Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Vampire Counts (Warhammer)

Vampire Counts are one of the two factions of the Undead playable in the tabletop wargame Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the other being the Tomb Kings, from the sixth edition onward when Games Workshop divided the old Undead forces. The Vampire Counts have access to strong heroes and much of the troops from the former Undead, making it more of a successor to the preceding unified army.

They are heavily influenced by stories of vampires from popular culture. The Vampire Counts generally hail from the area of Sylvania, though their presence is felt across the Old World and beyond.

Some two and a half thousand years before the birth of Sigmar, the ancient civilization of Nehekhara dwelt along the banks of the great river Vitae. (Nehekhara is mostly based on Ancient Egypt). Of all the kings of Nehekhara, none could match the splendour, cruelty and arrogance of Settra, first Priest King of Khemri. Under his inspired leadership and unparalleled ruthlessness, the many kings of Nehekhara were conquered and forced to pay tribute and acknowledge Khemri as the greatest city of the land. But Settra was unsatisfied, knowing that one day death would rob him of all he had accomplished. In his arrogance he vowed that the grave would not claim him and proclaimed that he would cheat death, setting his wisest and most powerful priests towards working on a means of preventing his passing. Soon all of Nehekhara became preoccupied with death and the afterlife, building many huge temples and monuments to the dead. These huge tombs became so frequent and huge that the rulers blocked them all into the giant cities of the dead called Necropoli.

It was into this culture that Nagash was born, brother of the Priest king of Khemri. Nagash was the first son and was given to the mortuary cult as tradition demanded. He soon rose to the position of high priest. He observed the morticians as they prepared the dead for internment. He learned all of their ancient spells but because nehekarra was so fa south the winds of magic were too weak to cast them. But then, when a group of dark elves were blown off-course and captured by the Zandri navy then given to Khemri as a gift to be sealed in with Nagash's father in his tomb, Nagash only pretended to poison them he then proceeded to learn in secret all they knew. Nagash kept them sealed in his fathers pyramid as a bargain: he would learn their sorcery and they would get out alive.They taught him how to reap souls and use their energy to cast spells on his own he created the elixir that made him immortal as long as he continued to drink it. Nagash took to unspeakable experiments in his quest for immortality and soon all the citizens of Khemri shunned him. Nagash's experiments met with limited success, he prolonged his life so that he didn't die even though he still aged, but there was something missing, something that evaded Nagash He shared his elixir with depraved noble men, building support for himself before he finally killed his brother and seized power in Khemri. He and his immortal supporters soon became overconfident and killed many citizens of Khemri before constructing the Black Pyramid, the largest structure ever built by man. Slowly the other priest kings became afraid of Nagash and formed a confederation against him. After a bloody war that accumulated in the battle at the walls of Mahrak in which Nagash severed the connection to the gods by killing Neferem the representation of the covenant between mortals and the gods so he could shatter the wards protecting Mahrak and nearly a century of warfare Nagash's power was broken and he fled north to avoid destruction. Unknown to the priest kings however, Nagash rebuilt his power and constructed a vast citadel that became known as Nagashizzar in the mountain known as Cripple Peak, seeking to take advantage of the huge reserves of warpstone there. The Skaven, also desiring the warpstone, tried many times to sack Nagashizzar and take Cripple Peak for their own, but they couldn't take the fortress, but neither could Nagash drive them away. Finally, after many years of fighting ground to a stalemate, Nagash formed an alliance with the Skaven, supplying them with warpstone in exchange for aid with his plans.

