The Skaven Army Overview

I started playing Skaven almost fourteen years ago. A Skaven warpfire thrower was my first model and the rest of my army grow from there on. Current count is at over two hundred models for me and over seven hundred for Lester.

Yes it is a crap troop army, but does very well so long as its morale holds. The Skaven have no cavalry, no flyers, no war machines of dependable long range and some of the models have a leadership of two! Everybody laughs at the poor stat line and takes them too lightly until they gnaw der bones. On the surface then the rats only have numbers, magic if they can pull it off, rank leadership enhacement for five types of mediocre troops. You have to think fluidly and cleverly or the rats will get hammered.

It is not a great army by itself. An incompetent or poor player will loose regularly with it. You just have to be crafty with the rats and their lot of different troops which are individually not that good but generally confuse and screw up the enemy. It doesn't have all the built in saving graces of the Brets. Indeed there are very few saving graces. The rank leadership is huge mind you.

Remember they are mediocre fighters with nothing better than a 4+ melee armour save and that is only for handweapon and shield clanrats.

One therefore has to devise a plan of gaming to misdirect one's opponent and get him to respond to rat movement or magically blast a few of his key units to throw his plans out of whack. It is rather hard without speed, weapons, armour, toughness, or leadership advantages enjoyed by other armies. That makes them a challenge.


Skaven are cheap, some of them at least. They have mediocre armour at best. Normally it is nothing or 5+ save vs magic/missiles and either 4+ or 5+ vs melee. That's it for most of the army. It gets no better. Most of the furballs are T3 also.

Clanrats, Stormvermin and Plague monks have a Ld5 and can gain up to +3 rank bonus enhancement to leadership. They must of course buy the figures and put them in ranks and make themselves a better cannon, mortar, rock lobber target to get the enhancement.
The Skaven clanrats slaves have a leadership of a whole whopping LD2. Now that is crap. Of course within 12" of a grey seer or warlord and it could be a Ld 9 or Ld10 since the generals leadership can be modified by the rank bonus. This makes the general well protected by such staunch troops as slaves near him. These miscreants are very useful and very cheap mind you. If you upgrade to spear they are WS2 LD2 3 point shieldless troops without armour. Of course dropping a frenzy spell on them makes them the perfect undead killer in units of 50 or so. 4 hits to the undead's one.

Initiative quite good. Most of the units have I 4 or 5 which means that they are faster than 50% of the enemy armies.

Special rules

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Finally let's look at the other good stuff the Skaven get. They can shoot into combat and kill themselves or the enemy with a fifty fifty chance either way. That is not a huge thing perhaps except for the Poison wind globes.

The leadership bonus is huge and not payed for in terms of points. The second thing missed by most players is the full value of the rank bonus for the Skaven. We both know the Slaves are LD2. If 4 or more ranks deep this improves to a LD5 which is still not good. If the general is nearby and a Grey Seer LD6 or Warlord LD7 then the Skaven slaves leadership is either a LD9 or LD10. This is fantastic for a 2 point troop.

The Skaven are cowards by nature. Their characters have fairly low LD of 5,6, or 7 which is almost the worst in the game. If you keep your characters in the rank units their building up the leadership of the unit essentially means the characters can check on a leadership higher than his own. Not one player I have talked to has realized this until I explained it to them. The unit rank leadership improves effectively the character leadership when he stays inside the unit.

Lead from the back is an iffy benefit. It does block line of sight so is a poor place for wizards.

He who runs away means the fur filth balls run 2D6 + 1" in all flee moves. Get's them off the table before their high LD5 or LD6 can allow them to rally. No rank bonus for fleeing troops mind you.

And of course there is the mainstay rule. To take a second unit of any type you must have at least two units of mainstay troops. I don't mind this too much but only the Bretonnians are screwed in a similar fashion. They must take at least one unit of Knights of the Realm. What a screwing. I don't have a single horsey nor flying unit.

In spite of all this the Skaven are somehow fun. They do much better than I can believe. They screw themselves as well as the enemy and I think only Greenskin animosity is worse treatment of any army than the Skaven. In truth the Skaven are so tough because their opponents don't know their limitations. They can be beaten very readily by an organized thoughtful opponent. The Skaven have to pounce on mistakes. They have to be deceitful and coniving. They have to have multiple options potentially in the works. They can not normally rush into melee but must get into melee.


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The rats do not have a single group of wizards which are true wizards once one gets past the lord level Grey Seer. [Some of the special named characters are quite spectacular wizards if your opponent let's you use them.] None of the nonGrey Seer wizards can be upgraded to level 2 nor is there any level 3 wizard except a master Warlock Engineer. There is no possibility of putting any of the Skaven wizards on a mount for a +1 or +2 armour save improvement nor allowing him to ride quickly across the field.

In total, the Skaven magic can be devastating. It is not subtle at all. It can just as easily bite your own ass and the ability to upgrade a level and learn an additional spell is a huge benefit for wizards. That benefit is not available to the Skaven along with not being able to get on a mount. I don't know how much of this you knew but all is not there to screw you with the Skaven magic. It is still good and fun to cast, especially when it works. Watch out for the problems mind you.


The Skaven have no shortage of skirmishers but none have good armour. None have a really decent ranged weapon once you get past the jezzails. Let's see TS,(throwing stars), have a range of 6".
Poison wind globes are 8" and oh by the way they can kill the Skaven throwing it also on a 5 or 6 to hit if mishandled.
Slings are about as good as it gets and they shoot 18" with multiple, 2 , shots at half range of 9".
That's it you get away from the jezzails and you have no ranged weapons for individual units. Warlock engineers have a 10" S5 armour piercing pistol which can, guess what, also backfire and shoot them. It is reliable also and this expensive now 95 point fully equiped hero can take out himself right along with his warplightning mishaps. No other army in the game has these benefits.

Last updated August 22 2012