I picked up the new book Monday night.
I'm embittered about the new hard back books, by the way. I would rather have a more portable less potentially-damaging-when-dropped-on-models softbound book like before that doesn't cost $42. Yeah, that's silly.
Anyway, I think the changes from the previous edition are all appropriate. Some of the new stuff is really nice. Some of it is really meh.
On to some details!
I first looked over the army-wide rules section. Everything is still undead, so even living things (bats, necromancers) are affected by Invocation. Marching is only permitted by being within 12" of the General now, so Thralls don't help much for marching, but while Crumble works the same way, after the round of Crumble when the General dies, another wizard with Lore of Vampires can take over the army, stopping the Crumble there. This might allow us to be a bit more reckless with our fighty vampire lords! BSBs work the same way, and as before Vampires do not suffer from Crumble.
A new Vampire-only rule (applying to Vampire characters, not just to models with the Vampiric rule) is The Hunger, which allows them to heal a Wound if they roll a 6 after killing something in melee. Not game-breaking at all, but fluffy and fun.
Necromancers roll for spells like normal wizards now. They can come as Level 1 or 2; or you can take a Master Necromancer at Lvl 3 or 4. Cost effective way to get casters out there, leaving you more points for fighty Vampires! One Necromancer in the army can be given the ability to raise Skeleton units to be bigger than their starting size.
Wight Kings are the same, though they lose their Magic Weapon.
Wriaths and Banshees are the same, including the new hotness from the White Dwarf that allows them to be taken as Heroes. Wraiths gain a Chill Grasp attack, replacing all their attacks with one that auto-wounds with no armour save. Hello, Steamtank!
A new type of Vampire Lord is avaialble, The Strigoi Ghoul King. He's got one point more Initiative, Poisoned Attacks, 5+ Regen, and Infinite Hatred...he can't have his magic level 1 upgraded at all, and he is not allowed to wear magic armour (they learned their lesson from the OK book, and have it clearly labeled that he is not allowed...yeah, GW!).
Ghouls got 2 points more, but are otherwise the same. I think 9 points would have been a more happy number for them, but they'll still have a place in my army, no doubt...especially since I have 80 of the stupid things! There is no way to increase the size of a unit (Summon Ghouls is gone).
Zombies got a big boost. They're still dirt cheap, still WS1 Init1, but up to S and T 3, making them actually a lot more resilient and able to do a lot more damage. They have the Always Strikes Last rule, can be raised past their starting number, and Invocation brings back an extra d6 of them...more on this later!
Skeletons got cheaper...a nickel each. They still have full command option, one unit can take a magic flag, and they can get spears for free. Really, I think these guys are going to be the go-to Core units.
Dire Wolves are same cost, but got back Slavering Charge for +1 Str on the charge. They're War Beasts and have Vanguard move...a nice bonus.
Bat Swarms got some love too, the cost is the same (I think...35?) but they now give any unit in BTB the ASL rule. Spiffy, though they're no longer Core.
Fell Bats got a price reduction, only 16 points each, and unit size is down to 2+. That's a pretty cheap deploy and redirecter, there, I think!
Grave Guard got a point cheaper, and lost their Magic Weapons, but still have 1 point Great Weapons, same stats, and Killing Blow. Still a rock-hard unit, to be honest I'm not sure why they got cheaper.
Black Knights look to be the same stats, cheaper cost, though Lances are optional now. I still think they'll not be often used, which is a shame because the new models are absolutely gorgeous...my favorite of the new models, actually.
The Corpse Cart finally becomes a Chariot, with S/T/W4. He kept his 5+ armour and Regen. The Restless Dead that pull it still have 2d6 attacks, but got upped to S3. Balefire is the same, for 15 points. Or for 30 points you can get the Unholy Lodestone which lets you reroll the d6 for Invocation now (I'll be taking that...I can roll some 1s!). The ASF-granting ability is still there, triggered by targeting the Corpse Cart with an Augment spell from the lore of the Vampires. If this happens, the cart grants ASF to all friendly undead within 6". Moreover, Zombie units lose the ASL rule and gain ASF. Not that Zombies can really do much with ASF, but it's always nicer to swing first, right? I think the Str buff and the Chariotness will make these things pretty common.
Spirit Hosts are the same stats, but are 45 points and unit size is 1+. As others on the internet have pointed out, they will make great charge-blockers and deploys. They'll be capable of holding up really solid units indefinitely if the BSB can stay nearby. I like these!
Now some of the new stuff, the Monstrous Infantry. They come in two flavors: the foot-bound Crypt Horrors and the flying frenzied Vargheists. The Horrors have T5 and 5+ regen, along with poisoned attacks; while the Vargheists have S5 and Frenzy. The Horrors are a bit of an Anvil it seems, and the Vargheists a bit of a hammer. The Vargheists are a lot more points, and I'm a bit uncertain on how flying and frenzy will interact...seems a giant pain in the butt to me. I don't really like either unit, but neither seems to be particularly bad. The models I don't really care for from the photos, but would like to see them in person. Vargheists also have the Vampiric rule, so the can march and don't crumble. Interesting.
