Monday, 18 July 2011

Return of the Rat

 When 8th edition came out I didn't want to believe the rumours that that all the tactical nuances had gone out of the game with pre-measuring, random charge distances, wheeling not counting towards charge movement.

I played a few games with my Skaven and a game with my Lizardmen. I lost all the games and became a bit disillusioned. When you start a new edition of a game, a new army or new game altogether you expect to lose most of your games to start with, put caused me to be so disillusioned was that my old tactics (with armies that I new well and had taken to many tournanents) just didn't work, mainly because I had underestimated some of the changes in 8th edition.

Like many others I gave up on Warhammer to concentrate on 40k and Warmachine. Storm of Magic has got me interested again, and whenever I went down my local GW or club I would always look in on the Warhammer games. Also talking to a mate I realised that I had to change the way I played.

So taking my Skaven army as an example here`s misconceptions I made, and how I think I should rectify them.

Horde Rule

Stupidily I wrote this off as being a nice gimmick that wouldn`t be cost effective. How wrong was I :) With the Step Up rule combat in 8th edition is all about damage output, gone are the days of killing the 5 guys in the front rank and winning big on static combat res, so an ability to get an extra attack per model in the front rank is golden and very important to wittle down units with lots of ranks fast, so they aren't stubbon and can be broken more easily.

Skaven don`t have the best infantry when it comes to doing damage, and they can't win as easily through static combat res, because (i) the combat resolution chart has changed (no +1 for outnumber, plus a +1 for chargers) and (ii) units doing so much more damage (whether it's infantry getting double attacks or monster impact hits). These factors have driven me to the decision that I need one ot two horde units (to compliment the abonination & doom wheel i'll be adding to the list).

From my experience so far I can see three units being useful as a horde unit; Storm Vermin have the best WS, I & hitting strength of the basic infantry. At 2.5 pts more than the cost of clanrats with shields they are expensive in skaven terms, but if you're going to build a unit that can do damage you might as well consider the most expensive.

50 models with full command cost 375 pts (good options for a magic banner woud be the common standard that gives flaming attacks, the war banner or the storm banner). Given my preference for quanity or quality with most armies I built it's a bit of a culture shock to even consider such a unit. The unit will start losing leadership after 11 casulties, but if the general is nearby it will need to suffer 21 casualties before it drops below leadership 9. Against another horder unit will deliver 31 WS4, I5, Str 4 attacks (and still do 70% of those attacks at a minimum width unit).

Next up for consideration is a Plague Monk unit. Again 50 models with full command is 375 pts, but this unit is crying out for the banner which allows all clan pestilence models in the unit to reroll to hit and to wound once a game. This bumps the unit cost up to 410, but on a key combat they woul churn out 41 WS3, I3, Str3 attacks (with the rerolling to hit and to wound leading to a sizable number of wounds). Another advantage of the plague monks that they allow plague censer bearers to gain their rank leadership bonus.

Last option is a Giant rat unit. By far the cheapest of the three options. However with the rats allowed to attack in an extra rank, and the pack masters being able to attack from the rear, they can put out a large number of attacks. A unit of 60 models (50 rats and 10 pack masters) would put out 50 WS3, I4, Str3 attacks against another horde unit. Being larger than the other 2 units they will keep their rank leadership bonus longer, and they are also the fastest unit of the three at Mv6. Lastly being only 230 pts they are significantly cheaper that the other two units, making them a good candidate for the second horde unit of an army.

All three units put out a decent number of attacks, and should do a decent number of wounds against most infantry units. Now none of these units would be able to stand toe to toe against any deathstar, so as Skaven players we have to use something else to even the battle.


The steadfast rule made my eyes light up when I first read it; you mean i can have stubbon ld10 slaves with a reroll (if my General & BSB are near) if I just have more ranks than the enemy.

While I increased the sized of my units, because I knew they would be taking more casualties I did not realise how much more they would be taking (especially with people using wider formations to generate more attacks).

In my earlier test games my slaves held up weak units for some time, but elite units and ones with lots of attacks sliced threw them like they weren't there. Slaves units for holding up enemy units need to be at least 40 strong, if not 50 or 60. Going from 40 to 60 models is only 40 pts, but if it means the enemy's most dangerous unit is tied up for a turn or two more it's well worth it.

Small Elite Units

Because in 7th edition you could kill the front rank of an enemy unit to enure no return attacks, small elite units could just attack the front of huge units and win. However with the step up rule they would take return hits, and this stopped this tactic for weak elite units. I good example in 7th edition was small units of 6 or 7 sword masters.

For my skaven I found this a problem for my plague censer bearers. I was used to throwing them into the front of units and slaughtering the front rank and many more, but now they would face return attacks and be whittled down very quickly.

Although they lost out in this respect they gained a few things, and require a change of role. First they can take a leadership test to avoid having to charge (combining this with them being allowed to use a nearby plague monk unit's rank leadership bonus, meant they could ld10 for this test. Secondly if they changed to a support role and aimed to attack the flank of enemy units already engaged if would mean they suffered less attacks (only those in base to base rather than 2 or 3 ranks of attacks if they attacked a unit on it's own).

Although they would require a change in tactics plague censer bearers are one of those rare skaven units that can do damage to the enemy, rather than killing a small amount and then running away.

Overall Impression on How Skaven Play Now

Skaven remain the combined forces army. They can kill medium skilled enemy units with our horde units, and to take on tougher enemies we can use magic and shooting to weaken them first, and then use efficient characters and monsters to even the battle against enemy deathstars. Lastly we can still use (now very deep) units of slaves to tie the enemy up for a while, allowing 90% of our army to focus on 60% of the enemy's army while their deathstars free themselves from a few slave units we threw at them.

So what's your experience of 8th edition ? How has the flow of the game changes ? How often to you see horde units on the battlefield ? How did your army adapt to the changes of 8th edition, and are those changes working for you ?

As well as more Dark Eldar posts, I'll be continuing with my thoughts on Skaven in 8th edition, as I try to move them towards how I think they need to work. Next I'll be considering the merits or diametrically opposed Warlord builds.


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