This page is in need of cleanup. Srsly. It's a fucking mess.
 Why Play Vampire Counts
Vampire Counts are one of the higher tier armies in 8th edition. They lack obviously OP options that other armies have and thus aren't as subject to public shaming for playing them. They're focused on getting straight to the killing tactically, don't have to worry about demoralized troops, and their army replenishes itself fairly quickly leading to wars of attrition.
They're fun to play, but they have several gimmicks that have to be accounted for to play at their best. First, note that there are no shooting options in this army, effectively eliminating an entire phase. Any ranged options in this army are purely magical. Second, while you have no need to worry about the psychology of your own units you will be paying a lot of attention to the enemy's psychology because that's crucial to victory. Never forget to take a fear test or your troops lose any advantage they have. Third, magic is your bread and butter, your meat and drink, your
bolter crossbow and chainsword hammer. You are going to be heavily reliant on magic to replenish your units and get the most advantageous fights. If you're not utterly dominating the magic phase, you're doing it wrong. There are other things to remember as well, but we'll get to them as they crop up.
As of the most recent edition of the Vampires rule book they are now less likely to fall apart after a bad magic phase or the loss of a general. The magic is also somewhat less stupidly powerful (Invocation spam anyone?) with the changed lore attribute, although the individual spells themselves received a buff. Several units are better balanced (points-wise) and some received slight buffs to their stat-lines. They, as an army, have been made more consistent on the table and less reliant on magic and generals. They are still one of the kings of tar pitting and Vampires are still one of the top combat heroes in the entire game.
As for looks and lore? Lots of ranked corpses slowly marching toward your opponent as his terrified troops struggle to fire more bullets and arrows at the hordes in a vain hope of stopping the endless tide. Shrieking spirits of the damned whirling about the battlefield consuming the warm flesh of living and adding their poor souls to their ranks. Nigh unstoppable undead beings with nightmares of feasting and world conquest, supernatural witches and tainted beings, and insane power mad mages commanding the powers of hell to do their bidding as they charge into the fray behind their minions. Absolute independence from the Ruinous Powers. If this appeals to you, you are looking at the right army. Even in small games you will be fielding dozens of zombies and skeletons as well as some more exotic dead and undead creatures; few armies can field such numbers of fodder and only one other can field fodder that is so reluctant to stay dead. Get your brush hand ready and get comfortable as you are going to need a lot of models to field these hordes.
 Unit Analysis
 Lords & Heroes
Before even glancing at this section, it must be understood that:
1) Your army general must be a Wizard in the Lore of Vampires on top of being the option with the highest LD (meaning only Vampires or Necromancers, either Lord or Hero, can be used) and that the turn they die every Undead unit in the army (with the exception of those with the Vampiric special rule) takes a LD test with a failure resulting in losing Wounds equal to the amount it failed by as if the unit suffered shooting damage. Any Wizard in the Lore of Vampires can take over as general from the next turn onwards or this continues until your army is just dust and bats.
2) Your Undead options must be within range of the General in order to march.
3) The Lore of Vampires restores 1 Wound to the model of your choice within 12" from the Curse of Undeath lore attribute. The signature spell, Invocation of Nehek, will in almost any list you make be cast every single turn due to the fact that it resurrects D6 Wounds to the unit of your choice (resurrecting them if dead (with the exception of Vampiric, Ethereal, or Large Target which only get 1 Wound restored). If you pump more dice into it, you can make it into a bubble resurrecting a large chunk of your army. The most important thing to note however is that Necromancers in your army can take Master of Undead, and Vampires can take the Summon Creatures of the Night upgrade. These two abilities allow them to bring MORE models into the army than you began with (MoU on Skeletons. SCotN on Dire Wolves, Bat Swarms, and Fell Bats). You can also gain 2D6+3 Zombies or 2D6+3 Skeletons for a higher cast score as a new unit by casting Raise Dead.
What these three things means together is Lore of Vampires is good, and you do best with more casters in it.
 Named Characters
Note: Under the current edition, named characters tend to be overpriced; you can emulate most named characters from scratch and save yourself some points. That said, many named characters do have abilities and war gear combos unique to them so if you need to have them go ahead. Just make sure you're really getting your points worth.
The man that started it all. Look at this monster. Five S5 attacks, each at +1 Strength from his sword with any resolved at 4+ restoring one of his three Wounds. His magic ring grants him a 4+ Ward Save with the bonus that he also has a 30% chance to come back to life the turn he dies, coming back anywhere in 12" with friendlies that you want him. Weapon Skill 7, and Toughness 5 on foot. Always Strikes First if he's in the same unit as his wife, also Frenzy and Hatred if she dies (which is likely before he does). Comes with Beguile (which has a chance to cause the model of his choice in base tontact with him to have to reroll successful To Hit rolls that turn), Aura of Dark Majesty (all enemy units within 6" of him have -1LD which stacks), Supernatural Horror (causes Terror), Heavy Armor, and is a level 3 Wizard with Lore of Vampires. All of this justifies his points cost.
You want to field him, but most people never will. Why? Because he's 495 points. As strong as he is, that is your entire Lord budget in an otherwise balanced 2000 point army, and below 2500 you most likely you don't have that kind of room for just one model. For the points, you could load a normal Vampire Lord up on a fucking Undead Dragon and have still points left over to spend on powers. That being said, at the 2500 point level and above (ESPECIALLY above 3500) he's fucking amazing. NEVER take him without Isabella however, as he's not worth his points alone. If you have your heart set on him for fluff reasons, use his model to represent a regular Vampire Lord.
There are two options for Mannfred, and you may not EVER take both. This is the first, and is a Lord level character. He is an amazingly superb and versatile caster, he is Loremaster in both Lore of Vampires AND Lore of Death giving him 14 spells. He comes with Dark Acolyte (+D3 to Invocation of Nehek), Master of the Black Arts (reroll one dice to determine your Winds of Magic dice), and Summon Creatures of the Night (can use Invocation of Nehek to increase the numbers of the living creatures of the army (Dire Wolves, Bat Swarms, Fell Bats)). His armor grants him 5+ armor, and w more Wounds (for a grand total of 5 Wounds that can be restored to him each spell he manages to cast from the Lore of Vampires). Each unsaved Wound he causes in melee will give him one more dice to cast with and one more to dispel with next Magic Phase. Oh, and Level 4 Wizard so those casting dice are going to go a lot further.
The problem is that for optimum usage he needs to kill stuff, which he isn’t too good at for Vampire Lord since he's kitted out so much for magic. This is the man you want fighting nothing but Goblins and Skaven Slaves if you can possible help it (if you're facing Ogres, you're in for a world of hurt). If you can manage to make kills then this guy will generally rule both magic phases, especially if you're canny and snipe enemy wizards early on with Spirit Leech where you'll almost always have the superior LD.
He's pricy as fuck at 530 points (so you may not take him in games below 2125 points, which being an awkward number in a game usually played in increments of 500 means he's for 2500 point games or above). He's worth it, but once again you're looking at your entire Lord allowance here.
Unlike the other named characters in this army, you can have Mannfred ride a mount. His options are Barded Nightmare, Hellsteed, and Abyssal Terror. Of those choices, only the Barded Nightmare is of any value for the most part and only to put him in a unit of Black Knights or Blood Knights. The other two will make him even more of an artillery and shooting target than he already is.
Oh, you were never going to be playing this game in decent company anyway. He's a level four Loremaster in Lore of Vampires with Master Necromancer (can increase the size of Skeleton units beyond what you started with). Comes with a magic sword that grants him 2 extra attacks, and for each thing he kills in melee he can add a Skeleton or Grave Guard (whatever the unit he's in consists of) to his unit (geared like the rest of his unit). He wears a magic item called Cloak of Mists and Shadows which lets him either turn Ethereal or Fly for each turn, rendering him difficult to kill. He also has a magic staff that lets you know what the magic items within 12" of him are and what models are carrying them as well as giving him +1 to his dispel rolls. He's ideal for filling a lord's' spot at 1500+ point games. If you're playing at that level, you may as well bring Krell to take advantage of their tag team abilities. 350 points? Worth it.
Much more fieldable than his older self and a solid choice since he provides Loremaster in Lore of Vampires, which is what you take him for. He also comes with Dark Acolyte (+D3 to Invocation of Nehek) too. He still gets the sword that gives him extra dice although with lower one point less WS, one point less T, one point less I, one less Attack, and only two Wounds (compared to his older self's 5) he's going to be much more flimsy and MUST be fighting puny hordes to make effective use of it. He does come with Heavy Armor at least. He's also only a Level 2 Wizard.
Since Magic is so important to a Vampire Counts army's success, it's important to note that this version of Mannfred is almost a must if you're planning on taking a fighty Lord but can't afford enough supporting casters to reliably get the spells you'll need out of Lore of the Vampires by rolling. For his 200 point cost as a Hero choice, Loremaster is a steal. Still, if you CAN take multiple spellcasters he's probably not worth it.
Like his Lord self he can be mounted up, on either a Barded Nightmare or Abyssal Terror. This time he should probably be left hiding in a unit unmounted unless you want to hide him in some Black Knights.
Nothing short of psychologically damaging if your opponent happens to bring Monstrous Infantry (to him, not his models). The combo of Hatred against everything, Red Fury (each unsaved Wound he causes with his normal Attacks grant him an additional Attack, and an Attack automatically kills something gives as many bonus attacks as Wounds it burned through), and Sword of Waldenhof (causes 2 Wounds with each Attack and pairs with a Hand Weapon on top of that) means he'll cut 5-6 ogres down...per combat! That being said it's all he really does well while being the uncle of all glass cannons. His stats are on-par with am ordinary Hero level Vampire, and he only has Heavy Armor. He rings in at 160 points.
His insanity is reflected by a special rule called "One Bat Short of a Belfry" which has you roll for his current mental state. At the start of the turn you roll a D6, with a result of 1-3 granting him Stupidity (Immune to Psychology, but has to take a psychology test and failing it means he simply moves forward that turn regardless of what you want him to do) and a result of 4-6 giving him Frenzy.
So be wary of using him... and be aware that Ogre Kingdoms players will die a little inside each time you field him.
Now in 8th has the proper Vampire statline. As it stands, she's not a caster (being only a level 1 Wizard in Lore of Vampires) or a fighter (being that she only has the vanilla Vampire stats and her only equipment is Heavy Armor and a Hand Weapon). Has Beguile (choose a model in base contact, it takes a LD test at -3 and failure makes it reroll To Hit that turn), but without any special combat equipment or abilities what's she going to do with it? Blood Chalice of Bathori (Real subtle naming there GW. Enchanted item that lets her or another Vampire in the same unit as her (almost certainly Vlad or one of their sons) can drink from it to heal a single Wound) is nice since it can stack with Invocation of Nehek to fully heal one of the men in her life.
Of course, there's always the fact that if she kicks it, Vlad goes nuts, with Frenzy and Hatred and whatnot. It's also possible that he'll die first (not as likely) and she will get Frenzy and Hatred, but as previously mentioned she's not really geared for fighting. Neither she or Vlad is really worth it on their own, but they have decent potential if taken together.
