Something I’ve always wanted to say.

With 9th edition impending I thought I would finally spread my wisdom regarding 8th Vampire Counts. Just call me prompt and handsome.

Just a quick caveat; I get a major hobby boner when it comes to the Undead. The sea of restless bone, the stink of corpse wind, the shiver and clatter of fleshless hands clutching the rust speckled hafts of weapons… oh, yeah, that’s good stuff.

Now, I’ll be as objective as I can; they are a really fun army to play but boy do they have a steep learning curve. I started with this army, and I got curb stomped for almost a year before I learned their secrets – this was back in fifth as well.

As an army they don’t really go in for tricks and traps – they aren’t elves, they don’t do mass ambushes like Beastmen, and they aren’t as flexible as the Empire. They’re fun to play, but they have several gimmicks that have to be accounted for to play at their best.

A quick overview.

First, note that there are no shooting options in this army, effectively eliminating an entire phase. Any ranged options in this army are purely magical – or sonic. How do you deal with this? Well, you take the 25% points you can play with for heroes and shove it into banshees – should you do it? Eh, I don’t think you’d be stupid to give it a try. In 2000 points that’s a potential of 500pts of banshees; that’s five screamy girls.

Second, you don’t give a whistle about psychology – except that you’re the stuff of nightmare and everyone is scared of you. Is it crucial to victory? Egh, I’m not sure. I’ve had skeletons break dwarf warriors due to fear and I’ve spent game after game trying to make goblins fail a test. It’s a bonus, but not a game breaker.

Third, magic is your bread and butter, your meat and drink, your crossbow and hammer, your anal lube and swivel chair. You are going to be heavily reliant on magic to replenish your units and get the most advantageous fights. If you’re not utterly dominating the magic phase, you’re doing it wrong. There are other things to remember as well, but we’ll get to them as they crop up.

At the end of the day, they are a combat army, and standing proud at the head of your big combat death star is going to be your vampire lord, beating stick in hand, defeated Chaos Lord bleeding and shitting himself at your feet.

Lords & Heroes

You need a wizard to run this army, and that wizard needs to have the Lore of The Vampires. If they die then your army crumbles and you do not want that to happen. That would be bad. That would be finding your favourite uncle masturbating in a playground level bad.

If that happens the next turn a second wizard with the vampire lore takes over. That’s good. But they will normally be a hero. That’s bad.

Your general is the fulcrum around which your army move – only stuff within a 12” bubble can march.

Vlad von Carstein:

The OG and my favourite character in the game, and one of the few special character who are relatively justified in their points cost. I take him in 2500+ games as he’s 495pts and I normally want the extra 125pts for another necromancer or a cheap combat vampire. In previous editions I’ve had him kill Archaon in two turns – I will never forgive the reduction in his stat line (m9, ws9, w5, ignore armour and all the VC bloodline powers – thank you 6th edition). Nowadays he’s still good; the ring and the vc magic allow him to beat people through attrition and strength six isn’t a thing to be sniffed at.

Count Mannfred:

Lord Manny; Expensive and pretty powerful, but I never bother. Too many eggs in one basket and a decent Close Combat Lord can put him down. You’ll sink a lot of points into doing it but once he’s gone, the rest of the army will fold like a house of cards. Considering that he needs to get into close combat to really fuel is magic you’re likely to end up getting challenged by said Close Combat Lord. This is the man you want fighting nothing but Goblins and Skaven Slaves if you can possible help it. If you can manage to make kills then this guy will generally rule both magic phases, make sure to snipe enemy wizards early on with Spirit Leech. His real strength is in the diversity of spells he has; lore master for both the VC list and for Death. Purple sun each turn followed up by Wind of Death or just character sniping with spirit leech and Curse of Years.

Mounting him is an option – I normally shove him in load of grave guard when I’m feeling fancy or Black Knights if I want a little more speed. Don’t bother with the flying options – they seem good, but you’ll find yourself Alex Murphied pretty quick.

