Hey guys, I'm Learn2Eel and today I am going to be taking a quick look at the Vampire Counts army book. I've wanted to do a Tactica series for my primary Warhammer Fantasy army for a while, but logistical - for lack of a better term - reasons have deterred any progress there. I think the Tyranid Initial Unit Review article was pretty well received, and this will also give me a good kick-starter for a future Tactica series. I hope you enjoy this article! This is Part 3 of the Unit Overview series.
Corpse Cart - A Strength and Toughness 4 chariot with four wounds and Regeneration, the Corpse Cart is a cheap supporting unit that works surprisingly well despite its limitations. Movement 4 as a chariot is very slow indeed when considering it cannot march, meaning it may often struggle to keep up with the rest of your forces if they need to be mobile. It is tough, however, between those four wounds with a 4+ Regeneration and 5+ armour save, and at a sub-century cost it is hard to complain about its lack of speed. It doesn't do much in combat with D6 Strength 4 Impact Hits and 2D6+1 Strength 3 attacks from the combined crew, but the buffs it provides to nearby units are what really set it apart. If the Corpse Cart is a target of an augment spell from the Lore of the Vampires, it gives Always Strikes First to all friendly Undead units within 6"; it even laughably replaces Always Strikes Last on Zombies with Always Strikes First. Now keep in mind that all augment spells in the Vampire Counts army can be cast as a "bubble" version, while the low cost signature spell always functions in such a way.
Giving Always Strikes First to any number of Vampire Counts units is nasty, but truly so on something like Blood Knights or Grave Guard with the Banner of the Barrows. The benefits it provides to even your most basic infantry aren't so great due to their horrendous Initiative values probably ridding them of potential re-rolls, but striking first is always advantageous and not to be under-estimated. Keeping up with your faster units is the issue though, as those main combat units want to get up close as quickly as possible. This is why having Van Hels Danse Macabre available is essential for the most effective usage of a Corpse Cart, and don't forget that the bubble version of that spell will still activate its Vigour Mortis rule. The Corpse Cart also has two cheap upgrades with the Balefire and Unholy Lodestone, the former which reduces the casting rolls of enemy wizards within 24" and the latter which allows friendly Vampire Lore-using wizards to re-roll one of the D6 for resurrection when using the signature spell. The upgrades are nice but ultimately unnecessary. The Corpse Cart overall is a good, cheap chariot that works very well with the synergy-based nature of Vampire Counts.
Grave Guard - The primary infantry combat block for Vampire Counts and the rough equivalent to Tomb Guard, Grave Guard are a more efficient unit on their own merits than their Tomb King brethren but can't reach the same levels of craziness through buffs. For a single point more than a Crypt Ghoul, you get a Strength and Toughness 4 model with decent stats between Weapon Skill and Initiative 3, trading two Poisoned Attacks for a single Killing Blow attack. Chuck in a base 4+ armour save and 6+ parry save and the options for full command and Grave Guard are one heck of a solid unit. For a single point per model, their shields can be replaced with great weapons, giving each model a 5+ armour save and no parry save but one strike at Strength 6 with Killing Blow. Most tend to prefer great weapons due to the proliferation of 1+ armoured monstrous cavalry who are immune to Killing Blow, but that doesn't change the fact that even the standard 4+ armoured Grave Guard are a darned fine unit.
They have all three command options and a 50 point magic banner allowance that can be put to the incredibly nasty Banner of the Barrows, giving them and any attached Wight Kings a +1 to hit modifier on all their close combat attacks. Take a big horde of them with the Banner of the Barrows, a Wight King Battle Standard Bearer and a Level 4 Vampire Lord and you will have yourself one of the nastier death stars around. You can raise your casualties back, your unit can deal with virtually anything, and they are reasonably tough too. The only issue here is Movement 4, but that can be remedied with Van Hels Danse Macabre and the march bubble of your attached or nearby General. Throw in other supporting elements such as Mortis Engines and Corpse Carts and there are very few things in the game that can stand up to the foot-slogging Wights. They are a cost effective unit to be feared - incidentally, as Undead they actually cause Fear - and one that is always useful.
