This is a review of the Start Collecting box “Skaven Pestilens”: the foulest of all Skaven clans. If your goal is the final rotting of the world through a rat infestation then this is your starting point.
If you do not know anything about what a Start Collecting box is, here is a short introduction.
The Start Collecting boxes are a very convenient way to get started playing Warhammer or start a new army with a specific faction.
You will usually get at least 1 character, 1 sort of “basic unit” (many times a battleline unit) and 1 unit that is a bigger elite/monster type sort of deal.
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Which models are included in the Skaven Pestilens Start Collecting Box?
The box advertises:
- 1 Plague Priest on Plague Furnace. The Plague Furnace can be alternatively assembled as a Grey Seer on a Screaming Bell
- 1 Plagueclaw. The Plagueclaw can instead be assembled as a Warp Lightning Cannon
- 20 Plague Monks
If you are interested in conversions you can even obtain a free Grey Seer or Plague Priest from the leftover components.
1 Plague Priest on Plague Furnace
The Plague Furnace is an iconic model for Skaven Pestilens army and essential to buff the entire army.
Synergies are really important for Pestilens and just as an example if you take the Plague Priest on Plague Furnace as your general you can assign the Master of Rot and Ruin command trait that allows re-rolling the prayer roll.
As a priest he knows two prayers and on a 6 in addition to the prayer a plague is released to the battlefield with different effects.
Giving the plague priest as an artefact the Liber Bunonics allows him to roll two prayers per turn: Filth-filth to allow a nearby Pestilens unit to re-roll wound rolls and Rabid-Rabid to add 1 attack.
Now use the Congregation of Filth battalion adding 2 or more units of Plague Monks with at least 30 of them (to use Overwhelming masses trait to add +1 to hit and +1 to wound) and use all your prayers on one of those units.
Your Plague Monks now have 58 stave attacks on 2” range (and 92 blade attacks but on 1” range) on a 3+/4+ re-rolling wound rolls and with a 6+ ward save. Not bad for an 80-point unit but can get better as we will see below.
The screaming bell is another iconic Skaven unit, bell being an important symbol for Skaven, and with the Grey Seer on top becomes an extremely powerful unit. Unfortunately, it’s not a Skaven Pestilens but rather a Masterclan model so less useful in a full Pestilens army but extremely important in a more generic Skaven army.
The Grey Seer is a powerful wizard able to do 2 spells per round and the bell itself does a random ability every turn, from a -1 to hit rolls to every unit in range (26” at its maximum) to summoning a Verminlord!
It also provides immunity to battleshock to any Skaven unit within 13”.
The downside of these models is that in order to move they need to have at least 10 friendly Skaventide models within 6” or they stay still.
The Plagueclaw is an artillery piece that can hit anywhere in range even without line of sight. Against hordes (10 or more models) hits on 2+/3+ at 31” range for 2D6 damage at rend -2.
Best thing is that this artillery piece, as all Pestilens, can be used also in a Nurgle army. Keep it protected however, because with 6 wounds and 5+ save it’s going down fast.
The Warp Lightning Cannon is not Pestilens but Clans Skryre, and as all war machines from that clan, it can be augmented at the risk of blowing up.
The way it works is that a Warlock Engineer can decide to increase the weapon power, then you roll a dice to determine the power value.
After that, instead of 6 dice you roll 12 and do a mortal wound for each dice greater or equal than the power value, but every 1 does D3 mortal wounds to the Cannon.
Randomness is the trademark of Skaven, in particular Skryre:
You could go from doing 12 mortal wounds to an enemy to blow the cannon to pieces with few 1s.
20 Plague Monks
We already touched the Plague Monks above, but we can improve on those numbers.
Let’s start with a single plague monk and assume we will field them in units of 40 for maximum effect.
A monk can be equipped with 2 blades or a blade and a stave. A pair of blades allow re-roll of all hit rolls for 2 attacks on 4+/4+, staves hit over 2” range on a 4+/5+.
A Verminlord Corruptor allows a unit to re-roll all hit rolls so you can avoid the pair of blades to get 1 extra attack (2 from the blade and 1 from the staff). These can become 5 attacks if the unit charged in the same turn.
For every 20 models you can choose a banner, the first banner allows to do 1 mortal wound for every monk killed by melee attacks (on a 6+). The second banner allows a wound roll of 6 to do 1 extra damage.
Every 20 models you can choose a musician, the first one adds +1 to run and charge, the second one gives rend -1 to a hit roll of a 6.
Now let’s use the command point of the Verminlord Corruptor to give re-roll to all hits.
Let’s have the Plague Monks starting next to the Plague Furnace and give them both Filth-Filth and Rabid-Rabid prayers. Once these 40 monks charge an enemy they have 3 stave attacks each on 2” range (3 ranks normally) for a potential 117 attacks (the leader does not have a stave) and 4 blade attacks each on 1” range (2 ranks normally) with a potential 200 attacks.
Blades hit on 3+/3+, staves on 3+/4+, both re-rolling hits and wound rolls. Hit rolls of 6 add rend to the attack, wound rolls of 6 do 2 damage instead of 1.
Need some statistics? Roughly, the blades have 70% chance to do at least 76 wounds against an armour save of 4+ (ignoring rend), and the staves 33 for a total rough estimate of 100 wounds after save… Need to discuss more about plague monks?
Well they will die with a 6+ save but with the Congregation of Filth, other than having a potential single drop army, you have an extra 6+ ward save and if they die you can still do mortal wounds back on melee thanks to the banner.
These guys are good. Do remember that your opponents will hate to play against plague monks spam over and over again.
Points cost of the Skaven Pestilens Start Collecting Box
Using the points from the last battletome:
- the Plague Priest on Plague Furnace and the Grey Seer on Screaming Bell are both Leader Behemoth worth respectively 180 and 220 points.
- Plagueclaw and Warp Lightning Cannon are Artillery pieces worth 160 and 180 points.
- Plague Monks are battleline in a Pestilens army with a Skaven Pestilens general for 80 points (280 for 40 points)
So if you assemble according to the box art, you will get a total of 420.
Note: this article was made prior to the December 2019 points update, so some points could have changed there.
Value of the Skaven Pestilens box
The sum of all models as purchased directly from the GW store is 85£ for a discount of 35%.
Overall verdict on the Skaven Pestilens box
I don’t think we could add more about the synergies of the models in this box.
But we can.
Skaven Pestilens can be used in a Skaven army but also in a Nurgle army (they lose some of the combos above but then benefit from all debuffs and mortal wounds/healing that Nurgle provides) and the best thing of this box is that the big pieces can be assembled as other Skaven units (Screaming Bell from Masterclan and Warp Lightning Cannon from Skryre) in case you want to try something different.
Even if you don’t want to commit everything in the setup described above, Plague Monks are useful units in mixed Skaven armies and the other pieces can be used with a certain degree of effectiveness in other builds.
The Grey Seer in particular is beneficial in any Skaven army with its battleshock immunity and random buffs/debuffs.
The extra pieces left after assembly can easily allow to create some extra on-foot heroes for extra value from this box.
For a mixed Skaven army, or one specialized in different clans, this box does not represent a great value, but for Pestilens (and Nurgle) players this box contains almost their entire army and they should buy it in bulks.
It is entirely viable to build your army out by just buying this box. The best part? It is going to be quite good!