I haven't worked on this in ages, but I'm always open to new ideas and comments, and even refutations.
All-purpose Whiz Bang VC Tactica
I’ll begin by making some general comments, then comment on lord, core, special, and rare and units. After that, I’ll move on the general tactica, including deployment and whatever other observations I’ve made since playing VC.
First, I’ve been playing Warhammer Fantasy since October of 2004, and because I was already assuming the role of the undead in Vampire: The Masquerade, I went with VC. I read every article I could find on the Internet and pored through the book. This early reading helped me a lot, and a lot of what I intend to type surely will be recognized as widely acknowledged and utilized Vampire Counts tactics.
I must also confess that I haven’t faced a full range of opposing armies, meaning that I haven’t seen all there is to see and that against those armies my tactics remain untested.
The Army General
Where better to begin general comments than with the general? Maybe no other army has so much invested in its general as does the undead. Without him the army rapidly disintegrates, and without his march range, the army’s flanks can quickly lose their ability to march.
Concerning the general’s march range, a whole slew of issues come up. Should one take a Von Carstein general so that his 18” march range may be taken? Should he ride a mount of some sort? Where do you position him in relation to your other units?
The 18” range is what I like most about Von Carsteins. It’s the power I don’t leave home without in games of 2000 or more. At less than that, there are usually few enough units that it’s not as important a power. Otherwise, it really helps with Maneuvering, something we all recognize as a key tactical component to the game. Add to that the Book of Arkhan and a total of two or three magic users who might get Danse Macabre, and you’ve got a surprisingly mobile army. Consider Dire Wolves that tempt the general to push them up an entire 18” on their first move; but after that point, they don’t get the general’s march range and without a target to charge are stuck somewhere in left field. Play them a bit shorter the first turn and race them up in the second to wreak havoc behind enemy lines or in their flanks.
The fact that the general’s death means sure decay for the whole army, he must survive the entire game. Not only will he hand an extra 100 VPs in a pitched battle and most other scenarios to his foe, but also he will take with him any number of zombies, skeletons, dire wolves, and even units with high leadership, like wights. Imagine that that your general cost a full 305 points. He dies at the hands of some merciless Scar Veteran, and a total of 10 models die collaterally, at an average of 10 points apiece. This will cost a total 400 points, with many more models soon to return a second time to the grave.
This self-destruct mechanism is why so many Vampire generals take some kind of ward save on their counts and lords. There are plenty to be had; skip to the Artefacts section if you want to read more now.
What about mounts? Blood Dragons make fluffy generals on horseback, and the thought of terrorizing the enemy on a Winged Nightmare or Zombie Dragon can make one drool with anticipated destructive delight. And doing so can certainly lead to a world of hurt for the enemy, but as there always is with any tactic, risks are tagging along on the tailwinds of destruction. First, the aforementioned march range. The general might race too far from his core army, and should he need them in a support role when he hits combat, they will be slow in the coming. Second, he rides a large target, and Nagash forbid that a large unit of skinks, archers, crossbowmen, or just a small bolt thrower crew gets into him. He could be pin cushioned early. The Wristbands of Black Gold provide a strong save against missile fire, and any general on a flying mount that I field always wears the wristbands. Unfortunately, the wristbands’ influence doesn’t extend to the mount itself, and the general can find himself suddenly on foot and hiding behind the carcass of his prized weapon of mass destruction. Last, knights and monsters always attract a lot of attention. Expect everything and the kitchen’s oak barrel sink to come winging at you. I like to hold back and wait to flank with my general in such a case. If flying he can spread terror on low leadership units or bluff a unit into reforming in a most inconvenient fashion. On the other hand, one can’t hold out too long with him or his point value as a combat unit won’t be recouped. So I like to see him eating up enemies on the third turn. Whenever possible I’ll avoid contact with characters (again, favoring flank and rear charges) making his armor saves that much easier.
