Welcome Guest [Log In] [Register]
Add Reply
A newcomers' guide to the Skaven Army; Part 2 is up
Topic Started: 14th March 2005 - 05:14 PM (12,119 Views)
Skaskrit Venomclaw
Member Avatar
Ex-Councilrat

By Skaskrit Venomclaw

After being on this site for quite some time, I've read many discussions about the various troops found in the Skaven list, and helped a great many people with advice on how to make a good Skaven army. All in all, at one time or another I think I've written quite a lot about nearly every unit in the Skaven army list. I thought it would be a good idea to assemble all that information and make a guide on the Skaven army, where new players can get a good overview on when and how to use the different units.

For an analysis of table-top tactics, read this article. I recommend reading it after you finish the current article if you're new to Skaven.

This article is very long. But be not dismayed, for in my infinite Skaven cunning I’ve divided it into 3 chapters. The first is a very short and clear overview of our strengths and weaknesses. The second details the types of units in our army and general advice on composing a good Skaven force. The third and longest chapter is a list of all the units in the army, detailing their strengths and weaknesses, giving advice on their battlefield roles, on how to equip them, and on how many to take.

The idea is, you can easily start reading the general sections now in a few minutes, and only need to look up the more detailed sections when you start wondering about that particular unit or warmachine.

A note on searching
If you want to look up a particular unit in this document: all units entries are listed as:
“Unit: [name]”
So, if you want to find out what I’ve got to say about Nightrunners, all you need to do is hit ctr-f to open the search window, and type “Unit: Nightrunners”. This will take you right to the correct section. (characters are listed in the same way, for the sake of convenience. So, “Unit: Warlock” will yield results on the warlock engineer.)

Chapter One: Strengths and Weaknesses

I'll start the article with a very general overview of the overall strengths and weaknesses of the Skaven army. (Adapted from some of my earlier posts) Before starting a Skaven army, it's very important to realise what these are, as these determine the army's playing style to a large extent.

Strengths The Skaven are:

Numerous. Our basic troops cost about as much as humans, and are actually slightly better. We also have lots and lots of cheap, expendable units. Outnumber your opponent at least 2 to one, or you'll be in trouble. (Be prepared for lots of painting, though...)

Fast. Our troops move faster than the vast majority of enemy infantry, and have higher initiative too. Our army also includes many skirmishing units, who often have an even higher movement rate to boot. Use this to outmanoeuvre the enemy, and bring your weight of numbers to bear.

Destructive. Although we are not the best fighters in close combat, Skaven weaponry and magic is unmatched where sheer potential damage is concerned. Our wizards can obliterate entire units, our guns can bring down the toughest foes. Not even the Dwarfs have weapons as dangerous as ours.

With our weapons of mass destruction taking out the most powerful enemy units and our weaker foes being outmanoeuvred by our fast and numerous infantry, the Skaven are a scary proposition to face.

But we have equally many
weaknesses. The Skaven are:

Mediocre. Skaven are not bad fighters. They're just not brilliant. None of the troops in our army can rightly lay claim to the status of elite warrior. Even our very best will be hard-put to match the average Dwarf warrior, let alone a veteran. This means the Skaven infantry must rely on it's speed and numbers advantage to outmanoeuvre the enemy, or be chopped to bits.

Unreliable. Whilst the battle goes well, we're fairly brave. If Skaven start running, though, they are not likely to rally. Our small units of specialists also generally have very shaky morale. Our wonderfully destructive weaponry and magic is even worse. Nearly every device in the Skaven army has the potential to kill and maim the user, many can also cause havoc amongst nearby friendly units. Sometimes, the we kill more Skaven than the enemy does.

Not very fast. Whilst our infantry can outrun most opposition, we do not have any cavalry whatsoever. Nor do we have anything capable of flying. We can counter this with our numbers to some extent, but it's a weakness to be carefully considered.

All in all, this means the Skaven can be tricky to use, but when played well they are devastating. Beginners especially will need some time to adapt to the Skaven way of war, for the simple headlong rush into the enemy battle line that serves some armies quite well is a recipe for certain disaster when using Skaven.


Chapter Two: The makeup of the Skaven army

I believe the units in the Skaven army list can be divided into 4 distinct categories, each of which has a specific function on the battlefield. I also believe the best Skaven armies contain a decent mix of all 4 types of units. Understanding of these categories and which units belong to which is an important step in becoming a Skaven general, in my opinion.

These 4 categories are:

Main Combat Units (MCUs)

The backbone of the Skaven army, our 'ships of the line.' These units are large, preferably larger than any opposing units, so they get maximum rank bonus, maximum leadership bonus, and an outnumbering bonus in close combat. They always have standards and musicians, sometimes champions as well. They are generally well equipped. Our fighting characters are found leading these units.

Although the MCUs are the best and most powerful fighting units in the list, they are not able to defeat most opposition in a fair one-on-one fight, as I have noted above under weaknesses. If a Main Combat Unit is lead by a character, or comes up against an equally mediocre enemy unit and has the outnumbering bonus, it stands a decent chance of winning. To reliably defeat more powerful opposition, or enemy units led by strong warrior characters, the MCU will need support from the other categories, though.

Main Combat Units are: Clanrats, Stormvermin and Plague Monks.

In my armies, I generally have 1 MCU for every 500 points I play, plus one extra for good measure. So, in a 2000 point army I typically have 4 Clanrat units and 1 Stormvermin unit. In 1000 points I use 3 clanrat units. Depending on your personal preferences, you can field more or fewer MCUs, but I would not advise anyone to deviate too far from my guideline.

Ranked Support Units(RSUs)

These are the second most important units in your army. They are still fairly large, but smaller than the MCUs. This is both because they need more manoeuvrability (easier for small units) and because they are frequently used for sacrificial purposes. Generally, they have as few upgrades as possible to keep the point cost down. They are rarely led by characters.

The main purpose of Ranked Support Units is to enable you to charge enemy units in the flank. This is accomplished in two ways: baiting the enemy so the MCU can charge them in the flank, or manoeuvring so the support unit outflanks an enemy fighting the MCU.

Actually pulling off flank charges is tricky and the way to do it varies greatly depending on the opposition. See the tactics guide I linked to above for more concrete advise.

To a lesser extent, RSUs are used to safeguard your own flanks, and can be used to simply distract and delay enemy units without getting any actual flanking opportunities. They can also defeat weaker enemy troops like archers on their own. Outflanking does remain their first and foremost hallowed goal, though.

Ranked Support Units are: Slaves, Giant Rats and Ratogres.

I generally field as many RSUs as I have MCUs, but more would not go amiss.

Skirmishing Support Units(SSUs)

Although not as vital to a our battle plans as Ranked Support Units, skirmishers are very good to have around nonetheless. Skirmishing units should be kept small and lean, too many models or too much equipment will make them too expensive whilst not increasing their effectiveness by a significant amount. SSUs also lead risky lives, and frequently do not survive the battle. All the more reason to make sure not too many victory points are tied up in them.

Their role is to deal with those units that are either too fast or too unimportant for the ranked units to deal with, as well as annoying the enemy and disrupting their battle line. The latter is mainly accomplished by blocking enemy march moves, although in some cases a suicidal attack on a tough enemy unit can prove worthwhile, for example making a frenzied enemy pursue a SSU in the wrong direction.

Because we lack cavalry in our army, the skirmishers are more important for us than for most other races. Whilst they lack cavalry's raw speed, they do have the very nifty ability to navigate difficult terrain without being slowed down. They are also far better at swiftly reacting to unexpected developments and threats than ranked units are.

The main targets for SSUs are: enemy skirmishers, wizards, small units of missile troops, warmachine crews and possibly even light cavalry or flyers foolish enough to come into charge range.

Skirmishing Support Units are: Nightrunners, Gutterrunners, Ratswarms and Plague Censer Bearers.

How many of these units you need is more up to the individual player's preferences than the other two unit types, but I generally make sure to have several with me. Say, 1 per 500 points.

Fire Support Units(FSUs.)

