The Skaven are the children of the Horned Rat, an infamous race of ratmen specialised in the most vicious warfare tactics.
Will you embrace Chaos in its purest form and power your own creations with warpstone?
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Background and Lore of the Skaven Warband
The Skaven are a race of mutant ratmen whose history starts in the world-that-was to which demise they were great contributors.
Saved by their deity, the Hornet Rat now ascended to the pantheon of the Chaos Gods, they were then liberated in the Mortal Realms with the duty to multiplicate and feast on everything they could touch.
Their strength is not only in numbers, of which they have plenty, but also about trickery and cunning.
Their foul devices or flesh creations are fuelled by warpstone, a dread substance that represents magic corrupted by Chaos, that if touched brings complete insanity.
Skaven live underground, not necessarily within the Mortal Realms as they are able to tunnel the void using gnawholes and move between realms.
Their capital, Blight City, is created on top of a warpstone field and is populated by uncountable numbers, all busy scheming, fighting or otherwise creating the next diabolic invention. At the heart of Blight City sits the Council of Thirteen, the apparent leading government of Skavendom.
However, hidden away in a sub-realm, the Shadow Council composed of 13 Verminlords, constantly changing, really influences and manipulates the decisions of all Skaven.
Their society is divided in clans belonging to one of the 5 Great Clans constantly in war with each other.
- The Clan Verminus has their strength in hordes of Clanrats and Stormvermin to throw at the enemy, with Clanrats being the body of many rat swarms and the Stormvermin representing the elite of the clan often employed as bodyguards.
- The heart of Clan Pestilens is made of Plague Monks, diseased zealots of the Horned Rat blessed with horrific rituals by the Plague Priests and sent to battle through a religious madness that partially balances the natural cowardice of all Skaven.
- Clan Moulders is specialized in twisting flesh and creating monsters of all sorts, of which the most famous are the hulking Rat Ogors, a fusion between an Ogor and a Rat. Swarms of giant mutated rats are also sent in the fray. The Packmasters are then tasked to array in battle these creatures.
- Clan Skryre took a powerful weapon like a Rat Ogor and perfected it by adding “skaven-brains” to their body and link them with tubes to better direct these monsters in battle. Armed with different destructive weapons they become an efficient artillery instrument.
- Night Runners instead are the mainstay of Clan Eshin armies attacking furtively from the flanks and ready to scurry away to attack from another side.
But how do the Skaven play on the tabletop?
If you are not going to rat them out, let’s have a look at them in detail.
Overview and Points for the fighters in the Skaven Warband
Note: if you haven’t read the basic rules for Warcry before reading this article, it might be helpful to know that the game’s abilities are activated by using 6 dice that you roll at the start of your turn.
If two of the dice show the same value, they can be used to activate a Double ability. If three show the same value, they can be used for a Triple ability, and so on.
So, when this article refers to an ability being a Double, a Triple or a Quad, it refers to this system. It might sound a bit confusing, but takes no time to get used to when you start playing
The Skaven warband is made from 6 kits with 20 options of which 3 are leaders.
- Stormvermin Fangleader: 170 points
- Stormvermin with Rusty Halberd and Shield: 115 points
- Stormvermin with Rusty Halberd: 105 points
The Stormvermin are the elite of the “normal rats”, with an excellent movement (6”), decent wounds (10 or 20 for the Fangleader) and higher than average damage (2-4).
Except for the Fangleader they are both armed with Halberds that provide 2” range, however the Shield increases the Toughness from 4 to 5 losing one attack (2 instead of 3).
The Fangleader has 4 attacks at Strength 4 and access to “Lead from the Back”, an ability that for a Triple allows all nearby friendly fighters (within 3” radius) to increase their attacks for one battle round as long as their range characteristic is 3” or less.
Combined with the Stormvermin “Hired Bodyguard” ability that for a Double prevents the Leader from being targeted as long as it stays within 1” from the Stormvermin activated, makes a really close swarm of Stormvermin lethal and the leader more durable.
For more durability the Stormvermin with Shield protecting your leader is an interesting option as Toughness 5 can prevent most enemies from really hurting him, however critical hits can quickly get rid of most Skaven.
And the 2” range Halberd means the Stormvermin can still attack while keeping himself disengaged and protecting the leader of which the Fangleader is the most expensive but also the most durable.
- Bringer-of-the-Word: 150 points
- Plague Monk with Blade and Stave: 70 points
- Plague Monk with pair of Blades: 70 points
The Plague Monks are some of the cheapest units available to the Skaven and present interesting options for you.
