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1. Putting together a VC army
2. The Bloodlines
4. Core troops
5. Special troops
6. Rare troops
7. The Lore of Necromancy
8. Vampire Counts magic items
As this is one of the most frequently asked questions on this forum, I thought I'd throw together this quick guide to outline what I consider the basics to creating a battleworthy Vampire Counts army.
First, you need your big blocks of infantry. These will usually be zombies or skeletons, and should ideally be around 25 strong to get those all-important rank and outnumber bonuses in close combat. They should also have a standard, because all big blocks of infantry should have them! Don't worry about giving your skeletons lots of armour and weapons: they probably won't kill anything anyway, so keep them cheap and let them get those bonuses listed above.
So you've got a couple of big blocks with +5 combat resolution. Now you need something to do some killing! This is where your characters come in, and thankfully Vampire Thralls are one of the best cheap close combat characters in the game with 3 S5 attacks a turn (more if you are strigoi or blood dragon, most likely). Make sure each of your big infantry blocks has a combat character to lead it, both to score kills in the combat phase and to stop your own troops from getting mowed down.
The final component to a game winning army is flankers. Once you have engaged the enemy with your main blocks, they will be stuck there until they run away or they have chopped all of you down. So they will be stuck there for quite a while! To make them run away quicker, you need troops capable of taking advantage of these exposed flanks. Ghouls, dire wolves, black knights and the black coach are all excellent for this. They are all maneuvarable enough to get into position to get at said flanks, plus they pack quite a punch on the charge and will remove the enemies rank bonus in close combat (with the exception of ghouls, as they are skirmished). Ghouls and wolves are good against lightly armoured troops, and black knights and the coach are better against tougher opponents. Either way, denying the enemy their rank bonus will be instrumental to your victory.
So those are the three basic principles I base my army around, and they work very well for me indeed. I'll include here a 1000 pts army list which is based on all these principles so you can get an idea of what I am talking about.
Necromancer (Lvl 2). Dispel scroll, Book of Arkhan. (150 pts)
Strigoi Thrall. Summon ghouls, Iron Sinews. (125 pts)
Strigoi Thrall. Iron Sinews. (100 pts)
23 Zombies. Standard, musician. (153 pts)
19 Zombies. Standard, musician. (129 pts)
5 Dire Wolves. (50 pts)
6 Ghouls. (48 pts)
6 Black Knights. Barding. (150 pts)
Banshee. (90 pts)
TOTAL: 995 pts
Now we'll start taking a closer look at the different parts of the army. I'll begin with bloodlines, as they are normally the first thing you will choose when selecting a Vampire Counts army.
First up, Strigoi. These guys are my favourite bloodline. Monstrous in close combat with some nice abilities, but some people don't like the restrictions imposed on them (no magic items, no mounts, no mundane equipment). I think this is made up for by a free ward save and an extra attack for no additional cost though. Combined with hatred and Iron Sinews (a must-have bloodline power, after all S6 is the magic number when it comes to strength!, they suddenly become frighteningly proficient at chopping the enemy rank and file into tiny little pieces. They work best in large blocks of troops (although this can be said for all vampires, this applies especially to Strigoi, due to the fact that they can only be fielded on foot).
The Strigoi bloodline powers are quite useful.
Curse of the Revenant gives Regeneration to your Vampire. This can only be taken by Counts and Lords due to the high points cost, but it effectively gives them a 4+ ward save in addition to the 5+ ward save they come with as standard. Combined with 3 or 4 wounds and a toughness of 5, this power makes a Strigoi Count practically unkillable.
Massive Monstrosity is the main alternative to Curse of the Revenant. It gives your vampire an extra wound, so makes a Thrall more survivable, but I would only really consider putting it on a Vampire Lord to give him an impressive 5 wounds: not much will be killing that thing!
Bat Form has its uses on a thrall, it being risky to spend points on your general that will allow him to fly around all by himself, lonely and vulnerable. A Bat Formed thrall is good for tackling enemy war machines from afar, and they can generally be relied upon to take care of small regiments of skirmishers, fast cavalry and missile troops without too much bother. They are also useful in getting some high strength attacks to where you need them at the right time. Just bear in mind that a thrall by himself will be gone if he loses combat by 2 points or more: so never charge him into ranked infantry by himself!
Infinite Hatred is the favourite of a lot of people. Being able to re-roll all missed hits in close combat is great. You can generally only fit it onto your Count if you take Massive Monstrosity over Curse of the Revenant (choice between killing power and survivability).
Summon Ghouls has many uses, and is my favourite bloodline power by far (never leave home without it!:
Taking care of war machine crews and small units of missile troops.
Redirection of frenzied troops (a game winner against Khorne!
