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Skaven Army Guide & Review (Rat Lore, Units & Tactics)

This article will detail the Skaven army starting from its lore, describing the main units and their roles, how the army plays and finally our personal opinion of the army.

For a complete run-down of the different armies available in Age of Sigmar, consult our Age of Sigmar army overview article.

In this article we will refer often to Matched Play and other technical terms like allegiance abilities, command points, army roles in building a list, core battalions, Endless Spells/Invocations, etc. We assume the reader will be knowledgeable with those terms, otherwise please refer to the relevant guides for more details.

Age of Sigmar 4.0
This article has not been updated yet with the newest rules and discoveries from the fourth edition of Age of Sigmar. We will be reviewing all articles and updating them really soon.

Overview of Skaven Army

The Skaven are a race of ratmen that represent one of the most iconic Warhammer armies. They embody Chaos better than any other race with their desire to destroy all reality through any mean possible.

They are cunning and devious, they literally backstab themselves to obtain even the slightest advantage in Skaven society. They live everywhere, mostly hidden from mortal eyes until is too late and are divided in 6 greater clans, each with their own sub-divisions.

In game, they play like a horde army, even if limited by the unit size in some contexts, with each of the greater clans having its own different playstyle and options available.

They are also one of the oldest range of models still in circulation, with some metal sculpts from the 90s. A re-sculpt of the range is long overdue, but there are no current hints from Games Workshop as when and if it will happen.

The latest battletome (June 2022) released with just a single re-sculpt (the Deathmaster) means that we will need to wait a little longer. However, the latest battletome, despite being a good book that slowly is bringing this army in the middle zone of competitive results (between 45% and 55% chances of victory in official tournaments), is a bit lacklustre than other 3.0 tomes.

Skaven fighting ghosts

Lore of Skaven Army

Skaven are a race of evil ratmen, extremely cunning and spread across every corner of the Mortal Realms. The only thing preventing them from completely overrunning every other race is their constant infighting and backstabbing where every single vermin believes to be superior to all others and blames friends and foes alike for its own failures.

The Great Horned Rat is their god, a malevolent presence that recently joined the Chaos pantheon as a reward for the Skaven involvement in the destruction of the World-That-Was. He skulks in shadows rather than exposing himself as the other gods, and it is for this reason that some races are still unaware of the threat the Skaven pose.

While all Skaven worship the Great Horned Rat out of fear and ambition, the way the follow his plans greatly changes from clan to clan. All ratmen are grouped in Great Clans, each representing a particular tactic used to achieve the grandeur that their god requires to ultimately conquer all Mortal Realms.

So, while the Clans Pestilens hunt for the Thirteen Great Plagues that once released in the world would consume it, Clans Eshin lurk in the shadows and employ the best assassins that ever stalked the Mortal Realms.

Other clans found great use of the Warpstone, a substance corrupted by Chaos forces with great mutating properties that allows Clans Skryre to build powerful, yet not quite reliable, war machines and Clans Moulder to merge different being together to create the ultimate monstrosities.

Clans Verminus, on the other hand, cares little about mutations, machines or subterfuges: their force is in numbers that they use without care of the disposable pawns involved in their tactics.

The Masterclan is formed by the Grey Seers that interpret the will of the Great Horned Rat and “guide” through manipulation and fear the Skaven masses.

While they are present in every corner of the Mortal Realms except Azyr, their Under-Empire has a capital in Blight City, a giant megalopolis situated in the Realm of Chaos and connected to the other realms through literal tunnels in reality called Gnawholes.

The Skaven discovered they have the ability to warp reality to create a tunnel through the fabrics f reality avoiding the use of the Realmgates. This “science” is quite the opposite of predictable and can end up disastrously, like when one of these tunnels opened at the bottom of the Khaphtar Sea in Shyish draining the entire sea and flooding Blight City with water and… zombies.

Chaos is a constant in Blight City and this anarchy is only partially controlled by the Council of Thirteen, a congregation of 12 rapresentants of the various clans with the 13th place symbolically left to the Great Horned Rat. While Skaven follow their directives (interpreting them in their own way), the real powerhouse is the Shadow Council, another parallel congregation of Verminlords that control the Grey Seers and warlords whispering in their ears.

Skaven Pestilens Collection

Army rules for the Skaven

But how does a Skaven army play on a tabletop? First let’s go through the main rules for this army.

Skaven battle traits work a bit differently from other armies as they don’t have the standard sub-factions, but rather keywords that determine the belonging to each Great Clan. Units can belong to multiple clans and benefit from all keywords. However, units of a certain clan will get some extra perks only if lead by 1 or more heroes with the same keyword.

