The Skaven Army Overview
The Skaven army book contains traditionally a section with hints how to play the vermin, however the hints don't tell it all. If you want more "spoilers" then read on.
SAD or BWOD- no image -
Sad is the Shooty Army of Death army which I have been told angers most opponents in tournaments.
It is based on the premise one has a Grey Seer, and 2 or three Warlock Engineers.
Perhaps on takes a Screaming Bell for the power dice.
One does take at least 2 units of clanrats with ratling guns.
Two large units of Jezzail teams and one or two Warplightning Cannon.
Three or four bases of rat swarm and the rest as skirmishers just about dose it.
The idea is to move to within ratling range and then open up with ratlings, cannons, jezzails, and the host of spells from the Grey Seers and Warlock Engineers.
It really angers opponents who do not expect to see all that fire power from a Skaven army.
It also requires the least skill to play.
By the way, second place in the 2004 German great Warhammer tournament was a skaven shooty army. I guess we all agree that this is not very Skaven like, but it works... most of the time and my current opinion is that this is the only Skaven army where you have a chance against good players.
BWOD- no image -
This is the Brown Wall OF Doom army which involves a warlord or Chieftain general and then at least three units of Clan rats, Clanrat slaves, and units of Giant rat Packs. In a 2000 point game it is almost 300 models and takes a long time to move, even with movement trays. A few rat swarms to protect a flank round it out. It works on the principle of ranks and flanks and the Skaven General just swamps the enemy with huge number of models. It requires a lot of care to use but is quite tricky and effective. Not a single magic user is needed and one just concedes magic losses until one gets in melee the second or third turn.
This tactic however has some drawbacks. Usually you will always be charged either by Cavalery or by any other model with movement 6 like giants, trolls, Stegadons, chariots... As you are actually forced to advance you will also get charged by slower models that can affort to stand still for a round to await you. Usually if you are charged you lose the combat and flee so you just go with it and at least try to get the counter-charge but that's where the trouble starts...
If we assume that the enemy is not completely brainless (Zombies) he will see this tactic from a mile away and he will stack his charge so that he hits either the flank or goes through the middle attacking three units next to each other. Even in the worst case he will only get two counter charges and the unit in the middle will go through unharmed. In the best case he will protect his flank with cheap models and get no counter charge at all.
So what can you do against this? My summary after a couple of games against competent enemies: You don't have any chance at all. If you have enemies who are not as good as you, then you can trick them, use the terrain to your favour, redirect his regiments or surprise them with some Skaven character. For a good enemy this looks like a computer game. You have big blocks of rats that are running forward with no surprises whatever (because you needed the points for the rats). Every other army has more shooting or faster units or both and will either soften up your units to charge through or directly crush you at the most inconvinient place.
Summary. This tactic worked for me but only against beginners.
EWWW- no image -
This is Eventually We Will Win
It is similar to the Brown Wall Of Doom and goes like this:
I have a lot of units that run to the front as fast as possible.
When I see the danger of getting charged I try to make a "V" formation with two units.
This means that both units stand 45 degree to each other.
Whatever unit is charged, the other will get a charge in the flank.
In most cases the enemy can concentrate his units (he has less and better units) somewhere. With cavellery he will get it's charges. But in the end he will fight against much cheaper troups. In most cases only a third of the price of his own troups. So if he win's in 50% of the times he is still behind.
Normally some enemy units will not manage to break their opponents in the first phase and will get a counter-charge in the next round, eventually destroying them. The troups that manage to break the first wave will still have another wave to kill, this time the better troups.
There is just one problem. Cavallery. In a normal game the Riders will charge you in the second round (deploy at 12" march 18" and charge 18" on a 48" table). You won't have a chance to get a counter-charge which is essential because a strong Cavallery unit can destroy every (and I mean every!) Skaven unit in one round.
Example: Bretonian Knights with two Characters in the front. They make five to ten wounds in a charge, have four ranks and a standart. So they will win by four to nine points in the end. It is not likely that a Skaven unit will stay around).
They break their first opponent and charge the second one counting as charger. In the Skaven turn you get a flank-charge negating their rank bonus, but this is still not enough. This time they win only by one to four points (because of the lost rank bonus) but still they win!
Bottom line, if the cavallery is not stopped it will roll over your whole army. But how can you stop them with their tremendous charge?
Here is how:
Move a unit (weak unit e.g. small regiment slave) twelve inches before your main units. It will get charged and destroyed, allowing the enemy a follow up charge of three dice. But three dice is only eleven inches in most cases. Twelve inch is less than 30%
End of the game: The cavallery is free to get charged in front and flank by your troups. This time they don't hit first and their rank bonus is negated right away.
This tactic is a lot more sneeky than the Brown Wall Of Doom but still the enemy is usually free to pick the points where he want to attack. Usually these are the places where he can wreck havoc.
Spells- no image -
The two game winner spells are the Frenzy spell and the Vermintide spell. Most enemies will not see the true value of them until it is too late. Some will never figure it out. Vermintide is the death spell for single model units, especially those lone wizards who like to move around near units for full line of sight. 3D6 S2 hits should get them. Just be careful it is not cast directly at them first. If you aim it at a unit and then it sweeps over them second any magic resistance they have would not apply to aid the dispell.
Frenzy units to make them immune against other psychology. The same idea will work on your jezzail teams. So if you buy a unit of ten jezzails and zap them with a frenzy they will be immune to psychology until they loose a round of melee. How about that for stopping them from running away? Of course they will have to charge any opponent who comes within 10" of them. You can't have it all.
I thought I had a real game winner with the Skaven. I looked at 5 bases of rat swarms and then double death frenzy spell is placed upon them. 5 bases A5 per base. An extra attack for each death frenzy so that would be 5 + 5 + 5 = 15 attacks per base or 5 X 15 = 75 attacks per unit. Wow even at strength 2 that would be fantastic. Then I reread the frenzy rule and it is one additional attack per model. Only by reading very carefully the description of the rat swarm did I find that the rat swarm base is considered to be a model somy unit of 5 bases is also 5 model. The double death frenzy therefore truly only gives (5 X 5) = 25 + 5 + 5 = 35 maximum attacks for the whole unit. Darn! I thought I had found a hidden winner. Nope! I have frenzied the swarm unit as they have charged into night goblins in the flank. The extra three attacks just barely allowed me to win the melee. Otherwise the swarms loose every time. They just don't run away.
I have not equipped slaves with slings yet to place a frenzy upon them for shooting to the death as above. I have thought of it though.
We have three players here who think the Plague spell is the best Skaven spell. I disagree with them. I also look at the need for probably 4 dice to cast it, it may be dispelled by a scroll, and with each additional die you run the huge chance of miscasts and no grey seer next turn. Cast it by all means the next to last turn of the game. I would be a bit cautious before that.