A personal favourite of mine is to bring a unit on behind the enemy army on the first turn, then charge one of their main units in the second. The ghouls should have no hope of winning the combat and flee. If the enemy pursues, they are pursuing away from you, and it will take at least two turns for the unit to get back into position. This has worked wonders for me, imagine a unit of chosen chaos warriors failing their restrain pursuit role and running away from my lines!
There's also the psychological factor of having enemy troops running around behind your main battleline. If anything, this will worry the enemy general and distract him from the main battle a bit.
And finally there's Iron Sinews, the old dependable. It's practically mandatory for a Strigoi, S6 is just too good to miss. The only instance you should ever have a Strigoi without Iron Sinews is if it is a thrall with bat form!
Next up, it's those noble knights of the night, the Blood Dragons!
These guys excel at one thing: killing enemy characters! They can go toe-to-toe with the most skilled elf prince, the most fearsome Black Orc warboss, the toughest dwarf lord or the deadliest Champion of Chaos. So you should always equip him to kill these characters, and to survive their retaliation if they are lucky enough to survive. As standard, blood dragons get bonuses to their weapon skill and full plate armour which doesn't affect their ability to cast spells much. On the bad side, they lose a power dice and they always have to challenge, even if you'd rather they chopped up some rank and file.
One good thing about the Blood Dragon bloodline powers is that they are all cheap, so everything said here can be applied to Thralls almost as much as they can apply to Counts and Lords.
Red Fury is a fairly standard power that grants the Vampire an additional attack. It's particularly deadly in conjunction with Master Strike and an additional hand weapon, giving Counts 6 S5 attacks with Killing Blow. If that won't kill a character, nothing will!
Blade Master is of very dubious use, in my opinion. 30 pts to remove one attack against you will not be that useful. I'd rather get a 5+ Ward Save for the same number of points: it will achieve more. I guess it would be useful against the Hand of Dust though.
Heart Piercing can be useful on a thrall riding with a unit of Black Knights. Being able to re-roll those S7 attacks is very useful, and will help to break the target unit on the first turn. Useful on the attack with the correct supporting troops, but for a Vampire on foot, I'd prefer Master Strike.
Master Strike should be the bloodline power of choice for Blood Dragons. Killing Blow is just a bit too good to miss, especially as it can be taken with any level of Vampire. It can be combined with Red Fury as described above for a nasty combination, but there is no single bloodline power better suited to dealing with enemy characters.
Strength of Steel would be another bloodline power to be used in the same way as Heart Piercing (not necessarily in conjunction with). A Vampire toting this power should be mounted to be confident of getting the charge. The 15 points will be wasted if you are charged. A Thrall with this skill and the Sword of Unholy Power can be expected to contribute significantly to the magic phase.
Honour or Death is useful if you would rather your Vampire was chewing on some rank and file. Useful for skipping unit champions and the such in favour of cranking up your combat resolution, but I would only take this if I had 10 points to spare.
And now the Von Carsteins, the stereotypical Vampire bloodline, no doubt modelled on Dracula himself!
Now, the Von Carsteins have some very useful bloodline powers. Not obviously powerful like the other bloodlines, but definitley utalitarian and of use in most games you will play. They have no bonuses and no penalties whatsoever, making them if anything a safe choice for most games.
Having said that, I wouldn't take Call Winds unless I knew I was playing a gunline army or wood elves with their ridiculous numbers of flyers. It can be really, really crippling for a budding Empire or Dwarf Engineer. With the help of this power, enough of your army will make it across the other side of the battlefield to eat the enemy missile troops alive! Obviously it is of little value against armies employing little or no missile troops, such as Chaos or other VC armies.
Summon Bats and Summon Wolves can be used in exactly the same way as Summon Ghouls as described above. There are a couple of things which are worth bearing in mind. Both Bats and Wolves have a much greater movement than ghouls, so it is not as obvious where you are going to charge (if at all). There is no chance either unit will panic and run away due to shooting casualties either, very useful as you are bearing down on that cannon. A summoned Bat Swarm or unit of Dire Wolves also has the potential to remove a rank bonus from the enemy, which is potentially devestating if combined with a charge from a hard hitting, ranked unit.
Walking Death is an extremely useful skill. It basically means that everything else being equal, you will be one up before combat even starts, and that is almost a worse case scenario. You can't really say no to a guaranteed point of Combat Resolution.
Aura of Dark Majesty is another useful skill. This will make your faster troops even more maneuvarable, and you can afford to spread your army a bit more, reducing the risk of being drawn into one massive combat (a very bad idea for undead) and reducing the chances of being flanked. Most Von Carstein generals I know favour this skill over any other.