Black Knights - Effectively Grave Guard mounted on Skeletal Steeds, Black Knights are Wights that trade the option of great weapons for lances and can even take barding. With a 3+ armour save stock and a Movement 8 horse that is Ethereal for the purposes of movement, Black Knights won't necessarily appear to be that efficient compared to Grave Guard. Once you throw in the near mandatory barding and lance upgrades though, you will never look back with your Black Knights. Each rider has a single Toughness 4 wound with a 3+ or 2+ armour save depending on whether barding is taken or not, in addition to one Strength 4 (or 6 with a lance on the charge) attack with Killing Blow. They have the same command and magic banner options as Grave Guard and work just as well with an attached Wight King Battle Standard Bearer and Vampire Lord.
The difference here is that Black Knights sacrifice raw damage output in terms of numbers for mobility and survivability; the equivalent points in Grave Guard will always do more damage than Black Knights, especially with great weapons thrown into the mix. However, Grave Guard don't have comparable saves to Black Knights, lack Swiftstride and aren't Movement 8 or 7. While Black Knights are as such a less suitable place to put the Banner of the Barrows - and trust me, they really aren't that great in combat without buffs due to their lack of numbers - they are however a much better bodyguard for a Vampire Lord. The "bus" tactics with cavalry to quickly deliver an incredibly damaging character or two work best with Black Knights for Vampire Counts due to the speed at which they are raised, with 1+Wizard Level for Toughness 4 2+ armoured bodies making Black Knights a very hard unit to eliminate. The combination of speed, survivability and effective resurrection sees Black Knights as the most cost effective character delivery unit and overall cavalry force in the Vampire Counts book. They are a great unit that works best with character support, unlike Grave Guard who can rely on their numbers to win the day, as Black Knights don't do too much damage on their own even with the Banner of the Barrows thrown in.
Crypt Horrors - I might not be a fan of Crypt Ghouls, but don't let that leave a poor impression on their larger cousins, the Crypt Horrors. These monstrous infantry pack as much punch as your standard Ogre Bulls, with three Strength 4 attacks and a Strength 4 stomp, all at Weapon Skill 3 and Initiative 2. Where Ogres get Impact Hits, Crypt Horrors get Poisoned Attacks, so it evens out in terms of damage output. Movement 6 is typical of a monstrous infantry model, though being Toughness 5 with three wounds per model and a 5+ Regeneration save most certainly is not standard fare. Even without armour, Crypt Horrors are some of the toughest monstrous infantry in the game due to that combination that is made only more revolting once you read how resurrection works for them. When hit by an Invocation of Nehek, you get 1+Wizard Level worth of wounds back. The way this works is rather simple; as an example, say we have a unit of eight Crypt Horrors that suffer six unsaved wounds, so two Crypt Horrors die. A Level 1 Necromancer successfully casts Invocation of Nehek on the Crypt Horrors. As no living Crypt Horrors have suffered any wounds, the restored wounds are used to resurrect both fallen Crypt Horrors. Yes, this is as ridiculous as it sounds, especially once supporting elements like a Mortis Engine providing them a temporary 4+ Regeneration save and a nearby spell-caster are taken into account. These guys are arguably some of the best monstrous infantry in the game due to the unbelievable amount of investment it takes to get rid of them, making Crypt Horrors easily the best anvil unit available to Vampire Counts.
Fell Bats - The first of a number of rodents in the army book, Fell Bats can be accurately described as flying Dire Wolves with two wounds and two attacks per model. Truly, aside from lacking Vanguard and being double the base cost, there is very little real difference between these units otherwise. The minimum unit size of two as opposed to five does give Fell Bats an advantage as far as a cheap deployment drop goes, but the lack of the Wolves' +1 Strength bonus on the charge does offset the extra attack. At double the cost of Dire Wolves and with only +1 movement effectively - for +2 when marching - you really have to weigh up if the capability to move over enemy units without being impeded, as well as those three stat boosts, are worth double the cost. This is even before factoring in that Dire Wolves are a Core choice and are thus part of your "Core tax", unlike the Special Fell Bats. I'm not really sold on Fell Bats for this reason as I think losing Vanguard in exchange for Fly and doubling the base cost for a few stat boosts isn't worth the price of admission, especially with their slot differences.
