I had every intention of doing a spot of work on my Vampire Counts over the midwinter break, you know. I knew there’d be a lot of restoration work involved, what with the badly dated paint-jobs and general incompetence with which the force was constructed back in the day. What I hadn’t been quite prepared for was the sheer level of embuggerance that would be involved. It seems like the plastic models are becoming more and more decrepit and less and less easy to restore as time goes by.
The kitbashed models were always a bit brittle, but the Knights were assembled as per their source kit and four of those have imploded. I’d been about to blame modern Citadel plastic glue, but that wouldn’t explain why models I built ten years ago are collapsing. I’ve scraped and scrubbed and scored, I’ve tried superglue and plastic glue, and nothing seems to bally well work. The last straw came yesterday when I tried to stick a Skeleton champion’s hand back on and his whole arm snapped off, pinging deep into the nether regions of the carpet.
The ball-ache of restoring the army has got me to thinking. See, it’s my attachment to the old models which bound me to some rather dubious list-building choices – but if some of my old models are effectively unusable, couldn’t I replace them with some stronger pieces and newer figures, and keep those original models who’ve retained some integrity?
My twenty-seven Grave Guard – one-piece metal Reiksgard infantry – have held up well, as have five Spirit Hosts and five Wraiths – undead Flagellants – and the Varghulf. The characters are OK too, so that’s two footslogging Vampires and one on a horse, three Necromancers and three Banshees, two of whom I clearly never bothered to paint. The Fell Bats need a lick of paint and their stands fixed, but I have four or maybe five of them ready to fly, and eight Black Knights who are still pretty much intact. That’s actually a decent enough chunk of Special and Rare stuff. I begin to wonder if it mightn’t be worth assembling a kind of MSU-and-Hordes build; hard Grave Guard and Ghoul centre, with a couple of mid-sized Zombie bunkers for spellcasters, and then Varghulfs, Wraiths, Spirits and Bats in various multiples to run interference.
Having run off and done some mathematics I’ve come up with something a bit different from the usual Vampire Counts lists that I see going around. I started from Rare and worked down rather than from Core outwards like I usually do, and… well, here’s what I’ve come up with for a squeak under 2400 points. I could build this very easily with either two boxes of Mantic Ghouls and a couple of unit fillers (Citadel Woods spring to mind) or one of those Crypt Scavengers sets GW are currently pimping; that’d give me all the unit filler terrain I could want, including long gateway/wall pieces for bulking out Hordes, plus a unit of Crypt Horrors and the option of messing about with the new Battlescroll thing. And, of course, all my models would be Official, which would be nice.
Vampire Lord with Fencer’s Blades, Armour of Destiny, Red Fury, Dark Acolyte – 375
(Lore of the Vampires; always picks Invocation; General)
Vampire with heavy armour, shield, Book of Arkhan, Dark Acolyte, Beguile – 176
(Lore of the Vampires; always picks Invocation)
Necromancer with extra magic level, Staff of Damnation – 140
(Lore of Death)
30 Zombies with standard and musician – 100
(5×6 – Clarimonde goes here)
30 Zombies with standard and musician – 100
(5×6 – Walravius goes here)
Grim Moor First of Foot
40 Ghouls – 400
Knights of the Black Cross
29 Grave Guard with great weapons, full command and Banner of the Barrows – 428
(10×3 Horde – Ruthven goes here)
Spirit Host – 45
Spirit Host – 45
2 Fell Bats – 32
2 Fell Bats – 32
Black Monks of St. Herod
3 Wraiths with Tomb Banshee – 175
3 Wraiths with Tomb Banshee – 175
Varney the Varghulf
Varghulf (duh) – 175
Unusually light on characters and magic; rather than muck about trying to pin down an enemy magic phase I’d be focusing my efforts on soaking the casualties, hunting down the wizards with fast stuff and Death sniping, and using the Bound spells to recoup losses, move faster, and behave more efficiently in combat.