Blade and Stave guarantee 2” range, 3 attacks at Strength 3 and damage 1-5, while the pair of Blades have more attacks (4) but less range (1”) and damage (1-4).
All Plague Monks have movement of 6”, 8 wounds and Toughness 3 making them quick, but squishy.
The leader, the Bringer-of-the-Word, the model armed with a book, increases stats a little bit: 16 wounds, Toughness 4, 4 attacks for damage 2-4.
In addition to the aforementioned “Lead from the Back”, this model has access also to “Recite from the Book of Woes” that for a Quad neutralizes every single ability within 3” of him.
Pending some clarifications, the exact wording is “enemy fighters cannot use abilities within 3” of this model” meaning that prevents abilities to be activated while in range, but they can be activated outside of the range and then still be effective once inside the 3” bubble.
For example, an enemy 5” away could activate his ability to damage at the end of a movement, move in contact with the Bringer-of-the-Word and damage him ignoring the Quad ability restrictions.
It is surely an important ability if used correctly but depends on a 16 wounds leader with Toughness 4 that has to be at the centre of attention. Also, quads are rare so you need to make sure it is worth it!
A Stormvermin used as a bodyguard can keep him alive longer but using both abilities in the same turn requires a Quad and a Double and 2 activations.
Despite this, the Bringer-of-the-Word is definitely a contender for the role of best Skaven leader, costing 20 points less than a Fangleader.
The other ability all Plague Monks (and most other Skaven) have is Scurry Away that allows a bonus disengage option for a Double if you roll a 4+ on a dice.
It is not really reliable, considering it’s 50% chance to do nothing with the Double, but if you don’t have Packmasters or Stormvermin you don’t have better use for a Double (other than the universal abilities that is).
- Clawleader: 145 points
- Clanrat with Rusty Blade: 75 points
- Clanrat with Rusty Spear: 75 points
The Clanrats have the last leader option and probably the worst available, although the cheapest.
A Clawleader has an identical profile to the Bringer-of-the-Word but no Quad ability.
Regarding the troop options, the difference between blades and spears is that a Blade offers 3 attacks at Strength 3 for damage 1-3, while a Spear has only 2 attacks but at 2” range and for damage 1-4.
Apart from this, Clanrats have Toughness 4, 8 wounds and movement 6″.
They cost 5 points more than a Plague Monk while doing less damage and with Toughness 4 instead of 3 they can hope to survive a little bit longer against basic troops.
As a leader the Clawleader has access to the Triple ability and as most Skaven all Clanrats have access to Scurry Away.
- Stormfiend with Ratling Cannons: 285 points
- Stormfiend with Grinderfists: 265 points
- Stormfiend with Doomflayer Gauntlet: 265 points
- Stormfiend with Shock Gauntlets: 265 points
- Stormfiend with Warpfire Projectors: 265 points
- Stormfiend with Windlaunchers: 265 points
The Stormfiends are the most expensive Skaven units and also some of the biggest hitters of the entire game.
You have many weapon options roughly divided in 3 melee options and 3 ranged options.
The Night Runner is the only other real ranged option available for the Skaven so having at least one of these hulking beasts may be convenient.
35 wounds (except the one armed with Warpfire Projector with only 30), Toughness 5 and Movement 5” makes them quite resistant with solid speed.
Starting from the three ranged options, they all have in melee 2 attacks at Strength 4 for 4-8 damage that by itself would be almost like an Ogor Breacher of the Iron Golems.
- The Warpfire Projector is the one with the shortest range (3-8”) but greatest Strength (5 in 2 attacks) and damage (3-6).
- The Ratling Cannon increases range (3-10”), attacks (4 at Strength 4) and loses a bit of damage (2-4).
- The Windlauncher has an impressive 3-20” range, less attacks (2 at Strength 4) and same damage as the Ratling.
The 3 melee options can really do some damage, some of the best in the game.
- Grinderfists provide 4 attacks at Strength 5 for 4-8 damage.
- If you need more attacks for the same damage the Doomflayer Gauntlets provide 5 attacks at Strength 4 (same damage).
- Finally, the Shock Gauntlets have “only” 4 attacks at Strength 4 but 4-10 damage! A lucky dice throw can do from 16 to 40 damage in a single action.
Stormfiends also have “Crushing Charge” that for a Triple allows them to do as much damage as the value of the ability when finishing the next move next to an enemy model.
