Warcry – Skaven


Today, we’re going to take a look at the Skaven faction in Warcry. 

This is a very interesting faction, although technically part of the overall Chaos faction, Skaven are definitely something all of their own. Games Workshop has a long history of in jokes and being somewhat derivative, but Skaven honestly seem to be something brand new. There are obviously elements within the Skaven that show clear influences, like the rat and disease association of the black death or the ninja of Japanese folklore. But unlike say the classic Elves or Dwarves which are mostly just Tolkien or nordic mythology, the Skaven are pretty unique.

The Skaven first appeared in 1986, initially this was just for Blood Bowl with the Skaven Scramblers, but they soon also got a write up in the Citadel Journal by Jes Goodwin. 

In there, they are described as Chaos Ratmen and it’s suggested they originated with Rats who had lived in the ruins of Old Slann temples and had fed on the Warpstone there.  It’s actually remarkable how detailed this write up is with lots of the key elements of the faction as it exists today already fully developed. 

We have the clans, the Horned Rat, the Council of Thirteen, Grey Seers, and the classic glyphs.  Their addiction to warp stone, poisoned orbs, plague censers, and fire throwers are all detailed. It even mentioned how warpstone is refined into powdery grey material, something that the grey seers have been known to snort.

We also get to see the initial Skaven models designed by Jes which have classic elements like the Grey Seers Gnawdoom in a Rams skull helm, Nightrunner Assassins in ninja pyjamas, Wyrde Banebreath holding up a page, and even a Flamethrower crew.

Although the Skaven are desperately in need of a range update, they still exist today. 

By the time the Age of Sigmar comes around, the Skaven have infested all of the realms, gnawing at the very essence of reality and creating their own sub-realm of Blight-City, a place I can only imagine to be a nightmare steampunk city. 

To quote from one of the Warcy books: “Every Skaven firmly believes in two essential truths; that they are the greatest being that has ever lived, and that everything else is a rival who wishes to overthrow them.” “All Skaven must constantly be on guard against their underlings, for though they are not brave, they are vicious opportunists and happily organise accidents for their rivals.”

If you get the chance, I highly recommend the Gotrek and Felix series and in particular the second book Skavenslayer which has some amazing dialogue from a Skaven leader, a Grey Seer called Thanquol, and it’s totally hilarious.

The Skaven are split into various clans, each with their own focus. The Rats of clan Eshin travelled to the East and learned the arts of the Assassin. Clan Pestilens travelled to Lustria and made deals with demons of Nurgle to carry plague. Clan Moulder are beast masters of renown, creating terrifying Rat Ogors. Clan Rictus are known for their elite jet-back Stormvermin. Clan Skyrye for it’s Warlock Engineers combining Warpstone and science into unholy creations. Last I have Clan Mors here who are one of the more powerful of the Warlord clans. There are lots of other clans, and the ascendance of each comes and goes. Eshin, PEstilens, Moulder, and Skyrye are the 4 core main ones though.

Alright, enough background, lets look at a some Numbers.

Here we have a quick plot of the numbers. So the top in green has the average damage versus toughness 4 per points and the bottom section has wounds per points. There are a total of 56 profiles coming up, but that includes the ranged and melee profiles separately, so for the Skaven there are 41 individual profiles.

For the damage we’re typically looking for the steps, the fighters who do the most damage for the cheapest points. Here we can see the Giant Rat is a decent contendor but we can also see it’s pretty low on wounds. The Plague Monk with Blades is another option. Further up we have the Warp Grinder which looks quite interesting and all the way at the top we have the Stormfiend with Flayer Gauntlets. The Rat Ogor is a much cheaper option and also is sitting very high for damage in his points bracket and does have reasonable health. So it looks like we have some interesting options.


There are two abilities that every Skaven has access to. The first is their reaction the Musk of Fear. If a fighter finishes a move visible to this fighter and within three inches, pick another friendly fighter within 3 inches of this fighter and give them a bonus move or disengage making sure they end the action more than 3 inches away from the fighter who made the move action. 

