Tactica: Vampire Counts
By Matt Thrower: version 1.2 (updated 05 Jan 2004)
with contributions from:
"He's alive, Richie, alive!"
"Yep, and a mite thirsty I reckon."
I've been planning this in my head for a long
time, so I hope the end result won't be too garbled or confused.
I must also add the disclaimer that, as a general, I have about
2 years experience of playing the VC so I'm not an authority.
However, updates and suggestions are very welcome and should be
so that over time this source of advice can improve.
I'd also like to say that throughout this I've tried to give
advice on maximising the effectiveness of a VC army but this
isn't to say there aren't other viable ways to play the army.
Playing warhammer is about having fun and I encourage readers
to digest this information and then go out and try a few different
things, just for the interest value.
The first thing that any new army general
should learn are the strengths and weaknesses of his army. The
advantages a VC force has over others are many:
- Heroes strong in both combat and magic
- The powerful lore of Necromancy
- Immunity to psychology
- Fear and terror
Based against this are the weaknesses of the army. In the case
of vampire counts these are the absolute requirement to protect
the general, the lack of shooting, the lack of maneouverability
and the generally expensive but weak core troops.
The rest of the introduction will consist of an investigation
into each of these in turn.
First up, vampire heroes. To qualify this,
we're talking about vampire counts and lords, not thralls. While
thralls are powerful combat characters, the great strength of
lord-level vampires is the ability to combine combat strength and
magic in a single model, allowing the player to pick a range of
heroes which can be effective in combat and magic at the
same time. Of the other army books, only Chaos can claim the same
with the mark of Tzeentch and/or Daemon heroes. So the first lesson
is: take advantage of this. A good VC army can balance combat ability
with magic ability and should do so. Don't try and go "low magic".
Although low magic VC armies are perfectly effective, you're not
playing to the strengths of the army book.
Of course, this advice is double effective given
that VC generals have one of the best lores in the game, necromancy,
to give to their characters. Some new players look at necromancy,
with it's dearth of blasting spells and think it's weak. Nothing
could be further from the truth: Invocation of Nehek (IoN) and VanHels
Danse Macabre are two of the most feared spells in the game. Another
strength of Necromancy is that only one of the six spells is a
duffer (Hand of Dust) meaning a level 2 necromancer is virutally
guaranteed two good spells (unless you roll 1-2 or 2-2 on the dice).
So lesson two is: you've got a good lore, so make good use of it.
The third point is immunity to psychology. Now
this is balanced somewhat by the "crumbling" rule in combat resolution
which can actually take your units down faster than if they routed,
especially if you're hit in the flank. The trick is to learn the
advantages that this gives you. Don't think it makes your units
invulnerable to destruction, or that it makes them capable of
holding up the enemy indefinately: a canny opponent will know how
to exploit the crumbling rule to destroy your units in short order
by flanking them.
What it does do is ensure that your units will always, always do
what you want them to and you'll never suffer from an unlucky
dice roll against Ld that screws up your plan. So the lesson is your army will
never deviate from a plan, so make a flexible plan for dealing with
the enemy before you even start your deployment.
Finally but certainley not the least is fear
and terror. One of the great things about fear-causing undead is
the fact that while your troops are guaranteed to stick to your
plan the fear-factor makes the enemy even less able to stick to
theirs. The obvious advantage of fear is that a combat win while
you outnumber causes the enemy to flee instantly, regardless of
leadership. This is pretty terrible to watch but it's not the only
advantage. Never forget that any enemy unit trying to charge you
or being charged by you needs to take a fear test. I've won a number
of games because my enemies' critical cavalry charge stopped dead
after a failed fear test. I've also won games because an enemies
elite troops were reduced to hitting my mere skeletons and zombies
on a '6' because of a failed fear check. So there are two lessons
to be had here: firstly try and ensure that your core infantry
always outnumbers the enemy (use Invocation of Nehek) to gain
maximum effects from fear and never, never forget to make your
opponent take his fear checks.
In terms of disadvantages, the first is that
the whole game can turn on the death of your general with that
terribly destructive crumbling rule. This is what makes sub-2000
point games so much more difficult for VC as your general is likely
to be an easily-killed necromancer that you need to invest many
points in to protect. Even if you have a lord-level vampire general
you have to be careful using him as a combat character as he has
no armour and needs to survive to keep your chances of victory alive.
So always be sure to protect your general, whatever he is. I'll
be talking more about how to do this for each bloodline in the
heroes section. Another trick to help
with this problem is to place your heroes into units so they can
test against a heroes Ld instead of their own paltry score if the
general does die. It's advised that you always, always carry
at least one dispel scroll in your army to counter attempts to
kill your general using one of the few character-stomping
spells available (like 'ead butt).
The lack of shooting means you're usually going
to be on the offensive but this is the smallest disadvantage. You
can even remove it by taking DoW crossbowmen if you really wish.
A cunning general can use it to his advantage. If your enemy lines
up by his table edge and tried to shoot you for three turns then
you're being allowed to dictate the flow of battle: he's not moving
so you can pick and choose your engagements and any combat wins will
likely result in the enemy routing off the board. A wise general
playing against VC with anything but the most defensive army will
advance a little way to meeting the oncoming horde.
Lack of maneuverability is much more serious.
There are two parts to this. First the "only march within 12 inches"
rule means you're pretty much forced to deploy your forces in a block.
It also makes it difficult to combine fast and slow moving forces
effectively. The second part is the inability to do anything but
stand and take a charge. The solution to the first problem is to
make sure you've got at least a couple of units in your army that
don't suffer from this problem. Ghouls can always march (they're
not undead and are skirmishers) and Fell Bats and Bat Swarms don't
need to as they fly so they can always move full movement whether
they march or not. Dire Wolves are also a possibility since with
9" movement they don't really *need* to march. Place these units on
your flanks away from your general and you'll have a core block of
infantry which is pretty much what you need anyway. Be wary of
placing your general on a steed or flying beastie as this will too
likely take him away from the rest of your army, halving their
movement. This is better done with a thrall or (in larger games)
a second vampire count. There is no
solution to the second problem: make sure you're prepared to stand
and take the charges! Use IoN to keep your units up to strength
where possible. You can use ghouls or bat swarms for the
bait-and-switch if you wish but it's difficult since these units
will likey form a minority in your army.
There's also no solution to the expensive
troops problem. Despite the dreadful stats, the core VC units
are worth every point becuase of the fact they cause fear and
are immune to psychology. The trick to overcoming the weakness
of the core troops is effective use of characters and elites.
For this reason I'd always advise VC players to use all their
character slots rather than spending more on troops.
Some people say that the creation of an "uber-unit" of elites
with a character is an effective way of playing but I've always
felt it was too easy a target for shooting and magic, too much
a concentration of points in one place and too easy for the
enemy to avoid. With VC the problem is exacerbated by the weakness
of the core troops: those zombies and skeletons need powerful
combat characters to make them effective! With VC the "uber-unit"
can work if you use a large block of black knights as your chosen
unit but generally, I'd advise against it. More discussion of
this in the section on heroes and
Bloodlines and Heroes
First, a quick word about balance. At 2,000
points I've always felt that a lord-level vampire and one or
two necromancers is enough magic. Fill your other slots with
thralls or wight lords. If you've got more than one lord, ignore
necromancer lords and take more vampire counts instead as
they're still magic users that add combat punch as well. In sub
2,000 point games you're almost forced to go magic heavy. You'll
likely be taking a necromancer as your general and you'll need
to give him some defensive magic items. This means that in most
cases you'll need a second necromancer as a scroll caddy to stop
enemy magic obliterating you. In many cases under 2,000 points
I'd opt for a third necromancer unless you're facing an army
with chariots, in which case a thrall with a great weapon is
probably the better choice.
