Dark Age: Skarrd Force Book Review

Let’s take a look at what Samaria’s favorite degenerate mutant cannibals have been up to.

Dark Age: Skarrd is a weighty tome with nearly 240 thick high quality pages of content. While the rules for every Skarrd model are free to download, this book is the only place to find all the source material and background for the units you’ll be pushing around on the table. The book also includes a detailed history not just of the Skarrd faction, but of the larger Skarrd cults as well, including the new Cult of Decay. In addition to the wealth of source material there are also pages of full color illustration.

Narrative

Finally there is perhaps the most important part for many of us Dark Age fans: the continuing Samarian narrative where we learn what the major characters have been up to and how this particular faction fits into all of it. If this is the first you’ve heard of Dark Age or the Skarrd, you can do some catching up on their background on this old post. Probably best to ignore most of the sections about playstyle though. Everything in that department has changed quite a bit. Every model has received new rules to go along with the new book.

Let’s get back to that whole part about narrative. If you read the Dragyri and Forsaken books, you’ll know that the main human faction of Dark Age are finding themselves in a bit of trouble at the moment. They were nearly wiped out by a Shadow Caste led CORE attack on their capitol city. It was repelled with the help of the Dragyri. For maybe a couple days, things seemed ok. Then another few thousand Dragyri showed up outside the walls to choose their next leader through ritual trial by combat. Fortunately they left with a minimal loss of human life.

With that crisis seemingly ended, the Forsaken can turn to another one. Entire Northern villages are being butchered, and the Forsaken are sending their armies to stop it. Behind it of course are none other than the Skarrd. Like any good predator, they’re picking off the weak prey first. Father Johann has unified nearly all the tribes, with only Father Curwen of the Toxic Cult refusing to bow to his authority. Johann’s ultimate goal is to wipe out the Forsaken people so his own may take their place as the dominant human civilization on Samaria. The only silver lining for the Forsaken is that some of Johann’s lieutenants aren’t comfortable with genocide. After all, Johann’s original goal was to use grafting to improve Forsaken society.

While most of the plot revolves around the Skarrd, nearly every faction has some characters join in the narrative. A lot of the story revolves around the newly Canonized Saint Joan, and her lost (?) love Saint Isaac. Most Dark Age fans should know that Joan is half Skarrd. Her run-ins with her estranged “family” seem to be having a poor effect on her mental health. Several other Forsaken favorites show up as well, and we even get to meet one of the new Dragyri from the Earth Caste lost characters. Amabilia shows up too since it wouldn’t be a Dark Age story without the Arbiter of the Shadow Caste pulling some strings.

The Cult of Decay

The Cult of Decay are the latest power among the Skarrd. Their leader is Mother Blazon. Blazon’s notoriety originally stemmed from her being the first Tribal Mother. She is a female Skarrd who possesses psychogenic powers usually reserved for Tribal Fathers. Blazon is now disfigured after being nearly killed during the nuclear explosion at the end of the Fanaticism narrative. While she is technically still living, most of her followers are… considerably less so. A necrotic fungus now infests the tissue of the Skarrd that fell alongside her continuing to animate them. Blazon uses her powers to direct these otherwise mindless corpses.

Additionally the radiation absorbed by her fellow survivors has had interesting effects on their unique Skarrd physiology. This has given rise to new nightmares among the Cult of Decay’s ranks like the radioactive Fallouts and bloated Macbres. More disturbing is the fact that she has learned how to infect and animate new bodies. Now Blazon can expand her forces and create new abominations. Towering over the Cult of Decay’s rank and file are the Dishonors. These shambling Dragyri corpses are stolen from their hidden burial chambers and raised from death to fight the cult’s enemies. Most disturbing of all Blazon’s creations is the Marius project. Blazon was not content to allow Marius, former Prevailer Commander, to rest in peace. His body has been stitched to his former cherubs and the corpses of various beasts to form a horrifying new Skarrd weapon.

Skarrd Playstyle

Let’s move past the story and discuss how the Skarrd play. The faction received a rather massive rules overhaul as part of the new book. The most obvious change is that all Skarrd units all have a points cost in even increments of 25. The cheapest models are 25 points each with the most expensive weighing in at a respectable 200. This brings the faction into line with all the others. Except of course the Outcasts who are expected to see some big changes in February. This is not an Outcasts article though so let’s move on.