This ability can be quite frustrating to play against. If you move up to attack a target, but end up with 3 inches of another fighter with an action free your target can end up moving away. From an activation perspective, as the Skaven player you’re trading one action for another, but you’re also denying your opponent from attacking so you can see it as action negation. Unfortunately, you cannot chain two rats together, anytime a fighter takes an action the opponent can only make one reaction, so even if you have multiple rats ready you have to pick just one.

It is also possible to use this in an offensive manner. The move must be more than 3 inches from the enemy fighter that made the move action, but you can still move another Skaven faction model into melee with a different enemy. In this way you can aggressively trade an action on a weak model for a move on a strong model.

The second ability does require the Agile keyword, but almost every Skaven that runemark. Not everyone though, so keep an eye out. This double lets you disengage for free on a 2+. The disengage action isn’t the best, but it is a free action for a double which is ace. Combined, these two abilities really favour having reach or range abilities. So you can use the Musk of Fear and Scurry Away to constantly keep outside your opponent threat while still being able to hit back.


Our first and cheapest fighters to look at are the Clan Rats. These are move 6 which is nice and fast and you get to choose between slightly better damage with the blade or reach of 2 with the spear. Based on the earlier abilities I’m inclined to say go with the Spear. The damage is lower than we’d like. We’d hope for closer to 3 damage at around 75 points, although that is pretty greedy. Similarly, we’d hope for 9 wounds so the 8 is fine. In this case we’re trading the 3 damage for the extra speed at 6 along with the extra option for reach. Solid troop. Not super cheap, but solid.

Next along we have the Giant Rats. These flip what I just said about the Clan Rats. So now we get the damage we were hoping for but lose the wounds. They also gain the Beast runemark which for the most part is negative and means they can’t do carry treasure or open doors. 

Going up 5 points we get the Night Runners of Clan Eshin. These are the same as the Clan Rats with blades but one lower toughness and they gain a range 8 attack with their slings. With an average damage of 1 that’s not great, but it’s a nice option to have.

Moving up another 5 points to 80 we have the Plague Monks of Clan Pestilens. These are similar to the Clan Rats in that they have a melee and a reach option. For 10 points you’re losing a point of toughness and gaining damage. I’m a big fan of that Staff profile. You’re moving fast with 6 speed, staying at reach 2, and dishing out 3 damage on average.

The Plague Censer Bearers is a bit of an upgrade on that. We’ve jumped to 105 points which is considerable. The damage is slightly better than the staff and we get an extra ability as a triple. Poisonous Fumes targets every enemy within 3 inches and does damage equal to half the triple on a 3+. Triples are relatively hard to control and at most that’s going to be 3 damage which really isn’t great, and that will only apply on a 3+ so that brings it down to an average of 2. If you can get a lot of targets, happen to have a high triple, then it might be worth it, but I’d probably stick to the normal Plague Monks instead of upgrading.

Going back down to 80 and  95 we have the Stormvermin. These are super interesting. The Stormvermin are the elite Warriors of the Skaven, armed with the best armour that Skavenkind can provide. Both optIons have Halberds with the choice between Shield or not. Taking the shield give you 5 toughness which is great, but reduces damage a little. No shield means more stabbing upping the damage and increasing the points to 95. What’s really interesting about this fighter is it’s Double ability, Hired Bodyguard. Once you use it, heroes within 1 inch of the Stormvermin cannot be targeted. So if they want to kill your hero, they have to go through your Stormvermin instead. Id’ be tempted to go with the 80 points option as the 5 toughness will make them a little harder to kill. At 10 wounds they are about where you’d expect for a 75 point model, and 80 is not that far off.