We are going to see those in a moment, but before we need to discuss those generic to all units. First of all, Skaven heroes that are not Monsters benefit from a “Look out, Sir!” type of rule that works in the combat phase. Combined with the ability to Scurry Away (they can retreat instead of fighting when picked in the combat phase), makes Skaven heroes much more durable.

The final generic rule allows to increase by 1″ (to a maximum of 3″) the range of melee weapons for every 10 models in the same unit that helps horde units like Clanrats or Stormvermin.

Masterclan heroes have further protection, being able to redirect wounds to nearby units, although Stormvermin perform a similar role. The real reason why Masterclan are interesting is the fact that if you have 3 of them, you can use the first unmodified roll for run or charge for all other Skaven units in that phase. Careful, that the correct working is now available in the FAQ (this the link for October 2022 errata). In addition, all Skaven units can pile in after the first one piles in (and then again when they are picked to fight).

Clans Moulder can provide a mutation to a single Hell Pit Abomination, and if you have three heroes from the same clan, all Abominations get a different mutation.

Clans Eshin provide a bonus to hit and wound enemy heroes, but while 1 gives this bonus in combat and shooting phases against a single pre-selected hero, 3 give this bonus against all heroes but only in the combat phase.

Clans Verminus give a Clawlord (or 3 of them) an heroic action that allows them to choose a different command trait for the rest of the turn.

Clans Skryre have access to warpstone that allow to re-roll casting, unbinding or dispelling roles, increase by 1 the damage of missile attacks or add +1 to hit and wound rolls of melee heroes for 1 phase. Having 3 such heroes increases the number of warpstone sparks available at the beginning of the battle.

Clans Pestilens, instead, gives a chanting roll bonus depending on how many other Pestilens Priests are in the proximity. And if you reach 6 or more in the roll, a Great Plague manifests affecting the battleground for the rest of the match. Obviously the Neverplague that allows to re-roll chanting rolls is a great first pick.

On top of that, generals have access to a command trait chosen from a generic list or a clan-specific list. We picked some of our favourites:

  • Devious Adversary is a great pick for melee heroes like the Verminlord Warbringer, as it increases the number of attacks against enemies that have not fought yet.
  • Master of Magic that allows to re-roll casting, dispelling and unbinding rolls is a good choice for a Grey Seer or Verminlord Warpseer from the Masterclan.
  • Incredible Agility allows Eshin generals like the Verminlord Deceiver to fly and use Their Finest Hour heroic action twice in a battle.
  • Powerful Alpha prevents the first 2 wounds or mortal wounds received in each phase by a Verminus general, like the Verminlord Warbringer.
  • Deranged Inventor provides a to-hit bonus to a single Skryre shooting unit per turn.
  • Master of Rot and Ruin well combines with the Great Plagues mechanism by adding +1 to chanting rolls of the Pestilens general.

Skaven heroes have access to various artefacts of power, here our picks:

  • Skavenbrew allows a Masterclan hero to trade D3 mortal wounds to a unit, for an increased +1 attack. Pretty good on horde units.
  • Rabid Crown buffs Moulder units around the hero.
  • Gnawbomb allows an Eshin hero to transform a terrain feature in a Gnawhole until your next hero phase.
  • Warpstone Charm gives -1 malus to save rolls of nearby enemies but at the cost of a chance of D3 mortal wounds to the Verminus hero wielding it.
  • The Brass Orb allows a Skryre hero to hinder an enemy for a turn and the side effect of making Morathi vulnerable if you remove the Shadow Queen from play.
  • Blades of Corruption is useful on a Pestilens hero like the Verminlord Corruptor making his attacks even more powerful (6 damage and rend -3 on an unmodified wound roll of 6).

Finally Grey Seer have access to the Lore of Ruin, Skryre wizards to the Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism and Pestilens priests to the Noxious Prayers.

Units and their roles in the Skaven Army

Heroes in Skaven

Heroes can perform Heroic Actions, in addition to the other abilities they can perform. You do it in the hero phase and you can only do one heroic action. Here is the list:

  • Heroic Leadership: on a 4+ (or 2+ if your general has been slain) get a command point only that hero can use.
  • Heroic Willpower: one non-Wizard hero can attempt to dispel or unbind a spell for that phase like he was a wizard.
  • Their Finest Hour: can be used only once by each hero to improve save and wound rolls by 1 for that turn.
  • Heroic Recovery: a disengaged hero can heal D3 wounds if he rolls less or equal to his bravery with 2D6.