Hero Manny; welcome to a waste of points. He’s much more flimsy and you MUST have him fighting puny hordes to make effective use of him. Since Magic is so important to a Vampire Counts army’s success, it’s important to note that this version of Mannfred is almost a must if you’re planning on taking a fighty Lord but can’t afford enough supporting casters to reliably get the spells you’ll need out of Lore of the Vampires by rolling. Still, if you CAN take multiple spellcasters he’s probably not worth it. Like his Lord self he can be mounted up, on either a Barded Nightmare or Abyssal Terror.

Heinrich Kemmler:

I’ve always liked Kemmler. I even dressed up as him one year for Halloween. He’s ideal for filling a lord’s spot at 1500pts+ games and at 350 points? Worth it. His fly or ethereal ability makes him fantastic for avoiding challenges as he can speed bum units to slow down an enemy and then vanhells himself out of the unit. Failing that he just turns on his everything proof shield and laughs at all the magic weapons your chaos lord didn’t bring.

Heroes

Krell, Lord of Undeath:

Krell, If-I-had-a-Ward-Save-I’d-Be-Worth-It is a great character. Good statline with solid special rules and will save your arse vs ogres and trolls. I’ve never had him survive a challenge against anyone who wasn’t a wizard however. Yes, a Chaos Warrior Unit Champion did him over, but that’s probably down to my shocking ability to roll dice.

Konrad von Carstein:

Think of him as the blender lord light. If you turn up with this guy across from an Ogre army then you will watch your opponent shit themselves. It’s too bad he takes hits like your mum takes it from me on a Sunday morning when she should be in church. I don’t take him, but that’s because I tend to use a Lord to do all my killing. That or Horrors – you can take a unit of four for the same points cost as this guy.

Isabella von Carstein:

It always pissed me off that when Gav Thorpe wrote the vc book he gave Isabella the stats of shit drinking sailor, but thankfully she now has tightened her gusset and pulled up her bosom and has taken her one way ticket to kickassville. Yes, she’s a regular vampire hero, but she’s damn hard to kill and if you stick Vlad in the same unit they do a rather nice double act of bloodshed and drowned kittens. Also, her chalice allows you to heal her or any other vampire in the unit so a vampire counts death star always should include her if you’re going for the big point battles. I like her, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’m not the poster child for sanity. She isn’t worth it on her own, but put her with Vlad and they have potential. A lot of people say that her chalice ability is redundant thanks to the magic VC have but I think it allows you to be more creative with your magic line up and you can sure as hell start to play more aggressively.

Lords

Vampire Lord:

Let’s face it. This is the guy you’re here for; brilliant stat line, a swarm of options and the centrepiece of your army. He’s a level one wizard, don’t worry too much about that, with the points involved just make this guy your combat character. Properly kitted out they can stand toe to toe with Lords and go on to rampage through Special units all while having excellent magical options (if you want to sink the points into a secondary character look to taking Shadow). Remember, if your general dies very bad things happen to your army, so whatever you do, keep him in a unit at least until he is in combat: losing a game on turn one from a fucking cannonball is not fun. An important thing to remember that he doesn’t come with jack shit for equipment standard, so browse through all the options when making your list or you’ll wind up with an ancient immortal Vampire walking into ranked Halberdiers naked with his bare hands (he’ll still kick ass, but do you really want to picture it?)

A quick word on the Coven Throne – its good. Run it into a unit of savage orc biguns and watch them delete themselves. I’ve seen it happen to great weapon armed Chaos Warrior. It was special. I may have weed a little.

Ok, we know he’s a train wreck about to happen to someone else, but what’s the down side? Points. Lots and lots of points. If you can just give him attacks and let him run free to slaughter alongside his buddies in a grave guard regiment. You won’t regret it.

Master Necromancer:

Bang, fucking bang! Best character ever! Level four and cheap as chips and this guy can bring down a dragonball z death ball on anyone you want. VC or Death magic means he can zap your enemies or raise the dead like an inverse greek GPD report.

I like to pair him with a Vampire Lord that way you have 80 points in a 2000pt game to play around with for equipment. If you are considering making him your general, that certainly frees points for the other great choices you have, but remember that your army will start crumbling as soon as he dies. If you assign the other Vampires to Lore of Vampires then at least one of them can take over as general (although with such a weakened magic phase you better be planning on bringing the rape train quickly).