Bat Swarms - One of two swarm units in the army book and, like Fell Bats, another group with a minimum unit size of two models, Bat Swarms unfortunately suffer from competing with a vastly superior unit in the same slot. That they have Hover instead of Fly means they cannot march even when inside the General's bubble which will usually only really matter for the first turn, though it does limit their mobility rather severely. Strength and Toughness 2 are rather endemic of swarm units, though Initiative 4 and Weapon Skill 3 do make them surprisingly workable combat units, especially with five attacks per base. At five wounds per model with no saves, Bat Swarms might seem difficult to kill but the reality is that even basic Empire Core troops will kill a swarm or two per combat phase with ease. If Bat Swarms could be taken as a unit of one they would still have a use as a cheap re-director and movement blocking unit, but the requirement of two and their not at all cheap cost ruins this strategy. That they confer Always Strikes Last on enemy units in base contact is their only real saving grace, meaning they should be combo-charged as much as possible with a nasty melee unit or even something like Crypt Ghouls. Just keep in mind that those are 10 wounds or more that are very easily given up even if the opponent strikes last and could spell disaster for the other friendly unit involved in the combat.
Spirit Host - Now we are talking! This is the other swarm unit in the book and trying to compare Bat Swarns in a positive light to these guys is an exercise in futility. They have a minimum unit size of one instead of two; they are Toughness 3 with 4 wounds as opposed to the inferior Toughness 2 with 5 wounds; they dish out four Weapon Skill 3 attacks at Strength 3 and Initiative 1, and they even have a higher Leadership just for laughs. They might only be Movement 6, but they can actually march and will likely be in range of the General too. They happen to be 10 points more expensive per base, but they also come with the always lovely and coveted Ethereal special rule. This means that unlike Bat Swarms, a single Spirit Host base can permanently hold up enemy chaff units as long as they lack static combat resolution or magical attacks - both of which are extremely rare for chaff. They can be used to hold up medium sized units for a turn provided that unit only has three for their static combat resolution, or they can tarpit a monster or solo character lacking magical attacks for the entirety of a game. They can block enemy units that are unable to hurt them and move through terrain with no penalty. They might not do much damage at all, but the potential of them to completely stop all enemy chaff and even monsters is one heck of a draw card. If they had a minimum unit size of two then they wouldn't be nearly as good, but even then, they would still be superior to Bat Swarms in almost every conceivable way. Actively forcing opponents to use magic missiles and direct damage spells to get rid of them rather than just light shooting is always a win for you, and another reason why Spirit Hosts are arguably the best chaff unit available to Vampire Counts.
Hexwraiths - I'll be straight forward here; I love Hexwraiths, but I don't think much of them. I use them in all my recent army lists and will continue to stick by them, but they rarely if ever do much for me. They are expensive light cavalry models with two gimmicks, the first of which is full-on Ethereal and the second of which is the ability to move through enemy units and do "drive-by" attacks. These are Toughness 3 Fast Cavalry with only a 6+ armour save for defence that is made up for by each having a Strength 5 armour ignoring attack that is both flaming and magical due to their great weapons and Soul Reapers special rule. Still, with Weapon Skill 3 they are a painfully below average combat unit, though Terror does give them a huge advantage over enemy chaff. With no musician or standard bearer option as well as their high cost per model, trying to use them as some sort of combat block is out of the question, even if you think your opponent is lacking in magical attacks. Once a damage-dealing spell, champion or character with a magic weapon or Daemons of Chaos hit the field, your Hexwraiths lose their only real savior in the Ethereal special rule. Their "drive-by" attacks are nasty, no doubt, as for each Hexwraith that moves through an enemy unit - and only one unit can be targeted per phase (keep that in mind for later) - that unit suffers a Strength 5 hit with no armour saves allowed that counts as both magical and flaming. Yes, Toughness 5 monsters with Regeneration will be worried. Yes, this hard counters heavy cavalry that aren't Dragon Princes. Yes, this means Hexwraiths - if they don't just charge - will smash the vast majority of enemy chaff in the game.
