Don’t ask me what brought this on – maybe I’m feeling nostalgic this week because I’ve listened to ‘Prince of Darkness’ by the Mekons at least four times too many and found I’d left myself logged in to the Warhammer Forum.
In any case, I’ve passed an enjoyable day staring at my old Vampire Counts army and working out some army lists. Some of these lists might even address Known Issues I had back in the day, like “finding a build that worked for my female Vampire model when she wasn’t the General and had no armour”, “Gav Thorpe has been commanded to sell many, many Ghoul and Grave Guard kits” and “eighth edition has totally shafted my sixth edition army”. OK, I’m not certain how to fix that last one but I have a few ideas. Each list is made up of models that haven’t either fallen apart beyond repair, been bodged into an ill-conceived unit filler, failed to make it back from their brief stay in Jersey, or been hocked off because they were good for about fifty quid and that’s what I needed to make rent, and I’ve tried to put them into more or less purchase order.
Sixth Edition: “just put the girl in charge”
Lord: Clarimonde: Vampire Countess: magic level 2, Ring of the Night, Walking Death, Aura of Dark Majesty: 330
Hero: Ruthven: Vampire Thrall: heavy armour, shield, Summon Wolves: 101
Hero: Rosenkrantz: Necromancer: magic level 2, Book of Arkhan: 125
Hero: Guildenstern: Necromancer: magic level 2, Black Periapt: 115
Core: First of Foot: 23 Skeletons: light armour, spears, full command: 278
Core: Second of Foot: 13 Skeletons: light armour, Champion: 140
Core: People’s Militia: 25 Zombies: standard, musician: 165
Core: Peasant Levy: 25 Zombies: standard, musician: 165
Core: The Local People: 9 Ghouls: Ghast: 100
Special: Order of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights: barding, full command, Banner of Doom: 290
Special: Children of the Night: 10 Fell Bats: 200
Rare: Emmanuelle von Carstein: Banshee: 90
I really liked sixth edition. Solid if not perfect on the mechanical front, a reasonable and restrained army design (at least until one Mr. Ward was invited to participate on the Storm of Chaos front, and since I played the Army of Sylvania I don’t feel it proper to judge him too harshly there), and some of the best supplements the game has ever seen (in the shape of the General’s Compendium and Warhammer Skirmish). The Vampire Counts of the time were a well-considered design, with strong influences from the European tournament circuit (hello Tuomas if he’s reading and give Alessio my best, he did well on this one) resulting in an army with decent internal balance (Strigoi slightly ahead of the other Bloodlines, Lahmians slightly behind, but the adjustment of points costs around the ‘crumble’ rule was a good call). It’s the version of the book with which I’m most familiar (I didn’t dare go all the way back to fifth, as I didn’t even have this army then and my approach at the time was more “bung it on the board” than anything).
Anyway; the list. The two Vampires go in the Skeleton unit, which is the centre of the battleline, lurching along with Zombies to either flank and Ghouls either screening or running the old “bait and flee” trick (they’re alive! they can totally do that!). The Necromancers both lurk in the small Skeleton unit unless there’s a pressing reason for them not to, and concentrate on support spells.
That huge unit of Fell Bats has a simple job; land behind the enemy army and wait for something to break. Most anything that is beaten in combat by the Undead auto-breaks and flees into the table-spanning Bat line, thus perishes. (Two units of five are a possibility here too, I’m just… going a bit mad.) The Knights are a flanking force, swinging around to roll up the battleline if they can or at least deter any unpleasantness from others attempting the same thing.
Now, let’s move on…
Seventh Edition: “how about… not QQing about how great Ghouls are?”
Hero: Ruthven: Vampire: Red Fury, Tomb Blade, The Flayed Hauberk: 200
Hero: Clarimonde: Vampire: Master of the Black Arts, Nightshroud, Helm of Commandment: 200
Hero: Mannfred the Acolyte: Staff of Damnation: 245
Core: First of Foot: 24 Skeletons: spears, full command, Icon of Vengeance*: 261
Core: Second of Foot: 14 Skeletons: Champion: 120
Core: The Local People: 10 Ghouls: Ghast: 88
Special: Order of the Black Cross: 7 Black Knights: barding, full command, Royal Standard of Strigos: 271
Special: Black Monks of St. Herod: 3 Spirit Hosts: 195
Special: Children of the Night: 3 Fell Bats: 60
Rare: Patella Belle and the Ghouls: 3 Cairn Wraiths: Tomb Banshee: 175
Rare: Marius’ Ghasts: 3 Cairn Wraiths: Tomb Banshee: 175
Oh, the wailing and lamenting and gnashing of teeth I indulged in when this book arrived on the scene. Oh, the howling and cavorting. “Another bloody Gav Thorpe number! ‘Take new kits, transparently make them best in the book, introduce boring monobuild!’ Genius! What about people who wanted to fill their Core slots with Dire Wolves? Those ghoul models are bloody hideous, how do they fit my theme?”
What a piece of human refuse I was. OK, my life was going to hell in a handcart, but that’s no reason to carry on like I did. Revisiting this version of the Vampire Counts, I realise how much it had going for it. The Vampires themselves are at their most flexible, the Necromancers are no longer an essential, the “three M4 infantry as Core” is no heartbreaker (especially if a couple of them are on flank guard or wizard bunker duty), and basically I maintain the substance of my complaints (Ghouls were still transparently buffed and while they match the modernised VC range, I still prefer Heresy’s metal Ghouls for my aesthetic) I accept that the style in which I made them was… well, shameful.
