New Battletome Skaven | Warhammer Age of Sigmar Review
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Arriving through a Gnawhole and into Sprues & Brews HQ (many thanks to Games Workshop for sending this through!) is the latest Battletome for the Skaven. This is a special review for me, as not only do I love the Skaven, but also this is my first Warhammer Age of Sigmar Battletome review since the new edition was launched!
Below you will find a write up of this book, where I shall be covering some of the key parts of the Battletome, finishing off with a summary. I’ve also run-through the book on camera, which can be found in the video embedded below:
Without further ado, lets delve into this Battletome and see what sneaky shenanigans are within.
Clocking in at 120 pages, this Battletome is 8 pages smaller than it’s predecessor. From reading the book cover to cover, it doesn’t feel like anything has been missed out.
The cover is identical to that seen on the last book, which to me is such a shame. A nice bit of artwork granted, but I’m not sure why GW are re-using covers, they’ve never done this for 40k Codexes but seem to be doing it for some Age of Sigmar ones (see today’s other review, Battletome Sylvaneth as another example).
With that said, the presentation within the hardback book are right up there with the standard we have come to expect. It’s a brilliant presented tome filled with artwork and studio images of the army, mainly old but some new.
As with all my reviews, I don’t tend to reveal much in this part, as I believe you’ll want to read this for yourself. However, I will say the content is enjoyable for both newcomers to the faction and those who have been collecting Skaven since the World That Was.
The lore takes you up to what the Skaven are up to in the Mortal Realms currently, whilst also breaking down all your unit options and explaining what a Gnawhole is. If you’ve never read anything Skaven before you’ll really feel pumped to start painting those rats once you’ve read all the lore.
Before we get to the really juicy contents of the book I wanted to quickly run through some of the other bits of content in here outside of rules and warscrolls.
Returning from the previous book is a great painting guide, which helps you paint your Skaven, as well as banners, Warpstone and various armour seen dotted throughout the army. Disappointingly however, aside from ‘How to Paint Blue Armour‘ the rest of the guides are a carbon copy from the old book.
The included battleplan, ‘Tides of Vermin‘, looks really fun to play, and I really want to convince one of the other team members to play this out with me. It includes a special rule where your opponent has to spend additional CP to use the basic command abilities such as Redeploy. The Skaven army in this battleplan start off the board and appear through your placed Gnawholes. Looks fun!
Although now not legal for Matched Play, we do have a number of Warscroll Battalions in here. They appear to be very similar to the ones from the last Battletome, and all have the same name.
Matched Play Rules
As with all the Battletomes since the turn of the new edition, we have a copy of pages dedicated to play the Skaven in Matched Play.
The book, at first glance, has 5 Grand Strategies, but these are basically the same with a different focus on the primary clan you are playing.
To explain further, I’ll take the first one as an example
Shapers of the Beast-flesh – When the battle ends, you complete this Grand Strategy if their are 3 or more friendly Masterclan or Clans Moulder Heroes from your starting army alive on the battlefield.
The other four Grand Strategies, whilst having different names, are the same. You just swap out the specific clan for a different one. Masterclan however stays within the strategy.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found that Skaven Heroes are not the most resilent, so this could be a difficult Grand Strategy to complete.
In addition, we have 4 unique Skaven Battle Tactics to choose from, as well as the ones from whatever Battlepack you are playing. Again however, each of these focuses on a Clan, so depending on your army-build some may be completely unobtainable. I’ve picked out two as an example:
- Deathmark – Pick 1 enemy hero on the battlefield, but that hero must have 10 or more Wounds and mustn’t have any already taken on it. Complete the tactic if a Clans Eshin unit kills it. You won’t be able to rely on a Deathmaster to do this, so your best bringing some of his mates from the Clan as well.
- Fire-Fire! More-More! – Pick 1 enemy Monster on the battlefield. Score the battle tactic by taking it down with Missile Weapons used by Clan Skyre units. Again, could be a challenging one depending on your list building, but their are a few Skyre units that could punish a Monster. Pray for those low rolls with your Warp Lightning Cannons!
