The Hordes of Skavenblight Theories on Skaven tactics For the 6th eddition and beyond
By Evert Keller
Dark greetings ratkin, a new rules book is upon us, new units galore, and tweaked stats such as the warhammer world has never trembled in the presence of before. Skaven have entered a new age of prosperity, expect much success in coming years.
Let me lay it down to you as I see it, as we are all in need of new sound tactics in this forbidding lonesome new place. The advice I give here is preliminary, the initial observations of a wise and craft old rat who has seen allot and survived the unthinkable, as I play more, this advice will metamorphose and grow into a rotting and vile tome of indispensable wisdom for all aspiring Skaven Warlords and Seers.
I think its very clear that the writer of this book loves the Skaven allot. I'm not accusing him of anything deliberate, but the book is as balanced as you can expect it to be after being written by a hard-core Skaven fan. Points across the board are dropped, and there are loads of new units and options. Skaven have entered a new dimension, and it shall be most terrifying to the un-furred races of the Old World.
Before I start with tactics, I know that a lot of the stuff I talk about in this article is very expensive in terms of cash. I also realize that some of you are just starting out, and don't have a lot of money to spend. That being said, e-mail me, or IM me on AOL or MSN, and I will be happy to help you work out tactics with what you have, or can easily aquifer. I've been there, with no money and intimidating opponents to conquer, so I want to help you if I can.
All that being said, I guess the first thing to address as far as tactics are concerned for the Skaven would be basic army construction. So let us begin her with ....
Chapter 1: Carthage, the Zulus, and the Skaven
The problem with trying to build a tactically sound army for Warhammer with historical force composition is that obviously in the entirety of human history there has never been a real wizard, dragon, or even a Skaven for that matter.
However, I assume that most of you will be ok accepting tactics used by strong infantry armies of humanity as a starting place for the skaven tacticum.
Two armies have historical experiences that are of great value to Skaven Generals. The Carthaginians, or the Armies of Phoenicia in general (though Hannibal was very fond of infantry and great beasts, and spurned cavalry for the most part), and the Zulus, a massive horde of javelin armed nutters that expelled the modern gunpowder army of the British empire from south Africa with sheer persistence.
Certainly I don't mean to make light of the Zulu force. It is quite an accomplishment for an army with no technology or horses to hand crushing defeats to what was the greatest military power in the world at the time, and really it is with the Zulus that my Skaven army construction begins.
The Zulus as well as the Carthaginians employed massive lines of infantry divided into 3 distinct sections. The Zulu line was called the "goring bull" partialy because the Zulu's worshiped bulls, but aslo because the lines sections could easily be equated to a bull's head. They had a strong center, a large unit, that would come out at the foe with full force, as quickly as possible, and then the two sides of the army, the flanks, were the horns, sweeping around to encircle the enemy. Hannibal employed the same tactic with devistating effects. Both worked particularly well against their foes because the Romans and the British created islands of force in a battle. The Roamn turtle was easy to surround, as well as a British Jungle fort.
How does this apply to Skaven? The lesson here for skaven is a skeleton army. 3 Units of Clanrats… in a pinch Stormvermin, or, erk…, Slaves could be substituted. A strong center unit, 30-50 strong, larger will usually serve you better than smaller, but don't be afraid to experiment of clan rats with spears. Give them spears; make them a force to reckon with if charged. This Unit should be viewed as a nerve center, the Skaven Brain. Though it also can be used as a crushing weapon in hand to hand combat. Then, like all-powerful rats, your army should grow horns. Two flanking units, I suggest Clanrats, but Stormvermin, or in dire circumstances Slaves can take the positions. These units' purpose is to maintain regional dominance on the battlefield, defending flanks, attacking flanks, and ushering wizards into range to destroy things. I suggest the simple light armor and shield equipment for these forces. Flanks will need more armor all around, as they will be fighting cavalry on the defense and assaulting weaker units, and the +1 to armor will be a great benefit.
Creative uses for slaves are the next vital lesson the Zulus teach the Skaven. In fights with the British, braves from the tribe were sent ahead of the main assault force. The British would waste bullets shooting at these light sparsely packed and fast movie units. Of course if the British came from behind their defenses to pursue the Braves into the woods, it would be their doom. In its purest form this is why we have slaves. Once we have our Horned Rat Skeleton of an army, we should flesh it out with an equal number of slaves. Slaves will block a lot of missile fire from hitting your clan rats, and also they can wear units down a little so that your clan rats will have an easier time defeating them. The most ingenious of rat masters will use slaves as bait. Charge them into a unit of cavalry, or other elite troops, and they will loose, and flee. The Opportunity of destroy a 40+ unit of slaves will more than likely tempt them into pursuing. When they do, have a unit of Clanrats safely about 10-15 inches behind the slaves. When the slaves are destroyed, the elite foes will just be standing there picking their noses, this is when you lash your tail, and bear your fangs, this is your moment to shine.
Don't forget though that giant rats, and rat swarms can offer the same distinct advantages. Giant rats offer greater mobility and (as long as the pack masters survive) better leadership. Rat swarms are good shields. They can d what slaves do, and will not allow the enemy to over run (unless the enemy is insanely strong enough to wipe out 75 wounds in a single turn) and with plague rats they may even be able to hurt things!
Ok, you're all saying to me, "Yeah, Yeah, jumbo, jumbo to Shaka and Hannibal… but slaves and Clanrats are BORING! Where are the cool units egg head?!?!"
