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 Undead warband revisited

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Scythas
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PostSubject: Undead warband revisited   Fri 1 Jan 2016 - 15:59

Hi everyone!

I've been lurking on these forums now and then whilst trying to organize campaigns for my gaming group. My first warband was the Undead, though I have yet to play a proper campaign with them.

There has been a conversation many times here about the Undead warband in general and how it should be modified to rid its flaws, mainly crappy undead henchmen. I have also played with ghouls, but it does not feels as unliving as it should. Razz

I just made this PDF to represent my view on the warband. Comments and critisism is highly valued! The main changes are:

  • Vampire skills are added to the main warband rules as is the Book of the Dead. Reworded some of the skills for ease of understanding.
  • The cost of Dire wolf is decreased to 35.
  • a new henchmen type is added: Skeletons. I feel that skeletons belong to undead warbands and this gives an opportunity to skip ghouls altogehter as these boys can advance to heroes, yet not to so good ones.
  • The Necromancy lore is added to the file and is completely overhauled. Now the necromancer really adds to the power of the undead and no one spell is total crap. With these changes and the new necromancy lore I'd be tempted to play fully undead list and even use zombies. Also the if the Vampire learns to use magic, this lore is really a valid choice as there is only one spell that is not cumulative if both spellcasters have it.


Last edited by Scythas on Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 1:47; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sat 2 Jan 2016 - 9:50

Hello Scythas.

I've got some comments about the additions you've made. First up is the special vampire skill Mist Form, which can be incredibly strong if used correctly. By far the biggest thing with it is that you can cancel the mist form and declare a charge in the same turn. I suggest making a change to it so that it's not allowed to charge on the same turn as the mist form is exited, if even keeping the skill at all. I've used it in two different campaigns and frankly, it becomes quite dull as it removes most of the strategic thought behind movement and placement with the vampire.

I've nothing against a reduced cost on dire wolves or adding skeletons but together with the new Necromancy spell it could become an issue, the wolves in particular. Going from a 1-2 to just 1 reduces the risk of losing a henchman cleanly in half, and dire wolves can be pretty powerful. Playtesting would have to be done to determine the true effects of this, though.

Your new call of Vanhel is cool. Removing the possibility to charge with it is an OK tradeoff for affecting multiple models at once.

Lastly, are you aware of the restless dead warband from the fan-made Border Town Burning supplement? They are more classical undead and might be more to your taste right off the bat. http://bordertownburning.ciantygames.com/pdf/13%20Restless%20Dead.pdf
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sat 2 Jan 2016 - 13:49

Thank you MasterSpark! This is just what I thought of these forums, some specific and constructive comments based on long term gaming experience.

I hadn't thought about that concerning Mist Form. I'll do as you advice and make it disallowed to charge on the same turn as transforming back to Vampire form. I'll still keep ot as it's a cool option and our group is not that competitive anyway. Smile Gives the good feeling being mist now and then.

The Necromancy spell was planned to alleviate the fact the undead henchmen are crappy, if fear and no pain are not taken into account. This makes them at least more durable. Playtesting is needed though, as you said to see if it turns out too powerful. But in the other end, we play with a board that has an immense amount of buildings and ladders where animals have no business, and the warband henchmen all have initiative 1 or 2 to jump over the gaps. This should balance it a bit. @_@

Call of Vanhel also helps the undead to move almost as fast as other warbands if the necromancer gets the spell in the first place and then gets it cast. Though then he may not cast other spells while advancing the warband. Anyway, the spells are designed to make the Necromancer a bit more vital in the undead warband. Also, the reduced propability to die only works if the necromancer is not out of action, which he will be a lot as he's the prime target after the vampire. If you have any other thoughts about the spells, I'd really like to hear them. Smile

The Restless Dead warband is also cool now when I read it, but I was after an original, more traditional Undead warband so that it could be played with undead models, not ghouls. Funnily enough, the stats for skeletons are the same in my warband and that restless dead one, even though I just modified the zombie statline to suit the skeletons. Maybe there is an universal though on how the skeletons should be. Razz
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 1:07

Hello again.