Rat Ogors, Giant Rats and Packmasters
- Rat Ogor with Warpfire Gun: 235 points
- Rat Ogor: 225 points
- Packmaster: 65 points
- Giant Rat: 35 points
This collection of diverse fighters come from the same box with the Rat Ogors being slightly cheaper but still effective elite fighters like the Stormfiends, the Packmasters are there to boost Rat Ogors or Giant Rats and Giant Rats are the cheapest unit in the entire game(!)
Rat Ogors have 2 profiles: one exclusively melee and one ranged.
Both have attacks at Strength 4 for 4-8 damage in melee, however the simple Rat Ogor has 4 of those, while the Rat Ogor with Warpfire Gun only 2.
To compensate the latter can shoot 3-8” away the other 2 attacks at Strength 5 for 6-8 damage.
In addition, both models have access to Crushing Charge that allows them to do damage at the end of a movement phase for the cost of a Triple.
Rat Ogors also have an impressive number of wounds (30 and 40 respectively), good movement (5”) and average Toughness (4).
The Packmaster instead has access to “Crack the Whip”, that for a Double allows a nearby (3”) Rat Ogor or Giant Rat to perform a bonus melee attack.
In a warband with one or two Rat Ogors specialized in melee, a Packmaster becomes essential.
Imagine Rat Ogor doing 12 attacks at Strength 4 for the cost of a simple Double… Yes, extra attacks for a double can be brutal!
Apart from that a Packmaster is still 65 points for a weak fighter: 8 wounds, Toughness 3 but Movement 6”.
At least he has two weapon profiles: the whip allows him to hit 3” away with 3 attacks at Strength 3 for 1-2 damage keeping him out of trouble or if really needs to in close combat those same attacks can do 1-3 damage.
Finally, the Giant Rats win the prize for the cheapest and squishiest unit in the game (4 wounds at Toughness 2).
A double edge sword: on one side they can give numbers and allow superiority and mobility to capture objectives (movement 8”), on the other in a context of who kills the most or faster you are going to sorely lose.
In a fight they can bite the enemies with 3 attacks at Strength 3 and 1-3 damage that makes them similar to a Clanrat at half the price.
Packmasters and Giant Rats can also “Scurry Away” for a Double.
Nightrunner: 70 points
The last unit is an interesting option because of their 8” weapon range, although it’s only 2 attacks at Strength 3 for 1-2 damage.
In melee the attacks become 3 with 1-3 damage.
For the rest he shares the same profile as other Skaven:
8 Wounds, Movement 6”, Toughness 3 and access to Scurry Away.
In a warband without Stormfiends a few of them can harass the enemy from a distance or pick up the wounded or isolated ones without committing.
Did you know we make guides for all Warcry Warbands?
Abilities for the Skaven Warcry Warband
- Scurry Away (Double, Plague Monks, Clanrats, Night Runners, Packmasters and Giant Rats): If within 3” of an enemy roll a dice. On a 4+ you can make a bonus disengage action.
- Crack the Whip (Double, Packmaster): Pick a visible fighter within 4” with the Beast runemark (Rat Ogor or Giant Rat) to make a bonus attack action with a range of 3” or less.
- Hired Bodyguard (Double, Stormvermin but not the leader): Until the end of the battle round friendly Leaders within 1” of this fighter cannot be targeted.
- Crushing Charge (Triple, Stormfiends and Rat Ogors): At the end of the next move action terminating within 1” of an enemy model, allocate as much damage as the value of this ability to an enemy within 1”.
- Lead from the Back (Triple, all Leaders): Until the end of the battle round add half the value of this ability to the Attack characteristic of weapons with range 3” or less for all friendly fighters within 3” of the leader.
- Recite from the Book of Woes (Quad, Bringer-of-the-Word): Until the end of the battle round enemies cannot use abilities while within 3” of this fighter.
Strategy and Tactics for the Skaven Warband
The Skaven can count on many different units and strategies depending on how you form your warband.
Reaching 15 models (the maximum in a Warcry warband) is actually super easy even without involving Giant Rats, the cheapest unit available in game.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can have a warband made of only a leader and 3 Stormfiends for some bloody carnage!
As always the most appropriate tactic is to correctly balance the different options without forgetting that high numbers can allow for superiority when you count bodies for objectives and similar, while they can really hamper you if you are fighting for who kills the most.
Stormfiends and Rat Ogors really excel in melee with massive damage, without forgetting the “free” damage on movement at the cost of a Triple (Crushing Charge).
Rat Ogors can even benefit of a bonus attack when accompanied by a Packmaster for a Double (Crack the Whip).
