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Tutorial Vampire Counts Tactica (detailed)

Discussion in 'Lizardmen & Saurian Ancients Tactics' started by Scalenex, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    I ended up fighting VCs a lot so I’m going to try to share my wisdom. I am getting better but I still lose more often than not. I’m also slowly working on my own vampire counts army. Then when I was almost done with this Tactica the new book came out and I had to revise much of this. Here it is now.


    The Basics


    All undead cause Fear (or Terror), are Immune to Psychology and are Unstable. Undead can only march if within 12 inches of the army general or are Vampiric. If the general dies, every unit in the whole army takes a crumble check (unless the unit is Vampiric). The crumble checks repeat every turn if the army doesn’t have another character with Lore of Vampires to take over mystical maintenance of the army. VC Battle Standards allows the normal reroll of Ld tests (not that undead take them very often) and add +1 to CR like usual. The real contributor of BSB is that they reduce crumble losses of units in range by one. Vampire Counts players are more likely to play without BSBs than most other armies. To beat the Vampire Counts you need to build your units with an eye towards static CR.

    The fact that the army’s structural integrity is based on their signature lore, makes Vampire Counts a magical army by default making them depend on their magic phase at least as much as we do perhaps more so. Thus I’m covering magic first. All spell casters on the list have access to the Lore of Vampires. Vampires and Vampire Lords can also take Death or Shadow. Necromancers can choose to take Death instead of the Lore of Vampires. Vampires can spend an additional 25 points (taken out of the Vampiric Power allotment) for the option to take any of the BRB lores other than Life (but that’s not a huge concern since the three basic lores available to them tend to outperform the other lores anyway).


    Lore of Vampires


    Their general has to take the Lore of Vampires, and most armies take secondary (or even tertiary) casters of the lore. Not only will this provide assurance against additional crumbles if the general dies, but it lets them double up on their signature spell. The Lore of Vampire’s attribute allows for healing of friendly models on successful spell casting in an identical fashion to Lifebloom.

    Invocation of Nehek (Signature): This is even more potent than Regrowth. The caster heads d6+ their Wizard level wounds for all friendly undead units within 6 inches, 12 inches, or 18 inches of the caster depending on the version of the spell cast. Fortunately the healing is capped at one wound for models that are Vampiric, Incoporeal or have the Large Target rule. Strategically placed Invocation casters can keep undead Core very strong round after round but their ability to rebuild heavy hitters is more limited. Zombies gain 2d6+wizard level new models with each casting and can be taken above their original starting level. There are upgrades that characters can take to let them take skeletons or dire wolves above their starting level too, but few players take them.

    Vanhel’s Danse Macabre: Augment spell gives a single friendly undead unit the ability to reroll To Hit rolls until the start of their next magic phase in close combat. Also allows a free eight inch out of sequence (non-charge) move. Can be boosted to target all friendly undead units within 12 inches.

    Hellish Vigour: Augment spell lets a single friendly undead unit reroll To Wound rolls in close combat. May be augmented to target all friendly undead within 12 inches.

    Gaze of Nagash: Most lores have one magic missile. This one inflicts 2d6 S4 hits at 24 inches. It has an augmented version with double the range.

    Raise Dead: Creates a whole new unit of 2d6+3 zombies within 18 inches of the caster in his line of sight. An augmented version creates 2d6+3 skeletons instead, but very few players ever choose skeletons. Summoned units are never worth any victory points, so they make a good expendable speed bump.

    Curse of Years: Remain in Play hex spell with an 18 inch range. Immediately every model has to test on a d6 and dies on a roll of 6. At the end of the next magic phase (any magic phase not just VC magic phase) this repeats with the roll worsening to 5+, then 4+ and so on to a minimum of 2+. Do not let them leave this spell on your units for more than the initial round unless you want to write off the unit in question as a casualty. This is the Lore of Vampire’s real heavy hitter. You will suffer greatly if you let it remain in play too long.

    Wind of Death: Magical vortex using the small round template that inflicts S3 hits with no armor saves with the general hit or miss scatters and random distances rolled that vortexes tend to have. The augmented version hits at S4 and uses the large template.


    Other Special Rules


    “Vampiric” was brought up twice already. The following units are vampiric: vampires, vampire lords, strigoi ghoul kings, Vargheists, Varghulfs, Blood Knights, and the Black Coach. Vampiric units are immune to crumbles from the general dying. They also heal a lot less effectively under the Invocation of Nehek, so casualties you inflict on them are usually longer lasting (though the Lore of Vampire’s faux-Lifebloom makes up for this somewhat).

    Vampire Counts don’t have a normal shooting phase. They do have some units with scream attacks. Banshees (either as characters or unit champions in Cairn wraith units), Terrogheists, the Mortis Engine, and any lord level character wielding Scabscrath, a 75 point magic item on the Vampire Counts list.

