Friday, June 13, 2014

Where To, Vampires?

A comment was made in the feedback on the Army Ranking post as to why Vampires were so low in the rankings. I gave a brief answer there but I thought I'd expand on my thoughts in a separate post - hopefully inspiring more dialogue.

I played a very hitty Vampire list early last year. It had the normal bus mounted blender lord and friends but was backed by a lot of fliers - including the much maligned Varghiests - and some zombies and ghouls bi found it fun to use but it had a lot of bad matchups. The 2013 ETC threw up another Vampire list build around Crypt Horror blocks this did very well having the least overall bad matches at the event - by my analysis anyway.

Looking at these prevalent builds I thought I'd give my thoughts on the Vampire situation and what drives it's ranking. I think it can be put down to one thing.

Inability to Get Consistent Big Wins

One of the key considerations in singles play is that to maximise your chances of doing well you need to have a list that can deliver consistent big (15+) wins.  I suspect that both lists fall down on this facet.

The foot list will very rarely lose big but it is incredibly slow and as such it struggles to "grind" - and that is what it does - out big wins. This makes it ideal in the team format - or even in the WDL environment (though it struggles to score bonus) - but not so much in 20-0. Five or six 12 point wins are unlikely to get you on the podium.

The blender lord bus list conversely can score big points but it is susceptible on two fronts. Firstly it can be chaffed up and secondly it has a lot of concentrated points.

In the 2012-14 game we have seen the rise of Light Councils that really hurt the Vamps and the continuation of cannons as Warmachine of choice reinforce the susceptibility of the second build to big losses. The light council removes support elements while sniping cannons are always a risk for the Vamp Lord and 500-600 points he entails. Most commonly this manifests itself in an Empire list which are regulars on the scene.

[As an aside a 20 Hexwraith list did very well at ETC 2013 scoring 119/120 points. However I suspect in regular singles such a list would be shredded when matchups couldn't be controlled].

So what's stopping VCs from "competing" ? Well in a nutshell, a combination of meta and scoring requirements. Will this change with the Elfpocalypse we are currently seeing. I suspect not in the short term.


  1. I ran a VC Bus list for about a year. It was my first fantasy army so I had a great deal of expected loss from learning the system. I found towards the end though it was the unavoidable big lose button of the VC general was the problem for tournament rankings.

    There are lots of ways the general can die even with the best protection. Miscast, cannon sniping, crumble, combat, magic (especially light as Pete points out was very popular). While some of these may have small chances individually (miscast cascade should be very unlikely even for 6 dice monkey), added together across six games in a tournament gave a good chance for general death in at least one game. In VC, when generals die, it's going to be 0-20 game.

    Combine this with the general army construction - in which the VC general is your main offensive beat stick. This means often you need to commit the general to get something approaching the moderate 15-5 win, and the risk increases.

    The secondary issue was with the missions. VC love watchtower (cheap, resurrectable, unbreakable infantry), but they suffer perhaps more than any other army with the 2 random deployment missions (meeting engagement and dawn attack). This is due to the "only march within 12" of general rule" and the removal of normal vampiric units giving a 6" march effect. In meeting engagement you general can be stranded from your main force easily and the army is too slow to regroup, in dawn attack your general may show up without his bus then it's hello cannons!

    So they can be a frustrating army to play.

  2. I have never played with VC so take my comments with a grain of salt. I have never seen anybody use the Raise Dead spell to its full potential. Using it to block charges and control space could help with the "slowness" of the army. If you think VC are slow, try TK!

    1. I agree, raise dead is totally underestimated, by myself included. VC can be crazy fast with the right build, if the general and magic phase are cooperative!

      TK have the advantage of a more reliable magic phase, and the ability to take points with magic and shooting as opposed to just combat. VC can do quasi shooting with scream builds but the short range exacerbate the danger of putting the general close.

      Ethereal has also taken a major hit. If you engineer a match up against OnG or Ogres you are okay. However now in addition to dwarves and demons you have frost phoenix/sisters in HE, WE magic arrows, skullcrushers, light councils, DE brolocks... Etc.... Magic attacks everywhere.

      I like VC and think they are still good - just not reliable for multi game all comers tournaments.

  3. I think one the biggest problems with vampires is they have no surprises left. You play the knight bus that's 1200 points with all the heros you only once try and take it head on 2nd time round you either keep away from it and pick up a small to medium win by taking out everything else or you delete the bus by throwing everything at it and pick up a 20-0.

    I think one of the biggest issues they have had in the last few years is the change of how there magic used to work back in the 7th days they had heaps of dice and bound spells they could spam cadet the spells they wanted magic, raise troops back up and magic charge. I think it's coming home that random magic phases stuffs them up more than just about anyone else.

  4. Just reading through and sorry to necro (;D) a little here but I will agree wholeheartedly.

    Recently had a tournament with mates (8 of us) 5 games each, I was running a, how would you say, odd list based around blood knights and varghiests, with a generic vamp lord. I won all the matched 20-0 except against wood elves, 1 because they where very hard to catch and 2. kept rollings 2 or 4 dice magic phases which absolutely killed me (espcially when he managed to channel 2 dice a turn on average and rock a 9-12 dice magic pheases).

    But yes, in short, if we don't get our magic going properly we're absolutely boned as the only good thing are tarpits have is that they can get back up. Stop that and they become less than effective.

    Oh and crumble is crap...