There are basically two types of armies available to the vampire counts, both of which are offensive, hth armies. The first type is a gung ho, move towards the enemy and crush him hand to hand army. spells, magic items, and powers should be chosen to make the army go faster, hit harder and, basically, crush the enemy in one blow(and, failing this, stay alive for awhile and win combat). The second type is based on a war of attrition, take magic spells, items, and powers to help you raise more troops and survive, slowly wearing your enemy down whilst making yourself stronger. Neither type will outmanouver your foe(unless you are playing dwarfs and get lucky with dispels) so both obviously have to include lotsa big units which can survive heavy flank charges and the like and punch back. In the first type of army, one should take lots of zombies, maybe some skellies and whites, dire wolves and, of course, some ghouls. In the second, again, zombies, skellies, and ghouls but not so much need for faster troops as you can raise more and even have them behind your foe. There are obviously other types of armies which can be made but I don't think any others will be successful more than once(obviously there is no such thing as a defensive VC army).
The General: you have the option of taking a Vampire Lord or a Count. Your general also determines what bloodline your army will be. The type of character or the bloodline pretty much determines your style of play(or vice versa, whatever).
The Von Carstein bloodline is a good one for multiple purposes. It can be used for a hth army or for a magic based hth army. I prefer to use it against Elves and anything else with lots of shooting and which can in no way kill two vampire lords.
Here is a list of the powers and what they may be usefull for:
Pure Blood: one of the most useful powers and most neccessary. If you want to take the Carstein ring(why else would you take vonCarstein?) this is neccessary.
Wolf form: only works when your vamp is on foot and alone. Save points and don't use this power or any like it.
Honour or Death: this is an ok power but should be free, its got little potential for good and lots for bad. kinda pointless.
Unbending willpower: this is an ok power but only any good if you take two vampires and use this one on the lesser vamp. Good for a hth army(1st type) but also has uses in a magic based hth army(2nd type).
Transfix: has potential but how often do you fight low ld characters? Can be good but only in the 1st type of army.
Summon wolves:Like to take chances? this power, as well as summon bats, can be good or completely pointless, a well timed charge from the rear by four Dire wolves can be great at taking out enemy war machines, same goes for bats.
bat form: ya ya ya, just like wolf form but more move(why would you want to seperate your vampire from your main host?).
Summon Bats: can be ok, a little better than Summon Wolves but a little less risky.
Call Winds: besides pure blood, the only really useful power in the von carstein line, great for either type of army and great for fighting elves and anything else with lots of shooting and/or flyers.
The second family is necrarch, they are basically the epitomy of a magic based hth army. They would be good against another magic army or a hth based army.
Dark Acolyte: This is a good power but only if you have a thrall and it makes for a cheaper way of getting an extra wom card per round without taking a spell familiar.
Unbending willpower:same as von carstein, maybe less usefull though in a magic based hth army.
The Awakening: what can I say, you can take this or you can lose(take it!!!). Gotta be one of the best powers available to any race!
Master of the Black Arts:hey, why not, it's a cool power and very usefull but in a magic based hth army you should have a high level necromancer for the recasting and a count general to keep it cheep.
Supernatural Horror:there is always that one useless power, this is it. Maybe useful but how often does your enemy fail a terror test? once max and for 30 pts? nuh uh
Forbidden lore: good power, nothing special, fairly straightforward.
Curse of the revenant:Kinda cool but not that great, I inevitably find myself comparing it to the carstein ring, not worth it.
Death Incarnate:hmm, cursed book as a power, too bad it's lords only, ok power but probably not worth it.
Nehekhara's Noble Blood:If you take a lord, this is a great power, replaces forbidden lore and again is not too special, fairly straightforward and good.
Blood Dragon, now we go to the opposite side of the scale. These guys massicre shooty armies and hth armies alike, they are the epitomy of a hth army.
Doomrider:this power is good but only if you take armour and one of the arnour allowing powers.
Honour or death:same as the voncarstein power, somewhat useless but ok, not for the general though.