Overall I think the spells are fine. You'll want to change the wording on Re-Animation to include the close combat phase and not just the shooting phase. That was an error present in the original printing that GW later fixed with an errata.

The -2 modifier for fear tests if a vampire gets hold of Death Vision could be pretty grim, but at the same time that should only be a thing in the end game if it's ever even going to happen. Opponents should be able to deal with it at that point, or they can just keep shooting at it.

I have already given my concern over the Necromancy spell. The risk I see is someone stocking up on dire wolves with a reduced price and subsequently perhaps never actually lose them. I don't think this'll necessarily be a big problem though since wolves have limitations and 35 gold is still not something you just throw away.

Raising henchmen as zombies automatically with the Spell of Awakening is cool but it could turn out rather ridiculous if the necromancer's got both that plus Call of Vanhel, possibly with Necromancy on the side. With a single good round of rolling you can end up with a bunch of free new henchmen that can actually be useful now. Try it out before applying any changes but perhaps there should be a limit to how many zombies can be raised after a single fight? Or perhaps add a difficulty roll that you need to beat for every zombie raised?
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 7:22

How is the PDF hosted? When I click the link I get a blank screen with a pop up asking me how I want to save it. Not doing that.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 7:37

@MasterSpark
The Re-animation spell actually is already modified: "that has went out of action after the caster's
last shooting phase". This now includes Undead players own movement phase, as with low initiative there will be casualties. Razz

The -2 modifier is added just because of late game Vampire or to give something to a necromancer with a huge scar on his face.

I'm not sure how it will go with free zombies and the new spells. I just hope that they'll be playable and I think zombies, even freebies, might hardly be over powered. The warband anyway has six heroes and some skeletons and dire wolves, so always having five or so free zombies might not be that powerful, especially as they cannot be used in buildings due to low initiative. But I'll get back to you on how it goes. Although, your suggestions seems pretty spot on.

@Von Kurst
I have it on my DropBox folder and that link is a direct download link to it. I cannot force you to open or save the pdf, but I assure you there's nothing to worry. At least MasterSpark has not any problems with it. And anyway, how would it be safer to open an unknown PDF on browser than save it and open in pdf reader software? You can also just open it in a software (web browser or pdf reader) instead of downloading it to your hardrive (even though it is then downloaded to some temporary folder on your drive).
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 11:14

The impact of the free zombies will largely depend on how early off in a campaign the players are. If you're able to spawn a bunch of additional zombies early on it could become tough. And to clarify, the undead player doesn't get access to the zombies' equipment, right? They become regular 15gc zombies, I assume, or else it'll be quite a lucrative money pit.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 11:35

Yes, that was the intention. Do you think that it is not stated clearly enough? I might add some sentence to clarify it if needed.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Sun 3 Jan 2016 - 14:38

A quick clarification would be good to include, I think. Raised henchmen will have lost all their equipment (and the undead warband does not get it) and fight exactly like standard zombies while hero zombies gets to keep their own stuff.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Tue 5 Jan 2016 - 0:44

Cheers for the comments again. I have yet again modified the PDF a bit in regards to this issue and several others raised by my own community.

I have clarified the Spell of Awakening for the regular henchmen and also de-buffed Transfixing glare to make model only unable to fight and to be hit automatically. Now you'll have to roll for the injury also as normal.

I will continue to update the warband untill our campaign starts in a few weeks, so if anyone still has some issues with this to make it better and more fair to everyone, please let me know. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Tue 5 Jan 2016 - 3:33

Good stuff. The part about transfixing glare was actually already covered by the rules, although it is rather easy to miss. Page 21 says this: "Note that a model with multiple attacks may not stun/knock down and then automatically take a warrior out of action during the same hand-to-hand combat phase."

The text is obviously referring to multiple attacks from the same warrior and not something like transfix but since the transfixing happens at the start of the combat phase the principle is the same: the vampire can't transfix an enemy and then take full advantage of the knocked down rules in the same phase. A second undead model involved in the same fight could certainly do it, though, but I suppose you have removed that as well with your fix?
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Tue 5 Jan 2016 - 3:47

Yes indeed, it is much simpler like this as the gaming group likes to keep things simple and easily understandable. Also, the skill is quite powerful as it is now (like anyone would have a chance 1-on-1 against the vampiress anyway).

