Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Dallas-Fort Worth Area
One advantage of VC is the army book is new, so you know you will be able to play the same army for some time, especiallly with 8th edition also being relatively new still.
The battalian box can be a good deal if you plan to run skeletons and ghouls as core (cheaper to build such an army) and use the corpse cart (not a bad unit) and dire wolves from time-to-time.
Basically, the prices for two boxes of 10 ghouls, 2 boxes of 10 skellies, 1 box of 10 dire wolves is worth the battalian box and makes the corpse cart effectively free. Similarly, the ghouls, skellies and corpse cart cost slightly more than the battalian box with the dire wolves essentially free. Even with their points cost increase, Ghouls are still worth playing, especially with the strigoi vampire leading the army (use dragonbane gem for a 2+ ward save when flaming attacks negate regen and his save is only vulnerable to killing blow) with a mortis engine or double-mortis engine combo.
I would shop around. Sometimes, on e-bay, local listing sites (craigslist in US), or in the local gaming community bulletin board someone will be selling an army or components of an army cheap. You might have to do some worth stripping paint, restoring, etc. but you can sometime get a starter base army for half or less of discounted retail prices.
Also, if you do not play at GW events, Mantic Games has some decent core (ghouls, skellies, and zombies) and special models (revenant knights for grave guard and black knights) in sets for a lot cheaper and some other companies produce skellies and zombie models that can be used. You can also do conversions of other models (like older used army of dead models sold on e-bay from GW's Lord of the Rings game) on 40mm bases for spirit hosts and find cheaper models for bats and bat swarms. Crypt horrors, vargheists, varghulfs, terrorgheists, mortis engines, and hex wraiths are more difficult to find suitable alternatives or conversion ideas for, necessitating buying GW models (although now there are used GW models on sale from people starting and then deciding to no longer play a VC army based on the new book).
As a result of these alternatives, I've been able to get GW zombies, lightly used and assembled but not painted, for at or under US$1.00 per model on e-bay as compared with approximately $1.50 at discounted retail for a box and $1.75 per model at full retail for a box.