My forum trawlings over on Carpe Noctem continue to bear fruit. This one actually predates the blog by about six months! You’ll have to get by on text alone for this one, because a) I was still on a Nokia brick at the time, b) my poor abused Nikon had yet to enter our time together and c) this game was fought in the dank, reeking premises of the original Gaming Crypt in Altrincham, so I doubt I could have pulled off any really good shots anyway. My opponent was a chap called Andy who ran the local GW and came into the independent retailer’s game nights when he needed a break and a good swear of an evening. Sadly, I don’t think he’s with us any more – if memory serves, he passed away unexpectedly not long after I moved away. Shame. He was a really nice fella.
Lord Ruthven’s Resistance (my Vampire Counts)
Lord: Lord Ruthven: Vampire Lord with Dark Acolyte, Infinite Hatred, Summon Creatures of the Night; Sword of Battle, Armour of Night, Wristbands of Black Gold (Raise Dead, Curse of Years, Summon Undead Horde)
Hero: Sir Francis Varney: Vampire with Ghoulkin, Dread Knight (Raise Dead)
Hero: Glenarvon: Vampire with Army Standard; Dark Acolyte; Sword of Striking, Flayed Hauberk (Raise Dead, Curse of Years)
Hero: Carmilla: Vampire with Beguile; Sword of Kings (Vanhel’s Danse Macabre)
Core: Templehof First of Foot: 24 Skeletons: spears, full command, Banner of the Dead Legion: Glenarvon goes in here.
Core: Templehof Second of Foot: 24 Skeletons: full command, Banner of the Everlasting Nightmare: Carmilla goes in here.
Core: 15 Crypt Ghouls: Crypt Ghast
Core: 5 Dire Wolves
Core: 5 Dire Wolves
Special: Knights of the Black Cross: 11 Black Knights: barding, full command, Royal Standard of Strigos: Varney goes in here.
Special: 5 Fell Bats
(I’d built this list expecting to fight High Elves, hence the almost redundant Wristbands of Black Gold on Ruthven. It was certainly a pleasure to roll out an army with four spellcasting Vampires at the head! If I remember rightly, Varney was at the time represented by the old Count Rutgar model from fifth edition, and very suitable it was too.)
The Oppressive Forces of a Tyrannical Regime (Andy’s Vampire Counts)
Lord: Mannfred von Carstein: Skull Staff, Black Periapt
Hero: Vampire Nudist (Vanhel’s Danse Macabre)
Hero: Vampire: Book of Arkhan (not sure what spell he had; never cast it)
Core: 20-odd Skeletons: full command
Core: 20-odd Zombies
Core: 20-odd Crypt Ghouls: Crypt Ghast
Core: Corpse Cart
Rare: 5 Blood Knights: full command
(As you can see, both of us are trying out the new toys; Andy has lunged for the Rare units, the Corpse Cart and the opportunity to take Mannfred and more than one other character, while I’ve gone to town on the Bloodlines section and the new magic banners.)
The Field of Battle
A circular ruined temple lay near the middle of the field, with a stone circle some distance off to the west. A hill to its immediate south and another to the far north-west. Small knots of trees to the south- and north-east.
The Order of March
Mannfred rode into place to the north-east of the temple, attended on only by his Blood Knights and, farther east, a monstrous Varghulf. The western side of the temple was held by a line of undead infantry: Skeletons led by one of Mannfred’s thralls, Ghouls marshalled by another and Zombies left to shamble peacefully along in their own style, followed by a Corpse Cart.
Lord Ruthven’s infantry took the hill, with the Ghouls loitering around the base. Fell Bats circled behind the hill, Dire Wolves amassed to the east facing the Blood Knights and a dozen of the finest Knights of the Black Cross squared off against Mannfred’s infantry.
The Ghouls scurried forward at an angle, defending the flank of the two Skeleton regiments from anything that might see fit to engage them.
Round One: Jostling for Position
Mannfred’s army took the initiative: the Blood Knights powered over the field and, compelled onward by Vanhel’s Danse, charged my lovely new Ghouls, reducing them to a sad post-Ghoul paste. The Varghulf bounded forward too, angling itself to pounce into the gap opened up by the Ghouls’ untimely demise, while the rest of Mannfred’s army advanced around the ruined temple.
Unfortunately for the Blood Knights, they’d done exactly what I’d hoped they do by charging into the Ghouls: expose their flank to my Skeleton Spearmen, who promptly charged off the hill into one unfortunate Blood Knight who was whacked into dust with the blunt end of a Battle Standard. The rest, borne down by sheer weight of combat resolution, crumbled and fell. My Fell Bats took the ruin, while the Dire Wolves shuffled out to face down Mannfred: the assorted Creatures of the Night were all in a position to charge him next turn. My Knights cantered forward, the Skeleton Swords close behind, and Lord Ruthven raised two Fell Bats into the unit and a couple of small Zombie units at an angle to either side of them, inviting a breaking of the battleline on Mannfred’s part.