So where do you start him out? Again and again, my general ends up in the middle of his army. This position might not be the same as the center point of the battlefield, but he’s likely smack dab in the middle of his own guys. I like to have three units of infantry of 1500 or more, and I’ll put him in the middle unit so that his troops can’t be hit in the flank. Zombies on one side can just absorb damage and I don’t miss them that much, and Grave Guard or skeletons on the other can fend off most enemies.
If I really want to pull my opponent hard to one flank for whatever reason, I might position him closer to one end, hoping to dupe my opponent into attacking the most available flank. Weighting one end of the army sometimes works, but more often I find that I need to protect both flanks.
Speaking of flanks, some units don’t need his march range: ghouls, banshees, a unit with a necromancer who has the Book of Arkhan, fell bats, or bat swarms.
When I undergo my first movement phase, I look at what point I can move him to and then how far from him any other units will be because the second turn is crucial for positioning.
So that’s my first point.
Protect your general and position him where his march move makes the most sense for what you want to accomplish.
The Laws of Undeath
Some reasons exist for why puny zombies and skeletons cost the points they do. They cause fear and are unbreakable. Every single unit in the army causes fear, and one unit, one of two living ones, might break from combat. When charged, charging, or resolving combat, always say aloud, “Fear check” or “Fear test” or whatever’s appropriate. In my early days, there were times I missed autobreaking the enemy after winning combat, through nothing but sheer negligence. Even when my opponents declare flee, I say fear check; they might autobreak before he has a chance to decide.
A Battle Standard can be worth the spare points to save a few models. At minimal points, a general can reclaim the cost many times over. Save two Grave Guard, one skeleton, three zombies, and a wound on a character. That’s at least sixty or seventy points, not to mention the fighting capacity those models represent.
Undead are also Immune to Psychology, another huge advantage. Only ghouls will take panic tests. Remember this not only when absorbing missile fire, being hit in the flank or rear, or targeted by malicious magic. The downside is that no ItP units can flee a charge; just ghouls can, which makes them a particularly sneaky unit. Opponents become accustomed to units never fleeing, and they might forget that ghouls can run. Bait your enemy in and then hit them in the flank with some slavering Dire Wolves or mounted Wights.
Not recorded in the Laws of Undeath is that, barring a handful of circumstances, a Vampire Count army has no missile fire of any sort. No skeletons scattering arrows overhead your foe. No war machines lobbing or launching deadly projectiles. No zombie parts flinging through the air. This disadvantage can hurt against shooty armies. My strategy against shooty armies depends on what I’m facing.
Most people set up in the middle of the board. If I see a war machine or line of shooters set up on an extended flank, I might deploy heavily to the opposite flank since most shooters can’t move without penalty, if at all. Also, some part of me believes that people have a harder time judging distances at an angle, especially when they’re sitting or half-standing. Guess-ranged weapons, I hope, will have a harder time targeting accurately.
Don't forget to use any banshees during the shooting phase. As a rookie I played so many games without any shooting that sometimes I would inadvertently ignore the phase altogether. And a banshee scorned is a banshee wasted.
The VC army has great screeners. I think the best, par excellence, are Spirit Hosts. A unit of three (120mm) will cover just about any unit (100mm if five wide). In smaller games a unit of two (80mm) will shield a unit that’s only four wide (80mm). Another option is a unit of ghouls. Skirmishers are harder to hit, and their high toughness absorbs damage. Near the general, they are much less likely to break from panic. Magical options for defending against missile fire include the Banner of Doom, the Wristbands of Black Gold, or the Von Carstein power Call Winds.
The last tactic against missiles is an obvious one. Close to combat quickly so that only wacko units like Skaven can fire into combat. Use the Book of Arkhan and Danse Macarbe to engage the enemy. After all, relying on fear in the fifth or sixth turn may be a turn too late. Force fear tests early and attack the enemy’s rear and flanks. Sometimes holding off on combat until advantageous position is secured is better, but against missile fire, shield combat units from punishing damage.