Everybody's favourite, as this category includes the many wacky Clan Skryre weapons. Many of them are single models, but when using units with ranged weapons it's important to make them large enough to cause significant damage to the enemy. Sometimes it's better to field several smaller units instead, though, as that makes it more difficult for the enemy to engage and destroy all your FSUs.

I believe having at least a decent amount of ranged support is very important to a Skaven army, but I'm also firmly convinced they should be support units, who help the MCUs win the battle.

It's possible to win by simply including lots of powerful ranged units and blasting the enemy to bits before he reaches your lines, but this style of play is almost universally hated because it robs games of all enjoyment for one or both players. (It's called a SAD army, which stands for Skryre Army of Doom.) I will not go further into that debate here. Suffice to say, this guide presupposes a different style of play will be used.

So, Fire Support Units. The main function of these is to deal with any remaining threats the other units in the army can't defeat. An enemy unit might be so powerful in combat that you cannot defeat it with your Main Combat Units, even if you do manage to outflank them. A flying monster or unit of light cavalry may be too fast to pin down with your melee units.

The FSU's are also used to simply weaken less dangerous enemy units to the point they can be defeated in a fair fight by the MCUs, and they can help the RSUs create outflanking opportunities, by forcing panic tests on enemy units, hopefully creating gaps in their battle lines.

Another thing to note is that Skaven magic-users fulfil the exact same battlefield function as FSUs do, although they are also used to defend against enemy magic. In fact, it would be fair to list Warlocks and to a lesser extent Grey Seers as simply yet another Fire Support Unit.

It also follows that the amount of FSUs needed is inversely proportional to the amount of mages in your army.

Fire Support Units are: Warpfire Throwers, Ratling Guns, Poison Wind Globadiers, Jezzails and Warplightning Cannons. Warlocks and Grey Seers can also be filed in this section.

I generally use very few FSUs in my armies, and expect most people would want to use more. I generally field just a few weapon teams, 1 per 1000 points, and 1 wizard per 1000 points. I sometimes add a Warplightning Cannon.

In general, whilst it is possible to use a Skaven army with no FSUs whatsoever, I do not advise using less than this unless you field a very specialised or strongly themed army. For upper ranges, I wouldn't field more than say 1 FSU per 500 points used. This is a fairly rough estimate, though, since I never use that much firepower myself.

Conclusion

I hope this gives (new) players more insight into the makeup of the Skaven army, and a better idea of what constitutes a balanced, effective one.

It's important to note that much of the advice I give is based on my preferred style of play, and there are other, equally viable ways to field a Skaven army.

Chapter Three:The Characters and Units in the Skaven Army

Sorted by battlefield role. (see above) A brief overview of the different units, their strengths and weaknesses, advice on their equipment, battlefield roles, and their ideal unit sizes.

As stated in the introduction, this section can also be used to look up specific units you’re interested in rather than trying to read the whole thing at once.

It also serves the secondary purpose of allowing me to quote the appropriate section whenever someone on the forum asks about a specific unit.

Main Combat Units

Unit: Clanrats
Our basic Clanrats are nice troops. Cheap, decent armour save, decent leadership in large numbers, faster than most foes. However, they won't kill a lot in combat. It is essential your clanrats outnumber the enemy at all times, otherwise they will not stand a chance in a frontal fight. You can't afford to lose your rank bonus either.

Therefore, it is vital to have at least 25 models in your units. Against foes sporting heavy missile fire or against fear-causing undead, 30 is best. More than that generally makes the unit unwieldy for no increase in battlefield performance, and is best avoided.

Clanrats should always have a standard and musician. Champions are not needed for the unit by itself, but if you expect a character will be in the unit at some point during the game, he is a good idea because he can accept or decline challenges in his master's stead.

There is one eternal debate regarding Clanrats: to spear or not to spear? The spears are nice weapons, and look very good on the models, but they're not that effective on the battlefield. Clanrats don't win by killing stuff, they win by combat resolution, so the extra armour save a shield provides is almost as good as the extra spear attacks. Still, spears have their uses against certain foes, and the few extra points you pay won't be the death of you.

Unit: Stormvermin
Stormvermin are better fighters than clanrats. Well equipped and fairly skilled, they can stand up to average opposition much better than clanrats can. Unfortunately, they're still not good enough to defeat elite units on their own, and they are much more expensive than clanrats. Unlike their smaller brethren, Stormvermin are not very good value for points, and from a strict power-gaming perspective might well be best off left at home.

Still, Stormvermin have their advantages. They make powerful bodyguards for your warlord or seer, the magical banner they can carry is of great use, and equipped with shields they can stand up to a lot of punishment and hold their ground until you can outflank the foe. Moreover, the models look great, and the unit adds lots of character to your army. After all, what warlord would march to war without the elite Stormvermin at his back?

Like Clanrats, Stormvermin units should be sizable, but due to their point value you probably won't be able to field more than 20-25 of them. This should generally be enough.

Stormvermin should always have full command groups, as they're slightly better fighters than clanrats, and when they use their halberds even the extra champion attack will be of use. They also escort characters a lot.

Shields are probably a very good buy, as a 3+ armour save is not to be despised, and protecting the large amount of points you invest in the 'vermin is a good idea.

Stormvermin can, and probably should, carry a magical banner. Favourites are the reliable Warbanner, or the Umbranner when facing shooty armies like Elves or Empire.

Unit: Plague Monks
The disciples of Clan Pestilens are the true elite of the Skaven army. With their many, many attacks they tear through weaker enemies. They still struggle against tougher foes, but with proper support of Censer Bearers and a nice Plague Priest to lead them, they can take on nearly anything.

Still, Plague Monks are a risky choice, as Frenzy truly is a double-edged sword. A canny foe with fast cavalry or skirmishers at his command can easily lead the monks away on a wild goose chase or into difficult terrain, robbing your army of it's best warriors whilst the enemy unleashes his full attack. To some extent, this can be prevented by providing the monks with a Nightrunner screen, but this ploy is not fool proof. When using the monks, I frequently deploy them on a far flank nearly on their own, where although vulnerable to luring enemies, they at least will not compromise my entire battle-line when they succumb to their bloodlust.

Because of their natural high toughness and the immunity to psychology Frenzy provides, the monks need less numbers than clanrats, and should be taken in units 18-25 models strong.

Naturally, plague monks should have a standard and musician at all times. A champion is only needed when a character is present: they get so many attacks that one more won't make a difference otherwise.

Plague Monks should probably be armed with 2 handweapons all the time and deployed in a fairly wide but shallow formation. Some people like to take monks without the extra weapons, and put them in a deep formation like other Skaven. I, however, think one should maximise their natural advantage of having many attacks.

Plague Monks can carry a magic banner too. (But note, only one Monk unit in the army can.) Favourites include the aforementioned Warbanner and Umbranner. Another seemingly very good option is the Banner of Burning Hatred. So many attacks with re-rolls to hit seem overwhelmingly powerful on paper, more so when a mighty plague priest is in the unit who will benefit from the banner's bonus as well. But on the field of battle, this banner can become an extreme liability. Your monks being forced to advance at full speed can put your entire battle-plan at risk. If this banner is used, careful screening of the unit with nightrunners is even more important than otherwise.


Ranked Support Units

Unit: Slaves
Skavenslaves are probably the second-most important unit in the Skaven army. Incredibly cheap, incredibly expendable, yet crucial to all common Skaven tactics. They are the ideal charge bait, as they can be sacrificed without blinking an eye due to their low cost. But they can also be used to threaten the enemy flanks or protect your own.

Slave units are best taken in units of minimum size, which is 20, since their main role is to set up traps by fleeing from charges or being beaten in combat. More models won't help them a bit in those roles. Only when you want to use them as missile screens do more models add something, but I don't like that tactic much. Most foes won't be stupid enough to shoot slaves anyway.

Slaves should probably carry no equipment at all, and have no command groups. Some people like the musician for the rallying bonus it provides, but in my mind it adds little. Moreover, quite often you don't want your slaves to rally, since you made them flee in the first place and don't want them to clutter your charge path.