Thanquol on Boneripper is an iconic hero known since the World-that-Was. Thanquol is actually the Grey Seer on top of the Rat Ogor that is replaced with a new “Boneripper” every time the previous one ends miserably.

As a hero is a powerhouse, able to cast or unbind 2 spells per round with an initial bonus of +3 that goes down the more wounded he is and the ability to use 3 dices to cast (choosing 2) once per turn.

As a fighter, he presents himself with a 4+ save, a 5+ ward, healing D3 every end of combat phase and some good damaging attacks. He has 4 slots available to equip either a Warpfire Brazier or a Warpfire Projector each. The Projector is more oriented towards horde units as their damage depends on how many models there are in range. The Brazier instead improves depending on how many are installed, but since the Projectors work only in the shooting phase, a balanced approach is to have 2 and 2.

Then you can combine his wizarding skills by summoning Lauchon the Soulseeker (a generic Endless Spell), teleport Thanquol next to the core of your enemy units, move 3″ away from them and then attack with the Projectors throwing as many dice as double the amount of models in the target unit within 8″ and see them melt like snow in the sun.

All Verminlords come from the same kit and their characteristic is that they are daemons, wizards, totems, and represent a specific clan.

Lord Skreech Verminking is the only Verminlord to be able to maintain a place in the Shadow Council and also the only named character of this type.

He has a list of bonus that he can choose from every hero phase, but each can be used only once per battle. They vary from bonus to casting to improve his attacks. As a wizard, he is able to cast twice per turn, and his signature spell, although difficult to achieve, is quite interesting as it’s a damaging spell and a summoning spell at the same time. His command ability provides bonus to hit and wound to any Skaven unit, basically an improved All-out Attack.

While he is not a bad warscroll by any means, he suffers from competition and all other Verminlord can be further customised not being named.

The Verminlord Deceiver is the Eshin daemon, with the best shooting attacks of the lot. He is also a double caster and can use this skill to transport himself where he can best use his shooting attacks and within charge range to finish off his opponent. His command ability provides bonus to hit and wound to an Eshin unit but in melee only.

The Verminlord Corruptor is the Pestilens daemon, adding an interesting leader to the range. He starts with really strong attacks (doing mortal wounds on a 6) but they deteriorate fast the more he is injured. As a double caster he has several uses including a spell efficient in spreading mortal wounds to horde units. His command ability provides bonus to hit and wound to a Pestilens unit.

The Verminlord Warbringer is the Verminus daemon and the most melee oriented of the lot. His attacks are good but they can be further improved with the generic command trait Devious Adversary that adds him 4 more attacks (2 per weapon) if he targets a unit that has not fought yet. His command ability provides bonus to hit and wound to Verminus units (including himself if he wants to improve his Glaive attacks) and his signature spell allows up to 3 Skaven units to fight after they are slain.

The Verminlord Warpseer is the Masterclan daemon, counting as 2 Masterclan heroes for the purpose of obtaining the Masterclan bonuses and providing a Bravery 10 bubble around him useful to reduce the battleshock casualties. His signature spell is used to damage an enemy unit and reduce its mobility.

The Grey Seer is the quintessence of Skaven wizardry. It comes on foot or on top of the iconic Screaming Bell. The latter is an interesting piece with some heavy limitations. To start with, to move it needs to have at least 10 Skaven models nearby that normally is not a problem but still a hindrance.

Peal of Doom, its recognizable ability that performs random effects depending on a dice roll, is extremely random and its boons may not be relevant by the time you draw them. The ability to basically replace the Bell with a Verminlord towards the end of the battle, is interesting but not super reliable (the bell could be destroyed before you have a chance to try or you could roll a 1 on a D6 meaning the bell self-destroys).

When you get past this, you find a double caster with a starting +2 casting bonus and the possibility to become a Priest (although it can only use the standard prayers and cannot be assigned any as enhancement as it does not start as a priest). Screaming Bell and Plague Furnace are assembled from the same kit.

On the other hand, as soon as the Grey Seer is on foot, it becomes an auto-include in most lists. A double caster with no immediate bonus, has access to a once-per-battle improved casting roll and a good spell that can damage and debuff hit rolls of an enemy unit.

Continuing the list of Skaven wizards, these three here are all Skryre and, as such. have access to the Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism. The Arch-Warlock is a double caster with an interesting spell able to damage up to D3 units. Both its spell and its halberd attack can be supercharged for extra damage and the possibility that they backfire killing it. This is to Skaven and so fun, that you should always super-charge your weapons!