Also at 80 we have Acolytes of Clan Skryre. Like the Night Runners these are another ranged unit and indeed their ranged attack is better than their melee attack. The 2 average damage isn’t a lot, but it’s pretty reasonable for this points range for ranged attacks, even if that’s just up to 5. The Quad is fun but I think we can ignore, the perk is a bonus attack but that might be more for our heroes instead of an acolyte. Generally ranged warbands haven’t been doing great, but it does work well with the core rat abilities. The Acolyte ranged attack is definitely better than the Night Runners ranged attack, so if you wanted to try out a ranged rat warband this could be the way to go.


Keeping that theme going, we have 3 different special Weapons that the Skaven can use. The Warpfire Thrower gets us a decent 3 damage for 105 points. If this was melee I’d be looking for 4 damage so 3 ranged damage is pretty decent.

The Warplock Jezzail is a sniper with an amazing 20 inch range for 150 points and still with that average of 3 damage. The Warp-Grinder is a different direction and goes back to melee range but with a fantastic 7.33 average damage for 150 points. All of these weapons have in common the same Quad as the Acolytes did, spend a quad and get an extra attack with a damage boost. Like with the Acolyte, this probably isn’t worth it although with the Warp-Grinder that bonus attack is going to get you a lot of damage.

Last in the experimental weapons category we have the Doom-Flayer, continuing the Skaven theme of hamster toys. For just under 200 points you get 7 speed, an average damage of 8.33 and 18 wounds. Honestly not too much better than the Warp Grinder for 150 points, but paying more will get you an extra toughness and more health, although the downside is you get the mounted trait. That said, getting a few of these on the table is going to look hilarious.

Next up we move into the big boys. Rat Ogors are where brawn is more important than brains. The basic is the Rat Ogor at 225 points with 10.6 average damage and the Brute and Beast runemarks. The Brute runemark gives them access to a Triple Crushing Charge, so the next time they move they can do fixed damage to whoever they end up beside. There are lots of variants of this charge like effect, it’s usually handy to have as an option but rarely used.

You can also take the Rat Ogor with a ranged option, a Warpfire Gun. This reduces the melee down to 8 and gives a 5 average damage range 15 attack which is pretty awesome.

It’s the Pack Masters that make the Rat Ogors great though. These 70 point models have stats similar to a night runner, but importantly have the Frenzied runemark which gives them access to the Double Crack the Whip. This lets them pick a visible Beast within 4 inches and give them a bonus attack action. You could use that with a Giant Rat, but you’re going to get a lot more damage out of that with a Rat Ogor. As this is only a double, you can get multiple uses out of it and it would often be the right call the use the wait action with your Pack Master for the first Double, so you can use a second Double later in the turn. 

And the Rat Ogor isn’t even their final form! While the basic Rat Ogor is an elegant balance of points and punching, the Stormfiends take it all up a notch doing some truly insane damage. Unfortunately, these do not have the Beast Runemark, so you don’t get to leverage them in the same way as you do the Rat Ogor. The Stormfiends with Ginderfists and the Stormfiend with Doomflayer Gauntlets are the most efficient damage per points for the Warband,  so they are just as terrifying as they look.

In case that wasn’t enough, they also come with Ranged options! All here still have 8 average damage in melee so they can get some work done up close. I think the Windlaunchers probably aren’t worth it, they’re only doing 2.67 damage with their range attack although that is an impressive 20 range. The Ratling Cannons are probably the most appealing with 5.33 ranged damage, but you’re still paying nearly 25% of your warband for that.

Alright, those are the minions who we will use to bring us to great glory, but we can take a total of three heroes for matched play. The Skaven heroes all have this Triple Ability, Lead from the back. If you’re looking at the PDF on Warhammer Community, you’ll see a slightly different version that the one on screen, that’s because it was toned down a little in the recent updates, but it’s still potent. Visible fighters within 6 inches of this hero will get +1 to melee attacks. Extra dice is always good. It’s best on high damage models who already have very few dice, so the average damage per dice is high. You also get to stack, so the bonus from this Triple will stack with the universal double Onslaught. Unfortunately, as it’s visible fighters, the hero will not boost their own attacks.