    The scream has an eight inch range. A number is generated and compared against the Ld of the target, the excess is wounds inflicted with no rolls to wound or armor saves allowed. It inflicts 2d6+2 (for banshees or the Mortis Engine) or 2d6+remaining wounds of the model (for the Terrogheist or Scabscrath). Since Terrogheists have six wounds when at full health so they are the most deadly of all undead Screamers. The scream can be used even if the model is in close combat or if the target is in close combat.

    Our units tend to be one point lower than many other armies in Ld. That matters little most of the time, since Cold Blooded 6 Ld will beat regular 7 Ld more often than not. Cold Blooded means nothing against this attack though. No unit of ours likes being hit by the scream, but this is especially deadly in the wake of our new book. Most of our most expensive large units have a Ld score of 5 or 6.

    Scream attacks can be fired into a close combat or used from a unit in close combat. Fortunately it can’t be used for Stand and Shoot.


    Lords and Heroes


    I normally start with Core and work my way up to characters, but the army is called “Vampire Counts”, not “Random Assorted Undead,” so the characters get top billing.


    Vampire Lords: Vampire Lords can easily reach Slann levels of points cost if only to pay for their huge array of abilities. They have better combat stats than Oldbloods and are spell casters to boot. A lord can be anywhere between a level one to level four caster. Any turn they slay a model in close combat, they have a one in six chance to recover a wound (if they were wounded).

    They can ride Coven Thrones (bestows extra attacks and a minor hexing effect on enemies) or various flying mounts. It’s rare to put the general on a unit like that because the Vampire Counts suffer a lot when they lose their general. We don’t have artillery to throw at mounted generals so they make break them out when fighting Lizardmen. It is more common to see Vampire Lords riding land based mounts surrounded by an honor guard of knights or else on foot with a pack of hard hitting infantry.

    Magic items and vampiric powers can of course increase their deadliness. They can also buy up to 100 points worth of Vampiric powers that do not count against their magical item allotment. I’m not going to go over every one. I’m going to mention the Red Fury which gives them free attack for every casualty they inflict each round (Red Fury attacks do not generate free attacks). This lets an already badass character really drive up CR, especially when paired with another vampire upgrade that bestows ASF.

    I am going to mention Master of the Black Arts, an ability that lets them reroll one of their dice when rolling Winds of Magic. It costs a lot of points so a vampire with that upgrade can’t be turned into a crazy blender but it’s quite potent for an unorthodox player truly going all out in the magic phase.


    Strigoi Ghoul Kings: Similar in most respects to Vampire Lords. They only have Ld 9 and are capped at being level one wizards (and stuck with the Lore of Vampires). They make up for their inability to wear any armor with a 5+ Regeneration save, poisoned attacks, and Hatred every single round not just the first. They can also ride Terrogheists. Terrorgheists are generally better without a rider, so you won’t usually see mounted Strigoi unless your opponent wants to add a third Terrorgheist.


    Vampires: The hero level vampires are still potent fighters and spell casters. They have almost as many options as their lordly equivalents. They can be level one or level two casters and they can buy 50 points of Vampiric powers (which unfortunately for us still allows them to take Red Fury). Not only can they serve as a reasonable secondary caster (with whatever lore the VC player chooses) but they can serve as BSB too. They can ride in a bus of knights, ride a flying hellsteed or even ride Coven Thrones.


    Necromancers and Master Necromancers: These are pretty vanilla casters. Necromancers are level one or two, Master Necromancers are level three or four. They can’t fight in close combat any better than most armies’ wizards. Either type can ride Corpse Carts. Master Necromancers can ride Abyssal Terrors, a fairly weak flying mount. Most Necromancers will be embedded in units though.

    They can even serve as generals in a Vampire Count army meaning a Vampire Count army can actually exist sans-vampires. Given the effectiveness of tooled out blender vampires, Necromancers are rarely chosen as general in competitive lists unless it’s a small points size game.

    While you rarely see Necromancer generals, it’s very common to see Necromancers and Master Necromancers in supporting roles. With the new FAQ rules for Spirit Leech, a Vampire Lord’s Ld 10 becomes much more potent. They don’t have to take Lore of Death to throw down nasty Spirit Leech spells, now they just need to have a Necromancer be in the same unit to do it! Don’t repeat my mistake and figure a Slann will be okay with a Ward save and 5 wounds. Even a lowly Necromancer can take down a Slann with the lore of Death with repetition and luck.


    Wight Kings: A necromancers is basically a much cheaper vampire without the fighting ability. A wight is basically a much cheaper vampire without the spellcasting. They have similar stat lines to Scar Veterans only they enjoy Killing Blow and Ld 9. They can be on foot or ride Skeletal steeds and serve as BSBs.


    Ethereal Characters: Cairn Wraiths and Tomb Banshees can be taken as characters but they can’t take any upgrades or magical items. A single ethereal killer in a block of infantry is annoying. If the entire front rank is made up of them (or four out of five with the fifth slot held by a Vampire Lord or Strigoi Ghoul King) you will suffer a lot if you don’t have magical attacks).