However, even with Movement 8 and all the lovely benefits of the Fast Cavalry special rule, including Vanguard, their special rule really isn't as good as you would think. Keeping to a 16" or 8" maximum movement even with free reforms to move your Hexwraiths on cavalry bases through enemy units is actually very difficult depending on their size. This is because you need to keep Hexwraiths away from combat as even with their Strength 5 melee attacks static combat resolution alone will see them off incredibly quickly. You need to keep just far away enough not to be charged and try to also get close to move through units. It is a hard game to master, especially against monstrous infantry-heavy or ranked up forces, and not as easy as it seems against cavalry either. If you are facing Chaos Knights, you can expect that they have ensorcelled weapons and thus need to stay out of their charge range or risk giving up nearly two hundred victory points for free. Unfortunately, you want to get close to them as Hexwraiths are a Vampire players' second best counter to Chaos Knights with magic attacks. This leads to a unit that has good potential but is very hard to use properly, especially as you need to pop out the other end of units completely. If you haven't guessed it by now, not only do I recommend keeping Hexwraiths near your General - preferably a mounted one - but I also advise you to use Van Hels on them wherever possible. The wording of their rules means that moving them through a unit with the use of Van Hels will still trigger their special attacks even if they have already done so in the preceding movement phase. This is a nasty trick that you can and should use to finish off units you have already moved through, or just spread the "love" to other enemies! Ultimately, though, this unit is expensive for what it does and their rules are far too limiting and reliant on both luck and the correct support abilities for me to really consider them a great unit.
Hilarious Note: It turns out I have been using Hexwraiths wrong ever since I got them. I didn't know that their close combat attacks also ignored armour saves and were both magical and flaming. This might not come into play against most chaff units, but it sure as heck would have made a big difference in a lot of games I played! Does this change my opinion of them? Sort of....but I will leave them as "Not Competitive" for now because I still think they are far too reliant on opponents' making mistakes with their movement to be truly effective.
Vargheists - Where Crypt Horrors are the best anvil unit for Vampire Counts, Vargheists are the most destructive "chaff" unit a Vampire can call upon. Trading Toughness 5 and Regeneration for boosted combat stats, namely with Weapon Skill 4 and Initiative 4, Strength 5 and Frenzy, Vargheists are a very nasty unit that can put the hurt on anything that doesn't have multiple 1+ armoured wounds. Their Flying movement and the Vampiric special rule means they can always march 20", but it also unfortunately means - due to Frenzy - they are quite easily baited. Leadership 7 is well above average for a Vampire Counts unit, fortunately, but it still means they will be failing Frenzy checks 50% of the time unless they are near the General. As the Vampiric special rule means they can always march outside of the general's bubble and never suffer wounds as a result of a fallen general, Vargheists are certainly one of the more independent units in the army. They will rip most war machines and chaff units to shred - ironically, only Ethereal chaff can really put up a fight against them - while their super mobility means you can get them wherever you need to as long as Frenzy doesn't tip them off, what with four Strength 5 attacks and a Strength 5 stomp.
There are a few issues to consider, however. Toughness 4 with three wounds per model and no saves of any kind - especially as they are too quick for a Mortis Engine to keep up - means they aren't as survivable as you might hope considering their cost, while the Vampiric special rule may as well be a death sentence for them if they start suffering wounds rapidly. Restoring a single model per casting of Invocation of Nehek and one wound per the Lore Attribute is really rather bad for a unit that will likely be losing models quickly, or at least much more so than Crypt Horrors given their more aggressive role. Still, with a minimum unit being cheaper by 12 points than the smallest Hexwraith unit, I'm still a fan of Vargheists and think they make for superb war machine hunters and wizard assassins. That many Strength 5 attacks and their crazy mobility can always be put to good use, but they can be a bit unreliable with Frenzy on Leadership 7. Still, at least they can perform their duty without an excess of luck, unlike Hexwraiths.
Most of the units here range from good to superb, with Wights and Spirit Hosts being the true stand-outs. Hexwraiths are a very middling choice that looks good on paper but doesn't function too well in practice, while the flying rodents just aren't that great compared to their rivals in Dire Wolves and the aforementioned Spirit Hosts. The monstrous infantry are both surprisingly good units despite how rare they seem in typical Vampire Counts lists, with the more defensively suited Crypt Horrors being the pick of the crop.
