Dark Side Unit Analysis Part 3: Undead

To save some space, here's what the Undead Ability does:

50% Poison resistance +50% to Attack at night and underground. +1 Morale in 'cemetery' battlefields. Immunity to mental effects, among other immunities. +2 Morale from Plague. (Functionally +1, since it's still a negative effect and so there's a -1)

Strangely, the Ice resistance has gone away. No other changes. Technically.

Of course, Dark Side is... quite buggy, and the immunity to mental effects is not as consistent as you might like. There's a lot of effects in Dark Side that respect Persistence of Mind but ignore many of the 'complex' Abilities that include immunity to mental effects in the package. You can use Flames of Passion on Undead, for example, and so too will Jealousy hold them under its sway, where neither can work on an Archmage, Beholder, or any number of other units with Persistence of Mind. And then there's the effects that are supposed to respect Persistence of Mind that aren't blocked even by it, like Sneer...

Necro Energy, meanwhile...

Necro Energy
This unit is healed/resurrected by Zlogn. Each unit with Necro Energy also increases the chance that any unit dying will leave behind a Zlogn.

... is kind of baffling that it still exists. Armored Princess didn't feel the need to have a separate Ability for announcing that Eviln were beneficial to Undead, and why couldn't the Zlogn generation have been rolled into Undead as an Ability? It's really weird, given it's not like the actual Necro Energy mechanic has returned.

Though note that Zlogn generation seems to have been overhauled. In my experience, when facing an enemy army that's 100% Undead, they'll always all generate a Zlogn when they die. Same for if my entire army is Undead and none of my enemies are (Assuming equal numbers of stacks), and in fact it's even more consistent since the chance is apparently calculated based on the ratios at the time of death. In Warriors of the North that only happened if all the units were Undead, both yours and the enemy's.

By extension, all those units that had Necro Energy Blast? No longer. Most likely because there's no longer a Necro Energy number to actually attach it to.


... Undead remain chill. They don't get offended by Light races. They don't get offended by anybody. Which finally makes them noticeably separate from Demons in the Morale department!

This makes it particularly funny that they all get Of The Dark, as the in-game description would seem to imply that anybody who has it would be offended by Of The Light units.

Note that Evil Eyes and by extension Books of Nightmares have gone the way of the dodo. As we'll be seeing, this is true of a lot of Ice and Fire content.

Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 9 / 13
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 2
Health: 36
Damage: 3-4 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points), Pass (Charge: 1. Grants a single ally the Zombie's remaining Action Points. If the target has already ended its turn, it gets a new turn)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Necro Energy

Just the standard changes: no more Ice resistance, no more Necro Energy Blast, etc.

That said, Zombies are actually pretty worth considering in Dark Side. Part of this is that they're your second-tier Prisoners-to-Undead option. Part of it is that Zlogn generate so regularly if you go heavy on Undead you can plan on mitigating casualties with them. And another part of it is that Necromancers and the Puppeteer Skill provide yet another avenue for readily keeping their numbers up. And in late game, the fact that Dark Resurrection even works on Undead provides yet another boost to survivability! The overall result is that it's very possible to cheaply keep their numbers fairly high even while using them as a disposable meatshield, and if you're good with the Zlogn part in particular you may even be managing Grand Strategian progress in spite of hurling them to the wolves!

In fact, I'd argue Dark Side is probably the Zombie's apex!

Decaying Zombie
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 80
Leadership: 40
Attack/Defense: 13 / 15
Initiative/Speed: 1 / 2
Health: 48
Damage: 5-6 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points), Pass (Charge: 1. Grants a single ally the Decaying Zombie's remaining Action Points. If the target has already ended its turn, it gets a new turn)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Decaying (When the entire stack is destroyed, all adjacent units are infected with Plague. Additionally, any time any member of the stack is slain, there's a 10% chance of infecting all adjacent units with Plague), Necro Energy

Just the usual losses.

Though Decaying Zombies are propped up by much the same set of factors as Zombies: Zlogn, Necromancers+Puppeteer, and in their case being your third-tier Prisoners-to-Undead option as opposed to Zombies being second-tier.