Possible tweaks include:
- Thirty Ghouls and ten Dire Wolves (two fives with Doom Wolves) for more speed and chaff and hunting?
- Two Varghulfs and five Wraiths, without Banshees (would involve dropping Walravius’ extra magic level and Staff down to a Dispel Scroll, taking Beguile off Clarimonde and trading in Ruthven’s Armour for a Talisman)
- Cursed Book on someone, since I might not be using all my Power dice…
And you know, ranking them all up and taking a look at them without the depressingly broken-up Skeletons feels… strangely good. And it has been ten years since I first built the army. Maybe the cycle’s turned again. Maybe 2014 will be the long-awaited Year of the Vampires?
I have a confession to make.
Despite going on record as one who holds Warhammer’s eighth edition in low esteem and less regard, I maintain a half-arsed, nascent interest in the system and the antics of those who play it. There are some excellent battle reporters on The Warhammer Forum, who are still quite capable of playing Warhammer in a tournamenty sort of way and enjoying it: I believe it’s fundamentally unsuited to that kind of thing, but I have to admire their moxie. There are some excellent bloggers on the House of Paincakes who are still holding each army book up to the cold light of inspection, sifting out the wheat from the chaff (chaff being very important in WFB) and, in general, discussing the contents without just witlessly rephrasing them. And, well, since I started writing for Corehammer I’ve been going back through the archives and reading about their Tale of Gamers and realising hey, here are some solid blokes who are working on a WFB for the working gamer, who has better things to do with their money and time than buy and build two hundred sodding Skaven before they’re even allowed to play with the cool kids.
This has gotten me thinking, never a good sign when WFB is concerned. If I were to take leave of my senses and go there again, how might I do it? How might I approach the game so’s to avoid the bits I don’t like and snuggle up close and tight to the bits I do?
I started out by considering revitalising my Vampires, but I’m rather conflicted about that. I think they belong to an earlier stage of my life, when I was happy to shove big blocks of melee stuff across the board, take tons of casualties, and then sink some reliably-available resources into scraping a win with whatever survived. As we’ve established, a few things about Warhammer v.8 have rather put me off my chips in this respect:
- Random charge distances (harder to co-ordinate engagements, less reliable than shooting with known and consistent ranges)
- Random dice in the power pool (plus other armies being better at casting/dispelling than the one which depends on magic the most)
- The poor resilience of undead units if/when they do reach melee (Steadfast units don’t crumble when they lose combats, Unbreakable/Unstable ones do; the living now outlast the dead!)
- Rerollable psychology tests, and the diminished impact of Fear and Terror (auto-breaking the enemy if they lost by one point was probably a bit excessive, but I’d have settled for cancelling their Steadfast and making them take their Break tests with modifiers…)
- The nagging sense that a ‘fun’ Vampire Counts army is a delivery system for two Terrorgheists, half a dozen Crypt Fiends/Vargheists and the standard-issue ‘blender Lord’, with the rest of the army standing back being wound counters for wizards and trying not to die. Another option involves two Mortis Engines and all the Necromancers I can carry, although that’s still bound to #2, above.
Some of this, admittedly, is not the fault of WFB. My tastes have definitely shifted more in favour of the ranged approach, across all the games I play; I’ve finally come to appreciate that guns replaced swords as standard issue weaponry for a reason. I still like a punch-up in mid-field but I like having enough ranged capacity to force that engagement, and I like the thought of my bunker units contributing something to the game besides being thirty-odd ablative wounds for a wizard.