Varghulf - A miniature monster if there ever was one, the Varghulf is what a Vampire might very well turn into someday....if they tell Mannfred that they think Konrad was the more intelligent Von Carstein. In any case, a Varghulf is a lightning fast Movement 8 monster with decent stats, starting with Weapon Skill 5 and Initiative 4. Five attacks at Strength 5 plus a Strength 5 Thunderstomp makes for some really nasty damage output given the small size of the model, while Toughness 5 and four wounds with a 4+ Regeneration save make it decently survivable as well. Hilarity ensues once you notice that this beast has Hatred and ignores combat resolution bonuses against it for being charged in the rear or flanks, while causing Terror can potentially see a broken enemy line. For the points this is already a great unit, and that is before considering the Vampiric special rule. It will never crumble as a result of a dead general, it can always march for a total movement of 16", meaning it can basically do whatever it pleases and use Unbreakable to its advantage on a flank. Yes, this really does make it a terrifying enemy for some opponents that aren't equipped to deal with a lone monster on a flank, especially as Regeneration means it can laugh off a lot of war machines as well. The only possible downside here is that Vampiric prevents it from regaining more than one wound per casting of Invocation of Nehek, but as the Lore Attribute can still be used to heal a second wound, each time you cast the signature spell for a Varghulf it can get up to half its wounds back anyway. For the cost, this is a really great monster and one that ignores a lot of the usual limitations of an Undead unit.
Blood Knights - The most kick-a** heavy cavalry in the game with the most expensive and beautiful models by far, Blood Knights are essentially mounted mini-Vampires. Each model has a single Toughness 4 wound protected by a 2+ armour save, and has a Movement 7 steed that provides one Strength 4 attack. Each Knight him/herself three Strength 5 attacks including their Frenzy at Weapon Skill and Initiative 5, like a Chaos Knight, but comes armed with a lance and thus dishes out a staggering three Strength 7 attacks per model on the charge. Throw in causing Fear for laughs and the option of a 50 point magic banner and full command options and Blood Knights are the most devastating heavy cavalry unit in the game right now.
They have the Vampiric special rule and thus won't crumble when the general dies and can march for a total 14" move outside of his or her command radius, while each individual Blood Knight can accept but not issue challenges just as if they were a unit champion. They can even take a unique magic banner that costs a bit more than their 50 point limit if they don't take another magic standard, and it gives the entire unit a 4+ ward save against all ranged attacks. For those that don't know, this includes everything from cannon-balls to bolt throwers, repeater crossbows to longbows, and even Terrorgheist Death Shrieks and Hexwraith "drive-by" attacks. Remembering that they are Toughness 4 with a 2+ armour save, this actually serves to make them quite difficult to shift at range, especially in large numbers. As nice as the Flag of Blood Keep is though, it only serves to exasperate the big issues that Blood Knights face.
Firstly, these guys are ridiculously expensive per model, clocking in at just under double what a fully upgraded Black Knight costs. Their offensive stats may explain this, but in terms of survivability both units are identical; Toughness 4, one wound and a 2+ armour save. Their Champion - or Kastellan - option is also more expensive than usual and has the big down-side of being forced to issue and accept challenges just like a Vampire character with the Dreadknight Vampiric Power. As nasty as Blood Knights are, they lose models as quickly as Black Knights do and this is compounded on itself by one fatal flaw; resurrection for a Vampiric unit. Where Black Knights can be raised back 1+Wizard Level for a maximum of 5 models per casting of Invocation of Nehek, you can only ever get a single Blood Knight back per casting. For a unit with identical durability, that is a horrible flaw and one that means they simply cannot afford to sacrifice models.
However, their mobility and offensive stats mean they should be used in this role, and this leads to a big conflict of interest. Running them in the same way as Black Knights simply will not work, especially as fourteen Blood Knights - the usual number of Black Knights plus a Vampire Lord - will run you a whopping 700 points before any options are taken. As a bus, they don't work anywhere near as well as Black Knights and should be avoided for such a role. Then you have the issue of points allocation; Black Knights are Special, a slot that can have up to 50% of the total army points invested into it. Blood Knights, on the other hand, are Rare, a slot that can only take up to 25" of the total army points. Add in some of the other fantastic Rare choices Blood Knights compete with and I simply cannot recommend them in large units. However, where they do function is as small units of four or five, where their Frenzy baiting isn't too difficult to block with Dire Wolves or Spirit Hosts. Give them only a standard bearer and perhaps a musican, but ensure they take the Banner of Eternal Flame. Voila, you will have yourself one of the premier monster hunting units in the game without having to waste four hundred or more points on bodyguards for a character.
Competitive? As a monster-hunting or small unit; yes. As a bodyguard unit or bus; no.
