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Age of Sigmar – How to Play Skaven

6 Minute Read
Apr 14 2023

Today we check out the basics of Age of Sigmar’s Skaven and how to play the verminous hordes.

Buried beneath the Realms, in a plane all their own called the Under-Empire, the Skaven Ratmen plot and scheme to bring about the downfall of all creatures on the surface. Here’s a quick and dirty breakdown of how to play the…well, quick and dirty ratmen.

What Are Skaven?

The Skaven are an insidious, malevolent race of humanoid rat-men and one of the most prolific races in the Mortal Realms. They follow an irregular cycle: they fight amongst themselves, expand their Under-Empire, multiply their population and surge to the surface to unleash sudden havoc. Eventually the Skaven weaken, often due to the violent treachery of the clans and skulk back to their lair. They are decay and entropy made manifest.

Why Play Skaven?

The Skaven bring a ton of creative flexibility in the form of their Great Clans. Whether you favor unstable magic, unstable Steampunk-style engineering, drowning your enemies in hordes of bodies, or condemning them to the slow death of disease, the Skaven have something for you.


  • Massive Hordes of troops
  • Varied playstyles that give you tons of options- monsters, artillery, wizards, and priests!
  • One of the most rewarding warmachines in the game if you’re willing to take a risk
  • Rewarding and dynamic army building rules with many potential Battleline combinations


  • Skaven require a lot of finesse and are NOT beginner-friendly
  • Low Bravery
  • Your best weapons are as likely to explode as they are to work
  • I hope you like batch painting- there can be a lot of models



Signature Rules

Each Skaven Great Clan gets special rules of their own, even in mixed legions, but the following applies across the board to all of them.

  • Lead From The Back – The “Look Out, Sir!” rule applies to melee attacks as well as shooting attacks, meaning your heroes are going to be notoriously hard to put down so long as they stay close to their followers.
  • Scurry Away – Instead of fighting, any of your heroes can choose to retreat, just in case they get caught alone and want to skedaddle.
  • Strength In Numbers – Increases the range of combat attacks the larger the unit.


Like most other Chaos factions, Skaven is less an army with subfactions and more a collection of several different armies. They change battleline, command traits, and artefact selections based on who leads your army and what units make it up. Skryre favors warmachines and magical science, Eshin is a clan of skirmishers and assassins, and Verminus is the Skaven empire’s military arm, to name a few. Which one you play will entirely change up your playstyle, as unlike most armies, each one is radically different.

Skaven Key Units

The Skaventide are varied, and it is hard to choose units that are key to every list. However there are at least a good starting point for a Skaven army.

1. Clawlord

This rat will make your already scary rat guys even more powerful, and he’s no slouch himself. He has 6 attacks that hit and wound on a 3+ and deal 2 damage with -1 Rend, which is already pretty good, but the more damage he takes, the more attacks he gets as he gets more and more frantic. He also has a command ability that increases the attacks of one Verminus unit by 1. Throw this on a full-sized unit of Stormvermin and watch the fur fly.

2. Stormvermin


The heavy infantry of the Verminus line, Stormvermin are strong for little guys. They get 2 attacks each with a 2″ range that hit on a 3+, wound on a 3+, and deal 1 damage with -1 Rend. Use the Clawlord’s command ability to turn them into living blenders. They can also charge after retreating with a full command, meaning you can get out of a dicey combat and still go on to mince something else.

3. Clanrats

Affordable unconditional Battleline and a decent screen. Never expect much from Clanrats and you will never be disappointed by them.

4. Grey Seer on Screaming Bell

A massive holy relic ridden by a crazed rat sorcerer! It helps that this guy is a powerhouse in terms of fighting, casting, and support- it can even choose to be a Wizard or a Priest each Hero phase. The Cracks Call signature spell can ruin slow units, the Grey Seer and Bell ringer can lay down a lot of damage. Even more fun, the bell has 6 random effects that occur every hero phase. They can either be catastrophic or phenomenal, ranging from the bell damaging itself to summoning a Verminlord (at the cost of its life).

5. Warp Lightning Cannon

This is one of the most iconic Skaven pieces, and for good reason. The Warp Lightning Cannon is one of the most powerful Warmachines available to the Skaven, and can devastate even the most heavily armored units. It spews out Mortal Wounds, but has a high chance of damaging itself for its most potent shots.

6. Deathmaster

The Deathmaster is one of the enigmatic, assassin heroes of Clan Eshin. An Eshin hero gives you access to Eshin battleline, for added versatility. The Deathmaster is able to hide in a unit and pop out with a hail of mortal-wounding throwing stars.


7. Stormfiends


The hellish fusion of creation of both Clans Moulder and Skryre, the Stormfiends strap a lot of guns and a lot of meat. The best ‘hammer’ unit you have, and a good one at that!

Sample Army (2K)

Allegiance: Skaven
– Triumphs: Inspired

Verminlord Warpseer (360)*
– General
– Command Trait: Devious Adversary
– Universal Spell Lore: Flaming Weapon
Warlock Engineer (100)*
– Artefact: Esoteric Warp Resonator
– Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism: More-more-more Warp Power!
Warlock Engineer (100)*
– Lore of Warpvolt Galvanism: More-more-more Warp Power!

9 x Stormfiends (960)*
– 3x Windlaunchers, 3x Ratling Cannons, 3x Shock Gauntlets
– Reinforced x 2
5 x Skryre Acolytes (70)*
20 x Clanrats (100)*
– Rusty Spear

Warp Lightning Cannon (150)*
Warp Lightning Cannon (150)

Core Battalions
*Battle Regiment

Total: 1990 / 2000
Wounds: 117
Drops: 2


How to Play Skaven

Skaven reward risk and sacrifice, going for broke even with disastrous consequences. This means always overcharge your weapons, throw your units into battle, and overwhelm your enemy with your dead until they are buried in bodies. When things inevitably go wrong, laugh it off, and when they go devilishly right, laugh maniacally. Basically, play this army like the furry mad scientist you are and take every failure as just another cog in your grand plan.

For The Horned Rat!

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