by Marcus Geigrich
Battleground: Fantasy Warfare has quite a few unique factions and the Lords of Vlachold are certainly a standout faction in that regard. The faction goes beyond a strict vampire theme into an overarching horror theme. The Vampire units are really just the top of the command hierarchy while the bulk of the army consists of the human Vlachold nationals with the occasional scary monster unit sprinkled in. In fact, it is possible to play the faction without using any of the vampire units against certain opponents. This article is intended to be an introduction to the faction and some general pointers to get you moving along.
General Faction and Army Build Notes
Vlachold is generally a synergistic faction, meaning that the units you select and deploy need to work together to maximize their potential. There are many factions like Orcs or Hawkshold where you can simply deploy your units on a unit-by-unit basis and you’ll be fine. Vlachold is more akin to Rome or the Umenzi Tribesmen in that you need to be mindful where certain units are placed so you can make the faction work. If you are using vampire units (and of course you are!) you need to make sure that A) you have a Vassal unit in range that it can feed on and B) said Vassal unit can afford to give up the damage without compromising your line. Draining the wrong Vassal unit can come back to bite you later in the game so you need to be careful how you deploy your vampire units in relation to your Vassal units and it never hurts to pre-determine which Vassal is going to be fed upon when you first deploy. Pay attention to the Drain range for each vampire unit as they differ. The cavalry units deployed on the flanks can quickly move out of drain range so I usually try to drain my Vassals early in the game to make sure the Blood Powers are pre-loaded.
Perseverance is the Swiss Army Knife of all faction abilities. It does a bunch of different things, but it does none of those things particularly well. It can act like a weak Follow Through or Roll with the Blow, potentially giving you an extra point of damage on your attack or preventing a point of damage to your unit. It can also bump a courage check by one. However, all of these are dependent and the die rolls, so there is no guarantee that the ability will help you. It’s a neat ability but I usually don’t prioritize it during the movement and command phase. I’d rather draw some of those cool faction specific command cards (see below).
Blood powers are what make the vampire units work and understanding how they work may take some time. Keep in mind that you can only drain a single Vassal unit per vampire unit and it can only be done during your movement and command phase. Blood is The Life is possibly the best blood power because every hit point on a vampire unit is precious. You want to put off their route checks as long as possible with that suspect base-11 courage and Blood is The Life is a great way to do that. Note that you can use the ability during ANY movement and command phase so you can heal your unit on your opponent’s turn if you have the blood boxes checked. The other feature blood power is Misty Form which causes the vampire unit to act like Ravenwood’s Wolfkin, limiting your opponent’s ability to damage you during free attacks when you fail a route check. It also auto-reforms the routing unit, saving you a command action and perhaps the unit itself. Inhuman Agility and Unholy Strength are nice to have available to you when you want to bump up your damage or prevent a point, but I tend to only use those abilities as opportunity presents itself. I use the first two abilities more often.
Voynik Swordsmen and Spearmen
Both of these are core Vassal units that fill their role as core line troops admirably considering their affordability. Their obvious weakness is that they only have 3 green hit boxes, meaning that they are likely to roll their first courage checks earlier in the game. Marking Perseverance can help, but in most cases I’d rather draw more cards so I can increase my odds of drawing defensive cards or Fatalism to prevent embarrassing routes. Both Fatalism and Dogged Toughness work especially well for these units.
These are stock crossbowmen, but the fact that they are core is nice. To me, Crossbowmen are more of a defensive unit. If I plan on advancing normally, I’m more likely to choose Swordsmen and spend the extra points elsewhere. Still, if you chose to advance with these guys I consider it worthwhile if you can get a point of damage from the ranged attacks before engagement. Be mindful that this unit is very susceptible to ranged attacks itself (only 1/2 vs. ranged!). Opponents will likely concentrate fire on them.
This unit is an odd one. They are a super spear unit and they can really put a world of hurt on charging large or cavalry units. They also have 4 green hit boxes, nullifying the weakness of the Voynik Spearmen. But they are slow moving which makes terrain an issue and there is that 11 courage which really worries me. In the right situation these guys are a fantastic value but be very careful as to where you deploy them.
This is a nice unit to use if you are facing opponents with a high defensive toughness or if you want to break through quickly vs. mediocre units. The defensive profile is interesting because they are reasonably defended against ranged attacks but they are pretty easy to hit when engaged. Thank the dark powers for that 4th green hit box! With a movement class of 5 this unit can prove to be a capable flank protector and is not as heavily affected by terrain.
For a 148 point non-core unit, this group of masochists really helps to bring the faction together. Used strictly as a combat unit, they make a nice backup or line plugger that can hang in there for a moderate amount of time. But what really makes them special is that they are specifically designed for the vampires to feed on*. As this unit gets drained, its courage increases and it morphs into a high-toughness unit due to the Ecstatic Suffering ability. Deploy this unit in the 2nd rank within drain range of your vampire units so they can provide them with nourishment, then use them as a back up once they have been drained to the point of having the 0/4 defensive stat. They won’t have much health left at that point, but the 4 defensive toughness makes them last longer than they have any business lasting.