I actually find it worth considering carrying around both Zombies and Decaying Zombies, with one sitting in Reserves and the other in an actual unit slot. I can then swap between them based on availability of raisable enemies and their current numbers; swap the Zombies out if their numbers crash, then swap them back in once I've harvested enough Zombies to prop them back up. It's a neat little thing that makes necromancy feel like necromancy, which is really cool.

Undead Spider
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 15
Leadership: 13
Attack/Defense: 4 / 2
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 13
Damage: 2-3 Poison
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: None.
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Cursed (50% chance to Curse enemies in melee), Necro Energy

Just the standard changes, ie pure negativity.

Though it's worth mentioning that Dark Side has a couple of fairly powerful spider-supporting gear options. If you luck into both of those, Undead Spiders are certainly worth considering.

Outside that, they tend to be pushed aside by the collective force of all the other melee Undead that are way more useful, just as in prior games.

Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 20
Leadership: 12
Attack/Defense: 3 / 2
Initiative/Speed: 3 / 2
Health: 14
Damage: 2-3 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Bone (Arrow attacks do only 30% damage. Additionally the unit will never Bleed), Necro Energy

Welp, there goes all that teleporting wackiness, in addition to the standard changes.

Though the Bone trait does provide immunity to Bleeding now, which is a mildly nice bonus. In conjunction with Skeletons being your first-tier Prisoners-to-Undead option and being supported by Necromancers, in spite of losing their teleportation gimmick Skeletons are worth considering for meatshielding against Werewolf Elves or if you just want to get the Medal that increases your max Mana for converting Prisoners into Undead.

I've never bothered personally, but there's potential there.

Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 160
Leadership: 80
Attack/Defense: 18 / 13
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 4
Health: 40
Damage: 4-8 Ice
Resistances: 50% Physical, 50% Poison
Talents: None.
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Soaring, Phantom (50% Physical resistance and can pass through impassable terrain), Soul Draining (Leeches for 50% of damage dealt. This can generate additional Ghosts. Undead, Plants, and inorganic units like Cyclops and Gremlin Towers can't be leeched from), Necro Energy

The usual losses, plus they've lost Fear of Light, which I'm perfectly happy with. Fear of Light was just weird to have.

It's also worth noting that it's very rare for you to fight enemies Ghosts can't leech from, Gremlins aside. While Undead battlegroups aren't as rare as Demon or especially Orc battlegroups in Dark Side, they're still uncommon, and many of the other leech-immune units like Cyclops are also less common in Dark Side than in prior games. So Soul Draining is more consistently leveragable. The only major exception is that the Elf-dominated portions of the world are also really heavy on Plants, not only the Ent and Ancient Ent but also the various Thorn types. Mind, Zlogn overall favors using other Undead over them, particularly Vampires and Ancient Vampires who don't have to worry about going over Leadership and turning hostile as a result, but still, they're quite solid in Dark Side.

On the flipside, Ghosts aren't very difficult to fight in Dark Side. You have early access to non-Physical and non-Poison attackers that are actually quite competent (eg Imps lobbing their fireballs) and you have consistent early access to leech-immune units (Your own Undead), leaving their high Speed and difficult-to-resist attacking type as the main issues to contend with. This is quite the contrast with the prior entries in the series, where early Ghosts were often a huge pain to kill, so much so that I tend to avoid battlegroups containing them at all until I'm so far ahead in Leadership the group is rated Weak or Very Weak. In Dark Side I tend to treat Ghosts as a non-issue, and it only comes back to bite me occasionally.

