March 23, 2016 by brennon
One of the factions that has been most anticipated for Total War: Warhammer are the Vampire Counts. This army of the dead, led by Necromancers and Vampires, spread from the lands of Sylvania and believe that the lands of The Empire are theirs to rule.
Whether planting themselves within noble families or scurrying around underground plotting and tinkering with the bodies of the fallen they are a dangerous opponent to face. In Total War: Warhammer you’ll find two legendary generals to lead them into battle and conquer the Old World, Mannfred Von Carstein and Heinrich Kemmler.
Let’s take a look at how the Vampire Counts work in Total War: Warhammer and whether or not they feel faithful to their tabletop counterparts.
The Campaign Map
First up we’ll discuss the way the Vampire Counts work on the campaign map. Starting deep within Sylvania I was tasked with taking out some rival Vampires early in the campaign with a goal of making sure they paid for their insolence in assuming they could curtail me! The tutorial was well done (your ‘assistant’ is very well voice acted) and led me through a lot of the mechanics which apply to all of the races in Total War: Warhammer as well as those more specific to the Vampire Counts.
Controlling Mannfred Von Carstein I was able to move my undead armies more swiftly and it was great shuffling them around the game map which was brimming with little details. Spirits haunted graveyards, the woods were twisted and gnarled, all thanks to my corruption spread throughout the region.
Corruption is an important resource for these chaps as anywhere your army travels without it means you’ll suffer attrition (damaging your army). Thankfully there are plenty of ways to add corruption to regions through some of your heroes and buildings within your own territory.
Interestingly if you are able to sow the seeds of corruption within an enemy region and they leave it unchecked you might be able to force them into a vampire rebellion which lends more support to your cause. It’s good to see that you don’t just HAVE to fight outright in order to beat your enemies.
In terms of buildings and upgrades they all focus very much towards the theme of the army and you’ll find plenty of interesting options. It was fun to work on the different ways you could build up Mannfred in the short time I had within the game but you have oodles of spells to unlock or you can focus more into martial abilities and make him a combat beast.
One of the key mechanics of the Vampire Counts on the campaign map is the way in which they bring troops into play. While other races like the Orcs can bring in raiders and such the Vampire Counts can raise the dead. This allows you to quickly add units to your army when you desperately need them. Battlefields, marked on the map, will give you more bodies because – well, a lot more people died there! It’s very thematic.
Now we get to the nuts and bolts of the game. I played out a fair few battles with the Vampire Counts and it was fun playing around with some of their units. Just like in the tabletop game they have little to no proper ranged units, most of their options coming from magic. However, they make up for it in different ways.
One such way is that their units never rout. Being undead they will continue to fight on and on until they wither and crumble. If you are being overrun then that is still a possibility but the fact that they stick around for much longer means that you can whittle down the enemy numbers, surround them and engage their flanks and then chase them down with Direwolves and the like.
Spells can also kept them healed up and you will also be able to raise units on the battlefield later down the line.
Talking of units, here’s a run down of what you can expect to play around with…
- Skeleton Warriors
- Grave Guard
- Crypt Ghouls
- Cairn Wraiths
- Crypt Horrors
- Black Knights
- Hex Wraiths
- Black Coach
- Dire Wolves
- Fell Bats
I really enjoyed how the basic units moved in battle. They had a Ray Harryhausen feel to them as they jerked and stumbled forwards. It was great seeing them clashing in battle and swarming over the enemy. While having no ranged units their Dire Wolves are fast and easy to get early on meaning you have ways of harassing the enemy ranged units and maybe even forcing them from the field.
My favourite unit to play as however was the Varghulf that I got early on. While the Vagrheists were a powerful and interesting unit to play around with – one of the most deadly in the game – the Varghulf was my MVP. He was a wrecking ball of anger that ploughed into units that I’d tar-pitted with zombies and destroyed them in quick fashion.
These massive beasts are a great addition to the game and bring a whole new dynamic to the table, especially when it comes to some of the mounts Lords can get like Zombie Dragons. Speaking of new dynamics, it was really odd coming into the game and playing with an army that had an absence of ranged. It meant battles were a little slower but it gave more chance to play around with manoeuvring your army.
I didn’t get a lot of time to play around with heroes but I did get to use Mannfred and another general, a Necromancer, to great effect. They felt like heroes from the tabletop game where they were capable of swinging the balance with their spells and martial might BUT if left unattended would quickly be swamped and killed.
Spellcasters are devious foes to face as I found myself not being able to push through the lines of the enemy to get at enemy Necromancers. However, after a while I got to using my Dire Wolves more effectively and rushed them round for a little surprise.
Heroes you can expect to play within the game include the likes of Banshees, Necromancers, Vampires and Wight Kings. Not only do they have effects on the Campaign Map, allowing you to assassinate heroes and work on spreading corruption, but they can also join you in battle and lend their support in the fighting. I love the idea of a proper Wight army – maybe we’ll even see Krell himself?
Overall playing as the Vampire Counts was rather fun indeed. I have dabbled with them a bit on the tabletop and I enjoy the thought of raising an aristocracy of the night. The campaign gameplay felt like it had enough intrigue in it to keep it interesting. Battles felt like they do on the tabletop with this tar pit of the undead fatiguing the enemy before you rush in with your heavy hitters and deliver the killing blow.
One thing that I know a few people were disappointed about at the event was that when they faced off against other races the zombies that were raised were still all human. Maybe this is something that can be changed before launch but it was a bit jarring to see humans standing up in the place of Orcs or Dwarfs – those kind of aesthetic touches can really bring the game to life and keep you absorbed.
I’m by no means an expert on all the computer mumbo-jumbo but I thought the game looked really good. The maps were interesting and very ‘Warhammer’ with plenty for fans to enjoy. The characters were all interesting and fitted within the theme too.
If anything this game just makes me yearn for the Old World of Warhammer. The choice of Mannfred as the leader of the Vampire Counts fits in well with how the story of Warhammer Fantasy was unfolding towards the End Times and he is an engaging character with a thirst (ha!) for power. A perfect leader next to Kemmler who works more within the shadows.
Alas, at least we’ll have this game to allow us to continue playing out those mighty clashes. If you have any more questions drop them in the comments below.
We shall see how it all looks at launch!
"Interestingly if you are able to sow the seeds of corruption within an enemy region and they leave it unchecked you might be able to force them into a vampire rebellion which lends more support to your cause..."
"Battles felt like they do on the tabletop with this tar pit of the undead fatiguing the enemy before you rush in with your heavy hitters and deliver the killing blow..."