Skarrd Horde

If you don’t wish to ally yourself to any Skarrd Cult you can play a Skarrd Horde using only the basic Skarrd troops. These models can be taken with any Skarrd Cult as well. As always they have a good selection of heavy hitters like the Warheads, Abominations, and Raze. Skarrd can actually run the lowest model count army in any faction with multiple 200 point options. That’s not actually a great strategy though. You’ll want more bodies to run objectives. Fortunately you can bring swarms of Buzzblades. If you really want to be sure your models are where you need them to be try Harpies. These grafted ladies offer a huge amount of strategic importance as they can drop down anywhere on the battlefield.

A few new troop types give Skarrd access to more models in the mid-points range. The Fell Pack, Warblades, and Scourges give Skarrd players the option to field a more balanced force of models that are neither particularly pricey or dirt cheap. Additionally Skarrd have access to a few Bounty Hunters now which further expands their choices.

Then as always there are models like Tribal Fathers with their psychogenics. Most of these special abilities involve placing Panic counters on enemies or providing small buffs, although there is one direct damage Psychogenic. Like some other factions before them, the Skarrd Horde frequently utilize the Victimize/Sadistic mechanic. It works like this: some models place Panic Counters on enemy models. Other firiendly models (sometimes the same friendly models) get bonuses when attacking models with Panic Counters. While this mechanic is getting a little overused, it really fits the Skarrd and it’s fun to play.

The Horde are a bit lacking for choice in the shooting department. The new Warblades ranged attack is decent and there are still Bolas, but both of these models are stuck with RF1 on their weapons. The disciples of Raze have a good ranged attack, but they’re expensive and you can only take three of them. The Abomination also has a good ranged attack but it will cost you 200 points. The upside is that all Skarrd suffer only a -2 penalty for shooting into combat. The ones that do have guns can keep using them as their allies descend into the fray. This applies to all Skarrd – not just the Horde.

Toxic Cult

Toxic Cult are all about Toxic Counters. Most of their models have some way to place these counters on their enemies. These counters penalize their enemies in pretty severe ways. Combined with other debuffs like Father Curwen’s Virulent Fumes and the Panic Counters some Horde models can pass out, these debuffs can get pretty grievous. Be sure to keep in mind that none of your own models are immune to Toxic Counters, so watch out where they spew their filthy poisons.

While Toxic Counters are not unique to this Cult, these Skarrd can use the counters in unique ways. A Toxic Cult player may remove Toxic counters from enemy models to try to deal a little damage, boost the strength of a hit, or even heal a friendly model (if there are three or more counters to remove).

Let’s move on to some of the specialized Toxic Troops. Father Curwen can bring down swathes of enemy infantry with his Injector Scythe. He’s one of the few models in the game with an Arc attack with an unlimited RF. While he has no ranged attack he is a Psychogenic Invoker and can use Toxic Cult Psychogenics. Toxic Psychogenics include a little bit of ranged pain, but largely provide ways to spread more Toxin around. Other helpful models include the Caustic, who throws a grenade that can place Blind Counters on enemies reducing their AS stats to pitiful levels. Toxic Mistresses can also place these Blind Counters as part of a spray attack giving you even more options for spreading around these powerful debuffs. If the Toxic Cult are played right their opponents will find it nearly impossible to hit them.

Blood Cult

Like the other Skarrd, the Blood Cult love their counters. Blood Cult players receive a Blood Frenzy Counter whenever a model is eliminated. Three of these may be treaded in for a Luck Counter which the Skarrd Player may spend for a re-roll. Additionally Blood Cult Skarrd can use the Bleed Ability even on non-living models. Take that CORE!

Blood Cult models also have a unique game mechanic that works with Bleed Counters. Many models will gain Bloodlust Counters when they kill an enemy model with a Bleed Counter. They can remove these Bloodlust Counters instead of suffering wounds. This can make many of their seemingly fragile models deceptively resilient. Especially since nearly all Blood Cult Models have the Bleed ability on their weapons, or can get it through some means or another.

Because of their heavy use of Bleed Counters, many of the Blood Cult have low PW. The two notable exceptions are their Blood Abominations and the leader of the Blood Cult, Father Curwen. Curwen gets a brutal one RF Disembowel attack that hits at a whopping PW 10 with Extreme Damage. The rest of his attacks aren’t as impressive but still strong enough to be dangerous. Like all the Fathers, Curwen is a Psychogenic Master. Blood Cult Psychogenics, as you might expect, involve Bleed Counters. They allow you to do things like place more of them, or make them more deadly. One of them will even make a model shower nearby models with more Bleed Counters.

