A little late to the party but I finally got to read the new Vampire Counts army book. I thought it was about time I got back to writing something so I thought I would start with my thoughts on the book.
Overall it has some nice additional optionals including a Master Necromancer who can lead your army so you no longer need to try and balance points for a warrior-wizard Lord. Vampires got a small boost with the ability to occasionally, 1 in 6, heal if they kill something in melee. Skeletons & Zombies got cheaper, wolfs now count as core although Ghouls got more expensive. Unlike Tomb Kings Undead still get to march (if within 12” of the general). Which given there lack of shooting is something they really needed.
I find it quite amusing that the new lore attribute for Vampire magic is the same as the lore of Life; you get to heal a wound for each spell cast. Vampires already have seven spells so they did not gain any more. Although this does mean that Vampires that take a different lore no longer get an extra spell. Their lore lost the Summon Horde spell although its two effects have been merged into Raise Dead and Invocation. Spells have powered up versions you can use but you can also no longer cast the same spell multiple times a turn with the same caster meaning you are more likely to want several wizards in your army instead.
Invocation: Now heals d6+Wizard Level to all units in 6/12/18” with a casting value the same as its range.
Danse Macabre: Still re-rolls to hits and 8” move but no more charging. Level two effects all units in a 12” bubble.
Hellish Vigour: The new spell; allows a unit to re-roll to wound which is nice and level two effects all units within range.
Gaze: Still a Str 4 Magic Missile but now with a 48” range level two.
Raise Dead: Now 2d6+3 Zombies or . at level two, Skeletons.
Curse of Years: Slightly harder to cast but still inflicts wounds on the whole unit with no armour save.
Winds of (un)death: No more summoning a spirit host and it is now a magic vortex rather than hitting every enemy unit on the battlefield.
In line with all the new books the magic item list has been cut down from about forty to nine. A few of the missing items have been appropriated by special characters and the rest seem to have just vaporised. The screaming banner has been reduced in cost so a unit of skeletons can take it and I would expect almost every army using them will do so. Making fear tests on 3d6 means people will occasionally fail them! The cursed book has been re-written so you spend d3 power dice to cast a random spell. They are mainly cast on 10+ sells from the shadow and death lists which gives a nice mix. My favourite item the Black Periapt survived the transfer to 8th edition but sadly it is so expensive now that only Lords can take it.
Heinrich Kemmler is the new Necromancer character and you can play him in a 1500 point game. He is a lvl 4 Wizard with loremaster (Vampire) and +5 to dispel due to his staff of sorcery. He can be either ethereal or flying each turn. If he just has a ward save, even 5+, he would be my favourite character. He has stolen the Tomb Blade from the old item list and it now acts as a Sword of Strife as well as regenerating Skeletons and now Grave Guard. He gets +WS, +S, +I, +Ld* over a standard Necromancer Lord. Since he also forces opponents to reveal there magical items ethereal should keep him reasonable safe in combat. The downside is that you have something like a 50 point magic sword that is only going to kill about one foot solider a turn where as for only a few points more you could take a Vampire Lord with armour and a ward save and a much better stat line.
*His profile in the rules and unit section differ so he may not get the leadership boost.
I liked the old Vlad; you got 240 points of equipment/wargear as opposed to 200 that a normal lord could take. The downside was you could not change any of it and he had no armour. He was a decent combat general with a 4+ Ward. So for 35 points more than DIY Lord with a 4+ Ward you got an extra attack and a change to resurrect after he died. The new Vlad has at least put some armour on. He pays the extra points for it but you can still field him as your general in a 2k army. Blooddrinker though is now barley better than a Sword of Might. A normal Lord can buy ASF, but Vlad's is conditional on Isabella being in the same unit and, while improved, she is not worth the cost to play. So you now spend 69 points more on Vlad that crafting your own leader and all you get is his resurrection ability and a slightly improved chance of healing 1 wound each round in melee (you no longer even get the extra attack). As nice as his “Get out of Death Free” card is those points could be much better spent on powers/wargear to either keep your Lord alive in the first place or increase his damage output in melee.
Isabella is now a standard Vampire Hero with heavy armour (and costs almost twice as much as last edition). You pay 50 points for the blood chalice. Given that the lore attribute is healing seems a waste of a magic items points and she does not get any of the cool vampire powers. Count Mannfred is still the same with his double loremaster, but is now too expensive to use in a 2k game. I think the Acolyte Mannfred is better just for his loremaster (Vampire) although he does cost the same as a Lvl 4 Necromancer. Which means you are trading a wound and two caster levels for more spells, heavy armour and better combat stats.
Building a Lord at 1500 Point Army
I usually play smaller games with friends so my first concern is what sort of leader can I make for my army with 375 limit on my Lord.
Kemmler or a fully equipped Necromancer Lord gives an easy Lvl 4 Wizard. If we want a Vampire Lord though we have to make a compromise between magic and melee. Since magic levels are more expensive there is not a lot of choice if we want a 4+ ward save as well. We might as well just slap on armour of destiny and call it done.
The best two powers for combat are Red Fury and Quick Blood. This puts our Lord as a 300 point level 1 Wizard with WS 7, I 7 and ASF and leaves 75 points for a magic weapon and armour. Taking Sword of Might gives us gives us a 4+/4++ save; 5 strength 6 attacks. Whereas Sword of Striking + Enchanted Shield gives us a 3+/4++ save; 5 strength 5 attacks, which should be hitting on 2's. Each of them performs better against some armies than the other.
300 Master Necromancer; Level 4 Master of the Dead with Talisman of Preservation & Cursed Book.
350 Heinrich Kemmler
375 Vampire Lord; Level 4 Wizard with armour of Destiny.
374 Vampire Lord with Red Fury, Quick Blood and Talisman of Preservation, Sword of Might, heavy armour & shield.
371 Vampire Lord with Red Fury, Quick Blood and Talisman of Preservation, Sword of Striking, heavy armour & Enchanted shield.
The last two are really very similar so it gives me four different leaders to try out and see which I actually like in play. Troops is going to be skeletons and zombies and then some Grave Guard and maybe Black Knights. There are several new units, like the Mortis Engine, that I need to look at and see what will work well.