If you’re familiar with the bloodlines, then you might want to skip this part. Many vampiric veterans will recognize these comments, but I’ll try to keep to my theme of giving each section a fresh look.
see no modification to their stats. They are the status quo. The lords and counts are consistently strong both with magic and combat. Kitted out appropriately, they can not only survive brutal combats, but also deal out punishment in turn, all the while serving as a strong magic user. Their thralls can don armor, even in Wolf Form, and perform a host of nasty jobs.
The bloodline powers of Von Carsteins offer some of the most versatile abilities that can benefit the entire VC army. Summon Bats comes in steep, and I’ve never seen anyone include it on an army list. Looking at it with my supposedly fresh eyes, summoning an unbreakable Bat Swarm to take out a war machine seems more reliable than 1 to 3 Dire Wolves or Ghouls. Fell Bats are more likely to make their target, too, with two wounds each. Summon Wolves is significantly cheaper, but I always found that mine were promptly cut down by grapeshot or hails of bolts. Bringing them on the field farther away, but still in charge range, would have helped against some war machines. Call Winds has always tempted me, but it’s also expensive. Then again, as I mentioned early on, the VC army suffers mightily in the area of missile fire. This power can greatly decrease the amount of damage you take from missile attacks that use a to hit modifier. Unfortunately, the vampire can’t move, might fail to call winds on a 1, and grounds any flyers in his army. To that last point, flyers in the other army are grounded, too. Walking Death is valuable, certainly worth the points it costs. Adding 1 to any combat can tip the balance, and once that tipping point has been crossed, the seesaw can crash down on your opponent’s toes. At the very least, you suffer one less wound on the unit or even the vampire itself. Summon Wolves is cheap. It’s good for harassing the rear, chasing loose characters, taking out war machines, but be careful where the unit is brought on the field. Wolves have a lengthy charge range and should be out of short range for cannons, Hel blasters, or any other auto-hit unit. It’s sure doom for those wolves. No Von Carstein power is more worth its points than Aura of Dark Majesty, in my opinion, extending, as it does, the general’s march range another six inches through 360 degrees. This amounts to an additional foot, six inches in all directions; it makes the army much more maneuverable, especially for long chargers like dire wolves and cavalry. Wolf Form is beloved on a thrall surrounded by his pack of undead hunting wolves. It provides superior mobility and makes the mild threat of fast moving but fragile wolves much more substantial.
Next on the list are the Necrarchs
, who get a nifty +1 to casting. Counts and lords are strong magic users with bloodline powers that capitalize on their necromantic propensities. The trade-off is that they suffer a lower Weapon Skill, which is still far higher than many enemies. He’ll still usually hit on 3’s and in return suffer hits on 4’s or sometimes 5’s. Against characters he might be hit on a 3, but if he selects his targets wisely, avoiding opposing characters, he’ll survive almost any combat. Their thralls can take arcane items, which initially seems to make them perhaps the most senseless unit in the codex, but there is a strong argument to their durability over necromancers.
Necrarch bloodline powers offer an array of ways to capitalize on their magical skills. Nehekhara’s Noble Blood adds a third or fourth level of magic, which means another dispel die, power die, and more die available for casting. Also, it’s five points cheaper than a Power Familiar. The trade-off with any enhanced magic usage is a greater chance of miscasting, and seeing a Necrarch count of lord go boom! seems unusually unappealing. Moving on, The Awakening almost guarantees than an IoN will summon enough models to succeed, even if just rolled on a 3. Dark Acolyte provides an additional power die for minimal points. Unholy Cynosure can almost guarantee that a miscast won’t occur, unless three 1’s are rolled or if the re-rolled die comes up 1 a second time. Master of the Black Arts adds tremendous strategic value to the magic phase. Dropping that new unit of zombies a little bit farther away can make all the difference. Also, a magic missile spell that flies 30” is impressive, as is giving some previously far away unit a Vanhel’s Kick in the Pants. The Forbidden Lore is like having a Spell Familiar. I suppose taking the bloodline power and the familiar would provide a level 2 magic user with four spells, which seems quite nice. Sometimes, I find myself at points in the game where certain spells are less appealing. But imagine this: a Necrarch vampire rolls for Hand of Dust, takes his one attack against a runed-up Dwarven lord, hits, and watches as that lord fails his 5+ ward save. It’d be beautiful.
