Once again, I’m a happy General. Fresh on the heels of my undead robots getting a much-needed update, my undead bloodsuckers now have a new book. We got some new toys, some tricks and some interesting changes, and I think VC will go back to being a capable army.
Let’s start with the reason the book exists, the Vampires. Vamp lords are brutal. Now they always were, but they are still terrifying and with some adjusted point costs on powers may have gotten scarier. All Vamps are lvl 1 wizards and this can be elevated but it gets pricy fast. You can still build a lvl 4 caster that’s still nasty in CC, but I think the new Master Necromancer should fit this position. I think Vamps will get more bang for their points by becoming whirling death-machines. No more of my beloved Blood Drinker, but now Vamps have a chance of gaining a wound back after successfully killing things. This means I can take a magic weapon to enhance his offensive capabilities. The options are almost endless and there will surely be some interesting combinations (like lowering enemy ld so they fail their fear and terror checks) Then we have the Wight King, who remains an awesome budget CC character. For his points he’s a damn good fighter and will make a fine addition to an army. You really don’t need a BSB anymore since there aren’t any worth taking (and yeah, you got re-rolls on crumble tests but the crumble mechanic changed and besides it didn’t matter much…stuff still dies in droves when the boss bites it) so gear him up to fight and point him at what has to die. Fighting against VC has changed as you can no longer kill the general and watch the army self-destruct. He’ll still crumble but then if there’s another mage with Lore of Vampires (and there should be several) he can take over, saving many a skeleton’s “life”.
You also have the mounts for Vampires. The Zombie Dragon is back and still deadly but with a cool newer model that can also make a Terrorgeist. I’ll get to him later but he’s interesting. Finally we have the big new kit…the Mortis Engine/Coven Throne. The Throne is a chariot of sort, carried by spectral energy and bringing some special rules that could be interesting. You have the potential to either weaken the unit you’re fighting or make them hit themselves if the dice gods smile upon you and that’s just cool watching Swordmasters or Chaos Chosen smack themselves in the face. My problem with it is it makes your lord a big target that loses Look Out Sir and an already expensive character even pricier. A decent lord on the Throne will probably be in the 6-700 point range so you won’t see it until your game size approaches the 3000 point range. 3000 points is becoming more common so that’s not necessarily bad but it’s something to bear in mind before making a purchase. I’ll discuss the Mortis Engine later.
Before I go further, let me mention the only real disappointment and it’s the one I’ve had with all the 8th ed books and that’s the lack of magic items. We get 8. We’re another army (like last year’s Tomb Kings) that only exists because of magic and we get 8 items. Yes I know this Is because there are a few thousand in the main rulebook, but having army-specific magic items added some character that’s now lacking.
Moving to Core, most things got the point-cost reduction I was hoping for and thank you GW for that. Ghouls went up a bit, but they should. They’re just too good to be cheap. VC will defiantly be the undead horde They were aimed to be…my test game scheduled for this weekend will have 3. Zombies. Lets just look at Zombies a moment. They did get a stat boost that may help them be marginally more useful, but they’re still WS1 which just sucks. The guys on Garagehammer were wishlisting and hoped for some way for Zombies to “heal” based on what they ate and while I knew then that wasn’t happening I wish it did. My list currently has some Zombies in it, but I’ll see if they’ll remain. I love them so much from a fluff perspective and unlike many, I even like the models but I don’t know if the rules make them worth taking. They also have dogs. These guys got a bit nastier on the charge, but unless you function in a comp environment that would have you benefit from these guys, like all dogs just don’t bother.