There's also the question of when to pick
a Vampire Lord over a Count. Well, I'd usually agree with Alessio
that the answer is "don't" unless you're playing a really big
game. There are exceptions, in particular for Necrach vampires
which I'll discuss later but in the meantime I'll qualify why I
usually think they're a bad choice. Firstly, you're paying an
extra 80 points for the lord over a count, plus extra equipment
costs. What are you getting for your points? Well, magic level 2
for starters, which we know from Necromancers and Counts is worth
35 points. You're also getting +1 to WS, W, A and Ld. From the stats
PV published in previous editions of warhammer we can guesstimate
that that's worth about 10 points. You then need to add in an
unspecified "hardness factor" which represents that the Lord is
a very tough, hard to kill model. If you factor this at 25 points
(which is a high estimate, I'd say) you're still 10 points short
of the required points. So I'd say they were slightly bad value
for the points, let alone the fact that you're likely going to be
tying up 450 odd points in a single model, which is never a good idea
in small games: at 2000 points that's almost a quarter of your
total! The second problem with Lords is that they eat
up an extra character slot. I've already discussed the fact that
VC armies benefit greatly from having well distributed combat
characters in units to make those units tough enough to face up
against difficult opposition: by taking a vampire lord you're
limiting your opportunities to do this. This is less of a problem
if you don't have a lot of zombies and skeleton units in the army:
try and ensure you've got a combat character in each one, and
if you've got a slot left over you could go with the lord instead
of the count. You can of course put a lord on a Zombie Dragon but
Winged Nightmares are usually enough and besides, in most cases
putting your general on a winged monster is a bad idea since he
needs to stay close to his troops to allow them to march.
The extra point of Ld can be useful if you field a lot of ghouls,
and, interestingly, it makes the crown of the damned a viable
choice albiet a bit risky. What can I say? You pays your points,
you takes your choice.
Wights, Wraiths & Necromancers
I'm going to leave discussion of vampire
characters until we talk about individual bloodlines as they're
all so different, so we'll deal with the other characters
available to a VC force first. Throughout this section
I'll also be talking about magic items and bloodline powers:
if I don't mention one it generally means I don't think it's
Wight Lords are best used with units of wights,
otherwise go with a Thrall instead. Thralls are better combat
characters and more flexible to boot for the paltry extra points
you have to pay for them. However, a wight lord in a unit of
grave guard or black knights which is carrying the banner of
the barrows is an unholy terror. If you give the wight lord the
sword of kings you've got 3 attacks guaranteed to hit on a 3+
and then instantly killing enemy models on a 5+. Some players
think the combination is so powerful that it's broken! A wight
lord in this capacity is just custom-built for killing enemy
heroes so equpping him with the cursed shield of mousillon
alongside the sword of kings can also be a good idea, then
get out there and issue those challenges! Because of the specific
combinations required to get the best out of wight lords, I'd
limit myself to one an army.
Wraiths are often overlooked in favour of
other characters but used properly, they can be very effective.
Don't forget that they're not much of a combat boost fore core
troops with just two WS3 attacks at S5.
The "wraith librarian" with a cursed book is a popular model, since
there's not much sense in giving the Wraith many other magic item
from the lists: he's ethereal so defensive magic is generally
not required and he comes with a great weapon so purchasing
magic weapons seems pointless. The other good option is the Talon
of Death which will result in the Wraith dishing out a goodly
number of S5 hits every turn without taking any back from troops
without magic weapons. Wraiths are good in two situations:
firstly they work well against low Ld armies because of the terror
effect and second if you think your opponent isn't carrying much
in the way of magic weapons (and great weapons are oh so much more
popular) he can be very good for issuing challenges are forcing
enemy heroes to hide at the back. The wraith can be on foot or
mounted he can deliver the benefits of his cursed book and his
terror or his Talon where needed fast: don't give him barding
as being ethereal is defence enough. A mounted wraith with the
Talon is a bit like a mini-chariot although you need to
watch out for the crumbling rule if used against ranked-up
units. Mounted wraiths can also be superb warmachine killers: they're
immune to the fire of most war machines and are likely to either
scare away the crew with terror, or rend them limb-from-limb in HtH.
Any opponent going after a mounted wraith on it's own is going
to have trouble catching a model with 16" move that ignores
difficult terrain, and even walls!
Shame GW don't do a mounted wraith
model! That said, the mounted Nurgle Lord is very wraith-like
and could be used with a little conversion work.
Having said all this, he does take up a precious character
slot which is most cases is better filled with another character,
but having a wraith can be a blast.
Now, what is there not to love about Necromancers?
I usually take two of them at level 2 in all my battles, regardless of the
number of points on offer. If you've got a necromancer general
you'll need to equip him defensively, but this can be a tough
choice. With just 50 points to spend you can only afford one
talisman, but which? The Ring of the Night is an obvious choice,
but flawed because in most cases a 5+ ward save simply isn't enough
when keeping your general alive is so vital. Better to opt for the
cloak of mist and shadows or (if you know your enemy has magic
shooting like dwarfs, skaven, or wood elves) the wristbands of
black gold and then keep your general well out of the way!
I like to keep my necro generals in a block of 11 or so zombies
which prevents him being picked as a target and which can easily
be added to with IoN and left behind as a screen for your necromancer
should enemy melee troops catch up with him. Leave the zombies
static and get the necromancer moving out of there, but make
sure you've got enough zombies in the block to avoid the dreaded
For non-general necromancers the first choice
of kit is traditionally a dispel scroll and the book of arkhan
and for good reason. The book is an absolute steal, for 25 points
having the chance of casting one of the best spells in the game
each and every turn and forcing the enemy to keep back a dispel
dice or two to deal with the threat. For a second necromancer the
choice is a bit more tricky. I usually like to go with the power
familiar since I try to ensure I've got 3 dice a turn to cast on
each spell attempt (more on this in magic)
and the power familiar is a good way of doing this. However,
a dispel scroll and the black periapt is also a good choice
which achieves a similar result at less cost. In some circumstances
a completely different choice of items is appropriate: the
staff of damnation (if you've got lots of zombies) or the rod of
flaming death (if you're trying to play defensively).
I'm not convinced of the value of Necromancer Lords. Sure,
with 4 magic levels they can dish out some serious spells,
but do you really need a level 4 mage when 5 out of the 6
necromancy spells are so good? And when most necromancy
spells can be cast on 3 dice? I think not, especially
when you could have magic and combat power (and thus
flexibility) from a Vampire Count instead.
Von Carstein Vampires
This is an oft-overlooked bloodline which
has some real power if used properly. For starters, it has options
to armour thralls which can make them very, very useful indeed.
Second it has probably the best bloodline powers in the whole book.
Sadly this causes a fairly serious dilemma when I'm playing a
Von Carstein army. We've already discussed how important it is to
protect your general and by giving a Von Carstein general the
Carstein ring you're giving him the best protection available
to the VC and, with a great weapon, rendering him a combat monster to boot. However
it eats up the whole 100 points allowance meaning you can't take
the excellent "aura of dark majesty" bloodline power which removes
much of the maneuver problems a VC army can face. As a general rule
I take the ring. However, the bloodline power combined with
"walking death" could be a real killer in a largely cavalry army.