Looking at the heroes, we first have the classic Grey Seer, the Sorcerers of Skavenkind. Damage isn’t great for the points, but it is Reach and Ranged. You expect around 3 wounds per 25, so 18 wounds for 140 points is pretty good. The unique thing about this hero is the Double Ability, Consume Warpstone Token. It’s a bit of a weird one. You roll dice equal to the ability number, so 1 to 6, and for each 4+ you increase the hit and crit damage from the next range attack by this fighter. Best case we have 6 dice, 3 of those will be 4+ on average. That will increase hits by 3 and crits by 3. The attack is pretty low strength at 3, and only has two dice. Hits against T4 are going to be on 5s and crits of course on 6s. So we’ll be increasing average damage by 1.5 which I guess is something but really isn’t very exciting.

A more popular option is the Master Moulder. Clan Moulder specialises in it’s minions, an in particular the Rat Ogors. At 125 this is much cheaper than the Grey Seer. Two attack profiles for melee and reach both doing decent damage. Like the Pack Master, Master Moulder has Crack the Whip which is probably a key ability for Skaven Warbands. In addition, this hero also has the Double Flesh-mend which can be used to heal up one of the beasts. So that’s the Rat Ogors or the Giant Rats but unfortunately not the Stormfiends.

Next up we have the Warlocks, these are lesser magic users who supplement their dark arts with wild inventions and warpstone infused technology that is the signature of the Skaven. At the lowest tier we have the Engineers who have melee and ranged with relatively low damage. Then we have the Warlock Bombardier with increased ranged damage and an impressive 15 range. Alternatively, we have the Arch-Warlock who sticks to a reach weapon with an average damage of 5. Still a little low for the points. All of these have the double ability Warp Lightning which will do a single point of damage to a chain of fighters within 3 inches to each other. So that’s between 1 and 6 damage which doesn’t seem like a lot but there are no rolls involved, it’s just straight guaranteed damage that doesn’t care about toughness which is nice. They also have access to the Quad we were looking at earlier, it’s a nice option but not enough to take a Warlock for.

Plague Priests are the leaders of the Plague Monks, the Priest and Bringer profiles are both pretty similar, but for 20 points more you get 6 more wounds and reach of 2 which I think is a good deal. The triple is quite interesting, it sets up a roughly 7 inch diameter bubble in which your opponent cannot use abilities. That’s a great way to win a champion versus champion fight I think, although you might just be better off using your triple to power a big attack instead.

We have two Assassin options courtesy of Clan Eshin. We have the Nightleader at 125 points and the Deathmaster at 185 points. Both have a decent melee attack and a ranged attack with the Deathmaster doing more damage in each case. At 185 points, doing 6.67 is just under the 7 we’d be looking for at 175 points but looking for a damage every 25 points is a very optimistic ask so the Deathmaster is still doing some great damage.

The unique triple for the Assassins is Running Death which will give them a free move or disengage action as well as boosting damage crits by 1. That’s a nice bonus. Looking at the Deathmaster, we can Running Death him in with that move 7 and then get two attacks, normally that would be 6.6 damage on average per attack but the bonus brings it to 7.5. So a Deathmaster and a Triple is a 7 inch range of 15 damage! The numbers on the Nightleader aren’t as impressive, taking that 4 to 4.6 but it’s still pretty nice.

The Warlords are a little more barebones, focusing just on the numbers without an special runemarks to back them up. The cheapest is the Clawleader, then Fangleader, and finally Clawlord. I’m not sure why the Fangleader has lost the Agile runemark while the others haven’t. That’s the runemark that gives the Double scurry away bonus disengage action, occasionally Skaven don’t have it for whatever reason. These are all basically the same profile just scaled up based on points. We’d hope for 1 damage and 3 wounds per 25 points. In each case these are 25 points more than we’d hope for, but that baseline assumes movement 4 and these are movement 6.


The last hero we have in the list is not going to be easy to find, this is Spiteclaw from the old Underworlds Warband. Spiteclaw is essentially a Warlord of his own take, it’s cheap like the Clawleader but has 18 wounds like the Clawlord. The damage is lower than all the Warlords at 3.5 but does have reach which is nice. 