    If they are buried in a large unit of zombies or skeletons means you can’t just shoot them with magic spells. If a Lord level fighter is in the group they can generally take out a Saurus character packing a magic weapon before the Saurus can even strike at the ethereals. There is very little our Saurus blocks can do against such an opponent. One tactic I stumbled on things to the good folks at Ulthuan is the Sword of Anti-Heroes since a Saurus fighting a wall of characters will probably have three characters in base to base combat making him stronger.


    Core


    Zombies: Zombies are only three points apiece now and can take musicians and standards. If Invocation casters are nearby they are hard to eliminate altogether as many will be healed back most magic phases. They still only have WS1 and ASL. Generally they can’t do much more than tie you down.

    They can’t even hold you in place very well to allow an elite unit to hit your flank. As a Lizardmen player, you generally WANT your units engaged with zombies to be flanked. Why? Well let’s say five hexwraiths flank your zombie fighting Saurus. Well the Saurus will probably still win combat by more than five just from ripping zombies apart and all the elite Hexwraiths go poof in one round. Zombies are only a real danger when your unit fighting them is very small, failed a Fear test, and/or the zombies are being buffed. Note that small units of zombie scattered about amongst low level casters in round one can be raised to enormous number levels with the right army builds though if there are enough strategically positioned Necromancers. Always target the embedded Necromancers individually when you can.


    Skeletons: A more expensive slightly better zombie. They have hand weapons and shields and light armor and WS2. They can take spears for free (most VC prefer the parry save though). Generally they are used in a similar fashion to zombies, but zombies are considered a more efficient use of points. Skeletons have a niche as a character bunker since they give up less CR than zombies and can take unit champions.


    Crypt Ghouls: This is where the muscle in Vampire Counts Core can be found. Ghouls are the only Core that can put up with a fight without characters. They are as tough as Saurus and get two poisoned attacks each. They are commonly seen in horde formation and with their 20 mm bases they will get more attacks per frontage than Saurus get. Saurus have the advantage of a 4+ armor save with a parry (ghouls have no saves without buffs) and Saurus have predatory fighter now. Also ghouls can’t take standards or musicians which hurts them in CR (and CR is very important when you are fighting undead). Ghouls aren’t pushovers but they can’t go toe-to-toe with Saurus unless they are getting lots of magical augments.


    Dire Wolves: These potent wolves have a M9 and Vanguard serving the same function of Fast Cavalry (even though they are technically not Fast Cavalry). They get +1 S on the charge. Between their low point cost and high speed, they are a serious threat to our skirmishing units and can even threaten our harder hitting units with flank attacks.


    Special


    Grave Guard: Probably the best all-comers unit in the Vampire Counts army book. They cost about the same as Saurus and yet outclass them on the whole. They are stronger and tougher than the Core undead have WS3, and heavy armor. They can come with hw+shields or great weapons (most players take great weapons). Be wary of Invocation of Nehek, no unit gets more back in terms of points from Invocation than Grave Guard. D6+4 Graveguard is far more serious than 2d6+4 zombies.


    Corpse Cart: A chariot with a base move of 4 isn’t very fast. It also only hits at S4. The upside is that they inflict 2d6 random attacks and have Regeneration 4+. When affected by any augment spell from the Lore of Vampires (and remember the augments all have bubble effect options) than every undead unit within 6 inches of the Cart gets Always Strikes First, even zombies who also lose Always Strike Last. There are two optional upgrades, Balefire which makes enemy (Lizardmen) wizards within 24 inches lose -1 to their casting rolls and Unholy Lodestone which lets friendly wizards within six inches reroll a d6 when making rolls for Invocation of Nehek. The chariots work the same whether they are taken as stand alone units or Necromancer mounts.


    Black Knights: Your basic heavy cavalry, except you know, undead. They get pretty expensive when the barding and lance upgrades are taken, but they are about the only option in the Vampire Counts book with low armor saves. Two things differentiate Black Knights from their living cavalry counterparts. First they have Killing Blow and second they have Spectral Steeds which means they get no movement penalty for Barding and count as ethereal for movement purposes meaning they never take Dangerous Terrain tests, but non-magical attacks can still wound them normally. Black Knights are also a very popular delivery system to get killy vampire characters where they are needed most.


    Crypt Horrors: Crypt Horrors are mutated Crypt Ghouls and powerful Monstrous Infantry. They have Regeneration 5+ and T5 meaning they die slowly. Like the lesser ghouls, they have poisoned attacks. They can fully benefit from Invocation of Nehek meaning it’s almost as bad to let your opponent bring back these casualties as it is for Grave Guard.


    Vargheists: They are like Crypt Horrors but stronger on offensive and weaker on defense. They have the Fly, Frenzy, and Vampiric special rules. It’s easy to let it slip your mind that something that big and bulky can fly, don’t let them surprise you with unexpected charges. They only have T4 and no saves of any kind, so they are kind of glass cannons dying fairly easily to whatever you hit them with (preferably at range). Also, since they are vampiric they don’t regrow very fast from Invocation spells.