Cairn Wraiths - Identical in every way to the character with the same name in the Hero slot, but now as a unit of three to ten and at a slight discount per model. One of them can be exchanged for a Tomb Banshee as a pseudo unit champion, also at a lowered cost to the individual version. All my problems with them as characters remain, but are sadly exacerbated when made into their own unit. At least when hidden in units like Zombies they can't be singled out by magical shooting or damage-dealing spells, but as their own unit they are far too vulnerable to such attacks. They are still points inefficient in terms of survivability and damage output, with two Hexwraiths being more effective overall due to their increased mobility and special rules than a single Cairn Wraith for roughly the same cost. Any use you might have for a minimum unit of three Cairn Wraiths can be fulfilled by the equivalent cost in either Hexwraiths or solo Spirit Hosts, and the Tomb Banshee at 20 points cheaper than normal can't change that fact. If you are going to use Cairn Wraiths or Tomb Banshees, use them as characters, not as units; they will be destroyed before they get to do anything noteworthy, even with Movement 6, as they are far too expensive to even be considered a chaff unit.
Black Coach - Another highly under-rated unit, the Black Coach is one of the toughest chariots in the game at the moment - though its' cost is large to reflect that. Four wounds is one or two below what you would expect for that claim I just made, but a 3+ armour save, 4+ ward save and Toughness 6 certainly vindicate my belief! Not only that, but this is a unit that can be healed two wounds at a time with a single casting of Invocation of Nehek; one from the spell itself, and one from the lore attribute. Per the Vampiric special rule, it never suffers wounds as a result of a dead general, though it still can't march regardless as it is a chariot. It's damage output is significantly lower than its survivability, with D6 Impact Hits at Strength 5, three Strength 5 attacks from the Cairn Wraith - or one Chill Grasp attack - and two Strength 4 attacks from the pair of Nightmares. An Unbreakable, Terror causing chariot is no joke, and despite it not doing too much damage it will still murder most chaff and light cavalry units it engages. All things considered it might not seem that worthwhile, particularly when stacked up against a Mortis Engine, but this is before its unique Evocation of Death special rule is taken into account.
Each time you roll for the winds of magic, you must roll all the magic dice you generated; for each result of a 6, the Black Coach gets an extra effect, and the magic dice are used as normal otherwise. The first two effects are decent but hardly special with an extra Impact Hit and Strength bonuses to the crew, while the middle pair provide incredible buffs to the attacks of the chariot and allow it to ignore dangerous terrain. The last two effects, however, are absolutely ridiculous; granting Ethereal to what is already a crazily tough chariot that would already have Magic Resistance (2) and a 4+ ward save is downright insane, as is giving it the Fly special rule. While the Black Coach isn't that strong at first, it gains power quickly and isn't all that slow at double the speed of a Corpse Cart. This can keep up with your marching infantry, and it will usually siphon a dice every magic phase or two. The siphoning can be random what with the lack of reliability to rolling the winds of magic, but these buffs honestly feel like very nice extras. The Black Coach can quite easily survive, especially with that 4+ ward, until it really begins to become scary with the Evocation of Death. The Vampiric special rule means it can be a huge late game threat for your opponent even if you have lost your general. Ultimately, the Black Coach is a good, but not great, unit that is rarely seen only really because of the sheer competitive worth of the two units sitting below it in the army list section.
Terrorgheist - The title of "best monster in the game" might very well belong to the K'daii Destroyer, but the Terrorgheist is certainly a close competitor. This is a flying monster with six Toughness 6 wounds, albeit only a 6+ Regeneration save, that combined with the Lore of the Vampires can stay up for a huge amount of time through healing. Its combat stats are rather mediocre, with Weapon Skill and Initiative 3 for only four attacks at Strength 5, adding on to a Strength 5 thunderstomp. It won't beat down on other monsters or any kind of decent combat unit, but it will mash up chaff units and Archer equivalents with ease; don't forget that as it can always come in handy for tying those units up! Terror combined with the benefits and disadvantages of being Undead makes it rather standard for a monster, but the flying movement provided it is supported by a mounted General means it is crazily mobile. The reason I haven't mentioned its' unique special rule yet is to establish that the Terrorgheist does have a decent profile and abilities, but not a great one for the points.
