Since Warfare last November I’ve switched my AOS focus from Soulblight to Skaven, which were my main army in 2nd edition and the first models I bought once I’d decided to play the game rather than just paint. When their book came out in 2nd edition they became a top-tier army, but those glory days are long passed.
In fairness this was true towards the end of 2nd edition, but it is even more noticeable in 3rd – they are now far behind other armies, not quite in Gitz (sans Kargnos) territory, but not great. Partly there’s the randomness of Skaven war machines – but that’s a feature of the army not a bug. The main issues as I see them are many units being overcosted when compared to equivalents in other armies, plus their battleline conditions.
A cost reduction across the board would help – even to (relatively) big hitters like Thanquol. He’s good, a great 2-cast wizard with casting buffs, a nice spell, 5+ ward, healing, and who can obliterate hordes. But his command ability was built for 2nd edition, and a 4+ save hurts. At 405 points, he’s pricey – if I compare to Soulblight, factoring in both armies allegiance abilities, he compares to a monster hero like Neferata (2 casts, flying, great command ability, nice spell, 6+ ward, healing), who seems well-costed at 365 points (like everything in the Soulblight book except the Bloodseeker Palanquin).
Or, a very stark example, Stormvermin. They’re a battleline choice and a full block of 30 will set you back 330 points. For that, you get 61 attacks on 4+4+ -1 1 and a 5+ save. 30 of them are on 3+ hits 2+ wounds 4+ save, 20 on 3+ 3+, 10 on 4+ 3+, less than ten go back to a 5+ save. Get a clawlord for 105 points and you can give them 3 attacks each for the phase. Throw in a Verminlord Warbringer for 305 more and they can reroll 1s to hit and wound and pile in and attack when they die. Assume all this works averagely against a 4+ save unit. That’s 91 attacks, 60 hits, 50 wounds, 33-34 damage. Then same again if they all die. Total points cost: 750.
It’s a lot of damage output, and you can make the pile in and attack twice when they die with Death Frenzy from a Grey Seer, but only if they haven’t fought yet. But compare with 20 Grave Guard with Great Weapons. 2 attacks each on 3+ 4+, rend -1, 2 damage each, 6 to wounds does a mortal wound in addition. 41 attacks, 27-28 hits, 13-14 wounds plus 4-5 mortal wounds. Vs a 4+ save unit, total 22-26 damage. 280 points. They have a 5+ save which can be added to with All Out Defence etc, and a 6+ ward near heroes and Gravesites. For 700 points, we could take 2x 20 Grave Guard (560) and a Vampire Lord to give one unit an extra attach each (140), to give 55-58 damage, including 11-12 mortal wounds. None of that requires getting a spell off, but for 125 points more you could have a Necromance to get one of the units to pile in and attack again.
Stormvermin are an especially severe example. It’s true they’re faster than Grave Guard and get an extra 2″ when they run, but they can’t come out of a Gravesite anywhere on the board. The ability to retreat and charge is a strong bonus for the Stormvermin, but not enough to justify the points difference.
The other key issue Skaven faces is a little different. Battleline conditions are very restrictive for the non-Verminus units. Units like Rat Ogors (Clan Moulder), Gutter Runners (Eshin), and Acolytes (Skryre) can only count as Battleline if the general is from their clan or Masterclan AND all other units are from their clan. So if you want to mix clans, which is necessary for any reasonably viable strategy outside Stormfiend spam, you are burdened with having to take three units of 20 Clanrats (ok at 130 points) or 10 Stormvermin (awful unless you are facing minimum strength units of Grots, and even the the Netters’ll get ya). This is a problem because in order to be good, these units need their own clan-specific support heroes – Warlock Engineers for Skryre, Master Moulders or Packmasters for Moulder, and Clawlords for Verminus, limiting the points needed to get enough units on the table to take on armies with more recent books.
This was meant to be a wishlist rather than a complaint list – and to be clear I love playing Skaven, including when most of the army is razed off the table by Stormcast in turn one. So here are some hopes: more flexible battleline conditions, a reduction in cost for Stormvermin in particular but also very random units like the Warp Lightning Cannon, better survivability for Verminlords and the Screaming Bell once it gets stranded. Also, a way to bring back or summon Clanrats and Stormvermin, perhaps returning units via Gnawholes similar to Gitz, or a 4+ Rally like Beasts of Chaos. Doomwheels should be a bit scary. Finally, Jezzails should stay roughly as they are, powerful but fragile and reasonably costed rather than overpowered and oppressive like some other long range units. The new Eshin models for Underworlds make me hope for a new Skaven book and mods soon, so prayers to the Horned Rat that