices, but leave a little bit free for a couple of units of levy (or militia). They are always helpful and wolves tend to have a bit of a hard time winning on their own. You are trying to completely outmanouvre your opponent with wolves and be flanking everywhere, that is the idea of this army type. Taking wolf lord on your magic using Vampires is very helpful to heal units and possibly make new ones, also take summon wolves on all vampires, thrall and lord level. The only exception would be if you wanted Wolf form on a thrall so he can join a unit of wolves, then you need to toss up between summon and earthbind. Depends on which you think is more useful. Obviously, since you are using summon wolves a lot the Drakenhof banner is an essential item. Keep all your vampires near enough to it until they have used their summon wolf ability, it is fairly easy to keep them close enough and still in units. The banner should be in a large unit of grave guard, though since fast armies is the theme drakenhof templar could take it.

    Summoned wolves should be strategically inserted where they will cause the most harm, usually close to warmachines or lone mages is best. Also in general along the back of your opponents lines is great, they will not want a unit of wolves hitting the rear of their best unit and making it flee towards your hungry army.

    Employ the use of speed bumps most often with your grave markers, they will help you get the edge on your opponent by making his units face in odd directions when your wolves are already running rings around him. Crossbowmen are also nice when summoned close to help soften the units.

    This army type can be rather fragile since wolves are expensive with no save, but it can also be effective. Since a lot of the wolves can come from magic and summoning you need only take 2 or 3 units if you want and leave the rest of your army still strong, it is an impressive army to use when it is mostly wolves but it can be difficult to master.

    Medium wolf armies

    Not really a lot to say on these, you might take a couple of units of wolves to use as flankers and hunters as with normal VC armies, the Drakenhof banner is still good even for only the magic resistance so if only a couple of Vampires have summon wolves then you can still bring them in strong and well.

    No wolves

    Well, possibly not a good idea since dire wolves can be a very useful unit to take in any VC army. But Fell bats can perform the role of hunters easier so a substitute is there, hordes of infantry does work well in an army though.

    All levy armies

    I have seen these types of armies work well, though they can be a bit boring to play as and against. Basically, a few characters then the rest of your army is zombies. Grave markers can raise a whole lot more during the game and you can overwhelm your opponent with the shear number of them. As I said this can be boring though, give them some support from templar, wolves and maybe a coach. Oh and fell bats of course, I keep forgetting them.

    Infantry armies

    Lots of grave/drakenhof guard supported by units of militia and levy. Usually a unit of levy is taken as a screen for the others, 30 or so spread across in a straight line to absorb fire. They can easily be replenished from grave markers and keep your army pretty safe, but the unit will be smashed by anything since it has no ranks and should not have a banner. Thats the diea of it though! I still find support from faster stuff to be a better way to run the army though, add a bit of everything and you have an interesting army.

    Thats just a couple of ideas to get you thinking, any theme or combination would probably work well and the amount of wolves seem to play a large part on how your army shapes up. Make up a theme and some fluff and have fun with the army.

    My army construction

    This section is simply how I have used Sylvanians well and how I like to use them, it focusses mainly on 3k because that is what I like playing.

    I start with characters, but I will not go over that here. My opinion on character selection is further up this post. Then I always take a unit of 20 drakenhof guard with the drakenhof banner, they prove useful to hit hard and the banner is good.
    The black coach always makes it into my list, very useful thing to have, but I haven't tried using 2 yet. I have been trialing a larger unit of black knights, 10 models, to see how it works. It went ok, and I might try it again but I can't really say if it is effective yet though. Worth including Drakenhof Templar IMO though. A unit of fell bats always find a spot, they are great for hunting. Then it depends on how many of my Vampires have summon wolves as to whether I take wolves to begin in my deployment zone, sometime 2 units of 5 or less units. I don't really rely on wolves a lot despite all the hype I made about them.

    Next I throw in a banshee or two, depending on how I feel at the time. Then, lightly grill and fill the rest up with your basic levy and militia. Serve cold. Unit sizes depend on how much I want to rely on magic, I have found that I can take them in only units of 16 hense getting more units and by the time they are fighting they are all boosted to above 20 by magic and markers. If you don't like relying so heavily on magic then take less units but make them larger and use the markers for support. Heres one I prepared earlier:

    Vampire Lord, general, level 3, great weapon, earth bind, wolf lord, black periapt, crown of the damned, summon wolves

    Vampire Count, level 2, second weapon, earth bind, summon wolves, book of arkhan, spectral attendants

    Vampire Thrall, great weapon, heavy armour, shield, summon wolves, earth bind

    Vampire Thrall, great weapon, heavy armour, shield, summon wolves, earth bind

    Wight lord, heavy armour, BSB, banner of the barrows

    19 drakenhof guard including full command and drakenhof banner (wight lord goes here)

    10 black knights including full command, barding

    16 levy, halberds, standard and musician

    14 levy with halberds

    14 levy with halberds

    20 levy with standard, musician and halberds

    20 militia with halberds and full command

    Black Coach

    2 Banshees

    3 Fell Bats

    This one relies upon magic as I suggested to get the unit size up before it reaches combat. It also gets all its wolves from the summon wolf powers.

