It’s been a little quiet here at 6 inch move recently. Servitob has had an addition to his brood of future gamers, there is the usual chaos that accompanies the Christmas/New Year season and as for myself I’ve had to move an entire swimming pool/sports & leisure centre (and I’m telling you those things are heavy). As a result our small band of gamers has had little time to get together and roll the dice. This will be changing soon as life begins to settle down again.
This month saw the release of Warhammer Fantasy’s latest army book, the Vampire Counts. Having bought an army of the undead when I was still a teenager this edition caught my attention. I’ve always liked the dark, gothic imagery that has accompanied vampires in general and GW’s vampire counts in particular. To me they are what a classic vampire should be; dark, sinister and above all blood thirsty. No glittering skin here. I’m almost impressed at the speed that GW has been turning out the army books for this edition of Fantasy. Its been out about 2 years and they’ve produced 4 army books for it so far, along with the Storm of Magic supplement and several 40k codices. Not to bad going. It was good to see them do the Ogres, Tomb Kings and Orcs early on as all of these army books needed serious updates. I just wish they’d hurry up and do the Wood Elves (they’re my favourite Fantasy army, I have about 6000 points, but their current army book is two editions out of date and a bit naff). Still can’t complain, I have new vampires to play with.
So whats new to this edition of the dark lords of undeath? Well the book itself follows GW’s latest trend of full colour, hard back with a £25 price tag. The book is nicely edited and of good quality, and if you’ve looked around a bookshop recently, it’s not too over priced for a colour hard back. Saying that though, gone are the days when I’d buy every army book as it came out. Now I’m restricting myself to getting the armies that I actually own, or are seriously considering purchasing.
The army has seen the return of a few old favourites. The option of a Lord level Necromancer is back, as are the special characters Lichemaster Heinrich Kemmler and Krell. Necromancers can again be made better wizards than in the last edition and once again Wraiths can be taken as Hero choices. There have been some new additions to the ranks of the dead. The Strigoi Ghoul King is a Lord choice that is basically a hate filled Strigoi vampire, who has weaker magical abilities than regular Vampire Lords, but more than makes up for it in close combat kick-ass potential. The vampire characters all have a new special rule called The Hunger. Basically whenever they kill one or more models in close combat you roll 1D6, and on a 6 the vampire regains a lost wound. Nice.
The other new units include the Crypt Horrors (basically ogre sizes ghouls), the nice looking Vargheists (psychotic, bestial vampires in bat form), the Terrorgheist (a dragon-sized, undead bat with one hell of a scream), the Coven Thrown, the Mortis Engine and the Hexwraiths.
The Coven Thrown and the Mortis Engine are both made form the same kit. I’ve been really impressed by the large, plastic models that GW has been producing for Fantasy. For me the kind of symbolize a fantasy genre; you have epic heroes, magic throwing wizards and large, scary monsters
and although GW can sometimes go OTT on the heroes and magic, the latest round of monster kits are fantastic. In game terms both the Thrown and the Engine count as chariots being pulled by a spirit host that grants both units ethereal movement. The Coven Thrown is a mount for Vampire characters, and comes with a pair of vampiric handmaidens to attend to their lord. It has a 4+ ward save and nice little special rule called Battle of Wills that could result in an enemy unit turning on itself. The Mortis Engine is a rare choice and has Regeneration, a Banshee swarm and a Reliquary that hurts the enemy and heals the undead and becomes more powerful the longer it stays on the table. Both builds look good, but personally I prefer the look of the Mortis Engine. It has the look of a gothic pipe organ and I love the swirling banshees.
And finally we get to the Hexwraiths. The rules for them are cool. They’re ethereal, fast cavalry that can move through units, hurting the enemy as they go. Their attacks are flaming and ignore armour saves, and their background as agents of death itself, sent to hunt down those who have cheated death is cool. The models are OK. They’re made from the same kit as the new black knights. They’re not bad looking models, my only problem with them is that I don’t think that they do the concept art from army book justice. Have a look below and you’ll know what I mean.
Now is it just me, or is that piece of artwork cool. It really captures the terror and ethereal aspect of these creatures. They are the stuff of nightmares and this picture shows that. Like said, nice models but I’m not sure if they really bring out that same fear factor.
And now for the other stuff. The magic Lore of Vampires has changed slightly. All of your old favourites are there; Curse of Years, Vanhel’s Dance etc. but there are a few subtle changes. The signature spell is Invocation of Nehek, but this time instead of targeting a single friendly unit, it targets ALL friendly undead units within 6″ (or 12″ or 18″ if you want to increase the casting value). All friendly units regain D6+caster’s magic level worth of wounds, unless the unit is Vampiric, Ethereal or a Large Target, which only regain 1 wound per casting. Characters and their mounts do NOT regain wounds from the casting of this spell. The only way they can get wounds back is from the Lore Attribute; each time a spell is successfully cast from the Lore of Vampires the wizard, or a friendly model within 12″ regains a wound. Unless the unit is zombies (or you have bought the appropriate upgrade) you cannot increase a unit beyond its starting size. The Raise Dead spell can be used to create new units of skeletons once more, but you do have to increase the casting value. Oh and in case you ever get tired of raising the dead you now have access to the Lores of Death and Shadow.
One of the cool things about the Vampires is that you can customize your lords of undeath. You can still do this, though the list is a little smaller than in the previous edition. This I feel is no great loss as several of the Vampiric Powers are now included as standard upgrades (such as armour and weapon upgrades). The one I am going to miss is no more ethereal vampires. Oh well, can’t have everything. The list of magic items has been reduced to 9 as is the standard for the newer army books. Frostblade has gone, but watch out for Skabscrath is all I’m saying. As for the death of the general? Well its still not a good thing. Your general has to be a wizard with the Lore of Vampires, and if he/she is killed then all of your non-vampiric units have to take a leadership test at the end of the phase. The difference this time is that if you have another wizard with the Lore of Vampires in your army then he/she takes over and the army doesn’t take anymore leadership test. This is repeated if that character is killed and so on.
All in all I’m impressed with the new release. They’ve added a few, nice looking units and made some minor rules changes to existing ones. They’ve re-done the Black Knights, which is about time, as they seriously needed it. What would I like to have seen? I know it’s called the Vampire COUNTS, and therefore focuses upon the von Carsteins, but what happened to the other special characters such as Neferata and Walach. Harkon. The zombies could also do with re-modelling, and I really wish they’d done a new Black Coach, rather than just making it a Finecast model. It is however nice to see an army that has all of its units available rather than GW’s usual trick of not releasing half of the army list. It looks like I may be dusting off the coffins that contain my undead models and giving them a new lease of . . . life.