The skaven and other low Ld players where worried about it and I gave up. Doesn't really matter in the end and hey, they'll let me use the modded warband after all. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Tue 5 Jan 2016 - 3:56

I'm not really a fan of the special vampire skills, to be honest. You've got the animal forms that are quite cool and thematic (plus they provide additional modelling opportunities) but come with some pretty large downsides, and then you've got mist form and transfixing glare that are both very powerful. It feels unbalanced in both directions when compared to the standard set of skills.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Tue 5 Jan 2016 - 4:24

After your latest comment I added a small verdict on the end of the transfixing glare: "A model does not have to test for transfixing glare more than once per game." This might alleviate the risk of a model doing nothing against the vampire for a long duration. Maybe the enemy gains his senses for good after the first time or is so brave that he is not transfixed at all. Makes it a little bit worse and might balance it a bit.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Tue 23 Feb 2016 - 9:49

I played this weekend with cultists against two undead warbands following these revised rules as an individual game outside the campaign. The lists were made with 550 gc, three free advances for the leaders and 2 for the other heroes. We also used -1 to impact when dual wielding, +1 to armor when using hand weapon with shield, 4+ to confirm a critic, and a revised rule to jumping and climbing.

I charged a vampire (T5 A3, halberd and hypnotic gaze) who was fighting a beastman with one possessed (T5 A3) and a mutant (this one making a diving charge with 2 attacks, halberd, step aside and scorpion tail). All them together couldn't make a scratch to the vampire, and when 2 ghouls arrived to support, he wiped out my three warriors. I've found that vampire skill too powerful, and reading the other ones they looked the same way. That hero is vicious enough, he doesn't need an upgrade.

I think droping the price of the dire wolf to 35 is nice, because it doesn't really worth 50gc, and skeletons add balance and value to henchmen, but 25 looks a like a low price to me for a warrior with such special rules, but no big deal. Both necromancers had the improved vanhel and it made that hero much more useful (only one of them used a different spell in the whole game, but mainly because they were far away from combat). Overall, reading the modded warband and considering game experience, I think vanilla undead warband need some of these upgrades, but if you apply all of them they become overpowered.

In my opinion, if skeletons are added, maximun number of ghouls should be limited to 4 or 5, there's no reason to be able to have as much as you want of both, regular and elite henchmen. Up to 5 dire-wolves seems too much also, because combined with re-animation and reduced cost, you may spam hordes of charging direwolves from a safe place with no penalty. Every spell looks way too powerful and easy to pull out to me, why does this brutal spell caster cost 35gc and my crappy magister 70?? Sad

I found really frustrating facing undead this way, so I imagine they will become unbeatable in mid-campaign against official bands. It's a nice idea and really fluffy, I like it, but it looks far away from being balanced with other bands in its current form IMO.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Wed 24 Feb 2016 - 5:14

bitxo wrote:
I played this weekend with cultists against two undead warbands following these revised rules as an individual game outside the campaign. The lists were made with 550 gc, three free advances for the leaders and 2 for the other heroes. We also used -1 to impact when dual wielding, +1 to armor when using hand weapon with shield, 4+ to confirm a critic, and a revised rule to jumping and climbing.

I charged a vampire (T5 A3, halberd and hypnotic gaze) who was fighting a beastman with one possessed (T5 A3) and a mutant (this one making a diving charge with 2 attacks, halberd, step aside and scorpion tail). All them together couldn't make a scratch to the vampire, and when 2 ghouls arrived to support, he wiped out my three warriors. I've found that vampire skill too powerful, and reading the other ones they looked the same way. That hero is vicious enough, he doesn't need an upgrade.