    Fell Bats: Relatively inexpensive flyers capable of running interference. A threat to our skirmishing units, but not generally not as threatening to us as Dire Wolves are since Fell Bats tend to come in smaller groups. Since LM don’t have stationary war machines, Fell Bats are not really a serious threat to us.


    Bat Swarms: Most swarms are weak and overpriced in eighth edition. Making them fly doesn’t make them much better. Bat Swarms also bestow Always Strikes Last on enemies in base contact but that’s not enough to convince many Vampire Counts players to field Bat Swarms. Our main combat units are pretty low initiative anyway so the hex effect means next to nothing to us.


    Spirit Hosts: This swarm that’s not useless, it’s not the most powerful unit on the list but it sees some play. Spirit Hosts are ethereal which means they are hard to kill if you can’t bring magical attacks to bear or kill them with their Unstable rule. If you must fight them in hand-to-hand combat, try to force multi-combats with weak corporeal units like zombies so you can use the positive CR from fighting the weak units to transfer over to the Spirit Hosts and kill them with Crumble. They die pretty quick to magic missiles too.


    Hex Wraiths: Combining fast cavalry with being Ethereal, Hex Wraiths are a deadly opponent. They have a special attack that lets them wound enemies as if by a shooting attack when riding through enemy units. Their regular and special attacks hit at S5 are magical, flaming, and ignore armor saves. The same basic principles fighting Spirit Hosts apply. Taken them out via magical ranged attacks if you can, or use CC magic attacks or static CR to kill them if you can’t.


    Rare


    Terrorgheists: Terrogheists are probably the best anti-LM unit on the Vampire Count list if not the best anti-everyone unit on the Vampire Count list. We don’t have cannons or heavy long ranged hitters to take them out. Our cold blooded attribute gives us no protection against their Ld based scream attacks and Terrogheists are no slouches in close combat either. Terrogheists can be upgraded to inflict 3d6 S2 hits on units in base contact when they die and/or to have Poisoned attacks in close combat, but it’s really the scream you should be concerned with, the Scream attack is stronger when the Terrorgheist is unwounded, so they hit harder than other screams. Also Terrorgheists tend to get first dibs on the Lore of Vampires healing ability.

    There are three ways to take them down, magic, skink shooting, or S5+ close combat attacks. Magic is probably best, but with all the ethereal units on the board, every magical attack we can bring to bear is precious. Skink shooting is a straight forward solution, but the very same units that can throw down the poison shots are also extremely vulnerable to the Terrogheist’s scream and stand no chance at all in close combat. Close combat is the most reliable way to take them down, the Terrogheist’s scream won’t make a huge dent in Temple Guard, Kroxigor, or Skroxigor blocks, but by the time you get into CC with the Terrogheist they will probably have already had at least two opportunities to scream at your units.


    Mortis Engine: Nearly as dangerous as the Terrorgheist. They have a banshee style scream attack and a large number of mundane attacks. The real power is the Reliquary. It radiates a damaging effect to enemies (d6 hits) and a buffing effect to allies (Regeneration boost) with in 2d6+turn number inches. The strength of the damaging effect is equal to the turn number. Trust me, these things REALLY hurt on turn 5 and 6 if you haven't killed them yet. They can be upgraded to boost nearby units to get +2 to cast Lore of Vampire spells, but units with this upgrade takes wounds when their 2d6 rolls turn up a double (not a huge deal since Lore of Vampires can patch up minor wounds on the Mortis Engines pretty easily).

    To add injury to injury, if you kill them they damage all units friend or foe within roughly 12 inches inflicting 2d6 hits at the strength of the turn number. We don't have a lot of options to take these things out at range so if you kill one of these guys in close combat, chances are pretty good that the explosion will hurt us more than the enemy. Basically take these out as quickly as you can and try not to have any low toughness units nearby when it dies. If you can't magic it to death, charge it with a large dinosaur or a pack of Kroxigor and bash the reliquary to kindling.


    Black Coach: It’s not as dangerous as it was in seventh edition. It still feeds off of power dice pools but it doesn’t actually deduct from anyone’s power dice pool. They are defensively a tough nut to crack with 3+ AS and 4+ Ward Saves. The more power dice it feeds off the stronger it gets first gaining more and better attacks, then gaining mobility and defensive power. Once it gains ethereal and magic resistance it becomes very hard to kill indeed. The sooner you can put wounds on the Black Coach the better. The Black Coach only has Ld5. Regardless of the level of power it’s acquired, static CR will let you put wounds on it pretty efficiently (it only has four). Shooting it down early is good, charging it early is nearly as good.


    Varghulfs: Basically a large feral vampire. They have five base attacks, Hatred, Terror, Regeneration 4+, and never give Flank or Rear bonuses. A close combat monster, it’s a good idea to soften them up at range if you can as they will inflict a lot of punishment on you in CC. If you can fight a Varghulf alongside a weak unit like zombies you can take out the Varghulf with CR, but Varghulfs are deadly enough that you probably normally can’t rely on static CR alone to beat them without a block of zombies to get your free kills.