The Warlock Engineer and Warlock Bombardier are similar cheaper profiles that add a shooting attack. The Engineer focuses more on melee, while the Bombardier on missile attacks, both able to supercharge their favourite weapon and spell at the cost of self-destruction.

From top technology, to the obnoxious and poisonous fumes generated by the religious leaders of Pestilens, inextricably linked with Nurgle. There are two types of Plague Priests: on foot and on a Plague Furnace.

If you are trying to release all Great Plagues, then your standard Plague Priest is your go-to. The more the merrier as they improve each other’s chanting rolls, making all sort of prayers easily accessible. If you get 6 or more on a chanting roll, then it’s time to release a Great Plague. There are other ways to achieve this objective, like standing next to a Gnawhole for an extra +1.

The Plague Furnace has the same downside of the Screaming Bell that can’t move if there aren’t at least 10 friendly Skaven models nearby, but on the other side it provides a good battleshock immunity bubble that is something extremely difficult to come by in Skaven world with the new tome…

Screaming Bell and Plague Furnace are assembled from the same kit.

The Clawlord represents Clans Verminus in battle. He can buff a Verminus unit, like the Stormvermin, by adding 1 to their attacks and becomes more dangerous the more wounds he has allocated.

One of the first Warhammer Underworld warbands was a named Clawlord, Skritch Spiteclaw and his Spiteclaw’s Swarm. Apart from the cool-looking models and the same command ability as the Clawlord, there’s not much else to add.

Master Moulder is the hero representing Clans Moulder, and unfortunately also the only one (there is no Moulder Verminlord). His main target for buffs are those sharing the Clans Moulder Pack keyword (Rat Ogors, Rat Swarm and Giant Rats) to which he can improve run and charge rolls, to wound, heal back and even resurrect once each destroyed unit.

You can even improve their to hit roll equipping the artefact Rabid Crown, exclusive to Moulder heroes.

In a Moulder army, or one with a considerable portion of Moulder units, this hero is essential. The Packmasters have the same run and charge buff, but apart from being cheaper, they are not heroes and they are not a great choice.

The last hero of our list is also the latest model released in this army: the Eshin Deathmaster. His particularity is that he can hide in a unit of Clanrats, Stormvermin or Nightrunners and appear in the combat phase to surprise the enemy even if the unit is destroyed (weapon teams are destroyed together with the unit containing them). His 6s to hit are poisonous generating mortal wounds directly, both in melee and shooting and he can run and shoot in the same phase.

He is a great addition to an Eshin oriented army, even if the Verminlord Deceiver takes the top spot.

Slynk Skittershank is a named Deathmaster from a recent Warhammer Underworlds warband that includes his Clawpack. He has the same profile as above, but in addition can be put in reserve with his Clawpack and appear anywhere near a terrain feature and only 6″ away from an enemy. He can also attack first and then retreat before the enemy had a chance of retaliating. It’s definitely an interesting unit.

Monsters in Skaven

Monsters can perform special abilities called Monstrous Rampages at the end of the Charge phase. Each action can be performed only once per phase therefore only up to 4 monsters can perform one at a time. Here is the current list:

  • Roar: on a 3+ an engaged enemy unit cannot issue or receive orders in the following combat phase.
  • Stomp: on a 2+ do D3 mortal wounds to an engaged unit that is not a monster.
  • Titanic Duel: + 1 to hit rolls against another engaged Monster.
  • Smash to Rubble: on a 3+ demolish a close-by terrain feature, disabling its scenery rules.

The list of Skaven monsters is quite long, however they can all be resumed in 3 categories. We have alredy talked about Thanquol on Boneripper and all Verminlords (including Lord Skreech) so it’s time to talk about another iconic Skaven beast.

The Hell Pit Abomination represented the top of Moulder ingenuity, at least until Skryre perfectioned Rat Ogors creating the Stormfiends. They are different beasts merged together in an indescribable mass of claws and teeth all stitched together by master craftsmen. In game they are a Behemoth, each able to be buffed further for any Clans Moulder hero in your army.

Apart from the random movement (2D6, but can be set to 7″ using a Moulder mutation), this beast can do some damage thanks to his area of attack that starts spreading mortal wounds on a 2+ at top bracket (efficient only against horde units) and his other attacks with high rend.

It deteriorates its efficiency fast the more wounds it takes, but once it is destroyed it has a 33% chance to return back in play with D6 wounds or 50% chance to allocate damage to all units nearby.