    My experience at 2000 points is a fair bit less, but I know it is more common so I will give the basics of a couple of my 2k lists:
    2 Thralls
    3 fell bats
    20 militia
    20 levy
    black coach
    3 spirit hosts
    15 drakenhof guard with drakenhof banner
    2 banshees

    The 3 characters once again provide the wolves for the army, magic is slightly lessened but there are still 3 grave markers to play around with.

    As an alternative I have one that drops a banshee and the drakenhof guard for 5 more levy and a unit of 10 drakenhof templar with the drakenhof banner. Slight change, gives a bit more speed and a fast hard hitting unit.

    Above all else you should figure out a style that suits you and works for you, different people like different styles of play. I hope this section has gotten you thinking about some ideas of what you might like.

    Thats about all I can think of right now, I might add more stuff later if I think of anything else that may be important. For now, even though this is a tactica, I would like to make a small section on modelling your army as that is an important part of the army.

    Modelling and Painting

    Vampire Counts in general are fantastic for modelling, since they are a dead army and raised from battlefields you don't need to stick to standard stuff. You can use the models of any range and convert them to be dead to give a theme to your army, it looks great from pretty much any type of models and can make your army cheaper because you can use plastic models where metal VC ones would be the alternative, such as High lf or Bretonnian cavalry for black knights.

    Some converting is almost essential for Syvanians, even if only to get the crossbowmen. Crossbows can be acquired from empire models, dark elf, dogs of war and dwarves. They are the main ones I know of. I chose to go with Dark Elves and from just wanting the crossbows I have sort of adapted a fair bit of my army to be dead elves and eventually I would like the whole thing to follow this theme. Just waiting for Dark Elf cold one knights to come in plastic... Ok perhaps I will take this opportunity to post my dead elves once again, could get people thinking about conversions. There are unlimited possibilities and it is great to finish work on a unique model or unit that has worked.

    Drakenhof guard can be made in lots of ways too, I haven't investigated specific box sets for one that will work but I think Dark Elf warriors would do the job well. Their sprue comes with a few arms holding large swords, and the spears have really big heads which could be cut down to make them look like swords if needed. If you are going to make them from Dark Elves you either need to have normal militia as something else or think of things to add to the guard to make them better and more fearsome than the normal core troops.

    Any man sized models should mix pretty easily with skeleton and zombie bits to look good, as long as you are confident with a bit of greenstuff. Even lizardmen can be made dead without a huge amount of effort. Just watch out for the bulky things like chaos warriors, tiny little skeleton arms may not look too good on them. If you can get hold of some spare bits from friends/GW or whatever to do a dryrun with the models you are going to try, that would be very good, if not then at least look at the picture of how the bits go together on the box to gauge how well they might mix and ask the GW staff members for their opinion, they are usually very helpful. For most things when using skeleton heads you will probably need to construct necks out of greenstuff because they don't have them as part of the head, fill the hole on the skull with green stuff and leave a bit sticking down the gently press it onto the torso and smooth it off. Models that work well are any humans and any elves, harder ones would be chaos, dwarves and probably lizardmen.

    Vampires are another issue, personally I think (and many agree) that the current Von Carstein models aren't really very good, its hard to get great weapons on them too. This means you are needing to convert to get good ones, but luckily you are dead so once again the models can be from pretty much anywhere. Hack off their natural icons, perhaps give them wounds and make them look a bit evil, paint skin pale, put blood on their mouth and weapons and you have a vampire. Jeez I love this army. Pictures are rubbish and don't depict my paint work very well (even though I admit it isn't great, just not as bad as the pics show) but here are my vampires:

    Removed because it was censored or something

    Hopeless pic, sorry. Scratch built model though]

    Now on to painting, and that gives a little bit of an idea though mine are a lot darker than that. Dark red and pruple seems to go well for the vampires, it sort of reflects how GW did Mannfred and he is where I drew inspiration for the colours to use. I think any dark colours should go well because they contrast nicely with the pale face you are looking to achieve. I usually start with shadow grey then drybrush up with lighter colours until I reach skull white and occasionally ink then drybrush again for more detail.

    If you look closely in the picture of Sylvanians on their army list page in the SoC book you will notice a brown banner with a wolf head on it, I think this is the symbol GW is using for the Sylvanians. You might want to try to get a clearer picture of it, or alternatively make up your own. remember, there is no right or wrong way to paint an army.

    Well, thats pretty much it from me. If there is any areas I have forgotten then remind me and I will edit things in or if I think of things I will add them in too. Feel free to discuss or disagree with any points I have made, it is only my opinion and view on the Sylvanians. Hope it is helpful, I had a bit of fun writing it,

    PS: Damn the smilie limit in posts, it took ages hunting them down. (insert angry smilie here lol)

    Last edited by strewart; November 8th, 2005 at 00:28.

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