You can stick him on his personal pimp wagon: the Corpse Cart. The main point of putting him on a Corpse Cart is making a combo out of casting Invocation of Nehek on the Corpse Cart, which ensures that Vigor Mortis activates, giving all friendly Undead units within 6″ the Always Strikes First special rule. You can do that, but you shouldn’t. It’s a bad idea. If you want to do that do it to another necromancer, preferably with a red shirt and a please don’t shoot me sign on it.

Strigoi Ghoul King:

Now, you may see this guy and just think,, he’s a sub par vampire crossed with a ghoul. You might think, of that’s an expensive waste of points. And you’d be wrong. He’s 260 points and that’s about all you should need to spend on him. He’s a great secondary lord if you don’t want to try to optimise a Vampire Lord.

If you want to play around with points you are in the market for a big blatty bat then the Strigoi Ghoul King is your man. Giving him a magic weapon isn’t necessary seeing as he already has 5 Poisoned Attacks and S5 is not as much of a boon as you’d think. If you’re paying to swap his poisoned attacks for extra attacks or strength as he loses those Poisoned Attacks (as they do not apply to magic weapons, and it’s stated in the core rulebook a character with a magic weapon MUST use it). No matter how you’re planning to use him, just make sure you have a plan for your casters since this guy is almost pure combat at mastery level 1. That said, I like giving him scabscrath.

Heroes

Leadership is almost meaningless to Vampires as they cannot be broken. It is, however, what stops your army from falling apart if/when your general dies. If you have the points, adding a few basic heroes to your list to bump the leadership in a few key units can still be a worthwhile investment for the wounds they prevent when crumbling comes around. Something that can take Lore of Vampires can also take over as general. That said, Vampires and Necromancers have shocking LD so death magic can be a risk.

Vampire:

I like em; four strength five attacks and a level one wizard. Give him a great weapon and red fury and watch him fuck the world up. 105 points. Cheaper Vampire Lord and almost identical other than having inferior stats, half the allowance of magic items and Vampire upgrades, and can be a maximum of level 2 Wizard in Death, Shadow, or Vampires.

Wight King:

85 points. Big and tough with three wounds and toughness five. He’s the only option you want for your BSB as he’s just going to beat people in a war of attrition. Can mount up on a Skeletal Steed with barding as an option and take a lance if you want him with Black Knights, otherwise stick him in a unit of Grave Guard with the Banner of the Barrows for an incredibly cheesy unit that will melt all variety of faces. Taking this character over the Vampire makes you lose the Vampire Power options, despite this he’s still 20 points cheaper and has 2 more points of Leadership, so if that downside doesn’t matter then go for it, and at 9 LD he’s very good at preventing crumbling in his unit.

Necromancer:

Hello, I’m a scroll cadi and I love to scroll nasty enemy spells. When I’m not enjoying long walks on the beach and romantic candlelight meals I enjoy taking the book of Arkhan and helping move units around the battle field or boost them in combat. My hobbies include raising the dead and playing the flute.

Cairn Wraith:

Bad touch, bad touch, bad touch! Three attacks with a great weapon mean that he’ll smash face with the best of the heroes. If you run up against a magic weapon wielding character then you’re… deader than you were five minutes ago. Has a special ability called Chill Grasp (bad touch), allowing it to trade his attacks one that automatically wounds if it hits and ignores armour. Can’t be upgraded in any way. Brilliant choice if you know what you’r going to do with him – making humble units of skellies cause terror and grinding out combat res or killing unit champions – take that Chaos warriors, you aint getting your daemonhood though me!

Low LD means he needs to be paired with a fellow character. I tend to include on as a body guard for my hero necromancer.