I’d have liked at least one of the Battle Tactics to be obtainable without relying on a certain clan, but sadly we don’t.
Path to Glory
One of the most exciting elements for me, and the rest of the team, has been the new focus on Narrative Gameplay for both Age of Sigmar and 40k.
If I’m honest, the Crusade content within 40k Codexes has been better than the Path to Glory content I’ve seen so far within Battletomes for AoS, however they are improving. The recent Thondia supplement massively boasted your options for Path to Glory.
I like the Skaven content for PtG within this book. Whilst it may not content much in the way of gameplay mechanics, it all feels very rat-like.
Kicking off the section it talks about Masterplans. Before each battle you choose one from a list of 6. By completing it during the game you can skip the part of PtG where you have to roll for injuries and casualties, such is the number of replacement rats the Great Horned Rat can send your way.
Like other books, you have content in here to upgrade your units and have quests you can send them on to earn experience. You also have unique Territories you can capture, including the Gnawhole Nexus and a Warpstone Quarry, each giving you unique bonuses to your army.
Finally their are Heroic Upgrades. Though few in number, this includes levelling up a Grey Seer so that he can earn a Screaming Bell to ride one (which is something I was hoping for when my Skaven set out on a Path to Glory!).
Skaven Battle Traits
Now we are getting to the really juicy bits of content within this book, the Battle Traits.
The three major traits that span the whole army have previously been revealed on Warhammer Community.
That isn’t all however, as we also have traits depending on what Clan heroes you have within your army. Some of these come with an added ability should you field 3 or more heroes from the same Clan (again, some of these have been revealed on WarCom). Worth noting that some characters (which we’ll come to later) count as two, making it a little easier to get the extra effect depending on your list building.
For Clans Moulder, this section has the return of the Prized Creation rule, which was introduced in the Broken Realms: Kragnos book. This allows you to gain an additional ability on your Hell Pit Abomination, such as increasing the Wounds characteristic and Save to increasing it’s movement or re-rolling the dice for the ‘Too Horrible to Die‘ ability. If your running 3 or more Master Moulders you can give each of your Hell Pits one of these instead of just your first one, although you cannot take multiples of the same ability.
Warpstone Sparks are back for Clans Skyre, and is identical to how it worked previously, aside from in the combat phase, should you use a spark, you add 1 to hit and wound rolls for your Skyre hero, instead of full re-rolls.
The Great Plagues for Clans Pestilens is almost identical, aside from a few subtle buffs. The Bubonic Blightplague for example, deals 2D6 mortal wounds to the first unit infected rather than D6 and The Neverplague deals a mortal wound on a 4+ rather than a 5+. Also importantly, you can gain bonuses to chanting when close to other Plague Priests.
I still like that you gain these traits just for having a Clan keyworded model within your army, meaning your not being punished for running a mixed Skaven army.
Thanks to the Skaven having access to so many different Clan heroes, we have two pages full of Command Traits. Each Clan has access to 1 of 3 traits. Some of these are very good, with very few meh ones.
I’ve taken one from each Clan as example below:
- Diabolical Schemer – Masterclan – Each time your opponent uses a command ability within 13″ of your general, on a 5+ the command point is spent by your opponent, but the ability fails, and you gain one. Unreliable, yes, fun if it works, hell yes!
- Hordemaster – Clans Moulder – A once per battle ability to summon a replacement Pack unit when one dies on a 3+
- Incrediable Agility – Clans Eshin – Your general can fly, and can also pull off two ‘Finest Hours’ heroic actions per battle instead of one.
- Savage Overlord – Clans Verminus – If a friendly Skaven unit fails a Battleshock test within 3″ of the general, you can inflict D3 mortal wounds on the unit to make them stay in the fight. This could be a good pick now, as Battleshock is much more of a worry for the Skaven now as all ignore Battleshock abilities have been removed (although the Warpseer can make your rats Bravery 10 within 13″ of him)
- Deranged Inventor – Clans Skyre – Choose 1 Clans Skyre unit within 13″ of your general. Boom, they are now +1 to hit with missile weapons until the end of the phase.
