Monday, January 16, 2012

Product review - Vampire Counts army book

We didn't have a review in a while, with me all caught up in the savage orcs project, have we? Well, this could not have come at a better time then.

It's always nice to start a new year with a new project and I think I'm not going to be an exception. But I digress. Let's look at the VC book, shall we?

The book is hardback, full color, semi-gloss paper. Nothing that has not been seen in the three 'new' army books. A great, high standard presentation; finally GW is truly setting the bar. And it is set high. Nothing to complain about here.

Or "fluff", as some of you call it. No major changes, some pieces are even reprinted from the previous book. But I mean that in a very positive sense; bearing in mind what they did to Ogres and their great war with these Sky Titans, the vampire counts' fable is decent, solid and held together, so to speak. Not only that, but they actually expanded the story with a major, never before seen bit concerning one of the iconic vampires of the Old World. Not going to post spoilers, but I'll tell you this - that bit of fable seems to be setting the stage for a major player to make his grand return.

As per usual, we also get the timeline and some of the locations like Hel Fenn or the Blood Keep are given descriptions. Nice bits.

Bestiary and the new units
Again, the form is nothing new. However, as was the case with the previous armies in the 8th edition, each unit is given a detailed, concise description and not a small bit of fable. This alone provides a great read.

What is really great and clearly a deep bow to the gamers, not one unit has been dropped from the list! In addition to the mandatory new ones, we get each and every old troop back. What's more, each and every unit in the army list (except one character configuration) is present in miniature at the book's publication. Some miniatures that needed an overhaul (zombies being the prime example) did not yet get it, but still, they are available. Unlike, for instance, the Hierotitan for the Tomb Kings. Very big thumbs up for that.

As far as new units go, some are great, some are not so much (in terms of miniatures). The vargheists, the crypt horrors, black knights and the wight king fall into the first category. all of these are decent sculpts mostly without major nonsense bits. This, however, does not apply to the hexwraiths, which to me are just silly. Neither the models, nor the rules make much sense. I'm not doing to detail it here, have a read and look a the models and you'll see what I mean, hopefully.

The 'major' new realease, the Coven Throne/Mortis Engine is giving me problems to fairly judge. On one hand, I can see the complexity and scale of it, and both are amazing. Game-wise, both are great pieces, not uber-powerful and very much killable, but still packing a decent punch. On the other, the design is simply weird and to my mind not much in style of the vampires, but that's just me.

Magic and magic items
Very decent, solid playtesting must have gone into both of these. It is apparent from the 'tuned down' feel both the Lore of the Vampires and their arsenal of magic items have - both are powerful, deadly if used correctly, but neither holds game-winning potential alone. The same goes for the vampiric powers: they are still present and vampires do in fact get an extra points allowance for the powers alone, but it is a great idea. It makes vampires expensive, powerful and vital in the army - exactly as they should be. This section is possibly the book's best.

Artwork and pictures
Talk about a rose with no thorns...As far as pictures go, nothing to complain about, then again nothing to actually go wrong. All choices are neatly presented, units are shown in several color schemes - all is well. The artwork, however, is possibly the book's weakest bit. Starting just with the cover. If you look at it, the vampire's face makes me think he's shouting "Look at my f***ing bat!! Look at it!!". Inside, there are some brilliant pieces from the previous book, only this time in color - and they look just marvelous in color. However, in the bestiary John Blanche's 'art' rears its head once more and, well, for me it just drags down the artwork's overall level. I know there are people who love Blanche's work, I'm just not one of them.

Army list
Well, it's just that. However, due to the inclusion of all the 'old' units, the vampire army list is very, very extensive, possibly rivaling the orcs' one. Some units have shifted the categories (like the bat swarms and the corpse cart), but all in all, long army lists with plenty of choices are always good.

The 8th edition Vampire Counts army book is a very good publication. It has its faults, but these are minor and mostly subject to interpretation what exactly does a fault make. What is particularly good is that the overall feel of the army has been kept. The vampires are still the most powerful pieces of the list, they still command hordes of minions. And let's face it, the climate is what's important in this hobby.

I give the Vampire Counts book four and a half out of five stars.

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