Tomb Banshee:

Crap stats and two Wounds, but we don’t love her for her body; Ghostly Howl targets an enemy unit and is used in the shooting phase and can be used in close combat. 8″ range, needs LOS. I’m open to arguments for these gals. Any competitive army will have at least 9 Leadership in important units, most will have 10, so the hysterical woman is unlikely to earn her points back (she will deal on average deal less than 0.5 casualties per turn in those cases). She can take out a low LD unit very quickly however (seeing 10 Skaven Slaves drop dead bleeding from the ears from one single attack can be fucking hilarious). As a result, she’s best used to wipe out ranks of anvils and let you wash over everything that was supposed to flank charge you, though thanks to the range of the scream she’s not very good at that, and at LD 5 has the same problem as the Cairn Wraith.

Mounts

Skeletal steed:

Say goodbye to dangerous terrain.

Barded Nightmare:

Simple undead horse, best in a squad of Blood Knights, and never put with Black Knights unless there’s no terrain, as they’ll lose their Ethereal movement. Ordinary in all regards, other than being S4 WS3 horses.

Hellsteed:

A flying Barded Nightmare. Not too expensive and still a great investment if you like running with Fell Bats or other silliness. Still, if used right it can be a scary model that’s great for picking off warmachines or other small units, since arrows don’t tend to have the killing power needed for a Vampire. Spells, crossbows, handguns, warmachines, dragons and the like do however.

Abyssal Terror:

Its an undead griffon. Meh. Can be given Poison Attacks or Armour Piercing, has Thunderstomp (which doesn’t get the upgrade abilities sadly). Fairly cheap and it flies so it’s not exactly bad, but it’s just beaten out by the next two usually.

Coven Throne:

The real vampire pimp wagon, that even comes with its own hoes – Asbudrial Vect has nothing on this. The Battle of Wills, as I said, can delete enemy units even before anything rolls To Hit it.

Nothing is guaranteed with this thing, but I still love it. A mixed bag honestly, absolutely fucking awful against any army with high leadership and siege weapons (so mostly Dwarfs with their army wide LD 9 or Elves) or usually just any army lot of cannons as they’ll pass eventually. The only thing worthwhile to put on it is a Vampire Lord, but then you’re at 450 points naked AND you just made your general a much bigger cannonball magnet which might lose you the game, and lesser vampires don’t have a high enough leadership to consistently use The Battle of Wills effectively (and it costs a shitload of points). Its something you want to take in big games when you’ve got the points to play with.

Zombie Dragon:

Ahhh. When a horde of zombie monsters isn’t enough, bring on a dragon. A zombie dragon. I fell in love with these guys when I read the fourth ed Undead book all those years ago and I’ve got one of each of the models that citadel have produced – unless I’m wrong that’s four.

Beefy stats, can be healed massively thanks to lore attribute plus Invocation, his Pestilential Breath attack causes -3 to armour as well as causing a S2 hit and it adds that extra “fuck you” to Ogres in the form of terror. Has Swarm of Flies (ew!) which causes -1 to To Hit rolls in melee. A great time if your Vampire has the same stat line as the mount its on. Can really wreck heavy cavalries day as well as rank and file, though it will die to cannons or Heroic Killing Blow. Still a wonderful kick ass model and is our only dragon, but like most fun things, it’s a magnet for artillery and mass shooting.

Core Units

Zombies:

What are Zombies? Well Zombies are the recently dead brought back to life by wicked Necromantic magic used by Vampires and Necromancers. Often these bodies have limbs missing and peeling flesh, and that doesn’t make you racist if you hate them.

You can raise em to speed bump a unit, and the best use of zombies is normally the application of the raise dead spell, either to form a sudden tar pit, capture and objective or form a wall for things to flee into. You really wouldn’t go wrong if you raised them at an angle to bait frenzied units, although I’m always of the opinion that you should use dire wolves for that, simply because you cant always rely on what spells you’ll get.

Pros; they’re cheap and you can get more with each IoN. Cons; they suck like your mum in the all-county championship blowjob contest. Each one hits like a maidens sneeze and sticks around in combat as well as Jimmy Savile in a primary school. They will lose combat, and almost nothing you do will change that. Do not use them to help other units out because if you shove them into a combat with some grave guard then the combat res will end up killing more grave guard than the enemy did.

