How do you like your vampires? Sparkling, sexy lovers? Elegant but spooky aristocrats? Bat-fanged screaming horrors? I know which ones I like, but whatever your tastes, Warhammer Fantasy probably has something that fits them exactly. Much like Vampire the Masquerade, Warhammer’s vampires come in a variety of bloodlines, each with their own quirks. I personally really like this, as it lets a creator have all the diversity of a fictional creature all in one setting.
Yes, it’s time for Warhammer Fantasy! I have a lot to work with here. Pretty much every aspect of both Warhammer factions is full of monsters, all with imaginatively messed-up lore, although to a different extent between series. Both series mostly run on heavy metal, where victory is mostly assured by being awesome more than being practical, and that’s a totally valid aesthetic. 40K, however, leans on this a little more heavily, and has a parody-level dark setting where every single faction is irredeemably messed up. Fantasy is a little more nuanced, at least in the portrayal of what could be counted as heroic factions. Also, Fantasy has vampires and that’s what we’re talking about today.
All the vampires of Warhammer Fantasy share a few qualities. They all have the classic vampire weaknesses, sunlight, garlic, running water, the standards. Some vampires can overcome these weaknesses with unique abilities, but most will have them. They also, of course, all share the hunger for blood. While the transformation doesn’t necessarily change who somebody is, their hunger for blood often makes them into a monster just as much. Giving into this desire has some delightful and surprising effects on a vampire, as we will be seeing after we look at the big bloodlines.
Von Carsteins are your classic aristocratic, Dracula-style vampires. They form the bulk of the Vampire Counts, those vampires with their own lands and peasants to exact a blood tax from. They tend to be arrogant, charismatic, everything you would expect from a classic vampyric noble. They even have the classic Dracula powers; controlling the weather, summoning bats and wolves, and occasionally the ability to turn into either. Fitting, considering the association with bats was pretty much invented by Dracula. Europe has no vampire bats, so European vampire traditions didn’t tend to include bats.
The Von Carsteins are the vampires who get the most attention in the actual game, largely because they’re the ones with a proper army and that’s what the game’s about. Vampires who live out in the open and fight on the battlefield fit their world the best, which does make them stand out even among their very standard type. Most vampire nobility hides their undead nature. The Von Carsons flaunt it, openly demanding blood from their subjects, although not all kill their meals and some are relatively benevolent (and when it comes down to it, even the most vile of the Vampire Counts will come down on the side of humanity against greater threats; after all, that’s their food).
Lahmian vampires are another classic modern archetype, the seductive vampress. They’re also the vampire Illuminati, which is pretty cool. Pretty much all women, Lahmian vampires most commonly live among human beings, infiltrating and influencing the nobility and through them, the populace as a whole. While the basic Van Carsen plan is “take over and make the humans like it”, Lahmians are a little more meticulous. They believe in weakening the populace first before making any move to take over openly and do this by sowing discord where they can, all while making sure less edible creatures don’t wipe them out.
Blood Dragons don’t really fit into any of the classic vampire types, forming sort of an offshoot of the noble type. With vampyric strength and speed and centuries to hone their art, they are some of the greatest combatants in Warhammer. As the bloodlines go, they are significantly less consistent than the Von Carsteins and Lahmians. Rather than semi-unified factions working towards shared goals, they are all their own agents. Some continue their lives as human knights, but others become feral brigands or hermits who do nothing but train on their own in the wilderness between feedings.
Also, they’re cool. It’s the corny, over the top cool of Warhammer, but that’s a totally valid form of coolness. Of the vampires, they have this factor going for them the hardest.
Now we’re talking. The vampire’s the one who has the glowy rock, which is probably warpstone (I’ll explain warpstone in a second, you just be patient). In design, Necrach vampires obviously take the Nosferatu route, bald, withered, clawed monstrosities. Their dress sense is also killer. They love their flared, draconic collars and tattered capes. This is how I like my vampires.
The almost-goofy sneer on this one just makes me love him more.
So if the withered look wasn’t killer enough, they also have interesting personalities. Their founding sire, W’soran, found a way to draw upon dark magic as a food source instead of just slurping down gallons of blood all the time. This actually worked, but obviously eating dark magic is like drinking Red Bull for all your liquid needs. It’s gonna do some permanent damage to your body and your mind. Necrach vampires need far less blood than other vampires, sometimes going years between feedings. On the downside, they look like that, and while honestly that looks like an improvement to me, they also completely lose their minds.
Necrach vampires do not and can not form the complex societies of the Von Carsen and Lahmia strains, wracked with paranoia. Their fear of other vampires is probably pretty fair; the first of their number was devoured by his apprentice when the dark magic’s ill effects took hold of his mind. Because they’re otherwise pretty chill as vampires go, they instead form little families of followers who help them manage their mental illnesses and run their mad scientist experiments, because yes, these guys are mad scientists. These followers are usually outcasts, in particular mutants, who are shunned from regular human society. They defend their master in the daytime and help feed them, whether that means bringing them somebody else to eat or popping a vein themselves. Awwww, wholesome.