In larger games you could also save the ring for a second count
mounted on a winged nightmare, providing much needed protection
from war machines and creating a powerful unit well able to operate
without support. If you don't give your general the carstien
ring then make sure you give him the ring of the night at least!
An interesting idea that was suggested to me is to give the count
Wolf Form and Walking Death and then putting
him in a unit of Dire Wolves. The unit will help protect the
general and it provides you with a very fast, very manueverable
unit which has a good chance of crushing anything your opponent
has, especially if you can hit him in the flanks. If you do
this with your general, make sure the other units can stay
within his marching range.
Thralls can be armoured and given a great
weapon or a second hand weapon to enhance combat potential. I'd
generally go with bloodline powers over magic items for thralls.
Walking Death is awesome, especially for a mounted thrall: a unit
of black knights with such a thrall and the war banner could break
most units in the game. Wolf form on a thrall
with a great weapon makes a superb hunter for mages and chariots:
imagine your opponents surpised when you thrall out-charges
his precious chariots and rips them up with S7 hits! Giving a
thrall of this nature the flayed hauberk is a good choice, making
him more able to operate without support. If you don't buy the hauberk,
load up on all the armour you're allowed for any carstien thrall.
You can even pull up a Cartsein Thrall with the battle standard
and wolf form and have a unit of Dire Wolves with a standard bearer!
This is more useful than it sounds, especially in a cavalry army,
or in tandem with the wolf-form general suggested above.
Blood Dragon Vampires
Hmm, everyone's favourite bloodline? Well not
mine: I've never played them which makes it a bit difficult to
offer advice. But I'll do what I can based on my assessment of
the powers from the book. Never forget that your blood dragons
are going to be in a lot of challenges, so picking up things
to deal with enemy characters is a very good idea. A more experienced
general pointed out to me that BD vampires (especially counts and lords)
are perfectly effective at destroying enemy uber-generals like
Bloodthirsters. In fact a tooled-up BD lord on a Zombie Dragon is
probably the most powerful single model in the game. So if you're
having daemon trouble, you know which bloodline to turn to.
One of the many great things about Blood Dragons is that
BD generals can wear armour, making them, and consequently your
army, that much safer. Lords and Counts come with full plate which
confers a perfectly acceptable 4+ save. With hand weapon and shield
this becomes an excellent 2+ and so for this reason I'd advise
not giving a BD general a magic weapon: a great weapon and a shield
gives you maximum flexibility as well as S7 hits. I'd still have
the ring of the night in case of emergencies though, but that
still leaves 70 points to play with on bloodline powers. I'd go
with any two of Red Fury, Blade Master or Master Strike. The nice
thing about the latter is that combined with one of the others,
it leaves you enough points for a Black Periapt if you wish.
Thralls don't get any armour automatically so a flayed
hauberk can be a good choice, with the obligatory great weapon
although that doesn't leave you enough points to buy anything
else worthwhile for the model. If you don't buy the hauberk,
load up on all the armour you're allowed for any BD thrall.
Red Fury with an extra hand weapon looks a nasty combo. However,
possibly the most evil of all (especially for an extra count,
should you have one) is to buy the trusty old common magic
item, the humble sword of striking. This means your BD is going
to hit almost anything on a 2+! Combined with Strength of
Steel on a thrall is a dread combination but still worse is
combining it with Master Strike on a Count. That's an awesome
Necrach vampires have several big problems,
but they're still a powerful bloodline if used right. Obviously
you need to go magic heavy to get the best out of them.
The first problem is that counts and lords aren't massively
powerful in combat. They have no armour and no bloodline-specific
powers or items that can help protect them. So a Ring of the Night
is a must for your general but he's still an easy target for enemy
lords at which point your army is as good as dust. It's for this
reason that playing Necrachs, I sometimes play with a Vampire Lord
at 2,000 point games. It's generaly the only bloodline I'd advise doing this
with but boy, can that extra wound be helpful in keeping the general
alive! Another benefit of the Lord is the level 3 magic, meaning
you don't have to buy Nehekara's Noble Blood to get the extra magic
power a Necrach army needs. The points can then be used for
other bloodline power or magic items. It's interesting to note
that buying Dark Acolyte and Forbidden Lore on a level 3
vampire lord gets you all the advantages of Noble Blood for
10 points less. It does mean you can't throw 5 dice at a spell,
but that's not generally a good idea anyway!
Don't forget you can heal him with IoN. This does loose you
a hero slot which you'd probably be best off using to buy a wraith
or wight lord since you need two necromancers in a Necrach army.
It's a difficult trade off: see what you think. In either case,
Nehekara's Noble Blood is a must for any counts, general
or otherwise. You've then got 25 points left to play with. The
Sword of Might can be a good choice to add combat punch if you've
sacrificed a hero slot for the Vamp Lord, otherwise the Awakening
is a good choice, or Dark Acolyte if you really need the extra dice
to ensure you've got a multiple of three (see
magic). An interesting idea I once heard was to give the general
Death Magic instead of Necromancy and then Master of the Black Arts
but since this is only likely to be useful for one extra turn of
blasting, I'd say it's not worth it. Please feel free to
The second problem with Necrachs is that
the thralls aren't really very good. They're not much
use in combat due to no armour and a low WS for a hero and the
biggest advantage of the Bloodline (+1 to casting spells) is useless
unless you give them Nehekara's Noble Blood, enabling them
to cast spells. If you do that you've got a level 1 wizard
who (if using necromancy) can only throw two dice at a spell
on a 7+ and that 'aint good enough odds for my liking. You could
try casting IoN at 3+ with one dice but since there's a little known rule in
the rulebook that says any spell fails on a roll of 1 or 2, there's no
point: the +1 to cast advantage again becomes useless. You can
give arcane items to Thralls but frankly, what's the point when
you could have a necromancer instead? They're not even much use
as the general of sub 2000 point armies since you've spent all the
magic item allowance making them into a (fairly useless) level 1
mage and so have nothing left for talismans. One circumstance
where a thrall (general or otherwise) might be useful is with
Death Magic since the two dice can then get chucked at a 5+ spell
which is probably worthwhile. You can also use them as "batteries"
to add power and dispel dice to your army for better mages to use,
while still retaining some combat potential. However, as a general rule, a
wight lord or wraith is a better choice, especially since a good
way to make up for the lost combat punch of using Necrachs
is to have lots of wights in your army, making the banner
of barrows/sword of kings combo very tempting.
I've never played these either and neither have
a lot of people. That's because of an inherant flaw in the design.
Lahmians are almost as weak as Necrachs in combat and yet their
bloodline powers generally require them to be in base to base
contact with enemy models!
If I were to have a Lahmian general, I'd use
Quickblood instead of the ever-faithful Ring of the Night
just because it can't be dispelled. If I were to take one
of the mind-altering powers I'd go with Domination which leaves
30 points for the fairly tempting Asp Bow. Either that or 25
on Innocence Lost as another method of trying to protect your
vampire general from harm. Or you could go with Seduction
instead but I'd be wary of paying that many points for a power
which is likely to fail a goodly percentage of the time: you're
likely to want to target enemy characters who'll have high Ld don't
forget! I'd also consider using a Lord instead of a Count
for the same reason as Necrachs, but the need is less
I'd steer clear of the thralls as well,
although the idea of loading one up with the Asp Bow and
Transfix might be worth a shot. The Asp Bow is a pretty good
item and if I ever do build a defensive VC army, Lahmians
might be worth a try just for that item alone.