To sum Isabella up: she's 175 points, and identical to a vanilla Vampire Hero who kitted out like her costs 124 points. So for 51 points, you get to heal 1 Wound per turn to a Vampire in her unit. Nooooooooot really worth it unless your strategy involves a fighty Vampire, mandatory if you're bringing Vlad. If you want to bring her for fluff reasons just use her model to represent a Vampire.
He's back! Krell is a Wight King with a better statline who gets Heroic Killing Blow (in challenges) if in the same unit as Kemmler (which obviously means he'll always be in the same unit as Kemmler). He has regular Killing Blow otherwise, but the drawback is that he MUST issue a challenge whenever possible. Comes with Armour of the Barrows that grants him a 4+ armour save and also renders any magic weapon that gets through it but doesn't cause a Wound into a normal weapon of it's type for the entire rest of the game. Also has the Black Axe of Krell which gives him 2+ strength in melee, Always Strikes last, D3 Multiple Wounds, and to top it off anything he causes an unsaved Wound to but doesn't kill rolls D6 each turn from that point on with a result higher than it's remaining Wounds causing it to take a Wound. Translation: getting a single lucky hit can finish off most monsters in addition to nasty little death stars like Malekith, Tyrion, Archaon, and so forth. Oh, and having a T5 W4 hero for his meager 205 point cost is very very good. By the way, his model is fucking ace.
 Generic Characters
Note: While named characters are judged against their generic counterparts, generic characters are examined based on their role in your army.
Brilliant stat line, a metric fuckton of upgrade options, and outside of the Chaos Lord is probably the most dangerous generic combat lord in the game (he probably would have been the best since he can kill more models per round compare while the Chaos Lord is better at single combat, but there's the whole problem where your army starts crumbling if he dies unless you're at the point level to take more than one). Naturally, characters are the first place points go in a Vampire Counts army, and this motherfucker will likely soak up as many points as you can give. Properly kitted out they can stand toe to toe with Lords and go on to rampage through Special units all while having excellent magical options. Remember, if your general dies very bad things happen to your army, so whatever you do, keep him in a unit at least until he is in combat: losing a game on turn one from a fucking cannonball is not fun. Mounting these badasses up is not only an option, but depending on your goals may just be the point of taking him. All Vampires are level 1 Wizards in Lore of Vampires, Death, or Shadow and you can upgrade them up to a level 4. Item selection and powers will be covered later. 220 points at base level.
Remember that he doesn't come with jack shit for equipment standard, so browse through all the options when making your list or you'll wind up with an ancient immortal Vampire walking into ranked Halberdiers naked with his bare hands (he'll still kick ass, but do you really want to picture it?)
They can ride Barded Nightmares, Hellsteeds, Abyssal Terrors, Zombie Dragons, or Coven Thrones. The latter two choices are fan-fucking-tastic choices, the rest...meh.
Cheap level 3 Wizard (which can be upgraded to a level 4) in either Lore of Death or Lore of Vampires that can be used to support a a fighty Vampire Lord, or to be the main caster and general should you decide to bring a slew of ordinary Vampires. If you are considering making him your general, that certainly frees points for the other great choices you have, but remember that your army will start crumbling as soon as he dies. If you assign the other Vampires to Lore of Vampires then at least one of them can take over as general (although with such a weakened magic phase you better be planning on bringing the rape train quickly), but if he's the only character you're taking then you're taking a huge fucking risk on your list. Crumbling is still very very bad, even if it is not the game over screen it was on the previous edition. This is obviously a problem with Vampire Lord casters as well, but they can survive melee combat even if they are magic-oriented assuming they are properly kitted. You can place this guy in a bunker of some kind behind your front-lines, but remember that all it might take is a single miscast, bad maneuver, or combat rolls to have your necromancer eating lances/swords/arrows/whatever.
To summarize: he is a very fine choice whether taken as a support caster or as a general, but if you use the latter route, know that a single mistake (or a few bad rolls) can cost you the game.
The Master Necromancer can be mounted on Barded Nightmares, Hellsteeds, Abyssal Terrors, and something Vampires can't ride: Corpse Carts. The main point of this is making a combo out of casting Invocation of Nehek on the Corpse Cart (and as a result the Necromancer, as the spell cannot otherwise target him) which restores D6 Wounds to both him and the Cart as well as activating Vigour Mortis to cause all Undead within 6" of the Corpse Cart to get ASF which is a VERY VERY VERY good thing. They get 100 points of magic items like the Vampire Lord, so you can invest in a touch of survivability or bump up their casting in fun ways.
A Strigoi may not look like much, having a slightly inferior statline to a Vampire Lord for 260 points, not being able to take magical armor, being stuck as a level 1 caster in Lore of Vampires. What it gets for these tradeoffs is Hatred, the ability to reroll ALL failed To Hit rolls instead of just the very first, Poisoned Attacks, Regeneration 5+, as well as the 100 points of Vampire upgrades and 100 points of magic items (sans armor) that Vampire Lords get. It can also be mounted on a Terrorgheist.
It's somewhat mediocre Regeneration may be boosted to a 4+ with the help of a Mortis Engine, and for an insignificant 5 points you could shove a Dragon Bane gem from the Core magic items on him for a 2+ Ward against Flaming Attacks (making it damn near mandatory) so even if the enemy brings flaming attacks or spells you just got a massive boost in protection...except that you really need to watch out with killing blow attacks, as they ignore regeneration saves. Also, Ghoul Kings still have a great Initiative score at 8, meaning it will go first no matter what against most units and characters (other than elves). His Infinite Hatred is comparable to the ASF granted by the Vampire upgrade Quickblood in regards to re-rolls, except he even gets re-rolls on all five of his attacks and you get 30 points to spend on something else (obviously not the caster ones). Oh, and taking Quickblood ANYWAY? Cancels out the ASF that what he's fighting might have (*ahem* elves *cough*) so they won't get rerolls against him, but he will get them against THEM. Let's pause a moment so you can digest the fact that a less effective option in the Lords section will tear elves to shreds. Did you just cum blood? Good. You're on your way to really enjoying this army.
So he's not TERRIBLE, and can be pretty good, but you have to really put some consideration into how you're going to use him (ironic, as in almost all cases he's going to be WAAAGHing into your enemy and thinking mostly about how pissed off he is he's not killing something yet).
Giving him a magic weapon could work, but seeing as he already has 5 poisoned attacks and S5, it's not as much of a boon as you'd think if you're paying to swap his poisoned attacks for extra attacks or strength.
If you keep him on foot and give him a Potion of Strength and Flying Horror then launch him out of his unit over an enemy unit and into a war machine or lone character you get to watch your opponent shit his pants as one of his most important models turns into a ten foot smear of red and giblets with little scraps of metal in the mix.
Another fairly cost-efficient way to field him is taking the Book of Arkhan (Vanhel's Danse Macabre as a bound spell, which grants an extra 8" to move for his unit and re-roll for failed To Hit rolls, ideal for ghouls) and the Dragon Bane gem, as well as taking the Vampire upgrades Red Fury, Beguile, and Flying Horror. This will get his unit straight into combat where they'll tear the shit out of whatever they meet. Only take Dread Knight if you want him stuck against a unit champion or if you're chasing lone models and warmachines-then again, overkill against a unit champion is also pretty okay.
The above set-up would set you back 390 or 400 points, depending whether or not you take Dread Knight and nets you a really versatile character.
No matter how you're planning to use him, just make sure you have a plan for your casters. You're going to need backup to cast Lore of Vampires to prevent army crumbling since this guy is pure killing.
Leadership is almost meaningless to Vampires as they cannot be broken. It is, however, what stops your army from falling apart if/when your general dies. If you have the points, adding a few basic heroes to your list to bump the leadership in a few key units can still be a worthwhile investment for the wounds they prevent when crumbling comes around. Something that can take Lore of Vampires can also take over as general.
Cheaper Vampire Lord and almost identical other than having inferior stats, half the allowance of magic items and Vampire upgrades, and can be a maximum of level 2 Wizard in Death, Shadow, or Vampires. Like the Lord equivalent they don't come with any equipment standard, so if you put all your points in magic don't send them into combat or they're going to get slaughtered. Can be upgraded to BSB, and gets Vampire upgrades regardless of that fact. Can ride Barded Nightmares, Hellsteeds, and Coven Thrones. The last option is great for supporting a killy Lord, or maybe even helping Mannfred get some kills. 105 points. 7 LD.
85 points. Originally a poor choice because it used up a hero slot and wasn't a Vampire, 8th updated rules give Wight Kings a place in your army; right at the front. Pretty much the same statline as a Vampire, with the S and T swapped around and an extra Wound being the notable changes. Can be upgraded to BSB. Can mount up on a Skeletal Steed with barding as an option and take a lance if you want him with Black Knights, otherwise stick him in a unit of Grave Guard with the Banner of the Barrows for an incredibly cheesy unit that will melt all variety of faces. Gets Killing Blow. Can take 50 points worth of magic items if he's NOT the BSB. Oh, and like Krell this guy has a fucking beautiful model. 9 LD, very good at preventing crumbling in his unit.
As above, 8th makes Necromancers more viable (65 points for a level 1 Wizard in Lore of Vampires or Death that that can be bumped up to level 2 is good). Same basic deal as Vampire Lord VS Vampire, look to Master Necromancer as the baseline. Use them to keep your armies at good strength, but don't expect too much from them. You get what you paid for. Necro's are good for supporting large units of infantry with a little extra LD and some magical support if they end up away from the general, and if they're in LoV can take over as general if shit hits the fan. Mount options are Nightmare and Corpse Cart, and with one less Wound the latter is a less effective choice. 7 LD.
60 points. Ethereal, Terror, Undead. Has a special ability called Chill Grasp, allowing it to trade in it's 3 Attacks for one Attack that automatically wounds if it hits. Only S3, T3, and 2 Wounds with a low as fuck 2 Initiative. Can't be upgraded in any way.
Sadly not a great choice. Spirit hosts are cheaper for simple tarpits and the Cairn Wraiths unit from the Rare section are more cost-effective for cavalry/monster killing. Both are also more resistant to magic by virtue of having more wounds. Finally, Wight Kings are better at simply killing normal stuff by virtue of their Killing Blow and awesome (for points) stats. It's possible to use them to nail characters, but chances are good that whatever you're aiming to kill has a magic attack which renders the Cairn Wraith's only defense moot.
A way to use them (but still not a popular choice) in high points games which can be fairly effective if your opponent fields few magic weapons and/or magic is to take five of them in a unit of something that can be fielded in units of 10 (Ghouls and Skeletons being the popular choices) and attack from the second rank to deny an enemy unit the chance to hit your Ethereal dudes. A quick casting of Invocation, or Raise Dead and having your new troops join their unit can keep the trick going long enough to justify their points.
However, this will set you back 300 points for those Cairn Wraiths and is not recommended unless you plan to use it in either a friendly game (and make it UNfriendly) or when you're absolutely sure what you're up against.
5 LD, don't expect him to prevent anything from crumbling (in fact, he's more susceptible to it truth be told).
95 points. Ethereal , Terror, Undead. Crap stats and two Wounds. Can use Ghostly Howl, which targets an enemy unit and is used in the shooting phase regardless of the shit that normally stops you from shooting (since it's not ACTUALLY shooting, although if you're in close combat you can only target what you're in combat with. The fact that you CAN use it in combat is the only thing keeping the Banshee useful though). 8" range, needs LOS. Roll 2D6+2, for each point you beat the enemy's LD score they take one Wound with no armor saves against it (although they DO count as magic attacks so there's still Ward Saves and immunity to that).
