Warhammer 8th Edition Vampire Counts army Core choices Overview
What core choice are available?
With the release of the new 8th edition Vampire Counts army book they has been some reshuffling and recosting of core units. There are now 4 core units and they are Zombies, Skeleton Warriors, Crypt Ghouls and Dire Wolves. Each has their own pros and cons Ghouls are still the toughest and best fighters but have increased in costs, Skeletons remains similar though with a points reduction, Zombies benefit from a increased strength and toughness (to an almighty 3) and also pursue as normal. Dire Wolves have finally been merged into core and with the addition of Vanguard and the return of Slavering Charge make a good blocking/ redirecting unit or can reasonable go war machine hunting.
Another point to bear in mind whilst selecting your core is the scenarios you might face when playing the Watch Tower A unit of 20 core infantry can be a good choice to ensure you have the tower early on, the Blood and Glory scenario also uses the numbers of standards left in an army to determine victory remember though 2 of your core choices Crypt Ghouls and Dire Wolves cannot have standards.
Improved in 8th edition with both a cheaper points cost and an improved strength and toughness of 3 Zombies have become a more viable unit. Although still probably the worst fighters in Warhammer with a weapon skill of 1 and the Always Strikes Last special rule they are now better at tar pitting (slowing or holding up enemy units) with their improved toughness or redirecting or drawing off enemy units. They can also still be raised past the units starting number of models due to the Newly dead special rule. However do not expect them to last long against more powerful opponents or those with a lot of attacks without spending valuable magic dice in casting Invocation of Nehek on them.
With a lower points cost and coming with full equipment Skeleton Warriors are also a more viable choice in 8th edition then previously. With light armour and shields alongside the option of upgrading to spears for free they can probably stand toe to toe with more mediocre troops. Leaving them with shields gives them the Parry special rule though helping you to keep casualties (and therefore crumbling) to a minimum. Skeleton Warriors now also synergise with the Master of the Dead upgrade available to Necromancers which allows them to increase units of Skeleton Warriors past there starting unit size. Skeleton Warriors can also have full command and a lower points cost magic banner.
With the same stat line and special rules but with an increased cost in 8th edition Crypt Ghouls are still good just not quite as good and certainly no longer dominant your core choices. With 2 poisoned attacks and a toughness of 4 Ghouls are survivable and can kick out some damage. Occasionally the lack of command can be a problem with no fast reform and move and no standard bearer for the +1 combat resolution and to bolster your forces in Blood and Glory. Still an excellent choice for a core unit.
Crypt Ghouls also get an ugly, tougher and more dangerous big brother in 8th edition the Crypt Horrors.
Now in 8th actually counting as core means a couple of units of Dire Wolves is almost essential for a Vampire Counts army. With a low cost and the Vanguard special rule they can be used as blockers, redirectors and as a generally expendable unit. They can also be used to hunt War Machines or a Wizard hunters. Vanguard can be a bit of a double edged sword as it will likely place you out of your general's "march" zone so a bit of thought is require as to whether to use it or move 18 inch in your first turn (depending of course where you postion your general).