Used them for tarpitting; use them for difficult terrain; use them to fill out a battle line; use them for the emotional damage you will cause a desperate player when after three spells you have a unit of 20-35 suddenly appear on his flank or in front of his cannon crew. Make him know the meaning of fear – it is not the hot rush of adrenaline that comes through meeting your superior in combat, it is the slow and awful certainty of defeat, rolling onwards, with just enough slowness for you to see your hope crushed and broken upon the anvil of your dreams!

Skeleton Warriors:

My personal favourite. More durable than Zombies, and should only be taken in large units with spears – this means putting 15-20% of your army points into one big unit. I’m happy to play with that however, as I’ve seen a master necromancer use the IoN bubble to buff multiple units of skeletons from small to big over the course of a game – although this is only useful if you’re playing a 8-12 turn game. If you get the chance, play one of those and you suddenly see why everyone else is scared of us.

The cons are that they don’t raise as well as zombies, but for my money, Skellies are the only unit you want to take for tarpitting – you have spears, the armour save, the option for a magic banner, a unit Champion that can take challenges your characters, a musicican for swift reforms and a standard bearer for a +1 combat res score for extra survivability. Generally Skeletons are a better carrier unit for your foot slogging killy Vampire Lord if you didn’t bring any Grave Guard

Crypt Ghouls:

I’…. torn. Ghouls are great, no really, they are. Poison, two attacks, toughness four, cause fear, come one, if this were chaos warriors, we would be calling foul play. But; they’re expensive. One of the best things I can say for them is that if you want to go with a shadow caster then this is the unit you stick him in; making these guys strength five and an vampire strength 7-10 makes this unit suddenly scary.

Dire Wolves:

Eh, I really loved these guys early on, but my enthusiasm has waned over the years. They’re fast and you can get a bloodline power to increase their size, which is great. A very fast moving alternative to the other core choices. They ring in at 8 points per model, with a cavalry-speed Movement of 9 (compared to the M4 of the rest of the core). They have a LD of only 3, meaning they’ll crumble as fast as Skeleton Warriors. They’re a bit fightier with their WS of 3 and the Slavering Charge. Vanguard is really what you want these guys for. Combine that with a mounted general or a flying one and you can be in their face turn two. That or setting up flank charges with the wolves for your knights and Grave Guard.

Special Units

Corpse Cart:

I preferred it when it was a monster because a character could use it to hide in a unit. Oh, well, sei la vie. It’s a weak as hell chariot, but you ain’t buying it for its charge and impact hits. It buffs your units when you cast a spell on it – say a big bubble of IoN. You do that once per turn and all units within 6 get ASF. Ergh, that’s ok, but its nothing special really; your core are unlikely to be rerolling anything and your Great weapon Grave Guard wont really notice any difference. The only thing that helps out is the Vampire units. If you’re facing Dwarfs then your Ghouls, Wolves, non great weapon GG and your Black Knights are going to have some fun, but that’s it really. Oh, Elves will loose their rerolls against you, so that’s something I guess. I don’t use them much these days, unless I want to make use of the -1 to cast ability they can upgrade too.

Grave Guard:

The Grave Guard are the pain train of the Vampire Counts army. They are here to break you. They can character assassinate, they can cleave mounted men from horses, they can break monsters into bits. Heavy armour isn’t going to save you. It’s nice to have but it’s not worth much in the long run as even strength three isn’t affected much by it. What you will like is the toughness four. Don’t use these guys for tarpitting, or just as a defensive unit; they excel in combat, breaking the hearts of the foolish mortals that dared challenge your rule.

Black Knights:

Grave guard on horses – horses that say fuck you to terrain! They can be in your face and out the other side before you even know what’s going on. I take them ten strong with lances and barding and that’s it – no champion or anything. They run up the flanks and tear into the foolish men that shelter behind walls and hills.

Hexwraiths:

Don’t lock them in combat. If you want an ethereal tare it then use regular wraiths or spirit hosts. Use these guys as bunker rushers, have them run through as many units as you can and sit on the flanks of the enemy units. Keep them light and just run around.