Hexwraiths are an ethereal Fast Cavalry unit. They have no armour, and come with Great Weapons that are flaming, magical, and allow no armour saves. They have a slew of special rules that come down to this: during the remaining moves phase they can move thru unengaged friendly and enemy units. If they move through enemy units, nominate one enemy unit and that unit takes one S5 magical flaming no armour save hit for each wraith that moved through it. These guys cost a quarter and a nickel each, and the only command available to them is a champion. The models are pretty exciting and dynamic, and the unit's special rules will be fun. A big question for me is if they can move through enemy units and get their free hits when moved by Vanhels...
The Varghulf stayed exactly the same cost and rules and stats with one key exception: his Initiative went up to 4! This is great, but I still don't know if he's worth 175.
Blood Knights actually got cheaper. They're Vampiric so can march around on their own. They can take their Flag of Blood Keep for a 4+ ward vs. Ranged Attacks still. I'm still on the fence on them. You could make a really hard-hitting powerful unit with these guys...I expect we'll be seeing a lot of these, but they don't really fit my style.
The Black Coach is nearly the same...he only feeds off the owning players power dice, and he doesn't actually consume them, they can be used in the magic phase as normal, they just buff up the Coach. It's still a T6 4++ meanie, and now it doesn't hurt your magic phase (or the enemies), it just gets meaner.
The Terrorgheist is the same as from Whtie Dwarf. It can be taken as a mount for a Strigoi Ghoul King...which if my math is right means you could field 3 of these bad boys if you want.
That leaves the two big meanies: The Coven Throne and the Mortis Engine
The Throne is a mount for a Vampire Lord. It is a S5 T5 W5 chariot pulled by a "Spirit Horde" It comes with two hottie vampire girlies with ASF and two attacks each. It is a Large Target, has the Specral Steeds special rule (goes thru terrain like Black Knights), and has a nice 4+ Ward Save. It has two special power: first is a Battle of Wills...anytime someone tries to hit it (ranged or melee), they roll d6 and add their Ld...the Throne does the same, subtract, and the higher the Thrones is relative to the attacker, the worse it is for the attacker...if 6 or more different, the enemy unit attacks themselves. If the attacker gets higher, there is no effect. Also it has a Bound Spell that will allow all the parts of the Throne to reroll failed to-hit and to-wound rolls. The Spirit Host that pulls the thing has 2d6 S3 attacks. I figure if you have that spell up, it should let you reroll to-wound for the impact hits, the spirit host hits and wounds, the hottie vamp chix hits and wounds, and whatever vampire you put on it's hits and wounds. A Red Fury vampire on top of this thing with some extra attack generating weapon should really put a hurt on whatever this thing charges! It is, however, a bit pricey, at 230.
The other, and my preferred big scary model, is the Mortis Engine. Like the Coven Throne it's a chariot with 5s. It's also pulled by a Spirit Host. It's driven by a Corpse Master who is just a puny human stat-wise. The thing carries a reliquary with the remains of a dead liche-lord...and the power of this being attracts a host of banshees, too...so the chariot can do the banshee howl, and it gets 3 extra s3 attacks from the Banshee Swarm. On average 11 S3 attacks at WS3, plus impact hits. Plus Banshee Scream. Kind of meh, but not horrible...but it's prowess in melee is not what attracts me to it...it's the power of The Reliquary! At the start of each of the owning player's turns he rolls 2d6 and adds the turn number. This is the range of the Reliquary. All friendly units within that range get a bonus to their regen of +1 (so if they had regen 6+, it goes to 5+), but can't get better than 4+. If they didn't have regen before, now they get a 6+. All enemy units in that range take d6 hits with a S the same as the turn number. And the coolest part...when the thing is killed every unit within 12 + turn number inches takes 2d6 hits with a Str equal to the current turn number. Then one more thing...it can be upgraded for 20 points to carry a Blasphemous Tome. The book gives all wizards within 12" +2 on their casting rolls when casting a Vampire spell. Moreover, any wizard (friend or foe) that miscasts within 12" must roll twice on the miscast table, and their opponent picks the result. It's not really a game dominating model, but it has a lot of subtle effects, and will mess with the opponents target priority. They'll likely want to kill it early-game, which takes heat off other things. If they don't kill it early, and if I can move it up amongst the enemy, they'll have to think hard if they want to kill it and take the damage, or leave it alone. I like it, will test it and see how it goes before buying it.
I didn't really look over the special characters that closely. None of them really appeal to me, though batty Konrad is still an affordable beater.
Vamps can take the Vampire Lore, Shadow, or Death.
The Vampire Spells got the treatment we expected:
The Lore Attribute lets the wizard heal himself or another model within 12" 1 wound if he casts a Vamp spell.
The Signature Spell is of course Invocation of Nehek. It's now an area effect, with a Casting Value equal to the range of effect...the choices are 6", 12", and 18". It heals infantry units d6 + the wizard's level. Non-infantry units are 1+ the wizards level. Ethereal, Vampiric, or Large Targets gain only 1. Bringing back 5 dead Black Knights a pop is pretty scary, actually. The Radius effect will probably make up for the lack of ability to spam it, and I really like the change.