It is a legendary unit for this army and it can be useful in the right lists.

Battlelines in Skaven

The Clanrats are Skaven basic battleline, the classic cannon fodder to be fielded in swarms and sacrifice at the first occasion. They are good for all occasions, from chaff, to screening and even counting them on objectives should they remain alive long enough. They count as Verminus for all purposes of buffing units if you really don’t have any other unit to buff.

The Stormvermin are the other basic Skaven battleline and belong to Clans Verminus as well. They can retreat and charge and become good damage dealers if opportunely buffed, for example by a Clawlord adding 1 to their attacks and a Verminlord Warbringer adding +1 to hit and wound, they don’t reach the potential of Plague Censer Bearers (more on that below) but are still quite scary.

Alternatively, Stormvermin can just be used as bodyguards, redirecting the damage from a nearby hero to their unit (on a 4+ for every hero, on a 2+ for Verminus heroes). There are different ways to achieve this hero’s protection, but Stormvermin is the simplest.

Conditional Battlelines in Skaven

The Stormfiends are both Clans Moulder and Clans Skryre but one unit can become battleline for every Skryre hero in the same army. They represent all that Skaven brings to the table with the mixing of hulking monstrosities made in laboratories armed with the best weapons Clans Skryre can provide.

Looking at their weapon options can be confusing, but assuming a single unit of 3 models, each figure has a choice between 2 different weapons. Basically one is more shooting focused, one more melee and one can choose between a shooting and a melee profile. Overall they are a good unit, and they have been consistently for a while.

Our preference for a more shooting oriented Skryre unit is Windlaunchers, Ratling Cannons and Shock Gauntlets. For a more melee focus unit: Warpfire Projectors, Grinderfists and Doomflayer Gauntlets.

The Skryre Acolytes is one of the most expensive battleline units in the entire game considering it is an extremely old model (according to our records the oldest model still in circulation from around 1994), it comes in blister of 1 figure and you need 5 to do a single unit. If you can circumvent it, or find alternative proxies, a single unit is battleline for each Skryre hero included in your army and they are quite good at what they do: cheap missile unit that can be thrown as chaff if required.

If you are building a Pestilens army, you’ll have Plague Priests, meaning that each one (or any other Pestilens hero) unlocks a unit of Plague Monks as battleline. While they cannot be buffed as scary as they were in the past, they are still a good unit for their cost.

Note that the pair of Foetid Blades actually work better thanks to Strength in Numbers battle trait (a unit of 20 models would automatically have 2″ range). And don’t forget the optional trinkets, like the Standard Bearer that gives a chance to push mortal wounds to the attacking enemy for each monk who dies, and the Musician that provides +1 to run and charge rolls.

Plague Censer Bearers

Where the Plague Monks are Pestilens chaff, the Plague Censer Bearers can easily become the hammer. Consider their innate bonus of +1 to attack when charging and the Rabid-Rabid prayer that gives them another +1, then a Verminlord Corruptor using his command ability to give +1 to hit and wound, a unit of 10 can do 40/50 damage per combat phase to a 4+ save unit… Not bad from these small little rats, eh?

Rat Ogors and Giant Rats come from the same box with the Packmasters and each unit of them can become a battleline for every Clans Moulder hero. That means the Master Moulder, that is also the key unit to have in combination to buff them.

Rat Ogors are a bulking unit with a shooting attack that can soften up enemies and a decent melee profile with exploding 6s to hit (each unmodified 6 becomes 2 separate wound rolls). While they are a good unit, and in Season 1 2022 a great Bounty Hunter target, the Giant Rats recently came to fame when a unit of 18 reached the final of GW Open 2022 (listen here for more details).

Their advantage is that in a unit of 6 or more they get to rend -2, so a unit of 18 next to a Master Moulder with Rabid Crown can have 36 attacks at 3+/3+ with a +3 charge roll. Add to them the Death Frenzy spell to ensure the rend bonus is kept to the very end and you have a dangerous unit indeed.

Night Runners and Gutter Runners can be a battleline unit each for every Clans Eshin hero in the army. Their profile is similar with the Gutter being a bit more elite than the Night Runners (they are also in units of 5 against 10 Night Runners) with a similar objective: skirmish tactics, harassing the enemy from medium range (12″) while screening away the more important objectives.