    Blood Knights: Elite knights whose basic statlines make the Warriors of Chaos green with envy. At fifty points apiece they are probably the most expensive single-wound models in the game. Some players avoid them for just that reason. They are tough but they are vampiric which means they can’t heal back very fast with Invocation of Nehek so casualties you inflict on these bad boys tend to be long lasting.

    I ended up fighting VCs a lot so I’m going to try to share my wisdom. I am getting better but I still lose more often than not. I’m also slowly working on my own vampire counts army. Then when I was almost done with this Tactica the new book came out and I had to revise much of this. Here it is now.
     
  2. Scalenex
    Skink Priest

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Part Two: Lizardmen Versus Vampire Counts


    Core Units


    Saurus Warriors: I’d recommend going Saurus heavy for Core. They are tough enough to stand toe-to-toe with most enemy undead. They certainly outclass undead Core. About the only things they can’t handle easily are Terrogheists and characters. Their Ld score is good for both resisting Terrorgheist screams and passing Fear tests.


    Skink Cohorts: Cohorts usually win battles via attrition not CR. You give up 5 point models to pick up juicier targets. Since undead units can get magically regrown fairly easily and CR = additional casualties, this strategy is far less viable against the undead than most other armies. Even with Kroxigor you should be very careful which units your Cohorts engage especially now that Kroxigor can be targeted individually from the front enemy rank. Given the new rule, Skroxigor are less useful for taking out the units they used to be able to counter: Black Knights, Blood Knights, Terrorgheists, Black Coaches, and Mortis Engines. I’d recommend filling your Core with mostly Saurus and taking your Kroxigor as a Special choice.

    As an experimental strategy you might want to try taking an all Skink Cohort and giving them poisoned melee attacks. Then pointing them at the highest toughness monsters you can find. If you aren’t wielding high strength attacks, poison Strength 3 is at least as effective as regular Strength 4 attacks. I’d rather a Terrorgheist waste it’s time chewing up a cohort then wiping out my dinosaurs.


    Skink Skirmishers: Skink Skirmishers are probably the best unit we have for killing Terrorgheists. Poisoned shooting combined with being cheap and expendable is a good combination for that kind of work. Skinks can put some wounds on dire wolves, ghouls, Fell Bats, Bat Swarms, Crypt Ghouls, Vargheists and the like okay but Skinks probably won’t earn their points against targets other Terrorgheists given the sheer volume of things on the VC army list that can squish Skinks very easily.


    Special Units


    Jungle Swarms: Swarms are so good against Vampire Counts now they are almost unrecognizable from what they were before. With the price decrease I see some value in using them as a stalling unit. More importantly there are lots of high toughness critters amongst the undead elites so poisoned attacks will be useful to nearly every other unit in the LM army. Just make sure you plan your matchups well. They will do poorly by themselves. They should be backing up your stronger units against high Toughness enemies. Any other unit pairing and they will just give free CR to the undead nullifying their crumbles and possibly making you crumble.

    Chameleon Skinks: They can do the same things Skirmishers can do. Unfortunately they die just as quickly as Skink Skirmishers, in fact quicker because they will deploy forward with their Scout ability. This means it will be hard for you to keep your Chamo Skinks away from Terrorgheists and Dire Wolves, neither of which care about the Chameleon Skinks penalty to shooting. Go big or go home. Two units is one and one unit is none.


    Terradons: I don’t think they have enough wounds to make a serious go of hunting Terrorgheists. I think they are a subpar unit in anti-VC lists. In my opinion, their best use against the undead via supporting flank attacks to add CR to your main melee blocks and even that tiny niche has been outmoded by their new ugly cousins. If you do take Terradons, give them fireleeches and point them at Crypt Horrors or Corpse Carts though you’ll want to follow it up with additional shooting from Skinks as the Terradons won’t do enough damage by themselves to matter.


    Ripperdactyls: The VCs aren’t the most maneuverable army in the world so you don’t have to worry too much about being tricked into charges you don’t want. If you can flank a unit of cavalry or infantry that’s great (unless it’s Core than that’s probably overkill). Rippers should be able to clear the skies of Fell Bats and Vargheists pretty easily. They should do okay against Corpse Carts or Mortis Engines. They don’t hit hard enough to seriously threaten a Black Coach, Terrorgheist, or vampire and they are very vulnerable to scream attacks


    Temple Guard: I would definitely want my Slann to have Temple Guard. If I had points to spare I might consider taking Temple Guard by themselves as well. Temple Guard will chop up undead Core at least as well as regular Saurus. Since they hit at S5, they can put the hurting on the VC heavy hitters whereas regular Saurus would be struggling to wound them. Banner of Eternal Flame is a good investment for 10 points since a lot of undead units have Regeneration.