Vanhel's Danse Macabre is down to CV 6, and allows the target unit to reroll to-hit if engaged, or move up to 8" as if in the Remaining Moves phase (no charges!). It can be boosted to affect all friendly within 12", which is pretty spiffy.
Hellish Vigor allows target unit to reroll to-wound. The combiation of Vigor and Danse can make even soft units like Skeletons...or even Zombies...remarkbly potent.
Gaze of Nagash is still a simple and effective Magic Missile
Raise Dead got a huge buff, as it now brings up 2d6+3 zombies (average of 10, before was 6); and can be boosted to bring up a Skeleton unit instead!
Curse of Years is the same, still a very fun, effective spell that's sure to pull out the dispel dice!
And a new Wind of Death spell that creates a template (magical vortex) that does D6 S3 hits to every unit it passes over for each rank the unit has. Come here, Skaven!
I am a bit disappointed in the Vampiric Powers. I don't understand the costing of many, and I think they could have done a lot more of them. I'll not go in to detail on all, just touch on some things:
Master of the Black Arts is 150% point increase, and only allows you to rr one of the winds dice on your turn. I keep thinking about this, and what I would reroll. I mean, if I get a 6 and a 1, do I want to get more PD and give you more DD, or be happy with my big difference? What if I have a 3 and a 3? When would I use it and when not? Is it worth 75 points? IMO not at all, especially considering you'd have to have a Vamp Lord to get it, and to make them level 4 is very expensive (315 points naked with no powers...)
Red Fury is the same.
Dark Acolyte now adds d3 to a successful cast of Invocation, which will make your opponent spend extra PD, which is nice. I may be taking this one.
Fear Incarnate and Aura of Dark Majesty are getting a lot of attention: the former making your opponent reroll successful fear tests; the latter giving -1 leadership.
There is no Summon Ghouls or Summon Skeletons, but there is Summon Creatures of the Night. For a dime you can make those Dire Wolf units or Bat Swarms pretty big!
As usual with the 8th edition books, there are very few magic items. This is disappointing, I kind of liked the glut of unique magic toys in the earlier books, but at least most of the typical items are all the same cost now :)
One magic weapon, Skabscrath. Costs three quarters, lest you shriek like a banshee, give you frenzy and devastating charge...but if you haven't killed someone in melee by the end of the game, you die. Too expensive, IMO.
Nightshroud is pretty much the same, but cost up to four dimes.
Banner of the Barrows is the same, but cost up to half a dollar.
Screaming Banner is makes enemy roll 3 dice and drop lowest for fear test, cost a quarter (this will go nicely on skeleton units when combined with a Fear/Aura vampire!)
Black Periapt works the same, but cost up a lot to 55.
Staff of Damnation (my favorite item in the old book) gives all friendly units within 6" the Extra Attack rule until bearer's next magic phase...not bad at all, and somethign I'll try to include! It's an augment spell at PL4.
The Cursed Book casts cast a random spell from a small chart for the cost of d3 magic dice. Meh. Random is bad.
The Book of Arkhan is the same, VDM at PL3, no burnout, cost down to a quarter.
And last the Rod of Flaming Death casts Fire Cage (basically) at PL3. A nice way to draw out dispel dice!
I'm not overwelmed with the book, but I don't see anything to be disappointed about either. I guess this is a good thing. I really need to get some stuff on the table to see how the spells inter-relate. I've only barely started to make a serious list, and that is more of a focus on "what can I field with what I own" than anything. That nothing really stands out as "I've got to have that" is good. Nothing really stands out as the opposite either, as "that really sucks", though the Varghulf will still seldom see use, I think...too many other Rare to compete with.
One of the changes I do really like is being able to take a relatively cheap Master Necromancer up to level 4. I've always been hyper-cautious with my Vampire Lord General, knowing that losing him loses the game. As such I've always kept him buried in a bunker where he lurks behind the lines. If I make a mistake and let the enemy get on my bunker, I lose. Now I don't have to pay the points for the "fightyness", and can just have a squishy caster and play him the same I've always done.
At the same time, have the option to make a hyper-killy Lord is there, though he is not a cheap Lord at all.
I would like to have seen some more options for Core choices...I don't know, but it seems to me now everyone will have a million skeletons instead of a million ghouls. GW sells more models, but what does it do for us?
Here's a little trick I want to try sometime. On turn 1 my level 4 casts Raise Dead, bringing up a new unit of 2d6+3 zombies...average is 10.
He then casts Invocation, bringing up 2d6+4 new zombies in that unit...11 more, up to 21.
A level 2 casts Invocation, brings up 2d6+2 for 9 more...up to 30.
Then the other Level 2 does the same, so up to 39.
Thirty-nine zombies for free, a reasonable size unit that should hold up an enemy for a turn.
But wait...there's more!
Now turn 2 he does it again. He summons a new unit of 10.
Then casts Invocation again, which targets both zombie units, so both zombies get 11 more...50 and 21.
The other two Vampires each cast Invocation also, bringing up 18 more in each unit...so the first is up to 68 zombies, the second at 39.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Would an opponent let you do that? Would you always have the dice for that? Certainly not, but it will be damned fun to try!