Wolf Form is useful on a thrall, in combination with the Flayed Hauberk and a great weapon. This gives you a highly mobile, difficult to kill chariot-killer! Invaluable against Tomb Kings, Chaos, Goblins and any of your opponents that likes fielding chariots.
The Necrarch bloodline has a distinct emphasis on the magic phase, with a nice +1 to casting and some decent bloodline powers in exchange for reduced impact in the combat phase. Even saying that, they are still vampires and will go toe-to-toe with anything that isn't a Chaos worshipper or a Lizardman.
Nehekhara's Noble Blood is one of the reasons why Necrarch's are such powerful wizards. They can have a higher magic level than any other Vampire thanks to this bloodline power. It's of more use to a Count than a Lord, the difference being you get an extra dispel dice for your points.
The Awakening is useful if you plan to summon lots of units. It can often mean that you actually roll well enough to raise a new unit, and the extra d3 it adds to the unit can make all the difference in close combat, making that zombie speed bump last one more crucial turn.
Dark Acolyte is probably the Necrarch power of choice. It's a cheap way to add more dice to your power pool, and overall it's far more cost effective than a power stone. Definitley worth taking one or two vampires with this power in a 2000pts game just to beef up your magic phase.
Unholy Cynosure is one of the powers I am a little dubious about using. Although it is useful for avoiding that fatal miscast or making sure you get off that critical spell, that indicates that you are relying on magic to win the game for you. I'm firmly of the belief that magic is too random to be relied upon, and should be taken more as a supporting roll rather than a be-all and end-all of your game.
Master of the Black Arts can accomplish some wonderful things. With the aid of this power, it is possible to get a rear charge on an important enemy unit in the first turn of the game. That extra 6" makes all the difference. It is also rather nasty when combined with the Lore of Death. Soul Drain with an 18" radius makes a mess of enemy cavalry, skirmishers and Skaven weapon teams.
Forbidden Lore is fairly bog standard. Knowing an extra spell can be useful, but I'd rather spend the points on a Ward Save.
The Lahmian bloodline is the only bloodline that I have never played with, so all my comments here will be purely hypothetical due to my lack of experience in this field. If anyone feels they can add to what I write, then please feel free to PM me!
The first thing that strikes me about Lahmian's is that they seem fairly difficult to get rid of. All those Ld tests which an enemy is forced to make, just to attack the Vampire, combined with the -1 Ld for being in base contact with her, means that more often than not she can enter close combat without fear of being harmed. A reduction in weapon skill does make her a little less effective, but it is not completely dibilitating, and is made up for to some extent by a huge Initiative value.
Seduction is in my opinion expensive for what it can do. It's not that often that you are going to meet an opponent who it is worth doing this to, and when you do they are probably going to pass their Ld test anyway! I'd leave this bloodline power at home, in favour of taking more of the lesser powers to force more tests on hapless opponents.
Domination is the most expensive bloodline power any self respecting Lahmian should take. It's quite a nice one, which allows your comparatively weak Vampire to actually inflict some harm on the enemy. Useful on a Count or Lord, but wasted on a Thrall.
Quickblood is your stereotypical cheap ward save. A must for your general, but there is one important thing to remember when concerning this: it is a bloodline power, which means that you still have a slot for another Talisman magic item. A strange quirk, but one that could be useful in the correct situation.
Innocence Lost is a fair waste of points on a Lahmian, it only being useful when being charged or when fighting against a similarly equipped enemy character. Lahmians have such a high Initiative anyway that it almost nullifies the usefulness of this item. I'd personally never, ever take it.
Transfix is another useful skill for protecting your Vampire. It won't increase her combat potential, but then Lahmians aren't a combat orientated bloodline. Helps to keep her alive, though.
Beguile is cheap, and useful for filling those spare points that you have left over. It's most useful against rank and file, but making that uber-Chaos Lord roll one less dice in close combat can only be a good thing.
Now its time to look at the characters. Firstly, the Lord choices. VC get three of these, which is a little better than most armies, but you still get nowhere near the amount of choice a Chaos army can get!
I'll start with the Vampire Count, which is by far the most widely used of all three Lord choices. In a 2000pts game, the only characters that can stand up to a Vampire Count is a Chaos character or a Saurus Old Blood, and the Vampire still has a good chance of coming out on top. Due to the bloodlines, its a little difficult to make big sweeping statements about this character type. What we can say though, is that they are robust enough with T5 and W3 to go relatively light on protective magic items, so you can really go to town on making them magic/close combat monsters. There isn't really a situation where I wouldn't be happy with a Count as my general. Something to consider in larger games is a Count mounted on a winged nightmare. He shouldn't be your general, but a character on a flying monster, especially a character as powerful and versatile as a Vampire, opens up new tactical options which I have unfortunately so far been unable to explore.