There’s a small matter of theme involved, too. I have this weird hangup about taking, say, a battery of Necromancers and two Mortis Engines, or a whole bunch of big stompy monsters, or even a Ghoul King as my Lord; all these ideas seem to compromise the essence of my beloved army and move the focus away from the undead Empire thing I have going on. The Ghoul King in particular makes me gnaw the table in rage as I can’t find a model that’s sufficiently bestial and has the appropriately Imperial trappings. (That said, I’m beginning to feel that all these things could be justified, somehow - the cabal of Necromancers could easily assemble around equivalents to the new Empire wizard-chariot-war-engine-things, and if I could build a suitably bestial version of Ruthven, Terrorgheists don’t feel that far-out…).
Also, there’s just something about spending £120-180 (depending on whether I opt for Vargheist or Skin Wolf models, how much a new version of Ruthven onna horse sets me back, how I go about padding the new case…) If I’m going to replace stuff I already own I’d be sort of tempted to do so with a new army, one which more suits my current preoccupations with shooting.
I’ll talk about the other options in the next post.
Vampire Lord – level 4 wizard; shield and heavy armour; Talisman of Preservation, Nightshroud; Aura of Dark Majesty, Fear Incarnate
Carmilla von Wellmitz
Vampire – level 2 wizard; shield; Battle Standard; Armour of Destiny; Dark Acolyte, Summon Creatures of the Night
Emmanuelle von Carstein
49 Skeletons – spears, command group, Screaming Banner
40 Zombies – standard and musician
10 Dire Wolves
Order of the Black Cross
12 Black Knights – lances, barding; command group; Banner of Eternal Flame
2 Fell Bats
2 Fell Bats
2 Fell Bats
Black Monks of St. Herod
Spirit Host – 5 bases
I know, right?
The thing is, I am occasionally struck by this perverse desire to try and use things, and I just can’t seem to hypnotise people into playing sixth edition again, so this is where we end up. I can just about scrape 2000 points with the Core that I have, if I put every single model on the table and forgo raising new Zombie units, treating the Lore of the Vampires as a way to get casualties back up instead.
Lord Ruthven is an odd duck; footslogging Vampire Lords are generally sub-optimal, just because they’re expensive, slow, and generally a bit behind in the armour save department. However, I like the model far too much to replace him, and I don’t think I can get away with using him as a proxy for a cheaper, more combat-oriented Ghoul King. Besides, at 2000 points I sort of feel that four magic levels are obligatory (if only to keep enemy magic off my back to an extent). He’s been loaded up with stuff which a) attempts to make something out of the Psychology rules and present him as more of a support piece and b) keeps him alive in the event that combat is actually a thing which occurs.
Carmilla is backup. Another Lore of the Vampires caster, another 4+ ward, and a focus on Invoking power since she’s only a level 2 and her spells are easier to shut down. Plus, if she ends up in charge, the efficient Invocation will be needed in order to recover from the death-of-the-general crumblage, agin which her Battle Standard also helps to insulate.
Emmanuelle runs around howling at things that need to be howled at, or hides in an infantry unit to wail into their close combat opponents and help whittle them down a bit. She can also, in a pinch, maybe tarpit a big scary monster that can’t hit her or kill her with static combat resolution points.
Core is simply every Core model I own, dumped on the table, with whatever upgrades are necessary to hit 500 points. The Screaming Banner and Ruthven’s Bloodline powers may enforce some sort of effect out of Fear tests and help the Skeletons in combat; the Zombies are pretty much on their own as tarpit central (although I don’t think they’re actually very good at that now that more models get to fight in a punch-up). I guess the Dire Wolves screen the Knights or go wizard-hunting like they used to…
In Special, where most of my points have customarily been spent, we find the army’s blunt instrument, the traditional Black Knight brick with the as-good-as-mandatory Hydra Hurting Banner. I used to favour the Banner of the Barrows, but honestly, it might as well have been called the Banner of Missing on Twos, so I’ve gone for some more mileage out of the attacks which do hit home.
We also find the army’s redirectors – three entirely disposable pairs of Fell Bats, doing the job that my four kajillion units of Dire Wolves used to do, i.e. being sent out to get in the way of things, marchblock things, attack vulnerable war engine things, and maybe get beefed up with a couple of Invocations and used for some desperate attempt at actually hurting things.