They both have 6s to hit doing mortal wounds (both with melee and missile weapons) and the Verminlord Deceiver can improve their melee attacks, that in the case of the Gutter can be interesting. Pity shooting stats can’t be improved that way, but with a single Eshin hero in the army you have a bonus against a single enemy hero (automatically but both in the combat and shooting phase) or you can have the same bonus, in melee only, but against every hero with at least 3 Eshin heroes (or 1 more if one is a Verminlord Deceiver).

Wizards and Priests in Skaven

Skaven have a long list of wizards that include all Verminlords, Grey Seers and the like. However not all of them have access to specific spell lores that they can pick from (they can always choose the universal spells).

In particular only the two Grey Seer and Thanquol have access to the Lore of Ruin with interesting spells like Skitterleap that allows to tele-transport a hero anywhere on the battlefield.

The Skryre Arch-Warlock, Warlock Bombardier and Warlock Engineer have access to the Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism, with More-more-more Warp Power! providing a nice bonus to hit and wound at the cost of D3 damage the following hero phase.

The other wizards of this army are the various Verminlords: Lord Skreech Verminking, Verminlord Corruptor, Verminlord Deceiver, Verminlord Warbringer and the Verminlord Warpseer and the Warpgnaw Verminlord. Apart from the two warlocks, everyone else is a double caster.

The two Plague Priests (on foot and on Plague Furnace) have access to the Noxious Prayers (and the ability to manifest Great Plagues when rolling high enough on the chanting roll). For a list pushing on the Great Plagues, the command trait Master of Rot and Ruin that adds +1 to chanting to a Pestilens general. If combined with the +1 next to a Gnawhole and another 2 priests within 13″, on a 2+ you can select the Neverplague as the first plague that enables re-rolling chanting rolls and increasing the chance to obtain more plagues the following rounds.

Other units in Skaven

For Skaven Skryre players the Warp Lightning Cannon is an iconic artillery piece. You roll first a dice to decide the power of the cannon and then you roll 6 or 12 dice and any result equal or greater the power is a mortal wound. If you roll 12, you overpowered the cannon and every unmodified 1 self-inflicts damage meaning it can explode with no guarantee it will do extra damage to the target unit. So Skryre…

The Warp Lightning Cannon and the Plagueclaw are assembled from the same kit.

The Doomwheel for some reason counts as a Behemoth, but apart from this is another legendary Skaven model with a great shooting profile and the ability to “walk” over low wound-count models. Attention that it can be even controlled by your enemy (and moved on top of your own units) if you push your luck when re-rolling the movement roll. Any Skaven army should consider having one in their list.

Warpfire Thrower, Ratling Gun and Doom-Flayer belong to the category of Weapon Teams, meaning that every 10 models in a unit of Clanrats or Stormvernim, you can hide one of these units and then reveal them at the beginning of one of your shooting phases.

The Warpfire Thrower can increase its range to 12″ by overloading it, meaning that they can appear within shooting range of an enemy from a teleported unit. Of course with the usual risk of exploding after having attacked…

The Ratling Gun is another good shooting unit with the ability to increase its attacks (randomly) with the usual downside that it could explode afterwards.

The Doom-Flayer is instead a melee unit that wants to charge and overload its attacks. In this case the chances to self-destruct are not that high, but Skaven never studied statistics anyway…

The Warp-grinder is a Weapon Team but cannot be hidden in a unit. Instead, his top characteristic is to use it for ambushing or deep-striking tactics, putting it into reserve with another key unit, and make them reappear just 9″ outside enemy units. It adds also a decent melee profile to an interesting unit.

Who wouldn’t love sniper-rats? Then consider the Warplock Jezzails that despite their single attack per model have a great shooting range.

The Plagueclaw is the other artillery piece available in this army, coming from the same kit as the Warp Lightning Cannon. It provides Clans Pestilens a long range shooting unit, but it has only one attack.

Despite this, against horde units can do quite some damage, and even worsen their battleshock roll (+2 to the targeted unit).

The Packmasters can be found in the Rat Ogors and Giant Rats box. They act as non-hero Master Moulders for the sake of buffing Rat Ogors, Giant Rats or Rat Swarms, but without all good traits that the hero have. Better have Master Moulders than Packmasters.

And the Rat Swarms, despite being a potential target for the Moulder buffs, is probably the worst unit in the book. If the price goes ridiculously low, it may be used at least to swarm objectives.

List of Skaven units by Clan

For reference, here we will relist all units divided by Clan ownership with their own battlefield role. Some warscrolls belong to multiple clans.


