My take on TK vs VC
So the new VC book has been out for a couple weeks now, and as expected, the Tomb King community is up in arms. I've decided to take a little time to look at the big gripes that the TK players seem to be presenting, and then give my opinion on them.
First and foremost of the complaints is the Vampire Counts ability to summon more models than TK. This is a valid concern, since both armies have some units which are similar, such as Tomb Guard to Grave Guard and Skeleton Warriors to, well, Skeleton Warriors.
Invocation of Nehek is an AOE spell, with a range of 6/12/18" and a casting cost that scales up accordingly. This spell heals D6 models, plus the power level of the wizard, so between D6+1 and D6+4. Unlike previous editions, this spell cannot be spammed, though if you have multiple casters, they could each take it as it is a signature spell.
Now, lets compare that to Tomb Kings summoning. Rather than having a dedicated spell to heal models, TK have it as a lore attribute, where any Augment type spell from the lore will heal D3+1 models to the unit. The signature spell targets all unengaged friendly units within 12/24". The other Augment spells of the TK have a 12/24" range (Cursed Blades), a 12" range or 12" AOE (Protection and Smiting). Each of these spells that are successfully cast will heal D3+1, though the signature spell only affects unengaged units.
The advantage of the VC spell is that with one big casting, they can potentially heal a lot of models. If they want to do this twice, it is going to require a dedicated effort and probably mean that they don't cast many other spells. Unfortunately though, if the opponent stops your casting of IoN, you don't have any more opportunities to heal your units.
With the TK magic, every Augment spell cast will heal roughly half the models that the TK spells do. The advantage to the TK magic is that the enemy will have to stop many spells to prevent you from healing. You may start off with Desert Wind, then try to give your units a 5+ ward, extra attacks or killing blow. If your opponent doesn't want you to heal, they're going to have to stop 4 spells, instead of 1.
Now, lets talk about max casting potential from a single level 4. A Vampire lord could at most, heal D6+4 (average 7.5, max 10) models to everything within 18", they don't have the potential for more (aside from other special rules, such as zombies). Although unlikely, a Liche High Priest could potentially summon 4D3+4 (average 12, max 16) to every unit within 12", or D3+1 to every unit between 12-24". Now, I wouldn't expect to be able to pull off that many spells per phase, unless playing Storm of Magic, or incredibly lucky, but it is interesting to note the difference in maximum potential.
Personally, I prefer TK summoning, since it's not reliant on casting a single spell, and I will be buffing my units while simultaneously healing them.
Grave Guard vs Tomb Guard
Here is a hot and heavy debate. When fully upgraded, a Tomb Guard is 1 more point than a fully upgraded Grave Guard. The Grave Guard has a great weapon and heavy armor, while the Tomb Guard has a halberd, light armor and a shield, which means they both have a 5+ save from ranged attacks, though the TG go down to a 6+ in combat.
When comparing a Great Weapon to a Halberd, there are a couple things we have to consider, the first of which is Initiative. It seems to be a little known fact, but 9 of the 15 armies in Warhammer have a majority of their army consisting of models with I3 or less. Because great weapons make you always strike last, you will be striking after 100% of the armies out there, while with a halberd, you would be striking after only 40% of the armies in the game. The rest of the time, with the Halberd, you will either be striking simultaneously or before your opponent, meaning you will not lose attacks from suffering casualties, this is huge, and even though at a slightly lower strength, the extra attacks will often make up for it.
Strength is the second thing to consider when looking at the basic equipment of TG vs GG. Having S5 means that you will wound any elf on 2+, and any non-hero human as well (chaos aside), and you will be wounding T4 models (the rest of the game) on a 3+. Great weapons, will wound pretty much any armies basic infantry on 2+ and reduce their armor by a further point. So which weapon is better? Ultimately, unless you're running very large units (~40) of these troops, the Halberd performs better in almost every simulation I ran, mostly due to not losing attacks before they strike.
One last thing to consider about Tomb Guard is the TK royalty. Since the Helm of Commandment has been removed, there is no way to get GG above their base WS of 3. Adding a Tomb Prince or King to a unit of Tomb Guard immediately increases their killing potential drastically, since they will hit nearly all opponents on 3's and either wound on 2's or 3's. Unfortunately, this is something that VC just can't emulate.
In the end, I'd still prefer Tomb Guard (no surprise), they're just too versatile and with the addition of a character, become a force to be reckoned with. Lets face it, you probably wouldn't run them without a character, and that's part of my point, the TK army works together well and when you maximize your strengths, you'll have a better army.
Yes, the VC did get a new ogre unit, and everyone on the block seems to want to compare them to Ushabti. The first thing I'd like to point out though about Ushabti is that since the TK book has come out, nobody has accused them of being a good deal on Monstrous Infantry, and the VC book has nothing to do with that. They're a lot of points, and as constructs, can't be healed very well.
Crypt Horrors are a good unit, but I think that instead of comparing one unit to another all the time, we should consider the whole special category. Would I prefer Crypt Horrors to Ushabti? Absolutely! Would I give up Necropolis Knights, Sepulchral Stalkers and Warsphinxes to do it? Not a bloody chance!
In the End
Ultimately, none of this matters. The VC book and TK book will both be around in their current form for a few years at least, complaining wont help and it wont change anything. Instead of focusing on how a different army works, you should really focus on your own army, learn to maximize it's strengths, and become a better general with it. A well experienced TK general will always beat a novice VC general and an equally skilled opponent will always be toss up. Overall, the armies are too dissimilar and do their own thing, so your units don't need to be a 100% equal representation of what your opponents unit does.