Vampire Lords require a little more consideration before they are used. Lets compare a Level 2 Lord (worth 285 pts) with a Level 2 Count (worth 240 pts). For an extra 45 points, you get an extra point to WS, BS, W, I, A and Ld. Plus you have the option to upgrade to a Level 3 wizard, and also have the ability to ride a Zombie Dragon: something else Counts can not do. So to begin with, it seems that Lords are far better value for points when compare with Counts. The one thing that, in my opinion, makes them unusable in 2000 pts is the fact that they take up two character slots. At this points level, I feel that VC need that fourth character to make them more playable. However, at 3000 pts or higher, the loss of one character slot in exchange for these horrendously good upgrades is more than justifiable.
Necromancer Lords are characters I've always been a little dubious about. I don't play games of more than 2500 pts normally, which only leaves me with one Lord choice. And this makes me think "why would I want a Necromancer Lord when the army is VAMPIRE Counts?" I have always taken a Vampire as my general. However, a Necromancer Lord is extremely viable if you want to take a magic heavy army, perhaps even more so than a Necrarch Vampire. They are far weaker than Vampires though, and so require more points invested in protection, which in turn can limit their effectiveness in the magic phase due to a lack of magic-enhancing equipment. You certainly wouldn't have this problem with Necrarch. A Necromancer Lord would make an excellent second Lord in a game of 3000 pts or more, boosting up your magic phase considerably.
Next, lets look at the Hero level characters. The VC have access to four different types here: the Vampire Thrall, the Wraith, the Wight Lord and the Necromancer
Next, lets look at the Hero level characters. The VC have access to four different types here: the Vampire Thrall, the Wraith, the Wight Lord and the Necromancer.
Vampire Thralls are pretty powerful Hero level characters. High WS, S and I characteristics make them decent fighters in close combat. They have access to more mundane equipment than Lord level Vampires, as they are not spell casters, and they can also take Magic Armour (assuming your Bloodline allows it). Generally speaking, thralls should be used to add some good, hard hitting combat power to your otherwise weak infantry units. The one possible exception is a Necrarch Thrall, who have the option to become more powerful (on account of +1 to casting rolls) but less versatile (only Lvl 1) Necromancers with Nehekhara's Noble Blood. I am personally running two thralls in my 2000pts Strigoi army.
Wraith's are surprisingly useful. They are a cheap way to get a Terror causing model into your army, and are especially useful at games of less than 2000 pts where Terror become even more of a powerful weapon. They're ethereal, which makes them difficult to kill with anything other than a Hero with a magic weapon, any they have two S5 attacks, which can only be a good thing. Items commonly given to wraiths are the Obsidian Amulet, which makes them even more survivable, and the Cursed Book, which makes them and any of your units nearby last longer in combat. I have used this latter combination to great effect at my gaming club.
The Wight Lord has two things going for him. He is cheap as chips, which means you can spend more points on other parts of the army, and he gets the Killing Blow special rule for free: great for taking out enemy characters and heavily armoured troops. His stats aren't fantastic, being well below those of a Vampire, but they are great as fighty heroes when points are tight. They also have access to a very potent magic weapon, the Sword of the Kings, which doubles the chance of getting a Killing Blow. It's practically a mandatory choice for Wight Lords. They're also effected by the Banner of the Barrows, so hitting on 3+, *killing* on 5+ is pretty good. Can add a nice punch to a unit of Black Knights or Grave Guard comparitive to a Vampire.
Necromancers are your bog standard Level 2 wizards. Useful in VC army due to the nature of our magic, at lesser points games they are the most viable choice as your general (with the only other choice being a Necrarch Thrall with Nehekhara's Noble Blood). They work best with a mixture of aggressive and defensive magic items, and two should normally be enough for any game up to 2000 pts. I tend to run my Necromancer with my Grave Guard, and then jump him out just before they engage. Some people like to leave them running around by themselves behind their lines, but I feel this leaves them a little too vulnerable to marauding fast cavalry, magic, tunnelling Scorpions and any other nasty tricks your opponent will undoubtably have up his sleeve.
Ok this isn't complete but as soon as he posts any more I will be editing this, so keep checking back.
(Disclaimer: This is here via the permission of the writer Dark Lord Jim, none of this is my own work or thoughts.)
Bugger!! <_< I thought I was onto something, Oh well, I better get back to my Zombies .
How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's
own tactics--that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.
"Quantity has a Quality of it's own"
Ok Dark Lord Jim has updated the heros, core should be coming sometime soon.
I hope this helps people.
in the back of the book under blood dragons it dosnt metion a necromancer as being a choice for the army. but you cannot make a thrall a wizard so is the list legal?