Generally not the best investment for points. Any competitive army will have at least 9 Leadership in important units, most will have 10, so the hysterical woman is unlikely to earn her points back (she will deal on average deal less than 0.5 casualties per turn in those cases). She can take out a low LD unit very quickly however (seeing 40+ Skaven Slaves drop dead bleeding from the ears from one single attack can be fucking hilarious). As a result, she's best used to obliterate anvils and let you wash over everything that was supposed to flank charge you.
Useless in melee. The range of the shriek is small enough that a non-engaged unit (especially cavalry, against whom the shriek would in theory be more useful) will be able to just charge you unless you do some fancy maneuvering, which is hard without the general nearby.
If you want her, she's best used in the anvil to deal some casualties across the entire enemy unit each turn without having to roll for spells.
5 LD, just as bad as the Cairn Wraith.
The Black Knights basic mount, ignores terrain as they are treated as Ethereal for movement and does not get the -1M for barding if you take it. Think about that for a moment, you can charge units on the other side of buildings if you can see them. Never take a dangerous terrain test with these guys again!
Simple undead horse, best in a squad of Blood Knights (although also possible, not as useful with Dire Wolves which are a different unit type so the rider would not get "Look Out Sir" against cannons and such which is bad). Never ever put with Black Knights unless there's no terrain, as they'll lose their Ethereal movement. Ordinary in all regards. other then being S4 WS3 horses.
A flying Barded Nightmare, and overall a better horse. Not too expensive and still a great investment if you like running with Fell Bats or other silliness. Still, if used right it can be a scary model that's great for picking off warmachines or other small units, since arrows don't tend to have the killing power needed for a Vampire.
Not great by any standard of a monster. Can be given Poison Attacks or Armour Piercing, has Thunderstomp (which doesn't get the upgrade abilities sadly). Fairly cheap and it flies so it's not exactly bad, but it's just beaten out by the next two usually. Note that GW no longer sells a model of it (since it looked like a tusked pterodactyl fucked a dragon, it's not hard to see why) so if you do bring one you'll have to proxy or hit eBay. It might be on it's way out for 9th edition, seeing as how it didn't even get artwork in the 8e rulebook.
Hot motherfucking damn (also damnably hot if you know what I mean), this thing has a good number of abilities. The Battle of Wills is a fun way to mess with your opponent as before anything rolls To Hit against it or whoever is riding it in melee OR shooting, they roll a D6 and add it to their LD (unless something doesn't have to roll To Hit anyway), then the Coven Throne rolls LD plus D6. You subtract the enemy's LD from the Coven's and the result is the effect caused. 0 or less means nothing happens. 1-2 and the enemy fights at -1WS and -1BS. 3-5 and they reroll To Hits that succeed. 6 or more, the unit TURNS ON ITSELF causing one melee attack per model against the whole unit, with War Machine crews taking one S3 hit for each crewman left against their Toughness and whatever is affected doesn't get to shoot or attack in any other way this turn.
Now stop and read that again. Now walk through me on this: a Dwarf cannon team wants to shoot your Vampire Lord who is ripping through Hammerers like Space Marine Chainswords through sleepy Tau toddlers. That cannon team loads and aims, but they get so horny from the sight of two handmaidens of your Vamp tearing out their kinsmen's throats and spilling blood down their cleavage that they have spontaneous heart attacks on the spot. No more cannon. The next turn the surviving Hammerers, frustrated by their inability to get through their armor and start fapping, turn on each other like Orks. Your Vampire Lord cuts the remaining ones down, then leans back and gets a double handjob lubricated by Dorf blood as his/her throne carried by ghosts (now with those same Dwarves amongst them) glides into the flank of some Longbeards.
Oh yeah. Vampire Counts my friend.
Not only that, but you also get 2D6 attacks from the ghosts hauling this thing around, the ghost horses grant it Ethereal movement so there's no troubles from terrain, a 5+ Armor Save, a 4+ Ward Save, four S5 ASF attacks from the Handmaidens, D6 S5 impact hits, and it has one of the most glorious models Games Workshop ever released. Chances are good if you're an 8th baby, this is what brought you into the army.
It costs almost as much as the Zombie Dragon at 230 points, but is well worth it for the sheer destruction it can wreak on anything short of ranked Ogres.
Exactly what you think it is. It's got beefy stats, can be healed massively thanks to lore attribute plus Invocation, his Pestilential Breath attack causes -3 to armour as well as causing a S2 hit and it adds that extra "fuck you" to Ogres in the form of terror. Has Swarm of Flies (ew!) which causes -1 to To Hit rolls in melee.
A great time if your Vampire has the same stat line as the mount its on. Can really wreck heavy cavalries day as well as rank and file, though it will die to massive amounts of S4 or Killing Blow. Still a wonderful kick ass model and is our only dragon.
Like most fun things, it's a magnet for artillery and mass shooting.
If you took a Vampire Lord, chances are good your eyes got to the Mounts and you started considering this and the Coven Throne. To help with the decision, consider it like this: when you use the Undead Dragon, you're ramming your opponent right in the ass with a rotting dragon cock baring ravenous fangs inside the tip. When you take the Coven Throne, whoever is riding it is going to take the opponent from the front while your fighty Lord spitroasts them from behind.
 Core Units
Zombies are pathetic. They are a bloody joke. They couldn't kill a sickly blind crippled mentally disabled orphaned Skaven Slave in a fair fight.
It has M4, WS1, S3, T3, 1I, and fucking 2 LD. It is literally so bad, that decreasing it's stats would only worsen it in the abstract.
So why in Nagash's name would you ever consider paying GW $1.75 per fucking useless piece of shit? Well, considering how crap those models look you shouldn't. But the reason you take them on the tabletop is this: they are only three points. At 2500 points, making your entire minimum core requirement out of Zombies would consist of no less than 209 models on the table. They also INCREASE IN NUMBER BEYOND THAT RAPIDLY as you cast Invocation of Nehek. In addition, the Vampire Counts magic phase is full of buffs, get yourself some rerolls and that Zombie unit can hold a bit longer. Thanks to the The Newly Dead rule, they recover an extra D6 Wounds worth of models per casting of Invocation (meaning D6 Zombies) and can increase their unit size beyond what you started the game with; this means you can, with luck, turn a 20-strong horde into a 60-strong horde in just 2 turns of magic.
You might think to use them as a god tier tar pit but combat resolution screws Vampire Counts badly...so why take them? The answer is simply that they are very easy to raise back up and are cheap as chips. For that measly 3 points a model (giving you a total 70 points for a 20-strong horde plus standard bearer and musician for ten extra) you get a cheap caster bunker that has a very small chance of being killed unless its charged. In addition, remember to keep a few models off the table since assuming you have Raise Dead because you'll be summoning a lot of these buggers for various reasons. They are incredibly versatile and fully expendable road block/charge redirecter, and for shits and giggles you can raise them behind enemy front line to charge small chaff units like lone casters, archers, or warmachines.
More durable than Zombies,a pinch better at killing and less likely to crumble.
Cost five points a model. Should only be taken in large units to maximize the usefulness of Invocation of Nehek.
Skellies are good but the Zombie tar pit way better than any unit in the army for the role. One kitted out Chaos Lord, heavy (or ranked Elven) cavalry unit, enemy fighty Vampire Lords, a lucky spell you can't dispel, and so forth will run through this unit like a minor speed bump unless you're fielding a block of 40-50 (fully upgraded that'll run 215-265 points). You won't be recovering wounds fast enough to cancel out what your opponent kills off if they're running offensively along with the fact that unless you take the Master of the Dead upgrade (Necromancers only) you can't push them past their starting size.
On Skeleton Warriors (and infantry), Invocation of Nehek only heals back D6 Wounds+caster level (compared to the 2D6+caster level that Zombies get).
That being said, Skeleton Warriors are by no means bad. They come with Shields and Light Armor. For no extra cost they can take Spears which allow them to attack in two ranks, although they lose the shield to do it which is a questionable tradeoff since Skeleton Warrior attacks are only insignificantly better than Zombie ones.
Unlike Zombies, Skeleton Warriors can take 25 points worth of magic standard. A good option is a horde carrying Screaming Banner (enemy units taking Fear tests in combat with the unit carrying the banner roll an extra dice and discard the lower one) marching with a Vampire who has the Supernatural Horror (causes Terror) and Fear Incarnate (enemies that pass their Fear test must reroll it, or cancels out their Stand Your Ground from their BSB). In this way you get a caster bunker that can push the enemies back across the field.
You can also take Banner of Eternal Flame to push your horde up against cavalry, monsters, and regenerators.
So, summary time: take Zombies if you have no idea what you're facing as the general better option when push comes to crunch. If you end up matched up against enemies that can kill a fuckload per turn, Zombies are better since killy and elite armies will cleave through both with the same effort and chances are good that neither Skellies or Zombies will be able to get through their defenses with much efficiency; in this case the only advantage to be had is more bodies. Against medium armies and hordes, Skeletons will probably outnumber the enemy and match them in durability, along with having the potential to be Fear-causing machines (very useful against hordes in a horde-oriented edition).
If you need something with some staying power and want to push back a little harder, Skeleton Warriors.
The most expensive core option available at 10 points. 3 WS, compared to the 2 WS of Skellies and 1 WS of Zombies. Toughness of 4, exceeding both other options by one point. Highest (still terrible) Initiative of 3. Two Attacks per Ghoul, and the highest Leadership score of the core options at 5 (meaning Ghouls have a low chance to crumble in comparison to Zombies which can all vanish off the board with their 2 LD). Poison Attacks are default, but Ghouls cannot have a musician or standard bearer.
To put it in simpler terms, Ghouls eschew the protection of Light Armor and Shield that Skeleton Warriors have and the cheapness/rez-ability of Zombies for automatic wounds on a roll of six and double the number of attacks per turn, which means of your three standard core units they're the ones most likely by far to get kills. They tie with Skeleton Warriors as most bang for your buck in any role other than "You can't kill us all! Our Master (Vampire) will avenge us!".
Both are good, and the tie breaker depends on what you want out of your army; Skeletons are more durable and can take magic standards, while Ghouls have double the attacks, are less likely to die with your general, and have poison. Take them in a horde for a wall of attacks that your enemy will devote ridiculous amounts of firepower to take down before they can get into combat.
It's worth noting that there is no upgrade to allow you to bring more Ghouls than you started with. What you start with is what you get, making it the least appealing core choice in that regard.
In 8th edition they count towards your minimum core requirements, meaning they are now a very fast moving alternative to the other core choices. They ring in at 8 points per model, with a cavalry-speed Movement of 9 (compared to the M4 of the rest of the core). They have a LD of only 3, meaning they'll crumble as fast as Skeleton Warriors. They have one point higher WS and I so combat will have more kills, but otherwise share a stat line with Skeleton Warriors. They have the Slavering Charge (+1S on the charge) and Vanguard (after both armies deploy everything, but before the first turn, they may deploy 12" from the starting zone anywhere that isn't nearby a foe). As a unit of the War Beast type, they also come with Swiftstride which allows them to (if their unit ALL has Swiftstride, it's an all or nothing rule) roll a 3D6 and discard the lowest number than add the resulting sum to their M score while on the charge, while fleeing, or while pursuing.