    Stegadons: A Stegadon adds impact hits and thunderstomps which will help your melee blocks chew up enemies and drive up your CR. At Ld6 they are especially vulnerable to Terrorgheist and Banshee screams. Since they only hit at S5, you want to avoid them getting into combat with the larger undead monsters without lots of infantry backup.


    Cold One Cavalry: They are Immune to Pyschology which is handy against the undead. They also have good saves and hit hard. The problem is you need to pick your battles carefully. Since Saurus cavalry is expensive it’s hard to afford a lot of ranks so you aren’t going to get a lot of static CR. Fighty characters and heavy monsters will still chop apart your cavalry easily. If you want to use cavalry, you should use a one-two punch combining cavalry with infantry and you should probably have a Saurus character on a Cold One adding punch to the unit.


    Kroxigors: Kroxigors should do fairly well. They hit nice and hard. From personal experience I can say that it’s very satisfying to see three Kroxigor take a Terrorgheist down in a single round of close combat (and that was back in the days before they got boosted to Strength 5!). Kroxigors won’t wilt after a few hits, but they can’t take a sustained beating. I’d suggest you either plan on using your Kroxigor in conjunction without Saurus or fielding them in larger unit sizes. Another option is to have your Salamanders and Razordons flank whatever the Kroxigor fight or visa versa (if you decide to take Warbeasts at all anyway).


    Bastilodons: The undead have some Initiative 2 units scattered throughout their list so the passive boost from the Solar Engine will help you a little, but you should only take the Solar Engine if you plan to use the bound spell. It can really hurt the Terrorgheists and other undead heavies if you roll a 4 or better. The Solar Engine will cushion the blow (slightly) if your foe gets Purple Sun off.

    If you want your Bastilodon to wail on Core the Ark of Sotek will likely help you more. The Bastilodon’s hide is nearly impenetrable to the undead Core and the Ark’s shooting attack will do a lot to help counteract the flow of reinforcements from Invocation of Nehek.


    Rare Units


    Salamanders: Salamanders are okay against VCs. Okay, not great. The undead have lots of slow moving tightly packed units to burn. The problem is no one is ever going to take a Panic test and the very same units that burn easily also regrow pretty easily with Invocation of Nehek, so you need tight magic defense to make Salamanders effective. Salamanders will lose a battle of attrition against dire wolves and they are very vulnerable to scream attacks with their Ld 5. With the loss of the fancy armor piercing rule Salamanders aren’t very good at toasting undead knights anymore but at Strength 4 they can in theory put a wound or two on some Crypt Horrors letting a pack of Razorodons or a unit of Skink Skirmishers to finish the job.


    Ancient Stegadons: They are just as good at grinding down infantry as regular Stegadons. The S6 hits are a little redundant since S5 will wound undead Core on 2+. The extra strength will help you put the hurting on VC heavies including their Monsters. An Ancient Stegadon won’t embarrass itself against a Terrorgheist or Vargulf but you shouldn’t seek out a one-on-one Monster Mash if you aren’t extremely confident about getting your impact hits since undead monsters have more attacks than Ancient Steggies. Sharpened Horns are a good idea just in case you want to send your Ancient Steggy at said monsters. It also would come in handy for fighting the undead Monstrous infantry.

    Engine of the Gods all the way. Burning Alignment doesn’t do extra wounds against undead anymore but flaming a high volume of flaming attacks are never amiss and the other two bonuses are nice too.


    Razordons: In my opinion, Razordons have one useful purpose. They can intercept Fell Bats, Dire Wolves, and Vargheists protecting your Skink Skirmishers and Salamanders as well as your Saurus blocks’ flanks. It’s not the best trade-off to counter a Core unit with a Rare, but the doggies are an ever present threat. You can take out dire wolves with magic easily enough but every power die thrown at the dire wolves is one that’s not countering the stronger foes. Outside the niche of impaling enemy Vanguard troops, I don’t see Razordons inflicting enough hits on infantry blocks or monsters to be worth it.


    Troglodons: No. They don’t have the leadership to handle scream attacks, the strength of attacks to fight undead heavies, or the volume of attacks to fight undead rank and file. If you want magical support, take extra Skink Priests. To maximize the use of the damage output, try to position your Stegadon near multiple small units. Dire Wolves, Fell Bats and the like will be obliterated. Knights and monsters will be severely injured. Zombies, ghouls, and Skeletons will only be slightly inconvenienced. It’s a delicate balancing act to position your Engine in places that both allow you to injure the enemy and prevent them from being picked off by enemy fire.


    Characters


    An army built to fight Vampire Counts will probably have more characters on the list than an all-comers army since they are the key to shutting down enemy magic phases, killing embedded ethereal characters, and blunting Red Fury based assaults.


    Scar Veterans and Oldbloods: I once thought it was sufficient to give all your Saurus characters a cheap magic weapon in order to put the smack down on ethereals. I thought any magical attack would do because ethereals don’t have much WS or Toughness. Then I learned something the hard way after losing to Vampire Counts over and over again. I learned that a Saurus character fighting Vampires Counts armies should be equipped to fight an actual vampire or said Saurus character should probably not bother fighting the undead at all.