Cult of Metamorphosis

Father Johann’s own Cult, Metamorphosis, like to play with Disruption Counters. Many of their models place these counters as part of their attacks. Most Metamorphosis Psychogenics also place these counters. The counters give models a -2 to their MAL stat making their weapons more likely to explode in their faces. Unlike many counters you may stack these. Additionally, many Cult of Metamorphosis models possess the Ghost in the Machine passive ability which will inflict another -1 Mal on nearby enemies. This is also cumulative, drastically increasing the odd’s that metamorphosis’ enemies will see their weapons explode in their faces. To really rub salt in the wound, all faction models have the Mechanical Rush ability. If a model within 8″ Malfunctions, a friendly Metamorphosis model can make a PS check. If the pass they gain an Energize counter which they can spend to gain an additional AP.

Whereas most Skarrd Cults have one oversized model unique to themselves, Metamorphosis has two. Metamorphosis players may take both a Juggernaut and an even more hideous Nightmare Juggernaut. This Cult can also field more models with Superior Maintenance than any other faction. Totally appropriate for the followers of the father of grafting.

Cult of Decay

The newest Cult also has a counter they like to play with. Decay is all about Rot counters. These stackable counters each inflict a -2 penalty to a model’s AR stat, and nearly every Decay model has a melee attack that will place one. Like the Toxic Cult, Cult of Decay models may remove Rot counters from enemy models to use special abilities. One of these abilities is to allow Decay models to heal themselves, making already tough models like Dishonours or Macabres even more frightening. You can also remove a Rot Counter to inflict a PW 3 hit on an enemy model. While this PW is very low, the ability is very useful against high DEF low ARM models. Decay has many ways to put Rot counters on models without having to roll to hit. Yovanka be warned.

Additionally, whenever a Cult of Decay Model activates it may, at no cost whatsoever, remove a Dying Counter from a model within 6″. All that fairly easy healing can make them tough to defeat. Just don’t forget to bring ANG_IE or a Sister of Charity since you’ll need a model with the Medic Ability to make this work.

All those rads soaked up at Mount Dodrun have given many Decay models the Irradiated ability. This puts enemy models they are in contact with at -1 to their AS and PW. Not phenomenal on it’s own but good when combined with a Panic Counter.

Personally I think Decay has the most interesting Psychogenic list. Like all the Skarrd Cults, their Psychogenics give them ways to distribute their favorite Counter. They also have a few Psychogenics that do direct damage, but that’s not all. There is even one that heals, as well as an extremely helpful out of activation movement buff.

General Thoughts

I love how all the Skarrd subfactions have very distinct playstyles from one another. Blood Cult and Metamorphosis can both stick solely to Cult models and still do well. But the way they win is quite different. On the other hand, Decay and Toxic Cult will probably do best when they tap into the larger pool of talent the Horde has to offer. Panic Counters play really well with these Cult’s inherent abilities. Plus, Decay will absolutely want a Medic.

The only things I would change about the Skarrd, would be to give the Horde a distinct ability of their own. Maybe that’s the whole point, but since Outcasts work that way I find it puzzling that the Skarrd do not. Of course the latest news is that Outcasts won’t work that way for much longer but hey! I already said this isn’t an article about Outcasts. My one other gripe is directly about the Skarrd book. There is no gallery section. It wouldn’t be as big of a deal, but CMON has a bad history of posting poor pictures of their models. If they did a better job with the images in their web store, this really wouldn’t matter at all in the age of smart phones.

Check out my own blog toomini to get painting articles and loads of hobby content. I write about multiple minis game including Dark Age, Arena Rex, Bushido, Knight Models, and yes Warhammer 40k.

~Hope you enjoyed the article! What do you think about the Skarrd?

  • marxlives

    It is a toss up between Father Curwen, Johann, and Mayhem. Curwen is ruthless but is VERY infatuated with Saint Mary, Johann is the most brutal pragmatist, and Mayhem is the most “traditional” of the Skaard. All three are pretty cool. I have Ice Caste to fight my Salt Nomads, but really should have some Skarrd, Shadow Caste, and Slavers to have thematic battles.

    • Gentle_Ben

      As to which you would play or which will end up ahead in the latest Samarian power struggle?

      • marxlives

        I have a soft spot for father Mayhem. What can I say, I am traditional.