Black knights warhammer 8th edition fantasy battle vampire counts overview
What are black knights
In times before the land of the empire was founded by Sigmar the humans were formed into tribes. These tribes were nomadic in nature and domesticated horses were both extremely rare as well as expensive. Only the richest and most powerful warriors would ride into battle atop a mount. When such a warrior was slain in battle he would be interred along with his armour and weapons still atop his mount to carry him into battle in the afterlife. Many noble warriors were interred in great tombs and cairns after particularly vicious battles in this way.
Sadly this proved to be true though not in the way the ancient human tribes had intended, these tombs and barrows became a focal point for dark magic. Powerful necromancers and vampires can easily reanimate these warriors of old regaled in their ancient armour and still riding atop a now skeletal steed forcing them to fight in their armies of the undead. These steeds exist part way between worlds and can ride throw walls, buildings and obstacles as if there were none there. They then phase back to the mortal realm to allow their fearsome long dead riders to strike deadly blows against the living.
In the game
Black knights have some slight improvements in 8th edition over 7th edition firstly they are cheaper in points cost. Both black knights and grave guard lose their magical attacks but still retain the killing blow special rule. Skeletal steeds now no longer suffer the movement penalty for barding making them move faster whilst still retaining the move as if ethereal rule.
The last improvement is not immediately apparent but is probably the best, when targeted by the invocation of nehek spell black knights now regain 1 model plus the casters level. this means a level 4 wizard can potentially raise 5 black knights back to a unit with a single casting.
Blacks knights are a special cavalry unit in the vampire counts army, they may be equipped with a lance and barding at additional cost. They may have full command and any unit make take a magic standard, including that old favourite the banner of the barrows.
Pros and cons
Pros are black knights are a decent hard hitting heavy cavalry unit now with an increased movement, a decent sized unit (say around 10) is a reasonable cost and can quickly be restored with invocation of nehek. The killing blow special rules even the fight against heavily armed foes and can scare characters off confronting them.
Cons are that black knights are now slowed and lose the move as ethereal rule when a character who is not ethereal or mounted on a skeletal steed joins them. This means if you include a vampire hero or lord in the unit you will slow them down. Also they can no longer march unless they are within 12" of the general meaning once they are outside they do actually slow down considerably.
They are still undead meaning that they crumble from combat resolution, this can spell disaster if a powerful character or similar engages them. They are also vulnerable to a flank charge from units with a high static combat resolution.
Use them as a decent heavy hitting cavalry unit to secure one of your flanks and try to roll down the enemies battle line. A unit of 10 with full command hits with 11 strength 6 killing blow attacks on the charge plus those of the skeletal steeds, remember to make the enemy take their fear test if they fail the black knights will hit on rolls of 3 (or 2 if you also have the banner of the barrow). This is certainly enough to worry all but the most powerful units.
A unit of dire wolves is useful to shield them from enemies with hand guns or similar armour piercing missile weapons, though careful postioning must be used so as not to block any potential charges.
They are also the best choice of unit to keep a powerful vampire hero or vampire lord safe from the enemies war machines particularly cannons and stone throwers, they are a reasonable points cost and can be raised relatively fast. The other alternative blood knights are expensive and soon become a target for every war machine and spell the enemy can muster, they are also a lot harder to raise.