    It’s not enough to have rank and file pile on attacks against a vampire. If you don’t kill a vampire in one turn, it will probably be fully healed next turn since the Lore of Vampires lore attribute can heal lost wounds (and a 1 in 6 chance to heal from each wound it inflicts). To take down a vampire with a blender build you need heavy buffs or a well tooled out Saurus character (ideally both). Saurus characters need hitting power and defensive power to take down vampires. Therefore, I would recommend Oldbloods for the 100 point magic item allotment.

    I’d recommend Fencer’s Blades to counter vampire’s strong weapon skill or Swift Sword to prevent them from killing your Saurus characters from being cut down before they can even strike. Piling on Ward saves on your fighting characters is a good idea. Vampires hit at a minimum of Strength of 5 so a good armor will only get you so far. I’d recommend considering the Glittering Scales armor to prevent being hit in the first place particularly if paired with the Fencer’s Blades. A Cold One will help since you don’t need the LOS against VCs. The Sword of Anti-Heroes is a good counter to players who like to use a “Wraith Wall”

    My limited experiments fielding a Carnosaur against Vampire Counts have been failures. Even the mightiest decked out lords will have trouble beating a Carnosaur. A Carnosaur will chow down on the larger monsters too. The problem is a Carnosaur is very vulnerable to both scream attacks and the Lore of Death. I’m not sure how the trade-off between power and vulnerability works but I wouldn’t suggest a Carnosaur if you don’t have a lore of magic that can heal your Carnosaur frequently. If you run without a Slann, you probably want TWO Carnosaurs. That way you can have reasonable assurance that one of them will get to chow down on VC monsters or characters (the other will probably be sniped with spells or scream attacks or tarpitted).


    Skink Chiefs: They are the cheapest way to get magical attacks that don’t come from spells. I don’t think they are a good idea though. A Skink chief in a unit is little help, they are barely a speed bump to vampires. A Skink chief on a dinosaur is very exposed to scream attacks. In small points games I had good luck giving a Skink chief magical shooting attacks against the undead, but our new book has no options for magical shooting. No magical shooting, no niche Skink Chiefs here.


    Skink Priest: Most VC armies depend heavily on their magic phase. Caddies for dispelling items are valuable for this reason. Heavens spells are nice for bashing flyers but the dreaded Terrorgheists are Toughness 6 with many wounds so a single lightning spell will rarely down a Terrorgheist and most of the lore attribute’s bonus hits will not wound. For the Heavens lore attribute to matter you need to zap the lighter flyers. Beasts is probably slightly better. Given how important it is for our Saurus character to counteract vampires, all the Beasts augments can be put to good use.


    Slann: A Slann is nigh mandatory. It’s important to shut down your enemy’s magic phase as much as possible so you need the +4 to dispel. I’d recommend giving your Slann and MR bestowing talisman or discipline to protect him against the Lore of Death and to protect his unit against Purple Sun (if your meta allows saves versus Purple Sun) and Curse of Years among other nasty spells.

    High Magic: High Magic is probably our best overall lore now, and it should do well against Vampire Counts. Unless there is a cluster of Vargheists and Fellbats just begging for it, you can probably dump Tempest. You’ll want Apotheosis all game long to keep your dinos and Saurus characters healthy. Hand of Glory will help your Saurus characters in challenges but it’s probably unnecessary for rank and file engaging the undead rank and file. Arcane Unforging will probably help your Saurus characters more if you can swing it. Fiery Convocation will draw out the dispel dice if your opponent is really packing a bunch of characters in a giant deathstar block of skeletons or zombies and Walk Between Worlds will let you get your heavy hitters positioned to charge Terrorgheists (but be careful, these &*$^# things fly). Pay attention to what spells your opponent rolls at the beginning. If the Curse of Years, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre, and/or Hellish Vigour comes up you should probably hang on to Drain Magic.

    Lore of Death: If you take out the vampire general you force army wide crumbles. If you don’t kill the vampire general the blender lord will rip you to pieces with the Red Fury power. Lore of Death is my favorite anti-VC Lore for that reason. To kill a vampire you need to use multiple sniping spells, not just Spirit Leech. Spirit Leech is worth dabbling in for a WD Slann or High Slann since Spirit Leech puts the hurting on Black Coaches and Terrorgheists (and nearly every lone VC model). It’s hard to kill lots of elites with Purple Sun but you can get a lot power dice flinging Purple Suns at blocks of undead Core.

    Jack of All Trades Slann: If you think it’d be a hoot to try a Wandering Deliberation Slann just for fun don’t. If you plan to build your whole army around a WD Slann it should work well against vampires. If you take a WD Slann you don’t need to take any Skirmishers at all unless they are escorts for Skink priests since your Slann is packing enough magic missiles to clear all the dire wolves, Vargheists, Fell Bats, and the like away. You need to make sure your Saurus characters are all maxed out magic items and you have plenty of Kroxigors and Temple Guard (or Steggies with Sharpened Horrns if that's your preference) to take down enemy heavies. Make sure you cast Spirit Leech every single round since that spell is the bane of every undead Rare choice as well as Varghulfs. If there are knights or black coaches, you should be making frequent use of Searing Doom as well.