As with most units of this type, use them for flanking if you want them. Their high movement speed and head start in the game means they can rip into an enemy's warmachines before their troops have come into range of anything, and they can get almost anywhere on the map in a hurry. Due to having Swiftstride and M9 it is possible to charge from a very long range meaning most shooters need 6s to hit, and in addition to this they gain +1S on that charge making them very good at dealing with small units of archers. However, any large unit of Dire Wolves will be shot down pretty instantly any other time due to a mere T3 and no saves. The instant they stray too far away from the army they can no longer use their march move either. They are actually best used in several small units of 5 as redirectors, helping your infantry blocks to get into combat on their own terms.
Literally think of them as hunting dogs. They begin way ahead of their master sniffing out foes. You can either unleash them and follow them as fast as you can, or bring them back to follow the master until he sees fit to send them to herd the enemy where he wants to move in for the kill.
In a full cavalry lists, a full core of Dire Wolves is quite possible. They aren't by any means terrible, being a tiny bit better killers and otherwise the same as skeletons for 3 points more. If you plan on taking any large number however, your Lore of Vampires Invocation spammer(s) must be a Vampire of some level with Summon Creatures of the Night, which will allow you to summon more than you began with and thus treat them properly as one would Skeletons or Zombies. In such a list they'll take the place of tarpit and anvil, doing it near the enemy's start zone. Nothing funnier than seeing an entire Dwarf army toddle off the board in fear with minimal casualties suffered.
 Special Units
Best used for its passive abilities. Don't make the mistake of thinking it's capable of holding its own in combat. Can be ridden by Necromancers.
- Alternative Opinion: Its passive bonuses are probably limited given how much dice are generally chucked after spells. If you can bear its slowness and is able to hit it consistently with augments then the ASF ability is a huge asset against High Elves and low-initiative armies
EDIT# the Bale-fire upgrade is a big advantage over the duration of a game as it will force the opposition to burn additional power dice each turn.
DOUBLE EDIT# the lodestone upgrade is also nice, regardless of how many points you're playing with, as long as you're running big on hordes.
You didn't think we were kidding when we told you to get comfortable? We also weren't kidding you'd bee needing to drybrush a whole lot of models.
Besides, imagine your opponent's face when your big unit of graveguard he just worked so hard to damage for 9 or 10 wounds, and all of a sudden you decide to re-roll a 1 on the invocation you cast?
Yeah, roll a 5 or 6 and all of a sudden and you're up 6 to 10 models depending on your wizard level- Not gamebreaking, but potentially very handy at the cost of only 10 zombies.
Now an infamous staple in VC armies along with their mounted counterparts, Grave Guard are essentially stronger, tougher and generally better skeletons. They don't pack it in as easily as regular skeletons due to having better armour, higher Ld/T/S and as nifty little bonus, have killing blow! Stuff a Wight King into this unit and take them in hordes. Great weapon is the more powerful and popular points, but Sword'n'Board Grave Guard are still powerful and can serve as a very respectable anvil/points denial unit. The latter choice is also slightly cheaper and benefits more from a corpse cart, if you take one.
One of two heavy cavalry units in the army and the Grave Guard's mounted counterparts, as previously mentioned. DAMN good unit capable of moving over terrain like it wasn't even there and letting loose with a flurry of S4 (or higher, depending on weapon choice) killing blow attacks. All while possibly having a 2+ armor save. Delicious.
New for 8th edition, weaker black knights with great weapons and an interesting advantage: they're ethereal! They will attract a TON of magic during your opponents turn and don't have any protection against that, so beware. Otherwise, they work exactly like Screamers of Tzeentch, allowing you to zig-zag them through unengaged units dishing out S5 flaming, magical attacks that ignore armour saves per hexwraith. Best used to ruin an expensive (preferably slow) unit's day. Just remember that in order for them to march you'll need your general nearby, so be careful with enemy reserves if you send them on their own: they'll likely die from combat resolution unless supported.
Competes with Empire Outriders and Swordmasters for the title of premier glass cannons, these guys packs considerable punch at break-neck speed. They can hunt war machines if they must, but work better hitting flanks or hunting enemy support troops. Don’t ever think they'll last against even mediocre infantry unsupported though. Love them, and they will give you love in return, in the form of a raging opponent.
Be carefull, though, because they are flyers, they're also skirmishers, keep this in mind when you send them out into the juicy flanks as they cannot disrupt enemy units. They might not gain rank bonuses during combat, sending them headlong into a unit while flanking them with a 10 strong unit of black knights can mess up and disrupt any unit's day.
In either the flank or in the front, these babies are a force to be reckoned with and will RIP AND TEAR through nearly anything.
The other monstrous infantry unit, little more than super ghouls. Like ghouls, they have poisoned attacks, but also regeneration 5+. This unit is an anvil, pure and simple, but crumbling and a limited offensive capability does force you to take units of at least 6. A unit of 18 in a horde does have good punch however and is very hard to get rid of, but will be expensive for a unit that ultimately works best in a points denial role. Work best with a mortis engine, if the thing doesn't get blown up (or, more often, blows itself up).
The joke. They will be torn apart by crappy archers with S3 stick-shooters who may well be less expensive than the bats are. They cannot fly, only hover, so they will an extra turn (or more, depending on your general's movements) time getting there comparing to the Fell Bats too. If you do manage to get them into melee, then you will suffer the embarrassment of having your war-machine hunters die to a fat dwarf hitting them with a rock, unless you spend more points in them, in which case you are spending too many points. Avoid. If you send them off to hunt war machines then you're doing it wrong, and deserve to lose the unit. Bat Swarms are best used to support your close quarter combats due to their Cloud of Horror rule which gives Always Strikes Last to opposing units in base contact. Having a low initiative doesn't look so bad when you can force ASL on your opponents, and it will even mess up High Elves (or at least take away their re-rolls) since they only ignore ASL from their weapons since 8th edition update on high elves, their ASF is cancelled by great weapons, but since no 2 special rules stack makes it unnecessary versus those troops, unless you're facing other ASF troops. In addition, the hover-vs-fly thing isn't that huge of a drawback anyway, as the hover move (10") is more than enough to keep up with the rest of your infantry (4"/8"), and they wouldn't be able to get the full fly move anyway if they are outside of your general's march bubble.
EDIT# occasionally useful in conjunction with great weapons equipped grave guard
A better choice than Bat Swarms for war machine hunting. Compared to Bat Swarms for similar points, you lose two attacks but upgrade to strength 3, and, more importantly, go up to toughness 3 and gain fly (which is only a benefit if you're inside your general's march bubble). This means they are much more likely to reach their targets without dying to ranged fire (unless your opponent spends too much resources on them, which works to your advantage) or giving the enemy enough time to intercept them. They are also more likely to survive the following melee. Remember that due to how shooting works, you are usually better off getting a few small units rather a singly larger one, and then direct them to a single target if needed.
Ah, the spirit host. These guys are extremely cost-effective monster and cavalry tarpits (just make sure whatever you are facing does not have magic attacks: trying to attack Chaos Knights or Skullcrushers will not end well). They are best used to dissuade a flank charge than to actively hunt their targets, otherwise they may get too exposed to infantry (their bane) or outmaneuvered (their movement is good, but where they are going they will likely not be in the general's range). That said, don't mind losing a unit to magic or infantry if you have to: after all, they cost less than 50 points. Why give a damn?
 Rare Units
There are a lot things to remember about the Blood Knights: EVIL BRETONNIANS ON STEROIDS! They are as expensive as a Baneblade to purchase(and have a similar effect on enemy tactics), and they are one of the top heavy cavalry units in Warhammer Fantasy. Chaos Knights may have more longevity in prolonged fights and Grail Knights might be better at the charge, but blood knights are far more versatile than either.The Flag of Blood Keep gives them a +4 ward save against any ranged attacks that can get through their 2+ base armor save, and you don't even need to keep them in range of the general to get a March off. Having recently had their points cost lowered and their initiative raised, they are a fantastically lethal addition to an army of any size. It's still a good idea to keep a loaded-up barded vampire lord within the unit anyways, the unit is frenzied and gets some sweet ass upgrades if the vampire joins as well, and the lord serves as a medic whenever he casts invocation he can regain the vampire and the horse he rode in on. Be careful with them though, there are still units (Mournfang Cavalry for example) that will ruin their days.
- Tricks to Consider:
- 4-man unit with flaming banner makes a fantastic monster hunter, which will reliably take down even Hydras, sphinxes and hellpits on the charge.
- Add a Vampire on hellsteed with MR2 trinket to a unit with Flag of Blood Keep for a unit with 2+ ward against magic damage and a warmachine/wizard hunter which will be extremely hard to neutralise before you unleash him.
- Modeling note: If you are ok with conversions, don't buy their kit. No, really. You do don't want to spend 99$/61.50£/80€ for 5 guys. Buy a box of Bretonnian Knights Errant, High Elf Dragon Princes, or Chaos Knights and go wild with your imagination.
An extremely expensive chariot. If you take a vampire lord with the Master of the Dark Arts, you will get on average 1.5 abilities per turn (only 1 otherwise, so best taken in a magic-focused army). That means that unless you do something really stupid to get charged by turn 2, for 200 points you will have 5 attacks at S5/6 with killing blow, plus impact hits. With T6, 3+ armor and 4+ ward (and ethereal later on) and its decent offensive potential, this bad boy is unlikely to suffer significant damage unless you do something really, really idiotic like charging ranked Tzeentch warriors, while light damage can easily be healed. It takes more time to be effective than the Terrorgheist (who takes the same roles: small, expensive unit/monster hunter), but at the same time it won't die to peasant bowmen with flaming arrows: it will take on average 3(!) direct hits with cannons to take it down, and only if you don't heal it in the meantime.
- Don't leave home without them if you're playing Storm of Magic. All those extra spell dice means they'll be picking up abilities faster, and there is even a decent chance (not highly probable, but still decent) that they could reach full power in a single turn. Enjoy.
Not everyone likes them, but they remain one of our best choices especially owing to the fact that it is our most flexible unit. The nature of its scream makes it best suited to hunting monsters and lone characters as well as heavy cavalry. Its Thunderstomp also allows it to support (key word here: they will die to enough S3 attacks + combat resolution) combat against enemy infantry. It can actually do a pretty credible job at most tasks. Its weakness however is that its scream isn't terrible reliable especially since it requires close support from the General as well as continual healing to get the most from its abilities. This combined with their relative vulnerability in CC and their huge base size means they are tricky to actually move about. A specialist glass-canon(ish) if you feel like taking one.
The vargheist's frenzon-addicted big brother. Sadly, not a better choice. For the same points the vargheists will get more easily into combat due to fly, deal more damage except against WS 4 enemies and, by virtue of numbers, are more resistant to damage (that is, it's harder to kill ALL of them, even considering the Varghulf's regeneration), and since lore of the vampires will easily heal any unit that isn't completely dead... well, you get the picture. The Varghulf is not a bad choice by any means, especially considering he lacks frenzy, so he won't jump into combat you don't want him to. He is simply not as good and, worse, steals points from your rare allowance.