Cursed Ghost
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 280
Leadership: 130
Attack/Defense: 21 / 17
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 4
Health: 60
Damage: 6-9 Ice
Resistances: 50% Physical, 50% Poison
Talents: Scream (Reload: 4. All units of Levels 1-3 in a 2-tile area around the Cursed Ghost are pushed back. Those enemies that aren't immune to mental effects take damage, too. Its base damage is supposedly 6-9 and it's supposed to be weaker further out, though)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Soaring, Phantom (50% Physical resistance and can pass through impassable terrain), Soul Draining (Leeches for 50% of damage dealt. This can generate additional Cursed Ghosts. Undead, Plants, and inorganic units like Cyclops and Gremlin Towers can't be leeched from), Necro Energy

Standard changes, though they've also lost Fear of Light, which I'm all for, same as Ghosts.

Like Ghosts, Cursed Ghosts are less problematic to fight overall than in prior games. They're still nasty, but it's centered much more on their high Initiative, high Speed, and Soaring meaning they aren't bothered by Traps and can often ignore rough terrain to boot. Their resistances and leeching tend to be not a big deal, just as I covered with Ghosts.

Vampire (Human form)
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 160
Leadership: 80
Attack/Defense: 20 / 20
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 2
Health: 70
Damage: 6-12 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: Transformation (Reload: 1. Changes forms)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Regeneration ('Top' member of the stack heals all damage at the start of the unit's turn), No retaliation (Enemies do not retaliate in melee), Necro Energy

The usual changes, plus Werewolf Despiser has vanished, which is no big deal. It was basically silly flavor anyway.

It's worth noting that the commonness of Zlogn gives more incentive/opportunity to leverage Vampires in their humanoid form, compared to prior games, if you're focused on keeping casualties down. And since Bat form is more fragile and doesn't hit as hard, staying in humanoid form reduces how many casualties you tend to take in the first place. As such, Dark Side is the only entry in the series I tend to try to keep Vampires in humanoid form as much as possible, preferring to use Bat form only if one of its non-leeching advantages applies, such as its ability to soar over Traps or its greater Speed.

Vampire (Bat form)
Level: 3
Leadership: 80
Attack/Defense: 20 / 15
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 4
Health: 40
Damage: 5-8 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: Transformation (Reload: 2. Changes forms)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, No Retaliation (Enemies don't retaliate against melee attacks), Soaring, Vampirism (When attacking organic targets, damage is converted to health, and can even undo casualties), Necro Energy.

Same basic thing as their human form.

... except for some reason their Transformation has a reload of 2. What?

In any event, it's worth explicitly pointing out that since Resurrection provides a flat amount of Health, you'll bring back more Vampires if you use Resurrection on them in Bat form than in humanoid form. This has always been true in the series, but in prior games Vampires weren't valid targets for Resurrection, and the transforming units that were valid targets tended to not change their Health enough for it to particularly matter.

Ancient Vampire (Human form)
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 460
Leadership: 180
Attack/Defense: 25 / 25
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 2
Health: 140
Damage: 10-18 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison
Talents: Transformation (Reload: 1. Changes forms), Conversion (Reload: 1. Does 5-6 Physical damage in melee, with no chance of retaliation. If the target is a humanoid unit, can increase the Ancient Vampire's stack size, with the effectiveness of this doubled at night and/or underground)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Regeneration ('Top' unit restores missing HP at the beginning of the unit's turn), No retaliation (Enemies can't retaliate in melee), Death's Deception (Critical hits against the Ancient Vampire instead Miss, doing no damage at all), Necro Energy

Standard changes, including losing Werewolf Despiser like Vampires, except wait they've picked up Conversion!... I'm honestly not sure of Conversion's mechanics. I've done a fair amount of messing around with it, and yet I've never gotten it to actually increase the Ancient Vampire's stack size. Nor have I ever seen an AI Ancient Vampire have its numbers go up, even though they love to use Conversion and are one of the more common Of The Dark enemies to face in the game. I'm not sure if it's just bugged and doesn't work or if I'm missing something about the mechanics. This is particularly unfortunate since Conversion's damage is one-half-to-one-third of their base attacking damage. Personally, I'd recommend ignoring Conversion entirely, unless you're interested in testing the mechanics yourself.

Whatever the mechanics there, the stuff I said about Vampires applies to Ancient Vampires, basically.