Might of arms:10 points for 1 pt of ws isn't bad, take it if you want ws to be higher, what else can I say?
Strength of Steel:Not bad but not as good as warrior pride.
Blademaster:Not bad but perhaps pverpriced when the white lions get this power for way cheaper.
Warrior Pride:This combined with Doomrider, some magic armour and a cool sword and maybe a strength potion(Armour of Protection, blade of leaping gold maybe)makes for one nast sob.
Red fury:cool power but not really worth it, well, maybe. kinda overpriced.
Killing blow:did someone say "nasty character head hunter"? you could take on a bloodthirster with the aforementioned combo and include this, oooh
Heart piercing:not bad not bad at all, if you want to make up for your bad luck with dice you can use this.
Lahmia, aah the lithe and sinuous maidens of undeath. Theoretically my favourite bloodline(although I rarely use it for some reason)for obvious reasons(being a Dark Elf player as well). These women are fairly flexable(he he you know what I mean, versatile) and can be used for both types of army. Probably would work good against a slow, strong, hth type army.
Lightning Reflexes:good power, fairly straightforward but other, better powers make it useless.
The Dead Walk Fast: no no no! I want my vampire in a unit thank you very much.
Swiftess:Sigh, again as above
Transfix:same as von carstein power but seems to fit better in this line.
Quickblood has a pretty cool power to get an armour save and keep spell casting powers, it is only 5+ though.
Innocence Lost:"Can you help me please?" said the beautiful maiden "uh, ok" said the soldier, not noticing his entrails spilling out. Man this power rules! this power combined with Lightning reflexes can be good for killing mages and other week but important characters if u use the right items and can also fend off assassins.
Mist form: I won't say it again...ok, sorry, the lahmia can be good on her own to assassinate characters but don't waste your general points on this.
Seduction:uhh, cool if it works; unfortunately, like transfix, it isn't bloody likely and quite a chance for fifty points.
Night Creature:I cried when they made the cloak of shadows skaven only, this power rules, the only way I would put my general on her own is with this power. combine this one with mist form(or another movement power) as well as innocence lost and go assassinate some wizards(get some cool Magic items too and take hand of dust).
Vampires:Counts and thralls, only take another count for larger games, thralls are a cheap, great character choice to protect your general from challenges and throw in some nasty surprises too. Better for hth armies with less magic or in a necrarch army to get extra wom cards. Can also lead a unit of wight cavalry and flank charge in a larger army.
Necromancers:good for both types of armies but especially for a magic hth army for obvious reasons. protect em in a unit with another character to take challenges.
Battle Standard: Good for a main unit to increase combat resolution and add an extra magic banner, otherwise kinda useless.
Champions: Wraiths are cool, they are ethereal and all so take them in small units and tromp other small units with no characters. wight lords are ok, kinda average, can be used instead of thralls to take challenges. Skeleton champs are good cheap guys for challenges and can also take good items to protect units(like ruby chalice), obviously they won't win much against other characters(or even other troops) but they do their job.
Wight Cavalry: good flanking unit, not a main unit type but good at causing casualties and supporting the main host(which has ranks). Can also be used to draw fire from main units(rbt fire) and basically do the job of the undead: cause fear.
Grave Guard: Have their uses but I say leave em guarding the graves and go out and conquer. Ok, they are a good unit but prolly not worth it.
Skellies:good for skelleton champs, a main unit choice but usually not worth it when you can get zombies, you must take one or the other though.
Zombies: weak, shuffling undead warriors. no options, oh well, they are cheap enough that it doesn't matter. cool models and the lap rule is great for a hth army, probably not as useful for a magic based army but still, cheap.
Spirit host: good against elves as a missile screen, good for magic based army. also can draw magic away from main host.
Ghouls: you should take at least one unit of these cannibals. their high toughness and speed make them good against missile fire. Also good to have in case the general dies, they may run away but if they stay you have at least one good unit that won't die easy, one tip though, take at least 20-30 so they aren't likely to run away(another good thing about facing missile units).