EDIT# the big thing for the Vargulf is hatred, causing terror and THUNDERSTOMP. This means that he gets 5 S5 re-rollable attacks at 3+ against most troops (if they pass the terror and fear test)then if they don't kill it it gets another D6 S5 hits.
At first glance, this seems like the ultimate support unit, especially with the blasphemous tome upgrade and in support of ghouls. Then you notice that it is a chariot. With T5 and only a 5+ armor save/6+ regen (actually 4+ as the unit has regen of its own), it will eat spells or high damage ranged attacks from turn 1, exploding and dealing damage to all your units. The only reliable way to take one would be to make an army lead by a lone character with as many monsters and chariots as you can, to spread enemy fire to those other targets. Of course, one would question the viability of the army itself in that case...
- EDIT This thing is a 5W T5 terror causing regeneration bubbled fire magnet that moves just as fast as the rest of the army and has a shooting attack(short ranged tho). It will be targeted from turn 1 but unless they really pour it on it will not die fast, even a direct hit from a cannon is not likely to kill it outright. Tho a 3D6 fireball can.
- EDIT Imagine this thing in a pair along a unit of grave guards, since the reliquary stacks, they now have regeneration 5+.
Add a hero with an obsidian lodestone for Magic resistance 3 and you have a 2+ ward vs all magic other than flaming attacks on the entire unit. A matter of preference, but a fairly effective one at that. [It's actually not very effective at all since magic resistance does not stack along with regeneration. You would only get a 5+ regen OR 4+ ward save against spells]
- Alternate Opinion: There is exactly one use for a Mortis Engine. That is to dominate the magic phase. If you like Level 4 Wizards, and you like having them cast spells from Lore of the Vampires at +2, then you will like the Mortis Engine. Yes, the miscast table is nasty. Yes, you probably should have an MR3 caddy in the same unit as your Lord at the very least. But this is the cost you pay for a psychological and numerical advantage over your opponent.
The key to the Mortis Engine is in the placement: for the first two turns, you want to keep it in the back, away from incoming projectiles, providing a Regeneration bubble and that sweet +2 bonus for your Caster bunker. By turn 3, battle will be on in earnest, and its AoE of constant damage plus the banshee scream won't be decisive, but it will inflict wounds, give you a small boost to the survival of your rank and file undead (especially crypt ghouls, who become 16% more survivable with the save. It's not much, but every ghoul that makes the save is a ghoul you don't have to bring back with Invocation next turn), and most importantly, it will boost all of your casters with spells from Lore of the Vampires. My experience is that you need a Loremaster and at least two other caster characters to take full advantage of what this thing can offer. Combined with a Balefire corpse cart, you'll be casting spells at a +2 and your enemy will be at a -1 to counter them. Even assuming something unpleasant like Arkhan or Teclis on the other side of the field with +5 to their dispel, you have a marginal advantage numerically if you have your own Level 4 caster. If you're casting spells from Lore of the Vampires, you can also keep its Wound count topped off by healing it. A 5+ armor save and a 4+ regen save means that there's about a 50-80% chance its saves will catch incoming wounds that don't negate them. As always, watch out for Flaming attacks and be sure to dispel Fireballs and the like, which ought to be a no-brainer. If you're unopposed in the Magic Phase and have a Blasphemous Tome roiding up your mages, prepare to curbstomp your opponent. In case it's not obvious... This means you want to hunt down your opponent's mages first and put their heads on spikes.
In an emergency, don't be afraid to charge the Mortis Engine into an enemy's flank. It's not difficult to maneuver it with Dance Macabre, and it IS a chariot. Ghostly Howl plus Impact Hits and the Spirit Horde isn't the greatest offense ever, but it might be enough to turn a combat to your favor when the chips are down. If it looks like it's about to explode, have all your units get away from the blast radius if possible. Danse Macabre is handy for this (and ironically will be able to receive the boost to casting). Do try to keep it alive as long as possible, though: if it survives for the whole game, The Reliquary's AoE + Ghostly Howl is great for whittling down characters, monsters, and small units if the game is still close as it draws to an end.
Also, in case you missed it: The entire point of this thing is to be a DISTRACTION CARNIFEX. It's not a tank, for fuck's sake. Don't charge it out in front of your guys and expect it to last very long. Set it in the back of your formation and make your enemy work to outmaneuver you so that they can attack it. Make it dictate how they approach you. Have answers ready to the question 'What will I do if my enemy outflanks my formation just to go for my Mortis Engine?' preferably in the form of cavalry, vargheists, heroes, et cetera. Remember: every shot they direct at your Mortis engine is a shot that they aren't directing at your real damage-dealers (casters, flanking units, etc). I usually sit mine next to my Corpse Cart and they both survive just fine (and are a useful flank charge to have in reserve if things go south).
The expensive, damage-dealing alternative to the spirit hosts. They will still die to ranked infantry but, unlike the spirit hosts who function as a tarpit, these guys function as killers. 9 attacks at S5 or 3 attacks that ignore armor will put the hurt in whatever they strike. Sadly, they take rare choice points and unlike the spirit hosts you can't afford to just let them get killed by magic. It's usually better to pin enemies with spirit hosts and then flank later with another unit so, in essence, the Cairn Wraiths are to the Spirit Hosts as the Varghulfs are to the Vargheists. Oh, and never, ever upgrade one to a tomb banshee. The damage it deals to any significant target is terrible (most armies can easily have at least an L9 bubble in all important troops, and the others you can kill in melee) and it's weaker in close quarters.
EDIT# Wraiths are great weapon team hunters and can tie up a lot of troops by just being in charge range, use terrain to keep them from being charged and force a unit to either keep facing them or risk being flank/rear charged but 15 S5 attack from terror causing troops that they can not attack back.
 Building Your Army
 Army Composition
Although 7e removed the previous Bloodline traits, they managed to survive in the way that you can kit out Vampire Lords and Vampires with Vampire upgrades that reflect the various attitudes of the families. Invoking a Bloodline army is mainly for fluff, although the army choices reflecting the Bloodlines are still thankfully complimentary of each other. Fluffwise this was explained in Ulrika the Vampire by saying that when Vamps fuck, they tend to bite and share blood which makes Bloodlines act like each other combined with the fact that as time goes on the younger recruit Vamps have much more in common than their former kinsmen than their Bloodline progenitor that they'll probably never meet face to face. Taking a specific Bloodline rather than just picking and choosing arbitrarily can simplify your listbuilding process if you're unsure, can make the game a bit more fun if you enjoy the fluff, and can earn you a bit of respect from your fellow players as someone into the army rather than just into the strength tier of the army.
Lahmians are the first of the Bloodlines. Mostly (but not entirely) consist of female vampires, they organize into a network of spies from all races and nations of the world controlling as much as they can from behind the scenes. Most Bloodlines dream of world domination; the Lahmians are already there, and they plan to keep it that way. They all answer to Neferata, who is essentially a bisexual Cleopatra. Their army mainly consists of things they can hide or summon from anywhere due to them keeping appearances as civilians in various professions and social levels, meaning you stock up on ghosts, dogs, bats, and skeletons. Centerpieces should be the Black Coach and the Coven Throne. The vamps themselves are mostly magic-heavy. Although the higher ranking Lahmians are usually witty chickenshits and very hedonistically evil (Tzeentch and Slaanesh have a baby, it's a Lahmian basically), they incorporate anyone useful into their Bloodline resulting in younger members who are more neutral as civilian merchants/merchant wives looking to increase their family/nations strength and influence, or even some that have been convinced that they can do more good as a Vampire than as a mortal.
Blood Dragons are the martial Bloodline. Founded by one of the biggest badasses in either Warhammer universe, the Blood Dragons are made up of mounted Vampire Lords and Vampires, Blood Knights, Black Knights, and whatever you want to use in your Core. These guys ride around looking for challenges to their manliness, drinking the blood of what they kill. If the fight is worthy enough, they're cured of the negative aspects of vampirism (blood thirst, weakness to sunlight, running water, and so forth). Their numbers are increasing and nobody knows if their leader has plans of conquest, taking his place as Khorne's superior, or whatever else may be in plans. Most of them aren't outright evil, just looking for a fight with the biggest guy around. Stay fighty, keep away from Ethereal options or spellcasters (keep your Vamps in the Lore of Vampires and spamming Invocation as a battle cry so they can take over as general however).
Necrarchs are the most magic-heavy Bloodline. As time goes on this Bloodline has become less and less focused since Lahmians took over as the magic spammers, Strigoi were introduced to become the brutes, and Mannfred stole their entire plot. In fact, they work better as the explanation of why your Strigoi brought Necromancers and spellcasting Vamps than a Bloodline to themselves. Despite this they're still fun, and since Nosferatu is STILL the most frightening example of a Vampire the Bloodline that looks like his family to the last is likely to stay. More the mad scientist group than anything else, they're equivalent to the Skaven clans Clane Skyre and Clan Moulder for Vampire Counts. They're neutral with most of the other Bloodlines and provide support as needed to advance their cause. They play behind the scenes, creating abominations of new kinds and mass producing existing types like Zombie Dragons. They differ from Lahmians in that Lahmians are more likely to take Forbidden Lores and be slightly fighty and keep ghosts and skeletons while Necrarchs will spam the default Lores and bring in more physical forms of undead like Zombies, Crypt Ghouls/Horrors, Corpse Carts (for gathering up raw materials!), Necromancers (entry-level Necrarchs), Mortis Engines (which fit their theme PERFECTLY), and Vargheists. They're differentiated from Strigoi by taking spellcasters at all.
Strigoi are a newer Bloodline, introduced in 6e. If you haven't seen the movies 30 Days of Night and The Descent, add that to your "to do" list. Those best exemplify this Bloodline. Vicious killing machines, pitiless and animalistic. Mostly Vampires turned by any Bloodline that gave into the bloodthirst, Strigoi Vampires not only drink blood but also eat meat...metal...they'll chew bones, and even hunt other undead and Vampires as fast as they will human peasants. The Strigoi that can think coherently is rare, but they're even more scary fuckers than their kin. Load up on the Ghouls, the Crypt Horrors, the Vargheists, and everything else with teeth all lead by a Strigoi Ghoul King (duh). Kit out vamps to be fighty. A fully Strigoi list will be dangerously low on spellcasters unless you bring fighty Vamps all on Lore of Vampires spamming Invocation like with Blood Dragons.