  • Thanquol on Boneripper (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Lord Skreech Verminking (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Verminlord Warpseer (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Grey Seer on Screaming Bell (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Grey Seer (Leader)

Clans Skryre

  • Arch-Warlock (Leader)
  • Warlock Bombardier (Leader)
  • Warlock Engineer (Leader)
  • Skryre Acolytes (Conditional Battleline)
  • Stormfiends (Conditional Battleline)
  • Warp Lightning Cannon (Artillery)
  • Warplock Jezzails (Artillery)
  • Doomwheel (Behemoth)
  • Doom-Flayer
  • Ratling Gun
  • Warp-Grinder
  • Warpfire Thrower

Clans Pestilens

  • Plague Priest on Plague Furnace (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Plague Priest (Leader)
  • Verminlord Corruptor (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Plague Censer Bearers (Conditional Battleline)
  • Plague Monks (Conditional Battleline)
  • Plagueclaw (Artillery)

Clans Verminus

  • Clawlord (Leader)
  • Verminlord Warbringer (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Skritch Spiteclaw and Spiteclaw’s Swarm (Leader)
  • Clanrats (Battleline)
  • Stormvermin (Battleline)

Clans Moulder

  • Master Moulder (Leader)
  • Giant Rats (Conditional Battleline)
  • Rat Ogors (Conditional Battleline)
  • Hell Pit Abomination (Behemoth)
  • Packmasters
  • Rat Swarms
  • Stormfiends

Clans Eshin

  • Deathmaster (Leader)
  • Verminlord Deceiver (Leader, Behemoth)
  • Slynk Skittershank and Skittershank’s Clawpack (Leader)
  • Gutter Runners (Conditional Battleline)
  • Night Runners (Conditional Battleline)

Endless Spells, Terrain and Start Collecting in a Skaven Army

Skaven are one of the few armies that have Endless Spells, Terrain and the new Vanguard box available.

Their Endless Spells are the Vermintide, a low-damage spell that can be useful for screening as units get damaged even when they finish any move or charge within 3″ of it, the Warp Lightning Vortex, a better version than the one before that reduced mobility and was more used by Kharadron Overlords and their Spell in a Bottle than Skaven (it now has a chance to do mortal wounds, the more the vortexes near the target unit the higher chances and/or the damage), and the Bell of Doom, that provides battleshock immunity within 13″ and an unreliable way to do mortal wounds (only on a 13 after rolling 3D6).

Skaven scenery features a literal hole in reality: the Gnawholes. Up to 3 can be set up during deployment, far from each other and within the borders of the battlefield and they act as transport hubs as any Skaven near one can transport to another one. Eshin artefact Gnawbomb can temporarily create a fourth Gnawhole (until your next hero phase) to further increase the movement shenanigans.

While that is their primary use, Gnawholes also act as a +1 bonus to chanting rolls to priests (remember the Pestilens’ plan to spread all Great Plagues on a 6+ on chanting rolls?) and the same bonus to casting, dispelling and unbinding of nearby Skaven wizards. As they are impassable, they are also a great way to create chokepoints in the battlefield.

Skaven had a really old Start Collecting that only represented the Clans Pestilens. With the new edition, and a much more malleable list building, a new box was required, hence the Vanguard: Skaven.

While eventually you will specialise in a one or few clans, there are some choices that are always there independently from the direction you go. And this box contains many of them. The Grey Seer is your cheapest wizard, but also a great option. It is a double caster, than for a cheap foot hero it’s quite an achievement in itself. It unlocks few things, including adding to the count of Masterclan heroes if you are searching to obtain the “Always Three Clawsteps Ahead” bonus and of course choices of spells.

He is surrounded by 20 Clanrats, that not only are the basic battleline of this army, usable in any configuration of heroes, but also a great one in the their role (mostly cheap screening with a bit of a punch).

The Stormfiends represent the elite side of the army. While they are great on their own, they can be further buffed (for example by sparkstone used by an Arch-Warlock). They have both shooting and melee profiles that can be tuned to personal taste, with many valid combinations. They are an all-round unit.

It completes the collection the only two Artillery pieces in the army. Since you can assemble only one, the Warp Lightning Cannon is an excellent choice, that can also be buffed by Skryre machinations. Alternatively, in a more Pestilens-oriented army, you can get the Plagueclaw Catapult.

In summary this a good starting point for a Skaven army, allowing next to specialise in the clan that you prefer while maintaining a solid base. It is probably not a highly re-purchasable box however.

The Verminlord kit is probably a good purchase to follow-up.

Tactics and Final Verdict on the Skaven Army

Skaven are a horde army with few elite options and a mountain of different choices. Their roster is full of old sculpts, but if you are not worried by this aspect, you’ll find an extremely entertaining army to play with and against.

