So, after my shot at high elves, here’s the next in what I hope to make a regular series of reviews on new armies. I’ve got a little less experience with vampires, but the army has changed so radically from last edition that it really needs a whole new set of
tactics, so don’t hold that against me….
Characters first, core, speical, rare, magic, items and bloodlines and then army composition to follow


Unit by unit breakdown:

A note on ‘optimised field’: This is basically what I think the best combo in general circumstances is to do with all options available to the character or unit. This means on its own, without assuming you have anything specific in the rest of the army (thus, ghoulkin won’t make it in, as it’s only good if you have ghouls). It also assumes you’re willing to max out magic items or options rather than go for a budget choice, which can be more viable. Optimized certainly doesn’t mean best, just most reliable.

LORDS:

The vampire count: Vampires only get one non-special character lord choice (and both of the special characters are just pre-built vampire counts anyway), and that’s the vampire count. To counteract this lack of variety, in the new rules vampire counts are… well, among the most versatile and potentially horribly nasty characters in the game, with unmatched versatility and unparalleled potential to be honed to a particular purpose. The basic count weighs in a little over two hundred points, for which you get a level 2 mage with a statline only rivaled by oldbloods, tyrants and chaos lords. Fairly solid all in all. A single weakness is the inability to take mundane kit without picking a specific package deal- either a foot or mounted knight, both weighing in at 25 points, a lot more than what you’d pay for that kit normally. A fully kitted vampire with their extra magic level and 100 points of both items and bloodlines weighs in at a bit over 450 points, making them about as expensive as a slaan, or a lord of tzeentch, so basically, they’re an all your eggs in one basket type character. But oh what a basket.
The first consideration must be that your general WILL be your count, assuming you take one, so if you tool him to the max and he gets topped, that’s 550 points right there. That’s a lot of points, not to mention the fact that it’s quite possible your whole army will disappear over the next couple of turns as a consequence, so the safety of your vampire is of utmost importance. The days of running your general in a black knight unit or solo are pretty much over. For all the combat power that can generate, you just can’t risk throwing him forward at an enemy and hoping you don’t get flanked. Even a blood knight bodyguard can be obliterated quickly given some bad luck or a canny opponent, and when it’s your 550 point general and a 450 point unit of knights going down at once, you can basically say you lose the game if they’re out of it. not to mention one cavalry unit will have a tough time making a thousand points back in any game. There are plenty of solid defensive items and powers in the list, and you can tool a vampire count to be more or less untouchable, but sacrifice both magical and combat potential by doing so, so the middle ground is to take a few good defensive items (the nightshroud armor, which forces any enemy who attacks him to strike dead last is a great one) a few offensive items (cheap ones, like the sword of might ) to boost him just enough that his excellent combat ability can really shine and then take of the gloves and add some of the powers where vampires really excel: support. By himself, a vampire can feasibly cast invocation of nehek EIGHT times per turn on a 3+. That’s an average 6d6 raised wounds (plus another 6 with judicious use of corpsecarts) models from one caster, which can increase unit size on your choice of skellies, ghouls, or miscellaneous support gribblies. Admittedly this setup takes basically all his bloodline power points, But it can frighten the life out of even a strong antimagic army. Especially when you pop a bound item on him for good measure. And have two or three corpsecarts. And thralls. And necros. You can then kit him out with the helm of command, for even more non-direct nastiness, this can be horrible against ws3 armies like ogres, skaven, empire, O&G etc, as it turns your line units into seriously nasty powerhouses, being hit on 5’s and going back on 3’s. (best used with ghouls, as the t 4 is nasty against s3 and they get 2 poisoned attacks back rather than one regular)
With the new vampire rules, your general is a little less vital to have dead centre of your army for marches, as thralls, varghulf and coaches can all give a lesser march radius, so you can use them to march buffer blocks of your list, which gives your count freedom to go where he’s really needed, or to fly around and cause utter havoc on a flying mount, though again, this can be risky, especially if you start throwing high level spells around too. However, more often than not, you’ll want him in the centre anyway.
All this said, I think the greatest thing about the new count is simply you can make him any way you choose. I’m looking forward to what crazy ideas and themes people can come up with almost as much as I am to seeing what horribly cheesy combos people can dream up.
Optimised field: Vampire count: level 3, +1 level bloodline, +2 power dice bloodline, summon ghouls bloodline, book of arkhan, helm of command, sword of might, nightshroud.