Unit: Giant Rats
Giant Rats are one of my favourite units. They're deceptively better than they look on paper. They're also the closest thing to cavalry we've got, and with their high movement rate, rank bonus, and the ability to negate the enemy's ranks when they charge them in the flank or rear, they make the best flanking unit in the Skaven army.

Although they're more expensive than slaves, they're still pretty cheap, and if you keep the units small they're easily sacrificed or use as charge bait, if the situation requires it. Keep in mind, though, that they do not have the slave's special rules, and will cause panic tests on nearby friends if they're wiped out. Another reason to stick them out on the flank.

I prefer to keep my Giant Rat units small at 2 packs each. 14 models is big enough for a decent +2 rank bonus and not too many panic tests when under fire, but small enough to manoeuvre through narrow terrain pieces easily, and wheel without expending their whole movement allowance. More importantly, they're still cheap enough to sacrifice.

If you want a larger rank bonus, 3 packs (21 models) is good enough for a very nice +3 rank bonus, and reasonable manoeuvrability. More should never be taken as a single unit, in my opinion.

Unit: Rat Ogres
Rat Ogres are a strange unit for Skaven. Strong, but few in number. Ratogres generally lack the numbers to overcome ranked enemy units on their own, but they are great against small elite enemy units if they get to charge. They're also very good for supporting our main combat units, either using their high movement for flanking manoeuvres, or simply charging in the front, adding their strength and attacks to a MCU's rank bonus and command group. Hence the classification as a support unit.

Ratogres have a major weakness, though, which comes close to eliminating them as a viable choice altogether. They're incredibly vulnerable to missile fires. Not only are the ogres themselves far more easily shot than a comparable unit of rank and file troops due to their lowish toughness and lack of armour, their handful of packmasters will die even sooner. And once the packmasters are gone, the ratogres suffer from stupidity. With their low leadership, that will make them nearly useless. Against armies with a decent amount of missile fire or spells, the ogres are best left at home, I'm afraid. They’re good to have against Fear-causing foes, though.

If you do use ratogres, you can either field them in large units of 3-4 packs, or in small ones of 2 packs. I prefer the small ones. They're easier to stick in your battle line to support the MCUs, easier to manoeuvre, and maybe your enemy will ignore them if they don't look too threatening.

A possible ploy with the big pack of ratogres is to have a character (usually a master moulder) with the Skavenbrew magic item accompany them. This nifty item has a chance to send the Ratogres into frenzy, which will eliminate their stupidity problem and boost their fighting prowess, or make them hate the enemy, which will greatly boost their prowess in the first round of combat. Hopefully, this will turn them into a unit capable of taking on big blocks of enemies on their own. Still, it's a risky ploy involving an expensive unit, and they'll still be very vulnerably to missile fire. I do not really recommend it, save perhaps as a surprise tactic once in a while.


Skirmishing Support Units

Unit: Nightrunners
Nightrunners are another one of those deceptively useful units. Not brilliant, not powerful, not spectacular, they won't win the battle on their own. But they're cheap, expendable, always useful to you, and always annoying to the enemy.

Nightrunners are used to screen your troops from missile fire, (As skirmishers, they're hard to hit, and are easy to get out of the way when you want to charge) to hunt enemy mages walking about on their own, to eliminate carelessly placed warmachines, to kill enemy skirmishers and small units of archers, perhaps even to take on light cavalry that strays too close, and finally to block enemy march moves and distract enemy units with suicide assaults. (Favourite ways to sacrifice nightrunners: charge them at the flank of a frenzied unit. Watch them get creamed. Watch the enemy pursue in the wrong direction, exposing his flanks. Or charge the nightrunners at an enemy unit containing a wizard in the front rank. The nightrunners will die, but you get a good shot at eliminating the wizard.)That's a lot of ways to use such an innocuous looking unit!

I prefer to keep my nightrunner units small at 5-8 models. This again makes them easier to move about, easier to dodge out of enemy charge arcs and firing lines, and more expendable if need be. With support units like these, more units is better than bigger units.

I usually arm the runners with two hand weapons, unless they're a missile screen, in which case they get nothing. Most of the runners' roles involve defeating light enemy units in combat. The extra weapons are essential for this. With their very high movement rate, the nightrunners will charge and deliver a bucketload of attacks, hopefully winning the combat before the enemy strikes back. Throwing stars are good to harass the enemy whilst blocking his march moves. They’re also nice when chasing enemy wizards through woods. You usually won’t have line of sight to charge them, but the stars work just fine. Still, I’d rather have extra handweapons. The runners need to stay cheap, in my opinion, so I don’t like equipping them with both either. Slings give you the option of a decent archer type unit in a Skaven army, but I think they're too expensive, and negate the nightrunners' greatest strength, their manoeuvrability.

A champion is never worth it in my opinion. I'd much rather save the points for an extra nightrunner or a couple more clanrats.

Unit: Gutterrunners
Gutter Runners are much the same as nightrunners, but better. With higher weapon skill, better equipment, and the crucial scouting ability, gutterrunners are one of the most useful units in our army. They're twice as expensive as nightrunners, though, and therefore I rarely take many of them. Usually, 1 or perhaps 2 units is enough, nightrunners providing the rest of the skirmishing ninja allotment.

An intriguing option is to upgrade the gutterrunners to a tunnelling team. This allows them to pop up anywhere on the battle field, but they do risk a tunnel collapse or belayed arrival. Tunnelling teams are better than normal gutterrunners if you think there won't be enough terrain to hide them in, but otherwise scouting units may well serve you better due to their significantly lower cost. Bear in mind, though, that even tunnellers can deploy as scouts should the situation call for it, so when you do not know what the battlefield will be (tourneys) the upgrade may be worth it's points just in case.

Like nightrunners, gutterrunners should be fielded in small units. 5-6 is ideal, more starts to eat up points for no gains.

I always equip my gutterrunners with poisoned handweapons, to aid their main job of artillery killing and light unit hunting. I don't give them missile weapons, since the gutterrunners are too expensive to simply harass the enemy. They need to keep moving at full speed and hunt down vulnerable enemies.

Like nightrunners, the gutterrunners never need a champion.

Unit: Ratswarms
Swarms are a unique unit in the Skaven army, as they are unbreakable. Whilst the rest of our forces consist of cowards, these little critters will never even think of running away. When you combine this with a lot of wounds, a high movement rate, and the skirmishing ability, you have an incredibly powerful unit.

Ratswarms should be used for one purpose, and for one purpose only: to find a dangerous enemy unit threatening your line, to attack that unit, and to keep it occupied until you defeat the rest of the enemy forces and free up resources to deal with the tough enemy unit. Depriving the enemy of an important unit for just a couple of turns can make a crucial difference in the battle, and your opponent will hate your little ratswarms for doing this.

Some enemy units are very powerful in combat, and will kill your swarms quickly. To preserve them, it's generally best not to charge the enemy, but instead advance the swarm to 1" distance, and be charged instead. (For the enemy has nowhere else to go.) This way, you have to fight one round of combat less, and force the enemy to waste an extra movement phase. There are exceptions, of course. If you get a chance to charge cavalry in the flank, do so immediately! The size of the cavalry base means they only get 1 or 2 models to attack your swarms. Chariots should also be charged if you get the chance, to avoid their impact hits.

Ratswarms can be upgraded to have poison attacks. This is not worth it, in my opinion. Firstly, the ratswarms are not there to win their fights. They're supposed to delay the enemy. Secondly, they will be killed in the end. There's hardly a battle in which my ratswarms survived. This means the enemy will get victory points for them, and poisoned ratswarms give a lot of extra victory points to the enemy than normal ones do.

For unit size, a swarm of 3-4 bases is usually best. This will probably delay the enemy unit for two of their movement phases, perhaps 3 if you have 4 bases. In any case, it should be long enough. In a small battle, 2 bases can be used. 5 are hardly ever worth it, because of the victory point considerations.