- Ridden with Poxes – Clans Pestilens – At the end of the combat phase, each enemy unit within 3″ takes D3 mortal wounds on a roll of a 4+.
Again, just like the Command Traits, we have another two pages of options. 3 artefacts to choose from for each Clan.
Some difficult decisions to be made here, as quite a few of these are fun. Some we have seen before, either identical or tweaked, which is starting to become a trend of this book:
- Skavenbrew – Masterclan – Once per turn you can deal D3 mortal wounds to a unit within 3″. That unit now gains +1 Attack, of which, combined with the Strength in Numbers and Veteran abilities from the new Generals Handbook makes a lowly unit of Clanrats terrifying. The Clawlord also has a Command Ability to dish out ANOTHER attack too!
- Rabid Crown – Clans Moulder – Add 1 to hits rolls for all Fighting Beasts and Pack units within 13″ of the bearer. Very strong!
- Farskitter Cloak – Clans Eshin – A once per battle teleport in essence during your game. Happens at the end of your movement phase. Assassinate a character, then in your next turn teleport to take out the next victim. (Also have to mention the Gnawbomb is back, allowing you to transfer a piece of terrain into a Gnawhole for a turn!)
- Warpstone Charm – Clan Verminus – This is very Skaven. You subtract 1 from saves on enemy units within 3″, but, at the start of each of your hero phases you roll a D6. Should you be unlucky enough to roll a 1 your hero takes D3 mortal wounds.
- The Brass Orb – Clans Skyre – The ultimate, all in one basket, once per battle, relic of doom. It’s back, but has been toned down a little. You pick an enemy unit within 6″ of the bearer and on a 3+ you remove that unit from the battlefield. At the end of the turn, your opponent brings the unit back, but must be within their own territory and outside of 9″ of your models.
- Blade of Corruption – Clans Pestilens – This is bonkers, and reminds me of the old Sword of Judgement. Pick one of the melee weapons on the bearer. Any unmodified 6s to wound increase the rend of that weapon to -3 and goes to Damage 6 on the attack. Give that to the buffed Verminlord Corrupter (more on him later) and you could be ruining your opponents day.
Spell Lores/ Prayer Scriptures
The number of spells available have been toned down since the last book, which is a theme with these new Battletomes.
The two spell lores, Lore of Ruin (for your Grey Seers) and Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism (for Clans Skyre Wizards) are back, but with just 3 spells available for each lore.
Luckily, in my opinion, the best 3 of each lore are back.
Skitterleap (teleport on a cast of a 7), Death Frenzy and Scorch are all here, as well as More-More-More Warp Power (adding 1 to hit and wound rolls on a Clans Skyre unit), Chain Warp Lightning and Warp Lightning Shield are also back.
Like the spell lores, Prayers are down to a choice of three also.
Rabid-rabid! is a personal pick, being chanted on a 3+, gives a Pestilens unit an extra attack until your next hero phase. Those Plague Monks love another attack!
Before we get to the Warscrolls, it’s important to look at the Battleline options for the Skaven in the new book.
My biggest bugbear from the old Battletome was that, to take any of the specialist units as Battleline you had to go all in on one Clan (although you could always take 1 Masterclan model regardless of army build). This meant you had to have units of Clanrats and Stormvermin to fill your Battleline requirements should you wish to run a mixed Skaven list.
Now, for every 1 hero from a Clan, you can unlock a certain unit from that Clan as Battleline. This means almost every unit type in the book could, with the right heroes, be Battleline (sorry Giant Rats and Weapon Teams, your exempt from this).
Example, you take a Grey Seer, a Warlock Bombardier and a Plague Priest as your heros.
Because you have a Clans Skyre hero (the Warlock) you can choose to take a unit of Stormfiends or Acolytes as Battleline. Equally, because you also have a Pestilens hero (the Plague Priest) you could also take a unit of Plague Monks or Censor Bearers as Battleline too.
This is so so so good for fans (like me) of running mixed Skaven lists. Think of the army building potential now!
Now to the section where most of you have been chomping at the bit to get to, the Warscrolls.
I’ve seen some pretty good buffs to units in other new edition Battletomes, so my expectations were high for the Skaven book.