Now these guys are really rather good. They're
so good I'm surprised that Blood Dragons get all the complaints
when Strigoi vampires can be just as deadly in close combat.
I'd rather have an extra, re-rollable attack than +2 WS any
day. However, because they can't be mounted or take magic items
it does make them a bit inflexible, although bloodline powers
can't be targetted by Vauls Unmaking of course.
For your Strigoi general, the choices are
a no-brainer. Iron Sinews is a must, followed by Summon Ghouls
and Curse of the Revenant. The other option is Infinate Hatred and
Massive Monstrosity but that's not a goer in my opinion and I'll
tell you why. For starters, for an extra 5 points you're buying
a 50% chance of saving each and every wound instead of the certainty
of an extra one. One a model with 3 wounds and a 5+ ward save
I'd say the 50% regeneration chance has better odds of "making"
more than one wound over the course of the battle. Especially if
you heal your general at any point with IoN. Second, I don't much
care for infinate hatred. There's precious little that can stand
more than one round of combat with a Strigoi and besides, summon
ghouls is massively useful for disrupting enemy mages, war machines,
archer units and skirmishers: it generates a minimum of 4 poisoned
attacks don't forget!
Strigoi thralls aren't so good because the
6+ ward save, no armour and no possibility of buying regeneration
means they're a bit fragile for my liking. That said Wraiths and
Wights aren't very fluffy for Strigoi armies so if you want to stay
true to the fluff you'll likely end up buying one of these.
My favourite combo is Iron Sinews and Summon Ghouls although
Infinate Hatred and Iron Sinews is a viable option. One place where Thralls can be
very handy is in the awesome "Strigoi Flying Circus" setup.
Take nothing but Strigoi vampires in your army and give them
all "bat form" as a bloodline power. Then, in the second turn or
so, charge all of them into one enemy unit. You'll have no ranks,
standard or outnumber but 17 S5 rerollable attacks will put pay
to pretty much any unit in the game. Fantastic for dealing
with enemy uber-units, although it does leave all your characters
vulnerable to enemy counter-charges.
Odds and Ends
Firstly, a quick word about battle standards.
It's a very quick word and the word is "no". They're generally
useless for most armies. I did once conceive of an army template
that consisted almost entirely of expensive wights and ethereal
models, with the idea that taking a battle standard would make
it very difficult for the enemy to overcome the ethereal units.
I've never tried it and I doubt it would be very effective. Another
possible use for a battle standard is in a cavalry army with a lot
of black knights but I think I'd still steer clear.
Second, a roundup of a few other potentially
useful magic items I've not hitherto covered. For starters I think
the wailing helm has possibilities given to a well armoured
Blood Dragon or Carstein Thrall on a horse. For starters it can
achieve the good old 1+ save and causes terror to boot. Warrior
familiars can be a nasty surprise for the enemy given to a Necromancer
or Lahmian or Necrach vampire, but they're not generally worth
the points. The banner of doom can be a good choice for grave guard
but not black knights: the number of models making saves from
a warmachine hit is so much greater in a large unit of slow infantry
than a small unit of quick cavalry. The war banner is always
a useful choice for almost any unit. Finally, the screaming
banner always looked a good item to me but I've never used it
because the banners of Doom, Barrows and War are all better
and I've never had cause to field more than 3 units capable of
carrying magic banners. It's a shame you can't have one unit of
skeletons with a magic banner as the screaming banner would be
a natural choice.
Well, Necromancy or Death magic? Well in almost
all cases I'd go with Necromancy, so I'm not going to spend much time
discussing the spells in Death magic. Instead I'm going to use this space
to talk about times when it's useful to take Death magic. The most
obvious one, which has already been mentioned, is for Necrach
vampires in combination with Necromancers provding necromancy.
It's the only sensible choice for a Necrach Thrall and it would
allow a Necrach Count to make full use of the Master of the Black
Arts power. A combined lores force with a Necrach Count and Thrall
(Death) and two Necromancers (Necromancy) sounds like a tasty treat.
The second time death magic can be useful is if you use all death
magic and go very magic heavy in an attempt to drum up a form of
magical artillery and fight defensively. See the
army templates section for more information. Don't forget
that Death magic also contains the oft-overlooked spell
"doom and darkness" which is liable to make a target into
banshee-meat, although since it's
the "6" spell you can't plan a game around getting this.
A quick glance down the casting values for the
Necromancy spells reveals an interesting point. They almost all cost
7+ to cast. The lowest level of IoN is an exception, but that's not
much use apart from healing wounds on characters. When you're casting
spells you want as much as possible for them to succeed, otherwise
your wasting power dice and allowing your enemy to keep back dispel
dice for later use. Trying to use 2 dice to cast a 7+ spell (a 50%
chance) is thus rather akin to pissing into the wind. However, 3 dice
will give you a good chance of casting almost any spell from Necromancy
besides being the largest number of dice a level 2 caster can use.
And it's not many VC armies that should have anything better than
a level 2 caster on the board: Necrachs only! For that reason I
always, always try to have a multiple of 3 power dice so I can chuck
three dice at every spell: 6, 9 or (in extremes) 12. That's
why a power familiar can be such a handy choice.
When rolling for your spells, I'd generally
choose them in the following order, although the precicse cirumstance
of the game and your battle plan can change the order of
- Invocation of Nehek (every necromancer should have this!)
- VanHels Danse Macabre
- Hellish Vigour
- Gaze of Nagash
- Curse of Years
- Hand of Dust
Invocation of Nehek
The first spell on the Necromancy list is
Invocation of Nehek, which is a cracking spell that is consistantly
undersetimated by people playing against VC armies. Every single one
of your Necromancy-using wizards should default to this spell, even
if you rolled two other good spells as it's simply that good.
It has three different uses and you'll be best served if you remember
all of them and use it appropriately. In most cases, the only
useful version of the spell is the 7+ version although the first
and last applications are suitable for a 3+ shot on a single power
dice if you like.
It's first use is to add models
to an existing unit. It's this version of the spell which tends to
be underestimated. If you use it early on in the game, when other
spells might not have targets, your opponent might not bother
dispelling it. This can be a big mistake. If you start with 25
skeletons in a units, you can easily have 40 after a couple of
applications of this spell, and any unit is going to have a
hard time whittling down forty skeletons. Don't forget also that
the rules clearly state that this doesn't change the VP status of
the unit: your opponent is going to have to kill 27 of those
skeletons just to get half the VP of the original 25! Similarly, it can be used
on damaged units to deprive your enemy of VP at the end of the
game. A fairly common tactic is to buy a small (10-15 models) unit
of skeletons with full command, light armour and spear and then
turn it into a fully combat ready unit with IoN. It means you're
getting more value from the spell since each new model is worth
11 points instead of 8.