Unit:Plague Censer Bearers
Censer Bearers are by far the most powerful fighters in the Skaven army. As I like to say, in the first round of combat they hit as hard as a chosen chaos knight! With two attacks, re-rolls to hit, high strength and the brilliant plague fumes, these little furballs of death can decimate any enemy unit. However, they're definitely a support unit, as they need the ranks and command group of their parent plague monk unit to actually win the combat against big enemy units.

Plague Censers share many of the weaknesses plague monks have. Because they skirmish, their forced frenzied charges can be a big problem. Likewise, a screening unit is a good idea.

I usually field 5-6 plague censer bearers in a unit. More, and they won't fit into base contact with the enemy anymore, which means you take more plague fume tests, but the enemy does not.


Fire Support Units

Unit: Ratling Guns
I hardly need to tell anyone that ratling guns are a very good weapon. The most important question concerning them is “how many can I take without my opponent walking away in disgust over my cheesy army.”

Ratling guns work best against small, expensive units. Ideal targets are not too tough or well armoured, but even Chaos Knights will be hurt by these beauties if hit enough times, although Jezzails make for better can-openers. I generally roll 2-3 dice for Ratling gun hits. This will cause plenty of damage and very few serious misfires.

The ratling gun has no real weaknesses. Generally, weapon teams are hard to kill because they usually can’t be targeted by shooting, and can stand and shoot if they get charged. The two main dangers are panic tests caused by units fleeing past or breaking nearby, and spells that ignore targeting rules. Heavens magic is especially nasty, with two lightning spells that can target weapon teams and the comet that will squash anything in range.

As for quantities, more than one in <1000 pts armies is generally frowned upon, as is much more than 2 in 2000 points. But it generally depends on the rest of your selection and the general attitude of your gaming group. On a purely tactical level, I’ve never felt the need for more than one or two. Extra guns may come in handy sometimes, but you can do perfectly well without them.

Unit: Warpfire Throwers
The Warpfire Thrower is the Ratling Gun’s overlooked older brother. Many players ignore it because of it’s higher point cost and extremely nasty (but highly entertaining) misfire table. Which is a pity in my opinion, as this weapon is not only entertaining to use, it also adds some valuable flexibility to your army.

The warpfire thrower is best used against large ranked units of fairly low leadership troops. With it’s template and high strength it will cause lots of damage on a good shot, and the fact it will always cause a panic test means it’s great to defeat enemy horde armies, who generally suffer from poor leadership. If you position the template right, you can easily hit two units with one shot and force both to take panic tests. Even against high-leadership armies this is nice. Although the chances of the enemy fleeing are lower, if they do that will mean a much more expensive unit is legging it.
Other advantages of the warpfire thrower are the ability to inflict multiple wounds per hit, and the ability to torch Treemen in instants. (if you wound...) Finally, because the warpfire thrower is a template weapon, it can fire into close combat without hitting your own troops! You need to position the template so none of your guys are covered, and no enemies in the rank fighting your troops either. Fairly tricky, but your opponent will hate it when it works!

The weaknesses of the warpfire thrower include the aforementioned horrific misfire table. You’ve just got to accept one shot in six will result in the loss of the weapon team. That’s life in the warlord clans for you. Better get used to it in this army. A more serious problem is the weapon’s limited range. It is tricky to line the enemy up for a really good shot, and even then the artillery dice can let you down. Some game, warpfire thrower will achieve nothing.

All in all, this makes the warpfire thrower a gambler’s weapon. Sometimes it’s a dud, but when it pays of you score big time. Relying too much upon it is unwise, but bringing one along is still a good idea. I recommend using 1 warpfire thrower for every 1-2 ratling guns.

Unit: Poison Wind Globadiers
The globadiers are more tricky to use than most Skryre units. They have short range, are easy to kill, and won’t inflict more than a few casualties in return. But they’re the only unit in Warhammer I can think of that ignores both enemy toughness and armour saves, making them the best Chosen Chaos Knight killers around. If they get into range.

Globadiers are one of the few units in the Skaven armies I haven’t used much. I imagine they would be good against armies with very tough, expensive and well-armoured units, like Chaos and Dwarves. But the few times I’ve taken them, they’ve never been more than a minor annoyance. Though they ignore toughness and armour, they only hit a few times, and therefore won’t cause crippling damage

As for unit sizes, like all skirmishers they need to be small and manoeuvrable enough to stay out of enemy charge arcs. I think units of 6-10 would work best. Another approach is to take several small units of just 2 globadiers. These will never be more than a minor nuisance to the enemy, but confer a major advantage during deployment, as your opponent has to reveal much of his plan and army before you put down anything important. Beware, though, that the 2 strong units of globadiers will cause panic tests on all nearby friendly units if they’re wiped out by shooting. So keep them away from allies.

Unit: Jezzails
The Warplock Jezzail teams are the closest thing to a straightforward missile unit we Skaven have. And you get a lot of firepower for your points. Quite possibly, Jezzails are the best knightkillers in warhammer. They’re certainly the best in the Skaven army.

Jezzail strengths include their long range, skirmishing ability (360 degree arc of sight. Can also get them out of trouble if approached by enemies.) and reasonable endurance versus enemy missile fire. (again, thanks to skirmish, plus the pavises.) Oh, and the ability to kill anything they can hit.

Weaknesses are their middling ballistic skill and the fact the unit dies when it is engaged in close combat. Well, perhaps they can fight off some very weak enemy skirmishers or light cavalry, with 2 attacks per model. But not much else. They’re also vulnerable to panic tests. Finally, they simply will not cause enough damage to justify their inclusion if the enemy army does not have any expensive units.

For this reason, I recommend against taking too many Jezzails. They’re likely to be wasted points in at least some games. Then again, small Jezzail units aren’t much use either, as their low ballistic skill means they won’t cause more than a handful of casualties, and no panic tests. Generally, 6 is the minimum amount of guns that’s useful, and even then only in small games. Around 2000 points, 8-10 would be the ideal amount to take. Less, and you’re better off leaving them at home and save yourself the headache of finding lines of sight and protecting them.

If you have the spare special slots, it’s usually better to field 2 small units rather than one big unit of Jezzails. The small units can still concentrate firepower when they need to, but can also select different targets if need be. More importantly, they’re harder to take out by the enemy because he has to hunt down both units. On the downside, they’re a bit more vulnerable to panic from shooting, but that’s a small price to pay.

Unit: Warplightning Cannon
The Warplightning cannon is another fairly conventional artillery piece in the Skaven list. Conventional for us, that is, as it still has random range, random strength and the ability to shoot through terrain and ignore line of sight.

The main advantage of the Warplightning Cannon is it’s ability to seriously hurt enemy monsters and units of multiple wound models. With D6 wounds per hit, such units will really feel the pain of a Warplightning cannon hit. The cannon also forces the enemy to hide characters in units, because otherwise it can snipe them down with magically enhanced vision. Finally, if placed on the flank it can hit a lot of enemy units on a lucky shot. Oh, and the cannon is hard to kill with ranged attacks, because of high toughness and a wardsave.

However, the weaknesses of this device are glaring. First and foremost, if enemies charge, it has to flee as a reaction. With low leadership, it won’t rally again either. This also makes it vulnerable to panic.
More importantly, however, the thing is very random and unreliable. You can never really rely on it working when you need it to. When shooting at enemy ranked units it won’t hit a lot of troops either, as you can only hit one model per rank, and will need to roll decent strength first too.

I only use the cannon in medium-big games, where the point cost is not prohibitive, and even then only when I expect to come up against monsters or want to flush characters from woods. I would never field more than 1 cannon, except perhaps against Ogre Kingdoms.

Characters

Characters are a very important part in any Skaven army. In fact, they are the least expendable units we've got. Frequently it's preferable to lose an entire 25 strong clanrat block than it is to lose an important character. Fortunately, Skaven characters are quite capable of surviving the hazards of combat, thanks to their natural cowardice and the ability to lead from the back.