So the next place to turn is to the special units… Chapter 2: The Egg Nog Stuff
Before I start to explain anything to you about special units, I feel I should explain my philosophy behind so many skaven special units. I call it the mitt, because so many units in the skaven are answers to units in other armies. Other armies have Heavy Cavalry, skaven have Jezzails, fast cav. charges at skaven, and night runners are there to answer them, and war machines threaten to polvorize your proud ranks, while gutter runners sneak up and slit their throats.
The idea of the Skaven units answering the units of other armies is very very exciting. Essentially if you play right, you will dismantle your opponents forces by counter measures. The enemy taken apart is defenseless against what we all know as the mass slaughter units (plague monks, plague censers, Stormvermin, or even frenzied Clanrats!).
Jezzails are certainly the skaven version of heavy cavalry. Hitting with a strength 6, and armor penetration and at a great range they will destroy units of heavily armored cavalry with little effort. If there is no heavy cavalry, or should it suddenly vanish after the first round of shooting, turn they can offer great cover fire for your advancing units. However, the first choice of targets for Jezzails should be Heavy cavalry and large monsters. That's why the skaven have these things, so do not think of using them for other purposes at first. That being said, they are useful against any army, and I suggest bringing them all the time.
Night runners are one of the most wonderful additions to the Skaven list. In the past, Jezzails could only hold down so much of the board against horses. Reavers, Pistolers, and other nasty things would usually tear your flanks up. However, night runners are the perfect protection against this. Their good movement will make sure they are always in range to stand and shoot against a charge, and their slings ensure that you will get loads of shots for the number of models. Fast cavalry's weak armor save will compound this problem for your opponent. Furthermore, you may be able to charge them! Which would be great, since nothings weaker than fast cav. when it gets charged.
Gutter runners are the best shot at silencing cannonade before it becomes a major problem for your units. However, let us not forget the skaven anti-artillery, the screaming bell. With a few lucky rolls, or a some persistence, al the cannons, mortars, bolt throwers, and catapults on the field will be destroyed in one mighty BOOOOONG!!! Its happened to me enough times to justify me bringing one against the Empire every time. However, Gutter Runners are good too, and can also help to combat fast cav. as the are usually monsters compared to the stats of light hitters, and can usually gut skirmishers too. Poisoned attacks make the a threat to really just about anything… However, its important to set objectives for each of your units and stick to them, don't let them just run wily nily... this will make big holes and get you flank charged most of the time. Rat Ogres are a good way to lock up heavy cavalry that makes it past the Jezzails, and also a good way to nock out skirmishers. They are small, tough, maneuverable units that hit very; very hard… they are really good, except that they can't wear any armor… Que sera… They are cool, but don't throw yourself out trying to bring them all the time. They aren't worth it in every instance, and can cave in easily if things go wrong.
Obviously, this is a section of my stratagem that will develop further as time progresses. Also I encourage any and all of you to explore other variations on my mitt philosophy. Please send any thoughts you have me via e-mail.
Outside of this, all the other units at the disposal of the skaven, minus the warp lightning cannon are simply there to slaughter your opponents. Warpfire throwers, rattling guns, plague monks, plague censers, Stormvermin, and wizards are mere additions to your killing power. The basis of mighty skaven must be rested in the more numerous units if you are to insure success. Why do I say not to rely on these things? Because the enemy fears them. They fear them and they will take them out at all costs. In fact… all skaven special units will fall prey to this. If it's not a slave or a Clanrat, it will be magiced and shot at without abandon. SO most of the time, you must be prepared to take the enemy out with only your weakest units. It can be done easily, but you must stay calm and collected about it. Just because all your units are prone to panic, that doesn't mean you should be also. In a pinch taking you time and keeping cool will save your butt, nothing is ever totally lost, until the last rat falls.
Chapter 3: Things to Avoid
Some of you out there seem to think that it is cool, tactically sound, or totally wicked bad to choose armies themed around one of the big three clans. Allow me to dispel this myth… THEMED ARMIES ARE A BAD IDEA. The Skaven army needs selection to win. There are too many variables to account for to limit yourself that severely. An army that is mostly night runners is going to cave in very quickly with no war machine support, and an all war machine army will cave just as quickly with no flank protection. Clan Moulder won't hold its own either, trust me on this one. I think that it is way more fun to make up your own clan anyway. That way you can incorporate everything you do into the history of the clan and not have to worry about how it intersects with the GW fluff.
Besides, who are you to have the audacity to assume you can play the role of Clan Moulder? One of the greatest military forces in the Old World.
Most importantly though, whenever you move a unit, try as hard as you can to not leave the flank exposed. Your only defensive obligation as a skaven player is to guard against this. Take the time to estimate charge arches, observe lines of sight, and just try to keep your units flanks reasonably safe. A flank charge will quickly melt your forces quickly, and it is the only major threat to your army. Protect against these, form your horned rat army core, and employ the force/counterforce strategy I call the mitt, and success will be yours overtime.
This will conclude Lord Skab's tactical advice for Skaven for now. As I have said many times already, there will be more in time. Also, I realize that a lot of the stuff I talk about in this article is very expensive for younger players who are just starting out and have no money. If you are short on cash, and need some advice on how to steer what you have into a winning force, give me an e-mail, or IM me on AOL or MSN. I will try to help you out all I can. Also if you have any advice you want to add to thee tactics page, please feel free to e-mail them to me.
We shall inherit!!!