Ancient Vampire (Bat form)
Level: 4
Leadership: 180
Attack/Defense: 25 / 20
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 5
Health: 100
Damage: 8-12 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison
Talents: Transformation (Reload: 1. Switches to humanoid form)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, No Retaliation, Vampirism (When attacking organic targets, damage is converted to health, and can even undo casualties), Necro Energy

Same basic changes as their humanoid form, but minus picking up a new Talent. Which given the Talent doesn't seem to actually do anything except be a painfully weak attack... yeah, Zlogn is really the only thing about Dark Side that pushes you to use Ancient Vampires in their humanoid form rather than their Bat form.

So same basic stuff I talked about with Vampire Bats; drop into the form when planning to use Dark Resurrection etc.

Black Knight
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 1000
Leadership: 150
Attack/Defense: 28 / 28
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 2
Health: 160
Damage: 12-16 Physical
Resistances: 30% Physical, 50% Poison
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points), Death's Grasp (Reload: 3. An arbitrary target enemy takes 12-18 Astral damage per Black Knight. Ignores Attack and Defense modifiers)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Armored (30% Physical resistance), Commander (+1 Morale to allied Undead), Rising Fury (Each time the Black Knight takes damage, its base Damage and its crit chance rise by 3 and 3% respectively, to a max of 15/15%), Mastery (Every time the unit takes damage, other than from Spells or counterattacks, it gains 30% of its Defense, up to a maximum of +90%) Necro Energy

Standard changes, except they've gained Death's Grasp.

Note that while the in-game description for Death's Grasp claims the damage they deal is based on the target's Leadership -an interesting concept- it's really just straight damage, only notable for being more or less irresistible, between being Astral damage and not being lowered by high Defense. This makes Black Knights fairly annoying in enemy hands, as the further into the game you get the more difficult it becomes to prevent Black Knights from inflicting casualties without disabling them somehow. (Magic Shackles, Sheep, etc) This isn't even really that big of a deal, since while Undead continue to show up into the late game that's only relevant if you bother to actually do things like return to Monteville to clean it up late in the game. Most Undead encounters can be ignored past the early game, and so Black Knights aren't much of an issue.

In player hands, Death's Grasp is a nice bit of utility, letting Black Knights contribute some damage on the first turn without needing Teleport assistance or the like, without being particularly game-changing, which is good since Black Knights have always been one of the more serviceable 'generic' melee units in the series, and in particular aren't too hard to keep casualties down through Zlogn.

Also, a really weird thing: even though Death Grasp's animation involves lifting the target up and dropping it, which is the kind of animation that usually makes a Talent exempt from Misses... Death's Grasp can still Miss against Pirates and so on. It's really annoying. And looks completely ridiculous.

The Black Knight is also the fourth-tier Prisoners-to-Undead option, which is... a thing? Black Knights are good, yeah, but much like Demons-the-unit by the time you can spare Prisoners on such conversion you'll have massive stocks from stores to pull from. And since you can only generate creatures in stacks of at least 10 from Prisoner conversion, it's not like you can arrange to generate a handful of Black Knights super-early on when they're disproportionately useful. I've never taken advantage, personally, and would have much more appreciated Bone Dragons as the fourth-tier option.

I personally feel Black Knights are probably at their best in Warriors of the North with all the Necro Energy mechanics, but they're plenty nice here too.

Bone Dragon
Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 3200
Leadership: 1300
Attack/Defense: 53 / 53
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 7
Health: 790
Damage: 50-80 Poison
Resistances: 10% Physical, 50% Poison
Talents: Poison Cloud (Reload: 2. 60-80 Poison damage to all adjacent targets, with a 90% chance to Poison units hit. Units don't retaliate), Eat Corpse (Reload: 3. Destroys an adjacent corpse. For every 2 Leadership the corpse had, the Bone Dragon gains 1 Health. Additionally, all living units below Level 4 suffer -1 to Initiative for 2 turns)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Bone (Takes only 30% damage from arrows, and the unit will never Bleed), Flight, Poison Breath (50% chance to Poison with melee attacks), Necro Energy

Just the standard changes, plus the Bleeding immunity.