But then, as always, comes the Death Shriek, possibly the most brutal and reviled shooting attack in the game. This is an 8" ranged shooting attack that hits automatically, can be shot into combat, can be used in combat against the unit a Terrorgheist is fighting, and can be used even if the Terrorgheist marched. The only restriction it doesn't ignore is that it needs line of sight which might come as a surprise considering it seems to ignore all the usual limitations of shooting attacks. If this doesn't already sound unfair, the damage it deals is insane; you get to roll 2D6+the current number of wounds a Terrorgheist has - remembering that the giant bat has six wounds base and can easily be healed through the Lore of the Vampires. The total result of the roll plus the number of current wounds is then compared against the target units' Leadership, and for each point their Leadership is exceeded by that value, the unit suffers that many wounds with no armour saves allowed. Oh, did I mention it is a magical shooting attack and thus ignores puny Ethereal? I use two of these regularly, and they are most definitely one of the nastiest monsters in the game right now. They are easily the best Rare choice in the army book and one of the strongest units in Warhammer Fantasy. Using them is never a bad option, but make sure to run them in pairs or with other big threats so that they don't become easy cannon bait.
Mortis Engine - Similar in a lot of ways to a Coven Throne (which would fit considering they share the same kit) the Mortis Engine has 5s for Strength, Toughness and Wounds which can be seen either as good or average for a chariot. For durability, the Mortis Engine has a 5+ armour save and a 4+ Regeneration save that, considering the Lore of the Vampires, means it is tough customer to put down in most circumstances. Aside from high Strength flaming attacks, this is not the easiest unit to kill by any means; watch out for Dwarf Cannons that will likely have the Flaming Attacks rune. This causes Terror and is Undead, as usual, but it is importantly not Vampiric unlike a Coven Throne; this means it will suffer wounds as a result of a fallen general which can be game-changing. Again like the Coven Throne, the Mortis Engine has the Spectral Steeds special rule and thus is Ethereal for the purposes of movement, ignoring dangerous terrain with a high Movement of eight. Where the Coven Throne is built for combat as a mount for a Vampire character, the Mortis Engine is more of a support piece; its melee prowess is low with only D6 Strength 5 Impact Hits and 2D6+4 Strength 3 attacks. It is capable of making a Ghostly Howl attack as if it were a Tomb Banshee which is nice but the 2D6+2 isn't all that great against most enemies, so it isn't the best ability to have but a cool little extra.
The selling point of the Mortis Engine is its Reliquary, with the owning player rolling 2D6 and adding the current turn number to the result at the start of each of their turns. The total result is the number of inches the aura of the Reliquary extends from the Mortis Engine; every friendly unit in range gains the Regeneration (6+) or improves their current Regeneration save by +1 until the start of their next turn. Regeneration saves provided by the Mortis Engine can be improved to a 4+ total, so they can't affect the Mortis Engine itself or something akin to the Varghulf. Enemy units touched by the aura, on the other hand, suffer D6 automatic hits at a Strength equal to to the current turn number distributed as per shooting. The Mortis Engine will almost never be affecting enemy units until turn two at the earliest anyway, so this does some decent damage as the game goes on. If you roll a double for the 2D6 roll at any point, the Mortis Engine suffers a wound with no saves allowed, not even its Regeneration save. If the Mortis Engine is destroyed, each unit within twelve inches plus the current number suffer 2D6 automatic hits with the same turn equals Strength shtick. Ultimately, this is a nasty piece of work that is tough - even against most war machines - and provides a lot of extra survivability to even the most basic units like Zombies or Crypt Ghouls, while the damage done by its aura can get rather scary if it survives a long while. The Mortis Engine even has a really strong upgrade that provides a +2 casting bonus to friendly wizards within 12" when they use the Lore of the Vampires, though with some attached miscast risks. If you ever want to do a magic dominance styled list with Necromancers or Count Mannfred, then one or two of these are certainly worthwhile.
The Rare section is filled with hits rather than misses, with the only really sub-par unit being the Cairn Wraiths and their leading lady the Tomb Banshee. Varghulfs and Black Coaches are good units but outshone by the fantastic choices of the same unit type, the Terrorgheist and Mortis Engine. Blood Knights are more of a finesse choice that are devastating in the right hands but end up being a massive point sink if you invest too heavily into them.
that's a wrap, everybody! I am intrigued to hear if you guys like these
kinds of summary articles ala my original Chaos Space Marines Tactica'
playing out as introductions to the full-on Tactica Series' themselves. I
also would like to see how each individual unit has been performing for
you in your own Vampire Count armies; have the Undead been effective
servants for you, or just pathetic imitations of their living
counter-parts? Thanks for the support, and I hope you have a nice day!