Because I’m a whocking great nerd, I keep a battlefield journal. Not exhaustive “and then I rolled a three and a two and he rolled a four and a six” level stuff because life is much too short, but a “no more than one A5 spread per thing” record of the games I’ve played and the army lists I’ve used (or considered using).
Despite my respect for the Stillmanic principle in some regards (I am still using the same army I started on my eighteenth birthday and have barely touched some of it with a paintbrush since), I’m an inveterate tinkerer and fine tuner and consider this a pleasure I shall not forgo just because ol’ Nigel doesn’t think it proper.
Here are the post mortem notes on the list I took to that London back in March, straight from the Book.
Rod of Flaming Death works – it worries people just enough that they always Dispel it.
Pretty clear there, past me. I used to look down on the Rod and not bother with it, now I understand that opponents don’t want to risk an automatic Panic test for having one model get fried. The Rod is one of those items which can subtly turn a game even if it never actually works – and, as a bonus, it doesn’t run out of juice!
Use the Stone early to draw out scrolls – don’t save it!
The more spells I can push through in the early game the more Dispel Scrolls I can dummy out, giving me more freedom to cast in the middling turns where it matters more. Necromancy spells turn the game by tipping combats in my favour and that makes them most impactful when the battle-lines are either about to hit or have just done so. The Stone also allows me to slam five dice down on a key spell from Rosenkratz the Necromancer, cutting through the three-dice casting cap he normally has to labour under. I find this sort of thing far more decisive than bringing a single Dispel Scroll and fretting about what’s important enough to use it on.
Swap in the Aura.
Aura of Dark Majesty has returned to must-take status now that I’ve started playing on 6′ x 4′ boards more. I’d hoped that I could wean myself off it and get used to a mere 12″ bubble but the stage of the game where my fast units need to turn around and get stuck back in really needs them to keep marching, and sometimes the tide of battle draws my Lord away from them in the horizontal plane.
Stick to a Wight Lord BSB for Leadership 9.
What it says on the tin. I love Vampire Thralls, don’t get me wrong: mine is a cheap source of fast-moving chariot-wrecking arrow-scoffing extra hits right where they’re needed, and I’ve gained a new respect for the Necrarch and Strigoi variants as I help out putting tactical together for the Online. But a Thrall does not take hits well, nor lead units, and the high Leadership is excellent for keeping a combat unit where it should be after my General bites it, or when pursuit needs to be deterred in favour of good positioning.
Skeleton spears. In both games they got charged and having spears paid off. I CURSE THE VULGAR FASHION!
For years and years I misplayed the hand weapon and shield rule in sixth edition and never understood why the hardcore said sword and board was better than spear. Now I finally have a unit of Skeleton Swordsmen and am using them with a vigour, so I think my past self wants talking to here. As I go forward I find myself bringing two Skeleton units: spearmen to take point and get charged, swordsmen to deliver a flanking hit. My Zombies are reserved for filling a spare Core slot with the most minimal of caster bunkers, or raising.
Consider a steady list with swappable Counts?
I worked out a range of similarly-coster Vampire Counts a while back and considered trading them in and out of the army to see what difference it made. The drawback to this plan? My aesthetic is very much a Von Carstein army: I can get away with a Lahmian or Blood Dragon as I have appropriate Generals on foot for that, but Strigoi or Necrarchs, the most different and powerful Bloodlines, are closed to me because the rest of the army doesn’t match. (If I ever did a second Vampire Counts army, it would be mostly Ghouls and more bronze age style Skeletons, deliberately geared toward playing with these two Bloodlines.)
What do you need: Wraith or Wight? Both games had the BSB pay off but also Terror made a big impact.
This is a recurring problem for me. Both these heroes have been excellent additions to my collection and I’m a tad flummoxed about which one to leave at home when slots are at a premium. Since the Wight Lord doesn’t have quite such an established character or set of kit (he was swapped into the army at the last moment) I’m going to stick with the Wraith for the time being.
Periapt ain’t always so hot: consider another Stone.
Don’t get me wrong, the Black Periapt is fine; it’s just a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul every other turn because this phase often has to get by on seven dice so I can have nine later, and there’s a level of cognitive load involved in planning around the dice-storage gimmick that can slow me down and stop me playing decisively. I’m still umming and ahhing about the Periapt, which I think is only essential in 2000 point games where a fella only has three level 2 wizards to play with. Up here I can probably get away without it by ensuring I have enough dice in the first place, and enough powerful wizards to make good use of them.
To these vestiges I’d add a few more observations that came out of the report-writing process. I really like Death Magic on my Vampires and am close to considering it the default as I go forward, outside the Army of Sylvania of course (there I don’t have the luxury of faffing about without Necromancy).
The big unit of Knights is a necessary evil in a Sylvanian list but otherwise I think I need the flexibility of two units operating on opposite flanks or sweeping one together.
Finally there’s the small matter of casting power. At present the 3000 point army is too dependent on the Master and once he’s copped it, I am knocked back to 2000 point levels of casting power: not good enough. This “Master and Margarita” list archetype is therefore reserved for fifth edition from here on out, and Lord Ruthven will be making a return to wrangle the army. I also plan to shout FIE to the high heavens, bust the shield off my Imperial Noble model, and simply use the figure who matches the army’s aesthetic as Lord Ruthven. If anyone gives me grief about his breastplate I shall say it’s got warpstone in it or something. Life’s too short.
A few additional cuts have been made in terms of magic banners, unit champions and so on and so forth. Magic banners may yet be restored to the Knight units at the cost of some Dire Wolves.
Lord Ruthven: Von Carstein Vampire Lord: extra magic level (Lore of Death), Biting Blade, Ring of the Night, Walking Death, Aura of Dark Majesty: 435 points
Walravius: Master Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Cloak of Mists and Shadows, Power Stone: 290 points
Rosenkratz: Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Book of Arkhan, Power Stone: 150 points
Guildenstern: Necromancer: extra magic level (Necromancy), Rod of Flaming Death: 150 points
Whispering Nell: Wraith: Cursed Book: 140 points
Lord Ruthven’s First of Foot: 20 Skeletons: spears, light armour, champion, musician and standard bearer: 245 points
Lord Ruthven’s Second of Foot: 20 Skeletons: light armour, champion, musician and standard bearer: 225 points
Templehof Pals: 10 Zombies: musician and standard bearer: 75 points
Verhungernhund Claw: 5 Dire Wolves: 50 points
Verhungernhund Fang: 5 Dire Wolves: 50 points
Order of the Black Cross: 8 Black Knights: barding, champion, musician and standard bearer: 240 points
Order of the Crimson Wing: 8 Black Knights: barding, champion, musician and standard bearer: 240 points
Black Monks of St. Herod: 5 Spirit Hosts: 325 points
Cora: Banshee: 90 points
Clarice: Banshee: 90 points
Emmanuelle’s Hearse: Black Coach: 200 points
TOTAL: 2995 points
Tower of Power: 13 dice
Pile of Denial: 8 dice