The rulers of the city of Lahmia, Queen Neferata and her brother Lamashizaar had been part of the confederation against Nagash. After Nagash was defeated outside the walls of Mahrak known as the City of the Gods. Lamashizaar allied with Arkhan the black in secret. They traveled to the black pyramid of Nagash, Lamashizaar entered the Black Pyramid of Nagash with Arkhan the Black in secret with his troops and plundered his library taking the nine books of Nagash lamashizaar enslaved Arkhan after he attempted to kill him. HE brought the books and Arkhan back to Lahmia where he sought to create Nagash's elixir and become immortal. Unwilling to kill humans to fuel the elixir because of a fear of being found out. He and his cabal of followers instead used animals. They extended their lives but did not make themselves immortal. Neferata frustrated with the lack of progress and desiring power for herself allied with Arkhan in secret and with his help created a new elixir then used it to turn the cabal to her side and took power. Lamashizaar eventually attempted to kill her using sphinx venom with its magical properties could overwhelm the elixirs power. Arkhan however using sorcery and blood was able to save her, Arkhan then sought and killed Lamashizaar in his bedchamber, after which Arkhan was found and cut down by Abhorash, Lahmia's most formidable warrior. Neferata through a combination of the sphinx venom and elixir turned into the first vampire she then proceeded to turn the rest of the cabal consisting of Lord Ushoran, W'soran, Naaima, Lord Ankhat, Zurhas, Abhorash and several others into vampires using the same method (though Abhorash had to be tricked into drinking the elixir). Each of the twelve masters (Nefereta included) bore particular traits, and they could expand their lineage by creating vampire servants, but through each successive generation, the powers of the vampire weakened. Abhorash became the first Blood Dragon Vampire, W'soran the first Necrach Vampire, Neferatta become the first Lahmian Vampire.

The vampire cabal engineered their own deaths and then used the cult of Asaph as a cover for their operations. Neferata ruled as queen behind the scenes using her mortal descendents to issue her edicts. The vampires defended their homeland but were ultimately pushed back to Lahmia itself. Alcadizaar's armies then broke through the gates of Lahmia and set about the city. The library of Lahmia, the centre of the vampires' lore and knowledge, was defended stoically by some vampires, who were slain and died in the flames. Accepting Lahmia as lost, the vampires fled north. Of the twelve Masters, only seven survived the sacking of Lahmia.

Heading north, the remaining vampire masters encountered Nagash, who was secretly pleased with the havoc they had wreaked. Making them his captains, they lead the Undead into Nehekhara. The might of Nagash combined with the power of the vampires was awesome to behold, but they faced one of the greatest leaders of all time, Alcadizaar the Great. Through a brilliant campaign, he smashed the Undead armies, and sent the vampires fleeing from Nehekhara. Nagash, furious at being defeated, cursed the Vampires to be burnt by the rays of the sun. The Vampire Masters separated and fled into hiding.

Nagash then unleashed a plague upon Nehekhara: many hundreds of thousands died and were raised to swell the ranks of undead under Nagash's control. Nagash used this new army to invade Nehekhara: easily overwhelming the meagre defences, he captured Alcadizaar and took him back to Nagashizzar in chains. After consuming massive amounts of warpstone, Nagash began the Ritual of the Waking to transform the whole world into an undead realm. Fearing destruction, the Skaven of Cripple Peak betrayed Nagash, freed Alcadizaar, who then (apparently) killed Nagash with the Skaven's Fellblade. In actuality his spirit survived, though it took him nearly a thousand years to regenerate his body. When he was reborn in his Black Pyramid, he tried to seize control of Nehkhara once more, but the other Tomb Kings, outraged by what he had done and united under the leadership of the resurrected Settra, drove him out. Defeated, Nagash returned to Nagashizzar, only to find the Skaven had occupied it. Nevertheless, in a single night, Nagash destroyed the Skaven Clan that ruled his fortress, Clan Rikek, and seized Nagashizzar. The Skaven decided they didn't want another war with the necromancer and left him his prize. Nagash remains in his fortress, biding his time and gathering his strength.

In previous editions of the game, only five of the vampire bloodlines were treated: Lahmians, Von Carsteins, Blood Dragons, Strigoi, and Necrarchs. With the re-release of the Vampire Counts army book in March 2008, Games Workshop has diverted focus onto the Von Carsteins. However the ability to diversify vampires with the new 'vampiric abilities' section has kept the option of fielding bloodlines other than Von Carsteins in the Vampire Counts army list, at least from a narrative point of view. For example, a Blood Dragon could technically be fielded by taking a vampire with the 'avatar of death' upgrade.