remain a perennial favorite with their outstanding prowess in combat. They suffer from one less power die but come with full plate armor and the ability to cast magic as a level one, two, or three caster. The bloodline powers are all oriented towards combat, one-on-one fighting weighted to their advantage. Their weapon skill is higher than other vampires, which works beautifully coupled with the high initiative and toughness of all vampires; indeed, their weapon skill is higher than almost every model in the game. The drawback they face comes with issuing challenges. If in combat with the enemy, a Blood Dragon must challenge any challengeable models, including, I’ve always concluded, unit champions. Against a unit champion, this can mean a lot of Overkill, but against another character it can mean death. As tough and as bellicose as Blood Dragons are, some enemies present real challenges. I’ve had trouble with Saurus Oldbloods charging in with seven attacks. Chaos Generals present anyone with a challenging fight. As mentioned earlier, this is why many VC generals favor a ward save of some sort, excepting a Talisman of Protection which no one seems to take.
Enough of that. Onto the specific powers. Red Fury grants an additional attack. Along with a Sword of Battle, a Blood Dragon can have little trouble dispatching that pesky Scar Veteran or Oldblood. Blademaster could prove crucial in denying an opponent an attack, especially as the vampire can select the specific attack that is lost. Heart Piercing has always been a personal favorite. Rerolling misses is always terrific; it’s just not as good as the Strigoi’s Infinite Hatred, which weighs in at only five points more cost. Even so, more hits means more wounds. Many people love Master Strike, and what’s not to love about Killing Blow? Against the great majority of enemy models, killing blow will work its deadly accuracy. With the points to spare, Strength of Steel provides additional hitting power. Consider the power on a mounted vampire with a lance, especially if he has killing blow. With his high weapon skill and augmented strength, he’s sure to wreak destruction. This bloodline power makes possible strength 8 attacks on a mounted charge. Honour or Death seems nice at just 10 points. I’ve taken it a few times, and what I’ve found is that most enemy characters, who I always wind up in challenge with, have a high leadership and, thus far, have never failed a leadership roll. Skaven just hide in the back to start with.
are also combat favorites. Without the restriction of mandatory challenges, Strigoi benefit from an additional attack as well as the usual solid vampire stat line. Despite their inability to take either mundane or magical items, their bloodline powers can carry them through a game.
Curse of the Revenant is expensive, but every regeneration-granting object or power I’ve seen in other armies costs half a lord’s magical allowance. With regeneration the vampire will never roll more dice than he has wounds. Considering this, with three, four, or five wounds, he’s very likely going to regenerate at least one wound. Augment that with an IoN and see him back at full strength in no time. Massive Monstrosity is also very valuable, despite its cost. As I read in someone else’s tactica, an additional wound can carry any character a long way. Bat Form is famous for generating the Flying Circus, a deadly whirlwind of rending talons and blood-sucking, as lord and thralls crash about the battlefield attacking flanks and rears, as well as other, more vulnerable units. This next power is my must-take ability: Infinite Hatred insures rerolls throughout combat. At strength 6 with Iron Sinews, this is almost certain to wound enemies on 3’s or even 2’s. Many players love Summon Ghouls, but I’ve had less success with it, but I attribute that somewhat to placement. Even so, ghouls are tough and boast two poisoned attacks. They are always a threat. Just mentioned, Iron Sinews provides a big advantage, especially as combat-improving magic weapons aren’t available.
Not to forget, all Strigoi benefit from a ward save. Altogether, Strigoi can duke it out in challenges or rend apart rank and file. Furthermore, they don’t suffer the magic penalties Blood Dragons do. I’ve had success with a lord at level 3 magic using massive monstrosity, infinite hatred, and iron sinews. If not for that damned miscast one game against Nurgle Legion, he almost took down a Great Unclean One. Instead, he was hit automatically in combat and failed his ward saves. Notwithstanding that failure, he kicks arse against everyone else.