It's second use is to create new units which
is sometimes misapplied by novice VC generals. Since you need at
least 5 new models to create a valid unit, it's very, very tempting
to go for zombies since at 2D6+2 you're virtually guaranteed to
meet this requirement. You can raise them at the back or sides of
units and then use VanHels Danse Macabre (or another turn) to get
a flank or rear charge. However small units of zombies, as we shall
see under core units, suck. It is not unknown
for the net result of this tactic to work against you since the
enormous drag factor of zombies being killed by enemy troops can
actually negate the advantage (say +2 for rear and 3 for rank bonus)
that the zombies give you, especially against troops with multiple
attacks. However it is a valid tactic and it usually works, especially if
you can manage to throw a lot of zombies into the fray. This
version of the spell is also most apt to creative use. If you want
to protect a unit from charge, raise some zombies in the way,
although be aware that the rubbishness of zombies and the overrun
rule can cause this tactic to backfire. Zombies are also great for blocking the LoS
of units with missile capability and indeed a block of zombies
stands a fair chance of beating a small unit of unarmoured archers
in HtH. Beware overusing this spell since the resulting small
units of zombies usually die and add VP's to your opponents total.
Repeated instances of this can really add up, even at only 6 points
at model! Finally, a really nasty application of this version of the
spell is to suddenly bring up new units in table quarters in the
last couple of game turns, either to contest them with the enemy
or to grab unoccupied ones to add to your VP. Particularly
useful against wood elves.
The third and final and most often overlooked
use is to heal wounded undead models. The potential application of
this to the vital VC general hardly needs stating: if your general
is a necromancer he should always, always have this spell. However
it's also useful for all multiple wound undead models like fell bats
and (especially) spirit hosts which can hang around for ages
with repeated applications of the spell.
Hand of Dust
This is the worst spell in the list, but
it's far from useless, especially in the hands of Lahmian vampires
who can strike first with this deadly attack at a decent WS. It's
especially useful against large monsters, which VC armies can struggle
to deal with, and heavily armoured models. However in almost all
cases I've rolled this spell I've swapped it for something else
where I can.
This is especially useful when applied to
Wights (with that nasty killing blow attack) and Zombies (since
it turns the worst troops in the game into respectable killers).
It's also another one that opposing players underestimate and let
pass, which you can use to your advantage if you find your
opponents magic defence particularly strong. Since it requires
no LoS it can be useful as a spell to chuck dice at when all your
units are already in close combat toward the end of the game.
Gaze of Nagash
It's just a magic missile, albeit quite a
powerful one that has a good chance of drawing out some dispel
dice or scrolls allowing you to get in a critical stab at casting
VanHels or IoN. As useful as magic missiles are, don't overestimte
it's application for an army which will be looking to close for
close combat as soon as possible. Also, don't make the mistake
I often do with this spell and hide the necromancer with it behind
a screening unit unless there's a pressing need to do so!
VanHels Danse Macabre
Possibly the best spell in the game. An
unexpected flank charge, or even front charge is a game winner.
If you don't understand why, just try using this spell in a couple
of games and you'll see.
It's especially effective when applied to newly created units in
inconvenient places as it prevents your opponent from maneuvering
to avoid a possible charge.
It's all the scarier for the fact that
it can be used multiple times on the same unit and the book of
Arkhan (which every army should have) carries this as a bound
spell. If used properly, you can be guaranteed your opponent will
be wanting to dispel it so try and save it for the end of the magic
phase where possible to draw out dispel dice and scrolls first.
If your opponent knows you have the spell (as he should) you can
use this to help you get off other spells, since he may save dice
and scrolls to counter this! The only tiny downside is that at
9+ it's slightly tight odds on 3 dice, but unless there's a level
3 mage in your army with this spell, there's precious little
you can do about it. Don't forget that the spell has defensive uses
too: if an enemy unit suddenly finds itself unable to move because
it's in HtH it can serious disrupt enemy offensive plans.
Curse of Years
Can be very nasty, especially applied to
blocks of heavily armoured elite infantry like dwarven ironbreakers. Try and save
it for use on units with plenty of models (i.e. infantry) otherwise
it's a waste of dice: it never lasts more than one turn as
it's too dangerous to leave. That, incidentally is another nice
side effect of the spell: it draws out your opponents power dice
in their own magic phase. However, at 10+ it's too likely not to
work on three dice to make a major threat. I'd avoid it unless you've
really got the dice to spare.
Ah zombies, the worst combat troop in the
entire game, and little sods to paint to boot. Which isn't to
say they don't have their uses. The statline of a zombie is bad
enough but the real killer is the "braindead" rule which means
they always strike last, virtually ensuring that there's not
enough zombies left in the front rank to do any damage to the
enemy. And thus they crumble. However, you're always going
to have to have a box of the models for raised units.
Aside from being the prime choice of new
units (as discussed in magic) Zombies have
two main roles in unlife. They're
generally completely useless as a front-line combat troop because
they're so dreadful in combat. However, put a standard and a
musician in the unit, add in a fearsome combat character (a Strigoi
Count is particularly appropriate) and the zombies can act as capable
rank-standard-outnumber bonus for the character. If the character
gets to attack first it can even wipe out enough of the enemy for
the zombies to get a few attacks in! As already mentioned a small
block of zombies, sans standard and musician are quite
good at babysitting necromancers. Otherwise, take 30 or so
with full command for this role.
The second use is as a tarpit unit that can
be used to tie up enemy troops. In this case you're expecting the
zombies to die, so no standard and musician but take 30-40
to make sure they can take the punishment. Then, as soon as they
get into combat, cast IoN on them like mad until they either
all crumble or manage to overwhelm the enemy unit through sheer
weight of numbers. I've always felt that using IoN on bases of spirit
hosts is a better idea for this role however, and it can be
a massive drain on your dice if you need to keep using IoN on
the same unit every turn. However, if you really feel you need
multiple tarpits (Bat Swarms and Spirit Hosts are both 0-1)
then Zombies could be the answer.
Skeletons are the workhorse of most VC armies.
Not vastly expensive and not too dreadful in hand-to-hand they
make a fair core infantry troop, especially when supported by
characters and/or repeated applications of IoN.
Skeletons should always have a standard, and
I usually like a musician and champion as well. The musician is
key for skeletons since winning by even one means your opponent is
likely to be routing due to the effects of fear. I like to have
a champion in case I need him to take a challenge in place of
a character in a turn. Some people will argue that all those extra
points for one WS2 S3 attack aren't worth it and there is some
mileage in that approach but I'd rather pay the points than loose
a necromancer in a challenge. And sometimes that one extra attack is the one that
wounds and tips the balance, causing the enemy to flee. I
usually take skeletons in block of 25+: remember more troops
to maximise the effects of fear!
Unlike zombies, skeletons have some equipment
options. Spears may only cost one point but alone, they're a bad
idea. Although they allow a second rank to attack you end up
loosing the +1AS for weapon-and-shield bonus and given that the
second rank's attacks are only WS2 S3 and you only get them if you've
been charged (when, most of the time, you're going to be the
offensive army don't forget) they're not worth it. A statistical
analysis reveals that spear-armed skeletons don't fare any better
than vanilla skeletons against most opponents and all for a point
extra. Light armour is a better bet but +2 points is a lot to pay
for an extra point of armour save, so again, vanilla is generally
preferred. However, units armed with both, while expensive, can
be worth the investment, especially when their numbers can be
increased with IoN. Start with 10-15 with full command and
watch 'em grow.
What is there not to love about Ghouls?
They're such an essential part of the VC lineup that I never
leave home without them, even if it means breaking the fluff
a bit. Point for point I reckon they're the best skirmish troops
in the game and you get added value because of the immense
tactical flexibility they add to VC armies. Here's why.