Von Carsteins, the army based more on Dracula and his wives. Their characters tend to be parodies of nobility, be they Starscream style plotting bastards, Caligula style insane inbred manchildren, or similar style characters. According to Vlad they're the second oldest Bloodline being descended from Vashanesh, the husband of Neferata and it's possible that he himself is Vashanesh...or that he made it up. Most other Bloodlines treat it as bullshit either way and consider them the nouveau riche Bloodline of children fucking things up (since before they declared war on the Empire and the world Vampires were a threat similar to Skaven in that most humans didn't think they really existed, and knowledge of them was sparse) and being a bunch of little shits (since von Carsteins are very hostile to the other Bloodlines particularly Lahmians and Necrarchs due to seeing them as rivals, and outright manipulative of Strigoi). They're the poster boy army, similar to Ultramarines and the Order of Our Martyred Lady. Generally speaking, the von Carstein army will contain any of the options in the Vampire Counts army at will. They're more defined by what named characters you bring along and what you have more of. Vlad and Isabella early in their war on the Empire will probably bring along skeletons more than anything else, since Sylvania is mostly on their side and they've pilfered the ancient tombs of the land to make their army as well as Black Coaches used by the nobility they've turned into Vampires. They'd pick up things like Zombies and Corpse Carts as time went on and more cities fell to them. Konrad would be more like a Necrarch/Strigoi army, the former as his minions keeping shit going and the latter as his kin more than anything else. Mannfred specifically brought in Vampires and minions directly from other Bloodlines into his forces, although by and far he relied on mass blocks of Zombies and anything he could use to bolster them. As for OCs, anything works. GW sells special bits to customize to look more "von Carstein", but despite them looking kind of neat they don't actually look more "von Carstein" than anything else really.
Sartosa are a new Bloodline from 2008 special models made up of pirates, with their fluff originating in a 2005 issue of White Dwarf. Luthor Harkon was a Vampire of an unknown Bloodline who was shipwrecked in his coffin. Vikings took him aboard thinking it was a floating treasure chest, and he turned them into his zombie crew. He took his crew to Lustria and found a temple filled with gold and a room sealed with magical glyphs. The glyphs were designed to defend against Chaos, and although they didn't kill him they drove him insane and gave him a large number of different personalities. He can no longer use magic, but the strange magic of the gold empowered his undead minions and increased their intelligence greatly to the point that they can use firearms. He has increased the size of his forces to the point that they now populate a large city of the undead off the coast of Lustria which has successfully repelled everything the Lizardmen have sent at him. The exact intelligence and self-sufficiency of his zombies is unknown but apparently the site is now a trading port so it may be that they are a race of quasi-friendly undead now. He trawls shipwrecks to increase their numbers as well, and has a fleet of ships. He also apparently has the most powerful cannon ever designed by the Empire,called "Queen Bess". The way his army is described can't be fielded by the Vampire Counts army book. Rather, they're best fielded as Empire, Dwarfs, or Tomb Kings using Vampire Count models.
There is also a Bloodline of Albion, of which nothing is known as well as various offshoots of the core Bloodlines as vampirism spreads and Bloodline central authority weakens. So yeah, feel free to make a Bloodline if you feel so creative.
The first thing that is apparent in the VC army is just how balls out powerful a Vampire lord can be, the only other generic lords in the game that can go head to head with them and survive with any frequency are Chaos lords. The big draw back with this is the egg/basket problem, you can make the just about unkillable but it will cost you a huge number of points to do so. While tempting as this may be it is tactically unsound. In the current addition of the WHFB and VC rules numbers are more important them individual kill-power, that tricked out lord may win you one fight but if you spend those 400+ points on troops you can have 4 level 2 necromancer wizards raining spells down everywhere or a 60 skeleton hoard with command and a magic banner. With Vampires its about value for points, be it survivability, kill-power or irritation value.
troops, so many troops
Unless you are intentionally fielding a small high value force you will outnumber the other guy. This is because skeletons and zombies are cheap, spam-able and you can end up with more then you started with, if you don't you are doing it wrong. VC troops also tend so suck at killing anything with WS5+ or T4, unless they are ghouls, on the other hand a horde of troops can hold anything that's not packing some serious kill power in place until they have been whittled down to nothing or you bring something bigger to finish the job the bones started. Ghouls on the other hand are your hammer in the core selection, a unit of 20 will pack 16 poison attacks in a 5wide formation, unfortunately they are twice the cost of skeletons making a basic hoard (10x4) over 400 points.
 Buying Your Army
If you don't care about GW run tournaments (or owning ugly miniatures) then go to Mantic you can get 60 zombies for $60 (vs GW's 40 for $70) and 40 skeletons for 45 (vs GW's 40 for 99). Also if you can source some more square bases, each mantic zombie frame is supposed to only make 3 of them, but can easily make 4!
Go for the battalion box set as you are going to need a lot of skeletons, zombies and ghouls. The new battalion box dropped the zombies and replaced them with dire wolves - still a good buy. The army box is also good as it gives you a good selection of heavy hitters in addition to the core. You will want to invest in extra zombies/skeletons/dire wolves/dire bats/fell bats (depending on what you run) beyond what you plan on starting on the table. Several spells/abilities allow you to expand these units beyond their starting size (or flat out create new units), but only if you have the models to support it. This is one of the other great advantages the army, as those extra models are essentially free points. Boost a few units and all of a sudden what started off as a 2000pt game has suddenly turned in to a 2200 v 2000 game.
And burying enemy units in piles of zombies is a lot of fun.
Avoid any of GW's overly-expensive kits for the likes of Blood Knights. Instead, either buy Brettonian knights and adapt them, use Dragon Princes, or, if you're feeling particularly vicious, break open some Dark Eldar bitz and use them for conversion-fodder for damned near any WHFB armored cavalry unit. The angular Dark Eldar armor works especially well when paired with more conventional fare, since it matches the style used by most Vampire Counts units.
 Magic Items
- Skabskath: An odd weapon. While its pretty unlikely you'll die from the end-of-game drawback the fact is that is that you'll be arming your general with a sword that means you'll have to overrun plus you won't be able to afford a ward save. Can be worth it on Strigoi Ghoul King (Curse of the Revenant and Aura of dark Majesty on a Terrorgheist and another careful in support, but be careful
- Nightshroud: Additional Armor your Necromancers can use! Any enemy in base contact with someone wearing a Nightshroud gains the Always Strikes Last rule and loses all bonuses to Strength from normal or magic weapons. Stick it on your Vampire Lord riding a Zombie Dragon and start laughing. A tip for the beardy here. High Elves have no response to this build apart from Death magic... All they can do is pray and throw themselves on your Lord's blade
Extra Cheese combine with quick blood or sword of striking
- Banner of Barrows If you are going to take a unit of more then 15 Grave guard (and why wouldn't you, as 15 GG aren't going to last you more than a round or two of close combat or good shooting) especially if you have a wight king in there, you will want this banner as the +1 to hit makes your relatively low WS (for elite infantry) far more destructive.
- The Screaming Banner If you want to troll take this banner and force 3D6 LD tests (remove the lowest) To any one in combat with the unit, this banner is cheap enough to give to a regular standard bearer. It can turn a unit of sword'n'board skeletons
(hard to move as it is) into an eternal tar-pit of undead at least until the enemy passes that LD test and your skellies become fart dust seeing as a 5+ Armour Save will make you holier than the pope as you're on your knees, praying to god for a good roll.
Extra Cheese Combine with the banner of barrows, wight king and hoard of grave guard for utter carnage as a failed test mean they will be hitting on 2+.
A Little More Cheese Add in a vampire with Fear Incarnate and, in the off-chance they pass their fear test, make them re-roll it.
 Default Lores
The magic Lores that Vampire Counts casters can take by default.
 Lore of Vampires
The Magic Phase of Warhammer Fantasy is basically a glorified game of chicken arbitrated by dice. Approach Lore of the Vampires from this perspective: how can you scare the wits out of your opponent? The short answer: the healing power of your Lore attribute, Invocation of Nehek, the Dance Macabre, and Curse of Years. These three spells are the core of what makes the Vampire Counts terrifying: endeavor to have all three of them available to you, preferably with a redundant Invocation on a vampire or necromancer hero. They're all cheap (low casting values for what they do) and have effects that dictate the flow of the game. Taking a Level 4 Master Necromancer or Named Character loremaster in games where you can't afford a kitted out Vampire Lord is always your best bet. The Magic Phase is where Vampire Counts have a huge advantage: if you want to play the army to its fullest, exploit the shit out of it.
Lore attribute allows you to allocate one healed wound to the caster or a model within 12. For great times cast it late game around your Coven Thrones to keep that rape train running and make your opponent cry as the ladies hit themselves.
- Invocation Of Nehek: The signature spell and the army's bread and butter. The spell that stands up all our terrible infantry to fight another round. Range is determined by the casting value you choose, up to 18 inches. At least 2 casters should have this at all times, no exceptions.
- Vanhel's Dance Macabre: Free march moves all around, wonderful for an otherwise slow army, and giving rerolls to hit. Wonderful since zombies can become terrifying when they hit first (see Corpse Cart) and reroll hits. Ghouls become almost broken when affected the same way.
- This spell can be used to push Hexwraiths across enemy units and trigger more hits from their Spectral Hunters rule. With some good positioning and multiple casters with access to this spell (Mannfred and Kemmler get it auto through loremaster, and it comes in a bound form on the Book of Arkhan) you can yo-yo a unit of hexwraiths back and forth across your opponent's line to devastating effect.
Nope. The Hexwraith's Spectral Hunters ability specifies that it only happens if you do it during the Remaining Moves Subphase. Although you move LIKE you were in the Remaining Moves Subphase, you are not technically moving through them DURING the Remaining Moves Subphase, so this isn't allowed. -- The April 2013 FAQ for Vampire Counts explicitly says that Spectral Hunters works with Danse Macabre, so ignore this guy.
- Alternate Opinion:Say it with me: Movement wins games. The above analysis of the spell is fine, except I don't think it goes far enough. Your army is on par with snails, without this spell. With this spell, you are one of the fastest armies in the game. Your troops are also 100% close combat, so if they're not in combat, you're losing. You want to guarantee that you have this spell in every game, even if it means taking the Book of Arkhan in every. single. game. The rerolls to hit just make this spell even better: the AoE version is cheap, and with a corpse cart or two it can turn your army into an unstoppable murder machine. In big games, two corpse carts and two twenty-strong hordes of crypt ghouls accelerated by a caster with this spell and supported by multiple castings of Invocation will steamroll the opposition. Your opponent will cry when each block of ghouls tosses out 30 ASF poisoned attacks with rerolls to hit, and then the casualties he manages to inflict just get back up and keep killing him. If you manage to get two casters with the AoE version, watch your opponent's face when your army covers 20" in one turn and drink the sweet despair.
- Hellish Vigour: See above only with rerolls to wound. Our base infantry murders everything it touches if we get a magic phase all to ourselves. Put on grave guard for ultra lulz.
- Most players won't let you get both off but even Zombies can chew up units if you manage to stack Vanhel's and Hellish Vigour. Cast on a hoard of Ghouls you can take out most types of troop in huge numbers.
- Alternate Opinion: Expensive for what it does. Unless you've got a Corpse Cart nearby or a huge block of crypt ghouls/grave guard on hand, it's not that great. Dance Macabre is way more effective in almost all situations. It can be useful once in a while, but I personally dislike how situational it is. If you've got a Loremaster with it, fantastic. It'll probably come in handy once in a while. Don't go out of your way to get it, though.
- Gaze of Nagash: Simple magic missile. 2d6 s4. Not huge or game changing but will ruin Beastmen and other light armour only armies. Also useful for picking off lone wizards
- Raise FUCKING Dead: A terrifying spell in which you can raise small squads (2d6 +3) of zombies or skeletons for slightly more. Amazing since it can be cast in combat. Get your main mob of 'bies or 'tons in combat and let the flank charges begin! May not add a whole lot but if you get it on less than fearless units the fear test alone can win the fight. If you roll it keep it, provided you have the models to support.