The big Spirit Host is something of an experiment. I’d cheerfully swap them out for a Terrorgheist if I owned one; hell, I’d be tempted to swap the Knights out for another Terrorgheist if I owned two! However, I don’t own any Terrorgheists, so these go down with the order to be quite fast, have a goodly quantity of attacks, and potentially flank things that are in combat with Skeletons or Zombies. I don’t even know if that’s worth doing any more, what with Steadfast, but Incorporeal flank charges used to be decent ideas.
Frankly, the whole business of Vampire Counts used to be a decent idea. I dunno. It’s an army list. It might work.
It’s two in the old ante meridian. I’m staring at the hobby desk, looking at my Vampire counts, and I don’t quite know what’s happened here. Questions throng my tired mind, and they demand answering.
Somehow I’ve gone from “wouldn’t it be nice to have my old Vampire Counts army back?” to “I have forty-five new Zombies and thirty new Ghouls and three new Corpse Carts and three new Banshees to paint on top of all the repainting and repairs and I need two bags to carry the army as it is and even then it seems to demand over £150 in new pieces just to join in with eighth edition effectively…”
… and that feels like work, kids. Worse, it feels like work I have to pay for, and work I don’t want to do. In my hobby time. Which is supposed to be my time, damn it.
I live in London now. This is presumably a good thing, although I haven’t had the chance to do masses of exploring just yet, as it’s still busy busy busy research season and I have nine days to produce something like eleven thousand words of material. No pressure, then.
However, last night I did manage to sneak out and pay a visit to some nice chaps who claim to be the Clapham War Gamers. Rain very nearly stopped play (ten minutes into the walk, the heavens opened and I spent fifteen further minutes cowering in a bus stop) but I just about made it in time to play some WFB against a nice enthusiastic chap of Teutonic extraction (hi Max!) and his nasty Skaven (boo, Skaven!).
I have now played a game or two with the Vampire Counts. Here’s the 1500 point list I used in the one that wasn’t a total embarrassment (and considering I forgot to set up 90 points of my army or enforce the taking of any Fear tests for the first four turns, imagine how embarrassing the other one must have been – or just click the link, y’know?)
Here’s the list I ended up using (badly).
So, it’s been a month, and the case foam has turned up, and I… sort of still haven’t actually played a game with my Vampire Counts, owing to an outbreak of Real Life, and the deadly West Midlands Man Flu. This is Not Good. I haven’t even written an army list. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about army lists, but haven’t actually gotten one down.
The thing is that I’m not really a fan of pick-up games, or indeed of points matches; in an ideal world some chaps who want to play a game can sit down and discuss scenario, forces and so on beforehand, negotiating the objective and style of play like civilised adults.
For a variety of reasons, some more valid than others, this doesn’t get to happen as often as I’d like, and so sometimes I do actually need to make lists happen. Now I like my lists to reflect the way I imagine my army is, because at heart I’m a little fluffy bunny hoppity-skipping through the forest… but I’m a bunny with a steel core and if you try to run me over, I want you to break your front axle doing it.
Originally, my Vampire Counts bore out the observation that background happens in play, not before it. A generic Army of Sylvania rapidly became something a bit more personal, as battles were fought across army lists and editions and even games (it must be noted that my Vampires were most successful in the realm of Mordheim, after all). As I go forward into whatever-I-end-up-doing-now*, I want to hang on to as much of that continuity as possible.
The Order of the Black Cross were Sylvania’s token, tiny circle of Knights Templar. Like everything else about Sylvania, they were a poor showing in the centuries before Vlad, with a mediocre record in the joust and a minimal presence in the great Crusades against Araby and occupied Estalia. Even the ominous and looming Castle Templehof (Sylvanians are not an imaginative folk when it comes to names) was of note more for its architectural extravagance and extensive catacombs than its strategic solidity.