Though note that Eat Corpse's behavior regarding the minus to Initiative is wonky in Dark Side. It affects allies in addition to enemies, and it doesn't seem to actually care about Level. I've had it hit an allied Archdemon stack!

The commonness of Zlogn makes this probably the strongest entry in the series for Bone Dragons though. In conjunction with greater ability to support them with eg Dark Healing, it's entirely possible to be moderately aggressive with Bone Dragons even into the late game and still end a battle with no casualties or minor casualties. And there's a guaranteed source of 110 Bone Dragons, ultimately, so in the late game you can shrug off minor casualties fairly readily. 110 is basically a lifetime supply, and in the late game you don't really care about Gold costs anymore.

Furthermore, you simply don't fight Poison-resistant enemies as consistently as in prior entries, making their Poison damage less prone to being a liability.

Mind, the hardest parts of the game are when you're fighting Elves, and that's a bit of a mixed bag. Bone makes Bone Dragons much better than other Dragons for dealing with Elves-the-unit and Rangers, but Ents, Ancient Ents, and any Thorns that get summoned by Dryads or happen to be tagging along in the first place will obviously take vastly more damage from Red and Black Dragons. So that's a bit of a judgment call.

Skeleton Archer
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 24
Leadership: 14
Attack/Defense: 3 / 2
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Health: 10
Damage: 2-3 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison-10% Fire
Talents: Poison Arrow (Charge: 1. Ranged attack that does 2-3 Poison damage and Poisons the target), Black Arrow (Charge: 1. Ranged attack that does 3-4 Magic damage and removes a single positive effect from the target)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Archer (Range: 5), Bone (Arrow attacks do only 30% damage, and the unit will never Bleed), Necro Energy

No direct changes, just the ones from eg Undead trait no longer providing Ice resistance, plus Bleeding immunity.

This is actually possibly the lowest point for Skeleton Archers, oddly enough. If you're trying to avoid casualties, Zlogn mechanics mean it's actually much better to go heavy on Undead melee than to field Skeleton Archers, since if things are going at all to plan enemies will be dying far away from the Skeleton Archers. Meanwhile, they're so frail that even a near-wiped stack can frequently inflict one or more casualties on your Skeleton Archer stack before you finish the enemy off, and you've got much better options for ranged units available. Imps and Scoffer Imps, for one, which are even immune to Plague if you're worried about trying to have a ranged unit your Necromancers don't impair when they Plague everything. And Dark Side lacks a lot of the things that gave them an edge in prior entries; there's nothing equivalent to Zombie Rina's guaranteed early Speed boost, nor to Dark Commander/Power of Darkness in the first two entries, nor to Necro Energy Burst in Warriors of the North. (Which, if you were aggressive in your movement of Skeleton Archers, could incidentally undo casualties on them at not meaningful cost) Daert has extra incentive to use them in the early game thanks to his Weapon that lowers Undead Leadership requirements, given Skeleton Archers are one of two whole ranged Undead at all, but the deeper you get into a Daert run the less you care about your units' ability to contribute on the level of direct damage output; your Spells simply overshadow them.

I tend to field Skeleton Archers in the very early game when there's just not that many options around, but abandon them for better things fairly quickly, no matter my class/character.

Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 600
Leadership: 200
Attack/Defense: 30 / 30
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 2
Health: 140
Damage: 8-12 Magic/Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison, 10% Magic
Talents: Magic Lock (Charge: 1. A single enemy unit has all its Talents blocked off for 2 turns), Raise Undead (Charges: 3. Raises a corpse as 120 Leadership per Necromancer in the casting stack, with the new stack size unable to exceed the size of the corpse's original unit. If the corpse is an Undead unit, it arises as the same unit, except Vampires and Ancient Vampires always arise in human form, whereas non-Undead are more complicated: see 'Necro Call'), Plague (Charge: 1. Infects every unit on the battlefield with Plague)
Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Cloud of Darkness (Range: 6. Splash attack that has a chance of Cursing affected units), Necromancer (Skeletons, Skeleton Archers, Zombies, and Decaying Zombies that were animated in battle can join permanently when the battle ends. This is capped at 3% of the Necromancer stack's Leadership), Necro Energy

Nothing but the standard changes.