Vargheists:

Ah frenzy. Four strength five attacks each on a frenzied monster. Yup that’s pretty badass, just watch out for baiting. They are Vampiric, so they no crumble, but can only regain one wound from IoN. They compete with Empire Outriders and High Elf Swordmasters for the title of premier glass cannons; these guys do pack considerable punch at break-neck speed. They can hunt War Machines if they must, but they really work better hitting flanks and hunting enemy support troops. Don’t ever think they’ll last against even mediocre infantry unsupported though as that T4 is all they have keeping them alive despite their 3 Wounds, and that low Initiative will let even humans with pointy sticks get a jab in before they move. Be careful though, because they are Flyers they’re also Skirmishers. Keep this in mind when you send them out into the juicy flanks as they cannot disrupt enemy Units.

Crypt Horrors:

These, despite the Varghiests impressive statlines, are your combat monsters – mostly because you can raise five wounds with a level four caster and just keep on beating your opponent into the ground. A 5 + regeneration is good at keeping them moving and a toughness of five helps there too. This unit is an anvil with a bite, pure and simple, but crumbling and a limited offensive capability does force you to take Units of at least 6. Buff them with the right spells (Staff of Damnation, I’m looking at you) and they’ll walk over anything. And if you just so happen to be looking at the lore of Beasts then look no further for its intended target.

Bat Swarm:

Cloud of Horror is the only reason to take these guys and you don’t want to bother unless you have two or three big units you can throw them in alongside. They’ll die quick as soon as the enemy direct attacks against them and can even help your own units crumble due to combat res. Not a fan.

Fell Bats:

Warmachines are toast against these guys, although they do tend to suffer a bit when not in the generals march bubble. Still, a ten inch fly is going to get you places. Stats are pretty bad, but you can really mess with people if you go for the Bat-bomb and spam a load of these guys right up the centre of the army and into his vulnerable war machines.

Spirit Host:

You need to take at least two units of two. These guys are extremely cost-effective Monster and Cavalry tarpits while they last (just make sure whatever you are facing does not have magic attacks), and can also be used to dissuade a flank charge by something nasty. Don’t let Infantry get hold of them, unless its just small units like Chaos Chosen. These guys are a real winner, not for what they do, but for what you do with them. Tie up Steam Tanks, tie up monsters, stop that rampaging dragon from slamming into your flank.

Rare Units

Varghulf:

This is what happens when Vampires loses it. It’s a beast in combat and it will just keep smashing and slamming into stuff. Not so manoeuvrable or as easily baited as is smaller brethren, the Varghulf is still one of the premier combat monsters in the fantasy world. Thunderstomp is a nice addition to its brutal arsenal but it never really needed it. I don’t care what sized game it is, you can’t go wrong with a Varghulf and I’ve never been disappointed when bringing one.

Blood Knights:

Love them or hate them, you have to admit that these chaps have good stats. They have generic Knight equipment. So three strength seven attacks each on the charge is still a nasty thing to deal with, especially when they have a 2+ save. I don’t hate Blood Knights, but I’m sure as hell that they take up more points than is necessary, and even with their special banner they are just begging to get shot. It’s too much of an investment for not enough payoff.

Black Coach:

The problem with the Black Coach is that is that it doesn’t have a real niche in the undead army; Grave Guard are the Watch Tower stormers, the Skellies are your tarpit, the Wolves are used for redirecting units, etc. The Coach…. Kills things? Yeah, but so does the Varghulf and it’s a lot cheaper. Yes, the Coach can buff itself with power dice, but that’s not something you can rely on hugely.

I like it, however, it’s not what most people would call a solid choice, but I run one and its always helped me just because its not always easy to predict.

Terrorgheists:

When I looked at the Terrorghiests stats I thought, oh, a sub par dragon, oh well, I wonder if it can out Varghulf the Varghulf. And then I read Death Shriek.

I know a few guys who run two of these things just so they can jump to the enemies back line and scream everything to death before charging in to mop up the survivors. At 225pts its expensive and you’ll need to protect it from its uncomfortable addiction to taking hot cannon balls to the face like your mum takes… hot cannon balls to the face. Well, that analogy sucked.

Keeping it healthy is a challenge what with that cannon ball addiction. I’ll bow my head in mute supplication to the spell or item that lets me put a ward save on it. I’ve seen a dude run a VC lord on a dragon alongside this, healing both of them as he went along before hitting a wall of Black Orcs and charging out the other side. Good times.

