Spirit host warhammer fantasy battle 8th edition overview for vampire counts
What are spirit hosts?
The warhammer world is full of lost souls and spirits who linger in the world of mortals instead of heading onwards into the afterlife. Many are the souls of mortals who linger on having suffered a violent death (not an uncommon occurrence in the warhammer world), or have vows and promises unfulfilled. These spirits are often found lingering in ancient buildings and castles, graveyards and the sites of battles long ago.
It is an easy task for those skilled in the arts of necromancer to manifest these spirits and bind them to their wills with dark magic. These insubstantial spirits can spell a terrible doom for those without ensorcelled weapons or magic at their disposal as mundane weapons and objects pass through them with no effect. The touch of such a spirit though is greatly debilitating draining the heat and life out of living creatures or driving them out of their minds.
The most powerful practitioners of dark magic can even summon spirits back from the afterlife often doing so to torment hated but deceased enemies or to question long dead sorcerers in a bid to find out yet more forbidden and forgotten lore.
In the game
Spirit hosts are exactly the same rules wise in 8th edition warhammerfantasy battle as they were in 7th. They are still an ethereal swarm with mediocre attacks enhanced with both the invulnerabilities and vulnerabilities of being ethereal.
The biggest and best changes come in both the reduced points cost for a spirit host from in 7th edition and the lowering of the minimum unit size. Minimum unit size has now dropped to 1 making them a much more interesting and viable choice then previous.
Sadly the chance to create new spirit hosts with the 7th edition lore of the vampire spell wind of undeath has now undergone a total transformation in 8th edition to a damage dealing magical vortex.
Pros and cons
Pros are that spirit hosts are now cheap and can be bought as a single base making them cheaper then in 7th edition. This low points costs makes them an excellent blocking unit capable of holding up certain units for the entire battle if they receive no assistance. They also make excellent cover against missile armed troops, there are few units that can bring magical ranged attacks to bear (only wood elves, high elves and daemons of chaos spring immediately to mind) these means you other units can lurk behind them in relative safety. They can also beat mediocre troops in combat although their stats are poor being ethereal really swings combat in favour of the spirit hosts especially if you have several in a unit.
Cons are that if the opponent has magical attacks of any kind these will quickly but paid to spirit hosts (though if taken as a single base the points cost is minimal). All daemons and forest spirits currently have magical attacks so ethereal units are generally a bad choice against these. Also beware of the lore of fire spell flaming sword of rhuin which grants the unit magical flaming attacks. Potentially worse is the lore of metal spell enchanted blades of aiban as this grants magical attacks to both the units melee and missile attacks. Also some unit champions can take magical weapons so be aware of this pitfall. Spirit hosts are only mediocre in combat so ranked up units or those that hit them in the flank or rear (or a combination of both) will rapidly wipe them out through crumbling.
A hero cairn wraith can also be a better option (though slighty more expensive) as they can shelter from magical missile spells by hiding in other units, this will usually be determined by which enemy you are facing off against.
Spirit hosts make excellent blocking units for enemy units with little or no static combat resolution and who lack magical attacks they can effectively tie these units up for the entire battle. They make excellent blockers against powerful units such as cavalry, knights and monsters who they can easily tie up and are not at risk if they do not have magical attacks. They can also be useful to gain the flank and rear combat resolution bonus when the enemy characters with magic weapons are locked in combat in the front rank.
They also make an effective cover unit to protect more valuable troops from missile weapon armed enemy units. A few cheap drops of spirit hosts can also be used to force your opponent to deploy his units early then intended and have the added benefit over dire wolves of being ethereal. They can also force your opponent to waste valuable magical firepower taking them out with magic missiles and other spells, this again protects your other units with the spirit hosts sacrifice.