Characters in the Skaven army are used in four roles:

Leadership support. The most important of all, in my opinion. Without characters to lead them, Skaven are cowardly and hardly ever pass rally tests. Warlords and Battle Standard Bearers are the most important characters in this category, but normal chieftains, master moulders and even Grey Seers also boost the leadership of your army.
These characters should be kept safe and should be positioned to benefit the largest possible number of friendly units. Characters used in a leadership support function often lead from the back, so they can't be attacked from the enemy, but this by no means is the only way to use them. The leadership support role stacks well with some of the others.

Combat support. Whilst by no means vital, it is very useful to have combat support units. As detailed above, Skaven are mediocre warriors at best. But with a powerful character to lead them, a MCU can become a dangerous proposition to face. Even humble clanrats can win frontal assaults if a warlord is swinging a greatweapon in their front rank. Warlords are the most powerful combat support characters, closely followed by Plague Priests, Assassins, Chieftains and Master Moulders roughly in that order.
It is important to bear in mind that Skaven combat support characters are not a match for the combat characters in other armies. Even powerful enemy rank and file units threaten Skaven characters, as do large monsters. It's tricky to keep your characters safe when you want them to fight in combat, but it can be done. We have quite a few protective magic items that work wonders, and hiding in the rear at strategical moments is even cheaper and more reliable. When things really go pear-shaped, move the character out of the unit if you can. Skaven aren't heroes, and are under no obligation to behave chivalrously.
Combat characters can be made quite fearsome by equipping them with powerful magic items, but a simple chieftain with a greatweapon or halberd will do almost as well against enemy rank and file and is much cheaper. My advice would be not to get carried away and to remember that these characters are here in a support role.

Fire Support. Like I said above, warlocks and grey seers can be seen as yet another fire support unit. Warlocks in particular can do very little beside blast the enemy with warplightning. Skaven magic is very powerful, and can seriously hurt enemy units at medium range. If you decide to invest in magic, you'll need a decent number of mages to overcome enemy magic defences. Take too many mages, though, and you'll be unable to fulfill the other character roles, to the detriment of your army. The other comments about not taking too much fire support also apply.
In particular, Skaven mages are just as prone to killing themselves as our warmachines are. Warlocks especially have a tendency to self-destruct.

Magic Defence. This role quite obviously stacks with the previous one, but also remains distinct. I would deem it the second most important function after leadership support... against some armies. Skaven are not very vulnerable to magic in general, because our sheer numbers can soak up the majority of magic missiles and offensive spells without stumbling. However, a magic heavy enemy army can wreak havoc with your support troops, and some armies have spells at their disposal that will win the battle on their own if they are not stopped. In particular, watch out for Vampire Counts, Slaaneshi, and anybody with spells that affect unit movement. If you come across one of these armies, or if you make a take-on-all-comers type list, having some magic defence characters is vital.
Warlocks are the best dedicated magic defence character available. If you want, taking a warlock with no equipment and 2 dispel scrolls will safeguard your 2000 point army from the vast majority of enemy magic. However, it probably is preferable to combine magic defence with some offensive power, and take a couple of warlocks with equipment and magic items. Grey Seers are strictly an offensive choice, but if you do want one for that reason he will boost your defences as well.

Generally, I prefer to balance my armies so that each of these four functions is covered by one or more characters, but only the leadership support role and in some cases the magic defence role are truly vital.
More important is not to get carried away with character selection and to remember that whatever you are using them for, they are there to support your MCUs. Too many expensive characters and too many expensive magic items will weaken your army. My rule of thumb is not to spend more than 25% of your army's points on characters if you can help it, and in no case more than 35% or so.


Conclusion

So, a year after the previous update, I've added a bit on characters. Somebody asked me to. Who knows, I may even finish this one day.
"I have a post-Armageddon vision. We and all other large animals are gone. Rodents emerge as the ultimate post-human scavengers. They gnaw their way through New York, London and Tokyo... within 5 million years, a whole range of new species replace the ones we know. Herds of giant grazing rats are stalked by sabre-toothed predatory rats. Given enough time, will a species of intelligent, cultivated rats emerge?"

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
General Vorg
Member Avatar
Keeper of the Squeeks and the Temple

I acutally read it! I usually dont read stuff thats long, but it was actually interesting... weird... Oh well thanx for the advice

squeeks
Posted Image
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
phordicus
Member Avatar
Battlemaster of Clan Skrikkik

good overview. finish it up, title it "newbie's guide to skaven", and link it in your sig. one of these days... i'll compile all this stuff into one great big skaven treatise.
Posted Image
Skaveni primi, skaveni infiniti.
Posted Image
if you meet a master swordsman, show him your sword; but do not show your poem to one who is not a poet.

- japanese proverb
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Morkskittar
Member Avatar
The Tunnel's Resident Rodent Ecologist

Wow... Hw long did that take you? Amazing...
The Eldritch Wastes: A Post-Lovecraftian Online Serial Novel (Author Website)
Pub Fight Deaths: 334. Pillz and Pyllz are © by Morkskittar.
Posted Image
Complete Works of Morkskittar / You Have Just Lost the Game 'zodi
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
jarbo
Chieftain
very helpfull thanks.
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Enginseer Itchn'Skratch
Clanrat
Thanks for the legwork, er, mindwork Skaskrit!
I'm glad for your perspective on the non-SAD approach. I likes me' Skaven, but I hate having to resort to a super-shooty army just to have a chance. One thing I'd ask for you to give us your perspective on is Deployment. I know this is a bitch for every army, but for us it must be the worst. We're the horde army of all horde armies, and setting things up right to get the most out of our support and flanking units can be a real pain! So, just to pick your brain, let us know how you approach your deployment with such a massive army...
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Verminous Fang
Member Avatar


Maximaus wrote a great piece on deployment: here.

On a side note, I think it's time to stab this.
Go forth my brethren, that we shall nibble at the roots of the old world!

We are the rats in the shadows. We hold the blades of corruption, aimed at the very heart of the Old World. We are The Council of Thirteen.

Second place in the UnderEmpire painting competition!

Posted Image
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Skaskrit Venomclaw
Member Avatar
Ex-Councilrat

Basically, the size of the army is no problem because you deploy in two or even three lines, support units in front of the MCUs and FSUs. Just make sure to have a 6*4' gaming table for 2000 points, and bigger for 3000 points...

Sometimes a unit is idle for much of the battle, but having reserves is great anyway. Just as the depleated and weakened enemy manages to break through your lines at some point, there's a whole new fresh ranked up unit waiting for them...

And after the first couple of turns, the number of troops gets far more managable as a great deal of them run away. (Mostly, fleeing from charges.) If I lose half my army in battle, (100+ models) that's "low casualties" and I win big time.

Oh, and Maximaus' article is great. Taught me a lot, it did. The bit he wrote on army composition is also very good, approaches it from a very different (external rather than internal) angle than mine, so between the two of them you've got just about everything you need to know.

Fang: Thanks for stabbing. Question, though. Like Phord said, the title probably ought to be changed. (Never am good at titles for anything I write) Something like "A beginners guide to the Skaven army" would be best, I think. Could one of you mods take care of that? I can't change titles myself. The subtitle could be ditched completely, it adds nothing.

I've nearly finished the second part, which basically is a huge rundown on all the units and characters in our army. Then I'll edit the beginning a bit, and the whole thing ought to be a good addition to the site.
"I have a post-Armageddon vision. We and all other large animals are gone. Rodents emerge as the ultimate post-human scavengers. They gnaw their way through New York, London and Tokyo... within 5 million years, a whole range of new species replace the ones we know. Herds of giant grazing rats are stalked by sabre-toothed predatory rats. Given enough time, will a species of intelligent, cultivated rats emerge?"

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
The Lost One
Unregistered

That was amazing, can't wait for the next.
Quote Post Goto Top
 
Skaskrit Venomclaw
Member Avatar
Ex-Councilrat

Newcomers’ Guide to the Skaven Army Part 2:

As promised a long time ago, the second part of my article. It lists every single unit in our army list, said unit's strengths, weaknesses, function on the battlefield, recommended unit size and equipment options.