The skriek is good, even against high LD armies or Immune to Psychology units like Slayers. The Strigoi Ghoul King makes this thing ferocious, especially with the right combination of abilities – more on this below. Its main weakness however is that it is fairly flimsy, especially if your opponent has Flaming Attacks or brought some nasty ranged options, this combined with their relative vulnerability in Close Combat and their huge base size means they are tricky to actually move about.

Mortis Engine:

Why am I paying 220pts for a support unit that’s got fuck all to do in Close Combat? Next!

Oh, yes I know it has its uses, but frankly, it blows up, has a random range and it’s got no fixed specialisation just like the Coach. It’s offensive abilities are abysmal despite it getting a lot of little bird peck attacks, but it has ‘I’m big and expensive, please kill me, I’m very unhappy’ written all over it. Unless it farts lightning in the next edition, I’m not touching it.

Cairn Wraith:

Raargh! Die Monster/Steam-Tank/expensive-unit-that-has-no-magical-attacks! Easily one of the best units in the game and one of the best killers of the innocent out there. Exactly the same stats and abilities as their character equivalents, just ranked up and ready to fuck your day up. All in all you are getting a bulk discount by taking them in the Rare section, as well as saving points for more Vampires, Necros, or Wights in the Hero slot. What’s not to love?

They die easily to magic, so you’ll have to screen them somehow or pray for a miscast each you’re your opponent reaches for the dice. If you really get in good, you can take advantage of the fact these little Ethereal buggers can go straight through terrain to stay in Charge distance of the enemy while staying safe from being Charged, which can tie up a lot of troops by forcing the enemy to either continue facing them or just bite the bullet and say goodbye to everyone on the side or back of the Unit.

Some builds

Blender Vampire Lord

Sword of Bloodshed, Potion of Strength, Red Fury and Quickblood. If you want to you can throw more stuff on there but by and large that combo will see you through most things. He just needs to jump on and rape a unit per turn, which is something he will do very well.

Double-Shriek King

Strigoi Ghoul King with Skabscrath, Curse of the Revenant, Terrorgheist, Aura of Dark Majesty. Very vulnerable to cannons and costs more than two separate Terrorgheists, which having more wounds and able to target different units, are strictly better at the same job. I like steaming this guy into a unit and smashing/shrieking it dead.

Sacrificial Necromancer

Base level 1 Necromancer with the Forbidden Rod. Mortis Engine users like the Seed of Rebirth to try and save the Necromancer. Job is to provide an extra Invocation until Winds of Magic roll low, then the poor sod gets sacrificed to the Rod for the greater good of +d6 Power dice.

Fear-Bomb Vampire

Vampire hero with Fear Incarnate and Aura of Dark Majesty. Defensive gear keeps him alive long enough for the power to swing combats – I’d recommend Armour of Silvered Steel/Luckstone/Great Weapon or Heavy Armour/Enchanted Shield/Dawnstone/Magic weapon. Glittering Scales also an option if you want to risk it not working. Always placed in Screaming Banner bearing unit – usually Grave Guard. This combo is… ok. Its just there to make sure your opponent fails fear tests. Its ok, but expensive.

The Lore of the Vampires

The Curse of Undeath – Lore Attribute

Identical to the Lore of Life’s lifebloom, it’s a truly great attribute, especially with the relatively low casting values on our spells mean we can get lots of spells off to heal numerous wounds. Take special note that, if your Wizard and other characters are unharmed, you can use this on our numerous multi-wound models as well. Especially good on Vargheists, Spirit Hosts and Varghulfs who are limited to healing 1 wound a cast with Invocation.

Invocation of Nehek – Signature Spell

It doesn’t take a genius to see this spell is important. Resurrecting Zombies and Skeletons is all well and good, but resurrecting 5-10 Grave Guard, or 5 Black Knights per casting (on a Level 4) is just ludicrously good. If you’re able, go for the 12″ version, it should affect the entire main battle line with this and will be harder to dispel – the 18″ version is a little bit expensive in power dice to be of much use – you’d get more use casting the 6″ twice with different casters.