HEROES:

Vampire: big daddy’s little babies, vampires are the next in a growing line of hero-level fighty mages (no doubt to be continued with daemons). The biggest change with these guys since the thralls of yesteryear is that not only *can* they be wizards, but they *must* be wizards. This means, barring a proliferation of wight kings, it’s going to be very hard to avoid having a significant amount of magic in the army. Like the big daddy, hero level vampires get bloodlines and items, making them quite versatile. They also get a fancy new option, to be addressed shortly.
A vampire’s combat stats are among the best of heroes, with WS6 allowing them to wail on elite troops and str5 easily augmented to str 7 to deter chariots. Only toughness 4 though, so less likely to be durable enough to last in significant combats, especially with the lack of mundane armor options. Vampires can also be BSBs, and since their equipment options are bloodlines, they can be fully tanked up just like high elf ones. Combining a bsb, warbanner and walking death bloodline can net you a pretty nifty +3 combat resolution, and if you’re feeling a bit reckless, the addition of a hellsteed can give you a single model flanking unit quite capable of breaking units of monsters, cavalry and other units that don’t have the +5 static res.
The hellsteed, I think, is one of the most awesome bits of kit vampires have received in the new edition, a mount option for vampires and vampire lords, the hellsteed is basically a flying horse. Not a monstrous one, either, so you can’t get shot off it and you get the bonuses for being mounted. All this for less than the bloodline power that gives you fly, without taking any allowance. My favourite recipe so far for this is a chap with the balefire lance, enchanted shield, wristbands of black gold, hellsteed, hatred and raise creatures of the night. This little gribbly can fly around with any dire wolves or fellbats, being screened by them and raising more with his dice and your pool ones (alternatively you can trade the wristbands if you’re confident with your screening and switch it to the scepter of noirot, allowing for a fairly reliable, high unit strength zombie unit raise in one turn, right down in the enemy backline. If that won’t draw dispel dice, I dunno what will...) Then you can throw him at a cavalry unit’s flank, or, even more fun, at an enemy wizard in a unit lacking champion support, or a flammable or regenerating unit. In fact, with three attacks hitting and wounding a treeman on 3’s with no saves, re-rolling misses and double wounds, this little boy has odds on chance of splattering a non-ancient treeman without batting an eyelid. Not bad for a tad over 200 points.
That all said, a couple of vampires even with moderate kit and you’re looking at a hefty character bill, up in the 700’s. Unless you’re pretty confident with a crack list, or you tool them to be able to raise another small army, you’ll be desperately outclassed troops-wise and need some serious generalship to win your average game.
Optimal field: vampire, BSB, second level, your choice of summoning, flayed hauberk, cursed book or scepter of noirot.

Necromancers: Necromancers have changed most significantly since the last book of all the hero choices, losing the extra level but benefiting from a significantly improved lore of necromancy and the ability to choose a spell from three of the best low casting spells in the game. I think most people will use these guys as scroll caddies, an extra invocation, 2 scrolls and a dispel dice is pretty darn good for a hundred points, not required to be at the front of the line to make their points back and not a huge loss if eaten by something anyway. While a solid choice, they are somewhat eclipsed by vampires, as vampires get invocation and another spell at level 1, combat stats, a potential extra 2 power dice for bloodlines, the vampire rule and plenty of other stuff, and by wight kings for value for money. Still, if you want to focus on troops and minimize over expenditure on characters, a cro to go along with your count makes for a solid magic offence and defense for probably under 400 points for the both of them. There’s also the option to mount these boys in corpsecarts, though since the carts are core anyway this doesn’t make much sense until you start looking at magic items. Then you see the wristbands. A corpsecart with a 3+ wardsave AND regeneration? Yes please!
Optimal field: Necromancer, vanhell’s dance macabre, corpse cart, wristbands of black gold, power stone.

Wight kings: Wight kings, while not horribly lethal, are now just about the game’s premiere choice for a damage mitigation hero (tank) or BSB. Three wounds at T5 is only equaled by chaos exalted daemons, which take a lot more points and two hero choices, and they can’t be the BSB. Already more resilient than most lord choices, you can add the enchanted shield and crown of the damned for a HERO with 3 t5 wounds, a 3+ armor save and 4+ ward save, plus killing blow on the rebound attacks, to scare off enemy characters. If you’re smart, pick off the champion of their general’s unit with a sacrificial unit of something or other (ghouls or zombies) then pop some skellies with this guy in front of them. Run in, either hide from this guy’s challenge and lose combat through Static res, or take it up, do nothing to him and potentially get topped by a killing blow. Fun times. Another good combo is the drakenhoff banner in a unit of graveguard. 3 T5 wounds with a 3+ save and regeneration, in a unit with t4, 3+ saves and regen. Give the unit the banner of the endless legion (double unit strength) and you’ll find even chaos knights bouncing off and autobreaking. Scary stuff. Especially because you can now raise them as well… (you can even put your magic heavy lord in there and when the enemy run in and challenge, just accept with the BSB. He can take it and then demonstrate ‘killing blow’ to the face…)
He’s also a nice addition to a black knight unit, who can use that ethereal movement to get in amongst the enemy. In this setup, sword of kings is obviously king, a 5+ killing blow on an offensive unit will put the willies into any enemy general, but as is becoming more and more common, foot characters seem to work far better in the new edition, as most armies have cavalry that can handle themselves quite well enough without them (dragon princes, blood knights, wild riders etc)
Optimal field: Wight king, BSB, drakenhoff banner, heavy armor, shield