The armies of the Vampire Counts feature some similar units to the Tomb Kings, another undead army, but the two operate very differently. Vampire Count armies are primarily hordes of low-quality infantry, made up of classic undead creatures like skeletons, zombies, ghosts and ghouls, alongside elite units of Black Knights, Grave Guard, and various other creatures typically depicted as being in league with vampires, such as wolves or bats. These hordes are led by powerful Vampires, Necromancers, Wights (a form of undead warrior), or other undead. When comparing the armies it is easiest to use the appearance of the army and a general rule of thumb: if the army is 95% bone (skeletons, bone giants, bone scorpions, etc.) with an 'Egyptian' theme, it is Khemri. If there are anywhere from 20-40% fleshed units (vampires, ghouls, zombies, zombie dragons, etc.), it is Vampire Counts. The only 'war machine' for the Vampire Counts is the "Black Coach", driven by a wraith bearing a scythe and drawn by two skeletal steeds.

A big difference has come since the Undead were separated into the Tomb Kings and Vampire Counts. Vampire Counts have access to strong heroes and much of the troops from the old Undead, making it more of a successor to the formerly united army. They also are able to raise undead in the game. Tomb Kings have the larger number of troops, tougher/bigger troops and never miscast spells. In short, Vampire Counts rely more on combat and attrition tactics more than Tomb Kings, whereas the latter rely more on the spells of the liche priests and strong blocks of elite undead (Tomb Kings can field entire armies of heavy skeletal horseman and light chariots without a single foot-soldier in sight).

The resurrected dead are bound to the service of Vampires by foul Necromantic magic. The bulk of their armies consists of skeletons and zombies, with small units of Ghouls - living cannibals, driven insane by the flesh of humans. Bats are naturally drawn towards the power of Vampires. Elite units of Grave Guard, heavily armoured skeleton champions, march to war alongside the immortal vampires, and the dread Black Coaches thunder into battle, able to move even if the skeleton horses pulling it have been shot down. Necromancers are living wizards who have turned to darkness, and provide magical support. Vampires are almost indomitable in combat. Vampires also possess magical abilities which they use to destroy foes, and cover the sunny skies with clouds while marching to war. Cairn Wraiths are wizards who failed to become immortal, only their soul is left, wrapped in a cloak of darkness - these Rare choice units can be led by a howling banshee.

In the army's newest edition (8th) a few new units were introduced. Corpse Carts are an un-living mess of zombies on wheels, and can serve as a mount for a Necromancer. Varghulfs are Vampires who allowed their bestial instincts to overwhelm them, and have mutated and devolved into huge bat-like monsters possessed of enormous fighting power and boundless ferocity. Blood Knights are another Vampire unit, an elite brotherhood of vampire knights hailing from the fortress of Blood Keep in the Grey Mountains. In 2011 Tomb Banshees and Cairn Wraiths received a visual remake, having this time only one type of each model instead of having three different variants with different poses.

There are five distinct families of vampires, each descending from one of the "first vampires" or original ones created Neferata, these families are called "Bloodlines", each with different characteristics that affect the way the armies of each operate, although it must be noted that the more powerful members of any vampire bloodline can cast spells, and that all vampires are formidable in combat. Games Workshop has removed the bloodlines from the new edition of the Vampire Counts Armies book; replacing them with selectable skills associated with the original bloodlines (yet mixable as though having aspects of many bloodlines). The known vampire bloodlines are as follows:

Von Carstein
These vampires are somewhat stereotypical vampires, modeled very much in the manner of Dracula. They are seen as having close bonds with animals such as wolves and bats. In game terms, these vampires have no particular modifications and several of their bloodline powers emphasize their ties with animals. They are hereditary rulers of Sylvania.

The von Carsteins have been prevalent throughout the recent history of the vampire counts, and are the only bloodline to openly go to war with the Empire. The blood line was created by Vlad when he married Isabella on the night that Count Otto, her father and the then count of Sylvania, died. The history of Vlad before that night is unclear. Vlad has come close to destroying the Empire, only being defeated in a duel with the Grand Theogonist, on the walls of Altdorf. After Vlad was killed there were five remaining claimants for the throne of Sylvania: Fritz was killed while attempting to besiege Middenheim, Hans was killed in a quarrel instigated by Konrad, Pieter was slain by witch hunter Helmut van Hal (rumor at the time suggested Mannfred led him to Pieter's lair), and Mannfred left Sylvania to travel in search of Necromantic lore. Konrad, who had no ambitions other than mindless and bloody slaughter, wasted no time in marauding across half the Empire and even attacking the Dwarfs of Zhufbar until he was destroyed at Grim Moor. Mannfred then returned to Sylvania and bided his time, rebuilding the bloodline after Konrad nearly destroyed it. Mannfred then attacked Altdorf but was forced to retreat; after a long backwards and forwards chase he was defeated at Hel Fenn, where prince Martin claimed to have killed him, but rumors persist that this is not the case.
The Von Carsteins are the descendants of Vashanesh, Neferata's husband. However, most of the history of the bloodline is lost: specifically, everything between Vashanesh becoming a vampire and the resurgence of Vlad. Some claim that Vlad and Vashanesh are one and the same, but none can confirm this.

