This is not going to be a battle report post. I'm hoping to do one soon but this is more like bookkeeping. This was my first game using a Vampire-free, Necromancer-themed Vampire Counts list and I want to write down some observations I made during the game.
Battle format and background
Straight-up pitched battle, no fancy rules, 1000 points, my Vampire Counts versus Matt's Empire. Both of our forces were scouting up a mountain pass, to the north of my home territory, to the south of his, the only square on the map separating the two.
The Armies (roughly)
Scouting Party of Berenice von Gallenberg's Undead Horde
Irwin Sollander: Level 2 Necromancer using the Lore of Vampires (General)
Mehendri Korendorf: Level 2 Necromancer using the Lore of Vampires
The Prisoner of Blood Keep: Cairn Wraith
(I know this is 10 points over the character allowance, but we discussed it before the game and Matt gave his Battle Wizard a Channelling Staff to match me)
20 Crypt Ghouls with Ghast
20 Skeleton Warriors, spears and shields, full command
20 Zombies, standard and musician
20 Zombies, standard and musician
Corpse Cart (no upgrades)
5 Black Knights, lances, barding and shields, full command
Expeditionary Force of the Third Army of Nordland
(If I missed something from this I apologise, Matt)
Captain Steiner: Empire Captain with great weapon
Magister Lehrer: Level 2 Battle Wizard using the Lore of Light with a Channelling Staff
Father Wolfgang: Warrior Priest with double hand weapons
25 Halberdiers, full command with detachment of 10 Free Company
20 Halberdiers, full command with detachment of 10 Free Company
5 Pistoliers with Outrider
Victory to the Undead Horde. All but the two Handgunner units, the Captain (who was fleeing) and the Light Wizard (who had miscast and lost all his magic) were dead by the end of Turn 6. The mountain pass belongs to the Undead now and I make the first territorial claim of the campaign. Next to move east and try to take the bay Matt's ships are moored in, cutting of their retreat by sea.
Epic Moments of Battle
The first shot fired saw Matt's Battle Wizard casting Shem's Burning Gaze and vapourising my Corpse Cart in one shot.
My Black Knights rolling the 11 they needed to make a Turn 1 charge into the Pistoliers who had used their Vanguard move to jump forward, hoping to take out a flank quick and easy. Matt's Pistoliers are old enemies of mine and this game marks the very first time I have ever actually taken them out. Though they escaped my Black Knights by fleeing they later ended up bogged down in combat with my Skeletons.
Faith in Sigmar proved a poor shield and the Cairn Wraith skewered the Warrior Priest in a challenge.
The final combat of the game was an epic scrum with Captain Steiner besieged on all sides: Zombies to the front of him, Skeletons on the right flank, Crypt Ghouls and the Cairn Wraith to his rear. The now-powerless Battle Wizard even got in on it, bravely (or stupidly) charging the rear of the Zombie unit. Sadly, my Black Knights couldn't equal their Turn 1 feat and roll another 11 to take the Battle Wizard in the rear. The Halberdiers fought to the last man but it all proved too much for Steiner who fled in fear in the last seconds of the game.
Surprisingly, I do not miss having Vampires. I especially don't miss having a Vampire General and having to choose between holding him back from combat and wasting his devastating potential or sending him in and risking the Instability tests I'd have to take if he dies.
Instead I had a Necromancer with a Cairn Wraith standing next to him ready to accept any challenged on his behalf and even issue a few of his own. In a larger game I intend to take a Wight King but the Cairn Wraith proved more than adequate and was very good at taking out Matt's characters, none of whom had the magical attacks needed to harm an Ethereal foe. I was planning on including a unit of Wraiths in the future but I think I'll keep him as a solo act to play bodyguard to one of the Hero-Level Necromancers whilst my Wight King does the same for the Master Necromancer.
I was also planning on spending points expanding the Zombie units but seeing how many Invocations of Nehek I got off I think two 20-man units are more than sufficient, though I do need to paint more spare (perhaps in Nordland colours?).
The Corpse Cart is a target, even unupgraded it has scary potential, so in future I must deploy it in cover.
The Black Knights' ability to move through obstacles is great not just for charging enemies but for escaping those horrible situations where you overrun and stop slap bang in front of a missile unit. It happened in this game, I took out some Free Company, overran and found myself sitting in front of ten handguns clicking ominously into ready position. The next turn I made a dash (well, ish, I couldn't march) through a small building and blocked off their line of sight.
Crypt Ghouls make a great unit to accompany my General. They might have no armour save but you can always bring them back using Invocation. Between the 20 Ghouls and his Cairn Wraith bodyguard my General managed to make it through the battle without a scratch.