A note on searching
You could, of course, simply read through this article. But it's a lot of text. (7+ A4 pages)
You can also look up a particular unit in this document: all units entries are listed as:
“Unit: [name]”
So, if you want to find out what I’ve got to say about Nightrunners, all you need to do is hit ctr-f to open the search window, and type “Unit: Nightrunners”. This will take you right to the correct section. (characters are listed in the same way, for the sake of convenience. So, “Unit: Warlock” will yield results on the warlock engineer.)

Chapter Three:The Characters and Units in the Skaven Army

Sorted by battlefield role. (see above)

It also serves the secondary purpose of allowing me to quote the appropriate section whenever someone on the forum asks about a specific unit.

Without further preamble, onto the units!

Main Combat Units

Unit: Clanrats
Our basic Clanrats are nice troops. Cheap, decent armour save, decent leadership in large numbers, faster than most foes. However, they won't kill a lot in combat. It is essential your clanrats outnumber the enemy at all times, otherwise they will not stand a chance in a frontal fight. You can't afford to lose your rank bonus either.

Therefore, it is vital to have at least 25 models in your units. Against foes sporting heavy missile fire or against fear-causing undead, 30 is best. More than that generally makes the unit unwieldy for no increase in battlefield performance, and is best avoided.

Clanrats should always have a standard and musician. Champions are not needed for the unit by itself, but if you expect a character will be in the unit at some point during the game, he is a good idea because he can accept or decline challenges in his master's stead.

There is one eternal debate regarding Clanrats: to spear or not to spear? The spears are nice weapons, and look very good on the models, but they're not that effective on the battlefield. Clanrats don't win by killing stuff, they win by combat resolution, so the extra armour save a shield provides is almost as good as the extra spear attacks. Still, spears have their uses against certain foes, and the few extra points you pay won't be the death of you.

Unit: Stormvermin
Stormvermin are better fighters than clanrats. Well equipped and fairly skilled, they can stand up to average opposition much better than clanrats can. Unfortunately, they're still not good enough to defeat elite units on their own, and they are much more expensive than clanrats. Unlike their smaller brethren, Stormvermin are not very good value for points, and from a strict power-gaming perspective might well be best off left at home.

Still, Stormvermin have their advantages. They make powerful bodyguards for your warlord or seer, the magical banner they can carry is of great use, and equipped with shields they can stand up to a lot of punishment and hold their ground until you can outflank the foe. Moreover, the models look great, and the unit adds lots of character to your army. After all, what warlord would march to war without the elite Stormvermin at his back?

Like Clanrats, Stormvermin units should be sizable, but due to their point value you probably won't be able to field more than 20-25 of them. This should generally be enough.

Stormvermin should always have full command groups, as they're slightly better fighters than clanrats, and when they use their halberds even the extra champion attack will be of use. They also escort characters a lot.

Shields are probably a very good buy, as a 3+ armour save is not to be despised, and protecting the large amount of points you invest in the 'vermin is a good idea.

Stormvermin can, and probably should, carry a magical banner. Favourites are the reliable Warbanner, or the Umbranner when facing shooty armies like Elves or Empire.

Unit: Plague Monks
The disciples of Clan Pestilens are the true elite of the Skaven army. With their many, many attacks they tear through weaker enemies. They still struggle against tougher foes, but with proper support of Censer Bearers and a nice Plague Priest to lead them, they can take on nearly anything.

Still, Plague Monks are a risky choice, as Frenzy truly is a double-edged sword. A canny foe with fast cavalry or skirmishers at his command can easily lead the monks away on a wild goose chase or into difficult terrain, robbing your army of it's best warriors whilst the enemy unleashes his full attack. To some extent, this can be prevented by providing the monks with a Nightrunner screen, but this ploy is not fool proof. When using the monks, I frequently deploy them on a far flank nearly on their own, where although vulnerable to luring enemies, they at least will not compromise my entire battle-line when they succumb to their bloodlust.

Because of their natural high toughness and the immunity to psychology Frenzy provides, the monks need less numbers than clanrats, and should be taken in units 18-25 models strong.

Naturally, plague monks should have a standard and musician at all times. A champion is only needed when a character is present: they get so many attacks that one more won't make a difference otherwise.

Plague Monks should probably be armed with 2 handweapons all the time and deployed in a fairly wide but shallow formation. Some people like to take monks without the extra weapons, and put them in a deep formation like other Skaven. I, however, think one should maximise their natural advantage of having many attacks.

Plague Monks can carry a magic banner too. (But note, only one Monk unit in the army can.) Favourites include the aforementioned Warbanner and Umbranner. Another seemingly very good option is the Banner of Burning Hatred. So many attacks with re-rolls to hit seem overwhelmingly powerful on paper, more so when a mighty plague priest is in the unit who will benefit from the banner's bonus as well. But on the field of battle, this banner can become an extreme liability. Your monks being forced to advance at full speed can put your entire battle-plan at risk. If this banner is used, careful screening of the unit with nightrunners is even more important than otherwise.


Ranked Support Units

Unit: Slaves
Skavenslaves are probably the second-most important unit in the Skaven army. Incredibly cheap, incredibly expendable, yet crucial to all common Skaven tactics. They are the ideal charge bait, as they can be sacrificed without blinking an eye due to their low cost. But they can also be used to threaten the enemy flanks or protect your own.

Slave units are best taken in units of minimum size, which is 20, since their main role is to set up traps by fleeing from charges or being beaten in combat. More models won't help them a bit in those roles. Only when you want to use them as missile screens do more models add something, but I don't like that tactic much. Most foes won't be stupid enough to shoot slaves anyway.

Slaves should probably carry no equipment at all, and have no command groups. Some people like the musician for the rallying bonus it provides, but in my mind it adds little. Moreover, quite often you don't want your slaves to rally, since you made them flee in the first place and don't want them to clutter your charge path.

Unit: Giant Rats
Giant Rats are one of my favourite units. They're deceptively better than they look on paper. They're also the closest thing to cavalry we've got, and with their high movement rate, rank bonus, and the ability to negate the enemy's ranks when they charge them in the flank or rear, they make the best flanking unit in the Skaven army.

Although they're more expensive than slaves, they're still pretty cheap, and if you keep the units small they're easily sacrificed or use as charge bait, if the situation requires it. Keep in mind, though, that they do not have the slave's special rules, and will cause panic tests on nearby friends if they're wiped out. Another reason to stick them out on the flank.

I prefer to keep my Giant Rat units small at 2 packs each. 14 models is big enough for a decent +2 rank bonus and not too many panic tests when under fire, but small enough to manoeuvre through narrow terrain pieces easily, and wheel without expending their whole movement allowance. More importantly, they're still cheap enough to sacrifice.

If you want a larger rank bonus, 3 packs (21 models) is good enough for a very nice +3 rank bonus, and reasonable manoeuvrability. More should never be taken as a single unit, in my opinion.

Unit: Rat Ogres
Rat Ogres are a strange unit for Skaven. Strong, but few in number. Ratogres generally lack the numbers to overcome ranked enemy units on their own, but they are great against small elite enemy units if they get to charge. They're also very good for supporting our main combat units, either using their high movement for flanking manoeuvres, or simply charging in the front, adding their strength and attacks to a MCU's rank bonus and command group. Hence the classification as a support unit.

Ratogres have a major weakness, though, which comes close to eliminating them as a viable choice altogether. They're incredibly vulnerable to missile fires. Not only are the ogres themselves far more easily shot than a comparable unit of rank and file troops due to their lowish toughness and lack of armour, their handful of packmasters will die even sooner. And once the packmasters are gone, the ratogres suffer from stupidity. With their low leadership, that will make them nearly useless. Against armies with a decent amount of missile fire or spells, the ogres are best left at home, I'm afraid. They’re good to have against Fear-causing foes, though.

If you do use ratogres, you can either field them in large units of 3-4 packs, or in small ones of 2 packs. I prefer the small ones. They're easier to stick in your battle line to support the MCUs, easier to manoeuvre, and maybe your enemy will ignore them if they don't look too threatening.