I think droping the price of the dire wolf to 35 is nice, because it doesn't really worth 50gc, and skeletons add balance and value to henchmen, but 25 looks a like a low price to me for a warrior with such special rules, but no big deal. Both necromancers had the improved vanhel and it made that hero much more useful (only one of them used a different spell in the whole game, but mainly because they were far away from combat). Overall, reading the modded warband and considering game experience, I think vanilla undead warband need some of these upgrades, but if you apply all of them they become overpowered.

In my opinion, if skeletons are added, maximun number of ghouls should be limited to 4 or 5, there's no reason to be able to have as much as you want of both, regular and elite henchmen. Up to 5 dire-wolves seems too much also, because combined with re-animation and reduced cost, you may spam hordes of charging direwolves from a safe place with no penalty. Every spell looks way too powerful and easy to pull out to me, why does this brutal spell caster cost 35gc and my crappy magister 70?? Sad

I found really frustrating facing undead this way, so I imagine they will become unbeatable in mid-campaign against official bands. It's a nice idea and really fluffy, I like it, but it looks far away from being balanced with other bands in its current form IMO.

Hi bitxo and thanks for the effort of writing all this great feedback!

We have just started a new 15 round campaign where I am myself playing this warband. Actually we looked through the warband once more with all the players and we made certain changes to it. For example Dire Wolves now cost 40 gc. Also the spells and vampiric skills were weakened a bit. However, I like what you have brought up and in the way of a true scientist I want to correct some things in the next iteration of the warband.

The suggestion of limiting ghouls is nice and I'll add it (I am not playing ghouls anyway) and I might also limit the number of Dire Wolves to four. Would you have a suggestion for the hiring price of skeletons? Would 30 gc be okeyish or should it even be 35 gc? So far in my only game they have failed to hit anything with WS2...

Would you be so kind and look through the skill and spell lists of the re-revisited list? Do these sound more fair? Link.
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Wed 24 Feb 2016 - 15:44

Well, I think you are doing a great job, the cost skeletons have is not that big deal and 35gc for dire-wolves was fine to me. The problem I see is with the synergy they have with all the other improvements. You made a good revision of the "re-animation" spell, now it's really good but not unfair, "call of Vanhel" is awesome having twice the reach, and same thing with the not so useful "death vision", that now isn't worthless if your necromancer causes fear by getting scars. As MasterSpark, I find "necromancy" way too powerful, and also think the vampire doesn't need new skills. He's the best warrior in Mordheim already, there is no need to improve him at all.

I don't think Undead are that bad they need such a big overhaul if a balanced warband is what you want. If you want to add plenty of fresh stuff to make them more interesting, it may be a better idea to start an alternative Undead warband from scratch IMO.

Every band has strengths and weaknesses, and Undead start quite strong, but fall behind fast if campaign is long enough because most henchmen don't earn experience, and while the vampire is a beast and promoted ghouls are good, the other heroes are mediocre. I think adding skeletons, cutting the cost of dire-wolves and improving the necromancer, you improved them quite a lot. But if give them only strengths, they end up being broken, as they will start the campaign even stronger than before, remain really strong in mid-campaign and keep being really strong at the end. Undead are cheap and have powerful rules, if you diminish so much their weaknesses those rules will unbalance campaigns.

I hope my feedback is somehow useful to you, because this list looks great and I'm sure Undead players will be grateful, but don't give them every aspect they complain about or you will end up having an unbeatable band!
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PostSubject: Re: Undead warband revisited   Thu 25 Feb 2016 - 18:54

I'd agree with what several people have said: the Vampire does not need the boost provided by special skills, he's strong enough as he is.

That said, if you wanted to keep the skills for flavour reasons, but balance them I'd suggest the following modifications:

1. Transfixing glare: can only be used in a one-on-one combat. Makes sense that the vampire wouldnt' be able to hypnotise one enemy whilst fighting another assailant, and gives the opposing warband a viable way to avoid it. This is also likely to give the lower leadership warbands a boost as they are the more likely to have enough numbers to gang up on the vampire.

2. Mist form: make it require a natural six to hit only, and leave the to wound roll unchanged.

3. Disallow a vampire with the animal form skill from taking weapons or equipment. Forces the undead player to make choices about how they wish to play, and makes the skill act as a trade-off rather than a straight upgrade.
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