Note that the Necromancer Ability actually only checks whether a unit is considered to be a summon and matches the unit list in question. This is specifically relevant because Flames of Passion can produce a summoned Zombie/whatever that wasn't reanimated and in lore terms makes no sense to join your forces, but it will do so anyway if the battle ends while it's still on the field and a Necromancer is also on your side. I'm reasonably confident the same applies to Phantom versions, though I haven't tested so maybe not. Less nonsensical is the ability for coffin-produced skeletons to be added to your forces.

It's restricted to just that specific list, though, so don't be thinking you can have Necromancers raise Necromancers that then join your forces due to their Necromancer Ability.

Also note that the game doesn't care about whether you have the unit type in your forces already or not. If you don't, they'll just go into Reserves. This can be a bit annoying if you have no plans to utilize the units in question as part of your forces, demanding you either stuff them into a castle or delete them outright, but it can useful in the early game where Gold can be tight so that slowly generating a free stack of units for later use is actually worth something.

Additionally, Necromancer-the-Ability can actually add troops to your forces even if nothing was animated at all, functioning just like Recruiter Abilities did in Warriors of the North. This is a big part of what props up Skeletons, Zombies, and Decaying Zombies. (The utility on Skeleton Archers is nice too, obviously, but it's not so dramatic as with the others, in part because Bowmen are quite rare) Note that this part of the functionality stops once you've got the unit at max Leadership (Though you can simply shunt some off into Reserves, keep in mind), but so long as you have available Reserves slots you can still acquire a portion of summoned units per se. ie a maxed out Skeleton Archer stack won't gain anything at the end of a battle unless you summoned additional Skeleton Archers in the battle somehow or another.

Pirate Ghost
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 300
Leadership: 50
Attack/Defense: 12 / 6
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 25
Damage: 4-6 Ice
Resistances: 50% Physical, 50% Poison
Talents: Treasure Hunter (Charge: 1. 50% chance to generate a Treasure Chest somewhere on the battlefield. If successful, +5 Morale to Pirates, Sea Dogs, and Pirate Ghosts for the rest of the battle)
Abilities: Of The Dark, Cursed Treasure Hunter (Drawn to chests, automatically traveling to the nearest one at the beginning of their turn if there is one), Marine (+2 Morale in naval combat), Nimble (20% chance for incoming attacks to Miss) Undead, Phantom (50% Physical resistance, and can pass through impassable terrain), Necro Energy

Their weaknesses have gone away entirely, though they've also lost their minor Ice resistances (As is usual for Undead), lost Necro Energy Blast (Again, as usual), lost 9 Defense, lost 1/2 min/max damage, lost 5 Health... Phantom is also no longer listed on them in-game, though this doesn't really matter so I've kept it listed in this post. Treasure Hunter is both weaker and stronger now thanks to the Morale modifications: it provides bigger stat bonuses, but it also no longer nearly-fully buffers them against status-based Morale penalties.

The overall result is that Pirate Ghosts don't suffer so badly in certain matchups (Fire damage, Magic damage), but the areas where they used to perform well they're pretty consistently less useful in. Stability is useful, particularly if you play somewhat-lazily, but if eg you liked using them as a Reserves swap they're a lot harder to justify.

A bigger strike against them is that they're the only Undead unit you're not guaranteed access to significant supplies of. You can work around this with Blood Priestesses, of course, and late-game Neoline has Recruiter, but it's still a nuisance, particularly late in the game -I've never had a run where there were really enough Pirate Ghosts lying around to fill out a late-game force, even assuming I didn't suffer attrition by using them over the course of the game. Plus those elements don't help if you simply haven't found a supply at all.

Meanwhile, Ghosts and Cursed Ghosts are consistently available in ultimately limitless stocks and have much the same utility as Pirate Ghosts, aside the consideration of trying to get more chests.