After scrolling through the different warscrolls and comparing them to the warscrolls from the last book, their are no massive changes, and in a lot of cases, no changes at all. The changes are very subtle, a better hit characteristic here, an better wound characteristic there.
Not an awful lot jumped out at me as changed, but that’s not to say we haven’t had some buffs.
Please find below a sample of the units which have changed in this tome:
- Verminlord Corruptor – Perhaps one of the most buffed units in the book. He (as well as his Verminlord mates) have 13 wounds now. The Corruptor’s Plaguereapers have changed from 10 attacks, no rend, D3 damage to 2D6 attacks, -2 rend amd flat 2 damage. He also now does 1 mortal wound in addition to any inflicted damage, should you roll a 6 t hit. He can also use his own command ability of home make his.
- Warlock Bombardier – You get D3 attacks with his Doom Rocket now, but only does flat 3 rather than D6. If you overload the rocket launcher you get D6 shots, but any 1s to hit inflict D3 mortal wounds on yourself instead.
- Plagueclaw – No need for line of sight! Easier to hit larger units. Also causes the enemy unit to add 2 to the battleshock test.
- Plague Monks – Can no longer re-roll hits with Foetid Blades. Instead hits of 6 are resolved at -2 rend. Contagion Banner is still here, but the icon of Pestilence has gone.
- Packmasters – The Crack the Whip ability now adds 3 to run and charge rolls to the selected Clan Moulder unit. In addition you are adding 1 to wound rolls.
- Gnawhole – No longer needs a Hero next to it to move a unit through.
- Ratling Guns – Now get 2D6 + 3 Attacks! More-more! Warplead now allows you to overload the ratling gun for a massive 2D6 + 3 shots! Any doubles destroys the unit after the attack finishes. Has the Hidden Weapon Team rule baked into the Warscroll (originally seen in Broken Realms Kragnos).
If I haven’t mentioned the Warscroll you were looking for, then make sure you check out the video to accompany this review, as every Warscroll is shown. Also don’t forget we discuss the new Grey Seer on Screaming Bell, Deathmaster, Clanrats and Stormvermin warscrolls in our Echoes of Doom review.
Let us not beat around the bush here, this book does not hark a massive step up from the previous book. This to me feels like a refreshed Battletome, rather than a re-write and buff.
The Nighthaunt have recently had buffs a plenty in their new tome. The Skaven, whilst more inline with the new edition and have had a sprinkling of buffs and the odd new rule here and there, don’t feel like they’ll be making the same impact as the Ghost boys have.
I am no competitive player however, so perhaps I am wrong and maybe I am not seeing the full potential of the subtle buffs. I honestly hope that statement is correct.
I do really like the changes they have made however. Many units are more reliable now, with better to hit and wound characteristics and less random damage, in particular on the Verminlords. The Strength in Numbers rule I feel, will have the biggest impact on those who play Skaven, allowing your hordes of rats to pile in and kill whatever they are in combat with.
The fun, random nature of the Skaven is still strong though. We have various abilities which can back fire and cause mortal wounds to ourselves, however in many cases this is a little less likely to happen.
If Strength in Numbers is the biggest and most important change in this book IMHO, then I have to select the Battleline options as the second. This really blows open army-building for the Skaven, and I know for a fact I won’t be the only one positively gleaming at this change.
Skaven players must however, be warry of the lack of Battleshock ignoring or buffing abilities. In one hand GW have buffed hordes, but in another it makes (me at least) nervous about the effects of Battleshock.
A lack of major sweeping changes is exceeded for me by the fact that Skaven still seem a fun army to play. I’m looking forward to reading other reviews to see how good the book is competitively speaking, but from a fun and casual point of view, I feel the rat-men can hold their own in a friendly match-up, at the very least.
The best way I can summarise this book is nothing here jumps out at you as being brand new, or exciting compared to the previous Battletome. But, this book does have tweaks and buffs, with very little nerfs, and retains being a fun army to run.
Our thanks again to Games Workshop for sending us a copy of Battletome Skaven to review. Don’t forget to preorder your copy from Element Games.