A possible ploy with the big pack of ratogres is to have a character (usually a master moulder) with the Skavenbrew magic item accompany them. This nifty item has a chance to send the Ratogres into frenzy, which will eliminate their stupidity problem and boost their fighting prowess, or make them hate the enemy, which will greatly boost their prowess in the first round of combat. Hopefully, this will turn them into a unit capable of taking on big blocks of enemies on their own. Still, it's a risky ploy involving an expensive unit, and they'll still be very vulnerably to missile fire. I do not really recommend it, save perhaps as a surprise tactic once in a while.


Skirmishing Support Units

Unit: Nightrunners
Nightrunners are another one of those deceptively useful units. Not brilliant, not powerful, not spectacular, they won't win the battle on their own. But they're cheap, expendable, always useful to you, and always annoying to the enemy.

Nightrunners are used to screen your troops from missile fire, (As skirmishers, they're hard to hit, and are easy to get out of the way when you want to charge) to hunt enemy mages walking about on their own, to eliminate carelessly placed warmachines, to kill enemy skirmishers and small units of archers, perhaps even to take on light cavalry that strays too close, and finally to block enemy march moves and distract enemy units with suicide assaults. (Favourite ways to sacrifice nightrunners: charge them at the flank of a frenzied unit. Watch them get creamed. Watch the enemy pursue in the wrong direction, exposing his flanks. Or charge the nightrunners at an enemy unit containing a wizard in the front rank. The nightrunners will die, but you get a good shot at eliminating the wizard.)That's a lot of ways to use such an innocuous looking unit!

I prefer to keep my nightrunner units small at 5-8 models. This again makes them easier to move about, easier to dodge out of enemy charge arcs and firing lines, and more expendable if need be. With support units like these, more units is better than bigger units.

I usually arm the runners with two hand weapons, unless they're a missile screen, in which case they get nothing. Most of the runners' roles involve defeating light enemy units in combat. The extra weapons are essential for this. With their very high movement rate, the nightrunners will charge and deliver a bucketload of attacks, hopefully winning the combat before the enemy strikes back. Throwing stars are good to harass the enemy whilst blocking his march moves. They’re also nice when chasing enemy wizards through woods. You usually won’t have line of sight to charge them, but the stars work just fine. Still, I’d rather have extra handweapons. The runners need to stay cheap, in my opinion, so I don’t like equipping them with both either. Slings give you the option of a decent archer type unit in a Skaven army, but I think they're too expensive, and negate the nightrunners' greatest strength, their manoeuvrability.

A champion is never worth it in my opinion. I'd much rather save the points for an extra nightrunner or a couple more clanrats.

Unit: Gutterrunners
Gutter Runners are much the same as nightrunners, but better. With higher weapon skill, better equipment, and the crucial scouting ability, gutterrunners are one of the most useful units in our army. They're twice as expensive as nightrunners, though, and therefore I rarely take many of them. Usually, 1 or perhaps 2 units is enough, nightrunners providing the rest of the skirmishing ninja allotment.

An intriguing option is to upgrade the gutterrunners to a tunnelling team. This allows them to pop up anywhere on the battle field, but they do risk a tunnel collapse or belayed arrival. Tunnelling teams are better than normal gutterrunners if you think there won't be enough terrain to hide them in, but otherwise scouting units may well serve you better due to their significantly lower cost. Bear in mind, though, that even tunnellers can deploy as scouts should the situation call for it, so when you do not know what the battlefield will be (tourneys) the upgrade may be worth it's points just in case.

Like nightrunners, gutterrunners should be fielded in small units. 5-6 is ideal, more starts to eat up points for no gains.

I always equip my gutterrunners with poisoned handweapons, to aid their main job of artillery killing and light unit hunting. I don't give them missile weapons, since the gutterrunners are too expensive to simply harass the enemy. They need to keep moving at full speed and hunt down vulnerable enemies.

Like nightrunners, the gutterrunners never need a champion.

Unit: Ratswarms
Swarms are a unique unit in the Skaven army, as they are unbreakable. Whilst the rest of our forces consist of cowards, these little critters will never even think of running away. When you combine this with a lot of wounds, a high movement rate, and the skirmishing ability, you have an incredibly powerful unit.

Ratswarms should be used for one purpose, and for one purpose only: to find a dangerous enemy unit threatening your line, to attack that unit, and to keep it occupied until you defeat the rest of the enemy forces and free up resources to deal with the tough enemy unit. Depriving the enemy of an important unit for just a couple of turns can make a crucial difference in the battle, and your opponent will hate your little ratswarms for doing this.

Some enemy units are very powerful in combat, and will kill your swarms quickly. To preserve them, it's generally best not to charge the enemy, but instead advance the swarm to 1" distance, and be charged instead. (For the enemy has nowhere else to go.) This way, you have to fight one round of combat less, and force the enemy to waste an extra movement phase. There are exceptions, of course. If you get a chance to charge cavalry in the flank, do so immediately! The size of the cavalry base means they only get 1 or 2 models to attack your swarms. Chariots should also be charged if you get the chance, to avoid their impact hits.

Ratswarms can be upgraded to have poison attacks. This is not worth it, in my opinion. Firstly, the ratswarms are not there to win their fights. They're supposed to delay the enemy. Secondly, they will be killed in the end. There's hardly a battle in which my ratswarms survived. This means the enemy will get victory points for them, and poisoned ratswarms give a lot of extra victory points to the enemy than normal ones do.

For unit size, a swarm of 3-4 bases is usually best. This will probably delay the enemy unit for two of their movement phases, perhaps 3 if you have 4 bases. In any case, it should be long enough. In a small battle, 2 bases can be used. 5 are hardly ever worth it, because of the victory point considerations.

Unit:Plague Censer Bearers
Censer Bearers are by far the most powerful fighters in the Skaven army. As I like to say, in the first round of combat they hit as hard as a chosen chaos knight! With two attacks, re-rolls to hit, high strength and the brilliant plague fumes, these little furballs of death can decimate any enemy unit. However, they're definitely a support unit, as they need the ranks and command group of their parent plague monk unit to actually win the combat against big enemy units.

Plague Censers share many of the weaknesses plague monks have. Because they skirmish, their forced frenzied charges can be a big problem. Likewise, a screening unit is a good idea.

I usually field 5-6 plague censer bearers in a unit. More, and they won't fit into base contact with the enemy anymore, which means you take more plague fume tests, but the enemy does not.


Fire Support Units

Unit: Ratling Guns
I hardly need to tell anyone that ratling guns are a very good weapon. The most important question concerning them is “how many can I take without my opponent walking away in disgust over my cheesy army.”

Ratling guns work best against small, expensive units. Ideal targets are not too tough or well armoured, but even Chaos Knights will be hurt by these beauties if hit enough times, although Jezzails make for better can-openers. I generally roll 2-3 dice for Ratling gun hits. This will cause plenty of damage and very few serious misfires.

The ratling gun has no real weaknesses. Generally, weapon teams are hard to kill because they usually can’t be targeted by shooting, and can stand and shoot if they get charged. The two main dangers are panic tests caused by units fleeing past or breaking nearby, and spells that ignore targeting rules. Heavens magic is especially nasty, with two lightning spells that can target weapon teams and the comet that will squash anything in range.

As for quantities, more than one in <1000 pts armies is generally frowned upon, as is much more than 2 in 2000 points. But it generally depends on the rest of your selection and the general attitude of your gaming group. On a purely tactical level, I’ve never felt the need for more than one or two. Extra guns may come in handy sometimes, but you can do perfectly well without them.

Unit: Warpfire Throwers
The Warpfire Thrower is the Ratling Gun’s overlooked older brother. Many players ignore it because of it’s higher point cost and extremely nasty (but highly entertaining) misfire table. Which is a pity in my opinion, as this weapon is not only entertaining to use, it also adds some valuable flexibility to your army.