Finally we get to the meat of the army…the Rare and Special. Here’s where the power that’s not in character form lives and we’ve got plenty. Grave Guard are back and cheaper, but they lost magical attacks. They still have KB though and being cheaper, you can run more. The regen banner is gone so the old deathstar build doesn’t work, but banner of the Barrows is still here and there are some new dirty tricks to try. Their mounted counterparts, the Black Knights are largely unchanged, and that’s good as they’re a solid choice. Blood Knights are back, too and as expensive as ever. If you have the points, they’re absolutely vicious but I don’t think it’s worth the points anymore, especially since you can’t throw a mounted vamp with Blood Drinker in the mix anymore to keep them coming back. Oh, and they’re finecrap now so it’s $100 for 5 badly cast blobs of cheap garbage. If you do make the choice find alternate models (High Elf Dragon Princes do the job nicely). VC picked up a light cav of sort and this is one of the ones the internet’s been buzzing about; Hexwraiths and yes they are ethereal cav. They’re fast but seeing they can’t march too far from the general, their range is limited. They do have a rule allowing them to ride through units, doing damage along the way which is awesome and I love ethereal in all its forms. Throw them at something without magic attacks and laugh as they tie up that monster or big horde for the game.
The Vhargulf is back and unchanged so it’s still not worth the same points as a Hydra (though that’s because the Hydra is undercosted) but a decent beast. His bigger badder new cousin is the Terrorgeist. This was added in a White Dwarf last year (making a copy of White Dwarf worth buying…not worth the $9 but I had to get it for this anyway) and I have to admit at first I was less than impressed. The stats aren’t as good as some of the other monsters of late, but then I began to consider him further. First, he’s fast which helps you get him where he needs to be, obviously. Second is his scream attack and I think that’s where his potential lies. He can scream in the shooting phase, which gives VC something to do in the shooting phase, inflicting wounds with no armor save allowed. That’s not the cool part. It gets good because he can do it to a unit he’s engaged with. He can then fight as normal in the assault phase. This has potential, but I want to play with it before I pass judgement.
If that’s not enough big nastiness, VC also picked up some Monstrous Infantry in the form of Crypt Horrors and Vargeists. The Horrors are like ghouls on steroids. They’re big lumbering behemoths with a bunch of poisoned attacks and regen to boot. Vargeists are less survivable, lacking a save but are tougher, more vicious and fly. That’s right, we have flying monstrous infantry. Suck it Ogres. They’re vampires, too so they can operate independently, or bring a flying vampire along for more carnage.
Lastly, we get to the Mortis Engine which shares a kit with the Coven Throne. It’s another gorgeous model but again I’m not sure about it. It’s a force multiplier, which you don’t see in Fantasy so much as it can boost your magic and provide additional saves. It also has a bubble of death around it where everything near it will get hurt but when it dies, it explodes. Friend and foe can bite it in this blast so it’s a gamble. Again, I’m not sure if I’d take one but it can be useful. Whether it’s worth the risk is another question but that depends on if you provide your opponent bigger threats he’d rather kill first.
Finally we have the Lore of Vampires. Not a bad collection and just like 7th, you want to use the lore to keep your horde kicking. You have the standard resurrect spell in Invocation, but now it has an area of effect instead of a single target. This is the kind of boost I hoped for. Raise Dead can now summon skeletons (so something useful) You have the same move spell but can't use it to charge so use with caution. The Curse of Years is unchanged, there's a Magic Missile and you have a mediocre vortex to round things out. It's honestly what vortexes should be (and if it were an errata, there would be almost no further bitching about magic). Instead of hitting every model, it causes hits to the unit. The attribute is OK, though it only gives a single wound where the TK get a few. But our summon spell is better, so I'll deal with it.
So there you have it. Proof that GW can actually still write a balanced, but powerful book despite the mess that 40k has become lately (well as far as Imperial armies except Space Marines and Sisters, that is). I’m pretty happy with the overall results. I’m glad most things got cheaper since fear isn’t scary anymore and we can’t rely on bringing stuff back as much as we used to. Now we can make up for that by bringing more to begin with. I’m glad it won’t take much for me to bring my 7th ed army up to snuff again and I can’t wait to get some games in with them.