Grave guard warhammer 8th edition fantasy battle vampire counts overview
What are grave guard
Grave guard are the resurrected warriors of ages long past, many ancient human tribes would honour their dead warriors by placing them within vast barrows and tombs clad in the armour and carrying the weapons they did in life. Many of these places are now saturated with dark magic which the interred warriors have soaked up over the ages, some are so saturated the grave guard have already returned to unlife and merely wait for a vampire or necromancer to free them from their tombs.
Once returned to unlife these ancient warriors are resilience beyond that of the more recently slain, they also remember more of their martial training and years of battle and fight with an uncanny skill for the undead. Worse they are clad in the finest armour of their time and often wield magical blades and weapons allowing them to strike down the living with impunity. Tough as they are even grave guard are indestructible, it is many a foes worse nightmare though to see them return to unlife through powerful necromancy after the considerable effort it has taken to stop them in the first place.
Vampires and necromancers actively seek out these barrows to obtain such powerful and tough fighters both for their armies and as sentry's and guards for their keeps. Many even use them as a bodyguard where any foe wishing to face them must brave the blades of the grave guard.
In the game
Grave guard are practically a copy and paste in 8th edition from 7th edition. They have a slightly lower points costs and upgrades remain the same. The only slight change is that now grave guard have the killing blow special rule and no longer benefit from wielding magic weapons, whilst not really benefiting grave guard themselves it does benefit the wight king hero.
Weighing in at toughness 4 with heavy armour and shield they are still a tough unit to shift, they still have the option on upgrading to wield great weapons as they did in 7th edition.
Sadly many of the items that made them an even more powerful unit have gone, Blooddrinker now has a reduced effect and is only available to Vlad von Carstein. Also gone has the Drakenhof Banner which gave them all regeneration. On the plus side with the hellish vigour spell from the lore of the vampires being readily available, as well as the hexes from the lore of shadows these debuffs can greatly increase the effectiveness of your grave guard against any foe.
Pros and cons
Pros are they are a tough hard hitting unit especially effective in horde formation able to benefit from either a 4+ armour save combined with parry of a strength of 6 when striking in combat. Their weapon skill of 3 also makes a surprising amount of difference, enemies failing their fear tests will require rolls of 5 to hit them and if they are also equipped with the Banner of the Barrows the grave guard themselves will strike on a roll of 2! As an infantry unit they benefit from the extra models restored from invocation of nehek meaning if your magic phases are good they can be hard to put down.
Cons are that they are a special choice and vampire counts now have a total of 9 special choices making the selection that little bit harder. Grave guard are also more effective in bigger units (often hordes) which means a unit of 30 to 40 models, whilst reasonable costed points wise this will still be a fair points sink for you. Also the addition of Vargheists and Crypt Horrors to the vampire counts army mean they are often better choices depending on the role you have in mind. Grave guard are also affected by stomp and thunder stomp which adds further to this decision.
Grave guard are the best heavy infantry available to vampire counts players, it is also possible to raise them at a fast rate with casting of invocation of nehek, they are also cheap enough points wise to have a fair sized unit. They also make a good block to place your own characters in, as any unit particularly powerful characters must run the gauntlet of killing blow in order to get to them.
With the back up of powerful characters and magic spells grave guard can become both lethal and practically impossible to shift, a nearby corpse cart is also useful. This potentially grants them the always strikes first special rule due to the effects of vigour mortis and allows them to re roll the dice when affected by invocation of nehek. The banner of the barrows is a good selection of magic standard for them.