Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wait, HOW MANY Ghouls Will I Need to Paint?

Last time, I mentioned that I was preparing for a large game. My buddy Steve and I have each been working on our armies for more than a decade, so our collections are pretty substantial. We were hoping to throw down with everything we've got, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 points.

I counted up the points cost for all of my miniatures and it comes to just about 8,000 before adding in magic items. If I kit out my characters, add in some magic banners, and finish a few of the items in my painting queue, I could push it toward 10,000. But there's a problem:

8th edition Warhammer uses the percentage system for army composition. For anyone unfamiliar with what that means, units and characters are categorized as either Lords, Heroes, Core units, Special units, or Rare units, and each has a minimum and maximum requirement to build a valid army list. Core troops need to make up at least 25% of the total points and Rare troops can't exceed 25% of the total points.

25% of 10,000 is 2500. Here's the entirety of my core units– zombies, skeletons, ghouls, and dire wolves:

Pretty impressive if I do say so myself. 230 models, and it clocks in at...

1565 points. That's 935 points shy. Even if I break down the wolves into minimum units, each with a doom wolf upgrade, and take a magic banner for one skeleton unit, I can bring it to 1620. 

That means if I ever hope to play a 10,000 point game I'll need to come up with 880 points of core troops. At 10 points per model, ghouls are the most expensive Vampire Counts core unit, so I'll have to paint 88 ghouls. That means the 48 or so classic metal figures I've got in my parts bin, and the 40 winged hybrid ghouls I've got planned. Those are all conversion-heavy, so this will have to wait a while. Until then, I guess we'll just have to settle for a small, 6500 point game.

Edition Fatigue

I began playing Warhammer during the 5th edition, "Hero-Hammer," as it was known. Characters (even wizard lords) were powerful enough to take on regiments of troops, single handed. The magic phase was governed by a dice roll and used the Winds of Magic cards, meaning the casting player would either dominate the magic phase or be completely ineffective. Army composition was based on percentages and there was an "anything goes" attitude for monsters and allied units.

6th Edition was a total rewrite, and in my opinion the best edition to-date. The army lists were more appropriately themed (one could no longer select from the entire range of Warhammer monsters), and characters were greatly toned down. The focus was on using troops and regiments to fight the battles. Most of the army books were planned out alongside the core rules, so they were mostly balanced with each other. And the magic system was streamlined, with most of the magic items unique to each army book (reinforcing that idea of army theme).

7th Edition felt like a stop-gap between 6th and 8th. The rules were mostly the same, albeit simplified a little. 

8th Edition was another rewrite, and feels like a cross between 5th and 7th edition. It uses the percentage system and the oh-so-fickle Winds of Magic (although power dice have replaced cards). It also uses random charge distances, which is counter to the idea of tactical maneuvering, you know– the crux of miniatures wargaming.

I've never been a fan of the percentage system, even when they used it back in 5th edition. 6th edition's system using minimum/maximum numbers of units was so much simpler. The current magic system also doesn't scale well for large games. At 10,000 points, between all of my vampires and necromancers, I'll have 9 wizards for a combined total of 25 spell levels. The Winds of Magic will still only generate 7 power dice on average and maybe I'll channel an extra two dice for a whopping average total of 9, and a maximum of 12. 

That means, with 25 spells at my disposal, I'll only ever have enough power dice to cast about 4 or 5 spells in each magic phase. Compare that to the 6th edition rules, which generated power dice based on the level of the wizard(s), meaning more wizards meant more dice, allowing the magic system to scale up with the size of the armies. 

New editions of the game usually bring an equal amount of excitement and dread, but 8th edition (while having the most beautiful rulebook ever produced) has felt like too much of a step backward, so I'm looking forward to an update. The rumor is that 9th edition will be another total rewrite, so we'll have to wait and see.

Painting Queue Update

My Hellfire Knights are coming along, slowly but surely. Their shields are finished and I'm working on the fire pattern on the lances. Now I remember why I put these off for so long– blending the red to yellow and then touching up around the flames is a major pain.

Once the lances are finished, I can dull cote them and then it's just a matter of painting the armor and gluing them on their horses.

'Til next time!


  1. Why not ignore the restrictions. If it's a friendly game between mates why not just go at it.?

    I did chuckle at the 230 block of troops though. My mate one had a similar issue with Goblins. Hundreds of the buggers but not a lot of points.

    1. I'd still like to be able to build a "legal" army. Personally, I'd have no problem with using the 6th edition core rules with the 8th Edition army books and magic items.

      Yeah, my zombies are only 3 points each! toe 40 I have are only 120 points. I do need more zombies eventually, but no matter how many I paint, it would hardly make a dent in my Core total.

  2. As a fellow vampire player, this edition has really been difficult to enjoy. The risk of my general nuking himself if I go for a powerful caster and then everything falling to bits vs lots casters that have to hope they can cast around my opponents magic defences to raise a few zombies really hasn't inspired. This is a shame as there are some great models and ideas in the new hard back book - so my collection grows even if the games aren't as inspiring.

    1. The magic rules this edition are really broken. From the game-winning Transformation of Kadon to the fact that the WOM dice don't scale based on army size. I wouldn't say that I haven't enjoyed playing this edition (bad Warhammer is always better than no Warhammer), but I agree that it's especially hard on VC players since we need magic to make our core troops able to fight. Irresistible Force also being a miscast is weird too.