At long last, I played a Lahmian army for a while. I ran it in a league and couldn't be happier with the results. Lahmians can definitely be as durable as any other vampire. One popular kit is Innocence Lost, Quickblood, Sword of Might, Spell Familiar, and Beguile. Striking first with str 6 will surprise a lot of your opponents who don't expect that kind of walloping from reputedly weak Lahmians; the ward save will make her fairly durable (of course, you can and should use IoN to heal her); the Spell Familiar is worth the spare points; and beguile will occasionally work. Many players consider a Lahmian kitted thusly a challenging character. If Beguile works, the opposing character won't strike back, and since she's in a challenge, no other models will attack her. She'll go first with four str 6 attacks at what's still a very respectable weapon skill. With IoN she should last through most challenges. In the league where I used my Lahmian, there was a special challenge rule, encouraging people to pit their generals at one another, and my Countess Nekrophelia lasted through every one.
As for the bloodline powers, there's not much to say. Quickblood and Innocence Lost are worth the points, easily. The seduction powers, though? As with the kit above, I'd only take Beguile myself, unless I knew that I would be facing an all-goblin army. Then, maybe, I might take some of the fancier ones. These powers that are too unreliable, not to mention ineffective against enemy characters with high leadership, that they seldom are worth the points. And they're why Lahmians have a bad reputation and why few people play them. I recommend that you use your points on items or powers that will give more consistent results.
Don't forget to apply the -1 to enemy leadership. And nothing in the rules states that unbreakable or ItP units ignore that -1.
That thread on the Book of Arkhan got me to thinking about the different magic items available to VC armies. VC generals tend to take certain stock items: The Book of Arkhan, the Staff of Damnation, a Power Familiar (I use a wee monkey), or the usual dispel scroll.
I think the items are worth reexamining. I'll go section by section through the artefacts and give my thoughts.
The Frostblade in the hands of a Blood Dragon taking heavy armor and a shield could yield unholy damage. Disallowing armor saves with the chance of killing a foe outright is fantastic, but it comes at the cost of consuming one's entire magical allowance. Furthermore, it doesn't negate wardsaves; still, Blood Dragons fight well enough without any bloodline powers and will slaughter many opponents, this weapon making the slaughter that much easier.
The Blood Drinker seems redundant because vampires can be healed via IoN. Even so, one must roll for Invocation while the Blood Drinker needs only wound.
The Black Axe of Krell is another character killer. Being a great weapon, it would yield 3 or more str 7 hits at a high weapon skill in the hands of a vampire, or 3 str 6 attacks at a decent weapon skill in the hands of a wight. And potentially adding an armor-ignoring wound in both players' magic phases could kill a character without having to return to combat.
The Sword of Unholy Power seems specially designed for Blood Dragons, but it could significantly bolster the magic phase of any vampire. Remember the limits on when you can use the dice: essentially, they go to whatever magic phase is upcoming.
The Tomb Blade is a free Invocation spell, sort of like the Blood Drinker is, too. It would best fit the hands of a character attacking rank and file since it only works against models with a single wound. Against Ogres, other than Gnoblars, it'd be pointless.
The Asp Bow is limited to Lahmians. It's just like the Wood Elves' Hunter's Talon or Pageant of Shrikes, or an Empire Engineer (or whatever those sharpshooters are called). What I've learned with weapons like these is that they're good for just one round. Once the opponent sees what you're doing, that character will hop out and hide between or behind units and the item gets no more use. It might be worth it if the Lahmian wasn't meant to see combat and just picked out champions as well as characters.
I think that the Sword of the Kings is a fantastic item. For just twenty five points a Lord of the Barrows can land a killing blow 33% of the time. I've seen them kill off Lizardmen generals and Chaos kings. Whether landing a surprise killing blow against a mighty character or taking out rank and file, it's worth the points, especially when taken with the enchanted shield and heavy armor on a wight.
Sometimes seeing the light of day, or maybe night, is the Wailing Helm. Terror causing items have mixed success, largely dependent on the opposing army. But it's a nice addition to an armor save.
