Warhammer Armies: Skaven (part 2)

To celebrate the release of the recently released Warhammer Armies: Skaven I’m writing a series of articles exploring a number of areas hopefully of interest.  I’m keen for feedback and will certainly take any on board with future articles – so let me have your suggestions, corrections and anything else ratty I should include.

Part two
Some thoughts on play styles and themes for your skaven army

There are many options open to the skaven player with the new army book, I’m quite excited at the different ideas, especially when compared to the previous book.  It might have only been the metagame around my gaming group, but my skaven became a shooty army that only closed the distance once I felt I had softened my enemy up enough with warpstone shot and lightning bolts – not the army I thought I was collecting!

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but some ideas that might spark your own lists or perhaps we’ll get some comments on here as to other good suggestions.

Play styles

1. The classic combined arms force

This is the fairly typical skaven army that includes a bit of everything, often based on the idea that if you bring enough tools you should be able to deal with most jobs.  With the rule around needing multiple clanrat units to bring multiple of other units along no longer restricting you there are more options for what you bring now, especially in smaller battles.  Given the cheaper cost of almost every unit in the new book, these jack of all trade armies will grow slightly if converted like for like over from the previous book.  The downside is that with several new units to pick from those points wont go far – the mindset behind an army like this suggests you want to try them all!  Thematically this force can fit well into the “Clan Mors” type as detailed below.

2. The horde

I’m really pleased with the costs in the new book.  It allows you, if you so wish, to seriously increase the number of rats in your army.  Basic clanrats have never been cheaper (since the original Warhammer Armies anyway which is far as my memory stretches) and a basic unit of 25 with full command coming in at 120 points now allows for a LOT of blocks on the table should you like the sound of that.  Slaves are as cheap as before, but their options are cheaper.  Other units that will allow you to bulk up for cheap include rat swarms and giant rat packs, both cheaper and in the latter case more effective this time around too.  Of course a horde without any other unit types beyond those I’ve just mentioned will likely struggle against certainly other armies, simply outnumbering the foe is not always enough (try surrounding a frenzied chaos warrior unit with slaves and see who wins).  The trick is not to buy too many expensive units to lose the impact a horde has on the opposing player when you first set up!  Careful selection of a few warmachines, a choice rare unit and the right characters can really make a horde army work.  Just remember blocks of slaves are cheap, expendable and remove ranks in a flank charge as well as any other formed unit.

3. The shooty army

Despite feeling somewhat forced down this route in the previous incarnation of the book, I feel this new book offers even more ways to try this force out.  Its a bit odd that rats who live in the dark should be reasonable shots if you ask me, but this is a tactical choice not a thematic one!  Starting with the core units, night runners and slaves can be armed with slings extremely cheaply now.  The sling is a surpisingly good weapon for a skirmishing unit (playing WAB has shown me this to my cost) and slaves are so cheap and expendible giving them slings cant really hurt, even in ranks if you want.  Clanrat units of course can have weapon teams attached, which are both effective and less vulnerable than last time around.  Gutter runners with slings I dont think should be considered a key shooty unit and are likely to be unneccessary if you go all out for shooting with other units – notably Jezzails.  With the option to have a champ with improved BS in the unit now the game’s biggest handgun just got even better.  From the rare section we’ve got the warp lightning cannon and plagueclaw catapult to choose from now to take out even the largest monsters and units (respectively).  Characters can further suppliment this with spells and some interesting new items, including a bazooka!

Themed Armies

From a completely different angle then, what does the new book allow you to do in terms ‘fluff heavy’ or thematic forces?  There’s a huge choice here and several of the special characters enable even more options so I’ll list those that come to mind.

Clan Mors

Painted by Neil of Orange many years ago

Painted by Neil of Orange many years ago

The most powerful warlord clan, Clan Mors allows you to field a clanrat heavy army and play with a theme.  If you choose Queek Headtaker as your general you can take upgraded stormvermin for a really nasty melee unit (although pricey!).  Being such a powerful warlord clan, Clan Mors armies would come with plenty of support from the other greater clans if you want to dip into any unit choice you like – although Grey Seers and Screaming Bells aren’t popular with Queek.  Key should be your clanrats, warlords and chieftains in an army like this, although there’s nothing stopping you from having clanrats from more than one clan if you wish as Mors dominiate many other minor warlords.

Clan Pestilens

Painted by Raggy many years ago

Painted by Raggy many years ago

Plague monks have long been a favourite unit of mine, which is why I have 50 metal models painted up in my army.  An army based around this clan would not be hard to put together thanks to the background and some rule additions.  If you have the points to take Lord Skrolk then plague monks become a core choice!  If not, or you choose not to take him then there are several clans who ally with Pestilens, such as the Clan Septik clanrats (sporting green tunics of course) I have in my own army.  Rat swarms and slaves also easily fit into the background.  Clanrat units could have the new posioned wind mortar attached as its weapon team, not strictly Pestilens, but fits the theme nicely I think.  Plague monks and plague censor bearers are special choices so that’s a no brainer.  At rare there’s the new plagueclaw catapult to try out.  As plague priests are now mages, even the hero choices are taken care  of.  Finally the clan has is own version of the screaming bell now, the Plague Furnace which is pretty much a must have for a themed Pestilens army I think.

Clan Moulder

Rat ogre by Neil of Orange, rats by Whitehorn

Rat ogre by Neil of Orange, rats by Whitehorn

Clan Moulder got a few interesting changes in the new book.  Giant rats are cheaper and better.  Rat ogres are a bit cheaper too.  All pack units can be upgraded to contain a master moulder now, which is essentially a hero level model that ISN’T a character merely a champion.  There’s even a special character upgrade for one unit, Skweel Gnawtooth, who still only counts as a champion!

Thott the unclean is a great choice (possibly the only one) for a Moulder army general, he makes giant rat packs true core choices and up to 2 rat ogre units count as core as well.  Additional chieftans can be outfitted with things like pet rats to add flavour.

The biggest news for Moulder is the Hell Pit Abomination, a terrifying new gribble that is so horrendous that GW can’t even bring themselves to sculpt it (well yet anyway), but don’t let that stop you making one because these creatures will be a key unit in any skaven army, but in this one surely as Thott’s own pet project they are mandatory.

Of course Moulder are a very rich clan so you could include pretty much any other unit you like to help round out the force you field, but its important to keep their numbers down and if at all possible include the creature theme in there somewhere.

Clan Skyre

Painted by Neil of Orange

Painted by Neil of Orange

For my last theme I’ve picked the warlock engineers.  This likely ties in with the shooty army a fair bit, but its key that slings aren’t a big part of this force as far as I’m concerned!

Ikit Claw is your only real choice of general and sadly he doesn’t bring any extra army organisation options to the table.  He is however a very useful rat anyway so we’ll let that slide.

For core, its clanrats with weapon teams all the way, the more the better frankly, rank bonus and firepower is a good combo.

For special the choices are Jezzails and Globadiers, both with the new option to have champions who are rather good shots.

For rare there’s the warplightning cannon and the re-introduced doomwheel.  Personally I think Ikit should allow you an extra hampster ball of doom, but that’s just me perhaps.

Warlock engineers should fill out all the hero slots in such a force, possibily some of them without magical powers but instead packing some fun artillery.

Much like Clan Moulder, Skyre have plenty of influence so you could include other units, but the same thoughts about staying on theme should be applied as I mentioned above.

That’s it for part 2, hope it was of interest.  For part 3 I’ll review the new plastic clanrat figures and take a look at the changing look of the humble  plastic clanrat over the last 22 years…

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