- Alternate Opinion: Meh. I really want to like this spell. It's definitely amusing: stringing a big line of zombies in front of your opponent's archers or riflemen and watching him grow frustrated as they soak up all of his gunline's fire doesn't get old. But you should already be fielding large amounts of skeletons/zombies, and unless you have no useful applications for literally any other spell in this lore (excepting Wind of Death), there's really no reason you should cast it when you have so many better options. It's okay for tying up warmachines and archers if you don't have Curse of Years or flanking units handy, but that's about it. Don't pick it if Dance Macabre and Curse of Years aren't represented in your spell set.
- Curse of years: A fun spell, not too competitive. but great at making your opponent waste dispel dice. It kills on a 6 when cast and for the following turns it gets a +1 to the roll. With a decent casting value of 12 your level 4 wizard will have no problems casting it. If the enemy values what you cast it at, they'll burn scrolls and dice to keep them from getting old as hell.
- This spell is great for killing off death-star units as it ignores armor and toughness.
- Alternate Opinion: This is one of the best spells in the game if you want to control the magic phase. Everything about it is fantastic: it's fire and forget, you can drop it on a new enemy unit every turn, and the more models your enemy is fielding, the more damage it does. If your opponent can't dispel it when you first cast it (with a level 4 lord and a decent dice investment, he should have problems doing so), he has to waste precious dispel dice during your next magic phase (which means he won't oppose your Invocations, Dance Macabre, or even other castings of this spell). And if he doesn't dispel it, whatever unit you cast it on will be completely devastated within three magic phases (it triggers at the start of /every/ Magic phase, not just your magic phase.) If you get it off, he has to take a 6+ /AND/ a 5+ (on his turn), and then a 4+ again (at the start of your next Magic phase) for every model in the unit before he has a chance to dispel it. Easily the best offensive use of your necromancers. Forget Raise Dead. Raise Dead is defensive, it gives you chaff. This spell creates mass amounts of corpses out of your enemies. Cast this on a 60-strong block of Skaven or a 30-strong block of Dwarf infantry and watch your opponent's face as, every single magic phase, his infantry unit just withers into dust. And for that extra bit of sexy suffering, it can be cast into combat since it's a hex. Unless your opponent also has a Lord level caster (which in games under 2,000 points they probably won't), you can get a huge amount of mileage out of this spell. Also fantastic for killing off large blocks of ranged infantry that you can't quite get into melee with right away. Don't discount the psychological element of your opponent having to watch 20+ dice of nearly unstoppable casualties get chucked every magic phase, either.
- Oh, and if you manage to get this spell on a rolled caster and a Loremaster, focus on taking out your enemy's high level Wizard right away (preferably with some hero hunting flyers or cavalry you've stashed away for just such an occasion). If they don't have one, laugh and cast this spell twice every turn. It'll be a very short game.
- Wind of death: A magical vortex. gets d6 S3 hits for every rank in the unit and ignores armour. Great for thinning hordes that are better in combat than you (such as Orcs and Goblins); otherwise it's not generally good at much else. Aim at the chaff and watch the models melt away.
- This spell also works well on any T3 unit, Cast at High elf swordmasters or ANY spearmen for extra tears. Cast at huge blocks of skaven slaves and bring a bucket of dice.
- Alternate Opinion: A worse version of Curse of Years with a higher casting value and more randomization (read, less effectiveness). Swap it for Invocation and hope you don't roll it again.
Lore of Shadows:
This can be a useful lore on a vampire as it comes with several hexes and damage spells that increase the effectiveness of your own units by reducing the stats(WS,BS,S,T,I or M) of enemy units or firing off cannonball lines of pain or dropping nasty templates.
This lore will only really be seen in games over 1500points as Lore of vampires takes priority on at least 2 wizards.
- Melkoth's Mystifying Miasma: you will probably be going after your targets WS or BS as these will make the biggest difference in losses MOST of the time. sometimes reducing movement will help, ecpecialy if the target unit is try to get out of a blood forest or a wild wood
- Steed of Shadows: Not generally taken but can be a nice utility if you need to relocate a hero to the fighting or get a wizard out of harms way.
- The Enfeebling Foe: reducing a target units S but upto 3? hell yes, this can make even dragons harmless (compared to a un-hex dragon). Best used to reduce the pain of hard hitting charges or tarpitting
- The Withering: reduce target units T by upto 3? murder time! this is best for when something absolutely must die/you have to win combat
- The Penumbral Pendulum: a S10 6D6 long D3 wounding hate stick. only drawback is that it fails against anything with decent initiative.
- Pit of Shades: a slightly less horrifying version of purple sun. if you combo with Melkoth's Mystifying Miasma it even works on elves.(sorta)
- Okkam's Mindrazor:* normally an awesome spell, but due to the dead's generally shit Ld scores you will only get limmited mileage out of this. Cast this on a horde within 12" of your general and watch your opponents WoC, Brettonians or monsters being teared apart by S10 zombies!!!!
 Lore of Death:
short ranged sniper magic is a good way to describe most of this lore. With 3 'chose your target model, even a character in a unit' spells, a -S&T hex, -3LD hex and the nightmare of all lizard-men (or other low initiate armys)Purple Sun of Xereus.
- Spirit Leach: one of the best anti monster spells around as you will normally have at least 2 more Ld then your target and very few monsters have ward saves.
- Aspect of the Dreadknight: Makes your unit cause fear at the lower cast meaning you will only ever use the higher cast as undead. Causing terror on the other hand can be useful as it lets you cause fear in units that cause fear, great for slowing down ogres and other fear causing units.
- The Caress of Laniph: Easily cast spell thats great for taking out wizards and other low strength models, will cause 2 wounds on average to a S3 target and ignores armor.
- Soulblight: -1S&T to a target, good for helping you win a combat or you can hit all enemies in range and watch your opponent panic.
- Doom & Darkness: -3LD to a target, unfortunately this can't be combed with Spirit Leach but it will make those fear test lot more likely to be failed.
- The Fate of Bjuna: much like caress but instead targets toughness, and wounds on a 2+ instead of a 4+, another wizard hunting spell. averages 3 wounds to s T3 model
- Purple Sun of Xereus: a magical vortex of death. anything it touches takes an initiate test, if they pass they live, if they fail they die. NO saves of ANY kind, no matter how many wounds. This spell is quiet capable of ending games (and friendships) in a single cast and due to lore attributes giving you a lot more power dice to keep the magic rolling.
 Lore of Shadow
 Forbidden Lores
With a Vampire upgrade (meaning only Vampire casters can do this) that rings in at 25 points, you can take any Lore from the Core rulebook other than Lore of Life. This generally isn't ideal since the default Lores are pretty well suited to the army and don't burn 25 points, but by no means is it a BAD idea to do. Also great for fluff lists.
 Lore of Fire
Turning the spell lore most popular with Sigmarites and Witch Hunters against them? Hell yeah!
 Lore of Beasts
Remember that the Vampire Counts set up shop in Albion and Lustria, which is a good fluff basis.
 Lore of Metal
For your self-respecting Vampire Dwarf.
 Lore of Light
Taking the spell lore utilized to cleanse the world of the Undead as a Vampire? Actually quite possible, since the Lore is equally effective against Daemons and Chaos (which most Undead are NOT fond of). Lahmians infiltrated the Sisters of Sigmar long ago, and there's also non-evil Vampires running around (mostly those who have self control combined with the aforementioned hatred of Chaos).
 Lore of Heavens
Who's better at astrology and astronomy than a race who spends all their waking hours at night? What's a better profession for a long-lived master of the undead in a world where you can actually read the future (or at least possible futures and big events) with star charts, and with a moon that causes necromantic magic to grow stronger or weaker?
There are many ways to field VCs. Any of the old house builds are still viable in some ways, though Von Carstiens are the focus. Huge blocks of undying fodder and big monsters are the general idea. Led by a vampire; and his necromancer allies, or alone.
Blood Dragons are the least magical by vampire standards. at 2500 you can have a combat kitted lord that's a level 4 caster on a zombie dragon. All combat vampires on steeds, add blood and black knights to your heart's content and take preferred core. Wolves will keep up with the army while zombies and skeletons will give you the angles to get your knights into flanks. For added silliness add hexwraiths for a turn one charge into the biggest non magical unit and watch it burn!
Other Thoughts on Blood Dragons: Vargheists are your friend if you like blitzkrieg tactics. The Hellsteed is often overlooked (although it's not difficult to kitbash a model out of a Pegasus knight and an appropriately vampiric head), but a Vampire hero with a lance and his magical allowance spent on defensive items (looking at you, 4+ ward save and 2+ armor save. Enchanted Shield + Talisman of Pres is my go-to setup) goes very well with a Vargheist escort. Vargheists provide the kind of blitzkrieg you need to neutralize unpleasant tricks your opponent might have like heavy chariots (Stegadons, for example) and caster bunkers on the first or second turn of the game. You probably shouldn't rush them into enemy lines if you can help it, but sometimes it's vital to do in order to retain control of the course of the game. If you're antsy about their Frenzy rule, take a 5-strong unit of Dire Wolves. Run the wolves in front of the Vargheists to screen them so they don't charge anything you don't want them to. Keep in mind that the Vargheists, being flyers, are also skirmishers, which means they can freely reform at any time. They're much more straightforward to get into the combat you want them to be in than blood knights. It is extremely satisfying to kill or tarpit a kitted out combat lord riding a monster with a well-placed charge of Vargheists + flying hero early in the game (Add Beguile and Quickblood for extra amusement. Don't take Dread Knight for this set up, or else your Vargheists will get to stand around uselessly. Might be obvious, but bears mentioning).
Blood Dragons-style armies rely very heavily on combat resolution. Vampiric units are hugely expensive, but also very effective. Pick your battles carefully, because a failed combat resolution can be very unpleasant, and an overwhelmingly successful combat resolution can cause your opponent's army to rout. Being able to read how a combat is going to resolve is a very important skill to learn for these armies. Against units that are Immune to Psychology or that have very sturdy morale (like Lizardmen), you have to adopt tactics based on inflicting the largest possible amount of casualties rather than tarpitting.
For Vampire-heavy armies in general, you want 4+ ward saves on your Vampire Lord and at least one Hero (who should also be a level 2 caster). The amount of damage that this ward save will prevent is sickening, especially combined with 1+ and 2+ armor saves. You can sometimes get by with a Banner of the Blood Keep on some Blood Knights and adjacent Vampire characters, but usually you want the 4+ heavy armor or the 4+ talisman. Yes, they're expensive, but having your Vampires die on you is way more inconvenient than losing a bit of killing power (which your Vampires already have in spades with their statline and Quickblood. Incidentally, you should also be taking Quickblood on every combat Vampire period). All the ward save has to do is keep them from losing that last wound until you can cast more Lore of the Vampires spells or trigger The Hunger and heal them back to full Wounds again. In my experience it's very effective at doing this and has quite literally decided several of my games in my favor by very slim margins. Anecdotal, I know, but give it a shot.