You may have noticed that, despite the Vampire Counts book being out, and despite my having talked about it a bit, there hasn’t been much in the way of actual gaming – lists, or armies, or plans, or anything like that – going on in the Castle von Von.
This is because I’ve been waiting for a parcel, from a far-off land. That parcel arrived today and contained something I never thought I’d lay eyes on again…
I’ve got my old army back!
We all knew it was going to happen. I’ve bought every other Vampire Counts book on release day and I’m not about to stop now. Yes, I know, I know, I’m a fanboy, gaze into the abyss and it gazes into you, now shut it. I have my reasons. I’ll get to those.
Last week, I said there were a few things that the book needed to provide if it was to make a meaningful difference to how the army worked and played in eighth edition:
- A meaningful presence in movement, magic, shooting and combat phases.
- Less dependence on or more insurance against the magic phase, with ref: dice screw, exploding generals and needing more in the magic phase than Necromancy can offer.
- Genuine strategic and thematic options, derived from True Core choices that aren’t M4 melee-only blocks.
- An understanding that autobreaking from Fear is gone, and that Vampire Counts can’t rely on Psychology as a win condition now that it’s less effective and easier to resist.
- Bloodlines in the background, genuine options in the rules.
Now, my initial reading is always a ‘read for squee’, and then I go back and actually think about things. I have to go and play Warmachine today, so I only have time for the very superficial only-read-it-once thoughts which I reserve the right to redact once the squee has worn off.
Yes yes yes I know I said ‘every three days’ but I couldn’t stop myself. Besides, Thursday was late, so Sunday can be early. *sage nod*
Okay, first things first: they look pretty damn cool, yes. The Shell Case has a short video released by GW in which the new models are waved about, and apart from a couple of familiar ‘how the hell am I supposed to get this into base to base contact with ranked enemies’ form-over-function situations which have been par for the course with this miniature range since the last book they’ll do very nicely.
I won’t let myself get excited until I have the book in my hot sweaty little hands, though, ’cause the Vampire Counts present something of a challenge to developers.
E-mail in from the ‘Big Spoon’ of Dice and Decks, who’s setting up a Tale of X Gamers thing for WFB. I am unsure how much of this is due to my mentioning it on the Frugal blog, but we’ll assume I can’t claim total credit. Anyway, His Spoonishness is having a spot of bother settling on a project, and since this is a topic near and dear to my heart, I’m going to try and help him out.
I’m struggling to choose an army, help please!!!
The only Fantasy army that really appeals and that I really get is Dark Elves, lots of the others are nice but none are DE. So that said I still need to pick one
I have ruled out the following
Beastmen – Horrid minis
Daemons – Cheesey
Dark Elves – Already have em
Dwarfs – I like nothing about Dwarfs at all
High Elves – Too white, think few other people wanna do them too
Lizards – Not very keen on minis or paint style required
Ogres – I like the idea of them but they aren’t me
Orcs – I don’t like Greenskins, well maybe for Blood Bowl but nothing else
Skaven – I like Skaven but they would cost a fortune to get the army I’d like (c300 clanrats @2k points)
The Empire – Too many minis therefore expensive
Tomb Kings – Sam has them and they badly need an update
Warriors – Boring, march, charge, hack……….
So this leaves a choice between Bretonnians, Vampires and Wood Elves
Real challenge to my painting (but would this drive me insane?), I get to be all pompous and knightly while playing, some nice mins (Green Kinght and Grail Reliquary)
See painting above, Grail Reliquary is absolute pap, very simplistic tactically (skill in setting up charges I admit)
Mantic minis make this budget friendly, Vampires are cool, big units of skellies would paint up relativly fast, nice Vampire minis everywhere
Would I get bored of grinding people down with big slabs of infantry? Cheese factor?
Very pretty, unique playstyle, colour pallette is total new one to me
Do I want another elf army?