Blood Dragons
Blood Dragons are fallen Knights, usually from the realm of Bretonnia; they are portrayed as souls in suffering, neither good nor evil. They desire skill in military combat, but do not particularly wish to become rulers or land owners, thus making them undead Knights Errant. Their goal is to not find the Grail as a Bretonnian Knight would, but rather succeed in mastering combat, and obtaining the same ability of permanently suppressing the need to drink human blood to survive as their leader, Abhorash did. The game system emphasizes their combat skill at the expense of spell-casting abilities.

Abhorash was the greatest warrior of Lahmia and held honour above all else, so much so that when Neferata and the nobles of her court turned into vampires, Abhorash who was content to continue to drink Nagahs elixir had to be tricked into drinking the sphinx venom. Initially he refused to feed on the blood of his own people, and desperately fought to control his fury: eventually however, his thirst grew so great that he slaughtered a dozen men and women in one night of gore. It is said that he wept tears of blood for the poor souls he had murdered to save himself, he fled south past Rasetra into the hot jungles of the Southlands, the others attempted to find him but could not.

Abhorash was at the front of Lahmia's defense when the Priest Kings attacked and slew hundreds of their warriors, until the steps of the royal palace and Neferata's temple were covered in blood. Despite his great fighting abilities, the armies of the Priest Kings were too many to defeat: Lahmia was sacked, its people enslaved or killed, and the undead aristocrats hunted down and put to the sword. As the few remaining vampires gathered up as much wealth and riches as they could and fled surrounded by hordes of their minions, Abhorash cursed his arrogant brothers who had brought destruction upon his beloved city, and set off followed by only a few loyal warriors and carrying only his weapons and armour, in exile. He taught his followers that skill in close combat and honour in battle were the only measures of greatness and they would only drink from great fighters, saying that only the impure fed on the weak. Eventually his travels took him to a great mountain wreathed with eternal flames; ignoring the advice of all of his followers Abhorash scaled the side of this fiery mountain.

As he reached its summit, a red dragon of immense size emerged from the crater and descended upon the Vampire Lord. At the prospect of testing his martial abilities, Abhorash drew his sword and prepared to fight the great wyrm. The two fought the entire night and in the end the Vampire was victorious. As the dragon lashed in its death throes, Abhorash seized its throat with his fangs and drank deep. Intoxicated by the blood of the dragon, Abhorash cast the carcass of the broken creature down from the mountain top. His search had ended; he no longer craved the lifeblood of men and had become the ultimate warrior, a man with the strength of a Vampire who had no need for blood. He then dispatched his followers to go forth into the world and charged them to master the arts of combat to such a skill that they could overcome their bloody thirst as he had. When they had succeeded, he would call them back to him, and they would go to war. It is said Abhorash still waits at the mountain, waiting for the day when his followers can rejoin him. Other famous Blood Dragons include: Walach Harkon (who challenged and defeated the entire Order of the Blood Dragon single-handedly), The Red Duke and Varison the Blade.

While the Bloodlines are largely eliminated in the new Army Book, Blood Dragons are still represented in squads of powerful Blood Knights.

This bloodline is (almost) entirely female, and no male models have been released. They are descended from Neferata, the original vampire. They emphasize the seductive nature of vampires and many of their bloodline powers center around influencing the behavior of enemy heroes. In the game they are given greater speed at the expense of their combat potential.

