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The Vampire Counts

The Vampire Counts are the first army I started building in Warhammer. I chose Vampire Counts for a number of different reasons. To explain, I'll need to give you a bit of history.

My friend Keith introduced me to Warhammer Fantasy Battle when he was looking for an opponent. We met about ten years ago, when I answered an ad to DM a small group of players in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. He was one of the people in the group. I ran the game for about a year and a half, and while I can't say if he initially liked me, he at least did grow to consider me a friend. We have maintained that friendship, off and on, since then. At some point, we found out that both of us enjoyed strategy games.

He had been playing Warhammer for some time; I believe starting with Wood Elves but later losing his Wood Elf army to unexpected circumstances. After the release of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, 6th edition, he decided to start playing it again. As there had not yet been an updated release for Wood Elves, he did some research and settled on Lizardmen, at least until the update of the Wood Elves. One thing he lacked, though, was an opponent or two that he would be able to frequently play against. He approached me, and I began looking for an army to play.

The history of the Warhammer world is rather well developed through books and game materials. It is a history fraught with conflict that is based on two extremes: stasis and entropy, referred to in game as Law and Chaos. Law is much like a machine, there is no divergence from a predetermined plan. Chaos is simply that, nothing remains unchanged from second to second. Once Chaos entered the world, everything changed. According to game fiction, Chaos will eventually win out; it is just a matter of time.

In Warhammer, Lizardmen are a "lawful" race. Since I tend to want things to work out within the framework of the game world, this somewhat limited my options. I didn't want to play an army that would not have a good reason to fight Lizardmen. There are seven official Warhammer army books on the side of Chaos; Orcs & Goblins, Dark Elves, Beasts of Chaos, Hordes of Chaos, Skaven, Vampire Counts, and Tomb Kings. I didn't really have to look very far, in to that list. Once my eye lit upon the Vampire Counts, I was intrigued.

I am not the best person to play a chaotic army, as further perusal of this site will no doubt indicate. However, I have been interested in stories of vampires for quite some time. I have read Dracula, by Bram Stoker a number of times, looked into the background of the vampire myths, studied a little bit of the history of the historical Vlad Dracula, on whom Bram Stoker's Dracula is purportedly based, and read a number of fictional works dealing with vampires and vampirism. I have even written some fiction pertaining to the topic. Most of this was unknown to Keith, and he was somewhat surprised to discover that I was willing to play the Vampire Counts.

After I had settled on the Vampire Counts, I was set, right?

Not quite.

The army books in Warhammer frequently allow a certain amount of play. In the case of the Vampire Counts, there are five playable armies: von Carstein, Blood Dragons, Lahmia, Strigoi and Necrarch. Each of these sub-classes of vampires has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The von Carstein vampires are the stereotypical vampires of the Warhammer world, and are based on the book Dracula, which differs from the movies featuring a character of the same name. They are political monsters that seek to build power in the mortal world. Their stronghold is Sylvania, a province of the Empire. Von Carstein vampires sometimes have control over wolves and their power is magnified when they are on their home soil.

The Lahmia appear to be based off both the fiction of Anne Rice, specifically the book The Queen of the Damned, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla. They are female vampires that are temptresses. Much of their power comes through seduction, and often they tend to rule from the shadows. Some background on these youthful and attractive looking female vampires may have been drawn from the story of Elizabeth Bathory.

The Necrarch are physically related to the described appearance of the Nosferatu, perhaps even directly based on the 1922 classic movie. These are the vampires with dark magical power. They are studious and resemble the dead more than they do the living.

The Strigoi are a race of vampires that have fallen. Once they ruled and had all of the appearance of nobility, yet after great misfortune they fell from such height to being hunted down like animals. They were driven mad, and now seek only vengeance. Once they may have sought a return to the height of their power, but now such ambition is lost to the struggle of survival.

The Blood Dragons are a militant order of vampires. These undead resemble what might have happened had the Knights Templar become vampires. These creatures strive only to improve their martial abilities. They honor those that are strong warriors and seek to test themselves against such foes.

Another army that is drawn from the Vampire Counts is an army of undead led by a Necromancer. I hesitate to include it here, save for sake of completeness. Necromancer armies only fall under the Vampire Counts by default. They are armies that have no vampires but neither are they steeped in the ritual ceremony surrounding the revival of the Khemri (Tomb Kings).

As with all Warhammer armies, the Vampire Counts are broken down into four groups; heroes (or characters), core units, special units and rare units. Vampires, necromancers, and wraiths make up the heroes. Among the undead, there is an important distinction for heroes. They are self-aware, and thus not held together by the magic of another.

The core units of the Vampire Counts are zombies, skeletons, ghouls, dire wolves and bat swarms. Zombies, skeletons and ghouls are classified as infantry, dire wolves as fast cavalry, and bat swarms as a flying unit. Ghouls and bat swarms are alive.

The special units of the vampire counts are the wight units, fell bats, and spirit hosts. The wight units are broken down as grave guards, the infantry, and black knights, a heavy cavalry. Fell bats are monstrous undead bats, whereas spirit hosts, are the restless ghosts of the many battlefields of the Old World.

Rare units are the banshee and the black coach. Banshees are, per game background, the spirits of evil women. I believe banshees are based upon the legendary Scottish Bean Sidhe, or guardian spirits of the noble houses, but its background is drawn from game systems such as AD&D. The Black Coach is the chariot of the Vampire Counts.

Vampire Counts, at least the basic armies, have no real ability with artillery or missile fire. The closest they come is the scream of the banshee, which is handled as a rather short range missile attack.

When I started building my Vampire Counts army, I started with core units. I also purchased a hero, a von Carstein vampire, on foot. Though I started with the von Carstein vampire, I eventually decided to go with the Blood Dragon vampires as my primary vampire army.

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