Has anyone reading this ever taken the Armour of Bone? I haven't. It seems like a poor substitute for a save on Necrarchs, Lahmians, or Necromancers.
Regularly used, the Flayed Hauberk offers a cheap 1+ armor save. Thralls seem to like it, but so do lords properly equipped, though only Blood Dragons can take it without losing their casting ability.
The Cursed Shield of Mousillon might be overlooked too often. Taken by a Blood Dragon who also possesses the Blademaster bloodline power, an enemy character can be reduced to just a single attack. Add that to Red Fury and the odds are stacked in his favour.
This first talisman certainly has an appeal that has likely tempted new and veteran players alike: The Carstein Ring. What's not to love about a 4+ ward save and regeneration? And the thing about regeneration is that the vampire never throws more dice than he has wounds, regardless of the number of wounds suffered. Give it a count or lord with a great weapon and he should be nigh unstoppable.
The Obsidian Amulet can be handy, especially on a Blood Dragon that already has a nice armor save against mundane and magic weapons. Against enemy characters that are likely to have magical attacks, it can be a life saver. And the added magic resistance is nice, too. A Wraith with the Obsidian Amulet has a great chance of never dying.
A regular favorite, the Crown of the Damned offers a solid ward save at the cost of stupidity. With high leadership, vampires seldom fail this roll, but even at 9 or 10, that roll can be failed. When it does, do you want to risk seeing that lord not attack and just stare blankly about or even wander out of his unit? I'm reluctant to take it except on lords, but many take it successfully on counts.
The Wristbands of Black Gold would be so much better if the save applied to the mount. This shiny talisman on top a winged nightmare or zombie dragon would make unlife so much easier. As it is, on a vampire inside a unit, it's only useful if that model fails a Look out, sir! roll. On a lone skirmishing model, it might help a wraith or necromancer, or any character for that model, but how often do vampire generals run characters wild and loose?
The Ring of Night is what it is. A 5+ ward save and nothing more.
This last talisman is a curious item. It suffers the same roll that the Book of Arkhan or Staff of Damnation does: something bad happens on a roll of a 1. And this time, it's an additional wound with no armour save from the Gem of Blood, which can kill a Necromancer or Wight Lord. Even on one of those two characters, the chance of rebounding a wound can prove beneficial, yet I find it much less risky on a vampire or Master Necromancer.
A Power Familiar is a good thing to have. One lvl 2 count with two lvl 2 necros will yield nine casting dice, equal to three rolls with three dice. And another dispel die is always worth taking. This item sees moderate use.
The Staff of Damnation is a personal favourite. Hellish Vigor does a lot of good. As I said in another thread, zombies striking first is a rare and gleeful event, and with rerolling misses, it's just grand. Give that same power to skeletons or wights, and watch your opponents crumble. Also, a power level 4 bound spell will force an opponent to consider rolling two dispel dice against it.
The Skull Staff seems worthless except in games that follow the strictest rules. Who's that secretive? But rerolling miscasts might have saved my Strigoi Lord the other day when he miscast and was hit automatically in combat.
A Warrior Familiar might help, but the Sword of Attack is 5 points cheaper, unless you really, really wanted some other magical weapon. Then again, autohits are always nice, as is reducing the number of models capable of striking back at the wielding opponent.
Okay, here we are at the most commonly taken artefact of all: the fabled Book of Arkhan. Surely Nagash mastered this spell early in his tenure as master of the undead. Motivating the undead eight inches in the magic phase is a game turning play, offering flank and rear charges that offer the combat resolution necessary for undead to win fights. However, at power level 3 most of your regular opponents will learn to save a dispel die for it, knowing that there's only a 33% chance of failing the dispel roll. Regardless, it seems a must have item for all but the most experimental VC player.
The Black Periapt is useful and with the points to spare, it's worth considering. Just think carefully about how the dice will be used. And don't forget to use the preserved die!
The Spell Familiar can seem a bit needless as VC players always take IoN, our bread and butter spell. But all of the VC spells are good, so another can't hurt. Really great for a magic heavy army.