  3. I agree, and seeing how armies like lizardmen (previous to the update) would get an extra power dice per spell was way unbalanced. I usually just planned for 2 awesome magic phases, 2 blah magic phases, and 2 magic phases that amounted to nothing. Then I would just pray to get the 2 awesome phases at the beginning of the game not the end when it's generally too late. My skaven and dwarfs are looking forward to 9th, but my highelves, well, they are doing just fine right now.

    1. All of of the 7th edition army books are totally out of whack with 8th edition magic. They have extra magic items (I remember taking the Flayed Hauberk and Armor of Silvered Steel for 2 characters with 2+ armor saves before my new book eliminated the Hauberk), bound spells that are over-costed since you now need to spend power dice on them to cast, and items that grant too many extra power or dispel dice.

      Skaven are the worst culprits because they were at the tail end of 7th. I don't know if they'll even *get* an 8th edition book at this point. They'll probably just skate by into 9th.

    2. The Skaven have an 8th Ed book. They're a starter force in Isle of Blood and the book added things like the Hellpit Abomination. Or am I crazy?

    3. You're crazy. :) The current Skaven book with the Hellpit Abomination was one of the last 7th edition army books. (I think it was *the* last.) It's got a page with the old army selection rules and everything. Also, it has about 10 pages of errata to bring it in line with 8th.

    4. That's insane. A core box army with no book?!?!?!?

    5. I guess the alternative was to publish a new one, making the 7th Ed Skaven book only valid for about a year? Either option sucks for Skaven players, but at least this way they're not wasting money too. At least they have a mostly current book; it's not like they're the Wood Elves who basically had *no* book for nearly the entire run of 6th Edition.

  4. If you're seriously needing to pad out your core section, could you not do something with some diorama-style unit fillers? It might be faster than converting and painting that many individual ghouls, and might help the interest level of the units when you're talking about such masses of troops. I don't know how you feel about unit fillers - just thought I would put that out there. I'm sure you could do some pretty incredible things with dioramas.

    I seem to be in the minority on the internet in thinking that 8th edition is an improvement (I've been playing since 4th ed). I've blogged about it before, but I disagree with the assertions that tactical movement is destroyed by random charge distances. Obviously the change was to allow everything to be pre-measured, to cut down on disputes about ranges and get rid of the horrible fidgeting to get that 0.1" out of range of the enemy, but I've found once people come to terms with charges being about chance management rather than trying to out-guess each other, nobody has a problem with it.

    I also think the 25% core thing is far superior to the minimum number of choices where people would field 3 units of 5 Marauder Cav and then focus all their points on the more "exotic" choices. It can be more of a problem with older books, where you feel like you're paying the "core tax" on units you don't really care about. Most improved when their books were replaced, but Vampire Counts didn't really get any better for some reason.

    As for the power dice, 2 dice is not enough for games of the size you're talking about. For anything over about 4,000 points, you should probably shift things. Try using the Storm of Magic system, which involves 4 power dice with the dispeller getting the total of the 2 highest dice (and a cap of 24 instead of 12). You should also make sure you've got that ability to reroll one of the power dice (Master of the Black Arts), as that will go a long way to ensuring you don't have a wasted turn due to a bad roll.

    1. I've never really gone in for unit filler, preferring the mass of troops. With the winged ghouls, I'll need to do something to prop them up so larger scenic bases will likely be necessary.

      You could still have premeasuring without needing a random charge distances. As for the reliability factor, sure, you can estimate an average of 7 on 2d6 (more for units with Swiftstride), but at the end of the day you still end up with vastly skewed ranges for your potential charge- Anything between 6 and 16 inches for a 4" move unit. (That maximum being *twice* their old charge distance.)

      Also, the maximum charge range of the average infantry unit is only 3" shorter than the maximum charge range of armored cavalry which sort of devalues the "reach" of cav and chariots.

      I guess the core thing depends on your local gaming meta. My group have always built fairly balanced armies, and I've done pretty well myself with core-heavy lists. I think my problem stems from the limited core options available and their dirt-cheap costs (some other armies get knights as core). They needed to make a new core option for the VC, so the new elements players will want to buy weren't all Special and Rare choices. Maybe something like human thralls or Sylvanian militia. There were a lot of great choices in the Zombie Pirates and Storm of Chaos lists.

      Good point about the Master of the Black Arts, I generally overlook that in favor of more Blood Dragon-y powers, but I may have to just dedicate one vampire lord to spell casting if I want a reliable magic phase.

    2. Why not do a unit filler using troops instead of big scenic elements?

      If you "mass-base" a few troops on some 60x60mm or 40x80mm blocks, you can fill the units out quickly without it looking too obvious. So instead of a 60x60mm square of 9 individual troops, you could mass-base say 5 or 6 on the base instead. Plonk a few mass bases into the middle of a unit, and you get the footprint you need for a bigger unit, but have saved yourself a lot of painting. Adding some smaller scenic elements (gravestones and such perhaps?) helps too, as it populates the base but cuts down how many models you need to paint...

      Just an idea anyway. ;0)

  5. Not to brag but here's my whole VC painted army, covering 2'x2': http://www.terrainosaur.com/gallery/viewtopic.php?t=287. 80+ zombies, 100+ skeletons, 30 wolves, etc.

    1. That's how I originally found your blog, Rob. The enormous, fully-painted Vampire Counts army.


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