Neferata was queen of the city-state of Lahmia and the first of all the Vampires. After the city was destroyed by the Kings of Nehekara, she fled with her minions to the mountain known as 'The Silver Pinnacle'. After driving out the mountain's Dwarf inhabitants, Neferata established a new court, where she rules as the leader of a Sisterhood of enchantingly beautiful vampires who use secrecy, cunning and intrigue where others would use brute strength, to sway the political powers of the human kingdoms to do their will. The talons of the Lahmians reach all levels of human society and they take an active interest in human affairs. No one can guess how many eccentric noblewomen, widows of princes and dukes, and high-born ladies who shun the light of day and lock themselves up in tall towers and opulent palaces, are in truth the Undead and part of Neferata's brood. Geneviève Dieudonné (who was made a vampire without approval and is not linked to the Lahmian hierarchy) is of special interest to the Lahmians, who guard her in the hopes that her heroic status amongst the humans can be used to the benefit of the Lahmians' goals.

Necrarch vampires appear monstrous and wizened, very much on the mold of the vampire shown in the classic film Nosferatu. In Warhammer terms they are weaker in combat but have much greater magical potential than the other vampire bloodlines. However, their physical strength is still on a similar level to other vampires, their disadvantage being a poorer weapon skill. Overall they are still vastly more dangerous than an equivalent level wizard in close combat, and on par with the more dangerous of melee fighters. They are described as solitary researchers, working on ever more terrible spells as they live out their undying centuries. Because of their studies the Necrarch armies field large numbers of necromantic constructs, spellcasters, and zombie dragons.

Necrarchs claim descent from W'soran, who they revere as the father of Vampires, for W'soran served under Nagash himself. With the fall of Lahmia, the kingdom of Vampires came to an end and the Great Library of Lahmia was burned to the ground. The accumulated knowledge of ancient Nehekhara was destroyed and many disciples of W'soran died in the flames, reluctant to abandon their work. However a handful of Necrarchs fled and survived the pursuit of the armies of the kings of Numas and Zandri, taking with them books and scrolls and other fragments of the dark lore that Nagash created. They scattered all over the world hiding themselves to patiently wait for the death of their enemies and continue their studies. It is implied they are still in the servitude of Nagash, or are attempting to conduct a spell similar to the one he used to decimate Nehekhara and awaken the dead therein. Their progenitor was W'soran, and their previous master Melkhior was known to have served Nagash closely.

Strigoi were first introduced in the sixth edition of the game as a new bloodline. In appearance they are even more monstrous than the Necrarchs and are huge and heavily built.they are the descendants of Ushoran who with his followers fled north to what is now the badlands and built a great empire. when it was destroyed by orcs the Strigoi were scattered and eventually degenerated to what they are today. The Strigany are the descendants of the mortal servants of Ushoran. The Strigoi are animalistic, half-mad and barely intelligent. In game terms they have similar combat potential to the Blood Dragons, but in terms of strength and bestial fury rather than skill-at-arms. The tradeoff is an inability to use steeds, weapons or armor. An interesting note is that Strigoi are a type of Romanian vampire based on the striga—but there is little resemblance between the myth and the bloodline in Warhammer Fantasy.

Strigoi armies contain little undead, bolstered by large numbers of Ghouls and their champions. Their progenitor, Ushoran, snubbed the other vampire masters to establish his own empire in Strigos, situated in what is now the Badlands. When the capital Mourkain was sacked by an Orc, the Strigoi vampires sought out their fellow vampires, who shunned them for Ushoran's snobbery and in some cases, openly hunted them down. The misery of what they had lost and the betrayal of their kin destroyed their minds and corrupted their bodies, and thus the Strigoi degenerated into the insane, feral beasts they are now. Unlike other vampires, Strigoi mainly drink the blood of the freshly dead instead of the living, for fear of attracting unwanted attention from both humans and vampires. Some Strigois have (d)evolved into Varghulf, massive bat-like creatures driven only by the instinct to kill and feast.

Introduced in mid 2008. They are found on the Games Workshop website as a collector's model.
When the body of Luthor Harkon was unwittingly taken on board the long-boat of Norse raiders and taken to Lustria, he created an undead realm known as the Vampire coast of zombie pirates from shipwrecks that became feared pirates and attacked the Lizardmen of the city of Huatl.


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