For starters, ghouls are alive. While this
means they're likely to flee on their feeble Ld it also means they can
march in any position on the battlefield and, crucially, it
also means they can flee from charges, leaving the enemy
exposed to a couner-charge from your own forces in that most
classic of warhammer tactics, usually denied to the undead.
In short they're a fast, flexible unit in an army usually filled
with slow but rock-solid units.
Next, they make a truly superb missile
screen to stop enemy archers picking off your units. They're
particulalry good at screening grave guard in this way since the
foot wights are no faster than the ghouls and can advance behind
them in good order. As skirmishers, you
can deploy them all in one line, plus they get -1 for the enemy
to hit and they're toughness 4 which is capable of blunting
archery volleys from longbows. You want armour as well you say?
Well that's just greedy. Of course if they're screening a unit
of infantry then anything that charges the ghouls (who can flee) is going to
leave itself very, very open to a counter-charge.
Finally, they're hard as nails in HtH despite
the lack of ranks and standard. Having a 360 degree charge range
should allow you to get them into the flanks of the enemy buying
a +1 bonus to combat resolution. The volume of attacks is huge
since the skirmishers arrange themselves to get maximum models in
combat. All that plus the poisoned attacks makes them invaluable
against large monsters like giants and dragons with high toughness
and this in a force that can struggle to deal with large
So, go buy some ghouls! Be careful not to field
them in a direct multiple of 4 as this makes it easier for enemy
fire to make them flee due to the 25% casualties panic rule. I get
mine in units of 9-11 although a number of commanders have had
great success fielding very large units of ghouls. Don't
buy a ghast. They're possibly the silliest unit option in all of
warhammer: characters can't join ghouls so he'll never have to
take a challenge and for less points than it costs to buy the
extra attack a ghast provides you can buy another ghoul and
get 2 extra attacks instead. Their only possible advantage is
against monsters where you're only going to get 5 ghouls in
base-to-base and the extra attack might come in handy. But
paying 10 points for that eventuality seems like a bad idea.
GW don't even make models for them, so they obviously don't expect to
see many :).
Dire Wolves are much maligned because most
first-time generals will field a unit or two and note how at
T3 and not skirmishers and no armour save, they get ripped
to shreds by even feeble enemy missile fire. However, that's
just not using them properly. Look again at what you're getting:
a very low cost, extremely fast cavalary unit. They only cost
2 points more a pop than skeletons!
I've found there are two main ways to profitably
employ dire wolves in your army. In the first instance, take 10-12
in one or two units and then make sure you've got something
else in your army worth shooting at: some wights are usually
a good idea. Use the direwolves against soft targets at the rear
of the enemy line: their speed and flexibility can make them a real
terror for lone mages or warmachine crews. Then your enemy is
going to have a real quandry as to whether to shoot the easy
targets of the dire wolves, or have a more risky pop at your
harder units. This approach works best against armies with lots
of warmachines like dwarfs and empire.
The second, and probably better method, is
simply to solve the problem by taking lots and lots of them so
that there's bound to be some left by the time they hit the enemy.
Try 3-4 units of 8-12 models.
They're only 10 points each don't forget and are almost certain to
hit the enemy on turn 2 of movement (18" march move followed by 18"
charge). Since they're US2 it doesn't take an awful lot of them
to get an outnumber bonus on the enemy, whose infantry may well
be more expensive than your dire wolf cavalry!
If you're going to use them in this more
substantial role, be sure to make a few notes about how they
fight. Despite the high US they're no match for ranked up infantry
and will die very quickly if you try. Far better to use all that
speed and manoueverability to try and get some flank charges
in, especially if you can pin the front of the unit with heavy
black knight cavalry or (less likely) infantry. Dire wolves do
remove rank bonuses don't forget!
A third method which as been suggested is to use a small unit
as a charge directer. Given the excellent maneuvrability of
fast cavalry, you can quite easily move them to outflank an
enemy and then align at an angle, the result of which will be
that the enemy unit will be pretty much forced to align itself
to the wolves in order to avoid a flank charge. The result will
be an enemy unit which has wasted a move aligning itself and is
now (in all probibility) facing away from the main combat:
if it charges the wolves and overruns it'll be even further away
and if it stays put you're likely in a position to threaten the
flank with another unit. Handy, but it relies on the
wolves surviving missile fire to work.
Bat Swarms don't feature heavily in most
people's VC lists and not because there's nothing wrong with
them: it's simply that for 5 points a base extra spirit hosts
(see special units) do a better job in
the same role in most circumstances. The fact that the bats can
fly is no bonus: spirit hosts can march faster than the 10" fly move
the bats are allowed. The two ways in which the bats are better
are firstly that they have 360 degree charge arc, which does make
them better flank guards than hosts and second that they can be
employed to tarpit ranked-up infantry as they
don't suffer a crumbling penalty. However at T2 you really wonder
just how much longer they're likely to survive: at least the
spirit hosts have a fighting chance of doing some damage to
a unit before the CR kills them. The only time I ever take them
is against armies that can employ a lot of magical shooting like
skaven, which render the advantages of the ethereal spirit
hosts pretty much a moot point. Like most swarms, 3-4 bases
is best, although 2 will do in a pinch.
Grave Guard are rightly feared as a very tough
combat unit, but they suffer the disadvantage that all elite
infantry suffer: your opponent will likely target them with every
archer unit and warmachine that they have as they toil across
the board at 8" a turn. They may be T4 and have a 4+ AS with
shields but that fire is still going to take it's toll over the
turns. And with the
crumbling rule being particulalry nasty on expensive wight models
that loss of ranks (and thus CR) can really hurt. Plus it
means you're less likely to get that all important outnumber
to maximise fear benefits: without bowmen of your own you
can't whittle down enemy infantry in the same way.
There's various things you can do to help
them out though. You could provide some other targets which are
more urgent to shoot at, like black knights or dire wolves or
even some more grave guard. You could give them a missile
screen of ghouls or spirit hosts, although that's less of an
attrative option if the enemy has a hill to deploy missile units
on. You could take lots of items and units to help remove
the threat of missile fire, like fell bats, dire wolves or the
various "summon" bloodline powers. The banner of
doom can be a big help. Take your pick.
Once you do get them into combat, they're
idiotically hard. The general consensus is that they're best
fielded with hand weapon and shield: the shield will help
against missile fire (and is thus a good choice) and the
halberds cost a point extra and leave a lower AS in combat.
However with the banner of the barrows and halberds you'll have
a unit which hits most enemy infantry on 3+ and wounds on 2+.
Can't be bad. Give them full command and if you want a magic
banner the banner of doom (against most armies) or the
banner of barrows (if you've got a wight lord in there
or against non-shooty armies) are both effective due to the
number of models in the unit. I usually field them in
blocks of 20: less is madness and 20 is a good number
for 4 ranks 5 wide: I like to minimise ranks to minimise
the effect of cannon and bolt-thrower fire.
Make full use of the killing blow
ability: if you've got models in base-to-base with an enemy
character it can be worth a shot at attacking him with wights
in the hope of landing a killing blow. Don't overdo this and
end up loosing combat (and thus models) more badly than
you need to but against very strong or very weak opponents it's
a tactic that will likely scare your opponent very badly in
case his 250 point dwarf lord gets killed by a 14 point
wight. Wight champions in challenges are particulalry
good for this: issue a challenge and watch as your opponent
agonises as to whether to risk his character dying or
risk loosing the combat after sending him to the back.