Dire Wolves: Good fast unit for flanking, support, and killing missile troops.
Vampire Bats: hmm, carrion are looking mighty strange lately...oh their vampire bats ok. ya ya, we all know what they do, kill war machine crews, outflank, support, etc.
Banshees: these are the replacement for wraiths in the old undead. You don't get as many but they do the same thing basically. Take em against small, low leadership, missile units, war machine crews, etc. and stay away from big enemy units, unless you are supporting another unit of your own. Can also draw magic blasts away from main host.
Black coach:this is higly overrated, people fear it so use this. in a large army, take one to draw missile and magic away from the rest of the army. If it survives, use it on the flanks or break into war machine crews and small units, missile units *cough* scouts *cough*. It will not win the battle for you, it may turn a small win into a landslide but if you are losing it will hardly help you at all, it may also turn the tides of a battle if you charge it up with a big, nasty combat but don't count on it.
Zombie Dragon: sigh, can do a similar job to the black coach, such a cool model and yet so useless and crappy. Too overrated I say.
Bat Swarms: pretty good, especially for half price
Other swarms:??? nuh uh, don't wast points.
Winged nightmares are pretty good but I don't tend to put my characters on their own and the creature is weak by itself. Could be good when supported with vampire bats against small units and war machine crews.
Manticore:I dunno, never used one, never will. Kinda pointless unless you have points to burn. Maybe it's cool but I just can't bring myself to use them.
Now for a chnge of pace, instead of going on to special characters I will analyze the spells.
summon skeletons, raise the dead, summon undead horde: these are the same spell basically but with different powers and dice levels. Unless you are in a larger battle and have definite magical supremecy, only the first spell should be used, just cast it more than once instead of using the higher level ones.
the dark mist: why would you want this spell? don' bother
Vanhel's danse macarbe:a must have spell for both army types. Use it to speed towards your foe or save it till you get to hth and fight in the magic fase.
Hand of dust: a must for the first army type and good for the other though not quite so useful.
Drain life: hmm, fairly average, may be useful for both types of armies.
The curse of years:take it in both armies and you will know what to use if you get total power! wowza!
Wind of death: take it agianst missile and war machine rich armies, very good template spell.
now, special characters, I must first say that I have only used a small selection of them but I will say what I think of them from my limited experience.
Dieter Helshnicht:too much to spend on a necromancer and too risky if he is your general, not bad with a manticore but I wouldn't want a necromancer in hth anyways. I will probably never use him but one never knows.
Heinrich Kemmlar: A good character depite 2/3, yes, only three magic items are, in my opinion, poorly chosen. I like to use him but I could think of a way better way to make a cool necromancer to beat him and probably make him cheaper too. His only good item is the skull staff.
Krell:another good thing about heinrich is that you can take Krell. He causes terror has good magic items and can boost a unit's fighting power significantly as well as leading them with his excellant leadership(like the undead need it tee hee, but for allies...).
Mannfred Von Carstein: I haven't used him yet but he has obvious potential. He has good powers, magic items and counts as a lvl 4 necromancer...woo hoo!
Melkhior: He is the leader of the necrarchs and he isn't as good with magic as mannfred. he also rides a winged nightmare, is very expensive and(relatively)easy to kill when compared to other, cheaper vamps. I haven't taken him and probably never will.
Neferata:I haven't used her yet but she has some potential. I should test her out some time, her and her cat would be a great addition to my model range.
Vlad and issabella: they can be great, I tried the old versions of them and did well, the new versions seem even better.
Walach:wowza, he kicks but! once he fought tyrion and cut him down as though it were childs play. not mcuh can hurt this awesome vampire. I tried him against nagash and it was close but nagash eventually won.
Well, that's all for now, if I think of anything else I will add it in either further posts or just edit this one. So what do you all think? do you disagree with anything? I am willing to hear other players' takes on this wonderful army so that I may improve my own tactics and become a better player.
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