All of these are bloody expensive and come with significant opportunity costs in terms of extra Hero slots used up. Apart from Mannfred I wouldn’t use any of them in a 2000 point army, and Mannfred only in a Sylvanian list.
That said, I urge you to shake off the Borehammer madness, forget all that guff about “making tough choices” and “tournament conditions” and play some big games. 3000 points is a fun way to spend three or four hours, and I’ve even played a 6000 point game and had a good time with it (albeit picking a more crude and simple list than I normally would, to ease the cognitive load a little).
The bigger the game, the more appropriate it is that a special character would show up, and the less distorting their presence will be. We’re all negotiating with our mates to play an obsolete edition of a discontinued wargame anyway, so let’s have the conversations and get some variety out there.
Mannfred von Carstein
If you’re here from Total War or End Times or, god forbid, Age of Sigmar you’re already queuing up the memes and I’m not having it, all right? This is Mannfred like he used to be, as God and Jervis Johnson intended: suave, sexy, still has hair, not a cartoon B-villain.
He’s also bloody good: a level 4 wizard who casts one spell without needing to throw dice at it, generates more dice for himself as he kills things (and on a Vampire Lord statline, albeit with -1 WS/BS, he can go through light units pretty well), packs a 3+ ward save with no drawbacks and has some of the best whole-army support powers his Bloodline can offer. Takes up three character slots, costs as much as three characters, does the work of three characters.
You’ll probably want a unit of Dire Wolves to hide him in, because he has to ride a horse and he’ll often be standing still in the early game to get Call Winds going: that makes him a bit of an obvious target. Black Knights are too expensive to be reduced to a bunker like this so it’s time to do dirty by the dogs.
Zacharias the Everliving
On the one hand, he’s a powerhouse spellcaster: free Dispel Scroll every turn, level 4 wizard with all the Necromancy spells, chucks out a Dark Hand of Death as a bound spell (about the best use for it), all the Necrarch bloodline powers so he’s operating from a very safe range and can be pretty sure he won’t miscast.
On the other hand, he costs just over 1000 points, eats a 2000 point army’s worth of slots, and he’s on a Zombie Dragon just to make him even more of a gamble. I am far too cautious a player to stick my neck out quite so far as this. Plus he doesn’t have any way to increase his casting pool, and all that potential is pretty much meaningless without fuel.
Neferata’s pretty great. All the powers of the Lahmian family mean she’s going to be striking before she gets struck, and at least has the potential to disrupt the enemy’s front line: the fact that you haven’t had to sacrifice any of a finite 100 point limit on the Seduction gimmick makes me think much better of it, even before her extra Leadership malus is factored in. She’s pretty effective as a spellcaster too, a level 3 with an extra unique spell that’s better than Warp Lightning (and Warp Lightning’s very good). She’s in Mannfred’s sort of territory: costs as much as three characters but probably does three characters’ worth of work. She’ll need a supporting Necromancer to throw her some more dice but that’s no bad thing.
Vlad and Isabella von Carstein
Hot. Damn. These were good when they were written, and their post-Storm-of-Chaos upgrade has shfited them into high gear. Vlad may cost 800 points but he’s 800 points that can hide in an infantry unit, has every Von Carstein Bloodline power (including the extras from the Army of Sylvania), the Carstein Ring, and a brutal magic sword (Terror and no armour saves? sign me up!). Isabella is the perfect delivery system for Call Winds; you won’t miss her complete lack of combat prowess and her Chalice helps her stay alive in the back line even if you don’t want to give her a bunker. And you don’t want to give her a bunker, because if the enemy DOES decide to take her out, Vlad goes ballistic and achieves Strigoi-like killing power. Godspeed you, black Emperor.
Melkhior the Ancient
OK, OK, he’s good at staying alive (not being targetable by conventional firepower is a nice touch) and he’s a highly competent caster (potentially better than Zacharias I think, since he has the same Bloodline powers and you can pick one spell for him to cast for free every turn, overcoming the lack of Power dice problem). He has similar drawbacks to Zacharias in that he’s on a Large Target and still magic missile bait. And he’s also Stupid. I wouldn’t.
Heinrich Kemmler and Krell
Kemmler is a dramatically underpriced and very good Master Necromancer. By himself, he brings five spells, five power dice plus up to three extras on cue, Miscast insurance and the capacity to repeat-cast your spells. The Cloak of Mists and Shadows is all the protection he ever needs. Strap a couple of apprentices under his belt to feed him more dice and let him go to town, but he’s a one-man caster crew by himself.
Krell is essentially a super-Wight with both the ideal magic weapons blended together, who’s built to eat challenges or take on large monsters; even if he can’t take down his target in one go, his axe will continue to eat away at it for the rest of the game and probably finish it off. He has exactly one downside and it’s Stupidity again. The difference here is that it doesn’t matter so much if a combat hero goes bibbledy for a turn, unless he’s actually in combat. I would absolutely field Krell and allow him to free-roam, looking for something worth whacking.