*During the design process faction creator Corey dubbed this unit “Happy Meals”
Curteni Heavy Archers
This is an oddball unit that I normally don’t use. It’s a combination of a mediocre ranged unit and a mediocre line unit. You are not going to get much use out of them if you use them for one or the other function. They can be a poor man’s crossbow unit when placed on the line facing a weaker enemy unit. One thing that I have found useful is placing one of the Heavy Archers behind another one, or “stacking” them. For the 380 points you are going to get a good amount of ranged attacks and what amounts to a serious tank bi-unit if the one is properly backing up the other. Stacking one of these behind a Thrall unit can accomplish a similar thing.
Now we’re talking! This is just a brute of a unit that can cause a serious amount of carnage. They are like Ravenwood Bear Packs on acid. The drawback is that they are uncontrollable and fast, meaning that you must be careful where you deploy them or they are going to run off ahead and get themselves killed. If you can manage their placement, they can be flat-out evil. Even in the red they have a (5) 5/6 attack stat so as long as they don’t route early they are going to cause your enemy pain. And unlike many units along these lines, there is no penalty for playing command cards on them.
Warriors in the Mist
The strangest unit in the faction. Before playing this unit, read the Soul Strike and Incorporeal keyword descriptions, then read them again. When attacking and defending the opponent’s courage stats are used instead of offensive power and defensive toughness. This means that factions that have average courage across the board like Umenzi and Orcs really have their hands full with Warriors in the Mist. This takes getting used to but once you get it, you get it. This is a fantastic tank unit that is also an excellent damage dealer as long as its opponents don’t have a high defensive skill. Plop them in the center of your line and watch your opponent go through all kinds of gyrations trying to counter them.
Vlachold’s light cavalry unit is quite the glass cannon, as many light cavalry units are. The 7” movement is fantastic and the third green hit box is really handy, but this unit is ridiculously fragile for the 221 points. Keep them on your flanks or behind the line to exploit a hole in the enemy line. I feel that the Misty Form blood power was specifically made for these dudes.
If you like beefy beatstick units like I do, then this unit is for you. The (5) 6/6 offensive stat coupled with the 2/3 defense is impressive. This unit can stand its ground against any of the other top flight infantry units in the game but there are 2 things you need to keep in mind. 1) The 11 base courage virtually demands that you use the Blood is the Life at some point to delay that first rout check. 2) The Drain range for this unit is only 3.5”, so it can only releastically drain its neighbors. Deploy those Thralls close by if you have them!
This is the sexy feature unit of the faction and at 373 points it’s a bargain. It hits like a Mack truck at (8) 6/7 (+ impact hit) on the charge and its base 3/2 defense makes it an elusive target. Couple that with the fact that the defensive stats are 4/2 on the charge and against ranged units and you’ve got a true winner here. Even better, they are a heavy cavalry unit that moves at 6” which is rare. You can deploy these ferocious chaps virtually anywhere and get good use out of them. However, as with all vampire units that 11 base courage needs to be acknowledged. Blood is the Life is fantastic on this unit but you need to drain 3 damage from one of your own units to make it work. Ouch! Still, this unit will put the fear of all that’s dark and unholy into many an opponent. Voivode death rides are legendary.
Dagan, the First Voivode
If the Voivode Knights hit like a Mack truck, Dagan hits like a freight train with the increased offensive power. This is basically a hot-rodded version of the Voivode Knights with the Fearsome keyword added. Dagan also has the Bleak Touch which increases the effectiveness of Inhuman Agility and Unholy Strength. Dagan also gets a 4th blood box to help with stockpiling Blood Power fuel. This is arguably the nastiest cavalry unit in the game. However, it STILL only has an 11 courage so what I said about Voivode Knights applies here as well. As badass as this unit is, I may feel more inclined to save the 90+ points by taking a Voivode Knight unit instead and using the other points to upgrade elsewhere. But still, this unit is available to you if you really want to go nuts. Note that it’s unique so you can never field more than one of them.
A note on command cards
The Vlachold command deck holds its own with the best of them but it has to.
Routing is the #1 issue in the faction due to many units having only 3 green hit boxes and the base 11 courage of the vampire units, so the defensive cards are critical. Mettle is the best generic defensive card in the deck and Dogged Toughness in effect gives you 2 more of them with an additional courage bump for the mundane units. Undying Scorn acts as a reactive Hardened and gives a nice little boost to vampire units. Fatalism is an OK courage reroll card but it will only help the vampire units half of the time. This comes back to being careful when applying Perseverance because you really want to get some of these cards.
On the offensive side of things, Tenacity and Desperation are nice but there are only one of each of them. The real offensive stand out card is Red Harvest. It is functionally a Strike but if you play it on a vampire unit you get to mark blood power boxes for every point of damage they do. This can be NASTY!
In summary, Lords of Vlachold is an interesting faction with a good deal of replayability due to the abundance of moving parts. It is essential to learn how Drain and the blood powers work. Once you have that down it’s not a hard faction to play at all. Pay attention to who the the vampire units will be draining and deploy those units accordingly. Keep an eye out for those defensive cards and use them liberally to delay the inevitable route checks. Don’t be afraid to deploy some of the nastier units but try to balance them out with a decent number of the mundane units as well. Play strong, play scary! And defend your beloved land of Vlachold or face the wrath of your merciless masters!