The second in the series of my wee journey through the denizens of the vampire counts army. Next up, my old friend the skeleton warrior. I love these guys like the silent and emaciated brothers I never had, but 8th has treated them roughly. Let's look at how our bony servant has done under the new rules.
Skeletons - loyal to the end
Not as rubbish as zombies, skeletons are still poor quality troops. Low weapon skill and initiative make them poor fighters, but they do have average strength and toughness. They cannot be raised past their starting numbers unless you take Lord of the Dead on one of your vampires.Their main strengths are they cause fear and are unbreakable, which are quite tasty. They also have some reasonable equipment options. However, the undead break test rule does mean they dissolve away quicker than good intentions. Here's the stats for our faithful minion:
M WS BS S T W I A LD
4 2 2 3 3 1 1 2 3
So, how do we field skeletons in 8th? As always with this edition, all infantry core are going to be compared to ghouls, especially as ghouls and skeletons cost the same points, 8. Skeletons are by no means the combat fiends ghouls are, but they do have access to full command (which I would always include) and have more equipment options. There are a number of ways to configure them.
Spear armed skeletons get three ranks of attack, in a horde four. That's a potential 41 attacks with a champion from a horde of skeleton spearmen. 41 attacks from skeletons, propably needing 4+ to hit, will get you an average 20 hits. After that, taking as our example the Empire greatswords, once again, you have S3 v T3, so 10 wounds. Chances are, after the greatswords 4+ save, you get 5 casualties. Not epic, but okay. They also come with light armour and shields so that's a 5+ save. Not bad, but against our greatswords, useless. I think whatever way you field skeletons, if they are to be a combat unit you need at least 30, and 50 - 60 would not be unreasonable. A skeleton spear unit would be a good anvil unit.
Sword and Shield
This gets the skeletons the all-important 6+ ward save. As great weapons are the new black, this is a good choice, as they skellies 5+ save will be about as useful as pouring a bottle of spring water into a volcano. Again, go large on the unit. A horde will get 31 attacks (presuming a champion is there), so our greatswords will be taking 3 casualties on average. Sucky, but the ward save the skeletons get will keep them on their feet longer. Just watch those flanks. Another good anvil. Frankly, skeletons don't do hammer.
A small unit of skeletons can provide a nice bunker to shield a necromancer of vampire, and provide that super fabulous 'Look out Sir!' roll. I just love the image of a skeleton flinging himself across his beloved vampire master screaming that. More likely the skeleton would find himself picked up and flung at the oncoming projectile. The reason sword and shield skeletons would provide a better bunker than ghouls is again, the save. Though, granted, ghouls have better toughness.
Banners & Buffs
Skeletons do also have access to magic banners, which can tailor them a little more. There are 13 banners available for 25 points or less, so a good spread from magic resistance 1 to flaming attacks. They can also be buffed by spells (lore of death or shadows works well to weaken opponent units) or items. The corpse cart can give them always strikes first, and Vanhels can give them 8 inches movement, including charging or always strikes first and re-rolls to hit. The Helm of Commandment can sort out that bothersome low weapon skill.
Skeletons are one of my favourite units, but again, the ghouls, even without a save or access to standards or musicians, generally beat them to my list. I do think there is room for them in 8th, but it depends on your tactics and play style. They seem best suited to an anvil role, so personally it would be a big old block (50+) of sword and shield lads.