Spiteclaw does have a unique Triple ability called There Are Always More. This lets him return Skaven with the Spiteclaw Swarm and Minion runemarks back to play after they die, a pretty amazing ability. In addition to the limitations on the text, there are a few extra ones about them not being able to activate the turn they came in, a result of a recent FAQ. Still a fantastic ability. 

If you like what you’re seeing, I’d suggest running one of the Warlords as Skritch and some of the Clan Rats as the minions. Just make it clear, mark the base, make cards specifically for them. 

The remainder of the fighters in the warband can be taken as normal fighters even if you don’t take Skritch, although they are unique. All have the minion trait apart from Krrk who is a basically a Plague Monk with Staff for 5 points more, but getting 4 more wounds.


So we have the Festering Skaven, Hungering Skaven, and Lurking Skaven. All are melee fighters, so unfortunately no reach. The Festering Skaven is actually the same as a Plague Monk with blades, but the Festering Skaven gets 2 extra wounds. The Lurking Skaven is similar, but have a slightly better damage against toughness 3 targets as a nice bonus. That does come at a cost of 10 points though. The Hungering Skaven is more like a Clanrat with Rusty Blade, again you get 2 extra wounds but you’re also spending an extra 15.

The real bonus for these fighters though, is if they go down, they get back up again. So they’re worth it even though generic fighters are probably better than all but the Festering Skaven who is just crazy good.


There is one other Underworlds warband, a little more Eshin themed but unfortunately we never got rules for those.  Maybe we’ll see rules for them down the line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for them, unfortunately there’s no sales incentive for GW to release rules. One day we might get a new Tome of Champions if we’re lucky.

In the mean time, run them as Deathmasters, Night Leaders, and Night Runners.

Alright, lets talk about lists briefly.

I’m not going to give you a list, but I am going to talk about some list components that have worked pretty well for other people. You can probably connect the dots and make some lists based on that.

The first component is the Rat Ogor and someone to use the Crack the Whip double. So you get the Rat Ogor into melee, the keep pounding on the target with those bonus attacks. Simple and effective.

The next component is the Skritch and his minions. These are sacrificial rats than you can get back with a triple so you can be a little more aggressive with them keeping the rest of your warband at reach.

Another option that has had some success is to use Stormvermin to protect key heroes. In this case we have a Deathmaster and a body guard. So your enemy can’t attack your Deathmaster as long as your Stormvermin is beside them. This turns your killer Deathmaster into a toughness 5 fighter with 28 wound which will be tricky to get through. With the damage output they’re capable of, this pair should be running across the board killing all the enemy heroes.

The last option is numbers, which does after all have a quality all of it’s own. This is actually a one thousand point warband full of Plague Monks. The only fighters without reach are the Giant Rat and Bringer of the Word to allow for the leader and some points. I’m not sure whether this list is worth running, but 12 rats with almost all of them having reach of 2 should make for a fun game.

That said. The Skaven warbands have so much fun in them that it would be a real shame to just play a few of the more effective parts. Instead I highly recommend going wild and having fun with them as they’re a warband full of character and fun.

If you do collect a Skaven Warband, do see if you can track down a copy of the Tome of Champions 2021. This one player or two player campaign has aa warband fighting against Skaven in the sewers beneath the city of Excelsis in Ghur. The Skaven play on a basic AI with the first battle pushing them back from the city armory, the second battle has you tracking them back to the docksides, with the third battle having you find the sewer entrance they came through. The fourth and final battle has your warband going into the sewers with a massive battle where the Skaven get to benefit from the Endless Horde special rules which means they keep on respawning. To win, the warband must assassinate the Skaven Leader who turns up turn 3 and then somehow get out alive!

 I also think a Skaven only campaign where players fight out a Skaven civil war would be lots of fun. This is a fantastic faction that has tons of character. Fingers crossed we get an update down the line.

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