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I was hoping for peoples opinions on Ghoul and Skele unit starting sizes. DO people think it better to start their core units at 20-30, or risk starting at 10-15 and raising them up during the game. What experiences have people had of raising them up, have the opponents generally let them through, fearful of other spells later, or have you found yourselves going around with 10-strong skeleton units?
If you have the relevant blood lines to take them above starting strength then you can start small-ish (15 is lowest I'd go) otherwise start large and replenish losses.
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I think it's generally a better idea to start with larger units. It just minimises the risk that a miscast or some lucky dispelling on your opponent's behalf will leave your army in a difficult spot.
I tend to have units of 20 (primarily because I'm lazy and the old skeleton regiments came with 20 models) plus I intend taking the Bloodline power that allows me to raise above starting strength.
I think it works either way; it's just a little riskier starting with smaller units and relying on magic to strengthen your lines.
I'd say that it depends on the kind of list you're running. For me, it's a pain in the ass to have to take 3 core choices at 2000. I like to take one "full size" unit of 20 skeletons with spears (mostly because I like my conversion and have 40+ of them) and the other two units are either min sized ghouls or a min sized skeleton unit; both of which I use for screening or flanking, if they don't happen to get shot to hell in the first turn. I consider them to be throw away units; I can start them small because I don't care if they get waxed early. I have a chunky unit of hideously expensive GG that I like to field along side the skeletons and like to have a fair amount of cavalry and a unit of Wraiths, as well... which means that I don't have even the modest amount of points it would take to plus up those throw away units even if I wanted to.
If you intend for a core choice (skeletons, ghouls or zombies) to actually hold anything up or give you enough CR to win fights, my advice would be to start them fairly large (20 for skeletons and ghouls, 25+ for zombies), even if you have a lot of magic. If you're going low magic, I'd suggest that you pretty much max them out.
Starting units rather large gives you a little protection in case the dice don't favor you for a turn or so and also allow you (if you keep using IoN on them through the course of the battle) to have the opportunity to use your spells for other purposes in the last few turns of the match, if you're not in danger of getting wiped out or losing your full rank bonus.
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Smaller units are riskier since there is always a chance of a miscast early or of just rolling badly, or oyur opponent dispelling well. The plus side is that it gives you more points to use on other things. So it really is up to your play style, it can either work really well or backfire a lot. Keep in mind the points saved will probably only be 120 or so ( 3 units of 15 skellies/ghouls instead of 3 units of 20 ) which isn't a huge amount given how good VC are, but could certainly buy other things.
I would be inclined to start one or two units at full size so you have the ranks there, then make the other one or two units a bit smaller to raise. It makes it slightly less risky and still saves you some points. And don't worry about how many models there are in the small unit if you go that way, they will end up with strange numbers from raising anyway. When you write the list, start with full size units then just drop as many models as you need to until you are within the points limit after you have added everything else. Thats probably the easiest way.
I would never go less than 14 w/character or 20 alone other wise the unit will probably get into a fight where it can't absorb the charge. Obviously the more casters you have the better chance you will be able to raise your unit strength.
When playing magic heavy vampires I found my games go better if I start with offensive magic to either hurt worrisome units or draw out dispel scrolls so MY invocations or Dance spells go off when I need them to. I find the invocation spell is better used to replenish unit strength rather than rely on it to boost unit strength.
There is lots of magic defense out there for all armies and you don't want your Core to be shut down completely
personally depending on the game size i try to keep my units between 15-20 to start with (probably leaning towards 20 for ghouls as they can be shot up easier). Ive seen VC players start with a 10 strong core unit which gets annihilated in the first turn and loses them a unit for the game... better to not take the risk. Definitely not worth it if you're not going very magic heavy.
That said in 1000 point games i risk it as points are more scarce, also ill often feild a unit of 10 skellies in addition to my normal 3 blocks of skellies/wights as on those occasions where you jsut DOMINATE the enemy in magic, they can be swelled into another big block and on other occasions theyre decent for blocking fast cav or providing a bit more flank protection. Still i wouldn't want to go to battle with more than 1 unit of only 10 and even then ill keep it out of sight for the first couple turns.