If you need ranged support Stormfiends can compensate the slower movement (5” is still a good movement above average) with ranged attacks up to 20” range (the furthest the least powerful although).
The other ranged option, the Night Runners, can hit 8” away but should be kept in swarms as one model by itself, with damage 1-2 is not going to pull down an Ogor Breacher…
The three leaders are not extremely impressive but on par with the original Chaos warband leaders.
Of the leaders, the Clawleader is probably the least interesting, while the Bringer-of-the-Word special ability (Recite from the Book of Woes) is quite powerful but situational.
To guarantee more survivability a leader can be surrounded by a Stormvermin but considering the latter has to always stay 1” close to the leader (to use “Hired Bodyguard”), there will be at least one enemy activation where the two are not close-by and the leader can be attacked.
A Stormvermin with Shield presents 10 wounds and Toughness 5 guaranteeing to shrug off some of the damage otherwise destined to your leader, until he is in position to launch “Lead from the Back” giving up to 3 extra attacks to all nearby friendly fighters.
Even in this case the 3” bubble may not be enough to include all your warband but considering you should always have number superiority it may be enough to create a gap in the enemy lines.
All leaders have a similar profile so technically speaking for 20 points more than a Bringer-of-the-Word you get a Fangleader with Strength 4 instead of 3, and for 5 points less you get a Clawleader.
In both scenarios you lose your Quad ability, and in the case of the Fangleader you lose also Scurry Away.
Scurry Away should have been the Skaven signature move, however is highly unpredictable as it works on a 4+, but if it works, it gives your standard rat the chance to run 15” away (disengage + 2 moves) to grab another objective or harass someone else.
This ability is available to most Skaven, except Stormfiends, Stormvermin and Rat Ogors.
As basic troops you can choose between various options with Plague Monks being the most point-cost effective in attack and Stormvermin in defence although their damage 2 on a normal hit can sum up really quickly.
The Clanrats are probably the losers in most lists as they are neither as efficient as the Plague Monks or as durable as the Stormvermin (despite Toughness 4), but they stay in the middle in case you prefer to compromise.
The final note has to be for the Giant Rats.
They may give you problems in different situations by dying too fast, but on the other hand their 8” movement will allow them to get in places other units would otherwise struggle, and they still have 3 attacks that can do 3 damage on a lucky 6… Do not underestimate them!
Pros and Cons of the Skaven
+ High mobility
+ Horde abilities
+ Strong elite units
– Unimpressive leaders
How to buy a Skaven Warcry Warband
all prices used are standard Games Workshop prices. It is possible to get the different things cheaper (check the links for prices).
The Skaven warband can be purchased from a total of 6 different boxes.
You will also need the skaven warcry cards, in order to get the rules for the warband.
If you already have an Age of Sigmar skaven army, chances are you have most of these models.
Otherwise, you can start with the box that interests you the most as buying these boxes will give you lost of extra models.
In essence, it is quite hard to make a Skaven warband with a lot of different options without getting a load of extra models that you would never use in Warcry.
Also, you should know that some of the models are beginning to look ancient and they can be hard to get (at least without ordering directly from GW). You can be lucky to find old boxes in stores, but online they are are to come by.
The Clanrats also are in a 20 miniatures box (£25) however the minimum unit size in Age of Sigmar is 20 models and you can only use one weapon profile per unit forcing you to choose between a valid Age of Sigmar unit or few models for your Warcry warband.
If you need only a couple of models the Spiteclaw’s Swarm Warhammer Underworld warband for £15 brings Spiteclaw, that can easily be used as a Clawleader and 3 more Clanrats (2 with blades, 1 with spear and one at your own imagination).
The Stormfiends come in a 3-model box (£40) with plenty of weapon options but unless you want to magnetize them you will need 2 boxes to get all 6 weapon profiles. Out of the box you can only choose these combinations: Warpfire Projector or Windlauncher, Grinderfist or Ratling Cannon, Doomflayer Gauntlets or Shock Gauntlets.
Rat Ogors, Packmasters and Giant Rats all come conveniently in the same box with respectively 2, 3 and 6 models for £25.
Finally, the Night Runners are in a 20-model box (£22.5) giving you plenty of models to work with.
Tips on painting a Skaven Warband for Warcry
Do you have some awesome Skaven painted up?
Then I really want to display them here.
The Skaven have been around since the Old World and many of the models in this warband are years old, so you can find plenty of tutorials online about almost anything including Albino rats.