Vanhel’s Dance Macabre

You need to somehow ensure you get this spell, as it’s not a Signature like Invocation you’re only getting one of these. This is why the Book of Arkhan is important as well. Especially with no marching outside of the general’s radius, this can allow the opposite flank keep up with the army – or better, slingshot cavalry behind the enemy, there’s a real opportunity to have cavalry behind enemy lines by the shooting phase of turn 1, and have them charging warmachines at the tip of turn 2.

That’s not all, once combat begins you gain re-rolls to hit. Amazing on Ghouls for more of those precious 6s, but good on everything. At only 12+ to cast for a 12″ aura, it’s a beastly spell. Sneaky tricks, hype up the power of Invocation to your opponent, say things like “Woah! Those 7 Grave Guard you killed are now back alive!”, let him waste dispel dice on Invocation, this spell is more important in a great many cases.

Hellish Vigour

Re-rolls to hit are generally better than re-rolls to wound, especially when you get the former on a lower casting value with alternative effects. That being said it’s impressive on Grave Guard, due to Killing Blow – although you should have Great Weapons which reduce the efficiency of this spell. It’s still a pretty potent spell and certainly worth casting.

Gaze of Nagash

Reasonably powerful magic missile with decent range and moderate casting value, S4 means it wounds decently well and affects armour. This is alright, great for things like Sabertusks, Outriders, and especially pesky Skinks, and, when using its higher casting value it has double the range so I like to make a few opportunistic jabs at warmachines. No complaints at all.

Raise Dead

Summon a unit of Zombies anywhere near the caster? Handy if something gets by your redirectors, or has some unexpected entry system which leaves you open (Dwarf Miners and Gutter Runners come to mind). These can delay them. Unless you have a Master of the Dead Master Necromancer I wouldn’t try the Skeleton Warrior version, they’ll be too small to buff up and quite likely killed off before your next magic phase – stick to the Zombies and Invocation them up if you need to.

Curse of Years

This spell will kill Dwarfs as well as Skinks. It’s a great leveller. Pretty potent spell, can be used to try and snipe certain models – although no opponent worth his salt will leave it undispelled so that it wounds easier. Casting this can be a form of magical defence, forcing the enemy to waste dice dispelling the Remains in Play instead of using them on your forces. If you cast it twice… oh then you get to see the hate in your opponents eyes as that six goes to a five.

Wind of Death

High casting value magical vortex. It’s not Purple Sun, although S3 no armour saves can hurt certain units (Greatswords, perhaps), it’s quite random in the distance travelled and how many hits it inflicts, no it doesn’t hit everyone under the template, that would make it useful. No, this is probably the best option to switch out for Invocation.

Other Lores

Lore of Shadow

Everyone knows how powerful this lore is, and it remains so for Vampire Counts. However, it’s 6th spell is decidedly useless for Vampires – Okkam’s Mindrazor makes Zombies, Terrorgheists and Varghulfs worse at fighting. The debuff spells are welcome however, due to our generally poor stats, if you lower the enemy to be equally poor, you’ll win through attrition.

Lore of Death

I’ve seen the idea of the Zombie Battery, casting Purple Sun through them to gain Power dice from the lore attribute – a little bit gamey but I guess it works. Assuming you have that spell of course. Character sniping is quite useful to Vampires, as you don’t want anything to threaten that all-important General, and killing off the BSB helps a lot with Fear tests and fleeing enemies. In larger games, i.e. where you already have 2 Lore of the Vampires casters, I see no issue with having a Death wizard somewhere in the army.

Lore of Beasts

Only available through Forbidden Lore, you’re taking it for the signature spell – Wyssan’s Wildform. That spell alone makes our units just horrendous to face. T6 Crypt Horrors? S6 T5 Blood Knights? T5 Ghouls! Yeah it’s not fun for anyone. Sadly, the lack of Forbidden Lore on Necromancers means you pay a hefty price for this one spell, so save it for large games.

Believe it or not that took me eight hours to write all in one sitting. I now need to go and do something that involves people.

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