With this one I’m adding in the ghosties I bought when seventh edition dropped, and also my Mannfred, who I never really used in sixth edition ’cause he ate most of the character allowance. He joins the Black Knights, churning out extra attacks and getting some mileage out of his Sword of Unholy Power. Meanwhile, the Vampire power couple join separate Skeleton units. Ruthven’s unit – which, by the way, could carry pretty much any of the 25 point magic standards the book offers, they’re all tempting – anchors the line and murders people, gaining its bodies back as Ruthven goes into meat grinder mode. Clarimonde’s unit, the former Necromancer bunker, shuffles along behind, handing out her WS to one of the fightier units in the army. I’ve dropped the Zombies and am relying on Mannfred to summon some new ones; if that proves to be a bridge too far for him he might get the Sceptre de Noirot to give him a hand. Apart from that… it rams Spirit Hosts and Wraiths into things I don’t want to fight while Ruthven’s Skellies and Mannfred’s Knights gang up on things I do, I suppose?
Despite the absence of a Vampire Lord, I think this might be OK. I can fit so much stuff into 2000 points if I focus on getting my 8 power dice without a Lord on the table. Sadly, that wouldn’t be a viable option where we were going next…
Eighth Edition: “don’t be a doooosche, just play 2400 points and learn to live with it”
Clarimonde: Ghoul Queen: Red Fury, Fear Incarnate, Beguile, Dark Acolyte, Book of Arkhan, Dragonbane Gem: 400
Romauld: Master Necromancer: magic level 4: 200
Ruthven: Vampire: heavy armour, Beguile, Master Strike, Dread Knight, Nightshroud: 188
Mannfred the Acolyte: barded Nightmare: 216
Core: 600 > 600
First and Only: 33 Skeletons: spears, full command, Screaming Banner: 220
People’s Militia: 25 Zombies: standard and musician: 85
Peasant Levy: 25 Zombies: standard and musician: 85
The Local People: 15 Ghouls: Ghast: 160
Hounds, Released: 5 Dire Wolves: 50
Order of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights: barding, lances, full command, Banner of Eternal Flame: 248
Children of the Night:
2 Fell Bats: 32
2 Fell Bats: 32
2 Fell Bats: 32
Black Monks of St. Herod:
1 Spirit Host: 45
1 Spirit Host: 45
3 Spirit Hosts: 135
Old Bones: ‘Terrorgheist’: 225
Every Core model I own, plus every gravestone I can stick on a base to fill out the ranks, just about hits 600 points. So I’d need unit fillers to make this army playable in any meaningful sense. No wonder I felt tempted to start over from scratch…
Special contains the by-now-traditional Knights, with a budget banner to bully those awful Regenerating things everyone likes. A decent sized Spirit Host for locking down units is joined by a couple of single bases and some Fell Bats for running interference and preventing flank charges.
Once those are locked in it’s time to ask “but how do we kill things?” and this is where I start running in to problems. A single Black Knight unit of middling size and a bunch of Skeletons are simply not up to handling or dealing the kind of damage eighth edition threw around, and it’s not enough to win combats by one or two any more ’cause auto-breaking from Fear ain’t a thing.
That’s why the shiny new Clarimonde is a Ghoul Queen – don’t let the dress fool you. Securing the Two Most Important Spells, but able to cast them on a single die (no blowing up on my watch!), attempting to recover some value from Fear by stacking Fear Incarnate onto the Screaming Banner, and mulching enemy infantry with her Hatred and her Poisoned Attacks and her Red Fury and all that. The only thing she really has to worry about is being locked down in a challenge… which is why Ruthven’s been retuned to interfere with those (a build which finally works in eighth edition; I’ve been trying to do a decent duellist Von Carstein for years).
The rest of my Lords allowance goes on a bare bones Master Necromancer. Eighth edition was about the doom spell, cast on six dice, pushing for Irresistible Force; this was not the best approach to take if your Big Wizard was also your army general and most powerful melee threat. Dispelling and exploding duties are therefore palmed off onto the cheapest Level 4 Wizard I can carry. There’s a very real possibility he’d take the Lore of Death, because its doom spell is so much better than the Lore of the Vampires’ and goodness knows I need to kill things somewhere. Mannfred rejoins the list as backup Necromancer and guarantee I’ll have all the Lore of the Vampires spells on someone.
I also snuck one more model in; the Zombie Dragon I received a while back from brother Jimmy, although he’s standing in for an unridden Terrorgheist in this case. I’m sure no reasonable person would object to this substitution.
There are other bits I’d like to take – the Rod of Flaming Death somewhere as a deterrent for Hordes and Regenerating unpleasantness, the Cursed Book as a grab-bag of debuff spells (possibly on a cheap, Corpse Cart riding Necromancer), but this is pretty much what I could have done with what I had.
With that ghost laid to rest it’s time to consider a possible future. I’m not doing much wargaming at the moment but I may be doing more wargaming in the future – it’s a little early to tell yet. The new edition of 40K being on the horizon is one thing, but recently I’ve become… curious… about certain… bodies of work. All right, it’s “Warhammer does Frostgrave”, but since Frostgrave is “North Star and Osprey do Mordheim” there’s not much of a high horse to be gotten on there. In any case, I’ve been thinking about giving Age of Sigmar a whack, assuming I can find some non-contemptible opponents. All my actual friends live so far away and when we do get together it’s for Vampire or Blood Bowl or something of that ilk. Wargaming on that irregular basis just doesn’t seem to work. BUT, if I had… reasons… to be in Cardiff on a more regular basis, there might be some mileage in it. We’ll see.