Great against Skaven and other low leadership armies, like BoC, the Rod of Flaming Death comes in expensive at 50 points, yet power level 4 bound spells are nice, as noted earlier. Your opponent will have to consider rolling two dice to stop it, and a panic test is always good. Send Empire flanking units scrambling or watch that unit of Clanrats with its general run right off the back of the battlefield. The downside is that it's a gamble, and not necessarily a good one.
Oft discussed and seldom used, the Cursed Book offers a great boon against any foe. Around the wielder in a six inch radius is the life-draining vileness of Har'ak Iman, granting -1 to hit by all affected models.
Great in low point games and reliable in higher point ones, the Cloak of Mist and Shadows is best on Necromancers, including Masters. It's expensive at 45 points, but if you position him properly, he'll never suffer a wound, which is well worth the sacrifice of his one puny attack.
This next one is a personal favorite in certain circumstances. The Talon of Death can empower a vampire lord or count on a winged mount with high str attacks against all touching models; likewise, a thrall with the proper equipment can wreak a lot of undeath with it. Consider it on a mounted thrall with heavy armor and a shield. Given a lance, he'll have three str 7 attacks, just after the Talon of Death has done its damage. A good combo, it seems.
If this next item isn't "All your eggs in one basket," then I don't know what is. The Casket of Ages can turn a game, and it's cheap. Decide if you want to gamble. Good against low toughness armies.
I really wasn't planning on examining these, but damn, I've typed so much already, that I can't see why I shouldn't turn an undead eye on them
The Hell Banner is damned expensive and only available to a battle standard bearer. As I noted earlier, terror is of questionable and variable value, though others swear to its utility. Zombiekatfizh has noted, quite smartly, in another thread
that the banner would be excellent for breaking other fear causing units. As all
models in the unit cause terror, you can outnumber and autobreak when you couldn't with the Wailing Helm. It can go in a sizable unit of Grave Guard, or (and here's a good argument for a BSB) put it on a Battle Standard Bearer in a unit of skeletons that can be increased with IoN whenever you please. Great against Ogres and fear-causing Temple Guard, for example. Thanks to Zombiekatfizh for a great tip. Credit goes to Berny Mac, as well, for the idea of putting the banner with skeletons in his "Skeleton
The Banner of Doom is worth more than its points against shooty armies. You need only save 2.25 wights to recuperate its cost.
The Banner of the Barrows greatly improves the hitting power of wights. One or two more combat res points can make it all worth it. It works especially well against opponents that alter the wights' WS or I, such as demons with the Aura of Slaneesh, or some other to hit modifier.
The Screaming Banner raises a lot of eyebrows. It seems quite useful, but few players take it. Think of how often a Lizardmen player succeeds with his cold-blooded rule. Most of the time, that extra dice keeps his troops rock-solid. Now reverse that roll to where the player is keeping the two highest, not the two lowest, dice and a lot of troops will be running for cover.
The Banner of the Dead Legion has left most VC players speechless. Useless unless outnumbering is essential for fear tests or outnumbering in combat resolution. It yields less predictable results than the War Banner.
The War Banner is good for wights, especially cavalry who usually have no rank bonus. Combat resolution might be the single most important game factor; don't neglect it.
Common Magic Items
Sword of Striking: A Blood Dragon or some other vampire hitting on 2's? Too good to be true.
Sword of Battle: Great on a Blood Dragon, maybe with Red Fury.
Sword of Might: Forge a str 6 vampire lord, count, or thrall. Worth the leftover points.
Biting Blade: Sometimes worth the ten points, unless you want the mundane hw/shield bonus to an armour save.
Enchanted Shield: Worth it on the right character; good for thralls and wight lords, even lords and counts.
Talisman of Protection: No, I don't think so.
Staff of Sorcery: And why would one not take a Power Familiar instead?
Dispel Scroll: One is always worth it.
Power Stone: If you can, yes. But accept an increased change of miscasting.
Whew, that's enough for now....