Don't forget that wight blades count as being magical,
which makes them handy against enemy daemons and ethereal
Much like dire wolves, either take a single
unit of these nasties or take a lot: they're going to be an
absolute magnet for war machine fire, and said fire will devestate
your lovely (and very expensive) unit in very short order indeed.
They're much harder than grave guard to screen from this sort of
abuse because there's no decent screening unit that can keep in front
of them and the banner of doom is much less effective because there's
less models in the unit to make the save. So the only really viable option
is to provide alternative targets: hence, more black knights.
You could attempt to screen them with spirit hosts, but you're
loosing movement and tactical flexibility, and if the combo gets
out of march range of the general, they're in a whole lot of
trouble. You can also screen them with dire wolves: the ability
of fast cav to change formation means you can leave the wolves
facing obliquely in front of the knights, allowing you to screen
large units of knights with a few wolves.
If you're just going to go with the one unit,
it can be invaluable for keeping missile fire away from your other
units for a turn or two and however heartbreaking this might be
given the time you invested in painting them, it's still a worthwhile
role. Some people like to have a big unit and place a character in
there. If such a unit survives the missile fire it can break pretty
much anything in the game. However, that's a big "if" and remember
that the more ranks you have in a unit, the more damaging
bolt thrower and cannon fire is likely to be. Beware of allowing a
bolt thrower or cannon to get a flank shot on your knights:
a cunning general will place his machines one at each end of the
field, making it difficult to avoid this fate. Also, especially
against armies that lack a lot of missile fire, considering holding
them back to the pace of the rest of the army, or moving them
round the flanks of the enemy: a lone
charge by an unsupported unit will often end in their
destruction. Of course if you've got multiple fast units in the
army this ceases to be a problem.
I almost always take barding: it's only 2
points and if it saves a model from a single arrow it's worth it.
There is some mileage to be had in leaving off the barding and
getting an extra 2" charge range for surprise value, but any
canny general will notice this the first time you move them
and it'll no longer be a surprise. Take full command and if
you want a magic banner, the war banner is a good choice:
given the crumbling rule it has to save only one model to pay
for itself. Besides the banner of doom is
generally better employed with grave guard, although if you've
got a wight lord in the unit, the banner of the barrows can work.
If you're facing up against a missile-lite enemy then the
banner of the barrows can also help give them some much needed
punch to overcome the lack of ranks.
I find heavy cav of all sorts is best fielded in units of 6 models:
if you must have a rank bonus buy 12 and do the "bus" formation
of 4x3. Remember that Black Knights have wight blades, with
the attendant advantage of a magical killing blow.
Fell bats are much bemoaned for the fact that,
compared with other flying units they're a bit of a swiz. Sure,
they have 2 wounds and 2 attacks, but furies have T4, a smaller
base size and a 5+ ward save, and they cost less. But we're stuck
with them the way they are and they're a very useful component
of a vampire counts force.
There's two main reasons for this. Firstly,
much like ghouls, they're a very manouverable unit in a largely
static force. Having that 20" 360 degree move to harass and annoy
your enemies can be a real asset. Plus they don't march so the
20" move is guaranteed, whatever the distance from the general.
Second they make excellent warmachine
hunters in an army that can suffer greatly from warmachine
fire. Except against dwarfs: T4 dwarf warmachine crews can put
up stiff resistance against fell bats, but you'll still stop
them firing for a few turns!
I always take some, and I always take
at least 5. However, if you can buy 6 or even more then they
have an added advantage: if you keep the US over 5 after taking
a bit of missile fire then they can flank or rear-charge units
for the ever-handy bonuses to combat resolution that this provides.
I once had 5 fell bats (no joke) beat and run down 20 black
orcs with the general due to a flank charge so don't knock it. If the enemy has
to be constantly keeping an eye on where the bats are to avoid
a flank charge, it may be they're not keeping an eye on
something else important.
I think that spirit hosts are probably the
single most feared unit in the whole VC army book because an
awful lot of generals simply don't know how to handle them. They're
worth taking for this "Lordy, what am us for to do?" effect alone
never mind the fact that they're incredibly useful. The easiest
way to nullify them is to get them into combat with something
they're unlikely to beat: a block of infantry or some heavy cav:
anything with ranks and a banner, in fact. What most people
seem to forget is that the only thing that makes this task
difficult is the relentless way in which people choose to
play defensively against the VC which, as already discussed,
is often a mistake.
So, presuming you can avoid having them tied up
by a huge block of Empire free company, or somesuch, what's
so useful about these things? Well the base fact is that in a game
where great weapons are often preferred against magic weapons,
many armies have nothing that can hurt these things except combat
resolution. So, you need to pick fights where even if you don't
cause casualties (spirit hosts aren't great fighters) you're not
loosing by much each turn. The obvious targets therefore are
skirimishers, small archer units and warmachines. Indeed I've seen
a bunch of three spirit hosts roll up overly defensive, shooty armies
almost singlehandedly. Their speed and wide frontage also makes
them handy missile screens.
However, spirit hosts have another useful
function. At US3 per base, it only takes two bases to deny a unit
rank bonus. And that 6" move is dead handy for getting them into
position for a flank charge, even if they do have to wheel like
the clumsy dogs they are. So first lesson, always take 2 bases.
More than 4 is a waste as the unit becomes wide and unwieldy and
you'll never get that extra base in combat anyway. You can try
this tactic with a variety of other units. Armoured black knights
make good counterpoints as they're only 1" faster: crash the knights
into the front of the unit in the first turn and then
get the spirit hosts in the flank next turn: there's precious
little that can escape from a vice like that.
Spirit hosts can also be employed like a
moveable wall to neutralize area-effect blasting weapons like
hellblasters, organs guns and chaos dwarf blunderbusses. Just
move the spirit hosts up toward the weapons and watch as your
enemy tried to crush them to little avail: if they try to charge
the hosts, rush up some units behind to either catch the chargers
on the flank, or be ready to charge in once the hosts go down.
It might kill the spirit hosts but blasting weapons can
neutralize many time their points value in short order, so it's
Beware of races that commonly use magic
weapons, especially missile ones. Skaven are obviously dangerous
in this capacity, but dwarfs and wood elves commonly have
magic archery weapons as well. And don't forget that human and
elven often choose to take magic weapons over great weapons, and
so can sometimes damage the hosts. Avoid heroes when you can,
but if you know a hero doesn't have a magic weapon, try and
tie him up with the hosts. I once spent a whole game with
my opponents vampire count tied up against spirit hosts while
my own was free to wreak havoc on his army. Oh, and never
forget you can heal these babies with IoN: judicious use
will keep them around forever, even against ranked-up
The Black Coach is often seen as a bit of a
missed opportunity. It's a cool model with some interesting
special rules but it's rarely seen on the battlefield becuase
a single cannon shot has a 66% chance of rendering
this 200 point lovely into matchwood. That's not a risk most
people want to take and, sadly I'm in complete agreement. If
you can't guarantee your opponent isn't going to have S7 hits
then don't take one.
However, if know your opponent is unable
to get the required S (or is only going to have one model with
it as a HtH attack) then you can get one if you like. Elves of
all sorts, Brettonians, Orcs and Necrach VC armies are good potential opponents for
the black coach to eat up.