The Strigoi, however, emerge as my clear favorites. Not for their design, although I do like it. There’s a lot of variation, but this is a good example. Strigoi tend to be hulking brutes with hunched backs, focusing purely on animalistic scary stuff. It’s certainly cool, but cool isn’t always enough to stand out. I do like the spines on this guy’s shoulders though. Calls to mind improperly formed wings, which I wish they had leaned a little more into. Several figures do make those sorts of spines more obvious or even places them on the shoulders, and I quite like those. Yeah, Strigois are cool enough that there’s several designs I have to leave out for space.
This strigoi is a little more interesting to me, and you can already see how variable they get. I love the texture to this guy, from his rugose, spiny shoulders to his weird, scaled knees and legs. His head is also really neat. Those Sonic the Hedgehog spines are pretty alien on a mostly human skull. He might actually be my favorite of the Strigoi I’ve seen, just for how out there he is.
However, our last Strigoi also has a pretty good shot. I love some tasteful asymmetry, and this guy’s got BOTH the great assymetries! One arm is REALLY BIG, and his face is lopsided! Very nice lopsided too. I like how he’s borderline got a skull face, and one of his ears has nearly become a horn on the side of his head. Despite how he’s kinda melting, he looks a lot more together than the other two. You could sit down with this guy over a cup of tea. Ignore that he’s not drinking tea. Come on, you can do it, he’s trying to be polite for you.
So why did these poor guys end up as a bunch of bat-themed Igors? That’s pretty rough when you’ve got an entire bloodline dedicated to being hot. Well, that’s where I really come to love them. Once, the Strigoi were another race of kings and counts, ruling over their own kingdom like the other lines in the distant past. Out of childish pettiness, they were betrayed, their kingdom destroyed, and the vampires scattered across the entire Old World (Europe, in Warhammer terms). Because killing humans gets the attention of vampire hunters and leaving them alive lets Lahmian spies notice, Strigoi began biting only corpses, and apparently there’s no room for vampire scavengers in Warhammer world, because that’s what messed them up.
But what makes them really great is their personality. See, they remember when they were kings, and they still act like it. They host balls with nothing but diseased ghouls and mindless zombies as guests. They treat their dank tombs as grand palaces. That’s so adorably pathetic. Imagine these sad old bats in their loincloths putting pretty flower crowns on zombie heads so they can be fancy and try not to either laugh or cry. I love them.
So, that’s the basic bloodlines, but that’s not all there is to the vampires. They’ve got other weird subspecies, interesting servants, and a few monsters associated with them. First and foremost, the main pals of the Strigoi!
Oh, that is a GOOD ghoul. I love everything about them. Their swampy, mucky color scheme really gets across that these guys are filthy. Their bodies are delightfully inhuman arrangements made from human bodies. And that fashion sense is fantastic. Piercing their bodies with bones is an amazing statement I could only hope to match myself. Worst of all? These guys aren’t even dead. Humans can become these unfortunate creatures simply by committing extensive cannibalism.
Before moving on, I just wanted to tackle my favorite version of their miniatures. They don’t capture that gritty, filth-strewn look, no, but the primitive, low-quality sculpts really emphasizes a haunting nature to these thing’s faces. I love eyes and mouths that are just big horrible black holes.
When fed a vampire’s blood, a ghoul becomes a crypt horror, a WAY beefier ghoul that is driven by uncontrolled bloodlust to destroy the vampire’s enemies until its transformation causes its body to digest itself.
You know what’s overdone? Dragons. Riding into battle on a dragon? Radical the first time you see it, pretty blase the 400th time. “Oh, that Burningsword McProtagonist guy is burning up our army with his dragon mount” “What, again?” the troops say. You need a more unique ride. Get yourself a terrorgheist.
It’s LIKE a dragon but it’s a giant, undead bat the size of a dragon, which is really one of the greatest combinations of things something could be. I love it still having flesh on its head and wings. Skeletons with a little flesh are always way nastier. I also love that face. Taking eyes away lets you emphasize how weird the rest of a bat’s head is. Their funny pig nose, big teeth, and EXTRA big ears are all great. My only complaint is it doesn’t really commit to bat anatomy. The tail and wings are very draconic. Bats have a single claw on each wing and a short tail, and I’d like to see that reflected, rather than just having a bat head on a dragon body.
So I mentioned warpstone before, and I’ll explain it now. Warpstone is demon uranium meth. It is spawned by Chaos (the source of magic and the realm of demons and the Chaos Gods in Warhammer Fantasy), it can mutate things or provide power, and it’s heavily addictive if for some god-forsaken reason (like, say, being a Skaven, don’t you worry, I’ll get to the Skaven one day) you decide to snort demon uranium.
So when you expose a vampire to it, the same thing happens as exposing anything to it; you get some weird nonsense, and my kind of weird nonsense at that! I like that warpstone turns vampires into charming, bat-winged terrors, but mostly I love that it gives them a gorgeous red mane.
The figures give us a much beefier creature, but still an interesting one. The manes look much thicker on them, more bristly, which is a nice touch, and I really love the extra, tiny wings on the middle one’s back. The odd “fins” the one on the left has developed from its mane are also really cool. They remind me of Amargasaurus.