Lahmians are the magic heavy build, still an all vampire list with a coven throne instead of a dragon and black coaches replacing blood knights. Add huge bricks of zombies and skeletons and push forward. Support with shadow magic from the non lord vampires and at lest 2 with LoV. See ogres reduced to T2 and be dragged down by drastically inferior infantry, watch dwarves kill themselves when a coven throne charges them, or as you chariot with killing blow and impact hits run through cavalry that can't touch them because of ethereal.
Magic Build Advice: If you're taking Kemmler or a very magic-heavy Lord, consider taking a dirt cheap level 1 Necromancer with an MR 3 talisman to join the same unit as your Lord. Your Necromancer's sole function is to prevent enemy magic and miscast explosions for your Lord and his bunker (though the extra die of channeling is a nice perk). If you have the hundred-odd points to spare, this is a very effective way of ensuring your Lord's continued survival. Yes, I'm a huge fan of Ward saves. They work exceptionally well, and in this case, a 4+ (or higher, if you have a secondary Ward save from something else) Ward for your entire bunker + Lord and Hero will keep you alive. The theme of the Vampire Counts is 'lose your general, lose the game', so taking extra precautions to keep your General alive will always pay off. Yes, crumbling isn't Game Over, but you lose a huge amount of point investment and tactical options when you lose your General. Speaking of ward saves, if any of your Lords or Heroes have a free Talisman slot, also consider a Dragonsbane Gem. 5 points for a situational 2+ ward save is incredible value, because it means that only 1 in 6 flaming attacks that would otherwise wound your character actually get through.
The only substantial alternative to a magic-focused Lord is Mannfred the Acolyte. A very cheap hero for what he does, Mannfred's Loremaster ability means that you never have to worry about spell selection (which is the primary drawback of Hero-level casters). Being able to cast every spell in the Lore allows you much more freedom in your Lord choice because your strategy is no longer determined by which spells you roll out of Vampires.
Vampire Heroes and Generals
You will want at least two characters that have lore of vampires in any game over 1000 points; this not only doubles your chance to channel but also gives you much needed redundancy in the army. A common tactic is to use zombies as a bunker for the general (if set up as a caster) as they are easily hoarded and resurrected at 2D6+wizard level level, add an iron-curse icon and an obsidian trinket and for 20 points, the unit becomes far more durable. If your general is set up for combat put him in with a unit of black knights, grave guard, or blood knights and either equip for hero bashing (high initiative/str/lots of re-rolls) or hoard murdering (lots of attacks).
Remember: never skimp on your hordes as they tarpit harder than most armies can handle. A block of Board 'n' Sword skeletons can hold most units in place for a few turns (read: forever) while causing moderate damage. With a lvl4 wizard in support, the attacking unit will have to kill an average of 7 more skeletons per turn, and the bones will reduce the enemy's numbers in a meaningful way.
- Other then the requirements to field an army you will want at least one more wizard with Lore of Vampires for when your general eats a cannonball/miscasts horribly and dies so that you only have to survive one round of crumbling. It can be a cheap necromancer in a zombie bunker or a combat vampire in a unit of black nights, as long as there is one on the field. This is not fool proof but it dose make it easier to prevent death by crumbling.
- if you have the points drop a naked necromancer into any hoards that you have not already planed to put a hero/lord into, this is mostly for more cast of IoN at minimum cast value. om average it will take 3-4 successful cast at average resurrection rates to pay for the necromancers cost, the real value come in that it lets you spam IoN on 1 or 2 dice, you opponent can ether let you rebuild your losses or risk running out of dispel dice and letting something nasty through. You also can end up with a shit load of channeling dice to role in big games. This works really well in blocks of zombies since the only time you stop adding models to the unit is when you run out of models.
- when deploying your army you want to set up nice and wide, big blocks of troops in the middle with clear marching lanes to get into combat as soon as possible, your general should be in command range of as many non-vampire units as possible to allow for marches. Vampire units (vargulf/ghiest, blood knights ect)should be in place to flank charge, hunt war-machines and general reap havoc across their lines. Remember it dose not matter if you don't get first turn most of the time correct placement of troops in more important with this slow army then getting into shooting range.
- If you are going to deploy a vampire lord on dragon try equipping him with shimmering scale for a total of -2 to be hit in CQC as WS3 troops cannot actually hit the lord and hit the dragon on 6+ (this tactic needs to be confirmed). Doesn´t work. Natural rolls of 6 hit always, according to the rulebook.
Other Strategems and List-Building Analysis:
Vampire Lords on Zombie Dragons are the best possible use of a combined Night Shroud and The Other Trickster's Shard. Their huge bases mean that the combination of Strength loss, Always Strikes Last, and forcing rerolls of successful Ward saves means that it's very difficult to go toe to toe with them for just about anyone in the game (Breath Weapon, Thunderstomp, and 10-15 high strength attacks is a lot of damage). Expect your opponents to target the Zombie Dragon with everything they've got. Consider an MR 3 talisman on your Lord to give your zombie dragon that 4+ ward save. Remember, MR works against all magic, and all magical weapons (even the cheap 5 point generic ones) can be defended against using MR. So your Zombie Dragon will have a 4+ ward save against the vast majority of Lords and Heroes, in addition to angry mages. (The above is not true, magic resist only works against damage caused by spells, not magic items). Yes, your Lord won't have perma-Strength 7 and be a zomgwtf death machine. He'll also outlive just about every other model on the table, which is more important considering how many points you're investing in him. Quickblood, Beguile, and Red Fury is my typical set up for Vampire Powers on such a character, with the reasoning that Quickblood's rerolls and Red Fury plus Strength 5 (7 with a lance on the charge) will provide all the offensive might you need to be effective. Beguile doesn't always work, but when it does it can be decisive for that extra bit of "fuck you, roll that 6 again", especially against big monsters that have low Leadership. For smaller games, chop Red Fury and the lance (this should put you under for 2,500 point games) before any of the magic items. Keeping your Zombie Dragon alive retains way more damage output and overall effectiveness than Red Fury provides otherwise. Wizard level 1 is all you really need for this setup unless you're playing a game at 3,000 points. Take Invocation and several supporting casters.
Vampires that focus on manipulating morale /can/ be very effective. Taking Fear Incarnate and Aura of Dark Majesty on a Vampire and using it in conjunction with a Terror-causing unit or hero is great unless your opponent is Immune to Psychology. A fun gimmick against things like the Empire and Bretonnia, but it's wasted if your enemies are immune. A lot of things are, sadly.
If you haven't caught on by now, your army is very top-heavy. The majority of your points will be invested in just a few models. Your entire strategy revolves around utilizing these models and keeping them alive. Used correctly, they will win the game. Used poorly, they'll get killed and then you're out half of your firepower. Herohammer, in other words, is still your bread and butter.
Crypt ghouls have a MUCH higher offensive capacity than any other core unit you can field. Personally I never leave home without a 20-strong block of them and a corpse cart. Corpse carts are excellent force multipliers and you can inflict absolutely sick amounts of Wounds in close combat with a good Dance Macabre and Always Strikes First on a horde of Crypt Ghouls with adjacent Cart. Opponents who're expecting Vampire Counts infantry to suck in close combat will be obliterated by their carelessness against Crypt Ghouls. In addition, even though Crypt Ghouls don't have an armor save, their Toughness 4 means that they're actually approximately 15% less likely to die than zombies and skeletons against stronger attackers. Yes, they're twice as expensive as skeletons and can't be raised over unit cap by Invocation. But you can't put a price on your opponent conceding the game after you annihilate his primary block of infantry in one overwhelming phase of combat.
Take a Level 4 Wizard Lord in any game you can't afford a Zombie Dragon if you're serious about building a 'Take All Comers' list. Master Necromancers under 1,500, Kemmler between 1,500 and 2,000, Master Necromancer and Vampire Lord on steed (or just more Kemmler) for 2,001 to 2,400, and Zombie Dragon for 2450 and up are your best choices. Are they the only choices? No, obviously. But in each of those point ranges, Vampire Counts is a completely different beast due to various list-building options that become available or obsolete. Finding the lists that work for your style of play can be difficult, given that every 500 points or so the demands your army is placed under are radically altered.
In low point games, you're mostly going to be dealing with block infantry and approximately two or three nasty units. Your Master Necromancer is by far one of the cheapest level 4 wizards available to any faction, and using him to your advantage is crucial to pick up the slack in your limited damage-dealing options at that point range. Bump it up to the 1,500-2k range, and suddenly Lord-level wizards are more common. In games where your opponent doesn't field one, a Level 4 Lord is still a huge advantage, but you have to be prepared to have your spells contested. This means there's less room for error in the magic phase, and having a Loremaster like Kemmler is huge because you can't afford to not roll a certain spell (like Dance Macabre). Not having access to your core magical options could cost you the game almost by default if your opponent's also slinging magic around. Kemmler's +1 to dispelling is also very useful when opposing other Lord-level mages. Vampire Counts are hugely reliant on the force-multiplying power of a good Magic phase, and not being able to force multiply is suicide for your army.
Once you get into the 2,000's, you'll find that it's possible to field lots of heroes and lords within your point constraints. Given how reliant your army is on these two types of characters, this is a huge piece of good news for you. Being able to field multiple Level 2 Vampire front-line casters is very, very handy. In this range, you can more comfortably field a Vampire Lord than in previous point ranges, because your supporting casters can pick up the slack if you don't have a Level 4 caster Lord to do all the heavy lifting that's required to keep your army going. Still, having a level 4 caster is never a bad idea. Nothing is more irritating than having your Invocations dispelled consistently.
In 2,500 points and up, all sorts of crazy things get introduced into the game and the scale of battles increases considerably. There's much more flexibility in games this large and you're not quite as reliant on force multiplying magic to be successful. Still, all the things I've discussed remain true, their impact just isn't as decisive from turn to turn.
Other thoughts: A Corpse Cart with Balefire combined with Kemmler means that you're going to be 2 points up on even a Level 4 Lord in the dispel phase. Being 4 or 5 points over a Hero-level caster means you'll dominate their magic phase every single turn as long as you use your dice wisely. Creating margins of advantage like this is an important part of list-building, because it ensures you'll be able to control the course of the game when you need to. Your core units aren't typically going to be decisive by themselves, so you need to search for that advantage in your characters and your special/rare choices. Coordinating your picks to create and capitalize on weaknesses is an important concept of Vampire Counts list construction.
Use flanking units to avoid bad combat resolutions. Vargheists in particular and cavalry in general are great at inflicting mass casualties and swinging a resolution in your favor. Build your lists around which flanking units you're using. A list that flanks with Black Knights and Dire Wolves plays very differently than one that relies on a pair of Corpse Carts and a flock of Vargheists.
I went over this in the magic section but I'll say it again. Vanhel's Dance Macabre is the most important spell for your army list after Invocation. If you really want to be sure, running Kemmler or Mannfred plus a Hero that has it (either bound or rolled or both) is the way to go. Having zero ranged options outside of the Magic phase means that you must be in combat in order to win. Do you always want to rush straight in without thinking? Of course not, that's absurd. However, the ability to close the gap very quickly with your whole army can be decisive if your enemy is expecting a few turns of breathing room to maneuver around your Movement 4". Conversely, not being able to close the gap when your opponent is lining up unpleasant charges with monsters or cavalry can cost you the game.