    Lore of Metal: I like this lore. There aren’t many VC units vulnerable to Metalshifting but those that are vulnerable to it are both expensive and powerful. Metal has a spell that bestows magical attacks on a unit which is very useful against ethereals. Transmutation of Lead will take a unit of zombies to WS0. WS0 means zombies can’t hit at all and are hit automatically. Even a truly massive zombie horde will collapse under such an onslaught. Final Transmutation will trim down large blocks nicely and likely draw out the dispel dice for the players who make an über-Deathstar filled with Cairn Wraiths, a blender Lord, and Necromancers. With that many characters you are likely to roll at least one.

    Lore of Fire: Another good lore. It’s got spells to burn chaff. Also there are lots of regenerating units in the Vampire Counts army. It also has a spell that bestows magical attacks too. Flame Cage will give a very large block pause, even if it’s filled with Cairn Wraiths. Problem is it lacks high strength attacks to take down the stronger monsters.

    Lore of Light: The lore attribute means you inflict extra damage against the undead. The magic missiles will devastate vampire chaff units but it doesn’t help against the stronger units. 3d6 hits isn’t enough to make a large unit of Core to do any more than fidget before they get their next Invocation heal and Light spells don’t hit hard enough to put significant wounds on Crypt Ghouls or Terrorgheists (unless you can prevent IoN). The buff spells are great at swinging CR in your favor but there are no Light spells that help you against embedded ethereal units. Light buffs can help you take down blender vampires but if a vampire player is really feeling like your buff spells will truly swing the odds, he will dispel those spells first.

    Lore of Shadows: Apart from the vampires themselves, most of the units in the Vampire Count army have low Initiative scores so the two attack spells are useful. The hexes will make your regular combats go very well, but most of the hexes will not seriously impede a blender vampire.

    Lore of Life: I like Dwellers. Dwellers will devastate large blocks and have a chance at hitting embedded characters. I don’t care for the other Life spells against the undead. The Lore of Vampires is more efficient at keeping undead alive than the Lore of Life is at keeping the First Children of the Old Ones alive. Bringing Life to a LM-Vampire fight is not exactly a knife to a gunfight. It’s more like bringing a knife to a swordfight. The knife will work, but the other side has an edge.

    Lore of Heavens: Flyers not withstanding, I don’t think Heavens offers enough battlefield control or damage to be worth it for a Slann. Heavens damage spells don’t hit hard enough to take down Terrorgheists easily and they don’t produce enough hits to do significant damage to large enemy blocks.

    Lore of Beasts: I view this as the weakest anti-VC lore there is to give a Slann. If you are counting on buff spells to help your Saurus characters beat enemy characters, those critical spells are going to be dispelled. Dabble in Beasts with a High Magic Slann or a few Skink priests, yes (for Wyssans or Anaheir). Give a Slann Beasts outright, no.


    Special Characters: If you are playing a high points game, Mazdamundi would be a bold but not stupid strategy. Between his ward save and Transcendant healing he will be hard to kill. I’d recommend giving him Lore Mastery of Death and sweeping the most powerful vampires from the board. Kroak might work, as much for the abilities he gives to Temple Guard as for the Deliverance of Itza. Tetto’eko’s bundle of special abilities should come in handy. The non-spellcasters and Tehenhauin are too squishy to handle blender vampires so they should be avoided in favor of regular characters with appropriate anti-vampire builds.


    Broad Strategy?


    I have lots of experience with Vampire Counts on how to lose. There are four major things you need to try to deal with. I’m having trouble balancing all four in my lists. If you have any stories of what worked for you guys, let me know.

    1) No one is going to break so you have to destroy every unit to the last man. Every decision you make from building your list to your movement phase should be geared towards maximizing CR to get maximum crumbles.

    2) You want to make sure you have things that can handle ethereals, both as separate small units and to get ethereal characters embedded in units. The latter means buff spells that bestow magic attacks or attack spells that target individual characters. The Sword of Anti-heroes is a good counter against the dreaded "wraith wall."

    3) You need to be ready for the possibility of fighting a blender vampire. A Blender vampire with Red Fury gets a lot of attacks. A lord can take an upgrade for Always Strikes First without eating into the magical item allotment letting them take a magic armor or strength boosting weapon. If you can’t neutralize a blender character, said character will single handedly bring down your Saurus blocks one by one.

    4) Most competitive VC lists include Terrorgheists. You need an anti-Terrorgheist plan of some sort. Poison shooting, Kroxigor, Temple Guard, and Spirit Leech are the best things I’ve used so far. Lore of Light isn't bad for the sheer volume of hits it brings to the table. If they don't include T-Bats, except Mortis Engines.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015

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