Round Two: a bit of a pile-up
Offended by the swift demise of the Blood Knights, the Varghulf pounced the surviving Ghoul, ate him whole and proceeded to plough on into Ruthven (curses!). Mannfred fell back around the ruin, while his Skeletons charged the Zombies I’d raised near them, pulverised them and overran into a Fell Bat. The rest of his infantry moved forward and close together, making it quite clear that the Black Knights would have to tackle both. Andy’s magic phase was a triumph, but sadly it was a triumph for Lord Ruthven, who managed to dispel more or less everything the supposed Master of the Black Arts threw out. Ruthven continued to prove his valour by carving a substantial hole in the Varghulf (two wounds) and taking next to nothing back.
My Skeleton Swordsmen countered the charge from Andy’s Skeletons, while my Black Knights and spare Zombie unit charged his Zombies and Ghouls. The Dire Wolves continued to chase Mannfred around the central ruin. The magic phase saw nineteen Zombies emerge near the pile-up, as well as the triumphant rise of yet more Fell Bats. The pile-up in the middle was inconclusive to say the least thanks to the addition of more ranks and another Vampire to counteract Mannfred, while the Black Knights beat substantial chunks out of both the units facing them, outperforming their steeds for the first time in forever. Ruthven and the Varghulf continued to wail on one another to some effect, battering one another down to a single wound apiece.
Round Three: Lord Ruthven Reneges
Mannfred, the only model in Andy’s army not engaged bar the Corpse Cart, made a desultory effort at spellcasting (raising some Ghouls back, casting Vanhel’s Danse on the pile-up), but the main event was undoubtedly the close combat phase. A bizarre run of dice saw Andy’s Ghouls pull down a Black Knight after losing their Vampire to a Killing Blow, and a further mass of beatings in the middle, which paled into insignificance after Andy’s Varghulf got the upper hand and swallowed Ruthven whole. Crumbling tests claimed most of the Dire Wolves, a couple of Fell Bats, a Black Knight and a smattering of Skeleton Swordsmen.
The next round of crumbling tests obliterated another Black Knight, seven or so Zombies, a few more Skeletons and the very last Dire Wolf. Apart from the general-shaped hole in my army, though, I wasn’t doing too badly. My Skeleton Spearmen wheeled around to face the big combat in the middle, foreseeing the passing of the Fell Bats, while the Zombies piled into the flank of the solitary enemy unit in there. My surviving Vampires raised more Zombies into the leaderless unit, and that was about it for magic. In combat, Carmilla issued a challenge to an enemy Vampire who had no Champion to hide behind, intending to try for a Beguilement and a Killing Blow. She scored a wound, and saved the one that came her way, but no Killing Blow today. Other than that, the meat-grinding continued.
Rounds Four and Five: Unmitigated Tedium
I’ll summarise these two rounds together, because they were extremely dull. Both of us raised new models into damaged units, a lot. The Varghulf charged my Skeleton Swordsmen in the back and bounced off, dying a nasty, painful death from static combat resolution on my turn. Carmilla died in the second round of her challenge, Andy’s Skeletons were slowly ground down until only their Vampire leader remained, and he finally finished off my Fell Bats, only for my Skeleton Spearmen to charge in and replace them. And, eventually, after a great deal of raising up and falling down, my Black Knights finished off everything they were facing and started eyeing up the Corpse Cart…
Round Six: An Unexpected Outcome
With only Mannfred and the Corpse Cart left at the start of his last turn, Andy was somewhat stuck for things to do. The Corpse Cart charged the Black Knights – better that than the alternative – while Mannfred himself charged the Skeleton Spearmen and tried to Summon an Undead Horde behind them, only to be denied by some deft Dispelling. He did end up with Vanhel’s Danse on himself and I issued a challenge with the Skeleton Champion just to keep one of his vampires out of combat. The regular one accepted, beat down on the Skeleton and scored himself an Overkill wound, while Mannfred sank all his attacks into Glenarvon and bounced off the Flayed Hauberk. With so little progress made, both of Andy’s characters died to static combat resolution while the Corpse Cart promptly crumbled in the absence of its master.
Result and Learnings
A Massacre in my favour, with both generals dead and Mannfred put back in his place.
Here’s what I learned about seventh edition Vampire Counts.
- Seven dispel dice mean you’re not going to need Scrolls that often, provided you use them judiciously. I don’t think I ever felt like I was strained in the defensive magic phase.
- Four vampires is one too many. It’s awesome to try out, but you’ll find yourself bereft of the Ethereal troops, flyers and other helpful stuff that you need to carry a Vampire Counts army: you’re reduced to playing like bad Chaos, piling in and hoping for the best, bringing a big club instead of your whole toolbox.
- Andy was really, really unlucky. As commentators pointed out, the Blood Knights should kill 20 Ghouls without breaking a sweat, never mind 15.