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Blood Knights Rules and Tactics (Vampire Counts Rare Unit)

Let's not beat around the bush, Blood Knights are the most powerful unit in the Vampire Counts army but they come at a cost - a possibly prohibitive cost.

The blood knights charge into combat can be devastating even against high toughness units and creatures. They have 3 attacks with a handy weapon skill 5 in the first round (1 of these attacks is thanks to their frenzied state). These 1st round lance attacks are delivered with a frightening strength 7 - ouch !

Even the most hardy enemy will be hard pushed to win a 1st round of combat against Blood Knights. In fact nearly all enemies (except unbreakable units) will be taking a break test. On their charge the Blood Knights will probably wipe out the front rank of most enemies preventing any from striking back. If the enemy lost 7 models in the first round they would need to outnumber the enemy, have 4 ranks, a standard and battle standard just to draw the combat. Only one such unit in an army will be so equipped.

So, what's the downside then ?

Well, first and foremost is the high cost of Blood Knights. At 55pts per model it becomes a large investment in a 2000 pt game. "Hold on" I hear you say, "275 pts for a unit of 5 isn't that expensive." You're right, it isn't but it could be foolish to take only 5 and, if you do take more than 5 then you should probably look to provide further protection to your unit by way of a standard bearer and a magical banner.

Now my argument may seem flawed here. But I have my reasons for saying the above. Firstly, if you use Blood Knights they will become a missile magnet to every ranged enemy unit on the other side of the battlefield (which could be very bad news if you're facing bolt throwers or any other artillery units). To protect against this eventuality you should probably consider taking the Flag of the Blood Keep which provides a 4+ ward save against all ranged missiles (even magic) and was probably purposefully included for Blood Knights. The banner costs 75 pts.

Secondly, Blood Knights are duty bound due to the martial honour rule to fight challenges. In fact a Kastellan, has to issue a challenge whether he wants to or not. If you are facing a powerful enemy character or one 'tooled up' with a magic weapon (or worse, a Dwarf runic weapon) you could well lose the Kastellan (with the possibility of overkills adding to the enemy's combat resolution).

Remember, while they have a great saving throw of 2+, Blood Knights still only have a toughness of 4 and 1 wound each (they are quite vulnerable considering their points value)

So, to keep the Blood Knights effective throughout the course of a game you need to take into account the likelihood of some loses to missile fire and challenges.

I would suggest 7 Knights including a Kastellan, a standard bearer and the magic banner Flag of the Blood Keep. The unit would then cost a whopping 505 pts, or quite a lot more if you gave them a Vampire Hero or Lord to lead them (it could go over 900 pts with a 'meaty' Lord).


Blood Knights are fantastic cavalry, probably the finest in the Warhammer World.

They will be missile magnets on the battlefield so you need some means of protecting them from fire (a leading unit of Dire Wolves would suffice against direct missile weapons)

Blood Knights must charge into combat and should only be used against enemies you have a good chance of routing in the 1st round. Don't use them against large units of unbreakable enemies, this will either tie them up for too long and be a wasted investment and/or you run the risk of losing knights in subsequent turns of combat.

Remember that your enemy will do everything in his/her power to stop you from charging into combat. Expect enemies to use flyers to march block you or hold you while they flank with cavalry.

Blood Knights are real battle winners if you use them well and your enemy is not prepared for them. By using them you are putting a lot of eggs into one basket. Make sure you know what your remaining tactical options will be if things 'go bad' and you lose your Blood Knights unit.

If I was playing a 3000pt game I would always select some Blood Knights. In a 2000pt game the decision is not so clear cut. If you use them in numbers as I have suggested above and you make your plans well then be prepared for a glorious overwhelming victory. If your enemy is expecting Blood Knights then think carefully before using them.

Errata (kindly contributed by Pascal Rooze - see comments link below post)

One of our blog readers has quite rightly responded to this post and made me have a rethink.

Pascal has provided an alternative mindset when it comes to Blood Knights, a cost cutting unit selection policy. No champion, standard (and so no magic banner as I suggested above) or musician.

I quite like his argument aswell, in fact it is a very strong argument. I have to concede, having given it some thought, I prefer Pascals idea now over my own !

My only caveat would be, I would probably continue to use my banner idea againt strong missile/artillery armies (assuming I knew who I was facing in advance) and I would continue to use my tactic if fighting a higher points value game.

Other than that, I prefer Pascal's analysis and ideas on using Blood Knights. If you follow his plan make sure you heed his advice of shielding them with a leading unit, Dire Wolves would probably be best.

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