All that said, one reason to consider using Pirate Ghosts is that Dark Side's overall chest quantity is low enough that it's entirely possible to beat the game without having maxed the Treasure Searcher Medal. If you want it maxed at all, or especially as soon as possible, Pirate Ghosts are the only unit that can help you. With a bit of luck with Scrolls, you might even be able to harvest chests repeatedly within a single battle. So that's something to keep in mind.

Female Vampire
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 256
Leadership: 180 (80)
Attack/Defense: 14 / 14 (20 / 15)
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 2 (6 / 7)
Health: 75 (50)
Damage: 5-10 Physical (0)
Resistances: 50% Poison (50% Poison)
Talents: Long Attack (Reload: 1. Attacks an enemy for 5-10 Physical damage across an empty tile, with no chance for retaliation), Call (Charge: 1. An enemy stack under Level 4 will, for the next 3 turns, attempt to approach the Female Vampire stack uncontrollably. The effect ends prematurely if the unit takes damage or reaches the Female Vampire stack), Transform (Reload: 3. Until their next turn, the Female Vampire becomes an invincible cloud with high Speed but no attack. This change purges all ongoing effects)
Cloud Form Talents: None.

Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Regeneration ('Top' unit restores missing HP at the beginning of the unit's turn), No retaliation, Death's Deception (Critical hits against the Female Vampire instead Miss, doing no damage at all), Necro Energy
Cloud Form Abilities: Of the Dark, Undead, Soars, Phantom (Can travel through usually-impassable terrain), Unarmed (Can't attack), Invulnerable (Cannot be harmed), Necro Energy

Yeah, Cloud Form inexplicably has less Health, more Attack and Defense, less Leadership... weird stuff. Possibly exploitable, I dunno.

Note that the Female Vampire exits Cloud Form her next turn after transforming... even if her 'next turn' is Waiting and then the turn coming back to her. This control over the Cloud Form transformation end timing is very useful, though I suspect it's actually buggy coding rather than an intentional feature.

Call is, at first glance, a garbage-y version of Sneer that happens to last a couple extra turns but who cares, but then you realize Call is a way to completely shut down ranged units and suddenly it's actually pretty awesome. Sneer can't drag a ranged attacker toward you unless there's a hostile adjacent to the ranged unit. The Level limit isn't even so bad since the game is heavily biased toward upper-Level units being melee in general and in Dark Side in particular... Cyclops, for example, are nearly nonexistent as enemies. Archmages are, in fact, the primary unit where you'd like to be able to Call them, can't do so, and they crop up routinely enough for this to be a recurring irritation.

Outside the potential utility of Call, though, Female Vampires are unfortunately very weak. I strongly suspect the 80 Leadership of their Cloud Form is their intended Leadership in general and it got overlooked that their regular Leadership is more than twice that. With a Leadership of 180, their 75 Health is miserably low (That's a worse than 2-to-1 ratio of Leadership to Health), and their damage output is also consistently underwhelming. (As a direct comparison, Ancient Vampires have the same Leadership, 11 more Attack, and double the minimum damage roll and nearly double the maximum damage roll. And Ancient Vampires aren't even that great at dishing out damage!) They're particularly lackluster in Daert's hands (Ironically) since he has such terrible Leadership, in spite of how Call would theoretically be fantastically useful for him, as Call has an unlisted Leadership limit. Note that Sneer doesn't have a Leadership limit, making it possible to abuse it against even hideously oversized stacks, unlike Call.

Neoline can put Female Vampires to okay use once Lord has gotten pretty powerful and you've maxed out Connoisseur of Beauty, but alternatively Neoline could be fielding one of the female units that doesn't need such benefits to justify itself, like Demonesses or Dragon Riders or one of the Dark Elves. So... it's more that Neoline can afford to give them a whirl than it is that they have a real place in her army.

It's disappointing, because they're a neat unit concept.


Next time, we take a look at what Dark Side has done with Neutral Animals.


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