The decision to leave the usual sub-faction scheme in favour of the hero keyword bingo, really works well in this army, allowing for mixed armies and plenty of combinations. They are not the top competitive army in the meta (right now or in the recent past) but they are constantly in the middle, able to get to top tables when used by competent generals.

While they feel they should play the horde role, there’s no mechanic to increase the number of reinforced units, so you will need to play with the restrictions available in your battlepack. You can still easily field 60 Clanrats, but you will rarely see those numbers in reality. Their battleshock immunity is also gone, there are only few things allowing for some bubbles, like the Plague Priest on Plague Furnace or the Bell of Doom, but they are not always practical or reliable. So be prepared to have many models running away at the end of each turn.

Masterclan heroes are there mostly to achieve the Always Three Clawsteps Ahead ability that allows to use the first run and charge roll for the entire turn, and to pile in twice in the same combat phase. While this bonus is great, it is not essential for this army to work, so if you prefer two different clans, it is perfectly fine.

The most classic tactic used with Masterclan is Thanquol casting Lauchon the Soulseeker endless spell to teleport in position to roast the enemy lines. You can then choose between a Verminlord Warpseer (counts as two heroes) or two Grey Seer and their wizardry versatility.

Clans Pestilens will use their Plague Censer Bearers as glass cannons, to be protected by hordes of Plague Monks while the Plague Priests chant their prayers to the Horner Rat until they can spread all Great Plagues to the table, making the game simpler for Skaven. It is, however, a tactic that takes time as your first option may most likely be the Neverplague that allows to re-roll chanting rolls, and by the end of the third round most battles are already decided.

Clans Skryre will mix shooting with overpowered melee attacks, and the ability of their heroes to overpower them even further using the Warpstone Sparks or their magic. Stormfiends are a great example of Skryre ingenuity. If you don’t mind having good chances to self-destruct your units in exchange for a satisfying high-damaging turn, then Skryre is definitely the clan for you.

They also introduce ambushing tactics with the Weapons Team able to hide in Clanrats and Stormvermin units to appear at the right moment and shoot in the face the enemy units. The Deathmaster can do the same but does not get destroyed if the unit that hid him is slain, while the Warp-Grinder can be put in reserve with another unit to, later on, set them both anywhere on the battlefield outside 9″ from enemy units. There are different spells that allow Skaven to teleport, but their scenery piece, the Gnawholes, achieve the same effect, so nowhere is safe from Skaven paws.

Clans Verminus represent the horde of rats. As mentioned before, it is not possible to exaggerate with the number of reinforced units, but you can still have multiple units of Clanrats. The Verminlord Warbringer is a great general for a Verminus army, even considering that Verminus battle trait only applies to Clawlords. A Warbringer opportunely buffed is a real killing machine, and can be further protected by Stormvermin units nearby acting as bodyguards.

The Clans Eshin represent the assassins, but they are plagued but some of the oldest models in the range (with the exclusion of the Deathmaster, recently re-sculpted). They have a mix of hit-and-run tactics that allow them to be equally efficient in shooting and melee, without excelling in either. A unit of Gutter Runners opportunely buffed can still do some decent damage in melee.

The Clans Moulder have highs and lows, from the fact that there is no Verminlord representing them, to the fact that Rat Ogors and Giant Rats are good units but Rat Swarms are not, with the Hell Pit Abomination needing some tweaking to work appropriately.

Exactly as you would represent them, they are an heterogeneous group of things put together with the hope to achieve a result, that is really Skaven-y, and if you like this playstyle, it can be really fun. Alternatively, few models can be used in other lists for a throw-back to other times or surprise tactics like a fast group of Giant Rats attacking with rend -2.

Skaven 3.0 battletome is a different tome from other 3.0 tomes but works in the same direction, with easier rules, and increasing the spectrum of usable units in the roster. It is not perfect and we can only hope it will get better together to a well deserved refresh of the Skaven range. The age of some models (and the quantity) is the main refrainer from beginners starting this army.

Other resources

Some excellent information that we often use from articles like this one comes from YouTube channels like Warhammer Weekly with Vince Venturella, AoS Coach and of course The Honest Wargamer.

If you are interested in the competitive standpoint, when we talk about statistics, a tremendous effort is done by Rob from the Honest Wargamer, Ziggy and Tsports Network! in the AoS Stat Centre with precious information, constantly kept up to date.

Really good informative material is also collected by Dan from AoS Shorts.