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.
1. Meaningful movement, magic, shooting and combat. Phil giveth, and he taketh away. There’s a greater variety of movements available (more flyers, more ethereal stuff, more cavalry, monstrous infantry) but the skirmishing Wraiths have gone, marching has become the province of units near the general or vampires and only vampires (i.e. not the units they lead), and you can’t Vanhel’s Danse models into combat any more. Shooting has improved; not as much as I’d like, but I’ll take greatly increased numbers of Banshee screams over nothing at all. Combat… there are more Vampire units and thus more good statlines, plus a few interesting buffs to the chaff like Wolves and Bats, so we’ll see. Qualified improvement.
2. Okay, I have to admit, the magic’s an improvement. The Lore of the Vampires still does what it used to do, the difference is that it does it to more units at once from one cast, rather than spamming the same spell seventeen times, and more key buffs have been moved onto other pieces (like the Corpse Cart radiating Always Strikes First). Debuffing is now an option with the Lore of Shadows available to Vampire Lords. Several new powers, particularly Master of the Black Art, help with magic management, the Master Necromancer is back and offering a cheap high-level caster general who doesn’t have the ‘but I have a combat statline’ problem that Vampires do, there are some sexy Bound Spells that add some extra-Lore capabilities, and the new Mortis Engine… in theory offers magical support, but I can’t get away from the size of it, its lack of an excellent save, and the sneaking suspicion that it’ll be dead by turn two and blow up in the middle of my army, presenting such an inviting target that no amount of priority-manipulation can make it less of one. HOWEVER, the death of the general is no longer such a big thing as another wizard with the Lore of the Vampires can take over after one round of crumbling checks have been completed. I wasn’t expecting that… which is an improvement.
3. Dire Wolves are True Core again. That’s all I wanted and that’s what I got. Bats and Corpse Carts have cleared off into Special, which is one way of dealing with the problem. I’m not saying I’ll take 500 points of Dire Wolves or anything, I’m not stupid, but the 500 points of M4 infantry problem has been partly mitigated. A shame Ghouls can’t Vanguard any more, but again, giveth and taketh away… now, the Master Necromancer, the presence of Wraiths and Banshees in two sections and the expanded Special options do suggest builds that wouldn’t have been possible before, and I’m quite tempted by a Dark Elf style monster-mash too, so I got my wish for an improvement here.
4. The new Vampire Counts have some interesting ways to make you fail your Leadership tests, making it harder for you to hit them and more likely that you’ll run away if they beat you. That’s cool. It’s not the dead cert that auto-breaking used to be, but with the renewed appeal of fighting Vampires (“oh, you killed him. That’s fine, this Necromancer’s actually the general…”) and some new models with acceptable fighting stats, it looks like there may be some unlife in the old dog yet. Qualified improvement.
5. Yep. The special characters are all von Carsteins or allies thereof, which I’m sure has some people reaching for their pitchforks and flaming torches, but a) they were here first, they are Warhammer’s signature Vampires, and b) it’s not like the Blood Dragons and Lahmians don’t get mentions and signature units, and the Strigoi are sufficiently different from other Vampires to get a statline of their own. I do feel a bit sorry for the poor old Necrarchs, who you could blink and miss in the current book, and whose shtick as Nagash’s last true followers has been usurped by Mannfred and Kemmler, and whose tactical role is occupied by the Master Necromancer now. Nevertheless, the book is very clear that your Vampire’s surname and ancestry are not limitations on what you can have in your army unless you want them to be, and that’s the way I like it. Besides, Kemmler’s in it. Improvement just for that.
Not an unqualified fulfilment of my every desire, but some quiet improvements that make me interested in playing the army again: which is good, because I’ll be playing them anyway, come what may. You may remember that I’ve dribbled on about my original Vampire Counts army once or twice before, and that I do rather miss them? Their new owner has offered to sell them back. I’ve accepted. There is no way in hell that I’m not playing that army when it returns. The end. The fact that I think this book is better than the last one is gravy.
Perhaps it’ll taste nice with these words I’m eating?