The warpfire thrower is best used against large ranked units of fairly low leadership troops. With it’s template and high strength it will cause lots of damage on a good shot, and the fact it will always cause a panic test means it’s great to defeat enemy horde armies, who generally suffer from poor leadership. If you position the template right, you can easily hit two units with one shot and force both to take panic tests. Even against high-leadership armies this is nice. Although the chances of the enemy fleeing are lower, if they do that will mean a much more expensive unit is legging it.
Other advantages of the warpfire thrower are the ability to inflict multiple wounds per hit, and the ability to torch Treemen in instants. (if you wound...) Finally, because the warpfire thrower is a template weapon, it can fire into close combat without hitting your own troops! You need to position the template so none of your guys are covered, and no enemies in the rank fighting your troops either. Fairly tricky, but your opponent will hate it when it works!

The weaknesses of the warpfire thrower include the aforementioned horrific misfire table. You’ve just got to accept one shot in six will result in the loss of the weapon team. That’s life in the warlord clans for you. Better get used to it in this army. A more serious problem is the weapon’s limited range. It is tricky to line the enemy up for a really good shot, and even then the artillery dice can let you down. Some game, warpfire thrower will achieve nothing.

All in all, this makes the warpfire thrower a gambler’s weapon. Sometimes it’s a dud, but when it pays of you score big time. Relying too much upon it is unwise, but bringing one along is still a good idea. I recommend using 1 warpfire thrower for every 1-2 ratling guns.

Unit: Poison Wind Globadiers
The globadiers are more tricky to use than most Skryre units. They have short range, are easy to kill, and won’t inflict more than a few casualties in return. But they’re the only unit in Warhammer I can think of that ignores both enemy toughness and armour saves, making them the best Chosen Chaos Knight killers around. If they get into range.

Globadiers are one of the few units in the Skaven armies I haven’t used much. I imagine they would be good against armies with very tough, expensive and well-armoured units, like Chaos and Dwarves. But the few times I’ve taken them, they’ve never been more than a minor annoyance. Though they ignore toughness and armour, they only hit a few times, and therefore won’t cause crippling damage

As for unit sizes, like all skirmishers they need to be small and manoeuvrable enough to stay out of enemy charge arcs. I think units of 6-10 would work best. Another approach is to take several small units of just 2 globadiers. These will never be more than a minor nuisance to the enemy, but confer a major advantage during deployment, as your opponent has to reveal much of his plan and army before you put down anything important. Beware, though, that the 2 strong units of globadiers will cause panic tests on all nearby friendly units if they’re wiped out by shooting. So keep them away from allies.

Unit: Jezzails
The Warplock Jezzail teams are the closest thing to a straightforward missile unit we Skaven have. And you get a lot of firepower for your points. Quite possibly, Jezzails are the best knightkillers in warhammer. They’re certainly the best in the Skaven army.

Jezzail strengths include their long range, skirmishing ability (360 degree arc of sight. Can also get them out of trouble if approached by enemies.) and reasonable endurance versus enemy missile fire. (again, thanks to skirmish, plus the pavises.) Oh, and the ability to kill anything they can hit.

Weaknesses are their middling ballistic skill and the fact the unit dies when it is engaged in close combat. Well, perhaps they can fight off some very weak enemy skirmishers or light cavalry, with 2 attacks per model. But not much else. They’re also vulnerable to panic tests. Finally, they simply will not cause enough damage to justify their inclusion if the enemy army does not have any expensive units.

For this reason, I recommend against taking too many Jezzails. They’re likely to be wasted points in at least some games. Then again, small Jezzail units aren’t much use either, as their low ballistic skill means they won’t cause more than a handful of casualties, and no panic tests. Generally, 6 is the minimum amount of guns that’s useful, and even then only in small games. Around 2000 points, 8-10 would be the ideal amount to take. Less, and you’re better off leaving them at home and save yourself the headache of finding lines of sight and protecting them.

If you have the spare special slots, it’s usually better to field 2 small units rather than one big unit of Jezzails. The small units can still concentrate firepower when they need to, but can also select different targets if need be. More importantly, they’re harder to take out by the enemy because he has to hunt down both units. On the downside, they’re a bit more vulnerable to panic from shooting, but that’s a small price to pay.

Unit: Warplightning Cannon
The Warplightning cannon is another fairly conventional artillery piece in the Skaven list. Conventional for us, that is, as it still has random range, random strength and the ability to shoot through terrain and ignore line of sight.

The main advantage of the Warplightning Cannon is it’s ability to seriously hurt enemy monsters and units of multiple wound models. With D6 wounds per hit, such units will really feel the pain of a Warplightning cannon hit. The cannon also forces the enemy to hide characters in units, because otherwise it can snipe them down with magically enhanced vision. Finally, if placed on the flank it can hit a lot of enemy units on a lucky shot. Oh, and the cannon is hard to kill with ranged attacks, because of high toughness and a wardsave.

However, the weaknesses of this device are glaring. First and foremost, if enemies charge, it has to flee as a reaction. With low leadership, it won’t rally again either. This also makes it vulnerable to panic.
More importantly, however, the thing is very random and unreliable. You can never really rely on it working when you need it to. When shooting at enemy ranked units it won’t hit a lot of troops either, as you can only hit one model per rank, and will need to roll decent strength first too.

I only use the cannon in medium-big games, where the point cost is not prohibitive, and even then only when I expect to come up against monsters or want to flush characters from woods. I would never field more than 1 cannon, except perhaps against Ogre Kingdoms.

Conclusion

So, that sums it up. I hope this will be useful to new Skaven players, and perhaps some not-so-new ones as well.

I'll add this bit to the topmost post as well, if the board allows it. Then, after a while, I'll remove this post, so the thread doesn't get cluttered. But for now, the new bit is more easily seen this way.

I'm still going to add a similar listing of our characters. Again, watch this space.
"I have a post-Armageddon vision. We and all other large animals are gone. Rodents emerge as the ultimate post-human scavengers. They gnaw their way through New York, London and Tokyo... within 5 million years, a whole range of new species replace the ones we know. Herds of giant grazing rats are stalked by sabre-toothed predatory rats. Given enough time, will a species of intelligent, cultivated rats emerge?"

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
plague priest13
Member Avatar
Chieftain
wow that realy helps thanks for taking the time to write it. ;)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Grey seer White Paw
Member Avatar
Warlord of 7th Tactics!
just a quicky. the other day i was at gw oxford street and i fired my flame template into combat, it only touched the enemy troops but the store manager said it would still randomise(in fluff reasons he said the burning corpses would run through the units equally) this being the case, later i relised that if i was to shoot at an enemy unit and only five were under the template, and these would randomise. It would be better to shoot at my own unit(its closer so i get more hits, meaning more damage to teh enemy due to randomisation). I now do this frequently and apart from the odd cry of beardy no one complains or corrects me. Just thought u may wanna know, great read by the way. ^Warpfire^
GW, sucking the fun out of the hobby since 1999.

Never worry. Worst case scenario you die, and then there was no point worrying anyways.

Skaven repaint overhaul Number 5! (2/5th complete)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Azhtabak
Member Avatar
Packlord Azhtabak
Out of question: Is this the full guide? It seems that the 3rd part is missing, but I'm not sure - also, it doesn't have characters.
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Skaskrit Venomclaw
Member Avatar
Ex-Councilrat

Uh, well. It seems I never finished that part. So this is all there is.

...

Oops?
"I have a post-Armageddon vision. We and all other large animals are gone. Rodents emerge as the ultimate post-human scavengers. They gnaw their way through New York, London and Tokyo... within 5 million years, a whole range of new species replace the ones we know. Herds of giant grazing rats are stalked by sabre-toothed predatory rats. Given enough time, will a species of intelligent, cultivated rats emerge?"

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Azhtabak
Member Avatar
Packlord Azhtabak
:( Is it ever going to get finished? It's a very helpful guide, so adding characters would be even more helpful :)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Go to Next Page
« Previous Topic · Fantasy Battles Rules Discussion · Next Topic »
Add Reply