The nice thing about the Black Coach is that
it's one of the few chariots that can stand up to ranked infantry
due to the number of wounds it's likely to gain from the impact
hits. However, like all chariots it's at it's best when charging
so point it at smaller, more fragile targets where possible.
It can't march so it actually makes quite good support for
infantry and this combo can be used to take out ranked infantry.
Charge the coach in first and if it doesn't break the target,
get the infantry in with ranks and standard to shore up the combat.
With the damage the coach has already caused it'll likely break
the target in pretty short order.
Against most armies, the Banshee is a huge
gamble. I had one against a chaos army that screamed on a "12"
at a unit of chosen knights and ripped the heart of the enemy
army, but that's unusual. Look at the odds: with the short
range of a banshee it's likely to only get 3 turns of screaming
in the whole game. Against most armies with Ld 7-8 (higher
with the general around) it's only going to kill 1 model a turn
and even if that's an expensive cavalry model you're looking at
a return of 75 odd points on your investment of 90. Not
But it's not all doom and gloom. They're
effective against heavy cavalry and indeed they're one of the
few things in the VC list (apart from black knights) which are.
Against lots of cavalry which is likely to charge you, giving you
more turns of screaming, they can be invaluable. Against low Ld
troops like Orcs and much of the Lizardmen list, they can just be
devestating. Try and use them against either cavalry or scouts
which means you're screaming sooner and which are likely to be
out of range of the generals Ld. They're particularly good
against skirmishers since they have a fairly high chance of
even getting into HtH and surviving.
Banshees are also good as mage hunters: they're
faster than other foot models and they can target lone mages
even if they're within 6" of another unit. Mages also tend to
have lower leadership than other characters. In a real emergency,
they can also be used to hold up large monsters for a turn:
the banshee will die because it's outnumbered, but it'll survive
for one crucial turn allowing you to either counter-charge or
get something vital out of the way of the big beastie.
Be very careful with your Banshee. It's very,
very easy to try and weave one into the thick of combat in
the gaps between units and accidentally leave it open to a charge.
It's an expensive model to loose. Also beware of heaven's magic
which can pick these models out and devestate them. In many situations
two banshees are better than one since it gives your opponent a
chance to blast one with magic missiles/items that he could've
used on your wights, and still leaves you a banshee for emergencies.
Here's a selection of ideas for armies:
tactics VC's can use and an appropriate list to go with it.
The first three are the "standard" models that you usually
see, the rest are more or less experimental. All the sample
lists are a 2,000 points and I don't claim to have playtested
*all* of them :) And don't forget they're just sample lists
to help give you an idea of what I'm talking about: make up
your own variations.
The Infantry Army
The most popular type of army simply because
it's the most flexible. It's good for any bloodline and for
taking on any opponents. It works around the principle suggested
in the army list: a centre of "core" infantry units supported
on the flanks by faster units from the "specials" section. Aim
to bog down the enemy with your center and envelop him in the
flanks. Of course, if you can't do this for whatever reason,
there's plenty of other ways you can use this army.
Strigoi Count, level 2, curse of the revenant, iron sinews, summon ghouls
Necromancer, level 2, black periapt, dispel scroll
Necromancer, level 2, book of arkhan, dispel scroll
Wraith, cursed book
26 skeletons, full command
26 skeletons, full command
29 zombies, full command
6 black knights, full command
3 spirit hosts
5 fell bats
The Cavalry Army
The idea of the cavalry army is to overcome
the inherant slowness and inflexibility of VC troops by taking
very fast and mobile units and crashing them into the enemy as
fast as possible. Since we don't get core heavy cavalry, this is
harder than it sounds: all of your units are likely to require
support in the form of another unit which is capable of hitting
the flanks or rear, at least to get the CR bonus that this offers
and at best to get rid of rank bonus as well. You can either take
a host of smaller units, best suited to a Carstien Bloodline,
or a smaller number of dead 'ard units, in which case Blood
Dragons is a better choice. Other bloodlines simply don't have
the shock power to make this template work. In this set-up
putting your general on a Winged Nightmare can really work wonders,
although it's not something I'd normally recommend.
Carstien Count, level 2, Winged Nightmare, Great Weapon, Ring of the night, Aura of Dark Majesty
Carstien Thrall, Nightmare, Barding, Heavy Armour, Lance, Walking Death, Enchanted Shield
Wight Lord, Nightmare, Barding, Heavy Armour, Sword of Kings, Cursed Shield
Necromancer, Level 2, Nightmare, Dispel Scroll, Book of Arkhan
10 Dire Wolves
10 Dire Wolves
10 Dire Wolves
7 Black Knights, Full command, Banner of the Barrows
7 Black Knights, Full command, War Banner
3 Spirit Hosts
5 Fell Bats
The Horde Army
The horde army is based on magic and lots
of models to make it work. It's slow and cumbersome but thanks
to IoN it can be surprisingly flexible. It's a powerful choice
to take against most armies, but can suffer badly against fast
moving, magic heavy opponents like a lot of Elven armies. In
essence, you start by shambling slowly toward your opponent,
adding to the size of your units along the way. When you're in
range start creating and adding to units of zombies to the
flanks and rear of the enemy line. Then employ VanHels to co-ordinate
your attacks. Most of your troops will be fairly duff using this
set up, so make sure you've got some wights, and make sure
you deploy them opposite and elite infantry units in the
enemy line that vanilla skeletons would have trouble shifting.
Necrachs are a good bloodline to use because of the extra magic.
Necrach Count, level 2, Holy Blood, Ring of the Night, the Awakening
Necromancer, level 2, dispel scroll, book of arkhan
Necromancer, level 2, dispel scroll, black periapt
Necromancer, level 2, Staff of Damnation
12 Skeletons, Full Command, Spear, Light Armour
30 Skeletons, Full Command
30 Skeletons, Full Command
20 Grave Guard, Full Command, Shield, Banner of Doom
3 Spirit Hosts
The Defensive Army
I've discussed this elsewhere, as it's one
of my pet projects to make this work. Think about it: your
troops are never going to rout off the board, so why not
sit and let the enemy come to you? Of course, to make this work
you need some missile power, but that's not so hard to come by.
Buy some DoW crossbowmen, or even a cannon for starters.
Arm your mages with Death Magic for guaranteed blasting spells.
Got a Lahmian? Give her the asp bow. Got a Necromancer?
Rod of flaming death. With this approach you should be able
to muster enough firepower to make the enemy come to you, and
then pin them in pointless combats for the rest of the game.
Sure, it might not be exciting, but I reckon it'd work against
all but the shootiest of opponents. It's certainly a potential
way to take on Chaos, or other VC armies!
The Ethereal Army
I've heard this proposed, but I have my
doubts over the effectiveness. Essentially, you take an
army standard and every ethereal option you're allowed in
the game: a wraith, 3-4 bases of spirit hosts and as many
Banshees as you've got rare slots. Take some wights as well,
and for core stock up on skeletons or ghouls. March forth,
making sure you keep your ethereal units within reach of the
army standard. Now the idea is that the extra wound your ethereals
won't be taking because of the standard gives them that much more
staying power. It certainly makes lone Banshees and Wraiths
capable of standing up to small archer units as well as skirmishers.
Then, as they're flailing away at the ethereals, go in and
attempt to break the enemy with your wights and a skeletons
block with a vampire count.